Tuesday, 24 January 2012

River Cottage Rocks - Chickpea ketchup curry

I don't normally take part in blog challenges - mostly because I don't often have the time to cook things that I wasn't already planning on cooking. However, the River Cottage Rocks blog challenge hosted by Jo's Kitchen is one that I could fit around my lifestyle - particularly as this month's theme is 'Everyday Easy'.

I have actually been catching up on the River Cottage Veg shows that aired at the end of last year on 4 on Demand. I have been inspired to cook more meat-free dishes again, now that I have more energy. So, I decided to cook Chickpea Ketchup Curry. It uses store-cupboard ingredients and is quick and easy to prepare - perfect for midweek!

First of all, my picture looks NOTHING like the picture on the website, even though I followed the recipe:

Yeah, I'm not that neat when it comes to chopping onions.

This was quite tasty, although I found it a little too sweet. I did find that the flavour grew on me as I ate, though. The spice is quite subtle and next time I would add a few more chilli flakes to give it bigger kick. It was very easy to make, although I have to wonder how healthy it really was given that the sauce is mostly ketchup (unless you made your own ketchup, in which case, I applaud you).

I also discovered this groovy thing I could do with my camera while zooming in or out while using a slow shutter-speed:

Far out, man!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Allotment update - week 1

We spent a good few hours at the allotment this weekend. With help from a friend, we got rid of most of the rest of the rubbish to the tip. I also picked up more rotten potatoes than I care to think about, and we started doing some weeding.

Remember what the allotment looked like last week? Here's a reminder:

And here's me working in the allotment this week:
Don't you love my super glam 'allotment clothes'?

I hope you can see the improvement. We have yet to move all that gravel on the paved area (no idea why it was all left there - at least it is something we can use!), and we are going to get some slabs for the path.

My muscles hurt and I am tired, but I find working on the allotment thoroughly enjoyable. And it is much cheaper than going to the gym!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Plotting my plot

I want to blog about my progress with the allotment as much as I can, to serve as a record for myself if nothing else.

On Sunday, we started clearing it of rubbish. We still need to take a lot of it to the tip, but at least it is bagged up and in one place now (there were all sorts of odds and ends in the bushes and all over the plot).

Our plot consists of three large beds, and I'm starting to have ideas about what I'm going to do with them. I'm not specifically aiming to grow organically, but I don't want to use chemical pesticides and will avoid chemicals in general as far as practicable. I've also been very influenced by reading The Edible Garden by Alys Fowler, and like the idea of having a pretty but edible plot, and I also like the idea of using a 'polyculture'-type method.

I've bought some seeds already - some from the garden centre and some ordered from Garden Organic (I've ordered from the latter before and found them reliable, etc., which is why I used them again - as I say, I'm not specifically going to garden organically).

These I bought from the garden centre the other day: Swiss Chard (Bright Lights), Sunflowers (Solar Eclipse), Radishes (Rainbox Mixed) , Beetroot (Boltardy) and the poppies were a freebie (I love poppies - and you can eat the seeds!).

 My seed potatoes, from Garden Organic. The variety is Ambo. I didn't realise I'd get quite so many!

 And the rest of my order from Garden Organic: Fennel (Finale), Kale (Red Winter), Pumpkin (Jack Be Little), Rocket (Wild) and Marigolds for pest control (one can hope) and a bit of pretty!

 These seeds I bought last January and then never did anything with them. I am obviously hoping to rectify that this year. Thyme, Mint, Tomato (Red Robin - I went for a bush variety this time) and Spinach (F1 Reddy).

This pack was a gift from a friend a couple of years ago, which I never got round to planting. They are still good according to the 'use by' date, though. A really interesting collection. I hear slugs don't like Mustard Greens!

I got these seeds free two years ago from the BBC Dig In campaign. They have no use by date on them, but they haven't been opened, so I'm hoping they will still be ok. 

So, that's my seed collection so far. I'm also thinking of planting some parsnips, and we are thinking about having a fruit tree or two. We certainly have the space!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

A New Adventure

I've been on an allotment waiting list for a little over a year and recently I got The Call. I was expecting to be on the list for a lot longer, to be honest, so I was surprised, but also excited.

The deal was done today, and I now have my very own patch of land.

It's actually been left in a pretty good state as you can see, but needs a good tidy up. Our plot is up to the 'path' which you can see at the edge of both pictures. It's a pretty big patch of land with the potential to grow a fair few veggies.

I'm excited, although a bit daunted given that I have only grown in pots before. We all have to start somewhere, though!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Even more leftovers: Chicken Noodle Soup

I really didn't feel like cooking tonight but I had some leftover roast chicken from Sunday, including the carcass and really didn't want it to go to waste (and I will have less time for cooking the rest of the week). Once I started cooking though, I was glad I did, because my adaptation of this Chicken, Sweetcorn and Noodle Soup recipe from BBC Good Food went down a storm!

The stock in this recipe is made from raw chicken, including the meat, but I thought it could probably work with a cooked chicken carcass. I had already separated the left over meat from the carcass, so I just used the carcass in the stock and then added the meat when it came to making the soup. I left out the celery because I didn't have any, but I think the flavour of the stock was still pretty good. It was probably a subtler flavour being a cooked chicken, but it worked pretty well with this recipe.

As you can see from my photo, I also did not use sweetcorn (I didn't have any), so I used frozen petit pois instead; and I used fine egg noodles rather than vermicelli. I halved the recipe, which was enough for 2 with a bit left over.

We also add a little soy sauce to each of our bowls after serving, which worked really well and gave it a subtle oriental kick.

Sometimes leftovers are better than the original dinner.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Leftovers Part II: Friday Night Rice

So, this is what happened to the rest of the pork joint:

This recipe is called Barney's Monday Night Rice, and very good it is too - much scrummier than the raw ingredients suggest. And healthier and tastier than anything you'd get from a takeaway. Barney is clearly a genius.

What I particularly like about this recipe that it uses leftovers and store-cupboard ingredients. I didn't have to buy anything in specially. I did, however, boil some rice first and then throw it in to be stir-fried rather than use leftover/ready-cooked, but that's not too much of a hassle. 

This recipe is well-deserving of its 5 stars on BBC Good Food!

Thursday, 5 January 2012


I'm doing my best to put my New Year goals into action. I did a roast leg of pork on Wednesday evening (I like to break with tradition and cook my roast dinners midweek) and there was loads leftover. So, tonight I sliced up some of the pork and stir-fried it with some peppers, served it with some noodles and some crunchy lettuce and sprinkled it liberally with soy sauce.

Had a bit of an epiphany this evening as well, that I don't need to make culinary masterpieces or use fancy recipes EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. This dish would not win any points on MasterChef, but it was porky and noodly and soy-saucy, and it filled a hole.

Also, I get extra non-wasteage points for getting the lettuce from the bargain bin in Sainsbury's on the way home from work - no doubt, that would have gone in the bin if it hadn't been sold.

And I still have more leftover pork, and I bet the rest of the lettuce will still be good for sandwiches tomorrow even though the use-by date is today.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

New Year Foodie Goals

I never make resolutions. I don't think I ever kept one resolution that I made ever. Still, it's good to have goals and it doesn't hurt to re-evaluate them at the beginning of the year.

Last year was a bit of a strange one. I was ill a lot, and therefore all the food-related goals I'd made and maintained previously fell out of the window. We ate a lot of things from jars and packets and quite a lot of takeaways. I had to stop getting my fruit and veg box delivered. I didn't really grow anything. I even fell out of the habit of using the breadmaker, so most of our bread was supermarket bread.

I'm not intending to complain, though. We still ate and we ate well most of the time. We had two amazing but very different holidays last year, for which I am very grateful. I also achieved a dream of starting my MA last year, so 2011 was certainly not a wash-out.

My foodie goals this year will not be to take up all the previous goals I had. I still don't think I am 100% recovered from all my health issues yet, so I certainly don't want to give myself too much to do too soon. Also, my life and my routine has changed now: although I have reduced my hours at work, studying takes up a lot of my time and is very important to me, and as my wedding day draws ever closer, I will most likely be increasingly busy with all that that entails.

One of my biggest goals is to waste less food. I hate throwing food away, but I still do it far more often than I should. Sometimes in the past I have bought a particular, perhaps slightly unusual item, for a specific recipe, used a bit of it, never used it again and had to throw it away. No more! If I can't adapt the recipe to what I've got or to something I know will be used up before its use-by date, then I will not make the damn recipe! I also need to plan a little better what I buy in my weekly grocery shop.

There are three words I'm going to try and keep in mind when it comes to food and cooking. They are: simple, healthy, and economical.

I think I made a good start with tonight's dinner. I made this Lincoln Sausage and Lentil dish because I had nearly all the ingredients it required. I didn't have any pancetta or even any streaky bacon, so I left it out. I substituted vegetable stock for chicken stock and dried rosemary for fresh. Finally, I halved the recipe, and we still have plenty left over for lunch tomorrow! It was a really tasty meal - I think the white wine vinegar gave it a subtle kick, which seemed to bring out all the flavours. I served it with mashed potato - yummy!

Happy New Year, all!