Time for tea

Time for tea

Nice Cuppa and a Natter
I love my creature comforts. Don't you just love a nice cup of tea and a sit down? We are creatures of habit and so we punctuate our days with tea-breaks ... in the morning with a slice of hot buttered toast, as a break from work or household chores, when we've been on our feet all day and, of course, when the clock strikes four, everything stops for tea. Tea - a drink with jam and bread ... Memories are made of teaMy tea childhood memories include being sent to the Co-op at the bottom of the avenue, for "a quarter of tea" and rushing home to discover what collectable card was lurking inside the packet. We would swop them with friends and paste them into albums until our…
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Comforting Cauli-Mac

Comforting Cauli-Mac

Recipes, Recipes over Troubled Water
No sooner have I turned my attentions to a season of summer salad blog posts when the skies cloud over, rain sets in for a staycation and thoughts U-turn back to hunkering down with a large plate of comfort food. And if you can bring together the comforts of macaroni, cauliflower and cheese you really are onto a winner - carb and cruciferous heaven. Grown to be in season for most of the year, so perpetually available, my heart nevertheless skips a beat when I see a display of caulis. Their distinctiveness knows no bounds, from the flavour to the brain-like shape. If you have any faith in the ancient Chinese 'Doctrine of Signatures' claiming that many foods mimic the part of the body they benefit, then it follows that…
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Let’s twist again

Let’s twist again

Recipes, Recipes over Troubled Water
What's all the fuss about zucchini noodles, zoodles, low-carb noodles? Is the good old fashioned grater not good enough for you? Why pander to the gadget and gismo market? Why bother when these faddy items end up in festering and taking up space in a kitchen cupboard in no time? All these quips and more when I go into raptures about spirilizing. I'm here to tell you that there is a world of difference between a grate, a slice, a strip and a spiral twist and that each and all of them have a place in my heart! I haven't tried all spiralizers by any means but my firm favourites are the two featured here. They get my vote only because they work and are not over-ambitious. Good design -…
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Nowt like Courgetti Spaghetti

Nowt like Courgetti Spaghetti

Recipes, Recipes over Troubled Water
There is nothing (or nowt as we say where I come from) wrong with pasta. However, on the occasions where you feel like something lighter, want to avoid overdoing the carbs, or you have a glut of courgettes because it seemed like a good idea to try growing them ... then spiralised courgettes might be your answer to take the place of linguini or spaghetti. You don't even need a spiralizer. Courgettes are a delight to grow because, with not much more than a good compost and plenty of watering, they reward you with a sudden growth spurt and burst into vivid yellow flowers. These too are edible - the icing on the cake or the garnish on the salad. Dip them in a light batter and fry until crisp.…
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Parmigiana à la Babs

Parmigiana à la Babs

Recipes, Recipes over Troubled Water
Of those vegetables beginning with A, aubergines are my favourite with their pleasing shiny, purple skins and pithy, spongy inner flesh. I think it was in the late 1970s when the colour mauve became aubergine. In Bolton at any rate. I had a wet-look mac in this new-fangled colour and wore it over an aubergine coloured midi dress with integrated pale pink blouse and hot pants. It was an all-in-one, but not a onesie. Around the same time I became aware of aubergines, and red and green peppers which were considered exotic, but took a while longer to appear on the market stall where I had a Saturday job. Back in the room with the aubergines, they are vegetable royalty in many cultures and take centre stage in dishes from…
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All you need is lovage

All you need is lovage

Recipes, Recipes over Troubled Water
It all started during a phone chat with a friend, telling me about the lovage in her garden and asking whether I liked lovage. Next thing I knew she had sent some my way to see what I made of it. No excuse now. Lovage brings to mind the character written for Dame Maggie Smith in Peter Shaffer's satirical play "Lettice and Lovage" - surely I was onto a winner. Lovage is a herb, that much I did know, but I can't say I'd ever used it. What I wasn't aware of was that its seeds have long been used as a spice in European cuisine and that its leaves can be infused and drunk as a tea. With the flavour combination of parsley and celery its leaves and stem…
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Going vintage for VE Day 75

Going vintage for VE Day 75

Recipes over Troubled Water
We'll eat again! OK so we haven't had to cope with rationing but there are some parallels when it comes to food and diet between WW2 and where we find ourselves in 2020. In Covid lockdown, as in wartime, people are reminded that farmers, producers and cooks all matter when the world is shifting beneath your feet, there is a threat to the status quo and you are trying to keep yourself nourished through food. In celebration of what we can do with what we have and not dwelling on what might be in short supply or currently out of our reach, Bank Holiday Friday (there's a novelty) saw the preparation of a VE Day pause for thought 75 years on. Everything stopped for tea to commemorate the end of…
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Finding your inner frittata

Finding your inner frittata

Recipes, Recipes over Troubled Water
As lockdown continues and an altered reality sets in some of us may have time on our hands and minds. A vast number of people are working, juggling that with home-schooling, care-giving, supporting friends and family, staying safe and healthy, making ends meet and grappling with what their lives will be from hereon in. It might be that all that consumes you is how to put together a meal from whatever is available. Any or all of that is stressful and head-banging. The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown it into further sharp relief, freed up time but also given us more to think about and do. Right now we need some things to be easy and enjoyable and to be creative with the skills and resources we have in order to…
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Wild Garlic Hummus

Wild Garlic Hummus

Recipes, Recipes over Troubled Water
The defining ingredients of hummus are chickpeas and tahini (sesame paste). It can be hard to distinguish either of these flavours in shop-bought hummus but, by making your own, you have control over flavour and texture. Plus you get to lick out the mixing bowl. Chickpeas are a nutritious vegetarian staple and provide protein, iron, B vitamins and fibre to soups, stews and casseroles or can be made into falafels or burgers. A note on the chickpeas if using pre-cooked - now that's what I call a convenience food - they vary in size and tenderness from small bullets (desi) to the larger and more plumptious (kabuli). A particular favourite of mine are the Spanish variety in jars (Garbanzos) although it is advisable to rinse off the brine in which…
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Wild Garlic & Cheese Scones

Wild Garlic & Cheese Scones

Recipes, Recipes over Troubled Water
There is little more satisfying and more-more-more-ish than a savoury scone. My top tip would be not to get carried away and incorporate too many ingredients as they will cancel one another out. A good rule of thumb is 1 type of cheese, no more than 2 other flavouring ingredients and no more than 2 herbs or spices. Here is my recipe for a wild weekend at home, mid-morning snack with a cup of great coffee. One with a bowl of soup makes a meal. Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees C /Gas 7.Start with 250g SR flour, 2 x 5ml (tea)spoons baking powder and 100g butter or vegetable fat in a mixing bowl. Rub fat into flour with fingertips until it resembles fine crumbs. Add 100g grated cheese (retain…
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Wild Garlic Pesto

Wild Garlic Pesto

Recipes, Recipes over Troubled Water
Pesto is easily made in a food processor or blender using something green - typically fresh basil leaves, a nut or seed, oil and optional cheese. Wild garlic makes for a great "something green" and blends well with almonds, cashews, walnuts or pumpkin seeds. Traditionally it would be made with pecorino or parmesan cheese, but this recipe packs so much flavour that it really is not missed and is then vegan. Depending on the consistency you opt for you can then use the pesto as a dressing, spread, pasta sauce or dollop it on the top of a bowl of soup with a swirl of yogurt. For this recipe a couple of handfuls of wild garlic, 1 preserved lemon, a pinch of chilli flakes, 60g whole almonds. Add juice of…
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Wild Garlic Soup

Wild Garlic Soup

Recipes, Recipes over Troubled Water
Soup is as old as the hills. Throwing whatever ingredients came to hand into a pot and boiling them up made for a cheap and nutritious meal. Nothing went to waste from bones to vegetable peelings - a genuine case of a little going a long way. Broth, soup or gruel was known as peasant food with every country or culture having its own signature soup - Italian Minestrone, Spanish Gazpacho, Russian Borscht, Middle Eastern Harira, Japanese Miso Soup, Indian Mulligatawny. And so it is in lockdown that soup really comes into its own. It is cheap to make, is filling and nutritious, you can use whatever you have to hand and the variations are endless. Those peasants knew what they were doing. Prepare the following ingredients: 1 onion, 1…
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Wild about Garlic

Wild about Garlic

Recipes, Recipes over Troubled Water
Wild garlic - "it's the future" as us folk from Bolton would say! So what do we know about it? Found in British woodlands and on riverbanks you will probably notice the smell of garlic in the air before you see it and may well have walked past dense carpets of wild garlic without realising it. The garlic found growing wild is milder than traditional bulb garlic, yet still the leaves and flowers add a pungent flavour to dishes whether raw or cooked. The leaves are best picked in early Spring in the UK (March/April) whilst still tender. They should be washed well and dried (kitchen roll or salad spinner) and will stay fresh in the fridge for 3-4 days or can be frozen. Wild garlic, AKA allium ursinum, ramsoms,…
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Red Dragon Pie

Red Dragon Pie

Recipes, Recipes over Troubled Water
So called because of their high nutritional value, the tiny red adzuki or aduki bean packs a mighty punch and is known as the 'red dragon' or 'red wonder' bean. I attended one of Sarah Brown’s vegetarian cookery courses in the mid-1980s and there I was introduced to Red Dragon Pie. Sarah was the first vegetarian chef to have her own TV programme, authored numerous books and her recipes remain just as relevant and reliable three decades later. Red Dragon Pie - an aduki bean and vegetable base, topped with creamy mashed potato has long been a great plant-based version of Cottage or Shepherd’s Pie - hearty and satisfying. I’ve served it to many who claim not to like veggie food and they have not missed the meat. I’ve adapted…
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Hearty Parsnip Soup

Hearty Parsnip Soup

Recipes, Recipes over Troubled Water
Some parsnips arrived in my organic veg box from Riverford and then some more arrived.  I like parsnips but I’m not wild about them. I enjoy them roasted and caramelised in the oven with other root veg. They make a great mashed contrast layer for a nut roast and come in very handy for a big pot of soup.  Parsnip Soup seemed to me to be what was called for right now – real comfort food – hearty and filling. Here’s my recipe. Sauté 1 minced garlic clove, 1 large chopped onion and a bunch of chopped wild garlic in a couple of 15ml (table)spoons olive oil. Add a knob of finely chopped or grated root ginger for some heat. After about 5 minutes the onion should be translucent and…
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