Tag Archives: Vegetarian

Make your own organic cheese, then put it on pizza toasts!

It’s really easy to make fresh cheese just with whole milk and lemon juice, a pan and a teatowel- that’s it! Follow my tutorial here to make the cheese, then before you hang it up to dry fully and shape it for cutting, nick some of the curds out to enjoy it straight away with these quick and easy pizza toasts. They’re made extra delicious with the rewarding feeling of having made the cheese yourself.

1. Take your cheese curds freshly rinsed and squeezed dry from the cheese cloth, they should look like this…

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2. Spoon some into a bowl and mix with chilli flakes, herbs and olive oil. This is also great with chopped capers and lemon zest!

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3. Cut large slices of bread

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4.  Top with tomato paste

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5. Add fresh tomato slices and sprinkle with sea salt

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6. Top with your fresh, homemade organic chilli and herb cheese

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7. Add olives then place under a hot grill for a few minutes, the cheese won’t melt but the top of the bread will toast, the cheese will brown a little and the olives will smell devine.

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8. Add fresh basil and enjoy!

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Making organic paneer

7160310722_32905aa198Today I made myself some cheese! This recipe is easy peasy, there’s no rennet, and you don’t need anything but fresh organic whole milk and something acidic (vinegar, lemon or lime juice). I set out to make Paneer, but stopped before shaping the cheese curds to enjoy some ricotta-like cheese with chilli flakes, herbs and olive oil.

This Indian cheese (Paneer) isn’t mature or ‘cheesy’ tasting, it’s very plain and doesn’t melt, this is because with matured cheese, like cheddar, rennet is added which further breaks down the proteins in the curd, forming a single mass which matures over time and melts under heat. Paneer doesn’t include rennet (from India, this cheese can be consumed by the vegetarian hindu population of the country) so it doesn’t mature well and doesn’t melt. But it does make a great creamy fresh background for strong flavours like curry, chilli or oregano.

So what’s the advantage of making your own paneer? Well first of all it’s fun, secondly it’s cheap (4  pints of milk makes a good bit of paneer and at only £1.69 for 4 pints of organic wholemilk, I think it’s at least £1 cheaper than the same cheese in the shops), thirdly it means you can make your cheese organic- I’ve never seen organic paneer in the shops.

So here’s how you make it, AND how to use it straight away on tasty pizza slices!

So you need:

4 pints of whole organic milk

Between 100 and 140ml of acid (vinegar, lemon of lime juice- I recommend the most tasteless, so rice vinegar or similar is good).

Here’s what you do:

Put the milk in a large pan

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Heat the milk until boiling and then turn it down to a simmer.

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Add the lemon juice or vinegar,  in small amounts until the white cheese curds split away from the green whey, don’t add more acid than you need to, just because you don’t want the strong lemony or vinegary flavour. It’s worth mentioning it looks gross at this point but don’t let you put that off.

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Drain the curds through a cheesecloth or piece of muslin, squeeze out all the whey you can (don’t spend a lot of money, a clean teatowel or piece of sheet is fine). It’ll look like this…

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Rinse the cheese curds in the cheesecloth to get rid of any acidic flavour,  then tie the cheese cloth into a parcel and rinse the cheese again, or soak the cheese in cold water, just to get all the lemon/lime/vinegar out.

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Squeeze the cheese again to get out as much liquid as possible.

Now it should look like this, soft crumbly curds.

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At this point hang the cheese up to drip out the last of the liquid.

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When the cheese has been hanging for a few hours and most of the moisture is gone, cut open the parcels, shape the cheesecloths with the curds inside into a block shape and wrap in more cheesecloth if available. Then squash with something heavy to form the cheese into a block.

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My version of something heavy- a cast iron pan filled with jars of garlic and coffee!

My version of something heavy- a cast iron pan filled with jars of garlic and coffee!

Before hanging it up, if you just can’t wait- nick a few of those curds out and add dried chilli flakes, dried herbs and olive oil, you can eat this smeared on bread or make into tasty pizza slices (see my post HERE 🙂 )

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Red Cabbage and Yogurt Salad

So Jamie Oliver made this as a coleslaw with finely grated mixed cabbages and mustard to have with bean burgers, I liked it so much I added more yogurt and made it a little chunkier to enjoy as a yogurty raita style accompaniment to have with curry.  The amazing thing about this salad is the colour of it and the point where it changes colour…amazing.

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ingredients for the cabbage raita/slaw:

-1/4 of a large red cabbage finely sliced in the food processor (or by hand) or grated with a box grater for a finer texture.

-1 small red onion, finely sliced

-A tablespoon of chopped, fresh coriander

-The juice of half a lemon

-A big pot of fat-free  Greek yogurt

So you dice up the cabbage and onion, place in a bowl and squeeze the lemon over, you’ll see the cabbage turn from almost blue-purple to BRIGHT RED. Red cabbage contains a natural litmus property which changes colour with different pHs, so this is pretty cool. Add yogurt to taste, more yogurty for Raita, less for slaw, mix in most of the coriander, mix together and then sprinkle the rest of the coriander on top. Voila! YUM!

Cabbage Raita, Brinjal Bahji with broad beans, tomato and onion pickle and coriander naan.

Cabbage Raita, Brinjal Bahji with broad beans, tomato and onion pickle and coriander naan- and two tins of stella!

Brinjal Bhaji with Broad Beans

Brinjal Bhaji with Broad Beans

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Totnes Food Market

I was lucky enough to grow up in beautiful Devon, amongst the rolling hills, Torbay palms and frequent rain showers. My family home is near to the fun and intriguing town of Totnes. A middle-class hippie paradise, Totnes combines traditional english countryside pursuits with an environmental eye, a fun open attitude, a savouring of times gone by and a good healthy dose of wheatgrass shots and ylang ylang. Last weekend my parents, my brother and I went to visit the monthly food market. My dad took his new (very swanky) camera to pap the occasion! Here are some of his excellent pictures from the day.

My favourite stall was the Dartmoor Chilli Farm stall. The guy who was running it was really nice and really passionate about his plants and ‘chilli’ culture, he told us all about the different varieties, strengths and tastes of the chillis and even showed us his Trinidad Scorpian plant (the hottest chilli in the world guys!) He and his wife live in Dartmoor and grow the chillis in an unheated polytunnel, what an admirable (and highly enviable) existence. I bought some of his smoky chipotle sauce- it is delicious!

Me and my brother Will checking out some chillis!

All sorts o’ sauce

Lots of chilli plants- from Bonsai to variegated to very very hot!

Here’s a video of some chilli fanatics reviewing Dartmoor CF’s hottest product…the DEVIL naga chocolate bar!!! Skip to 2.20 to see the Devil’s effects…

There were loads of irresistible cakes and pastries everywhere…

There was fresh Devon produce, greengrocery at it’s best…

Delicious westcountry cheeses!

Westcountry Herbs

There were lots of different types and regions of cuisine…

Thai food!

Spanish tortilla and salad

Paella

Salad from ‘Jason and the Gastronauts’

The Veggie Deli- more my style!

The Alcohol Free Zone has not dampened my mood!

Searching for Deli goodies

Mediterranean food and products

All in all a fab day out and well worth a visit if you’re in Devon on the third Sunday of the month- Thanks Dad for playing journalist!

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A tiny harvest

The pots outside our one bedroom flat (which is without garden 😦 ) are flourishing with potato, courgette and tomato plants today (the few that survived the awful beginning of the summer we’ve had that is).

Tomatoes,squash, courgettes and some scraggly peppers and dwarfed aubergines- using every square inch makes plants flourish!!!

Tomatoes (which need some shoots pulling out)

Maris P’s in a pot!

Also, our allotment, despite not being tended for about 4 weeks has produced some lovely courgettes to join the couple from our pots: F1 Tristan, Black Beauty, F1 One Ball and F1 8 Ball.

Our first harvest for the year is a small bundle of these lovely fruits!

8 ball courgette! YUM!

What a handful!

A tiny harvest

We celebrated our crop, and the lovely (short-lived) weather, with a barbeque (or two) at the allotment…pure bliss!

Chopping onions for the veggie burgers

Our homemade BBQ- a shopping basket, some bricks and coals- with halloumi kebabs and Quorn best of british sausages- nom nom

Quorn burgers, Quorn sausages, frying onion in tin foil, and halloumi and veg kebabs!

Marshmallow anyone?

Despite the poor weather these few barbeques and relaxed times have made me feel very summery indeed. To make everyone else feel a little more summery and satisfied in their agricultural endeavours in the city, you may enjoy this farm and town paper animation set to Vashti Bunyan’s Diamond Day- what could be more summery?

By the way, we used the tiny harvest to make up the layers in a delicious vegetable lasagna, where instead of a layer of bechemal sauce I make a creamy layer of courgettes cooked  in garlic, herbs and cream cheese to place in between layers of quorn mince, passata and basil.

Colourful courgettes

YUM! Part of the tiny harvest cooked

Creamy courgettes in lasagna!

Finished lasagna, topped with ricotta and spinach, then gran padano and breadcrumbs for a twist

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Big Food at Work

Image Credit: Original image by Todd Hryckowian at flickr.com, with enhancements by Lizzy Parisotto, PLoS.

It’s rare that my interest in (/slight obsession with) food features in my workday- other than at lunchtime that is!

However,  PLoS Medicine (the medical journal I work for) has published a series on “Big Food” corporations- so my work and my interest in food industries have happily collided this week.

The PLoS Med series describes Big Food as “the multinational food and beverage industry with huge and concentrated market power” and explains why this market power needs to explored, especially “in the health arena” (as bloggers such as Yoni Freedhoff and Travis Saunders show).

Utilizing two well known guest editors, Marion Nestle (of Supersize Me, foodpolitics.com, and ‘What to Eat’) and David Stuckler (author of ‘Sick Societies’), the series jumps in with both feet in its first weeks presenting key articles from Stuckler, Nestle, Rajeev Patel and Lori Dorfman and is accompanied by an Editorial from the PLoS Medicine Editors, with Marion and David.

The series makes for excellent reading (whether or not you’re a clinician), one of the most powerful statements I’ve taken away is the straightforward introduction to Stuckler and Nestle’s piece “Big Food, Food Systems and Global Health” (text bolded by myself):

“let’s begin…with a blunt conclusion: Global food systems are not meeting the world’s dietary needs [1]. About one billion people are hungry, while two billion people are overweight [2]. India, for example, is experiencing rises in both: since 1995 an additional 65 million people are malnourished, and one in five adults is now overweight [3],[4]. This coexistence of food insecurity and obesity may seem like a paradox [5], but over- and undernutrition reflect two facets of malnutrition [6]. Underlying both is a common factor: food systems are not driven to deliver optimal human diets but to maximize profits. For people living in poverty, this means either exclusion from development (and consequent food insecurity) or eating low-cost, highly processed foods lacking in nutrition and rich in sugar, salt, and saturated fats (and consequent overweight and obesity).”

I’ll be reading the series with pleasure as it moves along- and the best thing is I can get away with reading it at work 😛

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Chargrilled peppers with cheese and coriander

This is a bit of a titchy post about my lunch, but this was so yummy I can’t not do a quick post about it.

So we had a pretty dull array of foods in for lunch a couple of weekends ago. Some hummus, bread a few sundried tomatoes in oil and some red peppers and a few grates of low fat cheese left.

I chargrilled up the red peppers in some olive oil on my chargrill pan, and whilst they were still hot added the cheese and some fresh coriander while they were in a bowl- the results made a lovely extravagant feeling lunch with little effort.

Smushed on top of some hummus-smeared bread this was really yummy. Please excuse the big bite in the photo- I couldn’t wait to sample before taking the picture!

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Sprouty ‘taters!

Arghh!

 

Look at these monsters I found at the back of the cupboard last weekend, and yes I did actually once intend to eat these potatoes at some points and yep, I did just totally forget about them-gross! My cupboard stock-rotation skills aren’t up to much it seems!  Here’s my foot (and pajama-ed leg (sorry about that)) in next to the sproutiest one for scale.

 

 

So I’ve never planted potatoes before so I looked on some forums online about this to see if these cupboard ‘head-starters’ were worth planting. The answer seemed to be ‘yes.’ I also found out that potatoes will pretty much grow out of any potato remnant with an eye on it, and people have even had successful potatoes grow out of peelings chucked in their compost patch.

 

Peel us and we will multiply!! Mwahaha!
(Image CCAL Dag Endresen)

 

It seems with these sprouties you can plant the potatoes with the sprouts lying down sideways or sticking up into the mound away from the potato, or you can knock the sprouts off if you’re worried they’re too big and will get damaged and they should grow again in the soil. If they poke out of the top they’ll soon green up. I went for lying down sideways as this seemed the most likely to be supported by the soil and not break. I put sprouties (with antlers intact) into pots about 1.5 feet deep x 1.5 feet wide. I laid 2 in each pot half filled with compost then added more compost to the top.

Here’s hoping they do OK. They’re growing in the same compost I had tomatoes in last year, and I’ve heard you shouldn’t of that but we didn’t have any blight last year so I’m risking it (MAVERICK!)

I’m so excited about my potatoes I had to listen to the potato song in anticipation-

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More seeds, potting on courgettes and three sisters

This week has been very busy- less on the allotment and more in and around the flat. 65 of the original 80 tomato plants have been potted on (about 10 left to go, 5 were too sickly or didn’t germinate 😦 );  the sweetcorn has germinated this week, along with an acorn squash seedling.

Tomato sprogs all potted on!

On Thursday I potted on the courgettes. They got moved from their sweet spot on the windowsill to the cold outdoors, and from lovely new shiny seed compost to last years compost and soil from the pots outside. I don’t know how happy they are about this…

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Dude! Sweet!

'tell me about it! Windowsill life RULES'

wtf?! Since when did we live outside?!

She did this to us- I have a feeling that one day she'll eat our arms off too!

But they come in at night while we’re hardening them off until we know that the last frost has passed!

I'm so confused!

Today I also planted more seeds as one thing we’re in need of is more plants! We have a 15 pole allotment (that’s 370 sq metres!) and although 90% of it isn’t dug over, we have two big plots double dug and ready for filling. The problem is we have a potting shed but no greenhouse (we have a plastic one now to put up this year) we could have potted seedlings in the potting shed earlier but I was concerned about them getting too chilly earlier in the year. So instead we’ve filled as much of the living room with seedlings as we can but there’s still not enough. Next year we’ll start earlier and in the greenhouse!

The tomatoes are going to take up one bed in rows with whatever we can sow as groundcover (salad? spinach?) in between them, with peas at the back (if we can get a sunny weekend to do some sowing!)

The other bed we’re planning is a ‘three sisters’ bed. This consists of mounds or rows of corn,  beans and squash. The corn grows out the top of the mounds, it likes mounded soil for drainage and due to its root structure which lies close to the surface,  the squash (in our case courgettes, acorn squash and pumpkins) also likes mounded soil and grows around the bottom, shading out weeds and preventing water transpiration. Beans are planted at the bottom of the corn plants and grow up it for support- no need for canes! Also all three plants together provide a balanced diet. Let’s see how it goes, I may follow a guide like this one: http://www.reneesgarden.com/articles/3sisters.html

Three Sisters Planting

However, right now my sweetcorn seedlings and squash are really teeny!

Tiny wisps of grass, I mean, sweetcorn anyone?

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Growing in the urban environment- Self SuffiCITY!

Today I watched a really interesting video (it’s embedded at the bottom of this post) made by the Dervaes family who live on an urban homestead in California. I don’t  agree entirely with all of their views but find their story and lifestyle extremely inspiring.

Inspiring words

So the parts I’m not sure I totally agree with in the video are those about GM crops, I think maybe GM is handled differently in the UK than it is in the US where it seems to have made its way into food products and restaurants without any prior warning or openness about it or its processing that is totally wrong. We have laws stating that GM products must be made clear to the consumer so they can make the choice about what they want to purchase. Like with vegetarianism I believe if the global population doesn’t want GM foods and where GM foods lie is made known to them they won’t  buy them and then the markets will make the choice- a vote every time you buy and eat, that’s my attitude to meat too.

I do believe GM has the potential to have a good role on our planet, working with nature instead of against it for the benefit of mankind and our environment. Such as if drought resistant crops are developed that work effectively with nature then terrible events like the Horn of Africa mass starvation last year might not have occurred. Perhaps I need to find out more about GM and why it’s good or bad (please feel free to leave views here if you are more in the know than I) but I definitely don’t feel against it just because it’s ‘unnatural,’ many scientific endeavours which have brought wonderous discoveries to our world could be categorised as such- such as prostheses, robotics, medical tissues and now the wonders of grown meat which could potentially create a real impact on climate change and carbon-poor and environment leaching animal farming practices.

I think we just have to be given as much information as possible about our food, where it comes from, what’s in it and who created it. The best way to do that would be with an awesome set up like the Devraes, or like our own little plots, gardens and allotments.

The Dervaes are an inspiration. I live in Cambridge, in a one-bedroom flat, no garden, currently overrun with plants, and have an allotment plot about a miles’ cycle away so love learning more about optimising space. I would love to keep my own bees, chickens and goats and the Dervaes model of using every inch of space for water efficiency and soil quality is fantastic and looks extremely effective-  I’ve heard of this termed ‘forest gardening’ before. The idea of being self-sufficient by selling on produce to local establishments is an inspiring one, what a great idea!

Here’s  the video if you need some afternoon inspiration with a cup of tea before grabbing your trowels!

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