Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Leftovers idea: crustless quiche

I love Tuesdays.

Tuesday is the day my Riverford veg box is delivered. 

It's like a vegetable-based Christmas every fortnight.

However, by Sunday or Monday night we often end up with odds and ends of vegetables and no inspiration of what to do with them. 
Especially when we know a whole new batch will be arriving in a couple of days.

I hate wasting food, so I'm always on the look out for quick, leftover veg ideas.

One of my favourites is crustless quiche.

- Collect all your left over vegetables together. Blanch where necessary.


I've got left over kale, butternut squash, some sprouts, peppers and asparagus. 

- Pre-heat oven to approximately 200°C

- Dump them in a lined tin, or in this case a silicon mold.

- Cover with a well seasoned egg/milk mixture (for this 8in tin I used 4 medium eggs and the same volume of milk)

- Grate a strong, hard cheese on top

- Cook for 15-25 minutes until the egg is cooked through and the cheese is browned.

My battle with mint, the Zombie of plants

Do you want a garden full of mint? Go for it. Its really easy.

The tricky part is having only a little bit of mint in your garden.

When I de-weeded my new garden I discovered one of the two mint plants that were there had died.

Don't feel sorry for it though, mint is like the un-dead.
It's really bloody hard to stop it taking over.

Zombies are a doddle compared to mint.

While the main plant had died back, under the ground thick roots had spread out throughout the garden and were sending up new plants all over the place.

While this is what you see on the surface:

This is what you find underground:

I'm not totally heartless though. I dug up every new shoot and re-potted them.
I'll have enough mint to last a life time.

Be warned: If you're going to plant mint into a garden, plant it out in a pot, not straight into the ground.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A quick Sunday snack: Dandelions

After a hard morning's gardening, lunch time was very welcome.

Butternut squash pita
Homemade goats cheese
Dandelions from the morning's weeding.

Dandelions are pretty much indistinguishable from mixed salad leaves. And they're free!

The large leaves can be quite bitter, so get them while they're still young.

Small scale city gardening: Where to start?

Where to start with my small, city garden? 

Stony, clayey soil and covered in weeds. It may not sound particularly promising, but the people who rented here before us managed to make it work, so I'm determined to do the same.

So where to start? 

Stage 1 - Weeding. Yawn. I've filled an entire wheelie bin, maybe my garden isn't that small after all!

Stage 2 - Discovery! The previous tenants left us chives, wild garlic, a single tiny leek and two mint plants, as well as some mystery bulbs. 

Add to those finds a selection of edible weeds and that made a pretty good harvest considering I haven't planted anything yet!

Stage 3 - Digging. I borrowed a garden fork from a colleague and set to work. I'm going to look pretty silly taking a muddy fork on the bus tomorrow morning. 

I found plenty of worms. A very good sign.

Stage 4 - Sowing. I've planted perpetual spinach and some lettuce. 

I'm hoping to get some tasty eats in a few months. However, this is all a bit trial and error, so we'll just have to wait and see.

The garden now looks almost presentable.

Ta da!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ideas to transform basic pizza into something special

Herby Butternut squash pizza

You can''t go wrong with pizza, right? Right. But I'm always on the look out for ways to make pizza even righter.

Quick ways to transform normal, standard pizza into something a bit special:
1 - Pimp that base: if you're making the base, add roast butternut squash, garlic or anything you like to the dough.

I think I need to try adding roast beetroot next! Don't you think that would look amazing?

2 - Herb it up: use fresh herbs with your topping of choice. Herbs really bring pizzas to another level.

Try unconventional ones. Thyme goes well with butternut squash and roast peppers. Mint is amazing with feta, olives, spinach and tomatoes. Rosemary and chicken? Delicious.

3 - Vary your sauce: Tomato is traditional and there is nothing wrong with that. But what about a satay sauce topped with chicken and green peppers? Or a Bechamel sauce with leeks and courgette?

I think its time I started expanding my pizza repertoire. Any suggestions on how to make your pizza extra special?

How to: Homemade goats cheese

Homemade goats cheese.
It's seriously easy.
And tastes divine.

You'll need:
Saucepan and spoon
A piece of fine muslin or a cheese cloth Colander and bowl
2 Caps of cider vinegar (or juice of half a lemon)
Chives and wild garlic (or the flavouring of your choice)
- Bring a pint of goats milk to the boil. As soon as it boils remove from the heat.

- Add, bit by bit, the cider vinegar while stirring. This will make the milk separate into curds (the solids) and whey (the remaining liquid). Once it's separated it should look like this: 

- Place the colander in your bowl, and the muslin or cheese cloth over the colander

- Pour the separated milk through the muslin. All the curds will gather in the cloth, while the whey drains through the colander and into the bowl. They whey is ideal for use in scones or soda bread (the acidity helps), or can be used or many other things, so don't throw it away!

- Let the curds drain until they reach the consistency you want (I leave mine for about an hour for a soft, spreadable cheese).

- Gather the cheese cloth up around the curds and twist to remove more whey if desired. 

- Transfer to a bowl and add salt and other flavourings to taste. I used wild garlic and chives from our garden.