Archive for November, 2007

It’s Friday night and I’m alone at the computer…

Today has been very frustrating. The audio I was transcribing seemed to have been recorded in a tin box and everyone at the conference appeared to be facing away from the microphone and suffering from a horrible cough. Couldn’t hear a damn thing. Grr. Having a glass of chardonnay now while researching brassicas and would like to do some more work this evening (the bf is out at a work Christmas do – one of about 400 parties! – thank god I’m self-employed, I’m such a sociopath, the idea of these things fills me with fear) but fear I’ll end up drinking in front of the internet and going to bed and falling asleep to ‘The World Tonight’ again…..

I’ve been going to bed so early lately. I’m sure it’s because it’s getting dark early.

Following on from the waste audit, this week we have a paltry amount of plastic packaging and a few bits of leftover turnip in the bin. About a sixth of a black binliner!!

I love my composter.

And, compostwoman, you will be pleased to hear all cotton wool pads are now going into it!

November 30, 2007 at 7:31 pm 1 comment

Veg box vegetable of the week – sprout tops

According to BBC Food:

Once the preserve of street markets and allotment growers, sprout tops are now one of the most fashionable vegetables in the foodie world, along with other rediscovered brassicas like curly kale and purple sprouting broccoli. You’ll now find them on menus in smart restaurants all over the UK.

So there you are. I am a very trendy vegetable-eater.

Sprout tops are the rosette of leaves from the top of the Brussels sprout stem and none of the photos Google threw up looked like what I have downstairs, so I was reduced to photographing my own!

Apparently, they are very nice stir-fried with ginger and chilli. So that’s dinner sorted then!

Captain Cook made his crew eat sprouts as well as limes and lemons to combat scurvy and as far back as 5000 years ago they were believed to have healing properties and were prescribed by Chinese doctors. They are actually very healthy – only 10 calories each, high in fibre, free from cholesterol, low sodium, low fat, lots of vitamin C and some anti-oxidant properties.

November 30, 2007 at 6:56 pm Leave a comment

Leftovers Recipe of the Week – Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Risotto

Okay, last week I attempted to be helpful and try and come up with some approximate quantities. This week, it’s just ‘a dash of this’ and ‘a slosh of this’ and the assumption that you know roughly how to cook risotto!

For 3 portions (yesterday’s dinner and my lunch!), you will need:

  • leftover roast chicken for 3
  • 2 small leeks or 1 big one
  • 1 onion
  • 2 large portobello mushrooms, or equivalent
  • chicken stock
  • white wine
  • fresh or dried herbs, we used tarragon, as we’d roasted the chicken in it on Saturday and made…
  • lemon and tarragon gravy (see Delia’s fast-roast chicken and make too much!)
  • butter
  • cream
  • parmesan
  1. Melt butter. Fry onion until soft. Add dried herbs now (I tend to save fresh till later on, but it’s your choice!) and fry for a bit more.
  2. Add the rice and stir it around to get coated in butter. Add a slosh of cream, but not too much. Stir.
  3. Spoon in some stock. Basically, you need to do this repeatedly till the rice is cooked. Add liquid… wait for it to soak in and evaporate off… add more… wait…
  4. Add the vegetables and chicken and stir.
  5. Keep adding liquid and stirring constantly. I usually alternate between stock, wine and the yummy gravy.
  6. When the rice is cooked, stir through some more cream and grate some parmesan into it to taste. Add fresh herbs here if you didn’t earlier and season.

November 26, 2007 at 11:31 pm Leave a comment

I love…


Risotto is possibly one of my favouritest things in the world. It is impossible to be stressed and irritable while stirring a risotto.

Firstly, it makes you be a good cook and prepare everything in advance, so you can just add piles of chopped vegetables to the pan really easily and continue stirring more or less constantly, which makes for smooth, relaxing cooking.

Secondly, stirring it is so therapeutic! It’s important to stir constantly, as you need to give each individual grain of rice a chance to cook evenly. Now, I know Jamie and Nigella with all their Recipes for Busy People, will tell you you can just whack all the stock in at once and bung the whole thing in the oven for half an hour, but I believe that people should be less busy! Less busy! And stirring a risotto is a wonderful excuse not to be busy for 40 minutes.

This means risotto is the kind of thing you can only really cook for family or very close friends, as you couldn’t invite someone you didn’t know that well over for dinner and then spend 40 minutes obsessively stirring grains of rice, so it has lots of lovely, homey connections!

November 25, 2007 at 8:58 pm Leave a comment

Veg Box Vegetable of the Week!

Okay, okay. I’m sorry.

I said you’d have to wait till Friday for this new feature. You’ve actually had to wait till Sunday. I could postdate it, but that would be deceitful. The BBC wouldn’t be allowed to do that nowadays, so I’m damned if I’m going to deceive my dear readers.

Anyway, this Friday, we received in our veg box for the first time some cavolo nero.

Cavolo nero is an Italian cabbage with dark green leaves – very dark green, hence the name, which translates as ‘black cabbage’. However, if we give it a poncey Italian name, cabbage seems more exciting than 1960s school dinner fare, which has unfairly influenced my perception of cabbage, even though I wasn’t born until a good 20 years later. I blame the parents.

Cavolo nero has a tangy bite, but a sweet aftertaste, and (for cabbage!) it was rather pleasant.

We just sauteed it in a saucepan with some butter and some sprigs of rosemary and enjoyed it a lot, but it can also be used in a traditional Tuscan soup, and River Cafe Green has a nice recipe involving sausages. I also came across it in pasta on the internet, which looked nice.

According to this tome of wisdom, the plant can grow up to a metre high, and, unusually for a member of the cabbage family, you can pick the leaves and they grow back. “The … leaves should be lightly crinkled and stiff, just the tip bent over. … The wonderful taste develops after the plants have had a few weeks of frost. Leaves picked too early taste bitter and stringy.” Apparently, you can also eat the little leaves in the middle raw in winter salads, but winter salads sound like the kind of thing that are much easier to contemplate in Italy than a badly-insulated house in Berkshire. We like soups and stews and blankets and hot water bottles!

November 25, 2007 at 8:34 pm Leave a comment

Interesting article on raw milk from the Guardian,,2215048,00.html

November 22, 2007 at 11:01 pm Leave a comment

Ways with waste

Friday 16th November

  • tea leaves
  • veg scraps
  • tape from package
  • beer bottles

Saturday 17th November

  • tea leaves
  • veg scraps
  • duck carcass
  • wine bottle

Sunday 18th November

  • crisp packet
  • coffee grounds

That’s interesting. I said on Self-Sufficientish that the single biggest contribution I could make towards reducing how much rubbish we put out would be to start making my own yoghurt. Actually, I should stop buying crisps! But yoghurt looks easy, so I’ll do it anyway.

Since the arrival of the composter, all compostable waste has been accordingly composted. I find this disproportionately exciting, novice that I am.

We usually put out up to half a binbag a week, mostly packaging and occasional food leftovers (eg bones and veg that have been used in stock) that can’t be composted. Packaging is to some extent unavoidable. I do try, e.g. I’ve started buying Copella apple juice which comes in recyclable bottles instead of stuff in tetra-paks. Bags for things like raisins, rice, pulses etc are less targetable, and sometimes have to be offset against other things: e.g. I reckon it’s greener to buy dried pulses instead of tins, but then tins are recyclable… I’ve never seen any of those storecupboardy things packaged any other way, at least outside Morocco, except for those raisins in cardboard boxes I remember from when I was really small!

And now for my new feature….

‘Leftovers Recipe of the Week’


(I have another new feature too, but you’ll have to wait for Friday for that.)

Now, I am including this, you understand, because I one day hope to turn my blog into a book on sustainable eating and cooking that will make me a millionnaire overnight and convert the rest of the world to home-made stock and whole milk.


Right, thanks to Lakshmi on INEGB for inspiring me with this.

Leftover Lamb Lucky Dip

You will need:

  • bits of lamb hacked off yesterday’s roast, enough for two people
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 large carrot or several small ones
  • piece of ginger approx 2.5cm, grated
  • 400g can tomatoes
  • 1/2 tbsp tomato puree
  • juice and zest of a lime
  • creamed coconut, one serving, made up as per manufacturer’s instruction
  • 300ml stock (approx)
  • 1 tbsp garam masala, or other spice mix of your choice
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • Fresh herbs, e.g. mint, parsley, coriander, your choice!
  1. Fry the onion for about 5 mins, then add spices and garlic and fry for further 2 mins
  2. Add carrots and sweat for a few mins
  3. Add lamb, stock, tomatoes, creamed coconut, tomato puree, lime zest and ginger. Bring to the boil then reduce heat to a simmer and leave to reduce for about an hour, till it is a thick, gloopy consistency
  4. Stir in lime juice and fresh herbs, then serve

November 19, 2007 at 8:06 pm Leave a comment

Waste audit, continued

Wednesday 14th November

  • toilet roll tube
  • plastic rings that hold beer cans together
  • veg scraps (various)
  • stock cube box
  • stock cube foil
  • paper bag
  • dishcloth

Thursday 15th November

  • tissue
  • tea leaves
  • veg scraps
  • plastic packet (from dried mango… organic, but still totally unsustainable… must break habit…)
  • cotton wool pad

I really must eat less imported dried fruit, I’m sure it does terrible things to my carbon footprint.

I’m also slightly puzzled as to why there were no tea leaves on Wednesday. I cannot believe I drank no tea the whole day. I must have forgotten to write them down.

As an exciting addendum to what I shall term ‘waste week’, my dalek has arrived!! I am inordinately excited about it, and immediately emailed my dad. It was delivered on Wednesday night, but I had to go into Sustain yesterday and was working on a freelance job until lunchtime today, so I’ve only just had time to play with it. It is now sitting down the bottom of the garden, with the weeds from the other week’s digging extravaganza, some veg scraps from lunch and a couple of toilet roll tubes in it. My amateur opinion is that it needs more ‘browns’. Maybe I should tear up a cardboard box or two and make a layer of that…

Anyway, I have been working hard and not sleeping well for the last few days, so I am going to retire to bed with a hot water bottle, a cup of chai and a Wiggly Wigglers podcast or two.

November 16, 2007 at 4:22 pm 1 comment

Waste audit number two

Prompted by a thread on selfsufficientish I’ve decided to do another waste audit. For a week, I’m going to write down everything that goes in the bin or the recycling and see how it’s changed since I moved out of halls and into a proper house, as well as what I can do to reduce it.

Monday 12th November

  • milk bottle top
  • top of yoghurt pot
  • bulgur wheat packet
  • tea leaves
  • leek leaves
  • tuna can
  • plastic wrapper round tuna cans
  • 2 pieces kitchen roll

Tuesday 13th November

  • tea leaves
  • back of panty-liner
  • coke bottle
  • 2 beer cans
  • veg scraps
  • cardboard tube
  • 2 crisp packets
  • plastic freezer bag

The most obvious change is that now I’m living with the bf there’s much more junk food in the house!!

Things highlighted in green are compostable; I don’t actually have a dalek yet, but it should be arriving soon, and this is something I’ve already identified a need for and am taking steps to reduce.

Things highlighted in red are recyclable (though the cardboard tube will probably be composted when that’s an option).

November 14, 2007 at 9:21 am Leave a comment

Christmas cakes

I got my Christmas cakes out of their tin to see if they needed ‘feeding’ again. There was a strong waft of brandy, so I decided they didn’t, but I thought I’d take a picture of them to share anyway!

After much discussion on Downsizer about the best size and shape cake tins to use, I ignored all the advice and made a square one and a smallish one. My grandma gave me lots of cake tins as she’s selling her flat and moving into a home, so the bf came home a couple of weeks ago to find me covered in cake mix doing area calculations involving pi to work out which combination of tins would work out the same size as the one in the recipe…. (I then had to give the cake tins a good scrub as she hasn’t been able to see to do the washing up properly for about five years….)

Anyway, the cakes have worked regardless. I have used epic quantities of greaseproof paper and half a bottle of brandy! They smell all yummy and Christmassy…. Mmmmmmmm…..

November 12, 2007 at 2:49 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts

Most recent ramblings

November 2007
The Heritage Crafts Network

Rob Hopkins, Transition Handbook

“Environmentalists have often been guilty of presenting people with a mental image of the world’s least desirable holiday destination – some seedy bed and breakfast near Torquay, with nylon sheets, cold tea and soggy toast – and expecting them to get excited about the prospect of NOT going there. The logic and the psychology are all wrong.”

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

"Food is that rare moral arena in which the ethical choice is generally the one more likely to make you groan with pleasure."

Carlo Petrini

"A gastronome who is not also an environmentalist is an idiot. An environmentalist who is not also a gastronome is, well, sad."

Sharon Astyk

"I am, of course, firmly opposed to consumerism and corporatism in all its forms, and I believe that we are deeply confused about material needs and wants. Now let me explain how books and yarn are totally different than the material things that other people want ;-)…."

Raj Patel, at Slow Food Nation

"Biofuels, which is the preposterous policy that we should grow food not to eat it but to set it on fire."