Mar 312015
 

Carrot top pestoOnce you know how to make carrot top pesto, you’ll never want to waste your carrot ‘greens’ ever again.

My recipe appeared online and then in my book The Permaculture Kitchen. Since then, I’ve seen carrot top pesto used by loads of people in all sorts of creative and scrumptious ways. I thought it’d be good to collect some of those ideas together as a source of inspiration. The recipe for the carrot top pesto aka ‘CTP’ is at the bottom of this post.

How to use carrot top pesto

Bread

Carla Tomasi made these delicious bread sticks with black pepper and CTP spread over the dough before she twisted and baked it. Ideal with drinks and antipasta.
Carla's bread sticksAlso good is the CTP spread on bruschetta or toast with one or more of cheese, olives, veg, anchovies or shellfish.

Pasta

Thane Prince used the CTP to dress penne in this scrummy pasta bake with cherry tomatoes.
Thane's pasta bakeYou can just as easily just mix it through cooked pasta: just leave some of the cooking water in the pasta to help make the ‘sauce’. Or use it with ricotta or mascarpone filled ravioli or other filled pasta. Peas go well in the stuffing.

Vegetable Tart

Francoise Murat spread the CTP over the base of a puff pastry case and filled with tomatoes and delicious vegetables. Just bake till tender.

Easy- spread on puff pastry, add roasted tomatoes (vinegar+sugar+oil), peas +vegies, mozzarella bake 20 mins  = trop trop bon!

Rice and grains

CTP is ideal mixed into risotto or with farro/bulgur and other grains.

Roasted and baked veg

I love CTP spread on all sorts of veg including potatoes, oca, mashua, aubergine, courgettes, carrots (!), parsnips, onions which are then roasted. Use as a filling for that warming baked potato.

Meat, chicken, fish & seafood

CTP is delightful spread on all these to roast, grill or pan fry. Stuff it under the breast skin of a chicken before roasting. Slather on salmon before you grill it. Pop a blob on a juicy steak as you serve it.

Carrots a large bunch

Carrot top pesto recipe

Ingredients

Feel free to scale the recipe to suit what you have available.

It’s important that you use the young, tender carrot tops. The leaves & stalks from larger ones tend to be a bit tough.

100g of young carrot tops (a large bunch)
1 clove of garlic, peeled (you can use more)
50g whole almonds (it doesn’t matter whether they are blanched or not) Hazelnuts would work well too.
50g parmesan, roughly diced
150ml extra virgin olive oil
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method

If you need to, wash the leaves to get rid of any mud and grit. Pop them in a big saucepan over a high heat and pour over a large splash of boiling water. Cover the saucepan and boil for 2-3 minutes until the leaves are just wilted. Strain in a colander and refresh with cold water to stop them cooking. Drain completely and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. If you don’t need to do this, then you’ll get a fresher result.

Dry roast the whole almonds in a heavy based pan or in the microwave until they are nicely browned.

Cut the garlic cloves into slightly smaller pieces which will help them blend evenly.

Put the almonds, garlic and a small amount of the carrot leaves into a food processor. The carrot leaves help the other ingredients process well. Process until the almonds and garlic are finely chopped.

Add the rest of the carrot leaves and process until they are puréed. You’ll probably need to scrape down the sides of the processor a few times to ensure even processing. Add the parmesan cheese and process until well mixed, scraping down if needed.

What you’re going to do next is to add the olive oil to make a fluid paste. Add it gradually, stopping to test consistency and scraping down the sides. The consistency I was after I call ‘falling over’ consistency so that the pesto just falls into the blades of the processor as it turns. So, with the food processor running, gradually add the olive oil until you get your desired consistency.

Then check for seasoning. I added a good grind of black pepper and a couple of pinches of sea salt and processed that in.

Keep in the fridge covered in oil.

 Posted by at 17:09
Mar 152015
 

WMF Perfect Pressure CookerA pressure cooker is an essential item for every kitchen. If I could only have one cooking vessel, it’d be a pressure cooker. They are versatile, easy to use, energy-efficient and help you cook delicious, healthy and quick meals.

I needed wanted a replacement for my old Prestige pressure cooker. And, thanks to a Twitter tip from Catherine Phipps (of whom more later), I saved more than £30 of the cost (£134, RRP £149) by buying from Amazon.de rather than the UK site.

I’ve had the cooker since November 2014 and I have used it more than once each week since then. I don’t like clutter in the kitchen, but this one never gets put away: I use it so often.

Size

I opted for a 6 litre cooker. One of the things to remember with pressure cookers is that you can’t fill them to the brim to pressure cook. Depending on what you’re cooking, you can only fill them 2/3 or 1/2 full. So my 6 litre cooker has a maximum ingredients volume of 4 litres. I find this is just right for the 2 or 3 of us. It’s ideal to cook a meal or dish that will last for multiple days.

One of the good things about this cooker is that you can buy different sized pans in this range to increase your options should you so wish. The lid and handle assembly are universal.

Why a new cooker?

I wanted to replace my old (20 years+) Prestige pressure cooker. Despite changing sealing rings and release valves it was difficult to get up to pressure, lost a lot of steam while cooking and was noisy. As a consequence of the sound and fury, it required more energy (higher gas) to keep at pressure and so had become relatively inefficient. To be honest, I’m not sure why it should have deteriorated. The physics and engineering of a cooker are very simple and there’s not much to go wrong. I can only assume that the quality of the spares were not as good as the originals. The pan is still good, so it’ll keep its place in my kitchen.

Why WMF?

Mainly on the advice of Catherine and other experienced users and a thorough research of online reviews. Partly because it fitted my budget: it’s not the cheapest on the market, but it is a relatively high quality for the price.

I was also impressed with the excellent design of the lid and pressure control handle. The handle clips on/off the lid easily to clean and reassemble.

WMF Perfect Pressure Cooker handle detail

Detail of handle top including locking mechanism

WMF Perfect Pressure Cooker lid and pressure releif valve detail

Sealing ring and pressure relief valve (top)

The pressure indication is graduated (low/high) and very easy to see. The locking mechanism is failsafe and has a neat fast pressure release that means the steam vents away from you. No more lifting hot weights with tongs or gloves. (You can also fast pressure release by dousing it with cold water as with other cookers.)

Spares

There are spare parts easily available for the cooker. They’re not cheap and I suspect all manufacturers make a healthy margin on spares. What will be interesting for me to see is how the sealing on the underside of the handle holds up over time.

WMF Perfect Pressure Cooker lid and pressure releif inner handle

Inside of handle

It looks like silicone to me, so will withstand the heat: I wonder how it will age. I’d welcome views from any longer term WMF user in the comments about this.

The cooker doesn’t come with trivet or other inserts as standard which wasn’t a draw back for me. They’re not essential and Catherine’s book (see below) has excellent tips how to improvise with standard kitchen kit.

Silent

I’m really impressed with the cooker in use. It comes to pressure without fuss and the indicator is very clear. Once at pressure, I can put it on my smallest gas ring at its lowest setting to keep up pressure. And – it’s almost silent! Which means less energy use, less steam in the kitchen and I can hold a conversation while it does its stuff.

Recipes

I use the pressure cooker for all sorts of things. Ragùs, stews, whole & jointed chicken and other poultry, risottos and pilafs, pasta, stocks, pulses (super quick cooking), grains, octopus…

The Pressure Cooker Cookbook page detail

Safety

You can’t bring the cooker to pressure without:

  • the sealing ring being properly located
  • the sliding indicator on the handle being in the locked position

And you can’t open the cooker until the sliding indicator is moved to the open position AND all the pressure is released.

If you do forget to turn down the temperature on the cooker once it’s up to pressure, it ‘honks’ at you to warn you. See and hear…

And if you left it still further, the pressure release valve would vent.

So no nasty surprises or explosions 🙂

Pressure Cooker Cookbook

I’ve been a pressure cooker fan for more than 25 years and have some lovely old pressure cooker books. I was delighted when Catherine Phipps published The Pressure Cooker Cookbook in 2012.

The Pressure Cooker Cookbook Cover It’s a fresh, modern and no-faff book. It’s well researched, covers the ‘how-tos’ of pressure cooking very well and has a wide repertoire of pressure cooker recipes. I strongly recommend it for pressure cooker novices and old hands alike.

 Posted by at 17:04
Jul 282014
 

Sunflowers (2 of 6)Sunflowers induce a smile on my face. Outwardly simple, they shout “Summer!” even if the rain is pouring. And this year, they’re having a ball in our gloriously hot summer.

Carla's sunflowersWe plant lots and save seed too. On the right is part of my friend Carla’s garden near Roma, Italy. The tall sunflowers are from seed I sent her. They love the heat of Italy and have grown enormous under Carla’s care.

We leave lots of the heads for the birds during winter. There are floods of finches and tits who perform acrobatics to get their fat and protein boost.

So I was very interested when my twitter friend Pete Taylor (aka 5olly) announced he was launching a Sunflower Trial for 2014. I even sent Pete some recipes for sunflower seed butter & cheese for his blog. It’s a sort of (non) competition and we received three packets of Thompson & Morgan sunflower seeds: Solar Flash, Magic Roundabout and Mongolian Giant.

Along we these we’ve sown and planted our own saved seeds (the variety’s name has been lost in the mists of time), Short Stuff, Hidatsa Sunflower (a staple crop of the Hidatsa people along the Missouri River) and Vanilla Ice from Ben at Higgledy Garden.

Here’s a visual update of progress to this weekend. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 18:16
Jun 272014
 

Garlic Scape Pickles

Here at Legge Towers the weather has been just gorgeous since May. Which has made up somewhat for the slow and cold start to the year. We had to resow courgettes when the first lot sown in early March on heat succumbed to the less than stunning early May temperatures. So we’ve worked really hard outside for the last few weeks.

Garlic harvest - Carcassonne Our garlic has done very well and we harvested the lot this weekend. The best performing variety was a hardneck type (Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon) called Carcassonne. They’re great sized bulbs with a very good taste and developed great scapes. The scapes have a mild garlic heat & taste and they’re one of our summer treats.

Use the scapes in the kitchen wherever you would use garlic. You use them in bean and vegetable dips, soups, stir fries, risottos, tarts and salads. They’re gorgeous moistened with some olive oil and barbecued, griddled or grilled for a minute or two. Just season to serve with a little sea salt and perhaps a splash of extra virgin olive oil.

Yesterday, I used them to make a modified Sicilian style fritedda. Fresh picked broad beans, peas and artichokes are sautéed and then mixed with herbs, extra virgin olive oil and white wine vinegar.

I’ve vacuum packed and frozen some of the enormous scape harvest we had. You can also make oil & pesto with them. One of my favourite scape preserves though are quick & easy pickles. Great as antipasta or as a side with vegetables, seafood meat grills or in a salad. Read on to find out how to make them. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:50
May 302014
 

Fermented mustard greensI wish I’d got to know mustard greens (and reds and goldens) much earlier in my growing adventure. They are such a tasty, versatile and good-hearted vegetable. And some of the varieties are great green manures, ground cover and biofumigants.

Here at Legge Towers we sow them in mid to late summer so that we can put them in the polytunnel to over winter. They get cut down by frost outside in winter, but in the polytunnel, sometimes with a little extra fleece protection they do fine.

They make a good quick green manure which may survive a kind winter, but you can also re-sow early in spring. Certain varieties (like Caliente) are good before potatoes as the gases given off by the leaves when cut down can help prevent wire worm and other pests – this is the biofumigant. You need to cut down and work in the leaves quickly though. More info on this here.

Just to say, we don’t tend to use them in the spring and summer. This is because there’s plenty else around and because we find they bolt quickly if it gets hot or dry for long (it does occasionally happen).

The mustards give us with little leaves for salads to start with. Then we get bigger leaves to use in stir fries or as a steamed/wilted veg. You can also make a lovely mustardy pesto with them. In the spring they produce wonderful flower shoots to use like sprouting broccoli.

Very tall mustard greens at end of seasonThen, as you can see they climb!

By this time, I’m thinking of the next crop that will occupy the space for the summer months. This year, I didn’t want to just compost the remains (after shredding the woodier parts). I thought I could use the more tender parts to ferment to make a tasty snack and accompaniment.

And did that work well? Oh yes. Read on to find out more. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:21
May 272014
 

Three poultry feeder hangin baskets in the polytunnelSometimes the most obvious solutions are at my feet. Which is ironic, as I was after a high-level solution.

We’ve grown tomatoes in the Big Polytunnel for a few years now. They take up quite a lot of bed space and we felt we could use the bed space more productively. But we like tomatoes and have had limited success growing them outside with the awful summers we’ve had and the associated blight. So we thought about growing some tumbler tomatoes from hanging baskets.

Now hanging baskets outdoors in a place like North Wales is asking for trouble. High winds mean they are more likely to be a missile than a useful gardening asset. So we don’t have any conventional baskets. And I needed a solution for my tomatoes that needed a proper home.

Abandoned Poultry Feeder I fell across the solution when walking in one of our fields that we’d kept chickens in years ago. The large feeder broke when the high winds (did I tell you about those?) brought a big branch down from a sycamore. But it wasn’t that broken and would still hang… And a thorny ramble through other former chicken realms yielded up two other feeders that were not in the prime of life.

I gave them a bit of a spruce and drilled some drainage holes in the bases. Some 550 Paracord (olive drab, of course) was ideal to attach the baskets to the polytunnel hanging bars. A top piece of recycling I’m sure you’ll agree 🙂

#ShowsOfHands Tying up the poultry feeder hanging basletAnd this is my contribution to Michelle Chapman’s wonderful Chelsea Fringe project for 2014: Shows of Hands. Michelle’s project aims to highlight the most precious tool of every gardener – their hands. You can read more about the project here at Michelle’s blog.

I filled the baskets with Vital Earth peat free compost with some vermiculite. I slotted in the tomato plants as I filled, leaving a good 5cm space at the top for water. The feeders/baskets come with a useful ledge and so I put some spare nasturtiums in the big one and some self-seeded thyme plants in the other.

I’m very pleased with the result and can’t wait for the tomatoes to ripen. If you look carefully at the plant in the big basket, we already have a baby tomato…

Poultry feeder hanging baskets

 Posted by at 09:46
Apr 282014
 

Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs cover pictureI had a lot of fun yesterday when I interviewed Emma Cooper about her new e-book, Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs as part of Emma’s virtual book tour.

Update 21st April 2015: I’m delighted Emma now has a print version of Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs that you can buy from Amazon.

Emma’s book is about unusual edibles: their history; the people who find and grow them and how to do it yourself.

We covered among other things: oca, chayote and salep; the joys & trials of growing unusual edibles; chewing gravel; dog’s balls; mouth fizzing and coconut clothing.

The interview has a lot of useful information and anecdotes from Emma and a fair amount of laughter. It runs for just over 30 minutes. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did 🙂

Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs Interview

Press the play arrow below to play from this page.

Or right-click and below to download the file to your computer.

Emma Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs Interview mp3

The music on the interview is by Nobara Hayakawa and licensed under creative commons.

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:40
Apr 172014
 

Hop Shoot All you need is a few hop plants (humulus lupulus), some malt and sugar, water and the help of Andy Hamilton.

At the end of the summer, we had loads of the female flowers which are the hops on our plants. So we stripped them and dried them on a rack on top of the woodburner. I vacuum packed them to keep them fresh until I was ready to brew.

In the new year I got out my copy of Andy Hamilton’s Booze for Free and Buhner’s Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers. They are both excellent books that I highly recommend if you would like to use foraged produce to make alcoholic drinks. And who wouldn’t want to? 😉

Hop beer recipe

I diverged slightly from Andy’s recipe. This was partly intention and partly stupidity. I substituted some of the white granulated sugar for molasses sugar. This was to make a darker beer with a deeper taste. I also used 1.5kg of malt extract instead of 1kg. Next time I’ll read the can properly…  Andy was very helpful on Twitter because he helped me by recommending which type of malt extract to use. Cheers Andy.

Ingredients

13 litres water
1.5kg Cooper’s Amber Malt Extract
55g dried hops
500g granulated sugar
250g molasses sugar
5g ale yeast

This made 12 litres of beer.

Method

You’ll need a big saucepan, I used the maslin pan I make jam in.

Take 6 litres of the water and add the malt extract and sugars. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add the hops in a large muslin bag and simmer for another 30 minutes. Take out the hop bag and compost the hops. Your compost heap will love them. Tip the brew into a fermenting vessel and add the rest of the water and leave to cool to room temperature. I measured the specific gravity at 1060. This is higher than Andy’s recipe because of the extra 500g of malt extract.

Leave the liquid covered to cool until the next day and then add the yeast. Sprinkle in the ale yeast in and stir well. Cover and leave to ferment. I put my vessel on a seed propagator to maintain a 20°C+ temperature.

Leave to ferment until the specific gravity approaches 1000 and is steady. With mine, the SG settled at 1010. This gave me a beer of about 7% ABV (alcohol by volume).

Siphon the beer off the sediment into a barrel or beer bottles. Add 1tsp of sugar per litre of liquid to provide a secondary fermentation to give some fizz to the brew. Leave for 10 days to ferment and settle.
Hop Beer in GlassThis made a good dark beer with a grand malty taste with a touch of hop bitterness. It tasted a lot like Theakston’s Old Peculiar. That was easy 🙂

Watch out for more country beer recipes…

What’s your favourite beer?

 Posted by at 11:16

Wild garlic slaw recipe

 Foraging, Forest Garden, Permaculture, Recipes, Seasons, Spring, Vegetable  Comments Off on Wild garlic slaw recipe
Apr 112014
 

Wild garlic slawSpring is a joy not least because of the re-emergence of the wild garlic.

There’s lots of publicity in the UK at the moment about eating more vegetables. I’ve been having fun concocting meals where I replace the normal carbohydrate element (potatoes, pasta, rice etc) with tasty veg. In this recipe, I added a big hit of toasted seeds and nuts for added crunch, taste and nutrients.

Wild garlic slaw recipe

I served this slaw with a chicken & tomato sauté. It could easily be a great breakfast, healthy lunch or snack as well as an accompanying vegetable. I suggested to my son it could be a great Uni meal made in big quantity and used to dip into to save time for studying 😉

Ingredients

Vary these to suit what you have available and to suit your taste. I fancy this with some fresh ginger, chilli and coriander leaf next. You could use raw or confit garlic instead of the wild garlic. Other leaves such as chard, spinach or mustard would be nice too.

10 wild garlic leaves (use flowers too if they are there)
10 stems of Egyptian walking onion (or use the tops of spring onions or finely sliced red onion)
1 large carrot, cut into fine strips
2 or 3 big handfuls of shredded white cabbage
2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
45 ml sweet redcurrant vinegar (or use cider or rice vinegar and add a tsp of caster sugar)
135 ml of olive oil
125ml (1/2 cup) sunflower seeds, toasted
125ml (1/2 cup) blanched almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method

Slice the wild garlic across into very fine strips. Chop the onion stems into small rounds of about 3mm.

Mix the carrot, white cabbage, wild garlic and onion together into a salad bowl.

Dressing bottleMix the vinegar and olive oil together and add some salt & pepper to taste. I use a recycled maple syrup container to do this. I’ve put markings on for my 1:3 vinegar to oil ratio on it. I can then shake it up to emulsify the dressing and squirt a controlled amount on  salads. I keep any left over in the fridge.

Pour enough dressing on the veg so they are well coated without being drowned. Give the ingredients a good toss. Have a taste and correct seasoning if you need to.

Sprinkle the seeds on the slaw and mix. Serve.

It’s as easy as that.

What’s your favourite seeds and nuts for slaws?

 

You might also like:Wild garlic mash, warm chickweed salad & seafood
Wild garlic and smoked salmon carbonara
Wild garlic and homemade ricotta pasta

 Posted by at 11:05
Mar 252014
 

My book being packedMy book had been printed!

I went with Debs yesterday to Cambrian Printers to see The Permaculture Kitchen being bound. The team there were brilliant. They were all very friendly and happy to explain to me what they were doing and how the machines worked. I was impressed by their calm professionalism despite a day that had started early at 6am.

The insides had all been printed and collated and the covers were printed too. I saw the insides being stitched together in a very complex machine that must have taken ages to set up correctly. The publishers decided to stitch the book so that it could be laid flat. If it was just glued into the covers, it would soon fall apart which is not what you want from a kitchen book.

Then the covers and insides were collated and glued in a massive machine – coming out of the end to be checked and packed.

The pallets of books are now on their way from the printer to the publisher. They will send me some and distribute the others to Green Shopping, Amazon and other sellers.

So. If you would like to buy a signed copy, head over to The Permaculture Kitchen section of this web site. I have PayPal set up to take orders, as soon as the books are with me I will start to send them out to you. You will also see the full copies of the testimonials I’ve received from some highly respected names in food.

I’ve also made a sub-section of resources for the book. In the book I say that there will be videos to help with bread making and they are there as promised. I’ve also included my video on how to make mayonnaise with a stick blender. If you’d like anything else from the book explained or illustrated, just let me know in the comments to the Resources page and I’ll do my best to help.

I will be at the Edible Garden Show on Saturday to sign copies and give a talk. It’d be great to see you there if you can make it.

Finally, I wanted to say thank you to all of you who have supported me through getting this book published. I really appreciate it. This is quite an adventure 🙂

 Posted by at 14:15
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