May 152013
 

Guanciale cross section view
Guanciale is the perfect preserved pork. It’s wonderfully versatile & tasty, easy to make, economical to buy & use and looks brilliant. What’s not to like about that? You can see what I made in the picture above: I’m so pleased with the result.

Guanciale means “pillow” in Italian, the reason should be obvious. My first taste was courtesy of my friend and Italian food mentor Carla Tomasi who sent me some from Rome. It was a revelation with a deep porky taste. It’s good raw, as a seasoning or a major ingredient in many dishes. When I got the Italian dry curing book Salumi for review (see here), I first searched out the recipe for guanciale. It’s ridiculously simple. The authors say it is:

…one of the most magical of the Big Eight cured cuts [and] some of the finest and most versatile salumi…

At the end of February I was fortunate to meet Huw Roberts of Oinc Oink our very local award winning pedigree Welsh pork producers. At their stall Huw had brought along some pig cheeks on the off chance that they might sell. They did.

I rushed home and got out my copy of Salumi. If you want to find out how to make your own guanciale, please read on…

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 17:24
Apr 022013
 

Evernote Camera Roll 20130322 220654

I love the way Twitter works. In particular how ideas get propagated: across the world in an instant and inspiring new networks of enthusiastic people. And also how physical things are shared too.

This kefir bread is the result of both such things. My apologies for the pics – they’re taken quickly on an iPhone and the bread didn’t last long enough for me to take anything posher for you.

I sent Joanna at Zeb Bakes in England some kefir. As part of her experiements, Joanna (a great baker) decided to make kefir leavened bread blogged by her friend Cecilia. Joanna has written a very instructive blog post about her experience. And Cecilia is a Kiwi (New Zealander) living in mid-west USA.

So, with all this helpful stuff to read, I had to have a go at this.

As you can see from the pictures, the loaf turned out very well indeed. It was a soft bread (apart from the crisp crust), slightly sweet with a background tang. It makes lovely sandwiches and toasts well (browns very quickly). We had it au naturel, with marmalade and toasted with cheese and it went well with all of them.

You need to think a couple of days ahead as you need live kefir milk to start fermenting a flour ‘sponge’. You then add this sponge to a bigger quantity of flour to ferment the final loaf.

I’ve tweaked the recipes that preceded this to use a higher amount of kefir in the sponge and reduced the water to match. To see my recipe, please read on…

 Posted by at 17:36
Mar 292013
 

Puntarelle plants one month from sowing

How to grow Puntarelle

In my last blog post, I showed you how to use this versatile vegetable. As promised, I’ll tell you how to grow them in this post.

We found these very easy to grow last year even with all the rain and lack of sun.

If you’d like me to show you how to grow them,  please read on…
Continue reading »

 Posted by at 12:16
Feb 102013
 

Seedy Penpals Badge Big
Our second Seedy Penpal exchange has got off to a great start. we have lots of enthusiastic people who are making new friends and oo-ing and ahh-ing over new seeds and other presents. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 14:36

Seedy Penpals January 2013

 Permaculture, Seasons, Seedy Penpals, Spring, Winter  Comments Off on Seedy Penpals January 2013
Jan 102013
 

Seedy Penpals Badge Big

As many people found in August 2012, Seedy Penpals is a great way to share seeds with like-minded people. We all like to send and receive surprise treats: with Seedy Penpals you get to grow them too (and eat some). Follow the links at the bottom of that post to see the fun other people had.

Now it’s nearly time for the February 2013 exchange. If you already know about the scheme and just want to sign up, visit the ‘How it Works’ page and use the form that’s there.

If you took part in last year’s Scheme, I’ll email you to ask you to confirm that you want to take part in this exchange. Please look out for my email, or let me know you want to carry on by Tweeting  me. If your email address has changed since last time, please get in touch with me on Twitter or using the contact form on this website. Thanks 🙂

For those of you that are new to this, here’s a brief explanation…

Seedy Penpals is also a great way to

  • Meet and make new friends who share your interest in gardening
  • Find new blogs you may like
  • Share your experience of different plants and how to grow & care for them
  • Increase your knowledge about how to grow & care for plants
  • Save & share your favourite varieties
  • Protect plant biodiversity
  • Conserve and promote heritage varieties of plants
  • Make sure your surplus seeds are not wasted

Who can join?

Anyone who would like to join is welcome. You can be:

  • a complete beginner, or
  • someone who knows they have green fingers
  • young, or
  • more ‘mature’

We’d like to see:

  • bloggers or non-bloggers
  • Tweeters or non-Tweeters
  • UK & other EU residents only (due to seed export restrictions)

All you need to do is to read this about How it Works, fill in the form that’s there and sign up. Please read How it Works carefully, so you can be sure that you can participate in this way.

So what happens?

  • You read the Agreement and sign up
  • You encourage your friends to join too
  • In late January and late July of each year we match you up with a Seedy Penpal & email you
  • Penpal A will send to Penpal B, Penpal B will send to Penpal C (so it’s not a swap)
  • You get in touch with your Seedy Penpal to find out their postal address and any preferences they may have
  • In February and August you select and send to your Seedy Penpal some thoughtfully chosen seeds and any tips and instructions for sowing and care
  • You open your Seedy Packet and rejoice at your good fortune, sow what you like. Tweet your joy if you do that thing!
  • If you can, blog about your Seedy Packet and how your seeds are doing in the coming weeks and months. You put your link on the Seedy Blog so we can all see it. Add the Seedy Penpals Badges to your site.
  • Let us have some feedback about what went well and less well and give us suggestions for improvement
  • Look forward to the next Seedy Packet and encourage your friends to join.

So now, sign up

 Posted by at 13:28
Nov 162012
 

Peat Free Diet Audiobook Cover

Emma Cooper – The Peat Free Diet – Audio Book

Running time in excess of 2 hours

The Peat Free Diet (PFD) on Emma’s blog is a really useful resource for anyone interested in growing things. If you’re also interested in saving peat bogs by going peat free, then all the better: the book or audio-book is for you. Emma has packed a huge amount of comprehensive, detailed and well researched information into a neat little package. If you’re new to gardening or if you’d welcome a refresher, this will be a mine of handy & very accessible information for you.

Does it work as an audio-book though?

Yes, if you’re in the market for some enjoyable in-ear education. I can see (hear?) that this audio-book will be useful to commuters, exercisers and those who, for choice or physical need, prefer an audio presentation of material.

Emma’s diction and enunciation are very clear and crisp. I think that her speech will be clear on even the most dodgy set of earphones. The reading is fast enough paced so that you’ll not fall asleep without being so fast as to seem garbled.

Emma’s wry sense of humour also shines through her presentation with some dry quips delivered in characteristically understated style.

Emma produced the audio book herself and I think this shows in a couple of minor respects. The transitions between each track are slightly clipped at the end of one and the beginning of the next. Not so much so that you lose the meaning, but just noticeable. And on very few tracks the sound levels are not fully consistent between tracks. Again, not annoyingly so – just noticeable.

I think that this audio-book is a great piece of work by Emma. If you’re in the sort of groups of people I’ve suggested, it would be a great addition to your audio library.

Disclosure:
I count Emma as a friend. We’re regularly in contact and exchanging banter on Twitter and Emma has been to visit me here in North Wales. That said, I’ve called this review as I heard it and feel about it. I hope that helps.

 

 

 Posted by at 12:53
Oct 022012
 

The Foodie Penpals parcel Kim sent to me

This is my third Foodie Penpals parcel. This month I was matched with Kim (or Mub) who an ex-pat American from the Netherlands. In Kim’s note she said loved Mexican food. Like me here in North Wales, Kim finds getting all the ingredients she needs challenging sometimes. So she stashes Mexican stuff in her suitcase when she returns from the US. I was lucky that she has shared some of her precious stash with me.

She sent me a very helpful handwritten note with recipes and tips how to use the goodies she sent me.

Kim sent me two types of cornmeal to make tortillas: some white cornmeal and some blue. After some quick Google research, I established the blue cornmeal is from Blue Corn (aka Hopi Maize) and should have a sweeter & nuttier taste than the white. It’s also a more complete protein. I think some comparative trials are in order here.

Also included by Kim were some dried jalapeno peppers “to give things a bit of a kick” and some of Kim’s own mix of taco seasoning. A meal is forming itself in my mind to use these ingredients. The aroma of both is very good indeed.

Kim included a diddy tin of lovely green chillies which she recommends for chicken enchiladas.

Lastly, Kim included a really neat touch of Dutch: some spice mix for making celebration Dutch biscuits called ‘Speculaas’ (I had to look that up too). The seasoning is a mixture of cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, clove, ginger, cardamom & orange peel: some of my most favourite warm flavours & aromas. Kim suggested it maybe fun if I incorporated the spice in some of my bread making adventures. Good call.

Kim said she had to think out of the box on this. Well she succeeded and I have interesting things to play with, so I’m a very happy boy. Thanks so much Kim.

I recommend the scheme if you love food and would like to try new things. If you do, click the badge below to find out more…

 Posted by at 16:57
Sep 302012
 

 

Seedy Penpals Badge Big

As I type this there’s yet another brutal weather front going over. The wind is howling and the rain lashing both pressing & clawing at the windows like hungry sea monsters. The transition into Autumn has crashed down like a saturated ceiling.

The seeds I received from Lucy are safely tucked up indoors awaiting a new year and some warmth. However, all has not been quiet here at Legge Towers on the Seedy Penpals front.

Mel & I have worked on a Questionnaire for those of you who took part in the last exchange. We will email this very shortly. Mel has done great outreach work in the Netherlands and far beyond: go have a read.

Here, I have saved seeds from some of our plants, especially the heritage varieties. We’ve saved seeds from our (former Heritage Seed Library) Dragon’s Tongue dwarf bean, achocha and sunflowers for example. We’ve also had a great year in propagating oca (oxalis tuberosa) seedlings. These may just be the crosses that will be the next generation of oca that doesn’t need to wait until after the autumn equinox to make tubers. We’ll find out next year.

Some of these things may find their way into my next Seedy Penpals parcel…

Anyway, if you have your own blogged update of progress with your Seedy Penpals seeds, you can add a link below…



 

 Posted by at 11:59

Seedy Penpals – a letter from Gillian

 Autumn, Permaculture, Seasons, Seedy Penpals, Winter  Comments Off on Seedy Penpals – a letter from Gillian
Sep 122012
 

Gillian sent me a letter about her Seedy Penpals experience which she asked me to blog for her. I do this with pleasure. You can find Gillian as the Impatient Gardener on Twitter.

A letter from Gillian

Dear Carl

Just a letter to update you on my #SeedyPenpals experience.

My seedy pen pal was the lovely Kate Mortimer; she sent me a wonderful parcel of seeds including: Green Manure, Radish “Hilds blauer Herbst und Winter”, Viola bambini mixed, Godetia and corn marigolds.

Gillian Pulford - Seedy Penpals Packet

As I have an allotment here in Llanfairfechan, I was quite keen to start with the green manure which has been something I’ve been meaning to try. So I have been busy sowing this as gaps arise. Apart from a few tussles with local riff raff (rabbits) this is going great guns.

Gillian Pulford - sowing green manure

I’ve also sown my radish, which is almost ready.

Gillian Pulford - radish seedling

And the viola, Kate was given the viola seeds from The Tatton Hall RHS show at the Abolition of Torture Garden. I look forward to these, and feel that I must make the effort to visit the Tatton Hall show myself next year.

Gillian Pulford - Viola

On my allotment I mainly grow veg, but I will shortly sow some of the Godetia sent by Kate to hopefully bring some early colour and help bring the bees in to do their stuff!

I’m really pleased with my seeds and feel that Kate sent me an excellent mix. I will be really interested to see the result of the green manure and its affect on my soil which is heavy clay and real effort to dig. Anything that helps break it up has to be a bonus.

After reassuring nearest and dearest that I wasn’t corresponding with unscrupulous characters but in fact sowing seeds, #SeedyPenpals has been a brilliant experience which has encouraged me to sow seeds I would have not tried before. It has also put me in contact with some lovely people who share some wonderful tips and advice for growing.

Finally, thanks for the wonderful idea – loving it

All the best

Gill

 Posted by at 13:58
Aug 312012
 

My Foodie Penpals parcel for August 2012
This is my second Foodie Penpals parcel. This month I was matched with Alena from London who, as you can see, really did me proud.

What Alena sent me was as wonderful as it was unexpected. She sent me all I would need to make wonderful sushi and a fab miso soup. Even down to thinking to include a shushi rolling mat. How clever & thoughtful is that?

Alena sent me a beautiful sunflower card. In it she said:

This summer we are really enjoying Japanese food & I have decided to send you some ingredients for sushi & my favourite miso soup with enoki mushrooms.

As an ex-London resident, I really appreciate the marvels and choice you have there so you can  get ingredients from just about any part of the world. North Wales isn’t quite like that.

We’ve had the soup, which was delicious. As Debs has been working hard on a load of shifts, I’ve held off making the sushi – now she’s on holiday we can indulge at leisure. I’m really looking forward to the chance to practise a new technique.

What’s not shown is the cake Alena sent me. I’ll let Alena describe:

I have also baked an apple pie – this is our family recipe.

It was gorgeous. And the reason there’s no picture is because we consumed the cake (generous portions of the same) before I got the chance to take any pictures. My 17-year-old son declared it “Amazing!” and I agree heartily.

What’s more, Alena kept me fully up to date with progress of the parcel. She packed it beautifully and safely.

All-in-all, I was delighted with the parcel. Another victory for Foodie Penpals. Thanks so much Alena x

I recommend the scheme if you love food and would like to try new things. If you do, click the badge below to find out more…

 Posted by at 18:31
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