food to glow

feel good food that's good for you

lookwhatifoundThis is the second edition of my “Look What I Found!” Friday feature, where I share what I have found, been given, picked, planted and bought. I love a nosy in peoples’ kitchens. I hope you enjoy having a nosy around mine.

tideford-soups image by food to glowI love soup, and as an adopted Scot soup-making and soup-eating is pretty much a must around here (It’s the cold you see). I usually make my own, but when I was offered the chance to try these newly created soups by the upmarket – but still affordable – Devon company Tideford Organics, I of course said, “yes.” I mean, who could turn down the chance to have a sneak preview of Cucumber Soup with Dill and Kefir, or Watercress with Spirulina and Lemon? Not me, that’s for sure. And these are so good; the flavours distinct and tasting very much of themselves -if you know what I mean. I’m pretty sure that if I were blind folded that I would be able to name most of the major ingredients. Can’t say that about Heinz, can you? This new range is available from May 5 at these stockists in the UK. Their sauces are extremely good too, and available in the chiller cabinet.

DSC_0041You may already be familiar with Yutaka products: most supermarkets carry their mini miso soups (a staple item in my pantry) and their Japanese condiments. But they also make other products too, and I was lucky enough to be sent some Konnyako and Shirataki Noodles to try. “Eh?” Well, if you have heard of ‘slimming noodles’ these are the very ones, but the original ones. Made from filling but very low carbohydrate konjac these are a must for anyone doing intermittent fasting as they REALLY fill you up. Like tofu they don’t really taste of anything (that is a good thing!) so you can make them taste of whatever you wish. I use them in broths with vegetables and am always surprised at how full I feel. It is safe food to eat but those who take meds to control Type 2 diabetes should be aware that it lowers blood sugar.

finnberry image by food to glowThese ‘super fruit’ berry powders are a MUST if you are a smoothie-head like me. My Instagram feed has featured quite a few blended concoctions starring these gorgeous powders. Just a tablespoon added into my blender with the other bits and bobs is all you need to add Nordic berry-goodness that is exceptionally rich in vitamins, flavonoids, carotene, antioxidants. And I LOVE the nippy-sweet taste (no-added sugar, no added anything!). I will definitely be buying some replacements once these packets, kindly given to me by Finnberry, run out. Although I mainly use them in smoothies, I have seen some quite interesting desserts and breakfast ideas on Instagram. I even made my own wee sweet – raw freezer fudge – and dusted the tops with lingonberry and buckthorn. They also have bilberry and cranberry powders, as well as dried berries and – mmm – chocolate-covered berries. Have a look at their site for nutritional info, ordering info and beautiful recipes. Their About Us page is pretty special, too.

DSC_0043I have some very good friends. Friends who know me all too well. I rarely get chocolate from anyone, nor fancy jewellery. These things are perfectly nice to receive, don’t get me wrong (and if you have ordered me any fancy jewellery please don’t let me stop you!), but the way to keep me sweet is to give me cheese (in moderation, of course). Or stuff to do with cheese. My exceptionally lovely friend and neighbour Kath (and blog reader – it’s in her contract) gave me this fab cheese making kit for my recent birthday. Looking on the website, these kits have got rave reviews, and there are many other options too. I really can’t wait to get on with this little project! I wonder if I can order one of those natty white coats and mesh hats to go with my role as cheese maker in chief at food to glow? Thanks so much, Kath. I’ll share. :-)

And what to have with homemade cheese? Some fabulous crispbreads. I occasionally make my own crispy flatbreads (here and here), but these absolutely must-have Peters Yard Swedish crisp breads are ALWAYS in my kitchen. Usually awaiting a slice of cheese or spread of almond butter. You can order them online, buy them at Waitrose or, in Edinburgh, pick them up from their three bakeries. I am a lucky so-and-so, I know. Three Swedish bakeries in Edinburgh; who’d have guessed. I have honestly never tasted a better crisp bread. And a lovely Norwegian lady on one of my recent cancer nutrition courses has given it her seal of approval, too. PS the Makro in Edinburgh (Sighthill) has them at trade prices. Shhh.

manomasa tortilla chips image by food to glowAnother thing that friends know  – and you too if you are a regular reader – about my snacking habits is that I am a sucker for a tortilla chip (or 20). I blame my childhood. Growing up in Florida in the 70s and 80s there weren’t all the flavours you have today, of course. And I don’t remember my mother buying them at the supermarket. But we did have a wonderfully over-the-top restaurant chain called Casa Gallardo that made their own tortilla chips. Quite often my friends and I would eat so many complimentary and refillable (!) tortilla chips that we barely managed a dent in our chimichangas or burritos.  But we always had room for a margarita (this was before you had to be 21 to drink alcohol). Anyway, my taste for salty things is my downfall and now that I have been introduced to the delights of Manomasa tortilla chips I really have no hope of changing my ways. I didn’t eat ALL the bags (as much as I would have liked that) but I had enough samples to know that this is something I will buy. My daughter and her flatmates really loved them too. Impressively they made their bag last 2 whole days. She obviously didn’t have the rigorous training that I had. ;-) The texture is superbly light and crisp with no oiliness. And the flavours? Well, think Mexican street food and you get the picture. Total treat.

DSC_0044If you are looking for a sustainable form of protein and, not to put too fine a point on it – are rather adventurous – why not check out Planet Organic’s venture into edible insects. While 2 billion people eat insects on a regular basis  we in the West, with our millions of acres devoted to feeding livestock, have not really been interested. We watch others eat insects on reality programmes (live ones, which is pretty rank) but opportunities to try them in a more palatable form have not really been available. Until now. My husband spent his early years in Zambia where it was not uncommon to eat things such as crickets. He says they were really good! To be honest I haven’t plucked up the courage to try my Buffalo Worms yet but a stir fry is on the cards.

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 19.42.49Why am I showing you my laundry? Isn’t that a bit TMI? Well, see those white-ish balls in the basket with my dish cloths, towels and pillow slips? They are my new best buy. I was in TK Maxx fairly recently when these caught my eye. I had heard about their laundry softening powers, and how they cut the drying time, but had never seen them before. Reasonably priced I popped the box of three in my basket and planned to use them the next day. Well, I sprinkled them with some frankincense essential oil and had not only kitten-soft laundry, but it smelled like ‘high church‘ too. Oh, and it shaved off at least 20 minutes of drying time. If the sky above us would stop with the intermittent hailstorms then I could dry my laundry outside. But I will still soften it up for 10 minutes with these great woollen balls. You can buy them in some shops, online but you can also make your own.

homemade vanilla extractAnd lastly, from a friend and fellow healthy blogger, an extremely thoughtful gift. As a thank you pressie for writing up this article for her blog, Katie at The Muffin Myth sent from her home in Stockholm a bottle of 12-month (exactly!) vanilla extract made by her own talented hands. I have only had a chance to use it once but it is so good that that I have even dabbed some on my neck to carry the aroma with me! Perhaps if you write her an article on a tricky subject she will send you some too. But, if not, she has an easy recipe that I can vouch gives brilliant results. Perfect for presents and to keep. foraging image by food to glow

Okay, one last picture. This is what I picked in the local woods when I was walking back from dropping off my car to get serviced: wild garlic, nettles, daffodils (still!), some bluebells and some yellow pom pom things. Although I had work to do I immediately came in and made pesto combining the two edibles, making two batches: one with walnuts and one with pine nuts and sunflower seeds. Lesson: always carry a bag. You never know what you might find. :-)

See you next week lovely people. This weekend I’m off to the Big Smoke (London) for some food and, um, food. If you want to see what I get up to, follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. But only if you aren’t offended by big plates of Japanese food, Vietnamese food, and frothy cocktails. ;-)

Disclosure: I was given some of the above products to try. I was not asked to write a review (positive or otherwise) on any of the items received. All opinions are my own, and freely given.

Naanchiladas-curry-spiced-enchiladas by food to glowAs with some television shows, where an entire episode seems to be based round a joke that came up in a production meeting, this recipe was an off-beat idea of mine that grew into a recipe. I started with the hybrid name and it kind of went from there.

But unlike some TV shows, this works. No joke.

Just a couple of notes: about the sauce, if you wish to use garam masala or another curry powder that you like, that would be just fine. Use about two tablespoons, but be prepared to add more if the flavour seems “thin.” And as for the naan, use roti or chapati if you wish, or even commercial naan, although the latter may be too thick and will tear/break (and really aren’t very nice when compared to homemade). Heck you could even add curry spices to a bought red enchilada sauce. Whatever way you do this, it’s a fun and unexpected way to enjoy vegetables. Perhaps not as unexpected as my last recipe though. ;-)

Naanchiladas-curry-spiced-enchiladas by food to glow

Naanchiladas

  • Servings: 3-5
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Change out the vegetables and flatbread to suit your tastes (and perhaps to clear out your fridge). This is more a template and slightly offbeat idea than a proper recipe, so make it your own. And just to say I have labelled it as of ‘moderate’ difficulty but it isn’t difficult, just with a few more steps than a beginner cook might be comfortable. Using bought roti and a bought but spiced up red enchilada sauce would cut the steps drastically and make it a very quick midweek meal. But of course, I have to go the ‘whole enchilada.’ ;-)

The Naanchilada Sauce

2 tbsp oil of choice (eg coconut, ghee or rapeseed)

1 medium onion, chopped

1 peeled clove of garlic, minced

35g (1.1 oz) peeled ginger, minced

1/2 tsp each of coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, hot (or mild if for children) paprika, turmeric

¼ tsp fenugreek seeds, crushed (or use ground fenugreek)

2 tbsp flour or cornflour/cornstarch OR whatever you like to use for thickening sauces

35g (1.1 oz) peeled ginger, minced

3 tbsp tomato puree

500ml vegetable stock (more as needed to get the sauce as you wish)

Special equipment: jug blender (I use this one) or hand blender. If you have neither then please use all ground spices.

1. Heat a skillet and add the spices. Let these get a bit toasty then scrape out onto a plate. Set aside.

2. Heat the oil over medium-low in the same skillet, and add the chopped onion and the garlic and sauté until the onion is soft – about five minutes. Add in the toasted spices, the ginger and the flour, and cook for a further minute, stirring. Pour in half of the vegetable stock and add all of the tomato puree, stir well and bring to a fast simmer, stirring occasionally. Let this thicken, then add the rest of the stock and let this thicken. Pour the sauce into a blender and blitz until completely smooth. Set aside. This can be done a couple of days in advance, or made and stored in the freezer. Do play with this sauce until you get it the way YOU want it.Naanchiladas-curry-spiced-enchiladas by food to glow

Naan Bread

If you need something gluten-free, why not try these brown rice tortillas? I haven’t tried them but they look like they will work well here.

250g (9 oz) plain or unbleached flour (I used spelt flour)

1 tsp sugar

½ tsp salt

½ tsp baking powder

1 tbsp kalonji/Nigella seeds OR cumin seeds

130ml (4.5 fl oz) plant or dairy milk (I used hemp milk)

2 tbsp rapeseed oil or other neutral cooking oil

1. Sift together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk the oil and milk. Make a ‘well’ in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Use your hand to mix the dough, and once it has come together knead it in the bowl until is smooth and elastic: you want it to spring back when you press into it. Cover the dough with a cloth or plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for 15 minutes to half an hour, to rest the gluten.

2. Turn it out of the bowl onto a floured surface and roll into a sausage shape and divide into five equal pieces. Roll out the pieces thinly. Cover the rolled dough with a cloth while you finish with the rest of the pieces.

3. Heat a skillet and lay a naan on it, turning when bubbles are just lightly browned – remember they will cook further in the oven. Set aside and cover. These can be kept wrapped in a tea towel while you sort the vegetables. You want to keep them wrapped and warm (but not hot) so that they remain pliable.naan-bread-collage by food to glow

The Naanchilada Filling

1 tbsp oil of choice

250g (8 oz) cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces

125g (4.4 oz) aubergine/eggplant, diced

½ onion, chopped finely

2 cloves garlic, minced

40g/1.4 oz kale, chopped (ribs removed) OR other sturdy greens

1 heaped tbsp. garam masala or curry powder (I used Steenberg Organic)

Salt, to taste

100g (3.5) cooked lentils – I used black Beluga lentils from a pouch (Merchant Gourmet) as the really hold their shape, but use any that you have

Hard, grated cheese, to top the filled naan breads (I used vintage/extra strong Cheddar but paneer but would be fab and go with the whole ‘vibe’) – optional

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

2. Heat the oil over a low-medium flame in the skillet or a wok and add the onions and garlic, sautéing for five minutes; add the remaining vegetables, the spices and a splash of water or water and a little tomato puree (if you have any, but not necessary). Saute, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened.

3. To assemble, pour a thin layer of sauce in a rectangular baking dish that will fit the naans (I used one that is 30cm x 21cm / 12in x 8.5in). Take each naan and evenly fill with the vegetable mix and top with the lentils (or mix in before filling the breads), rolling them up and laying them in the dish. Pour over the sauce and smooth.

4. Place the naanchiladas in the preheated oven and bake until the sauce is bubbly on the sides and the cheese is browned and and gooey – about 20 minutes.

PS. I’m popping this over to Jac’s for her new Meat Free Mondays link-up. Why don’t you do the same with your latest veggie recipe?Naanchiladas-curry-spiced-enchiladas by food to glowNaanchiladas-curry-spiced-enchiladas by food to glow

magic-vegan-chocolate-mousse by food to glowI really really wanted to title this, “Bloody Freakin’ Genius Chocolate Mousse,” but that a) might have sounded a bit rude to the more sensitive among you (sorry), and you might have clicked away; and b) it might have sounded a bit hyperbolic – and you might have clicked away, this time shaking your head at the egotism the title implies.

But, I am not the genius. Someone else is. {It may be this person.} Someone whose hand I wish to give a hearty shake, and on whose cheek I wish to give a chocolate-scented kiss. Folks, you may wish to be sitting when I tell you this.

The secret, the magic, well, it is *drum roll* chickpea liquid.

I know, yes, the icky goo that you pour down the drain. It sounds utterly bonkers; and my brain is still recovering from trying this and it absolutely, 100 per cent, working. But work it does. Those starches and proteins that we willy-nilly chuck away are thousands of recipes waiting to be developed.magic-vegan-chocolate-mousse by food to glow

Don’t believe me? Well, just go – right now – and get a can of chickpeas. Drain the peas over a medium sized bowl. Now pull out your electric mixer and plunge them into that bowl, and whisk that gunge on high. That’s all. Almost immediately it goes encouragingly frothy, but as you keep it in and move the beaters around the bowl – as you would for whipping cream (this is essentially the process you are mimicking) – it whitens and swells with high-velocity air. Remove the beaters from the bowl and admire your soft peaks. ;-) Soft peaks that stay, even when you turn your back to now gently heat some best dark chocolate.

screenshot of my instagram post

screenshot of my instagram post

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I have to thank Fran down in Tasmania for mentioning this method to me a few times in the comments. I was initially intrigued, but as I can’t really eat chickpeas the notion sat in an unused and spacious crevice in my brain.  Luckily, opening some chickpeas recently for a recipe (soon to be blogged), that notion sprang to my prefrontal cortex and demanded that I immediately pop a bowl under the chickpeas rather than let this goo escape. Sidetracked to a terrifyingly manic degree I then grabbed chocolate and some other bits, pushing the other recipe’s ingredients to the side. In my haste – and excitement once I saw those fluffy peaks appear – I burned two batches of good chocolate. I’m rubbish at patience and chocolate melting, but I imagine you are better about both of these things. It all came good in the end, and is too easy for anyone not to try. Once I decided that I could just add chocolate to this cloudlike entity I looked on the Internet and found this recipe on Mouthwatering Vegan. I have adapted it lightly, but with so few ingredients it is hard to stray far from Miriam’s original.

Apparently this whole chickpea liquid thing started on a Facebook page at the beginning of the year, and by March a few people had posted about it, and with other beans and tinned hearts of palm (!). But this is still ahead-of-the-curve stuff, and I have Fran – or Narf77 as is her nom de plume – to thank.

So, the magic is not chia seeds, avocado, coconut milk, cashews, or any other ‘super food’ we healthy types like to play with. Nope, just plain old chickpea liquid.

Have you already discovered this gob-smackingly genius trick? Did you make macarons, meringues, marshmallow fluff, torrone, mousse? Let me know! Here’s a page you may be interested in too. Oh, and btw, Elaine has made a savoury mousse with hers. She saw my experiments on Instagram and had a play herself. Genius! Bl**dy freakin’ genius. ;-)

magic-vegan-chocolate-mousse by food to glow

Magic Chocolate Mousse

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: ridiculously easy
  • Print

The idea of whisking up chickpea liquid and it making a fluffy mousse may seem bonkers and yucky but I assure you, while it is bonkers it is as far away from yucky as you can imagine. Especially with melted chocolate folded in. The whipped liquid tastes only faintly beany, but with chocolate added and a little coffee essence (not necessary but I think it really works), NO ONE will be able to know the magic you have wrought. Hit them with the news after they have demolished their bowl and asked for seconds… Be prepared to deal with the screaming.

The liquid from a tin of chickpeas

100g (3.5 oz) best dark chocolate, melted in a bain marie or microwave (this page from love food.com tells you about both methods) – allow it too cool a little while you make the rest

pinch of fine salt

1-2 tsp icing sugar, or tiny smidge quality stevia (I use Sweetleaf organic in powdered form, but only occasionally), to taste if desired (I didn’t need any)

1 tsp coffee or vanilla extract (more to taste) — maybe mint extract or rose would be nice

1. Using an electric whisk/beaters whisk the chickpea liquid until it looks like softly whipped cream – soft-peak stage. Whisk in the sugar if using, and the salt.

2. Stir the coffee or vanilla extract fully into the melted chocolate, then either fold this into the fluffy mix, or – as I did – whisk it in with your electric beaters. If you do the latter you may the think you have ruined it, but it sets beautifully. Taste for flavour and adjust if needed (remember – no raw eggs here!)

3. Pour the chocolatey gorgeousness into 2-3 serving cups or individual-sized dishes, cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours. Garnish with cacao nibs, a dusting of cocoa powder or some icing sugar.

Note 1: this keeps well for a couple of days in the refrigerator without any deterioration in taste or appearance. Result!

Note 2: the basic method can be used as a vegan substitute for both whipped cream and whipped egg whites. Talk about versatile!

 

 

magic-vegan-chocolate-mousse by food to glowEntering this over at Emily’s Recipe of the Week where she shares loads of recipes every week – go and add yours! And also – because this is a very thrifty recipe – over at Credit Crunch Munch (cheers, Michelle, Helen and Camilla)

wild-garlic-soup by food to glowToday, as I am smashing ripe buttery avocado onto toasted bread, and whisking up my ‘essential’ matcha tea (how I’ve missed you), you may be pondering just how to make that crumpled fiver last five days. The Live Below The Line challenge: Did you sign up? Good.

As I wrote in the last post, eating and drinking on £1 a day brought out my creativity and a bit of pioneer spirit (minus the wood chopping and home dentistry), but the challenge also reinforced how fortunate I am not to have to do this day in and day out. I really don’t know how I would cope if I were to – through need and not awareness-raising – have to live so frugally, and without any end in sight. I would like to think that as with many things I would just get stuck in and make the best of it. But when your situation feels unjust and hopeless… I have never experienced anything like that. And of course I hope my family and I never do.

Anyway, this whole week has given me much to ponder on. I understand from some comments on the blog, on social media and in person, that my week has made some of you think deeply also. Not only about what you would actually eat, but about the situations of others less fortunate than ourselves; about what we really think is important; about how much we waste. I think I am pretty good with menu planning and waste, but honestly, I don’t have much of a clue. But I have made a stab at it, and my week of living below the line is listed below.

All of us have different tastes, so your week’s shopping and menu will probably be different to mine. But hopefully you will find my take on Living Below The Line helpful, and give you some ideas – whether you are taking the challenge or not. I won’t lie, it will be somewhat repetitive – as the limited shopping will convey. And it may challenge your digestion – our guts don’t like sudden changes. But it needn’t be boring or without culinary merit.

If you are doing the challenge, please let me know. Let us ALL know. I would love to find out what you have planned. Or, if you aren’t doing the challenge, do pass on some frugal tips that will make the week – and beyond – easier. And, if you can make a way of fitting avocado on toast and a serious matcha tea habit fit into a £1 a day budget, I will come over and make you dinner. Avocado growers need not apply…. :-)

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TOTAL SPENT: £4.49, leaving me with 51 pence for spices, accounting for my homegrown veg, some oil (which may not be allowed on some challenges, so check). The oil is not necessary for any of my recipes.

MY “LIVE BELOW THE LINE” MENU

Monday: Breakfast – 1 poached egg, kale from the garden, steamed and mixed with some turmeric powder, plus half a banana; Lunch – porridge with half a banana + 1 tbsp peanut butter; Dinner – er, I was at a wedding and ate what was served. Water to drink.

Tuesday: Breakfast – porridge, mashed half a banana + peanut butter, all swirled in (quite nice actually); Lunch – a big soup of poached egg, boiled frozen veg with added stock cube for seasoning, chopped wild garlic, pinch of turmeric and some boiled rice; DinnerSpicy Peanut Butter Soup with Roti (Flatbread), plus boiled nettles on the side for some vitamins (free food!); the other half of the morning banana. Water to drink.

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spicy peanut butter soup with homemade roti – really delicious! (phone image)

typical-live-below-the-line-breakfast by food to glow

peanut butter and banana porridge (phone image)

Wednesday: Breakfast – porridge with peanut butter, mashed banana and cinnamon; Lunch – Roti with garden kale and chard, with a fried egg; Dinner – more Spicy Peanut Butter soup and roti. Water to drink.

Thursday: Breakfast – Roti with half a tin of baked beans (the other half will go into dinner), chard from the garden (or you could use picked nettles) and a fried egg; Lunch – Porridge, and a side of frozen vegetables with added turmeric and stinging nettles done as a simple soup; Dinner – Wild Garlic Soup with Roti, plus a banana later on and some hot water to drink.

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another nourishing and cheap breakfast if you have space for a few pots of green vegetables (phone image)

Friday: Breakfast – Roti topped with banana ‘spread’. I made this fluffy and really quite nice topping by chopping half a banana and adding it to a bowl with a tbsp of peanut butter, some cinnamon and some water. I heated this in the microwave for 30 seconds and mashed it. This was a way of making heavy ingredients light and really quite nice. I topped this with more slices of banana. I will definitely do this more often. Lunch – Hard-boiled egg with cooked rice and frozen vegetable stir-fry (turmeric, cumin and cayenne added). Dinner – The last of the Wild Garlic Soup, plus a roti. Water to drink.

roti-with-fluffy-banana-spread by food to glow

roti with fluffy peanut and banana spread

Thoughts on the ingredients: The roti idea was a bit of a winner for this week. They proved to be very versatile, but I will be quite happy not to have one for awhile! As for the oats, I could have been more creative with them and made them into bread too, but I was happy with the roti. All of my staple items would go further if doing this for more than one person as the initial outlay when you won’t necessarily be eating everything up was a bit steep. I would perhaps have swapped rice for potatoes as I would have finished them up no problem. I do prefer rice to potatoes though. If you are able to liven up the diet a bit with some foraged foods then this will make the week a lot more interesting and  add some needed freshness and vitamins into the diet. I would also have liked to have made a wild garlic and dandelion frittata with some cooked rice added in, but I didn’t get round to it (where are the dandelions??). I think I’ll make that this week even though I can eat what I wish. The biggest hit was the Spicy Peanut Butter Soup, but we also really love this incredibly simple Wild Garlic Soup. Make it less frugal by adding some mushrooms, and with sustaining protein by adding a poached egg or cubes of silken tofu to each serving. If you don’t have wild garlic/ransoms then use spinach and add a clove of crushed fresh garlic. Wild garlic smells much more pungent than it tastes.

PS: There’s still time to sign up to do the Live Below The Line yourself/with colleagues, and to donate to Health Poverty Action. The official 5 days is from April 27-May 1. 

wild-garlic-soup by food to glow

Wild Garlic Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

This is incredibly frugal but tastes fantastic. As with my previous soup in this series, it was made to fit in with my £1 a day budget for the Live Below The Line campaign. Make it more luxe by using a wild and white rice mix, adding a splash of cream, and adding more protein with a poached egg per serving, or cubes of silken tofu. If you don’t have wild garlic/ransoms, baby spinach and a minced clove of garlic will work nearly as well. Even if you miss out on the cheap thrill of finding free food!

1.5 litre (6 & 1/3 cups) hot vegetable stock (I used a stock cube)

90-100g (1/2 cup) of white rice or wild and white rice mix

1/2 tin of baked beans, rinsed

100g (3 packed cups), wild garlic leaves and stems, washed and roughly chopped

Method: Add the rice to the stock and bring to the boil; turn down to simmer and cook for 10 minutes, then add in the rinsed beans and wild garlic. Let the soup simmer for a further couple of minutes, serving when the rice is cooked through and soft.

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spicy-peanut-butter-and-vegetable-soup // food to glowNOTE: If you are just here for the recipe, that’s fine. Scroll on down! But hopefully you are okay reading about my week living below the poverty line. :-)

My week living below the line, on £1 a day, is almost at an end.

In a weird sort of way I have almost enjoyed the experience. It has been very interesting to try and come up with ways to keep the tastebuds tempted and belly relatively full on such a meagre allowance and sparse cupboard. But I think I’ve done pretty well.

I was surprised how, once it sank in that I wouldn’t be having my daily avocado, my beloved matcha green tea, the sliver from cakes made for others – just to test of course – that I got used to the repetitiveness. I have found a comfort of sorts in knowing that I don’t have a dazzling choice of ingredients with which to play. In fact, my latent pioneer side has come to the fore when faced with my week’s rations; I can’t feel more Little House On The Prairie if I had a gingham pinafore and pigtails (and Laura Ingall’s cute freckles, at least as seen on the tv show).

But really, I am play acting. I know that at any point – and that come Saturday morning – I can have a slurpy, veg-filled tofu curry, a big-as-my-head cardamom bun (steady on girl!), brain-freezing, freshly blended frozen fruit smoothie. Anything at all.

I’ve never really had to worry too much about a budget, never mind one that is restricted to £1 a day. For a staggering 1.2 billion, this is course a daily, unremitting reality. And health and opportunities suffer – usually permanently – as a result. Me doing this exercise from the comfort of my well-insulated, safe, gas- and electricity-powered home hasn’t been about trying to pretend that I can live like the many, many people that his campaign wishes to support. It has been about me keeping these marginalised communities in my mind, and perhaps encouraging my readers, friends and those who follow me on social media to give to my chosen charity, or perhaps take part themselves. Doing this exercise has made me more aware that not only am I spoiled (I knew that) but that I need to be much more grateful to have health, money, education, stable government, access to affordable, safe food, clean water and really everything I need. If I am hungry I can immediately sort something out by grabbing a bought sandwich, picking something from my fertile (ish) garden, or filling up a shopping cart. Others don’t have that luxury – through no fault of their own.

My charity, Health Poverty Action is just one of the charities taking part in the Live Below The Line campaign. Health Poverty Action works in the poorest communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America supporting projects that tackle a range of factors affecting health: weak and non-existent health systems, communicable diseases, lack of health education (a cause very close to my heart),  harmful traditional practices, gender-based violence, lack of nutritious food and income, and poor water and sanitation. Things we often take for granted. HPA%20logo%20small

The official week of living below the line is April 27-May 1. I would be absolutely over the moon if some of you decided that you wanted to take the challenge too. Remember, it is only for one week. The campaign is about raising awareness, and of course raising money to support projects that help the globe’s poorest citizens. If you wish to donate, could you use the link on my sponsorship page. And to sign up to take the challenge, use this linkThanks so much.

Now that I have hopefully tugged at your heartstrings just a little, I’ll tell you what I got with my £5 for the week. But first, a ‘helpful’ preamble. Of course. ;-)

I bought and used only what you see below, but I did keep some money back to account for the few spices I used, and also a little cooking oil. Also, I was able to add some fresh greens into this very un-fresh diet because I grow them. I accounted for the seeds that would have been used to grow my kale, chard and burgeoning herbs. You will see that there is no tea or coffee on the list. These aren’t things I drink regularly so I happily did without, but most folk find that one or the other has to be bought and very much rationed – 1 tea bag for 3 uses kind of thing. As for salt, I used the stock cubes for any thing I wished to season. The cheap ones – 20 pence in my case – are very salty! All of my products were Tesco Value range or similar. Many of you can probably go even cheaper by buying at local vegetable markets, Aldi/Lidl, and Chinese or Asian grocers. Bargains on bread, fruit and vegetables can usually be had just before major supermarkets close for the day. If I had been able to find the baker at the Tesco bakery counter then I might have been able to get some free fresh yeast. I waited for ages but to no avail – so roti it is! Oh, and don’t expect to be able to afford dairy or any animal products other than eggs, although some folk (hello Ceri) have blagged free chicken carcasses to make stock! I am feeling very bloated and carb-bound right now, and certainly miss a variety of protein. And my beloved avocado! Like I said, spoiled.

MY MEAGRE SHOPPING LIST

Rice (1.5 kg) – 45p

Peanut Butter – 50p (it was reduced from 65p)

Baked Beans, 1 tin – 24p (I ate half as is, and rinsed the other half to add to homemade soup!)

Flour – 45p

Stock Cubes – 20p

Frozen Mixed Vegetables (1 kg; these were surprisingly good) – £1

Porridge Oats (250g) – 55p

Bananas (brown and spotty, so reduced) – 10p

Eggs (1/2 dozen) – £1

TOTAL SPENT: £4.49, leaving me with 51 pence for spices, accounting for my homegrown veg, some oil.

Next time I will post my menu for the week to give you some ideas if you fancy doing this yourself, or if you are just curious as to how anyone can make three meals a day on the above ingredients. You may be in for a surprise!

I turned these ingredients into a meal! See the next post for the recipe, and more.

I turned these ingredients into a meal! See the next post for the recipe, and more.

Meantime, here is our favourite thing I have made all week. Andrew, although he wasn’t doing the challenge with me as he was not around much this week (by design?), did have this quick and cheap version of a stew that I already make and we love. He absolutely loved it and said no one would be able to tell it was a budget soup. And the roti as accompaniment is a must. I made up the dough twice this week, twisting each portion into little snails for rolling out as I used them. One batch makes 4-6 roti/flatbreads. This is what I used for my bread, even having at breakfast with either a smear of peanut butter, or underneath a fried egg. Oh, btw, if more than one of you is doing the challenge you will obviously have more to spend and the money will certainly go further and give more variety. Club in with friends or colleagues if you wish. That is what the staff at Health Poverty Action are doing.

I hope you are tempted to give this challenge a go. It’s not easy but I have honestly found it a very rewarding week. And as my extra reward I am going to have another bowl of this soup. Slurp!

spicy-peanut-butter-soup // food to glow

Spicy Peanut Butter and Vegetable Soup with Roti

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

I made this for my week-long Live Below The Line challenge – sticking to a £1 a day budget – so the recipe reflects these restrictions. Please feel free to add beans or leftover meat to this dish for more protein. And to garnish as you please. Hard-boiled eggs, herbs, chopped lettuce and even bananas are fairly traditional toppings for this West African-style soup. The cost per serving works out at approximately 20 pence per bowl, max.

1 litre hot vegetable stock – I used a stock cube in this instance

3 cups frozen mixed vegetables – I used a value brand and it was fine

4 heaped tbsp (more to taste) of smooth peanut butter

4 tbsp oats (these thicken the soup and make it heartier)

1/2 tsp each of cinnamon, turmeric and cumin

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or similar (optional)

Method: Add all of the ingredients to a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. This tastes even better the following day.

roti-flatbread // food to glowRoti/Flatbread

I think this is the best way to enjoy bread on a very restricted budget. Make a batch and only roll out what you wish to use at that meal, storing the rest of the dough for the next day’s meal(s). Don’t skip out the “oiling and coiling” stages as this is what gives these breads their surprising flakiness. If you leave out the stock cube (my budget restrictions meant that I didn’t have salt so used stock cube to cover any salt “duties”) then these roti can be used for sweet purposes, as you would, say, toast and jam.

2 cups plain or bread flour (I used plain)

1/4 tsp fine salt or pinch of stock cube (leave out the stock cube if you wish to have the chapatis with anything sweet)

1 tbsp oil

Water

Method:

1) Add the flour and salt/stock cube crumbles( or use none at all) to a large bowl and stir. Add in the oil, stirring with one hand while you hold the bowl with the other. Open your fingers out and ‘rake’ through the flour as you stir to distribute the oil. Really drag your hand around the bowl. Then use your fingers to ‘pinch’ the clumps out, as you would for pastry.

2) Add a small amount of water  – about 1/4 cup – and stir again with your hand, gradually adding water until you have a soft but not sticky dough. Work it in the bowl until it is smooth, kneading it a few times.

3) Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll into a fat sausage shape, long enough to cut into 4-6 even pieces. Roll each piece to about 3 mm thickness, brush with a little extra oil and roll each up like a fat snake. Now coil each into a snail. Rest the dough for 20 minutes or in an airtight container, refrigerated, overnight.roti-flatbread // food to glowroti-flatbread // food to glow

4) Press flat each piece of dough that you wish to cook and roll as thinly as you dare.

5) Heat a heavy skillet (I used a cast iron one – brilliant) and slick with a tiny bit of oil. Lay on a rolled out piece of dough and cook on each side until bubbled and browned in places and it seems cooked through. Carry on with the remaining, and eat warm. If you are feeling decadent, brush the breads with melted butter before serving…

 

 

 

TYPE DESIGN-2Note: Posting this a few days later than I expected, but hopefully still relevant!

The tell-tale gold wrappers, fake grass and sticky fingerprints may still be around, but most of us are probably glad to see the back of the secular side of Easter. It has been weeks of indulging in hot cross buns, bright yellow Peeps, giant, over-priced choccie eggs and various fat and sugar-laden confections. And that is just the adults.

I used to adore Easter. We were pretty religious so Easter was mainly spent in church from sunrise until almost lunchtime. The passing hours on hard seats, variously genuflecting and standing in 80F + heat, had us kids deliriously day-dreaming about the Easter baskets waiting for us at home. The sermons and lessons might have been enthralling (we had a fantastic priest) but goodness me it was a long stretch for the fidgety amongst us.

Many Brits will be unfamiliar with this ritual but, for American children of my vintage era, the delicious pain of this deferred gratification was all the sweeter when, as soon as you burst through your front door you literally dove into your giant straw basket filled with hay and sweets and didn’t stop eating until you were called for lunch. I shudder to think how many calories we consumed in that one day but somehow, as most of us were skinny 70s kids with energy to spare, we used it up and were seemingly none the worse for it. The next day the basket was empty (with a little help from parents, obviously) and for me it was back to grilled cheese and dill pickles (my fave meal as an 8 year-old). There was none of this 30-day sugar-fest that seems the norm today. Maybe I am seeing this with the proverbial rose-tinted glasses but I really don’t think we had anything approaching the current level of excess that now surrounds us; due to our primitive programming most of us are pretty powerless to escape its sticky, gratuitous grasp.

Although I don’t go in for all the chocolate and hot cross bun stuff, I have been overdoing it on the dining out and wining out. So don’t think this post is aimed at you. This post is aimed squarely at me, and is a public reminder to myself to eat more mindfully and respect my body a bit more. Even just one day of ditching my green things and healthy juices and smoothies and I feel it. So, after a full week (and a bit) of nibbling and sipping with fairly wild abandon I am back on the proverbial wagon. I am making a public vow to cut out the white carbs, the empty calories (goodbye Prosecco, it was great while it lasted), the cheese board and everything else that is making me at this very moment feel like I should never eat again. Which is silly. I just need to eat the way I know feels right for me.

To get me back on track I have had a wee nosey around some delicious and health-oriented blogs to inspire me; I know they will inspire you too. I have also revisited some of my older posts and been surprised at some of the tasty recipes I have forgotten about over the years (a bit of a hazard of recipe development). I’m sharing those too.

Although I will be looking forward to trying many of these recipes, for this week I am doing the fantastic and blooming’ hard challenge, Living Below The Line. For five days this week I will be living on just £1 a day in aid of the Health Poverty Action charity. Other charities are participating but I choose HPA because 96p in every pound they receive goes straight to programmes that help the most marginalised communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America. I will be checking in with you to tell you how I am getting on (probably quite badly as I am very spoiled!), the rationale behind this kind of challenge, and hoping that you will donate and/or participate yourself when the more public challenge begins in May. Here is where you can donate (and up my little fundraiser thermometer!), and here is more information on how you can get involved and maybe challenge yourself. Thanks to all who have donated so far!!

I'm #LivingBelowTheLine for Health Poverty Action. Please donate if you can. Thanks!

I’m #LivingBelowTheLine for Health Poverty Action. Please donate if you can. Thanks!

I know what to eat, you know what to eat. So let’s just do it, shall we?

12-Fab-and-Veggie-Recipes-To-Try Food To Glow

 Quinoa Bowl with Citrus, Avocado & Edamame – Food to Glow

Pad Thai Crepes (Open-Faced Omelettes) – Food to Glow

Brunch Frittata with Chimichurri – Whole Nourishment

Aubergine “Meatballs” – Deena Kakaya

Spicy Cauliflower-Cashew Bites with Buffalo Sauce – Food to Glow

Loaded Cauliflower Couscous Salad with Roasted Turmeric Chickpeas – Food to Glow

Tunisian Chickpea & Vegetable Tagine – Food to Glow

Pico de Gallo – Veggie Desserts

Super Duper Raw Power Salad – The Spicy RD

Mexican Sweet Potato & Puy Lentil Mole – Tinned Tomatoes

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes Stuffed with Spiced Chickpeas – Natural Kitchen Adventures

Tempeh Reuben Bowls – The Muffin Myth

and, an image accidentally got left out, but I have to try Dannii’s Guac-Kale-Mole. Don’t you love the name?Guac-Kale-Mole-2-685x1024

12-Fab-and-Veggie-Recipes-To-Try Food To Glow

 Love Your Greens Soup – Food to Glow

Coconut & Lemongrass Tofu Soup – Food to Glow

Green Passion Smoothie – Food to Glow

Peach Matcha Smoothie – Recipes from a Pantry

Happy Tummy Tonic – Food to Glow

Apple, Avocado & Mint Smoothie – Tinned Tomatoes (a bit hidden in the image)

Wild Garlic Soup – Demuth’s (a bit hidden in the image)

Vegetarian Hot & Sour Soup – Smarter Fitter

Lavender and Mint Tea – The Spicy RD

Blood Orange & Berry Smoothie – Food to Glow

(Green &) Black Forest Smoothie – Food to Glow

Kale & Asparagus Asian Broth with Spelt – Amuse Your Bouche

and a little extra that I/you can’t miss Wild Garlic & Farro Soup from Bintu at Recipes From A Pantry

20000101-wild-garlic-muffin-soup-quiono-and-MS-summer-show118-1

Wild Garlic & Farro Soup from Recipes From A Pantry

This is the first time I’ve done a post like this, with collages and loads of links. It’s not perfect, but I hope you like it and click on a few of my friends’ recipes, and look around their sites for even more inspiration.

HAPPY MONDAY!! Now, I’m off to scoff a bowl of plain, water-only porridge for my £1 a day challenge lunch! I had an egg and some homegrown kale for breakfast, which filled me up to a point. I think I’m hungrier than usual because I know I shouldn’t have anything out of my budget! I’m cheating  by going to a wedding later today, and I’ll get my dinner (I can’t very well turn that down, can I?), but I’m back on it tomorrow. I’ll be posting my thoughts and menus over on Facebook and on Instagram if you want to follow me there. Wish me luck. :-)

 

 

 

 

raw-spring-vegetable-green-curry-soup by food to glowThis raw soup of fresh spring vegetables – and a strong hint of warm spice – is the perfect antidote to all of the chocolate and other indulgent foods many of us have been enjoying over the past week.

To make it you will need a powerful blender that can blitz hard vegetables into a smooth-as-silk soup. My Optimum 9400 from Froothie does this in seconds, and also heats the soup to a lovely warm temperature -just from friction alone. If you are using another type of blender, get the soup to the consistency that you wish, pour it into a pan and heat very gently – don’t boil, or even simmer, it. This way you will preserve all of those lovely nutrients and that super-fresh taste that only raw foods give. The OH (Andrew) really liked this, which I was kind of surprised about, to be honest!

I’ll be back soon with a ‘sharing post’ of great recipes from my fellow healthy food bloggers. These carefully selected recipes will help all of us step back from the nutritional precipice that was Easter eating. And no, they aren’t all raw. :-)

raw-spring-vegetable-green-curry-soup by food to glow

Spring Green Curry Soup (Raw)

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Time: 5 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Gently heat the spice mix and oil, then add to the blender for the best taste, but you can add it straight in and not add the oil. The coconut milk powder/milk is optional and makes for a very different taste. See the note at the bottom if you are not used to eating raw foods in this way. Enjoy! xx

200g (7.3 oz) broccoli, cut into florets (include the stalk; it’s lovely and sweet)

125g (4 oz) courgettes/zucchini, sliced

1 medium carrot, sliced

1-2 spring onions, chopped (optional)

50g (2 oz) sugar snap peas or mangetout OR asparagus

80-100g (2.8 – 3 oz) young spinach

1 small thumb of fresh turmeric OR 1 tsp ground turmeric

1 mild green chilli (optional)

75g (2.6 oz) cashews OR organic tofu (cashews make a creamier soup)

1 tsp oil (optional)

1 tsp garam masala (I used a fantastic blend from Spice Kitchen – they hand blend every batch. Read more about this small family business here.) OR other Indian/Pakistani spice blend that you like

1 tbsp light (yellow) miso paste

1-2 tsp vegetable bouillon powder or equivalent crushed stock cube (or 2 tsp of stock powder instead of the miso but both together give a wonderful, balanced taste) – start with 1 tsp and only add a second one after you have blended  and tasted it

Hot water (about 1 & 1/2 cups, but it is up to you – and don’t add it all at once)

2 tbsp coconut powder or 4 tbsp coconut milk (optional)

a few basil leaves (optional)

A squeeze of lemon or lime to stir into each serving

Special equipment: powerful blender, such as my Optimum 9400 power blender, Vitamix* or Blendtec**.

1. Gently sauté the spice, blend in the oil and set aside.

2. Put half of the vegetables and cashews/tofu in the blender, along with one cup of hot water and blend until smooth and volume has greatly decreased. Add the other half of the vegetables and nuts, plus the curry powder/oil, miso and vegetable stock powder, and blend a bit more, perhaps adding additional hot water until you get the desired consistency. Be careful, you don’t want it watery. Taste and adjust the flavours as you like. Serve with lemon or lime juice and any garnishes leftover from the initial chopping (e.g. save back some asparagus tips or shaves of courgette)

Serve immediately for best nutrition and taste.

Note: for those not used to eating raw foods like this serve yourself a smaller bowl (a  quarter of the jug) than you would of a ‘normal’ soup. This is because, despite appearances, you are consuming a whole lot of veggies at once and you can feel very full very quickly!

FYI >> How the Optimum 9400 Super-Blender compares with other blenders in its class:

* Here is a link comparing the specifications of the Blendtec and the Optimum 9400 by Froothie.

** Here is a link comparing the specifications of the equivalent Vitamix with the Optimum 9400 by Froothie.

And here is a link to the comparison with the Nutribullet.spring-vegetable-gree-curry-soup-raw by food to glow

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Buying through my affiliate link will cost you no money but I will earn a small percentage to help cover the costs of running food to glow. I only endorse products that I use and love!

 

 

spring-onion-scallion-gravy food to glowGravy is to mashed potatoes what icing is to cake. Or syrup is to waffles. It closes the circle. Makes each complete. The potatoes, cake or waffles may be fine on their own, or a bit ‘so what’ and tolerable. But with the addition of said adornment, potato/cake/waffle are elevated. They may not have been much to start with, variously lumpy, dry or with freezer burn, but anointed with the right stuff, ‘meh’ can easily became ‘mmm’.

Mashed potato and gravy is what my husband calls food of the gods (not just one god – all of them). I may be a bit hasty in my assumption, but I think many men and not just a few woman feel thusly. We see it on a menu and – at least the females – hem and haw whether or not to choose it. Maybe I should have the boiled baby potato option, or the steamed broccoli? Even if you choose the other options, in your heart you wanted that bowl of mash and gravy, didn’t you? But when you do get it – at least in your average restaurant – gravy can often be a big beige puddle of congealing disappointment. How can gravy go so wrong? In a word, umami. Or lack of it.

If you have a meat-based gravy you are already there. Umami built right in. Umami, the fifth taste that food experts blather on about, is a unique and difficult to describe (but you know it’s there) “savoury taste imparted by glutamate and five ribonucleotides, including insinuate and guanylate, which occur naturally in many foods, including meat, fish, vegetables and dairy products.” (from foodchannel.com).

All I know is that I crave it. Wild mushrooms, Parmesan cheese, soy sauce and ketchup are well-known for their umami-imparting qualities. Fan of all of them.

marmite by food to glow

love it or hate it, Marmite is key to a great vegetarian gravy

And so too is Marmite – yeast extract. Love it or hate it, it is a quintessential umami taste beloved of many Brits and British ex-pats. And now me, an ex-pat American. Used mainly to spread on hot, buttered toast or crumpets, yeast extract is absolutely vital for a flavourful vegetable-based gravy. You can chuck all of the hand-reared or lovingly purchased vegetables you want into a pan; slow-sweat them into sweet, melting submission; but without a dash of Marmite, or soy sauce, you will never have what the pleasure-centres in your brain are searching for.

Basically a good vegetarian gravy is the legal high of the food world. It fires up those neurons (or whatever) that says I want more of that. And then some more. And can you just let me pour that whole gravy boat into my mouth. Please.

There are loads of great vegetarian gravy recipes out there. Some with mushrooms, many with brown onions, some with just the full-tilt umami of soy sauce and nutritional yeast flakes. This one is mine. It is a great one for highlighting those perky and spring-fresh spring onions that are coming into their own just now. Perfect for the Easter table, Thanksgiving – any time that there are carbohydrates being celebrated.

spring-onion-scallion-gravy food to glowHere are 10 ways you can use this – or any – gravy:

1. A cheat’s mushroom stroganoff – stir up with sour cream/Quark/Tofutti, parsley and sautéed mushrooms; serve with buttered noodles or wild & brown rice

2. A saucy Chinese stir-fry – add in as you would a pour-in sauce, having first mixed with a little rice vinegar and five-spice powder

3. Rich, umami-licious soups, especially bean and vegetable ones (cabbage soup with added gravy is terrific)

4. Easy veggie pot pies – mix with lightly cooked vegetables and pour into individual baking dishes, top with pastry, mashed potato or even leftover Christmas/Thanksgiving stuffing and bake. It’s useful for flavouring veggie shepherd’s pie (shepherdess) and cottage pies – all savoury pies!

5. Veggie meatballs, gravy and rice or crusty bread

6. Poutine – not a recommendation, just an acknowledgement of fact! Ah, you Canadians. So like the Scots. :-)

7. A savoury crumble – mix the gravy with cashew cream or soft cheese and pour in an oiled baking dish. Top with coarse bread crumbs that have been mixed with butter or olive oil, plus some chunky nuts/seeds and chopped herbs. Bake and dive in!

8. Savoury bread pudding – mix gravy with beaten egg and pour over cubed stale bread. Let it soak in for an hour (press lightly to hasten the absorption) then bake until puffy and golden in places. Obviosuly eat this with LOADS of green veg.

9. Over waffles. With of without a bit of fried chicken. (again, not a food to glow recom; just being honest)

10. And of course, over mashed potatoes or any gorgeous but plain starchy carb (like bread) that you fancy. Or a savoury vegetable cake like this.

And a bonus idea – freeze it for another day!

spring-onion-scallion-gravy food to glow

Spring Onion {Scallion} Gravy

  • Servings: 1 1/2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Gravy needs no introduction. It’s always useful, always welcome. Make more than you need. But I didn’t need to tell you that, now did I?

2 tbsp olive oil (not anything fancy)

1 large bunch of spring onions/scallions, trimmed lightly and chopped

Pinch of salt

1 bay leaf

1 ½ tbsp. cornflour/cornstarch/tapioca/arrowroot powder (put this in a small cup)*

450ml (2 cups) light vegetable stock

2 tsp Marmite or other yeast extract (failing that, why not try Maggi liquid seasoning or even red miso – not tried either here though)

Pepper, to taste

Soy sauce, to taste

1. Heat the onion in a skillet and slowly sauté the chopped spring onions with a little salt and the bay leaf, covered, for half an hour to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the heat on low as you just want the onions to sweat rather than colour. A little colour is fine, but just don’t burn!spring onions by food to glowspring-onion-scallion-gravy food to glow

2. Add a little cold water to the cornflour and stir until it is dissolved; pour onto the spring onions, along with the stock and the yeast extract. Bring to a simmer and let it bubble gently for 10 minutes to thicken. Taste and adjust as you see fit – adding more Marmite, or even a splash or two of soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce.

3. Pour the gravy into a sieve and over a clean saucepan. Reheat gently and serve with anything!

* here is a link to all you need to know about thickening any gravy.

NOTE: 10 fab serving suggestions are given above the recipe.

gravy and savoury vegetable cake by food to glow

spring onion gravy and savoury vegetable cake by food to glow

 And for all of you Marmite fans – and not – here are some ‘fun facts’ about Marmite (I love number 4). 

beetroot-jerusalem-artichoke-gratin-boulangere food to glowPotatoes get more than their fair share of love. While not disliking potatoes, my grown up palate prefers other vegetables to this white, perfectly pleasant tuber.

I do persist in buying potatoes – keeping them cool and dark like one is supposed to – but more often than not these are the vegetables that grow eyes, eyes that plead “don’t throw me on the compost pile. Just scrape off the green and we are fine to eat.” They are lying of course. My poor husband, for whom mashed potato would be his desert island dish, usually has to get his potato lust sated elsewhere. What can I say?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not immune to the charms of the triple cooked chip, or the lure of softly creamy, garlic-scented dauphinoise. But mostly I am happy with other tubers and roots, and also to the grains and pseudo grains that fill the same hole in the diet and dish.

Maybe I am drawn to the colour of these other edibles. Perhaps I have trained myself over the (many, many) years to give potatoes the proverbial elbow, while embracing their more colourful soil-covered brethren. Maybe I am just a bit of a weirdo.

image-of-beets food to glowIn any case, other root vegetables and tubers can do all of the things that the ubiquitous potato can do. And more colourfully. Golden swede mash is delightful. Sweet potato chips are insanely good. Roasted celeriac is completely underrated. Beetroot, well, it doesn’t mash so well (it is a bit scary to be honest), nor chip up so nicely, but it certainly gratins up a storm. Or boulangeres up a storm. I’m actually confused as to how to categorise this dish. It has no cream or cheese, so I don’t think it is a gratin or dauphinoise. I am not sticking it under a roasting lamb, and it isn’t layered with thinly sliced onion, so boulangere it is not. You can decide.

Until British potatoes are coming through why not give this simple baked root vegetable dish a try? We are having this with my savoury vegetable cake, spring onion gravy (posting soon, I promise), creamed kale and these fennel and maple-roasted carrots. Well, actually we are having this on Saturday. Sunday is being spent at this fine St Andrews restaurant with family because Rachel – unbelievably – doesn’t have an Easter break: classes on Good Friday and Easter Monday. Heavens above!

I will be back next with my Spring Onion Gravy, which will be perfect for any Easter lunch. Except ours. I don’t think The Adamson has a ‘BYOG’ policy. ;) But perhaps I should just check…

beetroot-jeruslaem-artichoke-gratin food to glow

Beetroot and Jerusalem Artichoke Boulangere {Gratin}

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Gratin? Boulangere? Dauphinoise? This sweet, earthy and colourful baked vegetable dish is difficult to categorise, but not at all difficult to eat. It is an easily put together mélange of winter roots that is terrific not only as a side to any roast dinner, grilled fish, sausages, an omelette, but also a star in its own right with a crisp, seed-topped (for the protein) salad or on a buffet table. And of course, perfect for Easter.

Oh, and don’t be nervous of the lavender. In this amount it provides a background herbal, rather than overly floral, note. You could use all thyme leaves but the lavender really adds something special and intriguing.

Inspired by a recipe on williams-sonoma.com via kitchenkonfidential.com

1.5kg (3 lbs 5 oz) – or so – beetroot and Jerusalem artichokes. For the beetroot, try and obtain golden, chiogga (striped flesh) and red beets

5 tbsp unsalted butter or olive oil, divided use (use ghee/clarified butter for paleo diets)

75g (2.6 oz/1/2 cup) finely chopped shallots or mild onion

1 tsp chopped thyme leaves

1 tsp culinary lavender buds (more or less, depends on how strong the aroma is; mine is 2 years old and mild)

Bay leaf

A few grinds of pepper

120ml (4 fl oz/1/2 cup) hot light vegetable stock

Chives, to garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Oil or butter a gratin dish, heavy skillet or shallow pie dish of about 10 inches/23cm.

2. Wash and peel the beetroot then, using a mandolin if possible, thinly slice the beets into 2mm/1/16” rounds. For the Jersusalem artichokes, just scrub well and slice thinly with a mandolin, or by hand. I used many more beets than ‘chokes, but this is up to you. You could also use celeriac, carrots or swede or turnips/rutabaga in the mix too.

3. Warm the remaining butter or oil in a pan and sauté the chopped shallots slowly for five minutes, then add the herbs and pepper and sauté another minute.

4. Arrange the vegetables as you wish in your prepared dish. I tiled them in a rosette pattern(quite ineptly) but you could just layer them as you wish. Pour over the stock then pour or dab over and brush the herb and butter/oil mixture evenly over the top; tuck in the bay leaf. Cover tightly with foil and bake in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 15-20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed and the vegetable are very tender.

5. Garnish with chopped fresh chives or other fresh herbs that you like, such as chervil or parsley, and serve.

beetroot-jeruslaem-artichoke-gratin food to glowbeetroot-jeruslaem-artichoke-gratin food to glow

The rest of the Easter menu:  savoury vegetable cake, maple & fennel roasted carrots, creamed kale, spring onion gravy

The rest of the Easter menu: savoury vegetable cake, maple & fennel roasted carrots, creamed kale, spring onion gravy (recipe to follow very soon)

I am entering this over at Credit Crunch Munch (fuss free flavours, fab food 4 all, and utterly scrummy). Why don’t you enter your own thrifty recipe?? And what about adding to Karen’s Cooking with Herbs ? And every week the lovely Emily hosts the very popular #recipeoftheweek. Go and add yours and maybe you will be one of her featured bloggers.

spring-wreath // food to glowYou will have gathered from the above image that this isn’t a recipe post. But it is something natural, foraged and for the table – a natural, spring wreath.

I grew up in the US, the land of the front door wreath. While wreaths have been around since Roman times to celebrate sporting prowess, military success, love and even just to provide a welcome, modern materials and holidays have upped the ante quite a bit. Usually made from synthetic materials, today’s all-weather wreaths are often themed, ready-made and get dragged out of the attic when it is seasonally appropriate. I have some that I bought ages ago that get stuck to the front and kitchen doors every Christmas. They don’t match, they are bit tired, but it is tradition.

I am glad to notice however, a trend on Pinterest towards living wreaths, especially the gorgeous, succulent plant wreaths. A friend’s mum made one for her and I fell in love, vowing to make one myself. Which I haven’t done as yet. But I will.

While I have absolutely nothing against ‘un-natural’ wreaths as such, especially if they are used again and again and not just chucked in the rubbish when, say, Christmas is over, how much nicer to put together a welcoming cheerful orb made of living plants and found objects?

Or, if time and resources are limited, why not make a temporary, but still beautiful natural wreath?

spring-wreath // food to glowI was inspired to make this simple spring-inspired decoration by 1) a naked willow wreath hanging on a wall, 2) the beautiful wild plants I see on my walks, and 3) er, my moss-covered lawn. If we had a lawn. A lawn implies grass, which we have not. Overshadowed by a massive oak that actually obscures our house on Google Earth (I am not exaggerating), and bounded by high hedges and other trees, a fair bit of our poor garden is deeply shaded and dry, dry, dry. We are awaiting the arrival of a scarifier to exfoliate and rejuvenate our poor soil and get rid of the moss, but before it went I thought I might actually try and turn our moss problem into a project. So, here is what I did:

I got my willow wreath off the wall and gave it a wee dust. You could use something similar, or even a grass/hay one. What you really want is to have a wreath that you can tuck things into. Because you will use natural bits and bobs, a glue gun probably won’t do you much good. And we are trying to keep it low-tech.

Next came the add ons. I had gathered some pussy willow stems from a walk I went on to pick wild garlic and nettles. I must have looked quite the pioneer/mad woman with my scissors, carrier bag full of green weeds and some pussy willow wedged under my arm. Luckily I don’t care. At the time I popped the willow stems dry into a vase and just admired the fluffy buds, but when I thought about making the wreath the beautiful silvery textured stems immediately sprang to mind. We also have ivy growing over a fence or two so I went out and snipped lengths of it – the younger leaves and tendrils being the most pliable and amenable to craft work. And then there was that damn moss. To make this suitable for a dining table you would want to use sterilised, bagged moss from a craft store, but as mine is for a hall table I just got a flat trowel and lifted the rootless moss straight off the earth. Oh, and I had some leftover quails’s eggs from this recipe, so I blew them out (it is very fiddly). As you do. You could buy pre-blown ones or use artificial ones. Or not use them at all.spring-wreath // food to glow

I then took everything outside and set to creating. I shaped the moss around the wreath, tucking it in the hollows. I think it looks good with some of the wreath showing, but you could cover the whole thing. I then wrapped the ivy around parts of the wreath, including the sides – again, tucking in the ends. If you have a long length of ivy it would be nice to wrap it round and round. With the stems of budded willow I cut short, slightly irregular lengths and anchored them into the wreath’s hollows. If you don’t have willow – or you want a splash of colour – use narcissi or muscari. But these will begin to fade and wilt very quickly so is really only suitable for wreaths for a specific date or if you can renew them as the blossoms fade. If you use quail’s eggs you will need to attach them by pushing a short pin (sequin pins, if you have them) through the underside of a stem of ivy and into the egg. Or, do as I did and just lay them carefully where you want them, nestling them into the moss. If you aren’t moving the wreath around the house then just laying them should suffice. Lastly, I placed it on a white flat plate and popped in some random candles I scavenged from around the house.spring-wreath // food to glow

I made the wreath over a week ago and it still looks lovely and welcoming in the hall. I might mist it with some water to see if it lasts longer but as I have everything I need to renew and even alter the wreath I might just do that.

In truth this was something I did on the spur of the moment, and wasn’t even going to blog it. But as I had got such a lovely response on Instagram I thought I might share it with you too. I hope you like the idea, if not the slightly ‘rustic’ outcome. It is certainly a bit rough and ready but if you have a lawn full of moss and an old wreath sitting around not doing anything, you could do worse that make this up with your own spring foraged finds. I didn’t inherit my mother’s crafting gene, but I do think this is something that even the most inept of crafters (me) can get away with. Just. :-) Oh, and if you want, do follow me on Instagram for fun things that don’t show up here, like today’s kimchi (!) nachos, and general food to glow recipe development nonsense. Rarely a selfie in sight, although I do play with my food.

What decorations are you making for Easter or Passover? Do you have any crafting knowledge to share?spring-wreath // food to glow

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