Friday, 30 March 2012

My Mothers 'Sarson Ka Saag' - Mustard Greens

It was my mothers 60th Birthday yesterday.  We went over for a good home-made celebratory meal and generous piece of Birthday cake.  I forgot to take my camera with me, so don't have any photographs to share, but both my brothers took loads, so hopefully I will get to share some next week.

I don't know if you've noticed, but there has been a distinct lack of foodie posts on my blog recently.  Yes part of the reason is I have been distracted with gallivanting around parts of Wales, the other is my other hobby: growing veg.  But the real truth is my mother.  One of the benefits drawbacks for a foodie and one that likes to cook is moving closer to family whom also like to cook from scratch; and their insistence to feed you or send you food over.  And this has been happening lots.  So with the exception of the 'Caerphilly Cheese, Leek and Potato Pie' I made a few days ago, not much cooking has been taking place in my new kitchen.

As well as Birthday cake, pilau rice, potato tikkia, vegetable samosas, pakoras ... one of the other homemade dishes we have been feasting on is authentic saag - mustard greens.  For many of my Welsh readers it will look like laverbread, but I assure you it is nothing like it.  It is only similar in that is it is an acquired taste.  In my childhood days and even in my youth, I did not like this jet green stuff much.  However over the years my tastes have,...well matured shall we say.  These days I would describe it as lush.  Its like deep green butter or Pâté if you wish, that you can lavishly smear your naan bread or roti with it and eat.
Although saag can be made with any green, proper Saag is made with mustard greens, not that stuff that is sold in restaurants and take-aways as Palak Saag which is spinach by the way.   My mother will say ‘real saag is king and palak is the prince’ and I think this is true to those who know the difference. If you interested to learn more about authentic saag, follow this link

I have to put hand on heart and say, I have not attempted to make saag for myself as it takes hours and its such a laborious cooking process. The closest I have got it by making a cheats version of it with Turnip Greens, its was lovely - but different.

Anyway, we have enjoyed my mothers rich homemade saag with plain basmati rice, with roti and with naan bread.  And guess what there is still loads more.  I am freezing the rest for another day. 

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Caerphilly Castle

The sun has been shining on us all week and it would be so wrong of us not to take advantage of it.  So we decided to go and explore this part of Wales a little more.  Today on the agenda was Caerphilly Castle, known in Welsh as Castell Caerffili.  
Its the largest largest castle in Wales, and the second largest in the U.K.  The first if your wondering is Windsor Castle.
 The Leaning south-east Tower. 
Well I don't know if you like castles, but here is Caerphilly Castle from a number of different angles.
 Leaving the castle after a couple of hours.
I wonder where we will go next?!
Oh and guess what I made when I got home today, another Caerphilly Cheese, Leek and Potato Pie.  The only thing I did different was use ready-made shortcrust pastry, hey sometimes I am allowed to cheat.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Carrot Ice-Cream

The last time I made ice-cream at home was in my University years.  I had come back from visiting my best friend Leah in America.  I was inspired after having  a Lavender ice-cream in Berkeley somewhere, I knew I had to have a go at making some back at home, which at the time was Scotland. 

The lavender ice-cream was made by purely by hand, no help with the churning of an ice-cream maker.  It was gorgeously scented and flavoured, but I did not make another again.  I made plenty of sorbets from scratch at home: Rhubarb Sorbet, Strawberry Sorbet, and even a Rosemary and Lemon Sorbet, but no ice-cream. To encourage myself to start making ice-cream again, I eventually even treated myself to an ice cream maker, but later discovered I just did not have the freezer space for the insulated bowl that had to be left in the freezer overnight before churning could begin.  So it remained in the box for many years, until this weekend.  And what a wonderful sun-shining weekend it is here in Wales.  We ever took a drive to the Wetland Centre, but more about that later.  Today is about this beautifully saffron coloured 'Carrot Ice-cream'.
Other than the amazing colour, what I love about this recipe too is that is it contains no eggs.  The flavour would wonderfully sweet and it tastes like a sublime carrot dessert.  D really likes it, in fact he has had four scoops already.  He got one of my nephews to try it, he didn't seem so keen on it - Kids huh! 
This Carrot Ice-cream can be made even more luxurious with maple syrup in place of the honey and the cinnamon for another spice, perhaps nutmeg, saffron if your blessed or chilli, if you dare.  Had I thought about it in advance I would have thrown in a handful of raisins too, just to give it that Carrot Cake Ice-cream feeling.    I am linking this to March Simple and in Season, a monthly event hosted by Ren Behan at Fabulicious Food and Fight Back Friday hosted by Real Food Renegade.
Carrot Ice-Cream
Makes about 2½ pints
Ingredients
850g carrots, grated
250ml milk
160ml honey or maple syrup
250ml double cream
1 teaspoon cinnamon (or other spice - see options above)
1½ tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
Method
Combine the carrots, milk, honey and cinnamon in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat. Cover and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes or until the carrots are tender.
Put the carrots, the cooking liquid and the double cream in a blender - You may need to do this in batches. Puree until very smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Stir in the orange juice. Chill for 2 hours, or until completely cold.

Churn the carrot mixture in an ice-cram maker, according to the manufacturers instructions for about 20 - 25 minutes.  Transfer to a container and store in the freezer.

Friday, 23 March 2012

What I am growing this year


A very short blog post tonight. I have added a page called 'Sowing the Seeds'. This page will be a on-going record of what I am sowing, what has germinated and what actually grows.
Chive flower from 2011

I will up-date this page probably every fortnight as seeds germinate, or fail to germinate as the case may be.

Let the sowing and growing begin. 

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Almond and Date Milk

The past week or so my stomach has been feeling a little tender, so much so that I have not wanted to aggravate it further by drinking espresso, coffee or acidic juice in the morning.  I was ready to go out an get myself some fruit to make a smoothie, but whilst I was over my parents home for mothering Sunday, my mother reminded me of a almond drink she used to make for us when we were children known popularly as: Badam -Khajoor ka Dooj, an almond drink flavoured with fresh dates. 
This almond drink is not quite a lassi - the original smoothie, but thereabouts.  Well I was prompted to make some.  It has been a good, filling, naturally creamy and nourishing alternative drink and very calming on the tummy.
This is not really a recipe, as you make it to taste.  But this is what my mother told me to do in order to make one very large glass. 
Badam and Khajoor Dooj (Almond and Date Milk)
Ingredients and Method
Soak 10 raw almonds in some water overnight
Following day, rinse and remove the almond skin, it should slip off easily.  If not, soak in some hot water, rinse and try again.  When the almond skin has been removed.  Place in a blender with a large glass of water* and a couple of dates and blitz until very smooth.   Pour into a large glass.  I like my almond drink to have a bit of bitty texture from the almonds and dates, but if you don't like the idea of crunchy sweet bits sticking to your teeth, then just use a tea strainer to remove. 
Enjoy immediately, or chill and consume on the day as the liquid will separates from the almonds and dates. 
This drink is completely vegan*, but you can half and half it with dairy milk, coconut milk or soya milk.  For the sweetener, you can use honey, maple syrup, golden syrup, even sugar... I guess in you can also replace the almonds with cashew nuts, but I have never done so, so cannot vouch for the flavour.  I am sharing this recipe with Frugal Follies who is hosting Frugal Thurday and  Ricki at Diet, Dessert, Dogs for her Wellness Weekend: 22nd - 26th March.
 

Oh so your know, I have been making this drink on and off all week. I have also decided to freeze some of the excess in my umbrella lollipop moulds. It will not be a traditional almond kulfi's, but I know upon licking one, it will remind me of them and for a fraction of the price too. 

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

'A Chepstow Salmon's worth his weight in gold'

The past week we have been playing tourist guide. I have to say I am enjoying it, not only am I getting re-acquainted with some familiar parts of Wales and the changes, I am discovering unexplored parts.
Well, yesterday we found ourselves in the historic walled border town of Chepstow.
We parked our car at the bottom of the ruins of Chepstow Castle before taking a leisurely stroll to the town centre.
There were a lot of independent niche shops here.  Also we were very impressed with the welcoming pedestrian environment, improved massively by the public art that focused on the towns history: 'A Chepstow Salmon's worth his weight in gold'.
The most prominent public art perhaps is the curved carved and well-detailed wall in the town centre.  This wall was designed by Howard Boycott and carved by Tom Clark.  In 2005, it was voted the best UK Pedestrian Scheme and it truly shows why.   It really is a remarkable piece of work.
This is perhaps my favourite aspect of the wall.  Click on the image and find the mouse.












My mother in law really liked Chepstow because it did not seem to have the hustle and bustle of cities, so we will definitely be making our way back there again.
As we were about to drive out of Chepstow, we noted on approach to the roundabout this amazing willow sculpture just outside Chepstow Racecourse. I've always wanted to have a go at weaving and creating a vegetable basket or something like that, so have always been keen on admiring such sculptures made from natural resources.  Anyway, I was impressed with it so much to stop the car and get picture. Whilst taking the picture, someone else was there too snapping a photograph.  We learned it was Mike Hartley the artist who was commissioned to create this willow racehorse.   D and me smiled at each other, the last time we met the artist of a creation was in Glasgow for the Govan Mosaic Cherub.  So funny.  Oh whilst driving about, I also spotted some wild garlic for the picking.  I will be out foraging in the next couple of weeks for sure. 

Monday, 19 March 2012

Little Black Fox Brown Envelopes

This is a quick blog entry, just to let you know that my dear blogger friend Little Black Fox is having her annual Brown Envelopes give-away.  This is not your usual brown envelope that contains bills or junk mail.  No, Little Black Fox brown envelopes contain 'seeds', and what's more her envelopes are individually prettily designed by hand.  I have been the fortunate recipient for the past two years, and this year have made my wish for some more.  So I wait patiently to see what I receive this year. 

Well guess what, Little Black Fox generosity knows knows bounds, she is not asking any-one to become a follower or send her anything in return (though either would be nice), yet she is happy to share some of these brown enveloped with fellow vegetable gardeners.  So if you are interested in getting your green thumbs on some, then follow this link.  I know she will only be pleased to hear from you. 

Please do take the time to visit the Little Black Fox blog.  Not only for her Brown Packet Seed giveaway, but also here recipes.  She has some very innovative seasonal recipes such as pumpkin dumpling, pumpkin kebabs and apple ginger and honey chutney - that is good with cheddar cheese.  She also writes with a wicked sense of humour. 

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Primrose and Lemon Slice for Mothering Sunday

Its been a long while, since I have been near my mother for Mothers Day, so of course I had to take the opportunity and bake her a cake for Mothering Sunday, albeit it one that she will share with the whole family. 

A few slices of this cake was also shared with my mother in law who described it as a 'lemony Madeira cake'.
I have some primrose flowers growing in the garden. I know that the flowers are edible and are often crystallised. Had i been more organised, I would have crystallised these myself.  But I have distractions, so these primroses served as garnish more than anything else. 
However, if you wish to crystallise the primrose flowers. You will need
1 egg white mixed with 2 teaspoons of water
Caster sugar
Handful of Primrose flowers (or other edible flowers)
Place the flowers on a baking parchment or a silicon baking sheet. Carefully paint all the surfaces of the flowers with the egg white with a cotton bud or a fine paintbrush. Then either sprinkle or dip in the sugar. Leave to dry and harden for a couple of hours before using or storing away in an airtight container.

Also if you wish to present them a little more elegantly, you can use round cookie cutters.  I was happy with the slices as its minimal wastage.  I may try baking this cake again, as I am still getting used to the new oven in my new home and I think the top was a little too golden.  I am linking this to March Simple and in Season, a monthly event hosted by Ren Behan at Fabulicious Food
Lemon and Primrose Slices
Serves 6 - 8

Ingredients
125g softened butter
175g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
175g self-raising flour
4 tablespoons milk
For the lemon glaze

Juice of 1lemon
75g icing sugar

6  - 8 primrose flowers, gently rinsed orcrystallised
Method

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/180c.
Grease and line a square tin with baking parchment.
Cream together the softened butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time. Stir in the lemon zest.  Gently fold in the flour until thoroughly combined. Add the milk and mix well.  Using a spatula, pour evenly into the tine. 
Bake in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes, or until golden.   Prick a xx and allow to cool in the baking tin.
For the lemon glaze
Place the lemon juice and icing sugar into a small pan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Evenly pour the lemon glaze over the cake.  Before allowing to cool completely, arrange the (crystallised) primrose flowers on top of the cake.  When completely cold, carefully remove from the tin and slice. Inspired by Nigella Lawson's Lemon Syrup Loaf cake.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Curly Kale and Potato Tortilla

I've had a busy few days.  My mother in law is here, its her first time in Wales, so we have been out and about quite a lot.  Last night we were at my parents, and my mother in law was getting acquainted with my rowdy nephews and nieces, playing board games and old fashion hangman, where she had to guess the name of children's movies.  I think she did pretty good. 

The weather here has turned a little grim, there was even hail stones at one point.  Where has all that promising Spring sunshine gone, I for one am waiting for it to warm up and stay that way and that is unusual for me to say, as I have never ever been a sun-worshipper. 
Okay onto today's grub, I should really call this a 'Green and White Tortilla' or 'Celtic Tortilla'. First because it St Patricks Day and secondly, well the Welsh Rugby Team have done Wales real proud, but I am not - its just a simple 'Potato and Kale Tortilla' - no need to be pretentious is there?! 
A generous sliced wedge was served with a simple green salad.  We have so much of it, that we will probably have it for lunch tomorrow too.  I am sharing this with Chef Al dente who is hosting the first ever Gimme Green event.  Here you must create any dish using a green vegetable or fruit as the main ingredient.  It can be either a savoury or sweet dish. 
Okay, I'd love to stay and blog a bit more, but I better be off, it's rude to keep your guests waiting. 

To those of your  celebrating St Patricks Day, Have a Good Evening. 
Shamrock Brown Scones
For the recipe see here.
Curly Kale and Potato Tortilla
Serves 6 - 8 depending on appetite and cut slices
Ingredients
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
4 - 6 medium potatoes, thinly sliced (preferably with a mandolin)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil
200g curly kale, rinsed, stalks removed and roughly chopped.
6 eggs, beaten
Method
Heat oil in a frying pan measuring about 9 inches with high sides. Heat oil, add the onion and cook until soften, then add in the potatoes and cook for about 10 - 15 minutes on medium heat until they are beginning to soften and turn golden, flipping them over now and again. Season with salt and pepper.  Tip into a large bowl.  In the same pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil, then stir in the curly kale, and cook until wilted.  Then tip back in the potatoes and stir well 
to distribute the kale and the onion. Adjust seasoning if necessary. 
Gently pour in the beaten eggs, reduce the heat and allow to set. When it appears set and no longer soft in the middle. Cover the frying pan with a large plate or lid and invert the potato tortilla over onto the plate or lid. Then gently slide the upturned potato tortilla back into the frying pan. Increase the heat and cook the tortilla for a few more minutes until set and golden. Transfer the kale and potato tortilla onto a large serving plate and serve slices either warm or at room temperature.  Based on this recipe.