Uncategorized

Keep it local, or not – with stock and soup recipes to help you digest the big issues

Posted on Updated on

In my pile of must read books, which I optimistically keep adding to, are a few titles which might be categorised as ‘ethical eating’. There are intersecting issues to consider and finding a diet that addresses multiple ethical concerns can be a balancing act.

Take local food as an example. It reduces the environmental impact of transporting food however local unseasonal or exotic foods may have high energy needs. Supporting local farmers, food producers and retailers maintains employment in our area and keeps money in the local economy. Whilst farmers and food producers from further away need a market for their food and supporting FairTrade and similar schemes benefits people and communities around the world. If these sort of dilemmas interest you I recommend my current read, Sustainable Diets by Pamela Mason and Tim Lang.

Pamela Mason is one of the founders of the Food Manifesto for Wales, along with Jane Powell (www.foodmanifesto.wales @maniffestobwyd on Facebook and Twitter). They started a conversation which is growing to become a Welsh food network. Everyone with an interest in food is welcome to join. At this time of policy change, with our political departure from Europe imminent, a hub for discussions and debates around food policy and the future of food, farming and how we feed ourselves in Wales is welcome.

These recipes were inspired by a handful of local businesses with a few exotic ingredients to balance it! The free-range chicken I bought was reared by Martin and Danielle in North Pembrokeshire and Andrew Rees’ butcher prepared it for me; into breasts, legs and carcass (a great reason to use local butchers shops, particularly as I’m vegetarian but cook meat dishes for my family of omnivores). Most of the vegetables I bought were grown organically at Ritec Valley in South Pembrokeshire with additional organic ingredients from the Spar and Plum Vanilla Deli, in Narberth and more exotic ingredients from the Spice Box in Haverfordwest.

Chicken Stock

Ingredients

  • Chicken carcass, incl. giblets if you have them (from a roast/uncooked – some butchers will give away/sell chicken carcasses)
  • Vegetables, I usually use 1-2 onions, 1-2 carrots, 1-2 sticks celery
  • Peppercorns and hardy herbs (bay leaf, parsley stalks…)
  • Water

Method

  1. Place the chicken carcass and giblets into a high sided pan, break into pieces to fit in the pan if necessary.
  2. Wash and chop the vegetables into large chunks and add to the pan along with the peppercorns and herbs. Pour over cold water to cover all the ingredients.
  3. Place on a high heat until the water boils then reduce heat so it simmers. Simmer for an hour. Skim off any froth that appears from time to time.
  4. Drain off the stock and you will have a rich chicken stock which you can use for gravy, adding to dishes like soup, risotto and making sauce for a chicken pie. The stock keeps on the fridge for 2-3 days or can be frozen.
  5. You can repeat the process, add fresh water to the pan and simmer again for an hour. The stock will have a milder flavour and still be good for the recipes suggested above.
  6. When you have finished making stock you can pick over the carcass for bits of meat. This meat and the vegetables can be used for the soup recipe below.

Vegetable Stock – follow the recipe above but leave out the chicken, you can add additional vegetables such as mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers…

Chicken noodle soup with burdock noodles, left. Vegetable noodle soup with rice vermicelli, right.
Chicken noodle soup with burdock noodles, left. Vegetable noodle soup with rice vermicelli, right.

Chicken Noodle Soup (for a vegetable variation leave out the chicken and use vegetable stock)

Ingredients (use quantities to satisfy the number of people you’re feeding)

  • Oil
  • Onion
  • Garlic, ginger and chilli – fresh/dried/sauce etc
  • Some fresh vegetables, e.g. carrots, broccoli, peas, peppers, mushrooms, bean sprouts…
  • Vegetables from making stock
  • Cooked chicken meat from making stock/roast leftovers
  • Chicken stock + water
  • Noodles (you could use pasta/rice)
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Prepare your fresh vegetables, peel if necessary and slice into long thin strips. Finely chop/grate the garlic, ginger and chilli (if using fresh).
  2. In a wide pan heat the oil on a medium heat and fry the onions followed by other vegetables. Cook gently so they don’t brown, until they’re slightly softened. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and stir in.
  3. Slice the vegetables from the stock and chop the cooked chicken into bitesize pieces, add them to the soup pan and stir in.
  4. Add the stock and top up with water so all the ingredients are covered. Bring to the boil them add the noodles, cook for as long as indicated on the noodle packet.

Vegetable Noodle Soup – use vegetable stock and add cashew nuts/tofu/egg instead of chicken.

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine and Saundersfoot Breeze magazine.

Community Fridges in Pembrokeshire – a good excuse to make Glamorgan Sausages

Posted on Updated on

We have a great tradition of community spaces managed locally here in Narberth. With the Queens Hall, Bloomfield Centre, Bus Stop Youth Club and Swimming Pool to name just a few. These community resources are well used and valued. They offer a host of events and activities, save us from travelling elsewhere and encourage others from further away to visit our town. They are great assets in many ways.

Later this year we will be welcoming another community resource, with a community fridge opening at the Bloomfield Centre. Simply, community fridges are a resource for anyone to use. Volunteers collect food from local businesses, and people can donate food too. Chilled food goes in the fridge and ambient food on the shelves. ‘Best before’ dates are taken lightly but ‘use by’ dates strictly observed. Food safety is assured with an EHO food hygiene rating and regular checks are made by fridge monitors. It will be supported by the national charity Hubbub as part of their growing network of community fridges, with funding from The Bluestone Foundation and Arwain Sir Benfro LEADER.

Once the community fridge is up and running there will be a variety of volunteering roles. With people needed to monitor the community fridge, collect food from local businesses, and ensure records are kept up to date. Most important will be people using the community fridge, the food is for everyone to take, eat and value – this food is for eating! If you’d like to find out more, pop into Bloomfield and speak to Vicki, the Community Fridge Coordinator, or email her at: vicki.travers-milne [at] pembrokeshire.gov.uk

From the experience of the community fridge in Fishguard & Goodwick I think we may find that bread will be a common item in our community fridge..! To help you make sure you never waste bread at home here’s a classic Welsh recipe and tasty way to use up surplus bread. Glamorgan sausages are traditionally fried but I bake them as I find it easier and it’s healthier too. You can shape into sausages or smaller ‘bites’.

I sometimes make breadcrumbs from bits of bread we can’t eat in time, then freeze the breadcrumbs to use later. They’re handy to sprinkle on pasta bakes to make it extra crunchy, dry pan fried into crispy crumbs to sprinkle on salads, or to make this recipe. Traditionally these vegetarian sausages are flavoured with leeks but other vegetables can be substituted quite happily. Adding your favourite herbs or spices would be a tasty addition.

Glamorgan bites or sausages

Ingredients

  • 300g stale bread
  • 100g cheese (Caerphilly for authenticity!)
  • 3 eggs + dash of milk/water may be needed
  • 1 small leek (or onion/pepper/courgette/mushrooms…)
  • Seasoning – salt, pepper
  • Optional flavours e.g. 1 tsp mustard, herbs, spices

Method

  1. Wash and thinly slice the leek (or other veg), then lightly fry until softened.
  2. Blitz or grate the bread until it is breadcrumbs. Reserve one third for coating the Glamorgan bites later.
  3. Grate the cheese into a large bowl, beat in 2 eggs, add two thirds of the breadcrumbs and the leeks. Mix all the ingredients so they stick together, add a dash of milk/water if it’s dry or more breadcrumbs of it’s very sticky. Season to taste then form into 6 sausages or 20 bite-sized balls, place on a lined/greased baking tray and refrigerate for 15-30mins.
  4. Crack the remaining egg onto a plate and beat with a fork and a dash of milk/water until combined. Tip the reserved breadcrumbs onto another plate.
  5. Heat oven to 190oc/Gas 5. Remove the Glamorgan bites/sausages from the fridge, roll one at a time in the egg, then into the breadcrumbs and place back on the baking tray. When they’re all coated bake in the oven for 15-20mins until they’re golden brown.
  6. Serves 2 hungry people with side veg/salad, or 4 as a snack served with tomato sauce. Leftovers can be refrigerated/frozen and reheated when needed.
Glamorgan sausages
A traditional Welsh recipe making the most of an oft wasted ingredient.

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine. Did you spot the April fools if you’re local enough to read the printed issue?!

Reasons To Be Cheerful – Make your own kefir

Posted on

If you live in or around Narberth you may have been fortunate enough to join the wonderfully named Cheerful Project at some point over the past few years, if not there’s still time. Run by Span Arts, the Cheerful Project has brought creative activities and events to our corner of Pembrokeshire. Such as, the Queen Bee procession at Narberth Carnival, Pushing Up The Daisies (festival of living and dying) and the spectacular River of Lights lantern parade in Haverfordwest the past three Octobers.

Kefir grains
Kefir grains

Every month they host a Skill Share at Maenclochog Community Hall, on a pay-what-you-can basis. On Wednesday 7th March, 7-9pm, I will be sharing my milk kefir and kombucha making skills – book your place now! It will be an evening of tasting and a chance to have a go at making both drinks. Participants will be able to take home some starter culture for kefir and kombucha, with the knowledge and experience to begin fermenting at home.

The bacteria in kefir offer a number of health benefits – similar to those in ‘pro-biotic’ foods. These include, boosting the immune system in response to some disease microbes, breaking down cholesterol and reducing the formation of some carcinogens. As kefir ferments milk lactose, changing it into lactic acid, some people who can’t tolerate milk due to lactose can drink kefir. Anyone introducing fermented foods into their diet is advised to start with small quantities to test for tolerance and gradually introduce the new bacteria present in fermented foods.

For these recipes you will need some milk kefir ‘grains’, the starter culture for fermenting milk into kefir. Kefir grains grow regularly, and I am happy to share my surplus kefir grains, or you can buy kefir kits from health food shops, try The Ark in Haverfordwest (for Pembrokeshire-folk). In my experience kefir grains are most active in organic whole milk, I use milk from Narberth-based farmers co-operative Calon Wen. However, organic raw milk is ideal, for supplies try Mountain Hall Farm or Caerfai Farm, both in Pembrokeshire. Due to UK food regulations raw milk is only available to buy directly from the farm, visit Raw Milk for farms selling raw milk in England and Wales. Kefir can also be made with goat’s milk and milk alternatives such as coconut or oat milks.

Kefir (for 1-2 people)

Ingredients

1 tablespoon kefir grains

300ml milk

Method

Mix the kefir grains in a glass or ceramic container (not metal or plastic) and cover loosely to stop flies/dust getting in. Leave at room temperature for 24-48 hours until it has thickened to the consistency of yogurt (time will depend on temperature, 20c is ideal).

The kefir grains will rise to the top and should be easy to scoop out with a fork. Then pour the kefir into a glass, pouring through the fork tines to catch any remaining kefir grains. The kefir is ready to drink, it tastes tart/sour and may be a little effervescent. Repeat process and drink regularly to promote healthy gut bacteria.

More kefir-based recipes

Kefir can be quite an, ummmm, acquired taste. To make it more palatable, or just for a change, you can use kefir in other recipes. It can be used in place of yogurt in many recipes and you can make your own soft cheese too. Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.

Kefir and kefir smoothie
Kefir and kefir smoothie

Kefir Smoothie or Ice-lollies (for 2 people)

Ingredients

300ml kefir (or live/pro-biotic yogurt)

1 ripe banana

A handful of soft fruit (fresh/frozen/canned) e.g. berries, mango, apricot, plum etc

Method

Put all the ingredients into a jug/blender, blitz with a hand blender/food processor until smooth. Pour into glasses to serve. To make ice-lollies – pour smoothie into ice-lolly moulds, freeze until solid then serve.

Kefir cream cheeseKefir cream cheese

Ingredients

2 tablespoons kefir grains

1-2 litres milk

You will need

A large glass or ceramic container (not metal or plastic), something to cover it with, a large glass or ceramic bowl to collect the whey, a muslin cloth/tea towel to drain the curds and whey (sterilised in boiling water, then wrung out when cool enough to handle), a clip or colander/sieve for when draining the curds and whey.

Method

Place kefir grains in the jug, pour over milk and stir. Cover the kefir to keep dust and pests out. Leave it for 2-4 days, let time do the work!

After a day you should see some change in the kefir, it should have coagulated and may begin to separate into curds and whey with the kefir grains floating to the surface.

By days 2-4 the curds and whey should have noticeably separated, with the curds above the whey. The length of time will depend on the room temperature.

Line a bowl with a sterilised muslin cloth, clean tea towel or similar. Remove the kefir grains with a fork or by hand, most will have floated to the surface but some may be in with the curds – use your hand to feel for them and take them all out.

Pour the kefir curds and whey into the cloth lined bowl. Elevate the cloth and curds so the whey drains into the bowl (see photos below) or you could drain through a colander/sieve. Leave for 6-12 hours until it reaches the consistency you want. If the room is warm you may prefer to drain the curds and whey in the fridge.

The cream cheese is ready when it reaches your preferred consistency and is now ready to eat. You can eat it as it is, add salt or sugar to taste or use as an ingredient in another recipe. The whey is also a great addition to soups as a stock, can be used to make smoothies, and to make bread. The cream cheese and whey will keep in the fridge for a week and can also be frozen.

Kefir cream cheese step-by-step recipe

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.

Winter picnics with recipes for Peepo Pizzas and Parsnip & Roast Garlic Soup

Posted on

Lung chilling air, azure skies, skeletal trees, crunchy grass. With darkness exceeding daylight at this time of year – and rain, going by wet winters past – perfect, crisp, clear days are to be celebrated. We get out when we get the chance, to enjoy the beaches, woods and hills.

For fresh adventures, Colby Woodland Garden has newly accessible paths over the road from the main grounds. There’s a map in the top car park, although the signposts along the paths are a work in progress (tip – take a photo of the map on your phone). This winter we’re planning to get up into the Preseli Hills (covered with a smattering of snow as I type!) as well as down to beaches we didn’t visit this summer. It may be a bit fresh for a sea-dip but winter picnics will be a treat.

Peepo pizza and soup beach picnic
Peepo Pizza and Roast Parsnip soup, Castle Beach, Tenby

A flask of soup to warm the soul and individual ‘peepo pizzas’ should motivate any moaners to get up and out. Peepo pizzas contain the filling better than their flat namesakes, making them easier to eat on the go. If you start these recipes early they can be ready in time for a picnic lunch, pizzas still warm. For anyone who hasn’t made bread or pizza dough before there are step-by-step photos below.

Peepo Pizzas

Ingredients (makes 6)

700g strong bread flour (white, brown or mixed)

1 sachet yeast

1 tsp salt

400g lukewarm water

Toppings, sliced/grated as necessary e.g: creme fraiche, apples, celery, walnuts, blue cheese, or tomato sauce, chorizo, onion, pepper, cheddar

Method (step-by-step photos below)

1 – In a large bowl mix flour, salt and yeast. Make a well in the centre, pour in water, mix until all ingredients are combined.

2 – Tip dough out and knead for 5 minutes until smooth. Return dough to bowl, cover and leave for an hour until doubled in size.

3 – Tip dough out and cut into 6 pieces, knead into rounds, cover and leave for 30 minutes.

4 – Prepare topping ingredients. Heat oven to 220c.

5 – Stretch/roll the dough balls into rectangles about A5 size. Spread tomato sauce/crème fraiche along the middle length of the rectangle, add toppings and cheese. Lift the long edges together from either side and pinch together in the middle, top and bottom, sealing these sections together but leaving a couple of ‘peepo’ sections so you can see the toppings.

6 – Lift each peepo pizza onto a lined/greased baking tray, bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes until the bread is risen and golden and the cheese is melted and bubbling.

7 – To keep warm for your picnic wrap each peepo pizza in kitchen roll, wrap them all in a thick tea-towel &/ pack in an insulated coolbag (without chill packs!)

roasted garlic
Roast garlic cloves

Parsnip and Roast Garlic Soup (makes 1.5L, enough for 4 hungry or 6 less hungry adventurers)

Ingredients

1-2 bulbs of garlic (depending on your love of garlic!)

1 onion, peeled and diced small

1 stick celery, diced small

4 parsnips, peeled and diced small

1 tblsp butter

1 tblsp oil

1 glass white wine (optional)

1-2 stock cube(s) dissolved in 1L of boiling water

1 tsp dried/1 tblsp fresh thyme

Pinch salt & pepper

Method

1 – Separate the garlic bulbs into cloves, cut the base off, but leave skin on, each clove. Place on baking tray, drizzle oil over and roast in the oven at 180c for 10-15 mins until lightly golden and smelling sweet (I roast them as the oven warms up for the peepo pizzas). When they’re ready they should easily slip out of the papery skins.

2 – In a large pan melt the butter with a dash of oil, gently fry the onion and celery for 5 minutes until softening, add the parsnips and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the wine, and cook for a few minutes until the alcohol evaporates off (it will no longer smell boozy).

3 – Add the roasted garlic, thyme, stock, salt and pepper and bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer with a lid on for 20-30 minutes until the parsnip is soft.

4 – Blitz smooth with a blender/food processor, add water/milk if too thick.

5 – Transfer to thermos flask(s) for the picnic.

Peepo Pizza step-by-step photo recipe

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.

Find the free fruit & nut trees in Narberth

Posted on Updated on

Anyone who grows their own fruit and veg will know the joy of eating just picked fresh produce. And also the monotony of gluts..! Now is a perfect time of year to hole up in the kitchen for a preserve making session, with your own glut or seasonal produce which is cheap and plentiful.

Apples and cobnuts
Apples and cobnuts from Narberth Community Orchard and the Town Moor

A few years ago teams of volunteers planted an array of fruit and nut trees around Narberth. There are crab apples along the High Street, eating apples, pears, mulberry, sweet chestnut and cobnut trees in other spots like Bloomfield, the swimming pool, primary school, St Andrew’s churchyard and on the Town Moor. This free feast is there for the picking for everyone, for more information about these trees contact Geraldine Leach: 01834 450444 or g42leach [at] gmail.com

Narberth Community Orchard sml
Narberth Community Orchard & allotments on the southern edge of town

At Narberth Community Orchard, next to the allotments, there are around 70 apple trees, including Welsh heritage varieties, eaters, cookers and cider apples alongside pears, cherries, medlars, plums, a mulberry tree and cobnut, walnut and sweet chestnut trees. This stunning community asset will improve as it matures! If you’d like to know more about Narberth Community Orchard you can visit their Facebook page, Friends of Narberth Community Orchard – FONCO, or contact FONCO volunteer Amber Wheeler via email: amberfood [at] icloud.com

Chutney recipe

The sweet, vinegary, spiced tang of chutney sparks up a sandwich and stirred into a stew can really lift the flavours. With whatever fruit and vegetables you have, use a rough ratio of 4:2:1 of fruit&/vegetables: sugar: vinegar.

This recipe reliably makes a preserve that keeps for months – indeed it’s best to mature chutney, allowing the flavours to blend and mellow. Make a batch this month and it’ll be perfect for Christmas (only to be gifted to people who you know will appreciate it, not everyone’s a fan!)

Ingredients

1kg fruit – apples/pears/quince/plums/banana, etc…

500g veg – onions/carrots/marrow/tomatoes, etc…

500g dried fruit – sultanas/figs/dates/apricots, etc…

1kg sugar (brown gives a richer flavour, white just sweetness)

500ml vinegar (cider/white wine are milder, red wine/malt stronger)

1-2 tblsp spices – cinnamon and cloves will add a Christmassy note, or any aromatics you like e.g. mustard seeds/ginger/chilli/cardamom, etc…

1 tsp salt and pepper

You will need 6-8 500g jars, or to equivalent capacity if different size jars. If re-using old jars ensure the lids are vinegar proof inside, i.e. with a plastic coating and seal. Sterilise the jars and lids in a dishwasher OR wash in hot soapy water and dry at a low heat in the oven (120C/Gas 1). Cooked chutney should go into warm, sterilised jars.

Method

1 – Peel any fruit and veg with a tough skin, cut out and discard any bruised bits. Chop fruit and veg into even sized chunks. Small chunks will cook quicker and may break down into a mush, larger chunks are more likely to retain their shape, mix and match to suit your preference. If you are using large dried fruit, chop these into small pieces.

2 – Place the fruit &/ veg into a large, high-sided pan, add the spices, salt, pepper and vinegar and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the fruit and veg softens (a knife/skewer slides in).

3 – Turn the heat down, add the sugar and stir to mix well, stir until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for 30mins-1hr until the chutney is thick, stir occasionally to ensure the chutney doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

4 – Use a clean jug or ladle to pour the hot chutney into the warm, sterilised jars and tighten the lid onto each jar. Store the chutney in a cool dark spot for a month or two, up to a year, once opened refrigerate and use in a month-ish.

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.

Share the spoils and make your own Fruity Kombucha

Posted on Updated on

This article is brought to you with the idea of sharing… and asking you to get involved! Regular readers will know I’m keen to make the most of food – it’s what I do at work and try to practise at home. With surplus food and waste a growing concern, Transition Surplus Food Project has started the Pembrokeshire-wide ‘Make a Meal of It’ outreach project.

One solution to surplus food is Community Fridges, which are popping up across the country. A simple concept; food is donated and everyone in the community is welcome to take what they want. Food may come from food businesses, allotments gluts or households. Volunteers monitor the stock daily and ensure it is all fit and safe to eat with any waste being responsibly disposed of.

Inspirational environmental charity Hubbub are supporting a network of Community Fridges, and we could set one up in Narberth. The benefit would be ensuring good food is shared and eaten with the happy side-effect of saving money too. Would you like to volunteer to establish and run a Narberth Community Fridge, or know of a business that could donate food? Please email me if you’re interested: projectstbg [at] gmail.com

Fruity Kombucha

Kombucha is fermented tea, it’s refreshing and can be lightly effervescent, especially if you flavour it. To make your own kombucha you’ll need a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria & Yeast), aka a ‘mother’, to ferment the tea.

I’ve been making kombucha for a while and have SCOBY to share as more is created every time a new batch brews. If you’d like some SCOBY to make your own kombucha get in touch through the Olio app or email me (see above)

Kombucha sm web

You will need:

A large jug with lid/tea towel to cover or Kilner-style drinks dispenser (to hold 5 litres)

4 x 750ml bottles with lids/swing tops

Ingredients:

Kombucha SCOBY and about 200ml of the previous batch of kombucha

4 regular tea bags/4 tblsp loose tea

4 tblsp sugar

1 litre boiling water + extra cold water

Optional flavourings: 200g fruit, finely diced/mashed (berries, apples, rhubarb, ginger, etc, you can mix and match) or 4 large elderflowers/rose petals/edible fragrant petals

Method:

– Brew the tea bags and sugar in the boiling water.

– When cool, remove the tea bags/loose tea and pour into your jug/drinks dispenser. Add the SCOBY and kombucha, top up with cold water so your container is about three-quarters full, cover.

– The kombucha will take 3-10 days to ferment, depending on the room temperature and dilution of the tea. A new SCOBY will form on the surface. Taste your kombucha every day until it is to your liking – it starts off quite sweet, becoming more acidic/vinegary over time (and very slightly increasing in alcohol, up to about 1%).

– When it is to your taste siphon the kombucha into bottles, you can drink it as it is, refrigerate to preserve and slow further fermentation.

OR

– Flavour it during a second fermentation. Add 50g fruit to each bottle, or flower petals, and top with kombucha then secure the lid. Leave to steep at room temperature for about 4 days. Refrigerate to preserve and slow further fermentation. Take care when opening as it can be lively (as my kitchen ceiling can attest!)

– Repeat the process with a fresh brew of sweet tea. Share your excess SCOBY or put on a compost heap/plants or dispose of with your food waste.

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.

Celebrating a local industry – Narberth Breeze magazine article June-July 2017

Posted on Updated on

It’s the start of summer which means Pembrokeshire Fish Week is back! Celebrating our fishing industry, it’s a chance to meet some of the people involved and sample the abundance of fish and shellfish landed on our shores. The opening day usually takes place in Milford Haven, although this year it’s relocating. Head to Lawrenny on Saturday 24th June for the big opening event and then on Sunday 25th June Scolton Manor are hosting a nautically themed family fun day, with lots more going on throughout the week.

A highlight for me last year was watching fishermen from Narberth-based Albatross Fisheries expertly descale and fillet their catch. A collective of local fisherman, they specialise in seabass caught using rod and line. This fishing method reduces the impact on seabass stocks and is recognised by the Marine Conservation Society as being a more sustainable method of fishing as it also reduces bycatch of other species.

For our annual Fish Supper at Transition Cafe last year we cooked catch from Fishguard fishermen, using fish they had in abundance, or more unusual bycatch which they found difficult to sell (a shame as they were tasty to eat). We were slightly overwhelmed by the quantity of spider crabs we received – they are a prized delicacy for some but time consuming to prepare with their long spidery legs! We were told that stocks of spider crabs are increasing on our coastline, potentially reducing stocks of other species of crab. Look out for them if you’re a fan of crab meat, their shells are beautiful too.

Pembrokeshire fish cakes

Pairing delicious Pembrokeshire potatoes with locally caught fish. This recipe is a guide and was inspired by a fridge raid, making the most of leftovers (my common theme!) For veggie or meat versions remove fish &/ add cooked meat to the mix. For speed you can also omit the stuffing &/ breadcrumbing, just shape and fry. I served them with a green salad and homemade tomato sauce. Fishcakes can be frozen (cooked/uncooked), when defrosted fry or reheat in the oven.

Fishcakes

Ingredients

Lots – mashed potato

Some – cooked vegetables, chopped small

Some – cooked fish/shellfish, chopped small

1-2 tbsp tartare sauce/mayonnaise

To fill: Cheese &/ chorizo, chopped small

To coat: 3+ tbsp flour, 1-2 eggs, 5+ tbsp breadcrumbs

Oil for frying

Method

Mix together mashed potato, fish, cooked veg, with a spoonful of tartare sauce/mayo. Add more tartare sauce/mayo if mix seems dry, you want it to hold together (add breadcrumbs if it’s too wet).

Flour your hands and spoon a dollop of potato mix onto one hand. Place a bit of cheese &/ chorizo in the centre then cover with a bit more potato mix. Shape into a patty and put on one side. Continue with the rest of the potato mix. Put into the fridge for 30mins if you’ve time so they firm up (not essential).

Get three plates/similar. Onto the first heap a pile of flour. Second plate crack an egg onto and whisk it up with a fork. On the third plate pour breadcrumbs. (Afterwards, any leftover egg can be scrambled and breadcrumbs can be fried and sprinkled over salads/ soup).

Now ‘pane’ your fish cakes. One at a time, coat a fish cake in flour first, then egg, then breadcrumbs, put on one side. Heat a frying pan with a thin slick of oil until hot, reduce heat to medium and fry your fishcakes in batches. As they’re cooked transfer to the oven, 160°C, whilst you fry the rest. They will all benefit from 5mins in the oven to make sure they’re heated through (esp if you’ve made thick fish cakes).

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine. Apologies for posting it a bit late on here for anyone interested in attending the events (book next year in your diary! It’s usually last weekend in June-early July).

Bright British pulses -Narberth breeze magazine article April-May 2017

Posted on Updated on

beetroot-hummus-with-carrot-pumpkin-seed-and-hazelnut-salad-2

In the 1990s, when I was a strict vegetarian, and vegan for a while, meat-free alternatives were pretty limited. The only ‘vegan chocolate’ I could find back then was carob, I would not recommend it. With ‘free from’ sections in most food shops it’s becoming much easier to follow an alternative diet.

However I’m not a big fan of Quorn and similar meat substitutes. Instead I often use pulses to bulk out meals and add protein. In many other cuisines there are classic dishes, like Mexican chilli con carne and French sausage and bean cassoulet, that combine meat and pulses. Or Indian daals and Middle Eastern hummus, recipes which celebrate lentils and chickpeas respectively. We don’t have a strong culinary tradition of using pulses, besides baked beans, of course, and maybe pease pudding or mushy peas. Firm national favourites but not dishes that really appeal beyond our shores.

Considering how well beans and pulses grow in the UK it’s a shame they don’t feature on more menus. Most of the UK fava bean (aka broad bean) crop is exported or used for animal feed. It wasn’t always this way and I think it’s time we embraced them again. East Anglian based, Hodmedod’s produce a host of dried and canned British grown pulses, beans and quinoa – Spar in Narbeth stock some and hodmedods.co.uk have a wide range available for home delivery.

Our appetite for hummus appears to be growing, if the range available in supermarket chiller cabinets is anything to go by. It’s easy to make at home and super cheap if you use dried beans, whilst a can of ready to eat beans is much quicker. You can mix and match flavours, try butterbeans pureed with roast carrots, peanut butter and a dash of soy sauce or haricot beans with roast peppers, chilli and smoked paprika.

I love beetroot and often cook a big batch – to eat sliced in sandwiches, as a side veg, diced into a simple soup with stock… For speed and ease you could buy cooked beetroots (not preserved in vinegar though!), or any other cooked veg. Extra hummus freezes well.

Satsuma, coriander, roast beetroot and fava bean hummus

 

hodmedods-fava-bean-and-beetroot-hummus
Served with a splash of olive oil and grated carrot, pumpkin seed and hazelnut salad for a vibrant, contrasting dish

For the roast beetroot (makes more than you need in the hummus)

Bunch of beetroot

1 satsuma

1 tsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp peppercorns

Heat oven to 170-220c (I cook them when the oven is on for something else, temperature isn’t important, hotter = quicker cooking).

Remove the beetroot leaves and stalks (small leaves are good in salad, cook large leaves and stalks like spinach) and scrub the beetroots clean. Don’t peel before cooking, tough skin can easily be removed afterwards. Leave whole if beetroot are the size of a satsuma, if larger I halve so they cook quicker.

Place beetroots in an ovenproof dish, sprinkle over coriander seeds and peppercorns, slice satsuma in half and squeeze juice over, add the halves too. Cover with a lid/foil and bake in the oven until tender (30mins – 1hr depending on the size of beetroots and oven temperature).

For the hummus

2-4 roasted beetroots, cut into chunks

400g can of fava beans, drained

1 tblsp tahini

1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 lemon, juiced

1 satsuma, juiced

salt and pepper

You will need a food processor/hand blender. Put beetroot, fava beans, tahini, garlic, ground coriander and half the lemon and satsuma juice into the blender, season and blitz to a paste. Taste and add more juice/seasoning if needed, if it’s very thick add a dash of juice/water/oil, blitz until smooth.

beetroot-hummus-carrot-and-pomegranate-salad-and-zaatar
Beetroot hummus sprinkled with za’atar and served with carrot, pomegranate, pumpkin seed and lemon salad

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.

Different dishes with the same old same old and have you Olio-ed yet?!- Narberth Breeze magazine article Feb-March 2017

Posted on Updated on

At last the days are getting longer and we’re seeing signs of greenery emerging, what a welcome change! However, we’re in the ‘hungry gap’ as far as local fruit and vegetables go, and will be for another month or two. Sticking to a seasonal diet is great for the environment, our health and our pocket but does get a bit dull when another meal of root veg and winter greens looms again.

So, whilst the produce may be the same I’m trying different ways of preparing and cooking them. Boiling or steaming carrots, swedes or squash and then mashing them brings out their fresh flavour and vibrant colour. Adding spice also livens them up – try roasting carrots whole (or slice lengthways if they’re whoppers) and roast with caraway or cumin seeds.

Braising vegetables adds depth of flavour from the braising liquor and long slow cooking – try celery submerged in a broth of vegetable stock, white wine, butter and fennel seeds. Cooked until softened, the vegetable absorbs all these tastes and adds its own subtle aroma to the mix.

I’m also trying different ways of reducing how much food we waste at home. We’re getting better at freezing food we won’t eat before the use by date, and cooking SOON meals (Something Out Of Nothing) from the odds and ends at the back of the fridge and kitchen cupboard. But there are times when I just don’t like something I’ve bought – an unusual ingredient bought on a whim – or have totally over-catered.

Now there’s a food sharing app for householders and shops to connect people with surplus food to people who want it. Olio is being used by people all over the UK to share food in their community. Like all networks it’s more effective the more people who join and use it. It would be great if lots of us from our area joined up and used Olio to share our surplus food – feeding bellies not bins!

You can find out more at www.olioex.com and download the Olio app from the App Store and Google Play for free.

Eat Your Greens – three ways with leafy greens, e.g. kale, cavolo nero, large spinach or spring greens (these are recipe ideas, use quantities to suit).

Massaged Greens

Strip any tough stems from the leaves and tear leaves into bite size pieces, sprinkle with half a teaspoon of salt and squeeze over half a lemon/lime or a tablespoon of vinegar. Massage the leaves for a minute or two, they will wilt and juices will run out. Leave for a few minutes or longer and drain off the bitter juices and season. You can add to a salad, dress with some oil and vinegar or serve as a side vegetable.

Green Crisps

Strip any tough stems from the leaves and drizzle oil on leaves, mix together and bake in a hot oven for about 10 minutes until they are crisp, remove and sprinkle with salt and pepper. You can add other flavours, try sprinkling over smoked paprika or masala chat (mixed spice blend).

Green Pasta

Cook pasta in a large pan of boiling water, follow timings on packet. Strip any tough stems from the leaves and tear the leaves into bite size pieces. Add the leaves to the pasta for the last minute of cooking so they soften and wilt. Finely slice a clove or two of garlic and maybe some chilli or chorizo. Gently fry the garlic/chilli/chorizo in oil for a few minutes then add to the drained pasta and green leaves. A strong cheese (blue/parmesan) stirred into the finished dish works well too.

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.

Roast Cauliflower with Blue Cheese or Pistachio Sauce – Narberth Breeze magazine article Dec 2016-Jan 2017

Posted on Updated on

roast-cauli-carrots-and-cheese-sauceHere we are, ready to celebrate the end of another year with a host of festivities including the shortest day and a welcome return to longer daylight hours. Celebrating and feasting with friends and family will get us through the dark months!

Flavour-wise, warming spices like cinnamon and cloves, fresh oranges and cranberries and rich Stilton and port are a blast of winters past. Smells that warm us, from the first spiced whiff of a mince pie to the rich aromas of a traditional roast dinner. Whilst bright, colourful foods are in the spirit of celebration – this month’s recipe brings greens and reds to light up your table.

I love a roast dinner (except the meat) with all the trimmings. Everybody has their own ‘must-have’ dishes, roast potatoes are surely in everybody’s top three, right?! I suggest this recipe for whole roasted cauliflower as a great replacement for meat when serving a roast dinner to vegetarians and an excellent addition for omnivores too. If cooking for vegan/dairy free diners replace dairy ingredients with the alternatives suggested.

The flavour of roast cauliflower is more complex, richer and caramelised then plain old boiled cauli (and doesn’t leave the kitchen with that distinctive sulphur-y aroma.) Alternatively, to speed up cooking time (and save energy) you can cut the cauliflower into florets, coat in oil and roast, leaves and all, on a baking tray for 20-30 minutes. Same great flavour but not such a wow-factor when serving.

If you can find a Romanesco cauliflower this really is a dish to show off its fabulous conical spirals. Serve with gravy or one of the sauce recipes and colourful garnish suggested here, alongside all your favourite trimmings for a roast.

cauli-roasting-with-carrots

Whole Roast Cauliflower

Romanesco/white cauliflower (small will cook in 30mins, large around an hour)

1-2 tbsp rapeseed / sunflower oil

25-50g butter / 2-4 tbsp olive oil

Method

Oven heated to 220c / fan 200c

Remove really tough outer leaves from the cauliflower then cut the base from the cauli so it stands flat, wash the cauliflower.

You will need an oven-proof pan/dish with a lid/foil to cover, that the whole cauliflower fits into. Heat the pan on a medium heat on the hob, add rapeseed/sunflower oil, stand the whole cauliflower in the pan and cook for 5 minutes until you can smell the base start to caramelise (not burn!)

Take off the hob, smear butter/olive oil over the top and rub in all over, use as much as you need to coat the florets. Cover with lid/foil and roast in the oven. Check after 20 minutes and baste, test with a sharp knife, if it’s softening remove the lid so that it browns. Brown for 10-20 minutes.  However, if still firm leave lid on, checking and basting every 10-20 minutes. Depending on size it can take 30minutes-1 hour.

It’s cooked when it’s soft (or al dente if you prefer) and browned outside, with the leaves crispy.

Blue cheese sauce

25-50g softish blue cheese (I used Boksburg Blue)

2-4 tbsps Greek yogurt/creme fraiche/similar

Mash the cheese with a fork then stir in yogurt/creme fraiche to taste, you want a spoonable consistency and creamy flavour with a spike of blue cheese.

Pistachio sauce

2-4 tbsps pistachio/other nut butter

2-4 tbsps unsweetened soya yogurt/similar

Mash the nut butter with a fork then stir in soya yogurt, you want a spoonable consistency and creamy, nutty flavour.

To serve

Serve with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds/dried cranberries and roughly chopped pistachios/roasted cashews to add brightness and crunch.

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.

World Food Day & Parcel/Wrap recipe – Narberth Breeze magazine article Oct-Nov 2016

Posted on Updated on

#surplusfood #wastenotwantnot #loveyourleftovers #cookonceeattwicetransition-cafe-menu

For anyone who follows me on social media these hashtags may be familiar. They pop up pretty regularly on my feeds, especially when mentioning my work at Transition Cafe in Fishguard. The USP of the cafe is that we use surplus food to create our daily changing menu.

The main aim of the cafe is to raise local awareness about a global problem – edible food being thrown away. When it opened three years ago Transition Cafe was very unusual, now there are similar initiatives across the UK and lots of media interest. Many of the larger supermarkets have taken action and now give their surplus food away to charities.

At home I’m really aware of how much food we put in the green bin, often it’s bread that’s going mouldy or limp lettuce. The Love Food Hate Waste campaign estimates that the average family could save £700 every year if they threw away less food. There are lots of great tips on their website, such as freezing bread and taking out a slice or two as you need it (we now do this!)

world-food-day-2016Sunday 16th October is World Food Day and the theme this year is, ‘Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too.’ At Transition Cafe we’ll be open over the weekend for an open day and I’ll be running a cookery workshop. Visit the website events or Facebook page to find out more.

This recipe continues the theme of reducing waste. I often dress leftovers up with potatoes (pies and frittatas), pastry (pies, again) or, as in this case, dough. Here’s a simple dough recipe that you can make into wraps or stuff with leftovers and fry or bake into a delicious hot parcel. Check out my previous blog post for a step-by-step photo guide to make them.

Parcels / WrapsShaped Tortilla-wrap-thingys sm

25g/heaped tablespoon plain flour per wrap

approx 12g/level tablespoon water per wrap

a pinch of salt

Leftovers eg leftover veg and meat from a roast; chilli con carne; bolognese sauce; or grated vegetables, cheese &/ ham if there are no leftovers around

Method

Put your flour and salt in a mixing bowl, add the water and mix it together by hand, knead it a little until it’s a smooth ball of dough. Add more water/flour if it’s too dry/wet – too firm and it’s tough to roll out, too wet and it’s too sticky to roll out.

Chop/dice/grate your filling so it’s all in small pieces – so it heats through quickly.

Divide your dough into equal portions, depending on how much flour you used and how many you plan to make. Knead each small portion into a smooth ball, squash flat and roll out into a disc about half a millimetre thick and 20cm diameter (if making wraps – cook in a dry frying pan on a medium heat until opaque white with bubbles of golden brown).

Heap 2-3 tablespoons of filling in the centre of the disc of dough and fold the edges over the filling to make a parcel. Heat a little oil in a frying pan on a medium high heat. Fry on the folded side first and when it has changed colour and started browning flip over to cook the other side. Adjust heat as necessary, they need to brown but not too quickly as the filling needs to warm up too. Alternatively you can bake them in the oven, 180c for 15-20 minutes.

The parcel is cooked when it’s turned opaque white all over with golden brown patches. You can keep them warm in the oven, serve straight away or cool and have them cold for packed lunches.

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.

Pembrokeshire Potato Salad recipe – Narberth Breeze magazine article August-September 2016

Posted on Updated on

IMG_20160701_123257Shopping is not one of my favourite past-times, especially a weekly trip to the supermarket to do a ‘big’ shop. Whilst it seems quicker and easier to do it all in one hit I find I get lost in the windowless warehouses. Time flies by while I’m sucked into buying more than I intended from the vast range on offer.

I much prefer shopping little and often, topping up when we’re running low. When choosing food I value how and where it is grown, raised and caught. The main priority for me is to buy locally produced food as I want to support people living and working in my community. There’s another benefit – it’s likely to be super fresh; fruit and veg picked within days if not hours; fish landed that day.

When buying meat for my family I want to know the heritage of the animal. Local farmshops, such as Yerbeston Gate and Bethesda, have a strong interest in rearing content and healthy animals to produce the high quality end products they sell direct. Farmers involved in the whole process are connected to their customer, this reassures me in a way buying meat in a black plastic tub from the supermarket cannot.

Organic produce is also important to me. This isn’t due to the possible nutritional benefits but rather out of concern for the environment. I know little about farming but want to support a system that values the health of the soil and wildlife around the farm so natural eco-systems flourish.

And the conversations started when meeting the growers and suppliers of our food are often illuminating. The added bonus is that for every £10 spent in local shops £6.30 stays in our local economy, compared to £4 if we spend that £10 in a large chain store.

This simple recipe celebrates local ingredients and is truly authentic if made using Pembrokeshire produce! It’s a winner at BBQs or great for lunch, maybe with some tomatoes and a leafy salad on the side. This method for boiling eggs comes from Harold McGee’s invaluable book, ‘Keys To Good Cooking’, and gives just set eggs which are gently cooked, rather than tough and rubbery.

IMG_20160701_104405

 

Pembrokeshire Potato Salad

Ingredients (adjust quantities to suit, this makes a big bowlful)

500g new potatoes

3 eggs (if a week or two old they’ll be easier to peel)

50g marsh samphire (tender young tips ideally, or steamed tougher stems)

Salt and pepper

Method

Wash the potatoes. Place them in a large pan, cover with plenty of water, add a big pinch of salt and bring the water to the boil. Simmer for 15-30 minutes (depending on size) until the potatoes are tender (a sharp knife should easily slide into a potato). Drain and allow the potatoes to steam dry, cut them into bite size pieces when cool enough to handle.

Bring a large pan of water to a rapid boil then turn down the heat. Gently lower the eggs into the water with a spoon, cover the pan, turn off the heat and leave the eggs for 12 minutes. Remove them from the water with a spoon and run the eggs under cold water. When they are cold, tap the eggs all over to crack the shell, pull off the shell and white membrane. Grate the eggs coarsely.

Mix the potatoes and eggs together in a large bowl. Chop up the marsh samphire and mix it  into the salad.

Try the salad and add salt and pepper to taste (the marsh samphire is salty so you may not need extra salt).

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.

Salsa Verde recipe – Narberth Breeze magazine article June-July 2016

Posted on Updated on

As I write it is a beautifully bright but chilly day at the end of April. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been out in the garden clearing up and getting ready for a fresh growing season. A few herbs have survived the wet winter. My parsley and marjoram are flourishing but the rosemary and thyme are looking a little sad. I think they are in need of some warm sunshine, as am I!

In our small garden plants we can eat jostle for space with ornamentals. Over the years I’ve had a go at growing a variety of plants with varying degrees of success. Now I focus on edible plants which are hard to find in the shops or expensive to buy.

Alongside fruit bushes, strawberries and herbs are flowers to be eaten. My favourite are nasturtiums for their bright colourful flowers and peppery tasting leaves. At Span Art’s Big Plant Sale last year I bought a jostaberry (a blackcurrant/gooseberry cross), rhubarb plant and some raspberry bushes. This year we look forward to harvesting the first fruit.

I also grow vegetables I like to eat when they’re small, usually beetroot and courgettes as I love the raw tender young veg sliced into salads. Another bonus of growing them is being able to use other parts of the plant which are often removed before they get to the shops. Beetroot leaves work well in place of spinach. Courgette flowers are edible with a buttery flavour – stuffed and deep fried they’re a real delicacy.

Hopefully as you read this it is a perfect summer’s day. Even if not, this issue’s recipe should bring some sunshine into your kitchen, as it did to mine on a chilly April day.

DSCF1680Salsa Verde will brighten up many recipes. I first ate it with fried halloumi and am now addicted! This green sauce balances well with many fish dishes and livens up potato salad or mash. Drizzled over orange butternut squash soup it looks and tastes so good. Whilst as a dip for raw crunchy vegetables it really zings.

This recipe is, as always, a starting point. Use whichever soft green herb is in abundance/cheaper, add more/less of any ingredient to suit your taste. I usually make a large batch and freeze leftovers in small containers for another day when I need a blast of brightness on my plate.

Salsa Verde recipe

Ingredients

1 large bunch of parsley/coriander/marjoram/a mix – washed, tough stringy stalks removed, the rest roughly chopped

1-2 teaspoons mustard (I use a mellow French/wholegrain)

1 lemon/lime – juiced

1-2 tablespoons capers/green pitted olives – rinsed

1-2 garlic cloves – peeled and roughly chopped (optional)

2-4 tablespoons of oil (one you like the flavour of, I use olive/rapeseed)

salt and pepper

Method

Put the herbs into a food processor/blender/container for a stick blender.

Add half the lemon/lime juice, 2 tablespoons of oil, half the mustard, half the capers/olives, half the garlic (if using) and blitz for a minute or two. You may need to stop and move the leaves around to get them all to the blender blades.

Adding more oil &/ some water may also help it blend to a sauce if it seems dry. The consistency can be between a dip to a pouring sauce, depending how you want to eat it, add more oil/water as necessary.

Taste the sauce, season with salt and pepper and add more lemon/lime juice, mustard, capers/olives and garlic to your taste. Blitz again to combine. The sauce should be herby with a kick from the other ingredients.

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.

Vegetarian Bolognese Sauce recipe – Narberth Breeze magazine article April-May 2016

Posted on Updated on

September 2012 was the first time I visited Narberth, attracted by the annual food festival. We were staying near Little Haven and looking for things to do on holiday. It was also a reconnaissance trip as we were thinking of moving to Pembrokeshire. On that first visit we were really impressed by the thriving town we found; the bustling food festival; community centre, swimming pool and music venues; lots of independent shops and businesses. Many elements drew us here.

One of my priorities, when we were thinking about where to settle, was having food shops within walking distance. On this front we’re pretty spoilt here in Narberth! The High Street mini-supermarkets, butchers and grocers keep us well supplied. Wisebuys, that foodie treasure trove, has delivered the most obscure ingredients I’ve asked for – liquid smoke was the most unusual and yep, they had it in stock! Popping by the veg stall at the Friday market is always a delight, chatting to the couple who have harvested the veg from their plot. Whilst Fire and Ice and Ultracomida are great for a treat.

Having two butchers, a fish counter and numerous places selling  fresh fruit and veg is a luxury compared to other local towns and villages. Worth valuing when you consider just north of here, in Clunderwen, the only grocery shop closed recently.

Vegetable Bolognese sauce (serves 6)

diced veg frying sauce with toast plate view

This recipe continues the theme of vegetarian dishes fit for a meat eater – it also happens to be vegan and gluten free, great if cooking for a crowd with various dietary requirements. My secret ingredient for the ‘meaty’ flavour is smoked tofu, my preferred brand is ‘Taifun Tofu‘ because it’s very dense and full flavoured (happily Wisebuys stock it!). The tofu isn’t essential but does add an extra depth of flavour.

As last month, this recipe is really a guideline; adapt to suit your tastes. I always use the trio of onions, celery, carrots as the base and then whatever other veg I have. It’s great simply on toast, served with pasta, smothered in mash and baked or layered up in a luscious lasagne, whilst leftovers freeze well.

Ingredients

1tbsp oil

1 large onion, carrot & celery stalk, finely diced (&/grate carrot)

500g mixed veg (eg mushrooms, peppers, courgettes…), finely diced/grated

1-2 garlic cloves, crushed

100g red lentils (use 200g if not using the tofu), rinsed

1 pack smoked tofu, grated

1 stock cube/powder equivalent

1tbsp tomato puree + pinch of sugar/1tbsp ketchup

2 tsp dried mixed herbs/2tbsp chopped fresh herbs

Salt and pepper to taste

1 can of tomatoes + a can full of water

Method

1 – Heat a large saucepan on med-high, add the oil, then the onion, carrot and celery and fry for 5 mins, stirring occasionally, until they look softened and are starting to brown a little. Add the other vegetables and cook until they are softened and starting to brown.

2 – Add the garlic, stir in and fry for a minute or so, until you can smell the garlic-y aroma.

3 – Add the lentils, tofu, tomato puree + sugar/ketchup, herbs and pepper (don’t add salt/stock until the end otherwise it hardens the lentils while cooking) and stir to combine. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally, so everything heats through.

4 – Add the tomatoes and water. The liquid should just cover the mixture, add more water if needed as the lentils will absorb quite a lot as they cook. Simmer for 20 minutes until the lentils are softening. Add with crumbled stock cube/powder and cook for a further 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened, add salt to taste and serve.

lasagne close up

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.

Roast Vegetable Sambhar recipe – Narberth Breeze magazine article Feb-March 2016

Posted on Updated on

My day revolves around food. Starting with a chat with my three year old about what we’ll have for breakfast (usually porridge in the winter, with sliced banana or mashed, a big difference when you’re three). I work part time at a surplus food cafe, Transition Cafe in Fishguard, and also run cookery workshops with my business Pembrokeshire Cook. So my day generally involves lots of talking, thinking and eating food.

As I walk through the door in the evening it’s time to think about dinner. I’m vegetarian, my husband a committed omnivore and our son will sometimes eat whatever he’s given, and other days is exceedingly choosy (pretty normal for a young child I think). Over the years we’ve got pretty good at cooking essentially the same recipe, just adding meat to one pan or dish, so the meal will satisfy all tastes.

We make pizzas with different toppings (dough balls with sauce and toppings on the side when our son prefers his food deconstructed), pasta with beef or lentil Bolognese sauce, roast leg of lamb or whole roasted cauliflower with all the trimmings… Always two dishes but most of the ingredients are prepared simultaneously.

However, my husband is coming round to the idea of a meal without meat and we’re going to have wholly vegetarian family meals more often. This does present a new challenge – cooking a convincingly tasty veggie meal for someone so used to having meat on every plate.

For dinner tonight I decided to cook curry. I looked to India for inspiration as much of the population is vegetarian, resulting in many excellent recipes and styles for cooking veggie food. The layers of flavour should mean the lack of meat is quickly forgotten.

This recipe is really adaptable, more of a guide really, use whatever veg (or leftovers from a roast dinner) you have and perk it up with some spices. I often use ready mixed spice blends as it’s quicker and cheaper (I find individual spices can lose their pungency before I’ve finished the packet). We ate it with boiled rice and chutneys, on toast or with baked potatoes would also be good.

Roast Vegetable Sambhar (serves 6)

Curry and rice v3

Ingredients

1 kg mixed veg (eg cauliflower, courgette, peppers, carrots, squash, broccoli…), cut into chunks4 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons sambhar spice mix (or spice mix of your choice)

2 cloves garlic, finely sliced

150g red lentils, rinse well and soak in water, ideally overnight, but 10mins is better than nothing

1 onion, finely sliced

Method

1 – Heat oven to 200c. Toss vegetables with two tablespoons of oil then place on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes until browning a little at the edges.

2 – Meanwhile heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pan on a medium heat, add the spice mix, stir for a minute or so until you can smell the spices and then add the garlic, stir for another minute and when you can smell it add the lentils with water to cover them by about 1cm. Put a lid on the pan and leave to simmer for 15-30 minutes until the lentils have softened, stir occasionally and top up with water as necessary.

3 —In a separate pan fry the onion in a tablespoon of oil until brown and crispy. These are to sprinkle on top of curry as you serve it.

4 — Add the roast vegetables to the lentil mix and stir to combine, heat through gently.

This article first appeared in Narberth Breeze magazine.