Thursday, 21 August 2014

Taking stock: waste nothing!

Faced with a pile of vegetable peelings, shelled pea and bean pods and stems from bolted onions, what would you do? I hope the answer would be to turn them into vegetable stock. There is a great deal of nutritional content in this waste and it should be extracted rather than thrown away. So, yesterday, in our antique brass preserving pan, I put a pile of waste, added some bay leaves and boiled it all up. The result is a dark vegetable stock which tomorrow will be used to make soup.

I'm also looking for medieval pottage recipes and my guess is that they will contain stock as well. I have a talk to do on medieval foods in October to our local history society so I will be trying out a number of ancient recipes over the next few weeks. Of course, back in the medieval period, no food was ever wasted, sadly, unlike today when huge amounts are thrown away.

Food swapping at Whitley Bay

For some months now I have been working with the Green Branch of the Workers' Educational Association in Newcastle to set up a food swapping event. The aim is to encourage as much local food production as possible and give people the opportunity to swap their surpluses. The first such event went ahead on Sunday at the Station Masters Garden at Whitley Bay Metro Station and by all accounts was a success.

You don't turn up with a cash wallet. Instead, your "money" consists of food you have grown or produced. My wallet consisted on 2 boxes of jams and and a basket containing 15 dozen quail eggs. The eggs had gone within the first hour and we traded about two-thirds of our jam.

An exchange takes place - jam buys 3 pepper plants!

After an hour or so, we had "bought" quite a few vegetables, soft fruit, rhubarb, bread, cake, even other people's jam!

Back home and this was the final tally. There is probably going to be another event in September in Newcastle. I'll be there with my eggs and jam!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Fry up

I don't often have a fry up but yesterday, circumstances forced my hand (okay, it's a good excuse!). This was my lunch yesterday. One of the duck eggs laid in the early morning had a damaged shell and some courgettes and tomatoes needed using up or otherwise they was be making an early visit to the compost bin. Waste not, want not!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Forest fruit jelly

Rowan is out in force at the moment and there are also lots of rosehips. So I have invented "forest fruit jelly" to use them up. Into the mix went some windfall apples I collected recently.

I used roughly equal quantities of rowan, apple and rosehips and boiled them in the preserving pan.

The liquid was strained off, measured and reboiled.

1kg of sugar was added for each litre of liquid, brought back to the boil and then kept on a rolling boil until the setting point was reached.

The final product is a beautiful golden red jelly.

Liver and bacon casserole

The supply of vegetables has gone up in recent weeks as people swap their gluts with us for jam and eggs. We also had some liver in the freezer from one of our pigs and some old bacon which sadly was from a supermarket and therefore nowhere near the quality of the bacon from our Tamworths. Combining all to make a liver and bacon casserole was decided as the best way to get these various ingredients used.

A large pan of casserole was made. It will last us for another two days.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Beef mince

A few weeks ago we swapped some of our Tamworth pork for some beef with a local farm that has a pedigree cattle herd. The beef is top quality and was something that was previously missing from our diet. The exchange has given us the opportunity to have beef again though it is something we consume only sparingly. Firstly, the exchange rate of beef is high - so we need to pay more pork to get beef. Secondly, even with ethically raised pedigree herds of the highest quality, there is still an impact on the environment of beef production that is worse than most other meat. So, beef will be consumed but only on rare occasions. That way we enjoy it more when we do have it.

Over the weekend, we got one of the packs of beef mince out of the freezer and after defrosting it, we added some chopped veg (mainly veg that was traded with other people for our jam). The enjoyable result is in the picture below.

Pizza at the High Spen Hop Garden

The Hop Garden is a community allotment in High Spen in Gateshead. Volunteers run it and I have got to know some of them over the past year through my efforts to build up a food swapping network. Yesterday they had a pizza evening, complete with pizzas made in front of their pizza oven. Locally grown ingredients were included.

We were invited so we headed over at 4pm. The Hop Garden is a great project and a valuable way of involving schools and residents in growing food. Hopefully others will be inspired to follow their lead.