Sunday 27 February 2011

How to make potato bread

potato bread Feb 11

Self-sufficiency often means finding substitutes for foods and ingredients we take for granted but can't produce ourselves in any sensible quantities. We don't have the space to grow our own grain so we have to buy flour. We can however cut down on the amount of flour we use by using a substitute - potatoes.

Actually, potatoes can only be a substitute for only some of the flour we use in baking but I explored some wartime recipes (flour, though nor rationed, was something of a precious commodity - anyone wasting bread was liable to prosecution) and foreign bread recipes. The following recipe is a bit of a combination of wartime and Russian.

So, if you want to make potato bread, this is what you have to do

225g potatoes
450g brown bread flour
one packet dried yeast
one teaspoon cummin seeds (optional)
2 teaspoons salt
tablespoon cooking oil

Boil the potatoes until they are tender. Put the water to one side.

Press the potatoes through a sieve. Add 150ml of water in which the potatoes were boiled to the sieved potatoes. Mix together. The end result looks unappealingly like wallpaper paste.

Mix the dry ingredients together then add the oil. Then add in the potato paste. Mix together and then add more of the potato water until a sticky dough is created.

Turn it out onto a floured surface and kneed for 8-10 minutes.

Shape into a ball and put it onto an oiled baking tray. Leave to rise for at least an hour in a warm room (put a tea towel over it to stop it drying out). It is ready for the oven when it is doubled in size.

Place in a preheated oven at 200C for 30-35 minutes.

I don't know whether this is just me, but I have found that this bread stays fresher than bread made from flour only.

I am going to experiment with this recipe to find out if it is possible to increase the proportion of potatoes. I'll post up the results.

How to make a meat loaf

meat loaf Feb 11

In aiming to be self-sufficient, we have to be imaginative with the food stores that we built up last year to ensure there is nothing wasted and that we consume them in time to create storage room for the new crops from the late spring onwards.

Making meat loaves is a great way to use up a variety of the food stocks we have and to do so in a very cost effective way. My estimate is that the cost of the meat loaf works out at 25-30p per helping per person.

The ingredient we bought specifically for this recipe is sausage meat, about £2 for 450g. Pricing the breadcrumbs depends on whether or not you make your own bread, grow your own wheat to make the flour and whether or not the bread used to make breadcrumbs was fresh or simply left overs that were going stale. I recommend every kitchen, whether you are aiming for self-sufficiency or not, should keep a stock of homemade breadcrumbs using stale bread - instead of throwing them out, make them into this incredibly versatile ingredient.

So,if you want to make a meat loaf, this is what you have to do.

Add 450g of pork sausage meat to a large mixing bowl.

Add the same volume of breadcrumbs to the bowl.

Peel, core and grate three or four small to medium apples. (We used some wild eating apples.) Add to mixing bowl.

Crush and add 3 or 4 medium to large cloves of garlic and with a handful of dried or fresh herbs of your choice (we used sage, thyme and oregano) add to the mixing bowl as well.

And finally, for ingredients for the basic mix, chop three or four shallots. You can replace them with a small to medium onion though I think the milder, slightly sweeter taste of shallots works better with pork sausage meat.

Then add your final additional ingredient. In the three versions we made, one contained leeks (4 or 5 small to medium leeks will do); one contained four grated potatoes and the final one contained half a jar of marrow chutney.

Mix all the ingredients together. In fact, do more than that - squeeze them together through your fingers. When all thoroughtly mixed up, add to well oiled loaf tins and put in the over at 200C for 30-35 minutes.

The loaves can be eaten hot or cold. They hold together and slice well.

Frugal foods: curried parsnip peel soup

We still have parsnips on the allotment though we will be picking the remaining produce shortly. We had some roasted recently and peeled them before they were cooked. I'm always on the outlook for ways to reduce waste and when I spotted the pile of parsnip peelings, I decided there was a potential meal in them: curried parsnip peel soup.

curried parsnip soup Feb 11 1

Make sure the parsnips are thoroughly cleaned before peeling. Put the peel into a pan of water. Add a heaped teaspoon of marmite, a heaped teaspoon of curry powder and a chopped onion as well as herbs of your choice (we used dried oregano and thyme as it was available).

Bring to the boil and leave simmering for about 25 minutes. If you need to add more marmite, curry powder or herbs, add them now and reheat until they are infused through the soup. Avoid too much marmite however or you could lose the taste of the parsnips. If you are not a marmite fan, use veg or chicken or pheasant stock.

Blend and enjoy.

curried parsnip soup Feb 11 2

Preparing the back garden for food production

We have made a start with preparing our back garden in Sunniside for food production. the photos below were taken in January on a rather frosty Sunday afternoon. The flowering currant bush has been removed. It had toppled over under the weight of the winter snow so had to be removed anyway. It did however take up a very large amount of space. The plan is to put a plum tree on the same site.

We are planning to get chickens for the back garden, potato bags for the patio and some herbs as well. Our garage has a large flat roof and this will be ideal for plants such as strawberries and nasturtiums that spread across the ground. We will put them in grow bags around the edge of the roof and let them spread.

We'll we working on other small scale projects as well: growing carrots in bags and runner beans in pots on the patio.

Back Garden Jan 11 8

Back Garden Jan 11 1

Back Garden Jan 11 7

The skip has arrived

One third of our allotment has not been cultivated yet during the four years we have occupied it. The allotment itself had been derelict for years before we took it on and it has been a long standing target to get the rest of it into use. Well, today (Saturday 26th Feb) we made great strides forward. A skip arrived in the morning and we began to fill it with the rubbish that we inherited when we took on the allotment. There was wood, rubble, rusting oil drums and a range of other materials. There is still plenty to do but we have made good progress today, helped by a modest bonfire to get rid of a load of branches.

Dad came along to help as well. He has an allotment in the next village but is moving on to ours to take over half the unused section (which still means he will have more land than on his own allotment.) In turn, we are taking over his allotment and will be using it mainly for growing soft fruit.

Friday 25 February 2011

Filming for Horticultural Channel

For ease of production and to keep production costs down, we decided to film my first two contributions for the Horticultural Channel at my house in London rather than in my kitchen at home on Tyneside. Filming took place on Tuesday and we recorded 2 programmes. I'm not telling you what foods I made but I had already made my own video for one of them which has previously appeared on this blog.

The first broadcast is at 9am on 6th March so not long to go now. You can watch the programme on Sky 166.
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Monday 21 February 2011

Late winter wild salad

I have just walked through the local park to have a look at what's growing. I found dandelion, brambles, nettles and yarrow. That's enough to create a late winter wild salad. Watch this space.
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Friday 11 February 2011

The Horticultural Channel


I've mentioned previously that I am going to be one of the presenters for a new gardening programme called the Horticultural Channel. I will be doing the cookery section which will be called "Frugal Foods".

The above promotional photo was sent to me today by the producer Sean Cameron.

You can keep up to speed about the series at and!/thehorticulturalchanneltv

Self-sufficient update

This is the update from January 2011. Work begins on the back garden to bring it into food production. The greenhouse is tidied up and the fruticage has lost its roof due to the bad weather.

And in the kitchen, we feast of an artichoke and sausage casserole and roast pheasant stuffed with leek and hazel. Meanwhile, I bottle up the gooseberry vodka and sloe gin I made last year.

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Gin, vodka and soup

I mentioned in a post yesterday that I had discovered a large quantity of blackberry vodka, sloe gin and gooseberry vodka in jars in my garage. I had made far more than I thought, especially of sloe gin. The reason for the excessively large quantity of sloe gin was due to the Horticultural Channel (launched on Sky channel 166 on 6th March - I am one of the presenters). They came up in October to film me making it. I had to create a jar of it for each different stage of the filming so that we could get through all the clips we needed in one afternoon. I then stored it all in the garage, gave each jar a shake each day for a month and then went off to do other things. It was a nice discovery, sorting through the garage to try to make space!

The pheasant we had on Sunday was stripped this afternoon of any remaining meat. I used the bones to make a stock. Never ever ever throw away bones without using them for stock. Another tip to avoid waste: put peelings from vegetables aside for making stock. We put them into a bag which we store in the freezer until we have enough to fill a pan. We also added to it leaves from leeks we picked on the allotment. I bought 2.5kg of cheap bacon last week so I added in 300g to the soup mix, along with some lentils and the pheasant meat. The result was vert pleasant.

Having just consumed the soup, I'm now getting ready to head off to the Hexham Beekeepers' Association meeting.

More fruit liqueurs

fruit licquers Feb 11
I was filming clips for my January self-sufficiency video this afternoon. The closing scene was set in the kitchen and showed me bottling up some sloe gin and gooseberry vodka.

It's amazing how some things can be forgotten when stored away in the garage. After filming, I went back into the garage to put away the jars of gin and vodka soaked fruit (we will use it to make sweet mince later this year). There I rediscovered more jars of sloe gin and gooseberry vodka that I had forgotten about. I also discovered a jar of blackberry vodka. These are now all lined up on the bench in the kitchen waiting to be bottled tomorrow. I posted something about this on Facebook. The result was an offer to swap a bottle for something of value from a friend, and an excited comment from one of my fellow presenters of the Horticultural Channel, the tv series I will be appearing in from March onwards (more about that later).

Also still sitting in the garage waiting to be used up are 12 bottles of elderflower champagne.

Roast pheasant with leek and hazel nut stuffing

Another self-sufficient meal last night: roast pheasant (we swap jam for pheasants), roast parsnips, roast potatoes, runner beans and a stuffing made from a bit of one of our sausage meat loaves, a leek freshly picked from the allotment and chopped hazel nuts.

I've been surprised at how little I have used the hazel since I picked a sack load in October. Normally I gorge myself on them over winter but this time I somehow forgot about them. I'm on the lookout for more hazel recipes to use them up.

Sunday 6 February 2011

Parsnips in the mud

So much for our plans to go down to the allotment today to do some work. Though we did manage to get there, the heavy rain meant all we could do was drop off the bags of compost we bought yesterday and pick some parsnips to go with the dinner tonight.

The soil is very, very wet. Nevertheless, the parsnips are in good shape. We will be having them roasted with a pheasant, roast potatoes and a stuffing made from a bit of the sausage loaf I made recently, plus hazel nuts and leeks (one of the other crops still growing on the allotment at the moment.)

Sausage meat loaves

We are at the time of the year when there is little left growing on the allotment. We are therefore using up our stocks of food grown and foraged last year. Nevertheless, we still have some leeks on the allotment. In this video I show yu how to make sausage meat loaves. The sausage meat was the only ingredient we bought.

We made three versions: leek, potato and chutney. We have lots of chutney left from last year and we need to use it up so mixing half a jar of chutney into a meat loaf was a bit of an experiment. It seems to have worked.

Pride of play in this post goes to the cost. The only ingredient I purcharsed was the sausage meat. £6 bought me 1.5kg, enough to make 3 loaves. One loaf provides the protein for 2 of us for four meals. Not bad going!

And finally, we use quite a bit of apply in this recipe. We have 2 sacks of apples left that we picked wild last year but some of them are not going to keep much longer. This is a good way to us ethem up.