A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Category Archives: Cooking

After my last attempt at a chia breakfast pudding, I did some experimenting to see if I could come up with a tasty recipe for a chai-spiced pot. I realised along the way that the weird taste, which I had attributed to the maca and lucuma powder in the previous iteration, was partly down to the chia seeds, which have a bit of a weird taste in themselves.

Ingredients

  • 300ml milk, any
  • 2tsp black tea
  • 5 peppercorns
  • 1 green cardamom pod
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1tbsp sugar, any (e.g. honey, coconut sugar, cane sugar)
  • 3tbsp chia seeds

Method

Measure your milk into a small saucepan. Halve the vanilla pod and add the seeds to the milk. Do not discard the rest of the pod.

Add the tea and whole spices. You can either put them into a tea infuser (apart from the cinnamon stick and vanilla pod) or straight into the saucepan. Put over a low heat, watching carefully so that you do not allow the liquid to boil over. As it comes to the boil, turn down the heat and leave to simmer for two minutes to allow the spices to infuse.

If you have used an infuser, give it a squeeze to release the extra-concentrated flavours lurking within. If you haven’t used an infuser, strain.

Stir in the chia seeds and decant into a container to cool. Refrigerate overnight.

I served mine with a couple of tablespoons of speculoos butter, Greek yoghurt and pomegranate arils.

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Last week I got my second OddBox delivery.

You may notice that there is a kohlrabi hiding within the more ordinary British produce. I had never eaten it before but used the stir-fry recipe included with my box as a jumping-off point. I had vegetable stir-fry for breakfast four times and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I added protein most days because I am strength training

I always think of myself as hating vegetables. I never liked them as a child, partly, I believe, because they were typically served with most of the goodness boiled out. I must admit to being a convert since I was happily chomping down five different types of root and leaf in a single meal. Due to my narrative about not liking vegetables, I tend not to buy them unless I have a recipe in mind. As I had hoped, a great bonus of the OddBox is encouraging me to go beyond my food comfort zone.

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I had in mind that this pie (separate post here) would mostly come from the box, but in the end only the courgette and pak choi did. I’ll write a separate post about the aesthetically pleasing rainbow quiche.

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My adventures in experimenting with reducing the amount I waste continue. Not least of which is coming up with a name for this new feature of my blog. Since I’m planning to write on this topic weekly or, I was considering Trash Tuesday. Waste Wednesday was also an option but I already have an intermittent alliterative Wednesday feature. It’s also a worrying imperative, though I suppose trash Tuesday is too. Ideas on a postcard (or in the comments).

I did get a little sucked into the hipster lifestyle/aesthetic on my second visit to the Source, due in large part to the biggest enabler in the world aka my flat mate.

I had managed to resist this beautiful vacuum container on my first visit, but it made its way home with me on my second. Look how cute it looks though. I love this thing.

We got completely hooked by the beautiful little recipe booklets they keep by the till. I experimented with making the most hipster meal ever.

However, it turns out that I am not a huge fan of random vegan powders. This contains lucuma and mesquite (which I understand is another name for maca), neither of which I will be troubling myself with again. However, I might conduct some experiments to see if I can develop a chai-spice chia breakfast pudding. That could be delicious.

Coincidentally, I am working on cutting out tea bags. I seldom have tea since I’m more of a coffee person and I have an easy system for low-waste coffee. But I do like the occasional cup of green tea. I’m trying out a few different teas from the Source. I was so pleased that I managed to find this novelty tea infuser I bought a few years ago.

I also made a big pot of dal makhani this week. I’ve been meaning to try this recipe since returning from India in January, but I really struggled to find black lentils (urud dal). I finally managed to pick some up in a random store in Finsbury Park, in plastic of course. Source sells beluga lentils but I’m not sure if these are the same thing.

I used this recipe doubled and followed fairly closely. The dal was tasty and I would make it again.

Weekly tilt

A disadvantage of trying to reduce waste is becoming hyper-aware of how wasteful society is. Here I share things that have bothered or worried me.

  • My local council does not offer a food waste recycling scheme. Hammersmith and Fulham boasts about its low council tax rates but I feel the level of public service on offer as a result is significantly worse than in other boroughs. I would rather pay more and get more.

I picked up some dates on clearance at the supermarket. I wasn’t sure what I would do with them at the time, but at 25p a pack I snapped them up.

While looking on Pinterest for recipe ideas, this recipe caught my eye. I am a complete sucker for anything that purports to be salted caramel. While I was dubious about whether dates could ever aspire to the deliciousness of cream and sugar, I had some tahini in the fridge and decided to give it a go.

Tahini is one of those things that I find it hard to use up. I tend to buy a jar to make hummus, only to have the rest of it sitting in the fridge for the next five years, looking all separated and neglected. However, since I am attempting to reduce my plastic waste, maybe more homemade hummus is in my future, especially since I finally found a satisfactory recipe.

Anyway, here is the recipe for the bite things.

Ingredients

  • 175g dates, pitted
  • 80g tahini*
  • 100g dark chocolate, at least 70%
  • Sea salt
  • Cocoa powder (optional)

*You can substitute any nut or seed butter of your choice for the tahini. For my second attempt at these bars, I only had 30g tahini left so I swapped out the rest for peanut butter.

Method

Combine the tahini and stoned dates in a blender. If you are using a domestic machine, make sure to pulse for short periods of time so you don’t overload your motor! The mixture will come together into a ball. If it’s not coming together, add a little extra tahini.

Press into a container. I found this baking tray too big but I’d already oiled it so went ahead with it anyway.

Refrigerate overnight or freeze for 30minute, then chop the date mixture up into chunks of your desired size. I recommend not making them too big so that you get plenty of chocolate in every bite.

Melt the chocolate and coat each piece.

While the chocolate is still melted, sprinkle over sea salt.

I also coated some of my bites in cocoa powder because (I think because of my kitchen being hot) the chocolate had some bubbles on the surface that looked unappetising.

Store in the fridge in an airtight container.

I was sceptical about this recipe but these bites are delicious. The texture is much nicer than most dried-fruit nut bars, with a nice bite and chew. The dark chocolate adds an amazing bitter counterpoint to the sweetness of the dates and the brightness of the salt is the icing on the cake (so to speak).

I would love to learn to temper chocolate. Imagine how beautiful these bites would look if the chocolate was shiny!


After my last post about exploring the zero waste lifestyle, I followed up on some of my pledges. I ordered my first OddBox.

I decided to try out the recommended recipe for the sorrel. I must say that next time I have to taste unfamiliar ingredients before cooking with them! I had no idea how lemony sorrel was, so regretted my decision to substitute the recommended lemon sole for a fillet steak.

I also made cauliflower puree for the first time.

I used up some of the tomatoes and courgettes making this healthy egg recipe I discovered when I was gardening last year.

I also went for my first zero waste shop at the Source Bulk Foods in Turnham Green. I’ve got to say I got unreasonably excited when I was shopping at the Source. It just felt like the way I want to shop. I wonder if the novelty will wear off when I’m lugging jars around west London, but for now I’m loving it.

One slight concern is the cost of all the delightful organic produce. Even though I make a comfortable living in my day job, I was raised in a proud tradition of miserdom.

I decided to do a little price comparison with supermarkets on items I am likely to purchase.

With three jars and an Illy coffee can clanking around in my tote, I finally understood why people use cloth produce bags. One of my plans for the summer is to make some using some of my fabric scraps.

It hasn’t been completely smooth sailing. One of our bottles of milk got broken in the street. I have a phobia of bad milk, so this was a challenge for me.

It’s only been a week so I am remaining cautious, but so far I am really enjoying the lifestyle changes I am making to reduce my reliance on single-use plastics.


With the festive period well and truly upon us (i.e. it is December), it’s time to foist lovingly bestow gifts of homemade preserves upon friends and family. After my jam– and chutney-making exploits of the late summer, I had a LOT of jars to shift.

In order to jazz up my random assortment of recycled jars, I made some labels.

I was inspired to do the cute faces by one of my favourite instagram accounts, @parade.made, who did an adorable challenge called #100daysofkawaii I recommend checking it out!

I considered making rubber stamps but thought it would be easier just to hand-draw each label.

I had to check the timestamps on my photos to remember when I made the jam and chutney. They should be nice and mature for consumption in the new year.

These look pretty different to the last jars of jam I bothered to label. Aww, past me.

Labelled jars


My gardening for the year has come to an end. I have to say that I struggled to stay interested in it beyond August. My loss of focus was partly due to having a lot of other things to work on (both craft and non-craft), but also because the courgette plants grew unruly, the leaves turned grey and the fruit stopped developing so well. It was hard to be as excited. The tomato vines started to blacken, and the purple sprout seedlings I planted out were immediately consumed by pests. No real loss as I loathe Brussels sprouts.

I captured this time lapse video that shows the progress of my little vegetable patch.

Surprisingly, the courgettes were probably the greatest success of the season. They’re really easy to incorporate into cooking and very healthy. I would definitely grow them again, though probably only one plant next time.

I learnt too late that I should have kept the tomatoes at the front of my house, where there is more sun. This meant that I harvested mostly green tomatoes, which just left me with unnecessary preserving work. However, it was just as well I did preserve them. Many of the fruits I didn’t preserve seemed to have some kind of frostbite that made them rot. If I were to grow these tomatoes again (and I have loads of seeds), one vine would definitely be sufficient.

I decided to try fried green tomatoes following Nigel Slater’s recipe. They were all right.

I ate them with garlic mayo, which meant making mayonnaise for the first time. I was surprised by how easy it was.

Lessons from my gardening attempts this year:

  • Don’t buy plants or seeds from the pound shop
  • Seriously, don’t!
  • Physalis is easy to grow in London, but I’m not hugely fond of the fruit
  • Keeping herbs alive in the kitchen is hard if you live alone and like going on holiday

I’m not sure yet whether I’ll plant anything next year. Even though it was definitely worthwhile this year, you need plenty of time to use the vegetables once you have managed to grow them. Spare time really is at a premium for me at present.