A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Category Archives: Cooking

I am continuing with my veggie journey. I’ve made a few meals with little to no single-use plastic, including soups, salad and a barley risotto. None of the meals was especially photogenic.

See? (Thai-inspired quinoa salad).

Supermarkets do seem to be making a bit more of an effort to sell unwrapped veggies so some of the meals were very easy to make with little waste. Where food is still wrapped up, I have been voting with my wallet and looking for alternative sources for my nude veg. I’m still finding it a bit of a fun challenge to get ingredients without plastic. I especially enjoy re-filling containers with things like washing-up liquid. It’s very sad but I don’t care.

I only get my OddBox once a fortnight, when know I will be around at the weekend. This system works for me because, while it can be fun to look up new recipes for the OddBox veg, it’s also quite time-consuming. I like to be able to just buy what I want some weeks.

I still had a lot of pumpkin left after last week’s pancakes. I decided to eschew making the same recipe again and tried out a pumpkin vegan ‘fudge’ I saw on Pinterest. Unfortunately the recipe couldn’t live up to the salted caramel bites. In fact, it was inedible. Fortunately I was able to salvage the ingredients by adding almond milk, protein and dates to make a breakfast smoothie.

I used the rest for pumpkin soup.

It’s nice but a takeaway for me is that I prefer sweet potato and butternut squash to pumpkin.

A really easy zero waste hack that anyone can employ is to stop peeling your veggies. I didn’t peel the pumpkin and the soup is still really smooth. I hardly ever peel veg any more- less waste, saves time and the peel contains fibre and nutrients. Win, win, win.

Weekly tilt

One of my concerns about going more plant-based is getting sufficient protein. I do a little bit of weight training and growing muscle needs protein. I’m looking for a new meal tracking app that has more of an emphasis on micronutrients. But I can’t seem to find one that’s free or even has a free trial. I don’t mind paying but I’d like to test any app before committing.

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Unsurprisingly, given how ubiquitous halloween has become here in the UK, last week’s OddBox contained a pumpkin.

I think this is my first experience of having a whole pumpkin in the house. I’ve carved one before but I normally substitute butternut squash or pumpkin in recipes.

I decided to try a new pancake recipe that Anna tagged me in on Instagram.

The batter is fantastically smooth and these are much more like traditional pancakes than the egg and banana ones I normally have. I wasn’t crazy about the flavour but I steamed enough pumpkin to try again. I’ll try adding more cinnamon and using more exciting toppings. Maybe a berry compote and some soured cream.

I actually hate pumpkin spice lattes so maybe I’m just not a fan of that flavour combination.

I was also invited to a Halloween party and in a bit of a quandary about what to do about wearing a costume. I’m generally quite lazy when it comes to fancy dress. I’ve never been able to see the point of buying things to wear only once so my costumes have tended be assembled from things I already own or can re-use. For example, a few years ago I dressed as Super Mario.

All finished

I can’t believe I used to post such terrible images on my blog! I bought the dungarees and top secondhand (on eBay, but still). The top and hat entered my regular wardrobe, the box was used to package a gift and I upcycled the dungarees into my Cateralls.

I have a pink wig, a shameful leftover from the year I dressed as Nicki Minaj and I had to buy a second wig because I’d accidentally ordered the first from China). I was quite keen to wear that but didn’t have much to go with it. I looked around a couple of local charity shops for inspiration and found this Wonder Woman costume for £6. It was a no-brainer.

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After looking at some images of WW online, I was very tempted to buy a headband to finish the costume off. I’m pretty sure the costume had a horrible wig with it- thankfully the charity shop employee didn’t realise. It was much more fun and empowering to be a brown Wonder Woman with my own hair out.

Anyway, after nearly purchasing an official Marvel headband on Amazon I decided instead to get a metre of gold ribbon and make my own.

It’s funny to realise how I still feel drawn to buy things in order to make experiences ‘more fun’ or legitimate. Luckily I hadn’t had the idea sooner or I would have probably bought an expensive handmade head piece on Etsy and justified it by saying I’d ‘saved money’ on the costume so it’s okay to splurge on the accessories. Capitalism is so deeply engrained and pernicious.

In the end I was thrilled with my costume and thoroughly enjoyed wearing it. I’m so grateful to the person who donated this perfectly good item to be loved again rather than going to landfill.

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.

I still haven’t found a way to compost my food waste. I’ve started saving some veg scraps in the freezer to make stock but this only works for a small proportion of vegetables. I’m researching community composting but it’s quite slow going. I’ve tried emailing some local parks with greenhouses. I’m on the verge of wild composting (aka collecting the scraps and dumping them in a park).

I just saw a video about Germans being legally obliged to compost and I really wish that our government would start taking the health of the planet more seriously. Instead, my taxes are wasted on Brexit nonsense. I’m at the point where I would pay to have my food waste composted but no one seems to be offering this service in London.


Bonus picture of a roasted vegetable and quinoa salad with the last of my fourth OddBox vegetables last week. I mixed red quinoa with some amaranth I’ve had hanging around the house for a while (both from the Source) and it was a very nice combination.

I managed to pay a visit to a local shop with a few zero waste options- Eat17 in Hammersmith. I bought some suspiciously cheap coffee beans and discovered that they have plastic-free cheese!

I don’t think I’ve tasted this variety of cheese before but it was very nice. I will definitely go back because they are closer to my house than the Source and I’m pretty sure cheaper too- I think because most of their options are not organic.

I also followed through with my pledge after watching Cowspiracy and picked up some barista-style oat milk.

I have had a vegan flat white in a cafe in Folkestone made with this brand, otherwise I would have been very upset that they had run out of barista-style Oatly. I’m happy to say that even I (an espresso noob) am able to make a serviceable flat white with it. The milk has a mild oat flavour but produces a very similar result texture-wise to dairy milk- unlike other plant-based milks that are frankly disgusting in tea and coffee.

I think my tummy has been feeling better in the last week without milk (I drink 3-4 flat whites a day, with 100ml of milk in each). I’m not intolerant to dairy but having too much makes me feel sick. I’ve heard anecdotally that a lot of people with Afro-Caribbean heritage can be sensitive to dairy. I also have a phobia of rotten milk and the whole concept of cow’s milk freaks me out a bit.


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.


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!