Rhubarb and ginger smoothie!

I’m not going to post a picture (you know what a smoothie looks like!) or make this a long drawn out post. I just had a smoothie containing a bit of fresh rhubarb from the garden and it was really delicious, so I thought I’d quickly jot down the ingredients.

Soya milk (maybe 2/3 pint?)

an apple

a banana

a small carrot (I like thick smoothies and carrots work really well to bulk them up and add extra vitamins – probably don’t work in a lower powered blender though)

a sliver of ginger (I’d frozen a box of these to add to smoothies, which works really well. They also grate into food more easily when frozen!)

about 3 frozen plums (I say “about” because they’d been sliced and were kind of lumped together)

1 Tbs flax seeds (optional, for omega 3 goodliness)

A section of rhubarb stick, about 5cm long? Not huge, but the stick was quite fat!

All that got blended up in my high-powered blender and made just over a pint. It was delicious, one of the nicest smoothies I’ve had for a while, not too sweet, not too sharp, a bit creamy from the soya milk and really fruity!

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Foraged fuchsia (£100 challenge, day 24)

I first learnt that fuchsias produce edible, and in fact fairly nice-tasting fruit from Alys Fowler’s book The Thrifty Forager, which was given to me as a leaving present in my last job ( the person who chose it remarked that it seemed just my sort of thing). Some plants seem to produce bigger or more obvious fruit than others, and fortunately there’s a good fruiter on my way home from work. Well, good is relative, but I usually manage to find 3-4 fruits every time I pass it around this time of year. Today’s crop was better though!

hand holding berries

Okay, so it’s all of 15 grams, but a nice, freshly-picked, free pre-lunch snack never goes amiss! If you’ve never tried them, I’d say the flavour is a bit similar to a mild-tasting grape, with a similar texture but with a thinner skin and much smaller, peppery-tasting pips. Worth trying, especially as fuchsias are pretty common. I did get permission to pick these ( they’re planted outside a church) from some rather bemused people who obviously had no idea why I’d want to, and it’s obvious not many people forage these, I often see the fruit splattered on the ground under other plants I’ve seen. Seems a waste. Not sure why the birds don’t nab them?

No money spent yet today. Going for dinner at friends’ later, and they’ve asked someone to bring pudding. Not sure if anyone else already replied, but if not I’m thinking of making some kind of pumpkin pie. I’ll take pics if it comes out any good!


Thirsty Thursday – Aronia Berry Milkshake

Yesterday evening I went on a supermarket run to get potatoes. They were out of the ones I wanted, but instead I left with 10 kilos of onions (they were on special offer! 2 five kilo bags for only £3.50, how could I refuse??), 3 litres of organic cider (also on offer) and a punnet of aronia berries, marked down at the end of the day from £2 to 20p.

dark round berries on a plate

I have never, to my knowledge, eaten an aronia berry before. These were grown in Scotland, so no worries about air miles, but for an unusual ingredient they were sparse on recipe suggestions on the pack, just telling me they work well cooked. So, completely ignoring that, I ate a couple raw. They were a bit weird, I have to say. They have a definite ‘hedgerow’ flavour eaten out of hand. I thought I’d bung some in a milkshake to use them up.

I used around half of the 250g punnet, and to thicken and sweeten it a bit I added 6 dried apricots. Because I forgot to refill the ice-cube tray I used a few chunks of frozen rhubarb, and blended it all up with 3/4 pint or so of unsweetened soya milk.

purple drink in glass on green background

On first taste the flavour of the berries came through in a rather bitter way, and I thought I’d just wasted a load of ingredients, but I’m glad I gave it a second sip, because once you get used to it it’s fine, rather pleasant in fact.

Aronia are alternatively known as chokeberries because of their astringent qualities, and they do produce a slightly unusual sensation of dryness in the mouth, but it’s bearable, and after a while the taste is reminiscent of black cherries.

Apparently, aronia are sometimes found in ornamental planting schemes on municipal land. I don’t think I would buy these at full price, but now I know what they look like I’ll be keeping my eye on the hedgerows!


Midweek miscellany

My goodness, it’s been a bit of a rubbish day on the weather front! I had a lot on at work today, and I’d left my purse at home, and didn’t want to go back home for lunch so I was reliant for sustenance on the contents of my desk drawer.

I always start the day at work with almonds and a cup of coffee. I don’t usually feel like eating breakfast and almonds are small in volume and snackable, and relatively good in terms of protein and vitamins and minerals and all that. Also they’re quite cheap. A bit later in the morning I had some Finn Crisp thin rye crackers. These are one of my favourite snacks! So crunchy, with a surprisingly big flavour for something with such a short list of ingredients. Check ’em out – http://www.finncrisp.com/crispbreads/thin-crisps/ (I am in no way affiliated with Finn Crisp, I just really like these).

Since the weather was so yuck, it’s definitely a warm-comforting-something-in-a-mug day. Given my limited options, I improvised some hot chocolate

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Yes, I do have the remains of a kilo of chocolate chips at my workplace. And I keep a jar of cinnamon on my desk drawer. As you can see, the chips have a bloom on them, from the 2 weeks we had this summer where the weather was actually hot. Fortunately that doesn’t affect the taste at all. 

I decanted a handful of chips and a sprinkle of cinnamon to my mug and then filled the cup about a third of the way up with boiling water from the water heater, stirred vigorously then topped it up with more water.

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This would have been a lot nicer with soya, coconut or hazelnut milk, but even with just water it did cheer the day up a bit. Here’s the view I enjoyed while I drank my chocolate

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When I got back from work I was really in the mood for something savoury and warming. A short while ago, I started discovering heavily discounted cans of chestnut puree, so I stocked up on them, but then couldn’t find quite the right recipe to showcase their smooth, light texture and mellow flavour (they are a key ingredient in my family’s traditional Christmas pie, but it’s not quite time for that yet!). I did see quite a few suggestions for either pairing with butternut squash or mushrooms in a soup though, so I had soup in mind and it was the work of moments to chop and fry up an onion and a stick of celery and then add half a can of chestnut puree, a crushed clove of garlic, some bouillon powder and a couple of spoons of tomato paste and top it up with hot water then bung in a roughly chopped courgette. As soon as the latter was done, into a bowl and then down my gullet it went!

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The chestnut works as a great thickener in this soup, although the flavour was pretty well swamped by the celery, I’d probably cut that down or out if I made something like this again.

Last and probably the ugliest thing I made today, some tropical jelly with gooseberries in (frozen a couple of months back), using up something I found in the bargain bin of the local healthfood shop. Love this stuff! The addition of fruit stops it from just being empty calories too! 

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Thinking about possible Wednesday MoFo themes, one of my tentative ideas had been Wibbly Wednesday. It also seemed like a potentially appropriate-looking thing for a Halloween party in a few weeks time. 

I boiled a pint of water, added it to 165g frozen gooseberries in a little pan then brought it to the boil again. The idea was to just cook the gooseberries a little bit so they didn’t burst so I only boiled them for about a minute and some came open anyway but never mind. 

Here’s the rather repulsive looking result! In a strange way, I’m quite proud of it. If it was just set in a bowl you could probably tell a small child that it was giant frogspawn and get them to believe you.

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Scones on Sunday – banana drop scones

Well, the dinner yesterday was lovely. My clever friends had managed to find packets of ready-made vegan gnocchi at the Co-op, had made a great sauce to go with them, and a very tasty wilted spinach salad. 

Some time passed. Cider, wine, sangria, beer and old-fashioned cocktails were consumed (not all by me!), and when we started flagging they offered us the spare bed so we didn’t even have to fork out on a taxi. Very comfy it was, too.

This morning we all felt a little delicate and in need of some fresh air, so I suggested a trip to http://www2.le.ac.uk/institution/botanic-garden to my significant other. What a great start to a Sunday, the gardens were beautiful.

When I got home, something greasy and starchy was definitely in order, so I made a batch of banana drop-scones. I googled around and had a look at a few sites to see how different people make their drop scones (also apparently known as Scotch pancakes, although I think of Scotch pancakes as having sultanas in them, which none of these recipes did), and I ended up loosely basing them on a (non-vegan) recipe over at http://www.be-ro.co.uk/recipe/showrec9.html as it was the simplest and had only one egg originally. Many of the others suggested 2 eggs, and fairly large amounts of raising agents, but I don’t need my food to be fluffy today, I was looking for comforting stodge. As I still have bananas to use up I thought I’d go back to the time-honoured vegan trick of subbing egg for banana, with the bonus of banana-flavoured drop scones sounding rather nice anyway.

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Banana Drop Scones with Sour Redcurrant Sauce

Drop scone ingredients:

100g (3/4 cup) plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 medium banana (my scales weighed this at 82g)

40g (1/4 cup) caster sugar

Unsweetened soya milk as needed. I used about 160ml (2/3 cup)

1 tablespoon oil – I used rapeseed (canola)

+ oil or cooking spray for the frying pan.

 

Ingredients for the redcurrant sauce:

50g redcurrants

1 tablespoon granulated sugar (this came out very tart, which I thought was a great contrast with the pancakes, but if you don’t like tartness add another spoon or two of sugar).

1 tablespoon water

 

Method:

Sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a mixing bowl

Mash up banana in a smaller bowl. Add some of the milk to the banana to get it to a sloppy consistency then pour it into the dry ingredients. Add more milk until you get to a thick but droppable consistency. Stir in the oil (or leave it out – the BeRo recipe doesn’t call for fat, but many of the other recipes had butter in them) 

Turn on medium heat under a frying pan and add oil or spray with cooking spray (they do brown better with oil, I tried both ways). Leave to heat up for about 20 seconds.

Turn heat down and using a small ladle or a serving spoon, drop spoonfuls onto the pan. They will spread a bit, so leave space between them. Make them whatever size you like but they should be on the small side, I made mine about the size you could eat in 2-3 bites. Cook them for about 3 minutes on one side  – bubbles will start to rise. Mine looked like this just before I turned them over.

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Cook for another minute or two on the other side to brown. Remove from pan and if you want to eat them warm put them on a plate in a low oven while the rest cook.

After tasting the first drop scone I realised they were a bit too sweet for my taste, so I got out some redcurrants I had frozen a few weeks ago after they were given to me from my mum’s allotment.

I put 50g into a small saucpan with a tablespoon of sugar and one of water and boiled that for about 5 minutes to make a jammy sauce. This was nicely tart and played off the sweetness of the drop scones perfectly. Here’s a nice gory shot of the innards for you!

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