Courgette Fritters + Broccoli & Cauliflower Soup

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Quick & dirty recipe for all occasions: grate 1 courgette, mix with flour, smoked paprika, salt, pepper & garlic. Shape into fritters, fry & eat!

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Been experimenting with broccoli and cauliflower recently. I usually boil them separately or together in plenty of salted water and blend the whole thing with some vegetable stock powder, milk and cornflour (sometimes I add leftover mashed potato). This week, I boiled the broccoli, took it out, put it to one side and used half of it in an omelette. I then boiled the cauliflower in the broccoli water and ate half of it with some fish cakes. Left over was some nicely flavoured water, half a broccoli and half a cauliflower. Again, I blended everything, but I did not need to add stock, as the water was strong enough as stock in itself. I just added a bit of cornflour dissolved in milk to make the soup a bit thicker, although it almost didn’t need that addition either. Also managed to find a whole loaf of rye bread for 49p in the supermarket, so had that with the soup (toasted and buttered). Housemate appreciated!

Helping the honey bees (and other pollinators)

A bee collects pollen from a sunflower in Utrecht
Image: Michael Kooren/Reuters via The Guardian

Attention honey, veggie & fruit lovers!

At the moment, there is a big debate about the decline of honey bees and other pollinators. Their disappearance is due to a variety of factors: changing agricultural practices (monoculture, pesticide use), changing gardening practices (not enough bee friendly flowers, again pesticide use), changing beekeeping practices (e.g. using non-native species) and imported parasites which make bees susceptible to viruses.

The disappearance of honey bees, bumble bees, butterflies, moths and so on is worrying not only for their own sake, but for the food security of humans as well. It is not only the honey crop that is affected (I know many of us are not able to afford it – I only have it in the house, because a friend happens to be a beekeeper!) but also many fruit, vegetables and other plants that are pollinated by insects. Today, I spoke to some beekeepers and asked what people with not much money can do. Here are their answers:

1 – Write to local governments to stop unnecessary moving. It costs too much anyway and takes habitat and food away from bees and other insects. Also ask local governments for permission to plant wildflowers on unused patches of land.

2- Write to garden centres to promote bee-friendly plants and not fashionable overbred ones that offer no food for insects.

3- Write to national governments. We need a change in agricultural practices, such as the support of farmers to also plant pollinator-friendly plants around their fields, and scientific research into pesticides.

4 – Get neighbours and kids involved in conservation. While you may not have a garden or gardening skills, they might have both, and you can point them to bee-friendly practices.

5 – If you have a garden, balcony or window sill, plant native wildflowers. It is important to have different flowers that bloom across spring and summer and not just for a short duration. Suggestions can be found here. Small ponds are also great, as they attract insects (unfortunately also mosquitos) and also help a variety of other animals (amphibians, birds etc). You can get free seeds from a variety of organisations (Friends of the Earth, Soil Association, Cooperative,even pesticide companies, if you want to go there!)- you don’t even have to pay the postage! Unfortunately, some ‘free seeds’ campaigns have stopped due to high demand, but others keep popping up!

6 – Guerrilla gardening. Instructions for ‘seed bombs’ can be found here (and in many other places). You can also buy pre-made ones or check local charities for ‘legal bombs’.

7 – ‘Citizen science’: Beekeepers, conservation societies, scientists and policy makers are looking for data. They would love to hear about your garden and walking observations. Also a great activity for kids. When I was little, I helped with bat conservation.

8 – Don’t apply pesticides to your garden. Not getting your garden eaten to pieces by nasty critters is apparently very easy (at least according to the scientist I asked), even without using anything from slug pellets (those kill hedgehogs and birds, too!) to spray-on poisons.

9 – Join online campaigns and sign petitions, e.g. the Soil Association, Friends of the Earth.

10 – Join a beekeeper protest!

Please feel free to add more advice or helpful links/information sources!

Rhubarb crumble cake

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This was last month’s  f*** you moment to ‘austerity’ and to my bank account: rhubarb cake adapted from a Waitrose recipe that was kindly sent to me by a friend.

400g outdoor rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 2cm pieces
200g golden caster sugar (I also added a bit of vanilla sugar while I was at it)
150g butter, softened
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
75g self-raising flour
½ tsp baking powder
100g ground almonds
Grated zest of 1 small orange, plus 2 tbsp juice
2 tbsp of full-fat yoghurt

Crumble topping made from plain flour, softened butter, sugar, vanilla sugar and a handful of chopped almonds. It doesn’t get much more decadent that this in my household!

Basically, you pour some of the sugar onto your chopped rhubarb pieces and mix the other ingredients (save the crumble topping!) together in a bowl. Then you add the rhubarb and pour everything into a cake tin. I substituted the almond topping with a crumble topping.

The cake should go in at gas mark 5 initially, and you switch it down to 4 after about half an hour. Bake the cake for another 20-30 mins & let it cool for a bit before eating. It is super nice warm with warm custard in this super cold spring!

By the way, I was lazy when it came to the custard and made it from 500 ml hot milk and a packet of German vanilla sauce powder… : >

I also made a very nice maize meal cake subsequently which was also very nice warmed up. I forgot to take a picture, but will make it again soon & then post the recipe. My partner has been diagnosed with a gluten allergy, so will post gluten free recipes from that part of my experimentation!

Spring cooking


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I acquired a huge bunch of frisée salad that I have been eating for days in a row now. In order not to get bored, I am trying to improvise salad dressings and dishes to go with it. It’s good with fried egg on bread, with oranges and with a dressing made from soy sauce, lime juice, salt, oil, dried dill and sugar, but I’m sure there are better sauces to be found. The experiments continue…

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Next up, some fried Thai dumplings I found in my partner’s freezer, together with tofu leftovers, tomatoes and, again, salad! Makes a really good light lunch in dark times.

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Last, a not particularly flattering picture of a very tasty meal of steamed fennel with tomatoes that got the cheesy-bake treatment in the oven. For the topping I used grated gouda, the finely cut green bits of the fennel and bread crumbs mixed together. You can also swish the (steamed) fennel and (fresh) tomatoes in a bit of olive oil beforehand.

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Nettle soup

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A long overdue update on my spring cooking. Am currently super broke, so I’m turning to urban foraging! Luckily, I have friends with gardens that contain large patches of unwanted nettles, which are perfect for a variety of dishes, the most easiest being steamed nettles (spinach-like) and nettle soup. Nettle soup is super easy to make, provided you have a pair of rubber gloves. Basically, you harvest (preferably) young-ish nettles (not the big flowering ones) by holding them with your gloves and cutting the stems with scissors. I put mine into a big plastic bag. Back home, I washed them carefully in the sink and tore off the good leaves into a big colander. Once finished (the sorting and picking may take some time), I got out my big soup pot, fried some onions and garlic in it, and later some potato cubes. When all of this started to brown, I added the nettles and some stock. I chose not to put in herbs (apart from the garlic), as I wanted to taste the nettles, and there were already some herbs in the stock anyway. After about 15 minutes, I blended the whole thing. You can also add cream, sour cream or milk/butter. The soup tastes a lot like a cross between spinach and mushroom soup for some reason (closer to mushroom actually). Sorry, not a very flattering picture!

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Leftovers: German-Asian noodle soup

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I once went to a restaurant that was run by a Chinese and Italian chef. They offered fusion dishes such as seaweed lasagna, which actually tasted really good. My improvised German-Asian fusion  (again, from leftovers) does not quite match up, but at least it looks great!

Ingredients:

Wild Garlic flavoured tofu
Tinned mushrooms
Fried yellow pepper
Vegetable stock
Soy sauce
Chinese noodles
Garden cress

Leftovers: Soft tacos

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Leftover vegetables + leftover soft tacos + cheese = quesadillas

I always end up with leftover soft tacos, when I make some mutant Mexican for my friends. It’s usually too strenuous to prepare decent tacos for one person with all the guacamole, salsa, salad, refried beans etc involved. I’ve tried the following with them so far: having them as pancakes (rolled up with jam), cutting them into strips and having them as part of vegetable soup (not terribly good, but could be worse), having them as pizza bases or super primitive tarte flambée (see below) and using them for quesadillas (see above). Maybe should try baking them brushed with oil as crisps next?

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