Book Review – 10-a-day, the easy way

JAMES WONG

Published by Mitchell Beazley

Hardback £20

ISBN 978-178472-476-4

I’m always looking for new ways to add more fruit and vegetables into our cooking. We grow much of our own veg in the summer, but often run out of ideas, especially when there’s masses of kale or courgettes, for example. I enjoyed James Wong’s How to Eat Better book, so when I saw his new title, 10-a-day the easy way, I had to try the recipes.

I tried the Haddock with Ratatouille recipe which is easy to follow and quick to make- very important after a busy day at work. I cooked diced onions, aubergines, courgettes, red pepper in 2 tbpsn olive oil. Then added a can of tomato passata and a tin of chickpeas. 2tbspn soy sauce, 2 tbsp herbs de Provence, and 4 garlic cloves (crushed) added flavour. I wouldn’t have thought of adding finely-grated zest and juice of half a lemon, but it’s the twist the recipe needs to make it different from anything I’ve made before. I didn’t have any bay leaves, but 2 were mentioned in the recipe. The pan was covered and simmered for 15 minutes while I baked the fish in the oven and added boiling water to a pan of couscous. It was delicious! A nice speedy weekday dinner, incorporating lots of veg, with the minimum of fuss. Sorry there are no photos of the finished meal. It was so tempting- we ate it straight away!

Here are a few sample pages from the book. First there’s an explanation on the science behind 10- a day. There’s no doubt that eating more fruit and veg is good for us. The book is split into sections on breakfast, lunch, dinner, deserts, snacks, sauces, cakes and bakes.

I am going to make the peanut butter cookies next. They sound delicious.

I could see us starting the day with these light and fluffy banana and peanut butter pancakes. Breakfast can be quite boring in our house as we just grab a box of cereal each day.

Fruit crepes with cottage cheese, blueberries and kiwi fruit. Looks and tastes amazing.

Triple Berry Hotcakes- using frozen berries. I have a freezer full of home-grown blueberries and raspberries . Frozen fruit is just as nutritious as fresh, and sometimes cheaper to buy. Incorporated into batter for a pancake – genius idea. Breakfasts will never be the same again!

So, what is a portion? James says it’s 80g of whole fruit or veg or 30g dried fruit or veg. I am surprised to see 30g of tomato purée is 1 portion. I’m now adding it to soups and stews and topping up pasta dishes. Easy. James says people tend to misjudge how small an 80g portion is. When it comes to apples, pears, peaches and avocados, a single fruit is actually 2 portions. Even dried foods count. So you could snack on raisins or add dried mushrooms to a risotto to boost your intake.

I’ve enjoyed working my way through the 80 recipes in James’ new book. His message is clear- eating more fruit and veg is good for your health. But he’s never preachy. He says, if you can’t manage 10 a day, that’s ok. Just eat more than you do at the moment. And that’s what I’m aiming for. The recipes are certainly tasty, and quick to make.

The publishers have one free copy to give away in a prize draw. Please leave a comment below and let me know if you’d like to be included in the prize draw. It’s ok if you don’t wish to be included as well. The publishers will pull a name out of a hat to randomly select a winner. There’s no cash alternative and the publisher’s decision is final. The book can be sent to international addresses as well as UK.

Prize Draw Winner -Slot Planter

Last week I wrote about Slot Planters as an alternative to plastic. Company owners Kay and Colin kindly offered a planter for a prize draw. Names were put into a cheese dome, apparently. Kay and Colin didn’t have a hat! I couldn’t stop laughing, to be honest. Anyway, a name was randomly pulled out of the cheese dome and Creoscribe won the draw.

I am delighted with my planter and I wish Colin and Kay all the best with their new product. They are a lovely couple with lots of enthusiasm, and a sense of humour – which always helps! I like to support British companies, and although I’m not giving up my plastic trays, I’m trying not to buy any more if I can help it. The plastic I have here will be carefully used, washed and reused. But if I can think of alternatives I’ll try them out and report back on the blog. I’ll be buying several more planters in different sizes for the coming growing season.

I’m just about to transplant my edible peas into the veg plot. Peas are hardy, but it’s best to start them off indoors as they are a tasty treat for mice and pigeons. I’m going to use the Slot Planter for sweet peas now. Here’s what the cut flower patch looked like last summer. Gladioli came from Tee Gee Bulbs.

Sweet pea Wiltshire Ripple is a favourite. Flowers over a long period and is very pretty. Lasts well in a vase.

Thank you everyone who read the review, commented and took part in the prize draw. Please let me know if you have tried anything new in your garden. It’s good to share ideas.

Links: I wrote the review here : https://bramblegarden.com/2019/03/14/slot-planter-seed-tray-on-trial/

Slot Planter :https://slotplanter.co.uk/wooden-planter.html

Sweet peas : https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-Pea-Seed/

Gee Tee Bulbs: https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/gladioli

Leek and Potato Pies -Veg from the Garden

I love the quiet time after Christmas. It’s so peaceful here. No rushing about trying to keep up with the world. I hold on to that feeling of calm for as long as I can. I’m reluctant to drive to the shops. So I look about the house and garden. Leeks and potatoes are plentiful, so I make one of my favourite recipes, Leek and Potato pie. They are easy to make, and it’s lovely to come indoors from a session in the garden and find tasty little pies for tea. Dashing about, dealing with shopping, parking and self service tills that never seem to work, can all wait for another day.

INGREDIENTS

A quantity of shortcrust pastry, or 2 rolls of filo or 2 packs puff pastry, rolled out and cut into approx 12cm squares.

800g potatoes, chopped into approx 2.5cm chunks

2 leeks

2 red onions

25g butter

1 heaped tbsp plain flour

200ml milk

130g cheddar cheese

Pinch of salt/black pepper

Optional. If you have them:

Pinch of paprika and cayenne pepper

Half tsp Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce

Pinch of mustard powder

Chopped chives, sage, thyme, marjoram, parsley.

1 beaten egg for glazing

METHOD

Boil the potatoes until they are just cooked, but still slightly firm. Drain and set aside to cool.

Melt the butter and add the leeks and onions and cook gently until soft.

Add the flour and cook gently for 2 minutes, stirring the mixture so it doesn’t burn.

Remove from the heat and add a few tablespoons of the milk and stir well to incorporate. Add the rest of the milk, a bit at a time, stirring well.

Return to the heat and cook for a few minutes until the sauce thickens, stirring to prevent burning.

Remove from the heat while you grate the cheese.

Add the grated cheese, the seasoning and optional ingredients.

Gently fold the sauce mixture into the cooked potatoes.

Divide the mixture between the pastry squares. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking tray.

Pull the four corners inwards to meet in the centre, folding one corner over the other like closing an envelope. Pinch along the folds to hold the folds together. Some beaten egg will help the pastry to stick together.

Brush the pies with beaten egg.

Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and the filling is piping hot. The parcels may open up a little as they bake.

Sprinkle over some reserved fresh herbs.

TIP

Make picnic versions by using silicone muffin trays.

Vary the recipe by adding whatever vegetables you have in store. If you eat fish, you can add tuna. If you are vegan, use soya margarine, soya milk and brush the pies with almond milk. Add chestnut mushrooms and chopped nuts instead of cheese.

PASTRY RECIPE

300g plain flour

1tbsp or 15ml baking powder

150g butter or margarine

3-4tbsp or 45-60ml water.

METHOD

Put the flour and baking power in a basin. Rub in the fat until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add sufficient water to give a soft but manageable dough.

Note: use warm water if using wholemeal flour.

The photo below shows filo pastry pies, made in muffin trays.

They don’t have to be perfect shapes. Enjoy!

Last Minute Christmas Presents for Gardeners

Here’s my last minute recommendations. I would love to receive any of these. They all last longer than Christmas Day. Prices vary, depending on special offers and discounts.

1. Vouchers for a course at Common Farm Flowers.

https://www.commonfarmflowers.com/workshops.html .

I joined the Grow Your Own Cut Flower Patch course a few years ago, and I’m self-sufficient in flowers for my friends and family. There was enough information to grow plants commercially, if I had wanted to. I’m delighted to be able to wander about my garden at any time of the year and create beautiful hand tied bouquets and pretty jam jar posies. There’s something special about home-grown flowers. It’s all a matter of planning and knowing what varieties to grow. Georgie is an excellent teacher. After attending one of her courses, you feel as if you can conquer the world. It’s a rather wonderful feeling!

Courses on offer range from £15 for a garden tour to £290 for a painting course.

Courses: Flower Farming, encouraging wildlife, social media for small businesses, starting a kitchen table business, grow your own wedding flowers, hand tied bouquets.

2. RHS Membership. From £61.

Develop your gardening skills with an RHS membership package. Membership includes unlimited entry to RHS gardens, discounts for show tickets, personalised advice, and entry to 200 partner gardens. The RHS magazine,The Garden, is worth the membership price alone. It is packed full of inspiring ideas and information. Written by experts we all trust. I always look forward to my copy, and it keeps me up to date with new plants, ideas for recycling, using less plastic in the garden and information on the latest research into plant diseases. It’s great to see The Garden magazine will be delivered in recyclable paper packaging instead of single-use plastic next spring.

https://www.rhs.org.uk/shop/special-offers/active-offers/rhs-gift-membership-offer

3. Support the Woodland Trust with a membership package. £48.

Explore 1,000 Woodland Trust woods. A walk in a wood lifts your mood and re-energises you. It will do you a power of good.

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/membership/

4. Membership for St Tiggywinkles wildlife hospital. £36.

We all rely on our wildlife, hedgehogs in particular, to help us combat slugs. This is a wonderful way to support wildlife and learn more about them.

https://www.sttiggywinkles.org.uk/top-navigation/help-us/membership.html

5. Join The Hardy Plant Society. £17 a year.

A great way to discover more about hardy plants, find like- minded gardeners and join in with events such as talks and slide shows, conservation and plant sales. There’s two issues of the The Hardy Plant magazine a year, free advice and a chance to take part in the free seed distribution scheme.

http://www.hardy-plant.org.uk/whyjoinus

6. Charles Dowding No-dig course. Various prices. Approx £150 a day.

Learn all about growing all kinds of vegetables and fruit, productively and with less effort. Charles has helped me to garden with a poorly back. I fractured my spine in a car crash 15 years ago. Without his advice, I would probably have had to give up my one acre garden. With his no-dig techniques, I have managed to keep on top of weeds, and grow all the fruit, veg and flowers I want to, without aggravating my spinal injuries.

I hope these last-minute suggestions have been useful. If not for Christmas, they make a lovely birthday present.

What’s the best course, or membership, you would recommend? Let me know so I can share your ideas too.

Coming up in the new year, I’ve been invited to try out some weekend holidays for gardeners. I’ll let you know how I get on. I’ll be taking my Mum with me, of course. Something to look forward to in 2019.

Family Favourite Recipes – Chocolate Marzipan Cherries.

When I started this blog, my intention was to write down all our family favourite recipes in one place. It occurred to me that our much loved recipes exist on tatty pieces of paper. My children might want to find Aunty Betty’s toffee apple recipe, or the Gimson Christmas trifle. Stained and ripped pieces of paper might be difficult to find. So recipes are deposited here for future reference. Today I’m sharing my home made cherry chocolate recipe that I make every year. It’s a money saving recipe if you use your own fruit. And it’s simple to make. Even little children can have a go.

Ingredients

Home grown cherries, preserved in brandy. Choose good quality fruit that is slightly under ripe. Only preserve the best fruit, and none that has any blemishes.

Or

200g glacé cherries

500g marzipan

200g good quality dark chocolate.

Method

Soak the glacé cherries in cherry brandy overnight. Drain and reserve the liquid for adding to cakes.

If using your own preserved cherries, drain and gently pat dry with a clean tea towel.

Break the block of marzipan into four, and microwave for a few seconds to soften.

Take tablespoons of marzipan (about 13g).

Roll into a ball, and then flatten to enclose a cherry. Roll gently in the palm of your hand to smooth the marzipan. Leave to dry for a few hours.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave. Drop each marzipan cherry into the chocolate and use a spoon to roll them about to coat.

Stand the chocolates on foil until set.

Keeps for about 1 week in a cool dry place. If you can resist them that long!

Enjoy 😊

I made mine in the summerhouse, with the radio on and sunshine streaming through the open doors. It’s amazingly mild for December. We’ve had 12C for days, although last night it was -2 and we woke to a frost.

Here’s the ingredients. It’s a really simple recipe. Wonderful if you have a cherry tree in the garden.

I used white marzipan, but you can use golden if you like.

Drop into the chocolate. Make sure you don’t get any water in the chocolate, or it will go dull.

They take about an hour to set. The recipe makes about 35 cherry chocolates. There’s enough marzipan and chocolate to make another 30 if you buy more cherries. Or make 30 almond marzipan chocolates.

Simply enclose one whole blanched almond in the marzipan as above, and coat in the chocolate. Delicious! You can also use whole Brazil nuts and use milk or plain chocolate.

How to Preserve Cherries

450g cherries

75g sugar

2 drops almond essence

600ml brandy.

Remove the cherry stalks and stones and prick all over with a sterilised needle or cocktail stick.

Layer the cherries with the sugar in a large sterilised preserving jar, fill to within 2.5cm of the top. Add almond essence.

Pour the brandy to cover the cherries. Seal the jar and shake well.

Keep in a cool, dark place for at least three months to allow the flavours to develop. Shake the jar from time to time.

Strain the cherries through a funnel lined with muslin. Put the cherry brandy into sterilised bottles to give as presents. Use the cherries in the chocolate marzipan recipe above, or in pastries, ice cream and other winter treats. Enjoy 😊