blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Rhubarb Rhubarb – Mary Jane Paterson & Jo Thompson*


Rhubarb Rhubarb collects the witty, wide-ranging correspondence between Leiths-trained cook Mary Jane Paterson and award-winning gardener Jo Thompson. Two good friends who found themselves in a perfect world of cupcakes and centrepieces, they decided to demystify their own skills for one another: the results are sometimes self-deprecating, often funny, and always enlightening.
Jo would find herself one day panicking about what to cook for Easter lunch: a couple of emails with Mary Jane and the fear subsided, and sure enough, a delicious meal appeared on the table. Meanwhile, Jo helped Mary Jane combat her irrational fear of planting bulbs by showing how straightforward the process can be.
The book is full of sane, practical advice for the general reader: it provides uncomplicated, seasonal recipes that people can make in the midst of their busy lives, just as the gardening tips are interesting, quick and helpful for beginners. Mary Jane shares secrets and knowledge gathered over a lifetime of providing fabulous food for friends and family, while Jo’s expertise in beautiful planting enables the reader to have a go at simple schemes with delightful results.

Mary Jane Paterson trained at Leith’s Cookery School where she completed the one-year diploma. She worked at various places including at the English Gardening School at Stoneacre in Kent creating feasts for trainee gardeners. Since then she has taken on various culinary projects including hosting cooking days at her house in Sussex, most notably with CJ Jackson who runs Billingsgate fish school. In the last few years she fulfilled a life long wish to go to drama school. She ended up with a certificate and a little more stage fright than when she started. Her love of food is legendary, her fare is fabulous and everyone looks forward to going to her dinners. Her first rather sad culinary adventure was documented in her mother’s novel, Yadav-A Roadside Love Affair.

Jo Thompson is one of the UK’s leading garden designers, which came as much as a surprise to her as it does to everyone who knows her. She is renowned for her exquisite planting and innate sense of place. Jo’s Wedgwood Garden won a gold medal at the 2018 Chelsea Flower Show, and she has won numerous other awards including a smattering of Chelsea golds. Apart from being a full time designer, she lectures and writes for the Sunday Times.

My thoughts:

This is a delightful epistolary year long guide to delicious food and beautiful plants exchanged between two friends, both very knowledgeable in their respective fields. Full of recipes and illustrations of plants, this book is both enjoyable to read and useful in both the kitchen and the garden.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

food, recipes

Celebrating St David’s Day with British Leeks*

Happy St David’s Day to any Welsh followers I may have.

While I’m not Welsh myself my godmother is and I have lots of happy memories of trips to visit her in Cardiff (although she’s originally from North Wales) and having her try to teach me a little Welsh.

I’m sure you all know that the national flower of Wales is a daffodil and the national vegetable is the humble leek.

There’s probably some ancient recipe for cooking with daffodils (although they might be poisonous) but today I’m whipping up a little dinner from the British Leeks’ cookbook.

Leeks make a great ingredient, we like them covered in cheese, grilled with a roast dinner or added to a lettuce gratin. They’re part of the same family as garlic and onions, and like their cousins are great in loads of dishes.

So for dinner tonight we’re having a delicious dish of pan roast chicken with leeks, chorizo and cider.

Serves 4 (or 2 hungry people)

You will need;

4 chicken breasts

100g chopped chorizo

400g leeks, trimmed and sliced

1 chopped clove of garlic

2 handfuls of chopped parsley

2tsp dried thyme

1 tbsp flour

100ml chicken stock

350ml cider

Salt and pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 190°c

Heat a little oil in a frying pan and fry the chicken breasts till golden brown and then do the same on the other side. Then place in an oven dish.

Add the chorizo to pan and fry for a few minutes till golden. Add the leeks, garlic, thyme and parsley and fry for 10 minutes till softened. Add the flour and stir.

Stir in the stock and cider and bring to the boil. Season and simmer.

Pour the sauce over the chicken and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the chicken was cooked through.

Serve with your choice of potatoes (boiled, mashed etc) or some nice crusty bread to soak up the sauce.

Cook’s tips: if you don’t drink, swap out the cider for cloudy apple juice, remember to taste as you season and adjust as you see fit.

The resulting dish is aromatic and deeply tasty, the leeks are soft and buttery, contrasting with the peppery chorizo and the warm chicken.

What’s your favourite way to use leeks? Are you celebrating St David’s Day? Let me know in the comments.

hapus Dydd Gŵyl Dewi

*this post contains items that have been gifted or sponsored but all words and opinions are my own.

baking, food, healthy, recipes

Purple choc cherry brownies with Indigo Herbs

I enjoy baking but I’m not quite Bake Off standard and one of the things I’ve tried to do more of is free from baking. 

I have lots of friends who have food intolerances (as do I) so I like to make sure they feel catered for if I’m having them round.

When the team at Indigo Herbs got in touch about using their natural, free from ingredients I said yes please! 

Indigo Herbs is an independent business located in the heart of Somerset, in Glastonbury and has a huge range of interesting products available online and in store. Plus they’re friendly, which is always a bonus. 

On with the recipe! 

Everyone loves chocolate brownies and chocolate pairs really well with cherries so combining the two was a doddle. 

This bake is vegetarian but not vegan as I’ve yet to find an egg substitute that works as effectively without leaving any trace.

 Ingredients

150g Purple Corn Flour*

150g Organic Coconut Sugar* 

1.5 tbsp coconut oil

200g dark chocolate of your choice 

1tsp gluten free baking powder 

2 eggs

1.5 tsp Acerola Cherry Powder* 

A few glacè cherries, chopped 

Sprinkling of Organic Puffed Quinoa* 

A very lazy cake to bake 

Oven on 200°c and locate cake tin (I used a loose bottom one), line with baking parchment. 

Weigh and measure your ingredients – do not drop any of them on the floor. 

Purple flour!

Mix your dry ingredients in a mixing bowl (I used a spatula but you could use your electric mixing bowl/whisk – I could only locate 1 prong attachment thing). 

Coconut sugar and purple corn flour

Melt the coconut oil and chocolate in a bowl in the microwave – this takes about 3 to 4 minutes. You could use a Bain Marie but that takes longer and requires more room in the kitchen and the brain. 

Add the eggs to the dry mix, do not get any shell in there. If you do, fish it out, wrong kind of tasty surprise. 

Always look for the lion! 🦁

When the oil and chocolate have melted, pour it in. Be careful the bowl will be hot. 

Mix everything together. Add the glacè cherries. Stir them in. You would be best to do this bit by hand. 
You could be really clever and coat them in a little flour first so they don’t sink. I forgot to do this. 

Pour into the lined brownie tray (or a cake tin like I did as my brownie tray is huge) and smooth the top. Or leave it slightly uneven if like me, you’re lazy and perfection is tiring. 

Sprinkle the popped quinoa over the top. This provides a nice little crunch – a textural opposition to the soft brownies.  

Pop into the oven for 20-30 minutes. Check whether a knife comes out clean. If it does, then it’s done, if the knife is sticky, pop it back in for a few minutes more. Ovens (and cakes) can be unpredictable. 

Do the washing up or load the dishwasher and thank whoever invented this life saver. 

Once the baking is done, take it out of the oven (switch the oven off – no one ever tells you to remember to do this in recipe books). 

Too hot to eat…

Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes as it will be soft. Then carefully transfer to a cooling rack (I got a set of three of these on Amazon – you’re welcome).

Once cool, you can decorate with more cherries or just slice and serve. Cream or custard (dairy free if preferred) go well with this. 

Obviously you can skip the cherries or swap them for something else, try popcorn instead of quinoa, add extra chocolate, make a bigger batch. Basically, make it your own. Then send me the results – cake by post. 

My independent taste testers gave this tasty treat two thumbs up, so give it a go. 

*items provided by Indigo Herbs for the purposes of this recipe post. All opinions and recipes my own. 

food, healthy, life, recipes

How to: tummy soother

We’ve all been there, you’re bloated, your belly aches and you’d quite like to die now thank you. 

Here’s a quick recipe for a tummy soothing remedy that costs less than 50p to make. 
You will need: 

One mug from your cupboard

Hot water – a little cooler than boiling. 

A thumb of ginger root (If you can’t find any in the shops, 1/2 tsp dry ground ginger) 

Half a lemon/lemon juice from a bottle 

Pour the water into the cup and let it cool slightly so you don’t scald your tongue. 

Peel and grate the ginger. Wash and half a lemon. 

Put the grated ginger in a bowl and press down on it with a spoon to release the juice. 

Pour the ginger juice into the hot water (I use a tea strainer) and squeeze in the lemon juice. Sip. Adjust juice levels to taste. Drink slowly and in a while you should feel better. 

Ginger helps promote good digestion and soothes the bloat. Lemon is a friend to your liver and helps break down chemicals like alcohol.

If you can stomach it hot water with lemon is a great way to get your body up and at ’em in the mornings. Personally I found it smelt like pancakes but tasted horrific. The ginger version is definitely better. You could also use fresh mint in warm water as mint also helps the digestive system and has anti-inflammatory properties. Or you could buy some tea bags – whatever works for you. 
I am not a doctor or nutritionist – this is just a simple home remedy. For anything more serious please see your GP or visit a hospital. Any ongoing pain in your gut must be addressed with a professional as it could be serious. 

food, healthy, recipes

How to make super easy sauce

Ok, so here’s the thing, jars of sauce never make their way into my trolley – why? Because it is cheap and easy to make your own, not to mention better for you without all the preservatives. Here’s my super easy tomato sauce, which can be used as the base for pasta dishes, curries, and all sorts of other things as it’s so easy to adapt. 

1 tin or carton of chopped tomatoes

1 onion – red or Spanish, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

Olive oil

Sea salt

Black pepper

Saucepan 

In the pan warm the oil and add the onion and garlic, after a minute or so pour in the tomatoes, stir and allow to simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Now onto how to adapt it for different dishes; 

Add chopped fresh chillies with the onion and garlic.

Throw in some ginger or paprika to add depth. 

Basil, oregano and rosemary chopped finely, make a pungent base. 

You can use fresh, dried or frozen herbs and spices. 

It works out cheaper than jars of sauce and you can freeze it. Magic. 

clean eating, food, healthy, recipes

Potato Salad

The humble spud has been accused of a lot recently – contributing to obesity, damaging farmland, being ugly. 

I say enough – clean eating is expensive, spuds are cheap and versatile. Leave them alone.  Here’s my potato salad, serve it as a side at a barbecue, or as my friend recommends, under a grilled chicken breast with broccoli  and salad.  

Serves 4 or more depending on hunger

Ingredients

1 small bag of potatoes – I prefer the small salad ‘new potatoes’ or similar. 

Small pot of yoghurt – I use natural yoghurt

Small pot of sour cream or creme fraiche 

Small bunch spring onions

Fistful of chives

Black pepper

Method

Wash the potatoes and boil till soft. While they’re cooking, chop the chives and spring onions (wash them too!). Mix the yoghurt, sour cream, chives and spring onions in a bowl. 

Once the potatoes are cooked, drain and leave to cool. Once they’re at a temperature you’re happy with (can be served warm or cold), use the sharp point of a knife to remove any eyes, peel off the skins if you prefer (much easier on the little potatoes after cooking), chop into desired size chunks. 

Add to the dressing, mix, season with black pepper, if using, stir again. It can now be served or stored in the fridge for later. Will keep a couple of days in an airtight tub in the fridge but is best eaten sooner.  

Ready to eat
food, healthy, recipes

Super easy, super tasty recipe

image

This salad has five ingredients.

Rocket
Spinach – stalks removed
Goat’s cheese
Baby figs – sliced
Olive oil

I only made it for one, but add more of each ingredient if you make it for more.

It literally took about two minutes to assemble. You could serve it with sliced baguette, grill the figs, add pine nuts or anything you want.

Then stuff it in your face.

baking, food, healthy, recipes

Fudgey Chocolate Brownie

This time of year is so miserable, there’s almost nothing better than a warm, fudgey brownie to cheer up the day. Here’s my personal favourite recipe.

Set oven to 200°c, grease and line a brownie tin/square cake tin. I used an electric mixer but you can do it by hand just as easily. I’ve replaced some of the ingredients with substitutes, but you don’t have to.

Ingredients

3 medium eggs
70g ground almonds
5g banana powder (or 75g almond)
275g sugar substitute (stevia, coconut sugar)
175g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
175g coconut oil/butter
40g cocoa
Chopped nuts, dried fruit, choc chips (optional)

Method

Melt the coconut oil and chocolate in a microwave.

Mix all the dry ingredients together, add the eggs, mix, add the chocolate oil, mix.

Add the chopped nuts, dried fruit etc if using. Mix together by hand.

Pour into prepared tin, smooth out with a spatula. Pop into a hot oven, cook for 25-30 minutes. Leave to cool for a few minutes, cut into squares. These will last a few days in an airtight container, if you can resist them!

image

ramblingmads

clean eating, food, healthy, recipes

Make this tonight: lettuce gratin

This is a great way to get more veggies into your diet, and can be vegan or vegetarian as well. It’s adapted from a far more complicated Hugh Fearnley-Whittingsall recipe previously published in the Guardian newspaper.

image
Photo from The Guardian

Ingredients

Cos type lettuces (I use two baby gems)
Olive oil
Sea salt
Black pepper
Celery
Peas
Spring onions
Pancetta cubes
Parmesan cheese
Bread crumbs (I used Japanese panko)

Wash and chop the lettuce, drain thoroughly. Toss with oil, salt and pepper. Put it in a casserole dish. Roast at 200°c for 25 minutes – keep an eye on it, do not let it burn.

While the lettuce roasts, wash and chop your celery and spring onions. Fry them in a pan with the pancetta, add the peas (I use them from frozen), season with pepper (if not using pancetta you could add a little salt).

Remove the lettuce from the oven, scatter the veg and pancetta over the lettuce. Reserve any liquid in the pan.

Sprinkle grated Parmesan over the gratin. Fry the breadcrumbs lightly in the preserved oil and fat. Scatter over the gratin. Return to oven for 5-10 minutes to melt the cheese and brown the breadcrumbs.

Serve on its own or with some crusty bread.

To make it vegetarian/vegan omit the pancetta, and switch the Parmesan for a dairy free hard cheese. You can add any other veggies that appeal too.

ramblingmads

beauty boxes, clean eating, food, healthy, lifestyle, recipes, skincare

The Vegan Kind Mystery Box

image

So a little box of treats winged its wayt to me from Glasgow.

I am trying to eat better and stay away from chemical heavy cosmetics and beauty products so I thought The Vegan Kind’s boxes would be worth a look.

image

This is apparently a mystery box, presumably they are themed. This one contained several edible things and a body wash.

There was a pouch of pear puree which went into my herbalife shake along with a banana.

The red banana powder is something I already use and like, so this was a bonus as it’s not particularly cheap.

The gingerbread topper mix – designed for I think granola or muesli will either end up in a shake or on a fruit salad.

Quinoa crisps which I will try during the week with some quark dip.

Teabags – I like a herbal tea every now and then – so these will be drunk at some point.

Recipe card – what a lovely idea, including a recipe card so you can make something tasty – this one’s for a super green smoothie.

Finally the Organic Surge shower gel – started using this yesterday – smells amazing and really cleansing. And it’s a generous full-size bottle not a dinky sample.

I’ve also ordered their vegan beauty box to test out, will review once it’s delivered.

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ramblingmads