Sunday, 29 June 2014

Driftwood Gardening

Gardening containers come in many shapes and sizes.  Far too many people however rely on garden centres for their supply of such containers and at quite a cost too; to both their pockets and the environment.

Apart from the odd expense of a large ceramic pot for our treasured, large and aged plants (such as our olive tree), here in the Driftwood garden we like to take a different approach to container gardening.  

We don't have a huge expanse of open ground to grow our produce in so we do need to be inventive with both space and money. We do use grow bags in a conventional way for our tomatoes but we also use them on their sides to grow beans and upright as strawberry 'towers' on the paved area outside the boundaries of our garden. This not only allows us to grow more produce but 'greens up' an otherwise grey area and perhaps even encourages others to do the same. In fact this very week our neighbour has put a container of plants outside his own gate.  We may lose the odd strawberry here and there to birds and local kids but it is still valuable space that we otherwise would not have had.  

The great thing about grow bags is that if you need to buy compost anyway (our compost bin has its limits) then a grow bag is a ready made container too.  Just prop it upright, cut off the top, fold the plastic down and plant.  Cut one in half for two smaller containers.  After all, what were you going to do with the empty bag anyway?  It is kind of weird that people buy bags of compost and then empty the contents into expensive containers before chucking the bag away.  

Old plastic tubes/drainage pipes make good strawberry towers too. Stand one upright, cut holes at intervals along its length and plant up.  I stole the one in the photo from my dad who uses these to great effect with his strawberries.

The beach seems an unlikely source of gardening supplies but has indeed provided various assortment of useful items whilst we have either been just walking or having a bit of a clean up on it.  We have blogged before about using washed up fishing nets and seaweed in the garden but we have on occasions also found large containers on the shore.  One of the most useful was a large blue fishing crate that is now a permanent growing feature in our back garden. This year it is home to some Kale De Nero with an under planting of still growing lettuce seedlings.

Old wooden crates have also been useful for growing small amounts of lettuce leaves; kind of like a 'grow your own' veg box.  They do only last a season normally though but at least you get extra use out of them before they break down and end up in the compost bin.

Having read that slugs don't like climbing up tin cans I asked our lovely ladies in the catering department at work for any large ones.  I wouldn't advise this for slug prevention (it doesn't in fact work!) but as small free herb pots they are great.  They weather into a lovely rusty brown too.

There are people out there who are far more inventive and prolific in re-purposing items for garden containers.  I've seen wellington boots, sinks, tyres, teapots, hats and even toilets; to name but a few.  I think the name of the game is to just think outside the box.  Use the space you have to grow things 'to the max' and use what you have to hand. The answer doesn't always mean an expensive trip to the garden centre. 

Monday, 23 June 2014

Vegan Sushi

When we told omnivorous colleagues at work that we were going for vegan sushi, on several occasions the reaction was "how can you have sushi?  It's raw fish isn't it?".  Well it's not all about the raw fish you know, and besides that the definition of sushi is actually 'cooked vinegared rice' to which other items are then added; either fish, meat or (take note colleagues) vegetables.  So yes, sushi is most definitely on the vegan table, as it was on Thursday at Wildebeest vegan restaurant in Falmouth during one of their series of special vegan sushi nights. 

The popularity of this advance bookings only event was evidenced by the lack of spare seats with further confirmation given as each of the five courses were brought out in turn.  

There is no doubt that the lovely people at Wildebeest know their stuff when it comes to food and particularly sushi. Before opening Wildebeest, they ran a vegan sushi company in Brighton and we are delighted that they have abandoned the vegan-centric shores of Brighton for the less vegan saturated shores of Falmouth.

The £18 menu was kicked off with a deliciously umami miso soup complete with moreish morsels of pickled vegetables on the side.  Next up was a sesame tinged seaweed salad topped off with a homemade rice cracker. This went down far too quickly and easily but consolation came in the form of a bowl of beautifully seasoned edamame which occupied our now equally seasoned fingers as we shucked them one by one.  Then came the main event; an eclectic array of deliciously displayed  sushi offerings with not a fish in sight!  The only thing left on my cleaned plate after was the wasabi 'pea' which, after witnessing my 7 month pregnant mate H eat and then almost go into early labour, I decided to give this hot offering a miss!

As if things couldn't get any tastier, the final offering of the five courses was a stunning and delicate looking raw green matcha tea cheesecake.  I meant to take a photograph but by the time I realised I had pretty much destroyed it and was eyeing up the plates of Phil and our friends for any leftovers.

The food was great, the company was brilliant (it's always nice to be surrounded by like minded people) and it's great to not have to keep asking whether something is vegan (although we still have to keep reminding ourselves about this!). All in all, a great evening eating food that you don't normally have the opportunity to enjoy at a restaurant. 

Thanks also to the three lovely vegans who gave up their table to sit instead at the breakfast bar for the comfort of my mate H and her baby bump.

Do get along to Wildebeest and give the sushi night a go (I believe they will be running these on a monthly basis) because as Lee 'Scratch' Perry says "Japanese food, give you good mood"!

Thursday, 19 June 2014

No Bones No Blood

To complete today's Caribbean influenced posts, here's a catchy little tune that is inspiring, uplifting, and set to be running around your brain for at least the rest of the day!  It pokes fun at the simple minded attitudes that pervade mainstream culture, more than answers the old "what on earth do you eat" question, and offers a positive vision of how things could be. They're obviously having a great time making the video, and there's not a hot panted twerking bum in sight.  Respect!

Ital Stew

Love this style of cooking (and growing).  Have a walk about your land, harvest a bit of what's ready, and get it on the fire with a bit of fresh coconut milk and spice.  Nice.  You can't get fresher than that.  Wish we had this much room to play with in a tropical paradise, for year round growing and fresh feasting.

Ital Breakfast

We're both big fans of reggae music, especially of the "dub" variety.  Put this together with truly "conscious" lyrics and "Ital" philosophy, and you're onto a winner.  It's always refreshing to hear artists celebrating the good things in life, rather than the typical "boy meets girl ooh ahh" robotics of a lot of music.  Have a close listen to the lyrics, there's wisdom and humour aplenty, nestled in among the drums and bass.  Fix up some mango and banana smoothie, put this track on, and go and sit outside in the sunshine.  

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Miles Of Fun

Meet Miles Davis, the newest edition to our family.  He is our new camper van.  Well, he's not new but as new as we could afford and we love him so much already. It's taken long enough to find him (almost two years) but we got there in the end.

Both Phil and I had camper vans in the past before we knew each other and enjoyed the freedom it gave us.  We want to now enjoy that freedom together; both at home and abroad. Our first proper trip out with Miles was this weekend when we headed off into the wild, quiet calm of Dartmoor.  Just us, a great view and some good books and we were in heaven. It was so quiet and relaxing; the only noise being the skylarks hovering above.

Why Miles, I hear you say?  Well, he is super cool, he is 'kind of blue' and hopefully he will give us miles and miles of fun.  

Monday, 16 June 2014

The Hidden Veggie Gem of Falmouth

When a new veggie place opens up on the high street it is easy to get carried away with the excitement and forget that there are others who've been deliciously feeding our vegan needs for years.

Just off Falmouth's main 'drag', hidden up a quaint lane sits the floral festooned frontage of Pea Souk.  Its compact and bijou interior belies the huge choice of culinary delights created by chef owner Nicola.

I like Nicola.  She has an honest, no nonsense persona which can catch some people off guard merely because the world is so full of bullshit these days they aren't used to anything else. Those who know Nicola will understand what I mean. Instead she reserves the intricacy, mystery, and complex layering for her food which is served up in generous and beautifully presented platefuls.  Even the club sandwiches are worthy of a lunch time drive into town to brighten up the work day.  I wish I could recreate them for my packed lunch every day but mine never quite taste the same.

The food has you feasting with your eyes even before the first mouthful. Once you tuck in, there are tastes I have experienced at Pea Souk that I couldn't even begin to describe or work out. It's a culinary sorcery born of an all encompassing passion and understanding of food that simply cannot be taught.  It has to be a mixture of experience and instinct.  Nicola is Corden Vert trained but  her extensive travelling has more of an influence on her food.  The mischievous glint in her eye tells me that a deep instinct is definitely at play too.  She knows what people like to eat and takes pleasure in seeing them enjoy the benefits of this knowledge.

Enough words now as the only way any of this will make any sense is to go to Pea Souk, sample the menu (a huge amount being vegan) and meet the sorceress for yourself.......and remember to 'spread the vegan love' to all veggie/vegan establishments, particularly those who've been loyal to our vegan needs for years.

Pea Souk, 19C Well Lane, Church Street, Falmouth.  TR11 3EG             01326 317583
Open Monday to Saturday 10am - 5pm - Evenings by advance bookings

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Surf, Garden, Surf, Eat

Phil got up early to go off for a surf.  I meanwhile made the most out of not having to get up for work at 6.30am and lounged around for awhile in bed before contemplating the days activities in the garden.  There was still plenty that needed doing; the biggest job being to finish the 'greenhouse' that Phil had started earlier in the week. 

Phil returned in time for some 'brunch' before we set about the task at hand.  We have neither the space or the money for a proper greenhouse in our garden and besides that, we like a bit of 'do it on the cheap with what you have to hand'.  The original idea for this particular design came from one of our many visits to Eden.  After much searching for the best and straightest pieces, we got the wood locally and we already had the hemp rope left over from our fence build in the front garden.  All we needed to buy was the plastic and that cost us the grand sum of £15 from a local garden centre.  

The biggest cost was that of Phil's patience.  He is not a great fan of DIY but bless him, he got on with it and built me this wonderful construction to hopefully give our veggies more of a fighting chance against the Cornish wind and cold rain!  As soon as it was completed he had just enough time to get in for another surf and DIY therapy session.  The least I could do was provide a tasty meal for him on his return as a thank you for his hard work.  However, I wasn't feeling that inclined to spend all evening cooking so opted for a one pot wonder of a sweetcorn and squash chowder with cornbread on the side (I seem to have a thing about corn at the moment!).  To satisfy Phil's complete obsession with rice I decided to make a coconut rice pudding for afters.

I used some of our remaining squash from last season to make the chowder.  The dish itself is one of those that, once you have got it started, it pretty much just cooks away quietly without much fuss.  I simply fried up a chopped onion and three celery stalks and once the onion was browning added about 3 cups of squash and 1 sweet potato diced up.  Add enough stock to cover it in the pan and any herbs or spices you fancy.  I added a couple of bay leaves and some oregano from the garden and a pinch of salt and a grind of black pepper.  Let it all cook up nicely and go and do something else (like make the cornbread) until the sweet potato and squash are soft and slightly mushy.  Give it all an extra mush up but leave some bits still intact.  Then stir in about 3 cups of frozen sweetcorn and a cup of almond or soya milk and let it simmer away for another 10 minutes and you are done.  See, not much to do really!

Now on to the cornbread.  It is a lovely change to have this with a meal instead of the normal bread, rice, pasta or potatoes.  There are many recipes out there for cornbread and I seem to use a different one each time I make it and even then I end up adapting it to what we have in our cupboard at the time.  So here is my latest adaptation but I urge you to investigate for yourselves what other wonderful variations on the cornbread theme there are out there.  Given the basic mixture you could add in anything you fancy.  This time we added onion and chilli sauce but in the past we have added sweetcorn kernels, diced chilli peppers or sun dried tomatoes.  Just get funky with it!

8oz self-raising flour
4oz masa harina (cornmeal) – see our post about tamales for details on this
3oz melted vegan margarine
Generous pinch of salt
1 small onion finely diced
2 tablespoons of chilli sauce (we used our homemade stuff)
300ml soya milk

Add all the ingredients apart from the soya milk into a big old bowl and stir it up nicely to distribute evenly.  Gradually add in the milk until well incorporated.  Turn it out into a greased baking tray (ours is about 7” by 9”) and bake for about 30 minutes.  It should be nice and golden on top and cuts up nicely into squares once cooked.  Again another easy and quick effort to achieve a tasty result!

At this point I went back out into the garden to potter and tidy up as everything was pretty much taking care of itself in the kitchen.   I returned just before Phil got back from his surf to get the rice pudding started.

It had been ages since I had had rice pudding and I had forgotten quite how lovely, satisfying and healthy it was as a dessert option.  Many years ago, when I first became vegan, Plamil used to make a vegan tinned rice pudding that was lush but I have to say now I much prefer a homemade coconut milky version (I was just lazy back then!).  Having said that, if they started making it again, I’m sure I would ‘get some in’ for extremely lazy days.  However, really this recipe is very little effort.

1 can coconut milk
300ml water
5oz pudding rice (could use arborio/brown rice but just adjust the cooking time)
4oz sultanas
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Put half the coconut milk, all the water and rice in a saucepan and bring to the boil then simmer for about 30 minutes until the rice is tender and most of the liquid has gone.  Add the rest of the coconut milk and the remaining ingredients and cook for another 5 minutes.  Then you’re done!  It will keep warm for a while but it is also really nice chilled the next day (if you haven’t been a porker and eaten it all already).

Enjoy the nicest things in life - surfing, gardening and eating!