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!

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