Halloumi Adventures

14209620955_9d0f435783_o It’s that delicious point in the year – vernal equinox. The time of year when day is equal to night. Yet there is still snow on the ground. It’s been a harder winter than usual, with more snow here than in a fair few years. The animals seem to be undeterred though – frogs spawning aplenty, lambs bouncing in the fields and courting displays from the garden birds.

At this time when we are coming to the last of the standing veg in the garden, an offer of raw unpasteurised cow’s milk for a nominal price has been warmly welcomed. And so begin the Halloumi Adventures!

Homemade halloumi is a bit softer than shop bought, and less squeaky, so suits the youngest child in the house. He has sensory processing issues – where some textures and sounds are obnoxious to him. Squeaky cheese is one of them!

There is a bit of equipment needed for this, but nothing you won’t already have if you are an inveterate jam maker. A large Maslin (jam) pan, a sugar thermometer, some muslin or a linen tea towel and a colander should do it. And some patience! This recipe will take an afternoon, so put on some tunes and have a clock ready.

Halloumi Recipe

5 litres raw milk

1/2 tsp vegetarian rennet

1/2 tbs salt

Instructions:

Slowly bring the milk up to around 35°C in the Maslin pan.

Add the vegetarian rennet, stirring gently.

Turn off the heat and let it sit for an hour. It will start to look like jelly.

Cut the curds with a long knife, slicing it into 1 inch cubes. You will see the curds come away from the watery whey. Leave it to settle for another half hour.

Start to heat the pan again and, very gently, bring the mixture up to around 38°C – take it slowly, this should take around half an hour.

Line a colander or large sieve with the muslin or tea towel, and place over another large container to collect the whey. Later we can use it for making ricotta – more on this in another post soon.

Scoop the soft curds out of the Maslin pan into the colander, and leave to drain for about about an hour. It will start to firm up.

Now it’s time to poach the curds. Slowly heat the whey to 85°C  and add 1/2 tablespoon of salt.

While the whey is warming up,  turn out the cheese out on to a chopping board and slice into 2in wide rectangles.

Watch the thermometer, and when the whey is at 85°C, gently place the cheese into the liquid using a slotted spoon.

The halloumi will rise to the top of the pan after 20 – 30 minutes. It is important to try to keep the liquid at 85°C during the poaching.

Remove the halloumi and drain again. It will be quite soft, but again will firm as it drains and cools down.

Then – it is ready to eat!

Pan fried or grilled, it is delicious on sourdough bread, with a drizzle of olive oil and a tomato and olive salad.

 

If you can’t eat it all at one, it is quite easy to store in brine:

Dissolve 100g salt in half a litre of boiling water. Add half a litre of whey.

Cool and pour the liquid over the halloumi and keep it in the liquid in an airtight container – it will keep for a month in the fridge (write the date onto the container).

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Broad Beans, and what comes after?

BroadBeanDwarf

I don’t really like broad beans.
OK, I don’t really like the beans themselves, but I always grow the plants – they are so pretty with their purple flowers and quick growing habit.
They fix nitrogen into the soil, so I always chop them off an inch above the soil when I do harvest them, rather than disturb the roots by pulling them up. Sometimes, I’m luckier to get a smaller secondary crop later in the season.

I’m already thinking into the future for these beds. Brassicas are the next in the rotation plan – they are nitrogen hungry so use a lot of the nitrogen brought to the top soil by the beans. I love the purple sprouting broccoli, so my seeds were sown into seedtrays inside a few weeks ago, and should be ready to plant out by the time I chop the beans.

So what will I do with the beans this year? I set a facebook challenge to my gardening and cooking friends to find the best broad bean recipes – I need to be convinced!
This is the one I shall be trying out in a few weeks, I’ll report back to let you know if it passes muster.

Broad Bean Hummus

Ingredients
450g/1lb fresh broad beans
100g/3½ oz tinned chickpeas (save 6 tbsp of the liquid from the can)
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 heaped tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp salt
pinch ground cumin
pinch ground white pepper
pinch caster sugar (optional)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Cook the podded broad beans in a pan of boiling, salted water for a minute or two, or until tender. Drain and cool in iced water. This makes the next step much easier.

Make a cup of tea, put the radio on and remove the skin from the bright green beans.

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and smoosh until completely combined.

Serve with crackers, carrot sticks or felafels.

Planting a wellness garden

wellness-garden-1.jpgGarden Plan – Glastonbury Festival Permaculture

I have just returned from the first work weekend on our gardens at Worthy Farm – the home of Europe’s biggest music festival. A dry weekend, with some sun, saw us building the first three planters for our wellness garden.

Designed as a small breathing space in the mayhem, it will be planted up with a variety of herbs that promote physical and mental wellness, with an emphasis on colour, scent and texture.

I’m now working on a set of infographic cards to be displayed with each plant… and have a new  found respect for graphic designers!

Golden Risotto

I got a shock when the dogs came in from their morning ablutions this morning. Big face dog, Bryn, was peppered in snow. I looked up from my bleary eyed coffee machinations, and it was indeed snowing. Great!

it snowed

It snowed

Snow can be a real headache here in Wales. In 2010, my village was snowed in for the best part of two weeks, and we relied on a farmer from a well-known yogurt factory to deliver milk and bread.

Most people that live out in the hills have a well-stocked larder, as winter storms aren’t uncommon. If London had our weather, the media would maybe take climate change more seriously…

So today calls for some real comfort food. A flavoursome risotto, spiced with the saffron threads I diligently collected in the autumn.

Saffron crocuses aren’t hard to grow if you get the soil conditions right. It loves a freescreen-shot-2017-01-22-at-09-18-38 draining site, and can happily get by with low fertility. It must have full sun, especially when they flower in October. I have a small raised bed devoted to them, just a metre square, and for a short period of time they make me dizzy with pleasure. The picking is a delicate, meditative affair, plucking the three stigmas (female sex organs) from each flower.

Did you know…

  • saffron is the most expensive spice in the world?
  • has been cultivated for over 5,000 years?
  • was introduced by the Romans?
  • costs £4,000 per kilo?
  • is almost exclusively harvested by hand?
  • it takes 150 crocuses to produce a gram of saffron (about 500 threads)?

They need to be carefully dried; I have a dehydrator to do this, but a low oven (about 40C) or on a silicone sheet next to a radiator or in an airing cupboard will work too.

So, to the joy of saffron risotto. I love that the Arborio rice used for risotto is grown in Europe- it soothes my locavore sensibilities. Carnaroli, another medium grain rice is grown here too, and makes a much creamier dish.

Saffron Risotto (serves two)

Ingredients:

Small white onion, finely chopped
25g butter or 1 tablespoon oil (nothing too heavily flavoured, a light olive oil will do)
1.25 litres golden stock
200g carnaroli rice
A glass of white wine
50g unsalted butter, diced
50g Parmesan or Grana Padano (for a vegetarian option) cheese, grated

Directions:

Bring the stock to the boil. I make mine with left over veg saved for this: carrot tops, celery leaves, rosemary, shiitake mushrooms, thyme, fennel, onion and the green ends of leek, parsley stalks and a pinch of peppercorns, then add salt at the end to taste.

Strain the stock and add a teaspoon of saffron. Marvel at its golden colour change!

Melt the butter or oil, and soften the onion in a heavy-bottomed saucepan.

Add the carnaroli rice. Turn up the heat, and stir to coat the grains with butter.

When the rice is hot, add a small glass of white wine, and keep stirring until it has evaporated.

Start adding the stock, gradually. Stir in a ladleful at a time, until it has nearly all been absorbed.

The rice begins to soften after about ten minutes. Keep testing it as you add the stock. When the stock is all added and it is cooked to your taste, add the unsalted butter, cheese, and beat it firmly with a wooden spoon, until the risotto is rich and creamy.

Check the seasoning, then serve immediately.

 

A coastal stomp, ending with hot chocolate

The cold has given way to relentless driving rain. I spent the first couple of hours walking the dogs from Ynyslas to Borth and back – if you don’t know this stretch of Welsh coastline I suggest you book a holiday here pronto, it’s heaven. Saw a small flock of shags, heard curlews on the salt marsh and laughed as the collie chased some oystercatchers. Bracing.

sky-315715_1280

Bay tree

There is no way I am spending much time in the garden today, so on the way back from my walk I grabbed a handful of bay leaves from the three year old saplings in the front garden. I dragged them out of the bargain basement bin at B&Q a couple of years ago, and they are serving me proud.

Bay leaves are my go to when I make polenta. However, whisking the cornmeal into a simmering  bay infused milk and water combo is an activity akin to dodging paintball. When those bubbles burst onto your skin, they hurt!

So, no polenta today. The only thing to do after a long beach walk is make hot chocolate. Here goes:

Bay Infused Hot Chocolate

Ingredients
1 mug of milk (soya, dairy or nut, they all work well)
50g cacao or dark chocolate, grated
1tbs cream (optional)
2 fresh bay leaves
Pinch salt

 

Method

Put the grated cacao or chocolate in a heat-proof bowl.

Put the milk and bay leaves in a saucepan, with the bowl on top.

Bring the pan to a simmer, turn off the heat steep for about five minutes.

Remove the bay leaves form the milk, then stir the milk into the bowl containing the now melted chocolate/ cream combo.

Whisk lightly to combine,  add a tiny pinch of salt and serve.

Wet and Cold

It’s wet and cold out there today. The sort of day that makes you want to crawl back into bed. Not the sort of day that has you wandering around your little front garden, actively looking for something to eat because you said that you would blog about it.

But I have. And I am.

copyright The 3 Foragers (http://the3foragers.blogspot.co.uk)

Hairy Bittercress

Despite the foul weather, there is more hairy bittercress than I can shake a stick at. This tiny little weed chucks its seed far and wide, and I shall leave some for the bees. It flowers early, and the bees need early flowers to get them going. Fortunately I grow enough other varieties that will help them through their own hungry gap, so I’m getting to grips with the bittercress.

It is from the mustard family, so I wondered whether it would work in a potato salad. I’m glad to say it does.

Bittercress Potato Salad (serves 4 hungry people)

Ingredients

800g small new potatoes

3 shallots or one red onion

1 tbs capers or pickled nasturtium seed (more about these in another post)

3 tbsp mayonnaise, or to taste

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tbsp white wine vinegar/ kombucha vinegar (more about this in another post)

Method

Boil the potatoes in salted water for 20 mins until just cooked, drain, then cool

Cut the potatoes into chunks, then throw into a bowl with the shallots/ onion and capers  if using

Add enough mayonnaise to bind

Mix together the olive oil and vinegar and add just enough to give a little sharpness to the salad

Stir in the finely chopped parsley and bittercress to serve.

3rd January – normality?!

So, I got up at 6.30am. So did the kids.

Astonishing, as our sleep patterns have been very out of kilter for the last two weeks. What will I do with these blissful few days before I go back to work too? It’s too frozen to garden, so I’m going to sort out my seeds.

The lovely Kate and Ben at Real Seeds sell the best seeds for growing here in Wales. Seeds that have a short growing season, are open pollinated, and that have been tried and tested by themselves in Pembrokeshire. I got my order in early, as they are so popular and often run out of choice varieties.

I save some of my own seed, as Kate and Ben recommend. A few years ago, a chance

center of a yellow sunflower

Sunflower (Helianthus ‘Mammoth’)

sunflower came out of a pack that were given to me. All the other seeds that germinated grew into large, single flower ‘Mammoth’ style plants. One particular plant grew to about nine feet, but with multiple heads. All the flowers, when they went over, had the added bonus of having seeds with thin shells compared to the meaty seed.

I have saved and sown this seed for the last three years, and I have just found six dried heads! As each head has over a hundred seeds, and I only want to grow a few, I think it’s time to make my own sunflower seed snacks.

Sunflower Seed Snacks

Ingredients

One head of sunflower seeds (harvest when the flower is beginning to lose its petals)

Method

Take the head and dry in a paper bag. Forget about it for about 4 months!

Soak the seeds in salted water for 6 hours. This activates the germination process and makes them more nutritious.

Roast in a warm oven, about 150C/ gas mark 2 for about half an hour, until they begin to brown and crisp up.

The seeds are a good source of calcium, phosphorus and potassium.
But, there is no simple way that I know of to get rid of the shell. Just teeth, and time.