Tag Archives: thrifty

Kale Yard soup

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I I feel that finally I’ve cracked winter and spring green growing for years I’d had a few successes but never enough to make more than a token gesture at dinner time. Its the end of February and we’ve had Leeks, Artichokes, Salad leaf and 5 types of brassica all ready for the kitchen for the past few months. In a bid to celebrate this bounty I decided to make a ‘half the garden soup’ with what I had to hand in the veg patch.

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5 Cabbage Kale Yard Soup

Bunch of Cavolo Nero

Bunch of Russian Kale

Bunch of Curly Kale

Bunch of Spring Cabbage

Bunch of left over Wild Cabbage or you could use Purple sprouting Broccoli leaves

5 Leeks

4 medium Potatoes (the last of my pink fur apples I had in store/had forgotten about)

5 cloves of Garlic

Veg or Chicken stock

Sprig of sage and thyme

Wash and chop the leeks, Crush the Garlic and add to a large pan with a knob of butter and the chopped herbs, let them all sweat. As that’s doing its thing wash and remove the tougher stalks from the Cavolo Nero and the Curly kale but the others should be fine as they soften quicker, chop then add them to the pan. This allows them to wilt. Next add your stock. At this point I put the soup into a food mixer as we don’t have a hand blender, with the potato and blitz keeping a bit of texture. Add a vigorous twist of black pepper and a pinch of salt and simmer for 10 mins. You could add chilli which would have been good but I wanted the taste of the garden.

Serve with cream if your greedy like me, and a huge crusty bread. done grew it ate it!

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Suburban fuel foraging

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The gas bill arrived today and for the first time I didn’t tut, it was in fact cheaper than last year, partly to do with a so called ‘reduction’ in prices but the exact amount of gas we’ve used is half! from 5625 kWh to 2509 kWh. I put this down to two things, 1 we didn’t use the central heating until November and 2 we’ve been using the wood burner more than last year. Using the stove not only to heat the house but cook on has made a massive difference.

Having a wood stove is seen by some as a middle class toy or only for those lucky few who live in the countryside but if you care about your environment and want to save money I’d say you can’t go wrong. After the initial cost of instillation your next issue is fuel cost, there’s no point saving on gas if your spending hundreds of pounds on fuel, that’s when they become a toy.

I used to think that the only way to be totally self-sufficient in fuel was to live in the countryside because where else did wood come from? However having spent a year living in a small hamlet I realize the country mouse is not always better off than his townie cousin. If you live in a house surrounded by fields it might be beautiful but your access to fuel is limited to your nearest woodland, which may or my not be private or even someone’s livelihood, on the other hand living in the town opens up a mass of free fuel opportunities.

You don’t have to walk far in the suburbs to find a skip, these are the suburban foragers friends the trick is to see whatever’s inside as a potential fuel. As long as it’s not MDF or chipboard it’s free warm for you. I used to walk past skips that didn’t have pallets in but now a broken chair, carpenters off cuts, anything wooden gets brought home and chopped up.

Pallets are an obvious one and many places are more than happy for you to take them off their hands, just remember to ask first some companies reuse them. It’s surprising how a few pallets can heat your house for an evening. Another place to look is charity, junk and auction houses they often have things which are unsellable or broken, most places will happily give you something that’s destined for the tip.

Last year a neighbours tree blew down in a storm so I offered to saw it up for them if I could keep the wood he was only too happy and we ended up with about a weeks worth of fuel. Every time we go out for a walk in a park or in the woods around the city I make sure I at least pick up one piece of wood however small, if you do it all year you’ll soon have a ready supply. I’m going to have to get a trailer for my bike or perhaps a trolley so that I don’t miss out next time I leave the house, having set my foragers eye for fuel as well as food has made me realize I should never need buy fuel again.

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Next years fuel is stacking up nicely we are aiming to fill this by the end of the year.

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A family that knits together…..

A family that knits together.....

I just wanted to post a photo of the blanket my girlfriend has finished crocheting together. Six members of the family have knitted different squares of this baby blanket for the newest member of the family. i love the idea of these family made blankets, I have a blanket than I’ve had since a child which was made by my great grandma and her sister, I love it and the memories it holds within every stitch.

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Strange fairytale edibles

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Scarlet Elf cups

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Jelly ears

These must be some of the oddest edible mushrooms lurking in the undergrowth on a wet February afternoon or stuck to the underside of a dead twisted Elder they couldn’t be more fairytale.

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The Best Wild fruit Infusions

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I’m not the greatest of wine makers I can admit that, not that I’m not going to keep trying but there is something about the process that I always seem to get wrong. That’s perhaps why I love infusions, the alcohol part is done for you all you need to do is add flavor and drink it! Last autumn was a great season for wild fruits of all kinds so I took it as a chance to experiment with something other than Sloe Gin.

While out walking one day I came across a damson tree laden with fruit, I kicked myself as I must have walked past it dozens of times before without noticing. I did consider making jam but you can have too much jam but never enough booze, so I made damson vodka, after a few months of patience it turned into a beautiful thick rich comforting blanket of a drink, instantly better dare I say than Sloe Gin. Using vodka instead of gin allows the fruit to impart it’s own flavor rather than be masked by the taste of the alcohol. Needless to say it’s all gone now.

By now the bug had bitten so I was on the lookout for more fruits to experiment with. The second I made was Cherry Plum vodka, made in the same way as the Damson, this has a sharper flavor, a little more tart. A search on the internet gave me my next and I must say favorite infusion ever, Blackberry Whiskey, it’s smooth and comforting after a cold January walk with a real depth of flavor, that I insist that everyone tries.

Blackberry Whiskey

blackberries

sugar

bottle of whiskey

Take a large jar, fill it 2/3 of the way with blackberries, pour in half that amount of sugar then top up the rest of the jar with whiskey. Don’t use expensive whiskey that would be a crime. Shake the jar now and again to help dissolve the sugar, leave in a dark cupboard for at least 3 months, try and make it in time for Christmas but better still hide a bottle of it for a year.

Damson Vodka

1kg damsons

500g sugar

1 litre vodka
Put all the ingredients into a large Kilner jar, shake every so often to dissolve the sugar and bottle after 3 months. Some people prick each fruit but who has time for that I tend to squash them lightly with a potato masher in the jar before I add the vodka. Like most infusions it will be better after a year if you can wait that long. Don’t forget that when you have bottled it you can eat the fruit with cream or custard etc.

Cherry Plumb Vodka

Make in the same way as the Damson Vodka but try freezing the cherry plums first then letting them thaw before adding them to the jar, this breaks down the skins and removes the need for tedious pricking.

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