There are quite a few reasons to make me excitable today and given that the weather is at best morose, i’m going to focus on these to encourage a little something we like to call… happiness. One: whilst i was still half- asleep i managed to knock up some homemade Oat milk- admittedly i made a right mess of the kitchen but i am pleased with the results. It both looks and tastes a heck of a lot better than the shop bought version i’d been using and it was free! (we have a lovely big bag of Scottish Oats tucked away).
Two: and maybe the greatest thing- Spring is on it’s way. I know on a day like today it’s easy to think i’m being hilariously optimistic, but yesterday the sun was out and the air had that feeling in it- the feeling that the earth is slowly starting to wake up, to shake off its winter sleep and bring us all it’s greatest. With this in mind i have been planning my planting operations. A few years back i defied the odds (and the sneering opinions of a few garden centre staff) with a rather successful array of delights- all grown in the bay window of my first floor flat. It was actually a bit too successful, in that i was (mis) informed that only a few of my seeds would actually germinate into plants. So with this in mind, i over- sowed and (in their faces!) i ended up with: 8 six foot Tomato plants, 4 cucumber plants, 2 chilli plants, a Buddleja plant 2 feet wide, and 6 different herb plants. They actually took over my life, requiring the kind of attention i imagine a small child, or a sickly animal would require. But i learnt a lot, and now i plan to get right back on the gardening train- i have umpteen plastic pots ready for new seedlings to call home and most excitingly- i am stratifying a Nectarine stone.
Fruit seeds require a cold shock in order to bring about their germination and as i don’t own a patch of land (yet) i have made do with the fridge. A cleaned the flesh of a ripe Nectarine and air dried it for 3 days, then i popped it into a glass jar, covered in cling film and in the fridge it shall stay for 60 days. After that i can knock open the stone, collect my seeds and sow them in a wee pot. This is certainly a labour of love as i don’t expect to have a sapling for years, until say, my first child is born- but life is life and hopefully that tree will live on long after i do.
My last piece of excitement comes from the discovery of the greatest shop ever to open in Edinburgh- The New Leaf Cooperative. Fair enough, it opened a few months back but i have only just found it. A FANTASTIC whole foods shop, with local sourcing, fair trade, organic delights everywhere. The truly wonderful thing about this co- op is the back room- jars and jars of fresh herbs, spices, pulses, fruits, grains- all weigh your own! You are encouraged to bring your own packaging and everything about the places smacks of genuine ideals, care and respect for the earth we live on. They have a vast array of produce, and you can even grind your own peanut butter! The prices are the best i’ve found in Edinburgh which says a lot considering the quality and thought that goes into their offering. I cannot recommend this place enough!
The reason i actually went in was to find some Sumac- i had Hummous on the mind and had heard that this spice offers a wonderful citrussy element which would enliven my Chickpeas. I took the mason jar down from the shelf, spooned a couple of heaps of the spice in a zippy bag and off i went- happy as can be. So happy in fact that the mood lingered all day and onto the next day, when i felt compelled to translate this emotion into my cooking; a rainbow coloured feast was unfurling in my mind’s eye. And what a rainbow it turned out to be. I’d halved the dough i had from making the bread for the gratin/ soup, and sectioned it into 5 flatbreads. To accompany this i planned Hummous, then i decided to add Roast Beetroot & Horseradish dip, crudite and salad. As i was preparing the salad i noticed all the lovely, wrinkly Olives we had and knew that i had to make Tapenade as well. Yes, i did get pretty carried away, but when good moods happen you’ve just got to go with them and it means we have heaps of left overs. This dish is happiness- for the eyes, the mouth, the belly, body and soul. Loads of colours, textures, raw vegetables, full of vitamins, minerals… joyful eating.
(Vegan, Gluten free if you omit the bread, serves up to 8)
Roast Garlic & Sumac Hummous:
- 1 jar/ tin of cooked Chickpeas
- 4 cloves of Garlic
- juice of 1 Lemon
- teaspoon of both Cumin & Coriander Seeds
- teaspoon of Sea Salt
- 2 tablespoons of Sunflower Oil
- 1 tablespoon of Sumac
- Roast the Garlic for 20 minutes at 180c. When cool, pop them out of their skins and into a blender
- Dry fry, or roast the seeds until just fragrant
- Add all the ingredients, except the Sumac to the blender and whiz until your happy with the consistency
- Spoon out into a bowl, mix 1/2 the Sumac into the Hummous and sprinkle the other half on top
Roast Beetroot and Horseradish Dip:
(I would have loved to have used fresh Horseradish but sadly we only have a jar)
- 3 Raw Beetroot
- 1 tablespoon of Horseradish
- Glug of Vegetable Oil
- Pinch of Sea Salt
- Chop the Beetroot into small chunks, pop then in an oven tray and coat with the Oil and Salt
- Roast for 40 minutes at 160c or until just tender
- Blitz in a blender (or hand mash) until smoothish
- Stir in the Horseradish
Black Olive Tapenade:
(I make this recipe up to accommodate what i had at hand, usually it calls for Capers and Parsley, i used fresh Ginger and the loose herbs i had)
- (roughly) 1 jar of wrinkly Black Olives (remove the pits)
- 2 cloves of Garlic
- 1 small thumb of Fresh Ginger
- tablespoon of Lemon Juice
- tablespoon of dried Thyme (i roasted fresh time when i was doing the Beetroots and Garlic)
- Handful of other fresh herbs (i ended up using Chives, Dill, Sage)
- tablespoon of freshly ground Black Peppercorns
- Everything in a blender, pulse until uniform in texture- easy
- 3 Carrots
- 1 yellow Pepper
- 1/2 Cucumber
- Slice everything into sticks!