Reclaiming the Garden

Yes I know, where are the DIY stories? What a let down, right? Well, what can I say except that I’ve been stuck indoors wishing the rain would sod  off so I can get stuck into the garden. The good news? Well it’s finally gone and I’m out of excuses.

Building our garden has taught me three important things. Firstly, if you order a skip then it becomes a beacon for any of your neighbours that you’ve never met to pop over and say ‘hello’ quickly followed by ‘do you mind if I pop this enormous item that I can’t be arsed driving to tip in there’? I’ve also discovered phantom skip dumpers, who wait until we’ve gone to bed, then ever so quietly drop in un-needed bikes, boxes and even the odd frying pan in the dead of the night.

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Cleared Garden

Secondly, I’ve learnt that when visiting a timber yard it’s best not to turn up in your smart work attire. They’ll quickly figure out you’re an imposter and bamboozle you with enough timber jargon to make a lumberjack uncomfortable. Also, if they say talk to ‘Dave’ in the yard with the measuring tape, don’t assume the security guard who also has a measuring tape is called Dave….he’s not and doesn’t take kindly to being called Dave.

Decking Frame

Decking

Build a door

Finally, when navigating a trolley full of heavy plants through a nursery, beware of the Yankee candle display. It’s likely to be hidden from view, but just at the right level for you to knock it over.

Having learnt those important lessons I am pleased to say we’re done. Well almost, but at least we can now sit outside without feeling like we’re in a car park.

Garden Decking

Greek Holiday Gyros

There are a whole load of foods that I’m pretty sure aren’t worth the trouble of cooking at home, though I suspect this list varies depending on where you live. I’m fairly certain I won’t be making  a sour dough loaf in my kitchen, now I’ve discovered the the flour pot bakery. But all bets are off when you consider the costs of eating abroad, but are dreaming of the lazy Mediterranean street food wonder that is gyros.

Maybe we’d sampled a bit too much of the local Ouzo on our Villa Plus holiday,  perhaps it was mild sun stroke, but we’re both pretty sure that discovering gyros made by a little old lady in Crete was a holiday food sensation. Sure you can get gyros anywhere, but this little old lady made fresh flatbread like it was as easy as tying your shoelace. It was soft, stuffed with fresh tzatziki and enough red onion to shake a stick at.

Flatbread dough

Flatbread

Flat breads – makes 4
175g self raising flour
Pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
175g natural yoghurt

Tzatziki
175g plain yoghurt
1 large cucumber
2 garlic cloves (crushed)
Squeeze of a lemon
Handful of fresh mint
Salt and pepper to taste

Everything else
2 chicken breasts
2 large tomatoes
1 red onion
Two white potatoes
Olive oil

Slice your potatoes into chips before mixing together in a baking tray with olive oil and salt. Place in the oven at 200 °F and leave to bake. Squeeze one half of the lemon and a glug of olive oil over the chicken. Season with salt and pepper, then leave to the side to marinade.

Mix the flat bread ingredients together in a large mixing bowl with your hands. Tip the mix onto a floured work surface and knead for a minute or two. It’s not like a normal bread recipe, so you only have to knead enough to bring it together. Put the dough back into the bowl and cover with a plate.

Chips

If you’re in Greece then the likelihood of needing to make your own tzatziki will be fairly limited. However, I’m down Brighton….so erm, will be making my own. Grate the cucumber and squeeze with your hands until all the excess liquid has gone. Then combine with the lemon juice, cucumber, chopped mint, yoghurt and crushed garlic. Season to taste. Slice the onion and tomato, then set aside to use later

Back to the flat breads. Place the dough onto a floured surface and divide and roll into 6 separate balls. With your hands, pat and flatten, then use a rolling pin to roll each piece into a circle, roughly 3mm thick.  Place your griddle pan on a high heat, then once smoking hot, cook each flatbread for 1 to 2 minutes each side, or until they puff up.

In the same griddle pan place the chicken skin side down and cook for 3 minutes. Place the pan into the pre-heated oven with the chips without ever turning the chicken. After 12 minutes take the chicken out of the oven, turn them over and leave to rest.  Remove the chips from the oven and pat dry on kitchen towel.

Tzatziki recipe

Fresh tzatziki

To assemble take one flat bread and fill with sliced chicken, chips, sliced tomato and sliced red onion. Dollop a generous amount of tzatziki on top and fold in the edges. And it is exactly what  you should make this weekend. Stuff these flat breads with whatever meat you fancy on the BBQ to get you dreaming of long lazy summer holidays

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Gingerella Poached Pears

I’ve come to think that discovering the moment for a perfectly ripe pear is something of a dark art. Miss the magic few minutes they’re just right and you’ll be wondering if it’s okay to spit or enjoy the apple like crunch. That was until the lovely people at Karma Cola got me onto a recipe that poaches them in ‘Gingerella’ ginger ale until they’re just perfect. It’s an Allegra recipe for Fairtrade week and ensures you’ll never have a crunchy pear again

Poached PearsPoached Pears Recipe
3 pears – I prefer the shorter fatter ones for this, but just make sure they’re not too ripe as they’ll fall apart in the cooking
1 vanilla pod or a couple of drops of vanilla essence
1 piece star anise
A couple of nuggets stem ginger, sliced
1 bottle Faitrade Gingerella ginger ale
1 lime
60g chocolate – milk or dark…your call

Peel the pears, then quarter and core. Choose a pan that can hold all the pear quarters in a single layer, then pour in the Gingerella. As it comes up to a simmer chuck in the vanilla, star anise, stem ginger and ginger wine if you’re heading that way.

Lay in the pear pieces and simmer then gently, uncovered for 12-20 mins (it’s a wide window as pears can be anything from rock hard so juicilicious) until a knife meets just a little resistance when you stick it in. Once ready, lift them out with a slotted spoon onto kitchen roll and leave to cool.

Sliced Ginger Gingerella

By this point the poaching liquor should be pretty reduced – you want to end up with about 4 tablespoons, so simmer it down or add a bit of hot water accordingly. Meanwhile melt the chocolate in whatever way you fancy (microwave or in a bowl over steaming water).

Use a fork to spear one of the cooled pear pieces at a time and dip the fat end of it into the chocolate, taking care not to make a big old mess, and leave to set a little then do the same with the rest.

Cut the lime into 6 wedges – squeeze two into the pan to finish off the sauce (have a quick taste as you warm it through) and have one for each of the plates.

Poached Pears and Chocolate

Paleo BlueBerry, Coconut & Banana Cookies

As I roll into my annual “must lose the spare tyre” post festive detox, I’m on the hunt for an eating plan I can, erm…get my teeth into. Forget that 5:1 diet, that’s just starvation, but ‘hello’ to Paleo.  Eat as much as you like. Avoid the carbs, dairy and basically anything that comes in a box with microwave instructions. This seems achievable right? Now I won’t lie. I’ve had a crack at this before and the results, well in my mind anyway, seemed pretty good. So I’m back on it and ready to smash out 4-weeks of nothing by grass fed meat and vegetables. What could go wrong.

Prep seems to be the key to avoiding temptation here. So armed with enough lunch boxes to host my own Tupperware party and I’m ready to go. Chicken salad lunch. Check. Almonds to graze on. Check. 11am bit of cake for my cup of tea……erm, nope.

Cookie Mix

So here’s my challenge. Create a cake that tastes like a cake, but it’s actually gluten and wheat free. So here it is.

Guilt Gluten Free Blueberry, Banana and Coconut Cakes
170g coconut flour
3 organic eggs
1tsp baking soda
1tsp ground cinnamon
2 mashed ripe bananas
125g fresh blueberries
1tbsp olive oil
60g maple syrup
Pinch of salt

Blueberries

I’ve learnt two things about coconut flour. It’s expensive and absorbs any amount of moisture like a sponge. So I needed a way to make it go a little further, plus add enough moisture to prevent it tasting like I’d just eaten some sand. To get around this I used mashed banana and packed it full of healthy blueberries. It worked a treat and it’s pretty simple.

Heat your oven up to 200°C and combine all the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl combine the banana, eggs, olive oil and maple syrup with a food mixer. Bit-by-bit add all your dry ingredients until combined. Gently fold in your blueberries.

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Baked Cakes

Don’t worry if the batter appears fairly sticky. That’s just the coconut flour, but if your want more moisture in the batter supplement some coconut flour for ground almonds. Pour the batter into a lined baking tray and smooth flat.

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Leave to cool before cutting into cake slices. Either cut into bars, or for this post I used a cookie cutter and made them into handy little handheld cakes.

Paleo Cakes

Make Stuff. Be Happy | Food & Lifestyle Blog

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