On the Table and In the Garden in January

carrot-soupHow did it get to be February already? Every time I wander into the garden I see more signs of spring, the bulbs are peeking through and the early snowdrops are starting to flower. I know that we might still see snow, but just for today I’m thnking we might be at the tail end of winter.

January on the table was mostly about soups, hearty stews and substantial puddings. We needed “stodge” to see us through the cold, dark afternoons. I stuck pretty close to my January meal plan and it has definitely saved us money (a household bill of £193). Scroll down to the end of this post if you’re interested in what we spent and how we could save more. The highlight was Diana Henry’s book Simple, which has fed us well. Our favourite has to be the Red Lentil and Pumpkin Dal, which also wins the prize for “meal that most looked the picture in the book”. We also swapped out the pumpkin for sweet potato a couple of times, equally delicious.

diana-henry-dal

You can pop over here to Diana’s website for a list of her books and some great recipes. It’s hard to recommend just one of her books, I love them all. She “sits” on the shelf between Nigel Slater and Sophie Grigson. I like to think of it as the  “hope they are as nice in real life as they write and appear on tv” category! Talking of Nigel Slater, his easy  Hot Chocolate Pudding from Appetite has appeared on the table more than once. Served with a dollop of creme fraiche it doesn’t photograph well, but it’s so easy and delicious. The recipe is available online on the Telegraph website, so why not pop over and give it a try. It’s the perfect last minute bake and gluten free, which is a bonus.

hot-choc-pudding

As we move into February, I’m starting to think about plans for the veg plot. Last year we stuck to “old favourites” like peas, onions and potatoes. This year I’d like to be more adventurous again. Of course the fruit bushes and artichokes look after themselves, giving regular crops. This makes me a bit lazy and I must learn not to rely on the perennials. We still have a few leeks in the ground and onions in storage, and I’ve noticed the herb pots in the greenhouse are starting to look more “awake”. The parsley has seen us right through the winter and it looks like the chives and oregano I hid in a corner have fresh growth. I wish we had put more potatoes in pots, it was such a joy to have home grown “new” potatoes at Christmas, but they didn’t last long.  The daffodils and early bulbs are making strong growth, and the woodpecker is still visiting daily. The Goldfinches are still perching on the fennel heads, in the vain hope they might have missed a few seeds, and they sulk if the bird feeder gets too empty. The robins (we still have two regular visitors) are so bold now, they hop at our feet every time we venture out. Sometimes I oblige them by digging over a small patch of earth or pulling back a few dead leaves, which seems to make them very happy. I know it’s wrong to give them human characteristics, but they do seem to puff up and look so pleased with themselves when they root out a small grub from the freshly dug soil.

Indoors, I have been working hard on new designs. I still haven’t got much to share as contracts insist I keep things a secret, but work is steady and that’s a good thing. Don’t forget, if it’s mostly the knitting and crochet you’re looking for, head over here for updates on my latest pattern releases.

So, that was January. Dull, damp and gloomy it may have been. But our house was filled with laughter, good company and great food. That has to be a “win” surely?

Happy making x

 

What we ate and what we spent in January

Mostly, we stuck to the meal plan for January, and our household bills came to £193. I think that’s pretty good, especially as we both work from home, that works out at about £6 a day for all our food, cleaning products, toothpaste and toiletries. Of course we’re lucky that a well stocked freezer and larder mean we always have access to  herbs, spices and every day essentials. And, it certainly helps that we have garden produce. I did think about ways we could cut down this bill if we had to and came up with a few things I’m just not prepared to compromise on. When Mr T was made redundant many years ago, we mostly lived on value ranges –  bread (10p a loaf), beans (3p a tin) and tinned tomatoes (7p) – I feel so lucky that we came through that scary year unscathed and still able to live well. I also believe (perhaps wrongly) that supermarkets are still led by customer demand, so if I keep buying Fairtade or British products they’ll respond by offering more and better choices.

So here’s my “no compromise” list

Local meat, often from the farm gate or butchers I trust – supermarket own brand would be cheaper I know.

Decent coffee, usually Fairtrade – we only drink one cup a day and even buying top of the range is still cheaper than I’ve seen people pay in “Costabucks for a latte!

Organic, local, fresh in season veg – using what we have definitely saves us money – but I won’t give up my Fairtade bananas!

Tinned beans and pulses – yes, dried are cheaper.  After a busy day it’s so much easier to reach for a can of lentils or chick peas, these are my “ready meals”.

Indulgences we could do without

We’re still working our way through the dozen bottles of wine we bought at Christmas – dry January? Not in this house!

 

 

 

 

 

What We Ate in 2016

chocolate covered candied peel

Candies orange peel – we used the juice to make a citrus cheesecake.

Looking back over last years food diary, it would appear the Todhunters ate very well. Inspired by Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Dairies, last year I resolved to keep a journal of what we grew, cooked and ate. I am starting to regret not blogging about it here – especially when I checked the stats yesterday and realised just how many of you still visit this website every day (far more than my “official website”). So, in case any of you are interested, or simply looking for a bit of frugal food inspiration for the year ahead here are a few highlights.

Delicious lemon buns from Bake me a Cake as Fast as You Can

Delicious lemon buns from Bake Me a Cake as Fast as You Can

All our meals  are inspired by the cookery books on my kitchen shelves and local library.  The most thumbed is a school exercise book which contains hand written recipes dating back to my student days – when we ate frugal food because we had to, not because it tasted so good!! These days, we just eat the food we like. It happens that we grow a lot of our herbs and veg, so we eat seasonally.

A glut of radishes meant we discovered lots of great recipes

A glut of radishes meant we discovered lots of great recipes

We grew lots of old favourites and ate well on the produce from our home veg plot.

New potatoes, grown in the green house and dug up for Christmas lunch

New potatoes, grown in the green house and dug up for Christmas lunch

The highlight of 2016 had to be Rachel Allen’s Nectarine Frangipane, which I made for New Year. It’s been on my list of recipes to try for most of the year, but the right occasion never presented itself. You can find the recipe in Rachel’s book Every Day Kitchen. We eat from this book at least once a month, the fish curry  is a firm favourite. Sadly, we demolished this too quickly for me to pause and take a photo – and young Miss T and her boyfriend took the left overs home with them! You can find a link to the Frangipane recipe on my Baking and Making Pinterest board. You cn also find a selection of recipes on Rachel’s website.

So, happy 2017 and welcome back to the Baking and Making blog. I just want to thank all of you who have dropped by over the past few months expecting something new and been disappointed.  I shall be adding a page with my favourite  store cupboard ingredients shortly and a page listing my January meal plan. As the year progresses I’ll add links to the recipes as we make them. If you have any recommendations for frugal, tasty family food I would love to see them, so leave me a link to your blog or Instagram.

Happy making x

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Recipe: Parsnip and Coconut Soup

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You might think this would be a strange combination, but it works. Using up the leftovers before we make our pre christmas visit to family, I found a bag of parsnips looking rather sorry for themselves. I fried 2 finely chopped onions, a clove of garlic and a small piece of fresh ginger until golden. Then I added chopped parsnips, a teaspoon of garam masala and poured on cold water to cover. The soup was left to simmer until the parsnips were soft. To finish, I added the remains of a pot of fresh coriander leaves and blended until smooth. Finally the soup was returned to the pan and I added half a can of coconut milk left over from last night’s thai chicken. Season to taste and serve warm with crusty bread. Now I need to find a use for some rather wrinkly carrots….

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Recipe: Lentil Soup

If you can stir a carton of soup you can make this. It started off as a way to use up some rather tired looking vegetables, but is now a firm favourite. Feel free to experiment with your favourite veg and flavourings. It also freezes very well.

Ingredients:

200g red lentils

1 litre of stock (or water if you don’t have decent stock)

2 carrots, 2 sweet potatoes and one onion

Oil or butter for frying

Salt and pepper

Method

Fry the onion in oil or butter until soft and transparent, add the water and the lentils, bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes. Add the rest of the veg (chopped into small pieces or chunky depending on your preference). Continue to simmer until the veg is soft. Season to taste and if you like a smoother soup, use a potato masher or hand blender to  mash the soup gently and stir to a smoother consistency.

Pour into bowls and serve with a dollop of creme fraiche and some fresh chopped coriander. This is comfort food at its best and easiest.

Variations:

Try adding a teaspoon of ground cumin to the soup while cooking or a handful of fresh coriander. We’ve also tried adding the zest and juice of an orange. The beauty of  cooking your own is there are no rules!


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  • I’m Tracey Todhunter. I’m a freelance writer. specialising in green / ethical living – with a “sideline” in craft!

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  • When you look up from the tv and realise outside is far more interesting! Happy Bank Holiday weekend everyone. I shall mostly be harvesting onions, drinking g&t and reminding myself how lucky we are to have this view.
#slowliving #thankful #girlgardener #mygardenrightnow #cheshirelife #thewayweliveinthecountry #permaculture Finished a new shawl. Far too hot to wear it, but luckily my shed is a great backdrop! Yarn is King Cole Riot. 
#crochet #crochetgirlgang #neverenoughshawls #sheshed #madenotmanufactured #crochetlove Free food! Next best thing to growing your own food is eating other people's homegrown. I'm looking after my neighhour's garden & boy does he have a lot of radishes just now! I have written a blog post about more of my favourite (almost) free foods. Link in profile, now I'm off to pickle these radishes.
#frugalfood #foraging #ediblegarden #growyourownfood #girlgardener #allotmenteering #eattheseasons #permaculture  #zerowaste #slowliving #gardentotable #organicgardening #forktofork I'll admit it, I grow this mostly for it's amazing colour - but the stems are delicious sauted with chorizo or streaky bacon!
#mygardenrightnow #girlgardener #girlsthatgarden #permaculture #growyourown #ediblegarden #bakingandmaking #slowliving #organicgardening I do love a formal garden. I walk through this one every Friday on my way to knit group.  Castle Park is a hidden gem.
#gardens #castlepark #parksandgardens Thanks @simplycrochetmag for featuring my crochet picnic basket :) The pattern is available  now in Simply Crochet celebrations edition. You'll need a cardboard box to upcycle & some chunky cotton yarn, I used DMC Natura XL & finished it off with leather buckles from Bag Clasps. 
#crochet #crochetgirlgang #upcycling #reloved #crochet #makersgonnamake #lovecrochet
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