Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sundried Tomato and Wild Garlic Pesto

As Allotment 2 Kitchen (you have to scroll through her blog, there are loads of wild garlic recipes!), I'm not yet finished with wild garlic. I think I have become addicted to wild garlic pesto. And, with white asparagus abundantly available, I got inspired by Kirsten's asparagus with pesto recipe (if you can read 'Scandinavian' go and have a look at her beautiful and vegetarian blog Kødfri fredag).

Of course I tweeked the recipe a bit (who doesn't?) and this super deli pesto came out:

I know, it's kind of a weird presentation on a tea tray-ish thingy, but hey, it was the only small and white dish I had at hand, so I hope you will forgive me. More important, here is the recipe:

~ 10 sundried tomatoes (if you are a think-ahead-type of person you can soak them in water for half an hour - I didn't of course, your blender or kitchen machine just has to work harder)
1/2 cup of walnuts
4 tablespoons of olive oil (less if you use sundried tomatoes in oil)
chili flakes or 1/2 fresh chili
2 garlic gloves
a small bunch of Italian flat parsley
a small bunch of wild garlic
herb salt and pepper to taste

put everything in your kitchen machine and chop until you have reached the desired consistency. You know I want my pesto rough and firm because I use it as spread, seasoning for soups, and and and.
You might have to add oil for your liking.

Pour over cooked white asparagus and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter Sunday in the Luisenpark in Mannheim

Easter Sunday began with beautiful and sunny weather, so we went for a stroll in the park. Although Luisenpark was created in the late 19th century, it was remodeled to its current shape in 1975 for the German Federal Garden Show. Therefore the park is filled with quite a lot of attractions, tea houses, art and animals.

We made a boat trip to the other side of the park:

on our way we met some pale flamingoes:

The tour ended at the botanical glass houses that not only showcase plants but also reptiles, snakes, fishes and the like. I'm not very fond of animals in captivity, but we went to have a look anyways:

giant piranha
Axolotls, Mexican mole salamanders, completely aquatic and gilled
 At least the butterflies seemed to be happy and contended:

Much more fun was the stork's nest on top of an aviary. You can watch them hatching their eggs via a live webcam. We also enjoyed a rhubarb drink at a lake café

With our drinks came a free 'concerto' from a frog chorus :)
We slowly walked back through 42 acres of park and arrived at the telecommunication's tower with its revolving restaurant on top. As you can see, the weather wasn't all that warm anymore and we just arrived back home before the rain and thunderstorm began.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pink Power Salad

I already mentioned the high nutritional values of quinoa in an older post. Apart from the high iron, zinc, and calcium content it is also a very good source  of essential amino acids for vegetarians. Essential amino acids cannot be synthesised by the human body itself and therefore we need to take it up with our food. Quinoa contains quite a lot of lysine which is a rather uncommon amino acid in plants and makes it so important that even the NASA is thinking of adding it to astronaut food for space missions.  The Inca called it 'mother of all grains' and although it is not a grain in the proper sense because it is not a cereal but a chenopod (goosefoot) it is power food indeed.

But my presenting of yet another quinoa recipe has more than to demonstrate the values of quinoa. I rather  want to send my 'pink power salad' to this month's No Croutons Required hosted by Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes. It is a birthday edition and you have to choose an ingredient according to your birthday. Mine is in December, so I had a choice between pasta, root vegetables, and quinoa. Of course I choose the mother of all grains and I turned it into a a 'pink power salad':

Originally I wanted to use red or black quinoa but I couldn't get any. I became quite grumpy because of this and decided to give mother nature a helping hand. I 'coloured' my quinoa myself ! With red beets! And what I got was pink quinoa :) Apart from the colour it had the pleasant effect of becoming a bit sweetish which paired quite wonderfully with the chili and acidic dressing. P and I loved it :) and even M, famous for his dislike in vegan dishes, had to admit 'it is not as bad as it looks like'. I hope you disagree concerning the looks.

Pink Power Salad

1 cup yellow quinoa
1 small red beet
4 carrots (if you can get hold of purple haze carrots, by all means, use those), sliced and cooked
2 zucchini, cut into stripes
1 medium onion, chopped
olive oil for cooking
1 red chili, sliced
chives, cut

lemon juice
tomatoe seed oil (or sunflower oil)
salt and pepper to taste

Peel and slice the beet and cook together with the quinoa in 2 cups of water. While quinoa is blushing, heat the olive oil and add chopped onion and zucchini, let stew for a couple of minutes (onion mustn't brown and zucchini mustn't get mushy). Add the cooked carrots, the zucchni-onion mixture, the chopped chili and chives to the drained quinoa (remove the beet and use it for something else, you wouldn't want to throw it away, I used it as decoration in a carrot soup). Pour over the dressing and let stand for 30 minutes.

I served it with a garam masala swede pie from mangocheeks' blog. A lovely recipe, worth trying out and all vegan. The 'egg' that holds the filling together was  actually the mashed swede. Hilarious!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Potato and wild garlic salad

The idea for this salad came from mangocheeks at allotment2kitchen. It's not too different from the potato salad I usually make and I could use some of my last bunches of wild garlic.

Cook potatoes and cut in slices. Add some hot broth, a can of mixed beans (feel free to cook them from scratch), and minced wild garlic. Make a dressing from white wine vinegar, sunflower oil, salt and pepper. That's it! Fast food again (apart from  the 30 minutes for cooking the potatoes).
The beans make this salad quite substantial, P and I enjoyed it for brunch.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Wild Garlic and Walnut Pesto

I couldn't resist! The wild garlic harvest nears it's end so I had to chop up some of the last leaves :)

This time I tried walnuts instead of the much milder pine nuts or cedar nuts:

And I made it into a quick supper since I was alone and came back late from a evening lecture at the planetarium. The pesto was ready even before the pasta had finished cooking, so it was real fast food.

I make my pesto quite firm because I also use it as a spread (crusty bread with tomato slices and homemade pesto ... yummy!). So if I use it on pasta I have to add some cooking water and/or olive oil to make it more saucy.

I actually liked the pine nuts better, the walnuts nearly drowned the wild garlic taste. But it could also have been less garlicky because near the end of the season, wild garlic is simply less garlicky and the oxalic acid emerges more strongly.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Kitchoan's Wagashi - Tsuyaguri (Bean Cake) Review

There is still one wagashi from Kitchoan London left  to be reviewed (we ate the others before taking a photo). This one is a chestnut wagashi with a really nice texture and a sweet bean filling which was, however, a bit overwhelming for the (tiny!) piece of chestnut hidden in it.

Ingredients: Granulated sugar, sugared kidney beans, chest nut paste, water, starch syrup, agar-agar, chestnut, yellow colour E 102, gardena, caramel, sodium sulfite

While the texture of the chestnut paste (outer layer of the wagashi) was pretty good, the whole chestnut was more or less drowned by the bean paste. There should definitely be a bigger piece of chestnut in it (I don't even ask for whole one). Even considering that I make lousy photos, they look not a quarter as good as  the ones on Kitchoan's webpage:

But let's have a look at the ingredients. Looking at Kitchoan's photo you would think that there was actually a whole chestnut in it. However, the main content is ... sugar. But then, you already knew you would buy a treat and not a healthy meal, so I don't have a real problem with that.
What I didn't like (especially since they are advertising all natural Japanese sweets) is the addition of tartrazine (E102) and sodium sulfite (E221). Not only are they not natural products, but both of them are not without risks, especially for allergic and sensitive people. Tartrazine which gives the nice yellow colour (and btw is forbidden to add to food  in Norway) can cause real problems if you are allergic to salicylic acid (that's aspirin) and benzoic acid. It also adds to ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Many people (including me) are sensitive to sulfite, so if you get headaches from wine, suffer from migraines or are asthmetic you should avoid sulfites. There may not be a lot in a single wagashi but then, it adds up because unfortunately sodium sulfite is a very popular ingredient.

Was it worth 3 £ each? I'm afraid not. If you want to have tasty and fresh wagashi with all natural indgredients and are not residing  in Japan, I fear you have to make your own ones. Look at the fabulous webpage of Wagashi Maniac for ideas and recipes or if you can read Japanese search the cookpad recipe collections.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Of potholders and possum wool

I desperately needed new potholders, so I unpacked my crochet hooks, crawled into my stash (yes, it's not a heap of wool, it's a mountain) and made a quick potholder for myself. Nothing fancy, size mattered (I love the larger ones, like 20 cm/8 in) and I needed it now; so here it is:

And while crocheting I even found time to read Tichiro's excellent knitting blog (she actually distastes crochet, she is a hard core knitter). Tichiro attended a fibre crafts' trade fair in Cologne recently and reported about it on her blog. Apart from 'monster yarns' (finger or even hot-dog thick yarns), beautiful Koigu merino wool, she also had a picture of Lanamania's super soft possum wool. ... Wait, possum wool?

Although the thought of soft possum fur bade to snuggle the possum wool against your cheeks I wanted to know a bit more about it since I had some woolly thoughts in my head (especially the thought that possums can't be sheared).
In 1837 possums were introduced into New Zealand from Australia. Not by accident, mind you, but by the fur trade. The problem with this unruly animals was, that they just withered away when kept in cages (in contrast to minks which therefore have to suffer an extended time span before they get killed and transformed into fashion products). So it was probably best (for the fur industry) to set them free and kill them like you do with seal, again to get some fashionable products. Problem was, that possums were protected (and I believe still are in Australia). But money is resourceful and with enough stamina you can lobby your way into many a things. In 1936 possums were declared a 'pest' by law and have been hunted down since then.

On the Knitter's addiction web page, they accidentally also sell possum wool, they say that there are more possums then people in New Zealand (9 millions vs. 3. 5 million), but then so are sheep which amount to 33 million (but what do I know...).
Anyway, I want to cite something from their web page, like possum facts and why they are evil and mean and worth to be clubbed to death and transformed into wool:

"Humans have no natural predators in New Zealand and have put many other species under threat because they are destroying the natural habitat" ( Oops, Freudian slip...please exchange possums for humans.

"The possum is actually quite aggressive and will fight if disturbed". Well, you can't change anything here, because humans fight even if not disturbed (does this make the possum more civilised than a human?)

But then again, what do I know. All I can do is show you some possum photos and you can decide if you want to buy possum wool or not.

This is a possum with its wool still on:
This is a possum in the wool making:

I suggest to go to the airgunner forum to see more stills of the process.

At the moment the fur industry, sorry, slip again, the Department of Conservation (DOC) is using Sodium monofluoroacetate (also called 1080) to poison the possums. Which is actually a good idea, since you can then just pick up the carcasses and make wool out of them. Simple! In case you want a vivid description of how the poison slowly works, look here.

The DOC has also a pdf file describing any harmful implications concerning 1080. The good thing is, it will eventually get  into the groundwater (after all New Zealand uses up 80 % of the world production and by aerial applications spreads 2.3 tonnes a year over their beautiful island) and from there into plants and up the food chain. So eventually the possum's biggest predator will one day have killed itself. But until then you can still buy possum wool. If you are neither vegetarian nor animal lover go ahead and enjoy! But then, what do I know....

Garden Museum, London

Have you ever been to the Garden Museum in London? No? If not you should stop there next time you are in London whether you actually own a garden or not. This is for the following reasons:

a) the walk from the tube station to the museum is fabulous
coming from Westminster station you first have to cross the Thames and while doing so you can enjoy the view of the London Eye:
Then of course, you can see Westminster and Big Ben

or just have a look at the magnificent lamp posts along Lambeth Road:

b) the building of the garden museum is actually an old church and opposite of its entrance you can still admire old gravestones and grave slabs

c) there is a marvellous vegetarian café inside the museum with daily changing lunch menu (I had spicy kale with chickpeas, potatoes, and hummus)

d) they have all kinds of events during the year (it was potatoe day when I came and they sold heirloom potatoes and seeds)

e) you can avoid the terribly long queues at the Natural History Museum

Monday, April 11, 2011

Gathering Wild Garlic

Today M and me decided to go and hunt some wild garlic. So off we went to Neckarsteinach, a small village next to the River Neckar and started with a cup of coffee and a ratatouille galette in a small café overlooking the river and its castles. Thus refreshed we took a stroll through the Nibelung Park:

This is supposed to be Hagen of Tronje, King Gunther's vassal, but honestly I think in real life he was much much more attractive:

Despite various distractions we made it to a spot with wild garlic. It was not ideal since the gathered bear garlic didn't have this intense smell it should have but was only slightly garlicky. But it was still good enough to make a nice soup for this evening (this recipe from Mestolo). I used wild garlic for several pestos (yummie with pine nuts but also with cedar nuts) and a delicious pasta bake (the lower right corner is totally vegan with breadcrumbs and olive oil while the rest is made with cheese on top for my ovo-lacto family members).

In case you want to know, just throw together pasta, cauliflower, carrots, and runner beans. Prepare a white roux with dairy-free milk, blend a big bunch of wild garlic with half a cup of your sauce and mix everything together. Add breadcrumbs on top and sprinkle with some olive oil. Now bake it a bit less long than I did and you have a wonderful garlicky pasta bake :)