Archive for March, 2008

“Green” Furniture and Homewares

Otto Oak Desk

As we’ll be needing a fair amount of new stuff when we move back, I’ve been starting to wonder how to do a major amount of shopping and stay green. I’ve just found One Eco Home which looks like it might be worth a look for furniture and other round-the-house bits and pieces. I particularly love the Oak Desk, but I might need to hide the price tag to get it past my wife! 

They also have a Green Interior Design Service which might come in useful with the inevitable bathroom / kitchen questions. And there is a fascinating eco library with details on fabrics, flooring, plastic, wood and upholstery – well worth a browse.

Is the end of cheap food a good thing?

Blimey, that’s a controversial thought!

Tuesday’s Sydney Morning Herald was trumpeting “the end of cheap food” with world prices rising, and Biofuel production eating into already failing croplands.

98% of me recoils against this idea, but there’s 2% of me that’s listening to WRAP‘s stats on the waste of food in the UK. You can check out the facts at the Love Food Hate Waste website :

  • A third of food in the UK is wasted – just try it at home – bring three bags of shopping in , then take one straight out to the bin again – it’s a SCANDAL.
  • That wasted food is the CO2 equivalent to taking 20% of the cars off the road – that’s right – 1 in 5 cars.
  •  The figures are just ridiculous – 6.7 million tones of food every year, with an estimated cost of £8 billion per year.

So let’s just think about this. We put taxes on petrol to stop people driving, to save the planet. But the CO2 equivalent of 1-in-5 cars is WASTED by us all throwing food away.

So maybe more expensive food is a good thing – it’ll make us value it more, make more people grow their own, and reduce the waste that’s going on?

Of course, that’s in an ideal world . . . in reality, I’m sure that the most waste comes from the wealthiest households, those least affected by the price rises (and by the petrol taxes) so when is somebo0ody going to come up with a solution that is not weath based? That really is the question.

Anyway, while we’re all pondering the big questions of life . . . here are a couple of great links to help make a small difference on our own waste levels. Abby at the Daily Tiffin talking about planning and storage, and Aidan Brooks (an Apprentice Chef) with a whole heap of useful links.

And don’t forget – fill out your own Food Waste Diary to see if the problem begins at home! I’ll have a go with ours, and see how we go.

Cider! Yum!

God, I’ve missed decent Cider!

Just look at this amazing range of ciders, and cider brandies. I might end up spending all of December and January in a apple-scented drunken haze.

A confession . . .

Morel MushroomsI have a confession to make . . . a secret desire that has been with me for many years . . . a quiet obsession, rarely glimpsed . . . I have a “thing” for mushrooms.

I think it must have started when I was a student, when large serves of fried mushrooms and onions seemed to be my vegetable of choice, although, casting my mind back further, I can remember my father frying panfuls of them and insisting that lashings of butter were the key. One of the things I have missed since we left the UK is the easy availability of Chestnut Mushrooms, which Sainsbury’s used to stock right next to the generic Buttons. They used to be just-exotic-enough to keep my habit in check, but it’s been nearly a decade since we left so now I am having real cravings for good, cheap exotic mushrooms.

With mushroom prices skyrocketing, our dreams of a decent kitchen garden in the UK have lead me to believe there could be a green, budget solution to my vice: grow-your-own mushroom kits. These seem to be available for a whole range of my favourite exotics – Chestnut, Shiitake & Oyster – and you can even get kits to grow Morels! That’s right – the most sought-after of wild mushrooms can be grown at home. I must admit, I’ve never tried one . . . that’s right . . . a confessed mushroom fanatic that has never eaten a Morel – Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall would be shocked, and so would the thousands of Morel lovers around the world. So I am going to make amends – they will have a place in our new kitchen garden and I’ll finally be able to try them without choking on the $40/kg price tag. The kit I’m looking at is this one – Kit for growing Giant Morels – it’s £40 but looks like great fun, with a good foodie result at the end of our hard work.

I think the Morels can go on my wishlist for now, while I find out how truly easy/impossible they are to grow, and find some great recipes.

More inspiration from Bean Sprouts

Amazing how the littlest things can mean so much . . . I opened today’s post from Melanie over at Bean Sprouts where she’s getting ready to plant for this year. She’s already planting raspberries – probably my favourite fruit, and her rhubarb is just starting to come up.

I’m so jealous I even failed to notice her comments about how dreadful the weather has been 😀 I love the North West!

Mmmmm. I’d better dig out my rhubarb crumble recipe – a great family favourite!

Scribbled Planting Wishlist for our Vege Patch

Need to empty my head of this, my first thoughts on what I want to find out more about for our vege patch:

  • Globe Artichokes
  • Golden & normal Beetroot
  • Potatoes – preferably something a little special, maybe low GI, or heritage varieties
  • Mushrooms – Chestnut, Morels, Shiitake, Oyster
  • Garlic
  • No green beans! (request from my wife)
  • Beans for Cassoulet?
  • Mange Tout
  • Red Onions (and some brown?)
  • Tomatoes – probably cherry/sweetheart
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Parsnips
  • Pumpkin
  • Peppers?

Plus some fruit:

  • Rhubarb
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries (a few for the kids)

And the herbs:

  • Rosemary
  • Sage – varied
  • Mints
  • Thyme
  • Oregano/Marjoram
  • Chives
  • Flat-leaf parsley
  • Bay Tree

There – a nice simple wish list 🙂 – I wonder how this will evolve over the next year, as I realise that we don’t have 10 acres to plant!

Keeping the world at Bay

I’ve always loved herb gardens – the instant escape from reality brought on by the scent of crushing rosemary, basil or sage, and there’s something wonderful about being able to grab a sprig or bunch to add interest to a plain dish, or to add the finishing touches to something special. So much better than a fuel-guzzling dash to the shops for a soggy, floppy plastic-wrapped $4 packet! 

Bay leaves have always been a little on the outer edge of my plans. I have never used them enough in the kitchen, so we always end up with a dusty jar of crumbling, greying relics, which hardly demonstrate the best flavours.  I suspect I was ruined for them as a child after occasionally eating the odd stray Bay twig in an otherwise-delicious stew – it’s not an experience easily forgotten.

Nigel Slater, in the Observer has stirred some interest in me though, and it may well make it onto our planting list. I can’t say I’m too convinced on sweet uses for bay leaves, but here’s just a dash of his delicious thoughts on savoury uses:

“Where bay leaves are really worth using with a devil-may-care attitude is with potatoes and meat. I have cooked Maris Pipers, thinly sliced, with whole leaves and cream, and this week let six of them infuse in the warm milk for mashed potatoes to give a sloppy, slightly herbal puree. Steeping pork in a marinade of olive oil and bay gives a fine roast, and that delicious yet curiously unattractive Italian dish of pork that has been allowed to cook long and slow with milk is improved 10 times over with bay leaves in the clotted cooking juices.”


I’ll have to do a little research on sizes, and best locations, but I think this adds a bay tree to my “probable” list!

I’ve snipped his full mash recipe as I just HAVE to try this – it’s just after the fold.

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