Pigeon Breasts with sour cherries & walnuts


I may be eating a predominantly vegetarian diet – but I do eat fish and occasionally chicken or meat. But I’m trying to follow my local and seasonal principles too when I indulge in a bit of flesh (not easy in landlocked Brum when it comes to fish – but I’ll consider that another time!)

I’m lucky in that as well as now having the Kings Heath Food Assembly to buy from I also live close to one of the best Farmers’ Markets in the country in Moseley http://moseleyfarmersmarket.org.uk/the-farmers/  . Due to often working on a Saturday I am not such a regular attender as I used to be, but I was fortunate to be able to get there yesterday (30th Jan) for the first one of 2016.  I was feeling somewhat under the weather with a nasty cough and general lurgy so didn’t linger too long in the cold winds caused by Storm Gertrude. But I did pick up a couple of treats.

I have never eaten pigeon before but the stall of “Good Game”, operated by Steve Powell of Cleobury Mortimer, had some enticing packs of 6 pigeon breasts for £4. I figured that would do me for 2 meals unless my vegetarian son was tempted. And I also added in a pack of venison liver which still awaits my attention in the fridge.

But I have eaten the pigeon:) I did a quick search online to find cooking method and a recipe and was taken by a Nigel Slater one from the Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jul/13/nigel-slater-pigeon-recipes I had everything required apart from the cherries – so I subsituted some dried sour cherries which whilst not being so large and juicy added a sour note that went well with the acidity of the red wine vinegar used in the sauce.

Verdict : a particularly flavoursome dish and I didn’t miss having any carbs to go with it. And I was very impressed by the pigeon breasts – cooked to perfection I think as they were still a little pink inside but not too bloody and very tender. I’ll definitely buy them again. But I may not be able to make eye contact in future with the pigeons that are the only visitors to my numerous bird feeding stations in my garden;)




Sweet Winter Slaw

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Tasked with making a dish to take to my daughter’s housewarming party I opted for my version of Ottolenghi’s Sweet Winter Slaw. I only made a couple of adaptations and they were to substitute Cavolo Nero for Savoy Cabbage and to include hazelnuts as well as macadamias, when I discovered someone  (me?!) had already eaten half the bag.  The celery in the photo is a red herring (!) – I gathered the ingredients from memory and then kept wondering at what stage I should add the celery.

I felt slightly guilty when buying mango and papaya as they don’t fit in with my aspirations to eat local, seasonal food. But hey – it was for a party and they did make a welcome sweet addition and festive touch that I don’t think a wrinkled old apple would have done. And it did result in a brief encounter with a sweet elderly woman who advised me on how to pick the best fruits and told me how she’d weaned her son on papaya fifty years ago when she lived in Africa.

And was it a success – well I guess so because I sent it on ahead and by the time I arrived at the party I was looking at an empty bowl;(

Low Carb Chia Seed & Nut Bread

I’d bought two packets of this Quick Ready Mix pack of Chia Seed & Nut Bread via Approved Food just before Christmas before I’d even started on my Plenty Food Project -I just thought it sounded interesting and was probably trying to add to my order to make the most of the delivery costs;) Anyway I thought I’d give it a go and see the results.

The packet promised “5 mins to Prepare” and that was all it took. Additional ingredients needed were eggs, and wine vinegar (presumably to work with the bicarbonate of soda in the mix to give the loaf some rise)  If you want to see how easy it was to make for yourself you can view the UGG Foods video here: 

The ingredients are :Almond meal(65%), chia seeds (11%), ground flax seeds (11%), coconut flour, bicarbonate of soda, xanthan gum, pink himalayan salt. Not a grain in sight!

And the results? A winner!  I toasted it, used it in a sandwich, dipped into soup, ate au naturel without any topping and the last bits were used as garlic croutons in Mushroom Ragout with poached egg. I have another packet and so will definitely be making another loaf very soon.

The downside – the price! I bought my packets (344g) at a significant discount (£1.99 each) from Approved Foods and having checked the Ugg Food website I discovered the price for a 454g pack is £7.95.  Even allowing for the difference in packet size it shows that the normal retail price is significantly higher – and sadly outside of my normal budget.

For anyone with real dietary restrictions due to gluten allergy I would wholeheartedly recommend this product as it provides a good loaf with a variety of uses – and it would be a great occasional treat. But for me who is simply trying to reduce my carb intake I think I’ll have to pass on price grounds for now. But I’ll be keeping a look out for any more stocks of this and other UGG products on Approved Foods – and snapping up any bargains that may come up.



Two Weeks In….


Two weeks in and going strong! Above are a selection of Ottolenghi inspired dishes I’ve enjoyed cooking and eating over the last couple of weeks. I say “inspired” because I’ve had to adapt on occasion to the ingredients I have available but there haven’t been many deviations. Swapping hen’s egg for duck egg to top my mushroom ragout – which may not have had the full variety of fungi in the original recipe – doesn’t seem like a cardinal sin.

I’ve actually cooked or prepared more dishes than this – but I seem to have omitted to photograph them all before tucking in. Must try harder!

Verdict so far

Cost? Hard to tell as haven’t kept detailed records of previous expenditure on food but allowing for stocking up or restocking additional spices etc I don’t feel I’ve spent much extra. But using large quantity of fresh herbs could add to food bill – will definitely aim to grow more in garden this year and look into what I could do for next winter. I’m usually only cooking meals for myself or myself + Aidan and try to cook enough to have leftovers next day for lunch.

Waste? No cooked food gone to waste – as too good to not want to eat leftovers. But buying veg specifically for one recipe can mean that I’ve got spare raw veg left over. Still have a dozen sprouts lingering after the sprout and tofu dish which haven’t found their way into another dish and are looking increasingly sorry for themselves. But intend to start preparing more winter salads or slaws to have for lunch or as meal accompaniments to address that problem.

Healthy eating? Certainly eating a larger variety of veg on daily/weekly basis than have done of late although would like to include more greens (all food looks a little orange at the moment).

Vegetarian? I’ve not gone completely veggie -but am probably eating more completely veggie meals particularly when I eat with Aidan. But I have got some meat in the freezer and have several times cooked a chicken breast or lamb chop to have with a vegetable concoction. The only meat I’ve bought since New Year has been some liver and bacon from Kings Heath Food Assembly (see later blog). Had liver & bacon on bed of braised veg with cauliflower mash one night and have had bacon and mushrooms a couple of times for breakfast.

Low carb? I have been low (but not zero!) carbing and have found it relatively easy using this style of cooking. I have had occasional grain – bulgar and also freekeh. And I made some low carb bread (see later blog) which lasted me a week. Suspect if want to follow a real low-carb diet I would need to reduce further at least initially and see this as a real possibility with little effort.

Time of preparation? Pleasantly surprised that haven’t spent that much longer cooking than previously – but even when have it has been enjoyable rather than a chore. I’m excited to see – and eat! – the results.

Overall verdict: Enjoyed reconnecting with food and cooking some interesting, flavoursome meals from fresh and in-season vegetables. Will definitely continue my Plenty Food Project – and will try harder to find time to write more regularly.



New Year Resolutions

I hate making resolutions because I know I will never keep them – after all if you really want to do something you’ll do it anyway. Won’t you?

But the lull between the manic stress and overindulgence of Christmas and the juiced up New Year festivities can be a time to think about the year that’s passed; and the one to come. My life changed somewhat dramatically last year having had little choice but to take redundancy from a job that I had loved and move on to new things. Having spent the summer relaxing in the belief that I had secured another job to start in September I had a sudden reality check when I was made redundant from that job before I had even started! Who said the recession was over?

But what has that to do with food, diet and cooking – and Ottolenghi? Well firstly I had to get a tight grip on my finances. Signing on whilst trying to kickstart my freelance career as a genealogist and with only a small pot of statutory redundancy money (local council!) meant I needed to reduce my spending on everything – food included. I cancelled my monthly payment to Ocado as I now had time to shop locally at Aldi, Lidl, Asda. Then I discovered www.approvedfood.co.uk and became somewhat obsessed with saving money by buying out-of-date or end-of-line foodstuffs that I would never normally buy. And whereas I had been wanting to switch to a low carb diet in an effort both to lose weight and feel more energised I was now stocking up on pasta, bread, and potatoes because they were cheap. So I’ve reached the end of the year feeling bloated and exhausted and with my cupboards full of cheap but carb-heavy foods.

But salvation was at hand:) I had asked my sister for an Ottolenghi cookbook for Christmas – I had several times borrowed Plenty and Jerusalem from the library and regularly read his Guardian column or sourced recipes from www.ottolenghi.co.uk  . For the last few years when I wanted to cook something special Yotam Ottolenghi has been the man I would turn to. The recipes can look daunting because they have often feature a dozen or more ingredients but in general the techniques are simple – and the resulting flavours are simply terrific. And whilst he isn’t a vegetarian he does some amazing recipes with vegetables at the fore and not simply as an aside. I am not vegetarian (although I didn’t eat meat for over 20 years) but my daughter has never eaten meat and my meat-loving son has recently renounced it so I am often seeking inspiration when providing for either of them.

2015-12-26 20.23.21So imagine my delight when I was presented with not one, but two, Ottolenghi books on Christmas Day: Plenty and Plenty More. As I drooled over the pictures and mentally devoured the recipes a plan started hatching in my brain. I want to use these books as the inspiration to get my diet back in gear:

  • to eat healthily
  • to reduce meat consumption
  • to eat seasonal fresh vegetables
  • to decrease my carb intake
  • to source ingredients as locally as possible
  • to reduce food waste
  • to rekindle my love of food and pleasure in cooking

So maybe I am avoiding the SMART resolutions that possibly I should be making but I hope I’m setting myself up for success rather than failure. And I’m blogging about it because it will be a record for myself and I will be able to chart my progress throughout the next 12 months.