Lately I have been getting back to fermented food. It’s just that it’s very tasty and, some say, quite healthy. Also, I come from a food culture where fermented food is part of the daily diet. Kefir in particular is used quite a lot especially during warmer summer months. My kinfolk and I eat it with boiled potatoes or make cold soup with beetroot called ‘šaltibarščiai’ (which from Lithuanian translates as ‘cold borscht’). It’s a delicious pink soup that I make for everyone who hasn’t tried it yet. I promise to share the recipe soon, but this post is not about that. This is me talking about having milk kefir grains and having incessant supply of kefir at home. If you’re in a similar situation here is a recipe you can try.
1 cup Almond kefir (made with almond milk and milk kefir grains)
very ripe mango (can’t stress that enough, how important it is that mango is ripe, all flavour depends on it)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cardamonn
1 tbsp sweetener- honey, maple syrup or other
Blend everything in a blender and enjoy. Kefir makes it all very refreshing and it truly tastes better on a hot day!
While running my eyes around Cat’s and George’s house it felt like my perfect home- a big old wooden table, a bright kitchen overlooking a rustic garden with herbs and tall trees behind it. Little details everywhere made me feel so happy inside knowing that there are people who appreciate similar things in life.
That sunny and happy Monday morning we sat and shared Cat’s home-made bread, her partner George’s scrambled eggs and a bowlful of stories..with apple butter on top. It was one of those conversations that sinks in and leaves you feeling warm and nourished long after it’s over.
Cat has travelled and lived in many places, so much so that there is no place she is particularly attached to. She shared a home-baked bread recipe, that makes you feel quite homey.
George is also well-travelled, including some spontaneous trips such as one day going to Paris with his suitcases and no particular plan. His roots are in Minessota, where amongst other things he used to be an eggman (I didn’t dare asking). He shared a scrambled eggs recipe.
Cat’s Bread Recipe
This is a simple recipe for a home-baked bread. Mix it in the evening, bake it and eat it next morning. Easy to make and has few ingredients. If anyone feels intimidated to make their own bread this perhaps could inspire them to take that step.
Ingredients (makes two loaves)
6 cups of flour (half white, half wholemeal). You can use any flour you’ve got at home.
1/3 cup of mixed seeds
1 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
3 1/4 cups water
Mix all the ingredients and leave it on the counter covered overnight, or for 8 hours.
Grease the tins and put the dough in. Let it rise for about 1.5 hours. Then bake for about 40 minutes at 235C degrees if you’d like brown crust.
George’s Scrambled Eggs
You are free to improvise with ingredients, but some herbs and spices is a great addition!
1 finely diced onion
fresh herbs: parsley, chives
salt and pepper
1-2 slices of bacon
1/2 cup of milk
Fry the onion. Then add all the other ingredients, except for eggs. Fry them till browned.
Beat the eggs in a bowl with milk. Then add them to the pan with all the other ingredients.
Jo has a very special garden (special to me), in that there are lots of things you can eat from it which as far as I’m concerned is the best thing a garden can have. It’s also a very nice garden to hang out, it has some cosy corners and chairs.
I love Jo’s cooking philosophy (first and foremost I love that she has one); she tries to cook something everyday that is either grown or foraged by her. When I was invited over I thought I would be having a bowl of nettle soup but Jo turned it into a feast with friends and lots of food. What a great and inspiring idea! Too good to be ignored.
At the outset of this project I said there would be events as a follow-up of blog-posting where people will gather, share food and just have a good relaxing time together. It seems my words are taking very visible and physical shape. I intend to carry on with the feasting by finding interesting and forgotten spaces in Adamsdown and Splott for us to have pop-up dinners.
This last year I made a small challenge for myself – to eat something from the garden or foraged everyday. Somedays its just a few chives, or something out of the freezer, my aim is to grow all the greens I need to eat.
Nettle soup came to a whole new level when I discovered it all comes together on a different level with a parsnip or two.
This year I discovered our allotment is even bigger than we thought, so we went about clearing around the blackcurrant bushes and lots of nettles sprung up. I liked to pick them at the allotment as I can be sure there have been no chemical sprays.
I’ve lived in Adamsdown for 10 years, walking distance to the city but still have room for a garden of herbs, strawberries and little fruit trees I planted myself. I’ve been giving attention to having more of a sense of belonging here in Cardiff and having NINE friends around the house for soup, salad and some wonderful baked apples that Lara made was really special. I’d love Adamsdown to get a bit greener, I would like to give planters with flowers to the neighbours on my street, but I feel a bit shy, that might be my next challenge.
Parsnip and Nettle soup for 9
Several sprigs of thyme
Veggie stock. I use a big teaspoon of swiss vegetable bouillon and enough water to cover the veg.
about 100g of nettles (wear a glove and pick only the top few leaves, it can all get a bit stringy if the nettles are too old)
pinch of salt and pepper
3-4 tbsp of cream (optional)
1.Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Add and soften a chopped leek and onion
2. Add 4 chopped parsnips, 2 potatoes. Bring to the boil and simmer.
3. When all the veg has cooked add about a third to half a carrier bag of nettles.
4. Two minutes later whizz with a whizzer.
5. Add a pinch of salt and pepper
6. Once in the bowl add a little cream if you like.
Easter weekend drew nearer and nearer and all we had were vague plans to “go West”, but when Easter suddenly arrived, it was North East that we went.
Those West Wales plans fell apart on the Saturday. Struggling to find inspiration on the map, and determined to avoid the car, our eggshell minds cracked and we heard a little chick cluck out “Middle Ninfa Campsite”, and that was that. We’d read about this campsite a while ago, made a note, and here was an opportunity to explore – the route just laid itself out for us:
A train to Merthyr and then cycling the rest of the way; Taff Trail to Talybont-on-Usk, along the Canal to Llanfoist and just 1km up to the Campsite. Google maps told us to expect 3.5 hrs in the saddle, we figured 6 to allow for slowness (and enjoyment).
I checked my watch, 1.30pm. Rain tapped at the glass of the train doors as they slid open, letting us out into a cold and dreary Easter Sunday in Merthyr. All shops were shut, and our short wet cycle through the town centre would have been silent were it not for the hubbub from the pubs.
The Taff Trail threaded us through the old streets of Merthyr and eventually took us up to the reservoirs. The rain was capricious: occasionally merciful, stopping to let us dry off, and moments later cruel and juvenile, bursting down upon us when we were enjoying some magical moment – pausing to take a photo of the steam train running along the hillside or savouring our picnic beside the waterfalls.
The downpours and the uphill cycle had almost broken our spirits by the time we were gazing across at Blaen y Glyn. The magic that came next will be known to those of you who’ve done this part of the Taff Trail: a downhill track for what seems like an impossible time, at the end of which you find yourself not deep below the earth’s crust as you might expect but in Talybont-on-Usk.
It was there the rain nearly caught us again, but this time we had a cosy pub to hide inside – with a hot cup of tea, two complementary chocolate eggs (and no questions asked).
From Talybont (and for the rest of the trip) the canal took centre stage. Dog walkers, canal boaters, slow travellers, wild pheasants, inquisitive cattle and the quiet of the canal.
Perhaps it was basking in all this enchantment or pausing for photos with the giant redwood that slowed us down, or maybe google maps was just fantasising when it said “3.5hrs”, but somehow we found ourselves at 10pm in the dark, pushing our bikes up (and up and up) the 2km from Llanfoist to Middle Ninfa Campsite.
It was most definitely worth it. The family who owns Middle Ninfa are extremely hospitable, their farm is incredibly charming and the view from that hill is one of the best things you can wake up to.
It was Easter Monday morning and the sun shone brightly as we made our way back to the Canal. The yellow fields of rapeseed lit up the valley below and the muddy brown waters of the canal lead us on like a mini mississippi snaking around the hillsides.
We arrived in Pontypool just in time for the train back to Cardiff, bringing us in at 1.30pm, our little Easter adventure complete.
Total Time: 25 hrs
Distance: 50 miles on the train + 45 miles cycling (approx.)
‘A typical lunch for me is a doorstop piece of a granary toast; then I get a tin of plain sardines drained and mash them up in a bowl along with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Spread that on to the toast, then I pile up all my favourite things on top for lots of flavour and nutrients. Usually a rocket, chopped up small beetroot, a spring onion, a radish, a cucumber and tomatoes, topped off with capers, coriander and a drizzle of hot garlic sauce and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. It’s a yummy cheap quick and a nutritious meal.’
If you don’t have all of the ingredients for Asha’s lunch, I say, do it anyway. After days of putting it off I decided I would give it a go with what I can find in my kitchen. Instead of a granary toast I used a slice of a sourdough bread, skipped the hot garlic sauce as I’m not the one for spices, nor did I have any beetroots. And yet it turned out to be a beautiful mouth-watering snack for lunch. This recipe is totally open for creativity and improvisation, the basis of it is a slice or two of bread, and some sardines, the toppings can vary.
A slice or two of bread
2-3 sardines from a tin
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tomato, chopped
1/4 of cucumber, chopped
1-2 radishes, chopped
1 small beetroot, chopped
fresh herbs (can be coriander, parsley or dill), chopped
some salad leaves
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1-2 Tbsp of capers sprinkled on top
Mash sardines and mix in some lemon juice, salt and pepper. Spread it on bread and top it with different vegetables, salad leaves, herbs, and seeds. You can add a sauce if you have one. Enjoy!!!
If you live in Adamsdown then you’ve heard of Clifton street. It’s the heart of the Adamsdown universe, where people shop, get their hair cut and tattoos inked, meet a neighbour for coffee, a nata and co, hire fancy dress, taste Brasilian street food, and much much more. It is one of the most diverse streets in Cardiff. If you’ve been there, you’ve probably passed by or have had your clothes altered at Sierra Tailors maybe even by Alie. He alters and repairs the clothes and also creates his own designs from recycled materials for his fashion design course.
The recipe Alie shared is typical for West African cuisine, and includes different root vegetables (big, long and sometimes hairy). Getting the products for this recipe was a journey of exploration. I’ve finally confirmed my suspicions that that big green banana is not a banana but a plantain. It is eaten only cooked- boiled or fried – and is usually used in savoury dishes such as stews.
This recipe has had some adjustments that I made. Usually it has crayfish and some smoked fish on top of that both of which I didn’t include. On reflection, having some fish is a good idea to balance out the sweet flavours of a plantain and a sweet potato. I also ommited some hot spices that Alie recommended which would again have complemented the sweet flavours. You can follow the recipe bellow or you can take it as a suggestion and work out the best flavour combinations for you.
(From top to bottom: yam, sweet potatoes, plantains)
Mark, the baker, once used to live in Adamsdown and work at a workers co-operative on Clifton street called ‘Hungry Planet’. Some Adamsdown residents still recall those days with a bit of nostalgia. ‘Hungry Planet’ was a healthfood store, a cafe and a bakery with its core values being positive social change, ethical and sustainable food.
Sadly,’Hungry Planet’ had to close its doors a few years ago. After the closure Mark still continued baking bread and grew it into something new, something that provides Cardiff with healthy and tasty sourdough bread. ‘Riverside Sourdough’, an artisan sourdough bread bakery was born and has been running ever since.
Mark shared his daily breakfast recipe which is a selection his favourite ingredients thrown together to create a really nourishing and satisfying breakfast. Perfect if you’re hungry.
6-7 leaves of steamed kale or chard, or other greens
a few slices of feta cheese, cubed
a handful of sauerkraut, or other fermented vegetables
a slice or two of sourdough (Mark usually has a gluten-free or spelt bread)
1-2 tinned sardines or boiled egged, chopped, if not using sardines
1-2 tbsp of pumpkin, sunflower, sesame seeds mixture
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1.Prepare the seed mixture. Toast the seeds in the pan on a low heat for about 6 minutes. Leave to cool. Add tamari or soya sauce.
This is the recipe Jannet remembers from her childhood. She as a child would sit round the table with other kids eagerly waiting while their dad was making them fried bread and jam, a recipe he learned while away in the army.
It’s very simple, very delicious and great for breakfasts. In order to enhance the flavour, I recommend sprinkling a bit of nutmeg on top of bread. Nutmeg seems to have been forgotten now, but it is still remembered amongst older generation and for a good reason. It adds this inexplicable taste that is somewhere between salty and sour. It works great with sweet stuff such as bread with jam.
Ingredients (serves 1)
1. Two slices of bread
2. 1 tbsp jam (I used strawberry jam)
3. 3 tbsp flour
4. 1 1/2 tbsp milk
5. a pinch of salt
6. a pinch of nutmeg
1. Spread jam on bread.
2. Mix flour with milk and salt. Add more milk if needed.
3. Roll or spread the batter on bread and fry it in a bit of oil or butter until brown.
4. When done, sprinkle a bit of nutmeg, it adds a lovely extra taste.
And here is another one called eggy bread. Also very delicious and simple to make.
Ingredients (serves 1)
1. Two slices of bread
2. 1 tbsp of jam
3. 1 Egg
4. A pinch of salt
5. A pinch of nutmeg
1. Spread jam on bread.
2. Mix egg in a bowl. Add a bit of salt.
3. Roll bread in egg mixture and fry it in the pan in oil or butter until brown.
4. Sprinkle a bit of nutmeg. Enjoy!
Zara is an Iranian woman whom I’ve met in Oasis- a place in Splott buzzing with workshops, food events and other creative activities. I asked her if she could share a recipe that is special in some way, or has some story. She said she knew just the one. ‘Ghormeh sabzi’, she told me with a smile on her face. It is a herb stew, ‘ghormeh’ from Iranian means ‘a stew’ and sabzi ‘greens’. Parsley, coriander and fenugreek are slowly cooked making this dish so flavoursome.
Fenugreek leaves are one of the key ingredients in Ghormerh sabzi. Suprisingly fenugreek is used in making a fake maple syrup as it has a very similar aroma. When it’s cooked and combined with other flavours though it adds nice and subtle bitterness and sweetness to the dish. If it’s difficult to come by fresh fenugreek leaves, you can use dried fenugreek seeds, but toast it in the pan beforehand to reduce the bitterness.
Traditionally it is also cooked using limoo amani or dried limes which are sun-dried limes. In Persian cuisine they are often used in flavoring stews and soups.
It is a very special recipe in that it’s very very tasty. It is one of the best stews I’ve ever had. I must admit that the great quality lamb from Cardiff central market played a great part in this too.
Ingredients (serves 2)
1. A bunch of parsley
2. A bunch of corriander
3. 1/2 cup fresh fenugreek, or 2 tbsp dried fenugreek
4. 1 onion, diced
5. 400g stewing lamb, diced
6. 1 tsp tumeric
7. 1 can of kidney beans (or 250g if soaking and boiling)
8. 3 dried limes (limoo amani) or 3 tbsp of lime juice (I replaced it with lemon juice)
9. A pinch of salt and pepper
10. 1 cup of rice
1. Finely chop parsley, coriander and fenugreek (if using fresh) and fry in a bit of oil. Put it is aside for now.
2. Fry deiced onion until golden. Then add lamb, tumeric, salt and pepper and fry until it has browned a bit.
3. Add all the other ingredients- herbs, beans, lemon, fenugreek (if using dry). Add water so that it covers the stew and let it cook for about 1 1/2hours.
4. In the meanwhile cook rice.
5. Assemble everything in one plate and enjoy!
I’ve met Nuno in a newly opened Portuguese community resource centre on Clifton street where he works. He shared with me one of the classics of Portuguese cuisine – Milho Frito, which is a side-dish usually eaten with tuna steak soup. Milho frito is made of polenta, which is a staple food in Portugal. It’s loved because it’s cheap and goes a long way. Milho Frito can also be eaten as a side-dish with eggs or beans. If Nuno was making it he would make a big batch to serve a crowd. I’ve adapted the recipe below to feed only two. It makes it easier to cook and to avoid the dreaded lumps.
1. 1/2 cup polenta
2. 2 1/2 cups water
3. 1 cube of stock
4. 1 small onion, diced
5. one clove of minced garlic
6. 6-7 leaves of kale leaves, minced
7. a pinch of salt
1. Fry onion and garlic in a pan with a bit of oil until brown.
2. Add water and a stock cube. Heat it up until boiling.
3. When water is boiling add polenta through the sieve in order to avoid lumps and keep stirring. This is the decisive moment when cooking polenta, and stirring it will help prevent the lumps. Another way to avoid lumps is to put polenta in a bit of water and leave it for a few minutes before putting it into a pot. This can help reduce the lumps significantly.
4. Add the minced kale to the pot, and mix it. Keep cooking until water is absorbed, for about 15 minutes.
5. When cooked put it in a tray and let it cool. When completely cold, cut it in squares and fry in a bit of oil.