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Pineapple Peel Beer/ Sparkle

My mom used to make Pineapple beer when we were kids, whenever we had pineapple, she would use the peels to make this super easy very bubbly pineapple flavoured soft drink. It is along similar lines to ginger beer in that it does not require the addition of yeast. I love this recipe because it delays the peels’ transit to the compost heap, thus ensuring that all of the nutrients/ goodness are not lost to the system. Next time I make it, I will be freezing the peels that come out of the water to use in fruit scrap vinegar that will then get made once there are enough fruit scraps.

Ingredients and Method

  1. Wash, peel and core pineapple, retain the peel and core. Discard green leafy bit into compost pile
  2. Into a large ceramic, glass or stainless steel container, add the peel and core, a cup of sugar (250ml), handful of raisins (optional) and 2L of water
  3. Stir till the sugar dissolves and cover with a cloth or loose lid to keep the flies out
  4. Stir daily for 2 days, then strain the liquid into pressure safe bottles like the ones in the picture. Not all glass bottles are suitable for this purpose, if the bottle originally contained sparkly stuff, then it should be safe for this purpose. (1L Bulmers bottles are perfect)
  5. Allow the gas to build for a few days, as the drink matures, more of the sugar will be turned into carbon dioxide, so it will get drier and more gassy
  6. Enjoy chilled! Warning: This drink can be very fizzy, so care is required when opening the bottle!Notes: If less fizz is required, use less sugar, this is a loose recipe, and open to be experimented with.

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Elderflower Fritters

June for me is synonymous with elderflower. It is probably the best thing to forage for this month and there are so many things you can do with it. Elderflower sparkle, cordial, addition to rhubarb or gooseberry dishes, and fritters. Elderflower fritters are a good dessert this season; they are light, not too sweet and full of that lovely somewhat musky flavour.

So here is a super easy recipe for flower fritters, other flowers to try in this recipe are white and red clover.

Elderflower Fritters
Tempura batter

  • 3/4 cup cornflower
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup icy water

 

Other requirements

  • 2 inches of oil in a pot
  • 6 large flower heads, separated into florets with stalks attached
  • Icing sugar

Method

  1. Heat the oil in the small pot
  2. To a small bowl, add the dry ingredients and mix
  3. Add the egg and the water, mix through
  4. Coat each floret in batter, shaking off the excess
  5. Fry for less than a minute till cooked through, turning if necessary
  6. Remove fritters from oil and set aside till all are done
  7. Dust with icing sugar and serve while still warm

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Watercress (Nasturtium officinale)

Watercress (Nasturtium officinale)

In this case, the latin name is confusing, it is not closely related to that spicy round- leaved plant with the colourful flowers that we all know by the name nasturtium.

Anyway, I was leaving the allotment this morning with my hands full of dandelions, calendula, chard and leeks when I spotted the most glorious clump of watercress. It was so beautiful and lush looking and totally asking to come home with me. So I picked about five stalks. Fast forward a bunch of hours and I stripped its leaves and top bit of stem off of the hollow coarser stem that got discarded and cooked it up (steam fry) and blended it with the remnants of whatever was in the blender before (feta, leek and chard mush). I mixed the watercress mush with some wild garlic pesto and I will heat that through in a while as a sauce for the feta & chard ravioli. (The ravioli was super quick to make, I used this recipe for the dough) So now I am sitting writing a rave about this somewhat neglected veggie in an attempt not to eat all of it before dinner time. (Blogging as a form of self restraint.)

Watercress as the name suggests, grows in water, specifically slow moving water. We have a little stream passing though the allotments that seem to be an ideal habitat for this stuff. It is really tasty raw, it is spicy, fresh and green, but it is however best to cook the watercress that you forage as there is the chance of catching liver fluke, from plants that hang about in rivers that drain from pasture. Watercress is in the crucifer family, think cabbages, this familial connection will become more obvious when it starts to flower (tiny white + shape flowers), all crucifers have 4 petals and they are typically arranged in a + shape. In taste, it is more similar to cress (also cabbage family). It contains vitamins A and C, some protein and very few calories (not the way I cook it).

Fool’s watercress is a plant that you may confuse watercress with, but it is unlikely. The fool’s version is a carrot family member, it has 5 petals and the flowers arranged in an umbrella type shape and is much lower growing, the only real similarity is the shape of the leaves and the colour of the flowers. Follow the link to find out more.

I hope that I have persuaded you to give watercress a try should you see it this Spring.

“Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot (and only in that order)……..

….is my family’s secret to living waste-free since 2008!” Bea Johnson

Earlier this week I attended a brilliant talk by Bea Johnson, author of the book Zero Waste Home and proprietor of the website Zero Waste Home where she provides a host of resources (bulk buy sellers in Ireland) and tips on how to de-plastic and declutter your life. She lives in California with her husband and two teenage boys, The amount of black bin waste their family created last year fits inside a small mason jar. That is impressive, and it gets me thinking about our black bin waste, we are down to one and a half black bin collections a year  (husband, myself and a cat) which is not terrible,  but it could be so much less if we found plastic free alternatives to more food items and planned meals for the week and bought stuff in bulk or was part of a local bulk buy group.

Things we currently regularly buy in plastic: 
(B) = black bin; (R) = recyclable; (U)= unsure
Milk (R)
Cheese (B)
Crisps (B)
Some nuts (B)
Lemons and limes (B)
Lettuce (B)
Pulses (U) 
Free range chicken (B&R)
Pasta (U)
Yoghurt (R)

Food that I regularly buy that I have found waste free alternatives for
I buy most of my veggies and fruit naked
I have bought nuts using my own cotton bags
Meat (I bring my own plastic ice-cream boxes to butchers)
Oats in paper bags 
Free Range Eggs in  boxes, no plastic

Unlike Bea, we have decided that we are not minimalists, but I (more so that himself) want to own less stuff, so this year, I would like to divest myself of  my things in our lives that I don’t use, don’t have solid plans for or don’t like. When I buy things, they are to be the right things, preferably second hand or homemade things that will last a long time. I have made a list of the purchases/ things I need to make this year or next that will be the right things for our somewhat pared down, more plastic free lives.

Areas that I will be working on to become more zero waste:
Buy bamboo toothbrushes next time I need to buy toothbrushes
Look for a BB cream that comes in glass next time I need to buy that
Perhaps make mascara as per Bea’s instructions in her book when I next feel inclined to buy the stuff
Work towards creating a bulk buy group in my area
Get back to making my own yoghurt especially now that I have discovered porridge bread
Ask online sellers to only send items in paper or cardboard
Make a few fabric and net baggies to facilitate buying loose nuts, veggies, pulses, rice, etc
Look for plastic free dishwasher detergent that doesn’t cost a fortune
Make/ buy beeswax wrap for buying cheese in and as a substitute for cling film
Find a place to buy dry catfood in cardboard or from a bulk supplier
Limescale cleaner for the toilet

Bea pointed out that because they have all the stuff that they need (not much stuff at all) it leaves them as a family with more time (not looking after stuff) and money with which to pursue experiences such as sky diving and interesting holidays. The gifts that they give each other are the gifts of experiences, not gifts of stuff. Please check out her website for more information on how to live well and create less waste. If you are interested in a zero waste lifestyle, and are looking for support, join the Facebook group Zero Waste Ireland. This is a very active (over 4000 members)  Facebook group that are a great resource.

Mallow seeds, a delicious snack

Today I found a tree mallow (Lavatera arborea) covered in seed heads, so I harvested a number of them and fried them up for a few minutes before putting salt and ground cayenne pepper on. You could take the three leaf like structures off of the seed head before cooking, but this can easily be done afterwards while eating it. The taste is fairly reminiscent of fried sweetcorn. I also like to harvest these and toast them in the popcorn maker. Fresh, the seed heads taste a bit like raw peanuts. When harvesting, look out for the younger, greener ones as their texture is better.
Tree mallows have velvety leaves and lovely, purply flowers, see photo, both of which can be eaten. Other varieties of mallow such as common mallow (Malva sylvestris) and Egyptian mallow (Malva parviflora) also have edible flowers, leaves and seeds. The flowers can be added to salads, the leaves used to thicken soups or cooked like spinach.

Mallow seed heads

 

Fried mallow seed heads

Now is also a good time to look out for dried poppy seed heads, these heads can be shaken into a paper bag, allow the seeds to dry properly and store them for adding to baked goods.

Pumpkin seed milk

Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin season is almost upon us, and I have discovered a very easy way to use up all those pumpkin seeds that are left over. Turn them into ‘milk’. I used the seeds from 2 butternut squashes, this made around 550ml of pumpkin seed milk. Because the butternut seed husk is quite fine, the solid remains are going to be added to a sourdough crackers batter.

Equipment needed:

  • nylon sieve or jelly bag
  • blender
  • container
  • spoon

Method:

  1. Put your pumpkin (or sunflower) seeds (cases and all) into a blender with enough water to cover them. Blend it up till all of the seeds are broken up and the water turns whitish.
  2. Push this through the sieve, catching the liquid and returning the seed mush to the blender again with enough water to just cover them. Blend the mix again until the liquid turns whitish and the seeds break up into even smaller pieces. Pass through the sieve
  3. Repeat stage 2 once again
  4. Bottle up the seed milk into a clean bottle, refrigerate and enjoy it within two days

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pumpkin seed husks butternut squash seed milk
Squash seed milk