Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Packed lunches

Here in the flat we always take a packed lunch into work with us. The problem comes with trying to find new tasty things to take in that transport well, fit easily in a lunchbox and so that you have different things each week. There seems to be a real lack of topics on this in cookbooks so I find myself constantly scanning our cookbooks for ideas of what we can have now. As I presume others might find themselves in the same situation I thought that I might start a relatively regular "What's in the lunchbox this week?" feature to share ideas for interesting packed lunches.

And this week...? An onion and camembert tart slightly adapted from Nigel Slater's Appetite. It's pretty easy to make too which makes it ideal for slinging together on a weekday evening whilst you've got other stuff going on.

6 onions
good chunk of butter
pack of puff pastry
1 camembert
bunch of thyme

Peel the onions and chop them into fat wedges. Melt your butter in a pan on a lowish heat and sling the onions in and leave them for quite a while to sweat down giving them a push around every now and then - I ended up leaving mine for about an hour whilst I was finishing up a bit of work and checking emails. When they're done they should be translucent and golden. Roll out your puff pastry into a large flat rectangle and place on a baking sheet. Run a knife to create score lines a few centimetres from the edge and scatter the onions over the area inside these score lines. Brush the edges of the pastry with some of the onion butter. Then break your camembert up into little pieces, place them inbetween the onions and scatter a generous sprinkling of thyme leaves over the top. Place in a preheated oven to 220 degrees for about 15 minutes until the pastry is golden and the onions slightly browned.

We've managed to get five portions out of that which we'll take into work and have alongside some chutney and mixed salad. Delicious!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Sunflowers and tomatoes!

As the title of the post suggests as of today we have sunflowers and tomatoes! Nine of the sunflower plants have come through and we have seven little tomato plants so far. So exciting to see the first signs of life!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Prarie fire and jalapenos

The Wahaca chillies did so well last year that I've bought some more chilli seeds. Last year we had serrano's and I think another trip to Wahaca is in order so I can pick myself up some more seeds but in the mean time I did a bit of chilli ordering from the guys at the South Devon Chilli Farm. I was in need of some dried chipotles to make chipotles en adobo and I thought that whilst I was paying for postage and packing I may as well pick up some seeds.

So... I bought some prarie fire which are really pretty little plants that you can keep inside in pots and some jalapenos as they're used in loads of recipes and you can never find them in the shops. However, I'm not quite sure how windowsill friendly the jalapenos will be so that may have been a mistake if they start shooting up... We'll see!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

The first seeds of 2011 are in!

So... I've planted up the first seeds of 2011. Last year we planted all the seeds at once but this year I've decided that I'm going to go for a more staggered approach in an attempt to not end up with quite such madness in terms of hundreds of plants that all need attention simultaneously. But we'll see how that goes!

As chillies are the trickiest to get to germinate without a propagator I've put lots of chilli seeds in so that I've got time for a second and third go at them if this time is unsuccessful and I've also put in some tomatoes and some sunflowers that were left over seeds from last year. Hopefully they're not too old to germinate - I guess it's wait and see time now!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Cheese, pickle and winter leaves

Our winter leaves were getting a bit on the large side so I decided to chop them down today and shove them in a sandwich. After I'd cut them all down I suddenly realised that they're probably supposed to be "cut and come again" so I should have just chopped off a few leaves from each plant and left them growing (is that the idea with cut and come again salad leaves??) however unfortunately by then it was too late and the deed was done! But what a fabulous sandwich it was - brown seedy bread, pickle from Fortnum and Mason's (a Christmas present), mature cheddar all topped off with a big pile of windowsill grown winter leaves.

As I felt a bit guilty for having pulled up all of the little plants I then went on a planting extravaganza. So I've now liberally scattered more seeds for the mixed winter leaves throughout the front of the trough they came out of (there's the line of slightly worse for wear looking spring onions along the back of the trough), on the soil around the three garlic plants which are looking really healthy and in the other round pot that had a serrano chilli in it last year. In the remaining trough that didn't have anything in it I've scattered Cos lettuce seeds - it said on the pack that they should be started out in seed trays but I had absolutely no luck with the salads I tried to grow in seed trays last year so I decided to sow them straight outside and see whether they germinate or not.

All in all an eventful day's action out on the windowsill!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Moules mariniere

Full of enthusiasm and inspiration having spent a lot of last week watching the various programmes as part of Channel 4's Big Fish Fight campaign, yesterday night we attempted to cook mussels for the first time and they were fabulous!

I'd been a bit wary about cooking mussels as it seemed there was a lot of preparation needed but the time you spend doing the prep is more than made up by the fact that once you've got them ready to go they literally take about 30 seconds in the pan to cook and hey presto! We decided to go plain and simple with moules mariniere and used the good old Jane Grigson Fish Book for our recipe. The sauce in her recipe is just made up of shallots, garlic, butter and white wine flavoured with a bouquet garnis which suits me as I'm not a massive fan of creamy sauces and it was divine all mopped up with a good chunk of warm ciabatta. So... in the words of Jamie, Hugh et al - get yourselves down the fish counter and give the old favourites (cod, tuna, salmon, prawns) a break and try something else for a change.


Tuesday, 11 January 2011

New Year, New Post

Well I haven't blogged in a long while and things on the windowsill have been moving pretty slowly but we do have movement and the leaves, spring onions and garlic that I planted back in November are all plodding away nicely. The growth rate is considerably slower than it was for the plants that were out in the windowboxes over the summer but for such little plants they do seem to have coped remarkably well with all of the snow they've been bombarded with!

Here's the first pictures of how the windowsill is doing in 2011...

Our three garlic bulbs have all sprouted...

...our spring onions have sprung...

...and our winter leaves are looking strong (although I'm not sure we've got enough for a salad!!)

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