Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Have Yourself A Veggie Little Christmas

Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas
 This is the second broadly non-gardening post in a row, but I am going to resume that line of attack when I have actually done some. (Although I did set out to prune my apple and pear trees on Christmas Day, armed with long-handled loppers and secateurs. I went out and looked at them. Thought ‘Um’. Snipped off a few twigs, mourned my immediate lack of pruning saw* and step ladder and went back inside. )

But with Boxing Day comes renewed vigour. Starting the day with black coffee and stollen in bed followed by cranberry and orange smoothie will do that every time.

I have long held that it is not that vegetarian food is lacking in flavour, nutrition and excitement; rather, people generally make it very badly and then exit, disappointed. I favour the Hugh-and-Jamie technique of boshing ingredients together to create food that excites and inspires. And as self-appointed queen of the adapted recipe I was very happy to get the River Cottage Veg book. It has some really good ideas and the evangelistic fervour for things vegetable is rather endearing. (But what took you so long guys?)

Mix and match fillings
But that was after lunch. In an eternal mission to keep tastebuds on their toes lunch was, in fact, Unexpected Tarts with all the expected Christmas trimmings. You do it like this:

Blind bake some seasoned pastry in jam tart tins. Caramelise some onions and lightly cook some little cubes of squash and small broccoli florets. Season a little cream with black pepper and bouillion powder and coat the broccoli and squash (keeping them separate).
I'm no food photographer, but they did taste nice

In each pastry case put a base of caramelised onions. Then create a little pile of squash or broccoli (or leek or mushroom or celeriac etc). Then add one of: slivers of chilli/chopped walnuts/cranberry sauce. Then top some with brie, some with cheddar and some with stilton and bake for 10 mins-ish. (Broccoli, cranberry sauce and brie was very good as was squash, chilli and cheddar...and broccoli, walnut and get the idea).

This produces 4096 different variables (I think) so a) you can cater for all tastes and b) it stays interesting and unexpected. Hence the name. The problem is that because each one tastes different it is hard to stop.

Boxing Day: veggie sushi party at my sister’s. I have always been deeply suspicious of sushi – for obvious reasons – but people tell me it is good. So as not to be too Green Eggs and Ham** about things*** I had an open mind (although I am not wild about rice, dubious about nori, would rather leave tofu and have conservative views of soy sauce).

Turns out I like making OCD vegetables – lightly wilted spinach, neat strips of seasoned carrot, slivers of avocado, spring onion and shitake mushrooms. But I really don’t like teriyaki sauce. I like shitake mushrooms, ginger, sesame seeds; really liked wasabi – and all the veg. And I tried, I really did. But it was sticky and salty and slimy in places, and I can’t be doing with the textures. I am sorry Sam-I-Am, I’d rather leave Green Eggs and Ham.

*We never rush Christmas and as it happened a spanking new Felco pruning saw turned up under the tree on Boxing Day

 ** “I do not want it in a boat, I do not want it with a goat, I do not want it in a box I do not want it with a fox, I do not like green eggs and ham, I DO NOT LIKE THEM Sam I Am”. With thanks to Dr Seuss

*** ...But ham is not on the menu and I don’t like actual eggs much either...

Friday, 2 December 2011

Garden Media Guild Awards - The Musical

Ok, if you want serious gardening commentary look away now. This is how I think the Garden Media Guild Awards would look if it were iterated as a musical or rock opera. All events and personalities depicted are almost entirely fictional* (apart from 3 Men Went to Mow, clearly). Here is the outline and draft soundtrack** - I am now going away to work on the choreography.

'The Pub', Act 4...

Garden Media Guild Awards – The Musical
Act One

The good and the great of the gardening media world awake. They dress uncommonly carefully, remove stray mud and have a coffee. There is a sense of anticipation, excitement even as they leave the house.
On arrival they are greeted by a bowler-hatted gentleman and attend to the first business of the day – the GMG AGM. Votes are cast, more coffee is drunk, opinions shared. Onwards and upwards, say all.

Act Two
In a swirl of glittering society, a glass of pink champagne is pressed into the hands of our heroes. A slow dance of top-ranking gardening people ebb and flow in a vivid, breathless throng. Old friends are met. Work, gossip and the gardening issues of the day are discussed as they move in to dine.

Act Three

Gorgeous dancing waiters served enthralled diners with opera cake.
And the show began. With an explosion of irreverence, the entertainment arrives to perform eye-opening routines in song and dance. One by one the winners dance to the stage, to kisses and applause while the runners up receive certificates in the crowd. In a final crescendo of song and dance, a full-crowd performance centres on the journalists crowned. Those who didn’t win swallow their disappointment and think ‘So what! i’m as good as the next man’ and continue to party with gusto.

Act Four
But the show is not yet over. While some opt for a quiet chat chat over afternoon tea to bring things down a bit, the party animals go on to the pub. Increasingly tired and a little emotional the gardening great and good engage in a demon networking dance routine and generally let it out. Until it is finally time to go home.

Many hours later they awake. The buzz fades, the blues pass, it is another beautiful morning and life goes on as normal. The vision fades.

... And they all lived happily*** ever after.

The End
*I make no fun of anyone and no criticism is implied - I just got bored on the train home and started inventing song and dance routines!
**Apologies in advance for the quality of some of the sound - youtube is beyond my control.
*** Muddily, literary, photogenically...whatever happy is for you.