food glorious food

Family Smellie is very keen on its food and Thailand has not let us down once.  So we thought it was time that we did a little hands on cooking.   Rather than just stuffing our faces with the delicious food cooked by others, we would do some of the preliminary work ourselves.

Enter Toi, chef extraordinaire at Sea Dance.  She was chosen to bravely steer Family Smellie through the cooking process.  This is what awaited us when we arrived for our lesson.

 

Even if we didn’t cook it but just feasted with our eyes and noses that would have been a sensual journey in itself.  But Family Smellie needed to fill its bellies so onwards and upwards.

First up, as in any good project of any kind, is the preparation.  I was put on chopping duty and managed to impress Toi not only with my knowledge of nam pla but also my prowess with a mini machete!

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We began with seafood salad and followed with chicken green curry and chicken and ginger stir fry.  The Travellerwas not impressed by having to skin and scour the squid, but she did an excellent job.

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The seafood was left to marinade in soy sauce, nampla, chopped chilli, chopped garlic and palm sugar.  The Boss was in charge of chicken prep.

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First up was the green curry.  The curry paste was added to hot oil and the coconut cream added spoon by spoon.  I am used to chucking the tin in all at once, but this way the sauce remained thick and cooked more slowly, it was thinned with water or chicken stock later.

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Chicken first and finally vegetables.

 

The volunteer took notes.

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Stir fry was down to the Traveller and she was not convinced she could do the flip so expertly demonstrated by Toi, convinced that instead she would cover the Boss with a selection of chicken and vegetables.

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But she got the wrist action and managed a perfect stir fry flip with no stray veg at all.

 

And the finished products.

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And time to eat.

 

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A few days later I bumped into Toi in the gardens and she showed me around her kitchen garden.  Many of the vegetables used in the kitchen are grown on site and Toi is an excellent gardener as well as chef.  I also managed to impress her again with my knowledge of Holy Basil, there are hidden depths to me yet!  She not only grows a huge range of vegetables, salad leaves and herbs for the kitchen but also a comprehensive range of herbs for the spa as well.  And I can testify that the spa is as good as the kitchen!

Love Gillie x

 

 

Wear the Wild

Regular readers will know I am huge fans of Chris and Rose Bax of Taste the Wild.  I have been on plenty of their courses from Herbal Medicine (where my recently macerated knee provided a live demonstration of how to make a poultice)  two and a half days foraging in Staithes.  We have also been mushroom foraging with them and Stuart learned how to butcher a deer.  So you can imagine my glee on my birthday when I discovered I had a morning with Rose making cosmetics.

I make a lot of my own cosmetics and potions etc, but there is nothing more fun than doing it with other people and there is always more to learn.  So last Tuesday I got up early, scraped the ice off the car and headed down to North Yorkshire.  Boy was it cold so the cup of tea on arrival was most welcome.

Cop a look at this.

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Infused oils and dried herbs and flowers all ready to be played with.  First we made shampoo.  Rose gave us comprehensive tables with the properties of the various herbs and flowers. She had already made a birch decoction which we would all include in our shampoo as birch is a wonderful all rounder for hair, then we chose three other ingredients.

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We steeped our additional ingredients in the hot decoction and added it to pure castile soap.

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And there you go.  I don’t even use conditioner now, though do be careful not to get castile soap in your eyes!

Next up was a healing balm.

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Melt pure beeswax into the infused oils of your choice.  Note the clever homemade bain marie.  When slightly cool add an essential oil of your choice.

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Pour into clean pots and leave to set.  Wait until it is almost set before putting on the lid so avoid contamination with condensation.

 

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Next was lip balm, made in much the same way but this time with peppermint essential oil.  We finished up with a bath bomb and some wonderful herbal bath salts which I used when I got home that evening and there were just the ticket.

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Finally, as I was in the area I popped into Ripon for lunch on the way home!

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Love Gillie x

 

potagers, physic gardens and whirling topiary

Yesterday I got up exceptionally early (actually an hour earlier than I needed to because I couldn’t read the clock) to head down to London for the Chelsea Flower Show.  Despite an hour of extra time to get ready I  managed to leave my phone at home so all the photos here are courtesy of the lovely Caroline who acted as my official snapper.

I was rather disappointed with the show gardens.  I appreciate that everything comes in cycles and that fashions change, but I got rather bored of endless firs, sparse plantings and large blocks of concrete and metal.  I mean, I took one look at the metal slabs in the Best in Show Telegraph garden and the first thing I thought was “of course, mountains”??  Meanwhile I rather liked  the comment I overheard at the L’Occitane garden “I might like it when it’s finished”!  Indeed, it was an excellent reproduction of a pretty and arid scene somewhere in the south of France.  But it wasn’t a a garden.  Certainly there were precious few that I would say, “oh yes, I’d like to sit out in that.”  But then I suspect I am rather old fashioned.

This came to be proven when we came across the Harrods Garden.  Plentiful and stunning planting, we weren’t the only ones to think so, it was one of the most crowded gardens I have seen in Chelsea for years.

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It was rather eccentric as every 15 minutes the topiary began to whirl and bob, the garden spun around the folly, and the window boxes rose up to the second floor (I rather liked the idea of being able to take your window boxes to bed with you).  But the planting, it was a dream.

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The other garden I loved, was similar in style, the RHS Greening the Gray garden, again plentiful planting (I particularly liked the idea of planting roses amongst the annuals, so often they are made to stand alone).  This was unusual as you could walk through it and enjoy it as a garden rather than merely spectate.  Vegetables in pots on the roof of the sheds, traditional mixing of veg and flowers and plenty of bee friendly plants.  In both gardens I was so impressed by the lupins, delphiniums and foxgloves so tall and straight!

We are fortunate enough to have enough space to grow pretty much what we want, north of England weather and chickens permitting.  I am very keen to build a physic garden and really want to do the Foundation Course at Dilston Physic Garden.  I wanted to do it this year, but I can’t make the dates so have blocked out the dates for next year already!

In the meantime I  need to start to plan the plants and compare to what I already have and where I have them.  At Chelsea I saw these  by Bacsac

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They are lovely, but more than I can afford.  So this bank holiday weekend the Boss and I are going into design mode.  Actually the design is less of a problem it’s the material, but we have an idea.  Watch this space to see if it works.

Love Gillie

 

 

 

the hanging gardens of Brancepeth

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I cannot take credit for these.  I first saw them on a friend’s blog, it wasn’t her idea either!  But now I pass them on to you, let there be hanging gardens around the world.

Quick diversion, anyone reading this who went to a PNEU school will have had a class called From Ur to Rome.  It was based on a book of the same name and was tolerably interesting.  However, the sections on the ziggurats and on the hanging gardens of Babylon transfixed me.  I was frequently in trouble for flicking back to them and thus having no idea what the rest of the class was discussing!

You will need LOTS of plastic milk bottles (2l) or detergent bottles (the bulk 3l ones).  Unless you are a family of 20 who each drink a litre of milk a day collecting these will be the hardest part.  You need to raid your friends’ recycling bins.

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Place the bottle in front of you sideways on with the handle on the left then cut out a square shape from the opening at the top down about 4-6 inches depending on the size of your bottle.  Next attach some two by two to your chosen wall.  The number you will need will depend on how long you plan on making your garden.  You will need a new support every 3ft or so.

Now insert a large round hook in each support.  Thread the appropriate length of dowling through the handle of each milk bottle, rest the dowling in the hook and hey presto your very own hanging garden.

We have planted salad greens, summer herbs, carrots, strawberries, nasturtiums

 

 

greenery – drying herbs

Back in the garden the greenery is doing greenery types of things.  Essentially it’s growing.  The Boss goes out with a frown and starts to remove the greenery which is growing where he has plans for other greenery.  I run behind him and rescue his victims.

Then when he has had enough of killing off the greenery I want to keep he goes for a kip and I go and pinch (sorry forage) for more greenery in the fields and woods.

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So far I have collected:

  • Chickweed
  • Cleavers
  • Nettles
  • Elderflowers
  • Plantain
  • Horsetail

From the garden I garnered:

  • Mint
  • Apple mint
  • Raspberry leaves
  • Sage
  • English Mace
  • Bay
  • Tarragon
  • Celery leaves
  • Comfrey

A particularly lovely and refreshing tea is nettle and mint. At this time of year you can use the fresh leaves (don’t forget your gloves!).  But I’m stocking up for the winter months.  You can dry leaves and flowers in a cool (50 centigrade maximum) oven, bottom of the aga or with a dehydrator.  Alternatively  if you want to be completely carbon neutral tie them in bunches and hang in a warm airy room.  If you are drying flowers like elderflower which may drop off then place a paper bag around the  bunch, but make sure to make several holes in the paper to ensure airflow.  Our aga is off for the summer and I like the speed and convenience of the dehydrator.  I dry a lot of plants and it is the easiest way to bulk dry without turning on the oven.

Plenty more to forage and garner but I have had enough for today and am going to settle down with a banana, strawberry, applemint smoothie thinned down with the whey from the cheese.

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