Cooking with Nettles

The Stinging Nettle is an edible plant which grows prolifically like a weed in wet woods, hedge banks and river valleys (and in my garden). It is so-called because the leaves are covered with fine, stinging hairs, making them a mild hassle to forage. However, this year I’ve learned that they are well worth the effort. Here is my journey of nettle discovery…

Nettles

A couple of years ago, my friend Mike and I made nettle soup. Even with the Vitamix, the result was a little rough… literally. The soup seemed gritty, not in a dirty kind of way, but in a nettle-y sort of way. Having picked the nettles in the rain and suffering a few stings along the way, I decided nettles weren’t worth the effort and wrote them off… until this year…

Lesson 1: The art of picking nettles

I’m pretty sure the reason behind my lacklustre nettle soup was that I picked the wrong leaves. Leaves should be picked while young, early in the season if possible (nettle season is late February to early June). According to Richard Mabey’s invaluable book, Food for Free:

“Older leaves – especially those formed after June – contain tiny crystalline particles giving them a gritty texture. They are also bitter and can often have a laxative effect. The very best nettles are the whole shoots picked when they are just a few centimetres high in March.”

Also, before you use the nettles, remove all traces of tough stems and wash really well.

Brave little ladybug

Lesson 2: The recipes

Over the last few months I’d seen a few interesting nettle recipes going around. Meanwhile, my friend Emily was honing her own curiosity about nettles. So when we got together for Beltane recently (and Imbolc a couple months prior), we put some of these recipes to the test. (The seasons have a way of sparking creativity, particularly in the food and foraging department.)

Nettle Recipes

It was through this effort of experimentation that we discovered that nettles are totally worthwhile. Here are the recipes we tried:

  • Nettle Spanakopita - This was good and deserves a do-over I reckon.
  • Nettle Pizza #1 - Using the Tartine Bread method, putting raw nettles on the pizza. I loved the texture from the nettles on this one (see Lesson 3 below)
  • Nettle Pizza #2 - Here we put blanched nettles on the pizza, so it was more like spinach. Also good but I preferred Nettle Pizza #1.
  • Stinger Balls - A foraging double whammy with nettles and wild garlic, mixed with cheese and formed into balls. Err on the smaller side with your stinger balls, and bake in the oven to make sure they’re cooked all the way through.
  • Nettle Farinata - I love farinata regardless but adding a couple nettle leaves to the batter adds cool texture and makes them look super cool.
  • Nettle and Mushroom Omelette - You just can’t go wrong with this. Blanch the nettle first then chop finely and add to the omelet with cooked mushrooms.
  • Nettle Smoothies - Both with juiced and blended nettles. This worked really well but warning: go easy on the nettles, a small handful is plenty.
  • Nettle and Wild Garlic Pesto - Another foraging double whamming; the nettles are a great way to tone down the super potency of wild garlic.
  • Nettle Cordial - OK we didn’t make this one but Kanna did and it’s hugely interesting.

A couple things that require further experimentation: dehydrated nettles, my attempt at nettle crisps – they didn’t turn out very well, but I think it’s because I was stingy in coating the nettles with oil. Also, nettle tea - this was just not very good but I blame myself for including the stems with the leaves (a nettle tea no-no apparently). Finally, the elusive nettle soup that I have yet to try again. This Nettle Broth with Scallops and Horseradish from Richard Corrigan sounds really interesting. I also like this idea for Nettle Sauce to go with poached eggs.

Lesson 3: Why nettles are worthwhile

Are nettles really any better or different than spinach, kale or other green that’s far easier to get a hold of? Well, “better” is a matter of personal preference, but they are definitely different. The most amazing nettle discovery I’ve had through my experiments is their texture, particularly in cases like Nettle Pizza #1 and Nettle Farinata. Unlike spinach or wild garlic, which gets soft and almost disappears into the other ingredients when cooked, nettles retain a definite texture, and when the whole leaves are kept intact, those nettle hairs (no longer prickly since they’ve been cooked) make for a pretty neat mouth-feel that I don’t think I’ve experienced from any other vegetable.

Nettle farinata.

It’s also worth noting nettles’ nutritional benefits. Nettles are remarkably high in calcium – 1 cup of cooked nettles contains 42% RDA of Calcium (compared to spinach’s 24%). Nettles are also high in potassium, iron, sulphur, vitamin C, vitamin A and B complex vitamins. If you really want to be hardcore about it, you can make this nettle infusion that’s basically like a stinging nettle IV drip (I don’t think I want to be that hardcore).

Nettle Smoothies

I’d put nettles right up there with spinach in terms of nutritional powerhouse-ness (click here to compare the two), but nettles are free. So attention all you health-conscious, adventurous people on a budget – nettles are for you!

Lesson 4: Where to get started

There are an infinite number of ways to discover the marvellous nettle, and I recommend getting started with this easy recipe from Rachel Demuth. Let’s face it, it’s hard to go wrong with a deep fry, and these deep fried nettle fritters are no exception. They make a great party trick but are tasty too: green goodness encapsulated in crispy batter, best served with a good pinch of salt and squeeze of lemon or a tasty sauce – Food Urchin’s Foraged Salsa Verde would be ideal!

Nettle Fritters

Nettle Fritters

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • Nettle tips – pick succulent tips and leave enough stalk to give you something to hold on to
  • Sunflower oil for frying
  • Lemon wedges

For the batter

  • 200ml ice cold water
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 90g sifted plain white flour
  • 2-3 ice cubes

Method:

  1. To make the batter, pour the ice cold water into a mixing bowl. Mix in the beaten egg, add the flour and roughly fold in with a fork – do not beat, the batter should be lumpy! Add the ice cubes.
  2. Heat the sunflower oil in a wok or deep fryer.
  3. Dip the nettle tips into the batter a few at a time, allowing any excess batter to drain back into the bowl. The nettles should be only thinly coated.
  4. Fry the battered nettles until golden, then drain on kitchen paper.
  5. Serve hot with a pinch of salt, a wedge of lemon & a salsa verde.

So that’s my experience with nettles so far, but more inspiration is wanted. What have you been doing with nettles? Any cool recipes worth trying?

This post also appeared on Great British Chefs.

Nettle Farinata

Nettle farinata.

Farinata (also called socca, torta di ceci or cecina) is a chickpea flour flatbread akin to a pancake or crepe, and it’s been a favourite food of mine for years. I’ve written about Farinata before (and its Indian cousin, Besan Cheela) but I’ve recently been rediscovering farinata through my favourite Springtime forageable: stinging nettles.

For one thing, nettle farinata just looks cool (I was inspired by this picture of nettle focaccia taken by Eat Pictures). But the nettles also add nice texture to the farinata, thanks to their prickly hairs which are no longer stinging since the nettles have been cooked.

Of course, you don’t need to use nettles here – you can use any vegetable you’d like – veggie chef Rachel Demuth does hers with artichokes – and feel free to kick it up with herbs, spices, black pepper, chilli, whatever you feel. This is why I love farinata: it’s so adaptable. It’s also inherently vegan, gluten-free, rich in protein and fiber, and an all around good eat that goes well with so many things. My recipe below is also lower in fat than most other farinata recipes, which tend to include a lot of oil in the batter. When I make this, the only oil I use is for greasing the pan. To me, it’s perfect this way.

You can cook farinata til its crispy and use it as a pizza base, or keep it malleable and use it almost as a vegan omelet – delicious with sautéed mushrooms! If you really want to green up your farinata, you can blitz some of the nettles (or whatever greenery your using) with the batter.

Wild garlic farinata / socca / chickpea flour flatbread. #vegan #glutenfree

Nettle Farinata

1 cup chickpea flour
1 teaspoon salt
olive oil
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
a bunch of nettle leaves, washed

Method

  1. Combine the chickpea flour and salt in a blender with 1 cup of water. Blend until smooth then leave the batter to rest for 2-12 hours.
  2. Heat up the oven’s grill / broiler. Heat an oven-safe non-stick pan on medium high heat. Coat the pan with some olive oil (either using a spray bottle or by drizzling in some oil and wiping it around with a paper towel).
  3. When the pan is good and hot, pour in just enough batter to fill the pan, about the thickness of a crepe – you can go thicker but I find a thinner pancake results in a nicer result. Immediately scatter some onions over the batter, then, using tongs, place the nettle leaves on top of the batter.
  4. When the batter is firm on top and brown underneath, remove the pan from the heat and place under the grill / broiler (if you’d like, you can spray a thin coat of olive oil on top of the farinata before placing under the grill). Cook until it’s starting to brown on top (this shouldn’t take very long so keep an eye on it).
  5. Remove the farinata from the pan and repeat the steps above with the rest of the batter.
  6. Serve immediately. You can slice the farinata with a pizza cutter, but it’s also nice to just tear into it with your hands!

Here’s what it looks like with wild garlic, also nice but not as texturally interesting:

Wild garlic farinata (I still prefer the nettle version).

Nettle Pesto

Nettle Pesto

It finally seems like winter has left the building and spring is making itself known in the trees, in the hedgerows and underfoot. The grass is looking greener, buds are starting to appear on the elder shrubs and one of the first of the season’s finest forage-ables are coming into its own: the stinging nettle!

Young nettle leaves are already popping up all over my garden and now is the time to get in on their bounty: nettles are best when they’re young as older leaves tend to be woody and somewhat tough when cooked. But the young leaves, once boiled, are soft, delicate and hugely versatile.

Nettles

Nettle Soup is one of the more popular options. Rachel Demuth at Demuths Cookery School has been making Nettle Risotto and Nettle Fritters, Hank Shaw has been getting his pasta on with Nettle Ravioli and Strettine. My friend, Kanna, has even made Nettle Cordial.

The first thing I’ll be making with my nettles is something to go the distance: Nettle Pesto, a versatile condiment that’s great with pasta, as a soup garnish, on bread… basically anywhere you’d use conventional pesto. And the recipe is completely open to variation. My recipe is a vegan pesto, using no cheese (the toasted nuts give it plenty of richness), but you’re free to add parmesan, pecorino or any other hard cheese as you see fit. You can also play around with the nuts – I love walnuts but hazelnuts, pine nuts, cashews or a mix are also terrific with this.

You can also combine the nettles with other herbs like parsley, basil or wild garlic (more foraging!) to make a mixed green pesto.

As to picking nettles, remember, they sting so use gloves and a carrier bag. Blanching the nettles gets rid of their stinginess so until you’ve blanched them, keep those gloves handy!

Nettle Pesto

Ingredients

  • 8 cups of nettles
  • 100g walnuts, toasted
  • 1 garlic clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • About 150ml good olive oil
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. First, prepare the nettles. Wash the nettles then drop them in a large pot of boiling water for 3 minutes. With tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the nettles and place immediately into a bowl of ice water to shock and cool.
  2. Squeeze out as much liquid from the nettles as you can (they will no longer be stinging!) then roughly chop.
  3. Put the walnuts and garlic into a food processor and process until finely chopped – but still with some granular texture.
  4. Add the nettles and blitz again to chop the leaves, then begin trickling in the oil, while the processor runs. Stop when you have a sloppy purée.
  5. Taste, season as necessary with lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  6. Store in the fridge – if you completely cover the surface of the pesto with oil so all air is excluded, it should keep for a couple of weeks.

This post also appeared on Great British Chefs.

Not Quite Summer BBQ

It takes three people to make mayonnaise. One to whisk, one to pour, one to dance.

“I’m very happy to have entire day revolve around BBQ.” A great statement from my friend AJ, who joined me with Keith and Donovan last Saturday for a day of foodie adventure in the Cotswolds. Our mission: to stock up on supplies for an all-American(ish) BBQ while also taken in some of the Cotswolds foodie scene. The outing took us to Talking Wines, where we literally did talk wines with the very friendly folk who helped us navigate our way through the complex flavours of two particularly excellent Australian wines. The exercise also made it easy to decide what to bring home with us.

Aussie Wines

After wine tasting, we refuelled on healthy vegan salad snacks at The Organic Farm Shop cafe prior to perusing their shop. The guys walked away with a most interesting basket of food: grass-fed, farm-raised, zero-food-miles meeeat to put on the BBQ; raw cacao nibs; and a bottle of Organic Stroud Budding (my favourite beer at the moment). My basket was much greener.

#goatsofinstagram

I was feeling anxious to get the BBQ underway but am glad we bothered to make a stop at New Wave Fish Shop for a big slab of salmon. After one final stop to Waitrose for the extraneous supplies (and cheese), we were finally on our way home where the BBQ commenced.

The BBQ itself was a seriously remarkable success. Same wavelengths were achieved. Planets were aligned. Meat was grilled. Bread was baked. It was a mutual ebb and flow of cooking, music playing, drinking, eating and playing.

Our vague menu plan: BBQ sauce, sweet potato fries, meat, fish, grilled veg, cornbread, mayo, grilled pineapple, cheese board. (Hurray for people who’d rather have cheese over sweet desserts!)

So I thought I’d report on our laundry list of successes for the evening, in no particular order…

If for some reason you’re all out of corn meal, but you happen to have masa harina, then YES you can make cornbread with masa harina, and it’s actually pretty awesome.

Weekend learning point: for lack of cornmeal, masa harina makes stellar cornbread! (Props to @keithhologram for this one.)

This Smoky Barbecue Sauce recipe from Simply Recipes was stellar (after we added a bit of soy sauce and garlic).

The secret to crispy salmon skin is to leave it on the BBQ and BE PATIENT – don’t touch it until it’s almost cooked, then take it off the heat and finish it in the oven.

Salmon - crispy skin success!

BBQ’d mushrooms are the bomb. Especially with the aforementioned Smoky Barbecue Sauce.

Glorious mushrooms

Homemade mayonnaise is the best.

Making mayo

Sriracha sauce is good on everything, particularly sweet potatoes when combined with homemade mayonnaise.

Sriracha   mayo   sweet potato fries = awesome

Crispy sweet potato fries are hard to achieve. (Any suggestions?)

Star Trek: The Voyage Home, is a great film to unwind to after a long night of cooking and feasting.

Leftovers make a great breakfast spread. Just add eggs!

Breakfast pimped out with BBQ leftovers.

Or just add toast, more mayo and Sriracha – that’s how Donovan rolls. Behold his sweet potato fry tartine:

Hugely impressed with @dollaveet's mayo, Sriracha, mushroom, sweet potato "tartine".

Thank you, Team Mayo! Looking forward to our next BBQ adventure – tandoori style!

Team Mayo

Snow Cones for Grown Ups

Grown up snow cone

As part of my supperclub earlier this month, I developed a signature cocktail - fresh pineapple margarita with jalapeno and strawberry infused tequila – inspired by my time spent in Austin and budding interest in fresh juice cocktails.

sno-cone-suppliesToday, inspired by my friend Kavey’s post about ye olde ice cream vans, and because it’s Friday, I decided to recreate my margarita as an adult version of the classic “Snow Cone”. This is also in vague tribute to another Austin favourite, Casey’s Snow Balls, which itself is a tribute to another one of my favourite city’s, New Orleans (it’s all about tributes today).

The snow ball concept is basically this: put some shaved ice in a cup (which you can sort of achieve by blending up ice in a blender with a little water). Pour whatever you want over the shaved ice – booze, fruit syrup, fresh juice, cordial, whatever – and serve. This makes the below recipe very adaptable for whatever margarita flavour you’d like (I pimped out the above margarita with some elderberry syrup I had left from last year).

For lack of paper cones, I find the cone-shape of the margarita glass makes a perfect substitute.

Snow Cone Margarita

Serves 1

  • 1 cup shaved ice (or ice crushed up in a blender with a bit of water)
  • 1-3 Tbsp agave nectar or flavoured syrup (depending on how sweet you like it)
  • 1 ounce tequila (or better still, jalapeno and strawberry infused tequila)
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • salt if desired

Method

  1. If you like a salt-rimmed glass, then take a lime wedge and use it to moisten the rim of the glass. Put some salt on a plate and rotate the outside of the glass rim in the salt (so that you salt the outside, not the inside).
  2. In a jar or any container with a lid, combine the agave, tequila and lime juice. Give it a good shake.
  3. Put the ice in the glass and pour the jar contents over it.
  4. Garnish with lime, pineapple or whatever you like an serve.

I’m including this in Kavey’s Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream round-up under the ice cream van theme.

Grapefruit, Beet and Chilli Juice

Grapefruit, Beet & Chilli Juice

This is a new juicy creation I just had to share. It’s all about the tart grapefruit and spicy hot jalapeno chilli (be brave, folks). The juice is almost creamy and the concentrated flavour saturates your mouth – it’s incredibly satisfying, a breakfast in itself. The jalapeno is as good a wake-up call as coffee (really!) – you can use other chillies, red or green, to suit what’s available.

Consequentially, this juice is also great for hangovers.

Grapefruit and chilli super juice

Grapefruit, Beetroot and Chilli Juice

Serves 1

  • 1 grapefruit, peeled
  • 1 apple
  • 1in slice of beetroot
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1/2 lime, peeled
  • 1/2 zucchini (or cucumber)
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1/2 jalapeno (or more depending on your taste and the spiciness of your chillis)

Put the lot through your juicer, pour into a glass (over ice if you like), and enjoy!

My favourite thing to juice at the moment.

Smarter Fitter Supperclub Recap and Recipes

Fwd:

Last night was my first ever Smarter Fitter Supperclub held here at my digs in the Cotswolds featuring a vegan, raw, gluten-free theme. There were 11 of us in total, and what fun it was having so many like-minded and adventurous people over to try some of my creations, share ideas, drink wine and have some great chat. It went amazingly well and I hope all of my guests had as much fun as I did. The stand-out dishes seemed to be the beetroot and walnut dip, sweet potato kofte, raw raspberry cheesecake and, funny enough, the “Juicer Dreg Crisps” I made in the dehydrator with leftover juicer pulp.

My only regret is not taking enough pictures! The only pictures I did take were of the beverages (which might explain a thing or two).

Infusing. #tequila

Will I do it again? I think so! The social opportunities alone make it worthwhile – I met some really interesting people and made a few new friends. Plus, it was great hanging out with people who are actually local to me – something I don’t do as much as I’d like to.

So I’m thinking a summertime veggie BBQ camp. Any interest?

The menu from last night is below, with links to a few recipes for some favourite dishes.

DRINKS

APPETIZERS

SMORGASBORD

DESSERT

Raw Cauliflower Tabbouleh

Raw Cauliflower Tabbouleh

Last year while visiting Cornwall with my mother we had the fortune of staying at Lanyon, a perfect countryside hideaway comprising three cottages surrounded by fields and farmland (and also home to my good friend, Marie Leggo). The farmland is owned by the Leggos but leased to local farmers, and one of those farmers had chosen to fill his ample acreage with rows and rows of cauliflower. It just so happened that when Mom and I arrived at Lanyon last year, it was just after the cauliflower harvest, and Marie took us out to the fields to glean any cauliflower that was left behind.

Cauliflower gleaning

The cauliflower gleaning was hugely exciting to Mom and I – not only are we both fascinated by “gleaning” (we bonded over the film The Gleaners and I, but we are also both cauliflower fanatics). And when we saw the bounty of cauliflower that remained in the field, we were over the moon in cauliflower bliss, but also shocked by how much perfectly good cauliflower gets left behind. We took as much as we could, resorting to some clever means to do so, but still, there was way more cauliflower than we could ever carry or consume.

Cauliflower gleaning

As we walked back to the house, arms laden, we bantered about all of the possibilities and started scheming more creative uses for cauliflower. One of the things I’ve been toying with a lot lately is using cauliflower as a grain substitute. If you put cauliflower in a food processor and chop it super finely, cauliflower takes on the size and shape of grains and looks much like rice, couscous or bulgar wheat. And you can use it in similar ways, for example, cauliflower fried “rice” or cauliflower “couscous”. On that particular day at Lanyon I attempted a cauliflower “rice” pudding which was probably pushing the whole concept a little too far. However, stick with the savoury options and cauliflower grains, be they raw or cooked, are a pretty safe bet.

Cauliflower gleaning

My favourite cauilflower-as-grain option is this cauliflower tabbouleh which is inherently raw, vegan and gluten-free. I like to serve this with falafel and hummus, or wrapped up in little gem lettuce leaves. You can adapt it as you see fit – add some roast or grilled veggies, sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, mix in some chickpeas or add a drizzle of tahini sauce. And while it’s most satisfying when made with reject cauliflower you’ve gleaned yourself from a farm, it’s just as good with store-bought cauliflower which is one of the most readily available, nutritious and frugal vegetables out there.

Raw Cauliflower Tabbouleh

Raw Cauliflower Tabbouleh

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cauliflower, stalk removed
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1 big handful of parsley and mint, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper, finely diced
  • 1/2 cucumber, finely diced
  • 1 tomato, finely diced
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Method

  1. Put the cauliflower florets into a food processor and blitz it until it reaches a couscous-like texture.
  2. Combine cauliflower with the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Season well, adding more lemon, salt and pepper to taste.

EXTRA VEG ALERT: I am sending this recipe to Helen at Fuss Free Flavours for the Extra Veg challenge that she hosts with Michelle from Utterly Scrummy.

This recipe also appears on Great British Chefs.

Spring Equinox Revelations

Nettle Smoothies

Nettle Smoothies – a mouth tingling sensation!

Last Thursday was Spring Equinox – yes, the days are finally getting longer! To celebrate, Emily joined me at the OC for a long weekend of Ostara-inspired adventures. It was a good opportunity for some downtime from the real world in exchange for some uptime with friends, dogs, nature and nourishment. Creativity, cooking, foraging, rambling, mood padding and even a little bit of goat herding came into play (and some goat cheese, for that matter). Eggs were dyed, intentions were made, rice was cubed, cocktails were mixed, food was consumed and a long list of learning moments were jotted down. Here were some of the highlights…

Lemon Barley Water

Lemon barley water. Oh my god. This is going to be on my table all of the time from now on.

I usually leave my grain-based beverages to beer and whisky but lemon barley water proves that grains have their place in non-alcoholic beverages, too. We seemed to constantly have a pitcher of this on the go (the “Cadillac” of lemon barley waters, Emily called it, as I was using bergamot lemons and Sicilian honey). Consequentially, I know have a lot of leftover cooked barley to use. Any suggestions?

Rave Coffee and Burlap 

Untitled

Early on in Emily’s visit, we took a little trip to Rave Coffee to stock up on beans. It ended up being a nice little visit with the staff who are always fun to talk to. This time they treated us to some Jasmin tea and hooked us up with some super Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans (perfect for iced coffee). I also acquired two burlap sacks for food photography and decoration purposes. Both the burlap and the beans featured throughout the weekend in more ways that I had anticipated. For example….

Coffee Ice Cream

Coffee Ice Cream

Made with Ethiopian Yirgacheffe beans from Rave Coffee, uber rich cream and egg yolks from The Organic Farm Shop, and the coffee ice cream recipe from David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop.

Nettle all of the things

Nettles

Nettle smoothies, nettle spanakopita, nettle pizza, nettle farinata… our hands were tingling by the end of the weekend but we really enjoyed experimenting with nettles as a substitute for spinach. We’re not convinced by nettle tea, though. It tasted like pond water.

Farinata

Nettle Farinata

Farinata, aka socca, aka chickpea flour pancakes. I’ve been trying to get these right for the last couple of weeks and I think I finally nailed it. And bonus: just like pizza, farinata is also tasty topped with nettles and mushrooms!

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

Emily’s first Vietnamese summer roll! Raw vegetables, herbs and toasted salted peanuts rolled in rice paper and dipped in a sweet lime dipping sauce. All kinds of good things happening here.

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

Almond Milk and Almond Pulp Crackers

Rosemary Almond Pulp Crackers

Emily is a huge fan of almond milk so I showed her how to make your own using soaked almonds and a blender. This resurrected the eternal question of what to do with the leftover almond pulp. I decided to try turning them into almond pulp crackers and the results were pretty excellent! The perfect delivery device for equinox cheese!

Cocktails

Vegan Coffee Martini

The evolution of the Orchard Cottage bar (tentatively named “OC Backward”) continues with coffee martinis, both vegan and non-vegan versions (more inspiration from Rave Coffee and DIY almond milk). Emily made her seasonal “Pimmily” and I played around with Dark & Stormies (conclusion: the future of Dark & Stormies is ginger syrup).

Dutch Babies

Spring Equinox lesson: Don't Drink & Dutch Baby

I’ve become kind of obsessed with these Dutch Babies (they are like sweet, dessert versions of Yorkshire puddings). Part of my obsession is my inconsistency in being able to make them. Sometimes they rise to the occasion, other times they flop. This equinox I did some experimenting. My conclusion: the only times my Dutch Babies have failed is when I’ve made them after dinner, and after many glasses of wine. The lesson: “Don’t Drink & Dutch Baby”.

Beer in Frome

Spring Equinox

And speaking of drinking, it’s worth pointing out a few new beer finds that Emily and I discovered on a semi-impromptu road trip to Frome in Somerset. Our destination was The Griffin Pub, home to Milk Street Brewery‘s range of beers. We were drawn to their Elderfizz, but having tasted all of their beers (poured with immense generosity by their wonderful bartender Ellen), I decided the Elderfizz was my least favourite of the bunch. The “Zig Zag” dark chocolate stout was incredible, but I think “The Usual” topped my list.

And speaking of “The Usual”, it’s back to life as usual here at the OC. But not the same kind of “usual” as it was before. Equinox has left me pretty excited about all of the ideas, plans and seeds we sowed over the weekend. If all goes well there will be tomatoes in my future, amongst other things. I’m motivated, and with Beltane just over the horizon, I’m intent on cultivating as much awesomeness as possible so that there will be TONS of reasons to celebrate when this next rung in the wheel of the year comes around.

Smarter Fitter Supperclub – with camping!

I am hosting the first of hopefully many Smarter Fitter Supperclubs at my home in the Cotswolds countryside this 12 April – and everyone’s invited! Read on for details…

Supperclubbing

The Basics

  • Date: Saturday, 12 April
  • Time: 7pm
  • Cost: £40 for a cocktail and 3-courses (£100 for camping option, see below)
  • Cuisine: Vegan (more on this below)
  • Drinks: BYOB
  • Location: My cottage near Cirencester (details will be emailed to you after you book)
  • Booking: Please book via PayPal below

The Food

Supperclubbing

The Smarter Fitter Supperclub will feature a 3-course vegan menu that features loads of seasonal produce and the kind of colourful, creative dishes that I’ve honed over my last 22 years of cooking and eating meat-free, with the last several years being heavily focused on developing all-natural vegan recipes that are satisfying and tasty for vegetarians and omnivores alike (check out my Instagram feed for a glimpse at some of my creations).

This isn’t a health food supperclub, it’s a real food supperclub. Yes there will be salads, but not like you’re used to! Expect lots of colour and yummy dressings and rich sauces and no doubt an avocado or two. Given my propensity for juices and smoothies, you can bet there will be some fresh juice going around. And you are welcome to bring your own wine, beer and spirits.

This supperclub isn’t just for vegans; it’s for anyone who likes good, wholesome, all-natural food. It’s also for people who are adventurous and want to experience some new ingredients and a new way of eating! You may even walk away with some inspiration for how to incorporate more vegetables, raw food, pulses and gluten-free grains into your own cooking in a creative way that’s equally satisfying, nourishing and delicious (I will happily share my recipes after the supperclub).

I can cater for all special diets – the menu will be primarily gluten-free as is. So if you have any dietary restrictions, just let me know.

The Venue

Farm life

The supperclub will be held at my cottage in the countryside, a hidden oasis in the middle of wildflower meadows with an orchard in the backyard and an awesome dog named Rocky. You can get a preview of the grounds and interior in my Airbnb listing. Like all good cottages, mine is cozy and so supperclub seating is limited. Book now to secure your place by clicking on the Paypal link below.

Camping Option

Particularly handy for those who like their wine!

Those of you who would like to stay the night and have breakfast in the morning are welcome to bring a tent and pitch in the backyard. I am really good at breakfasts and encourage you to take advantage of this offer!

Questions?

If you have any questions at all before you book, please contact me by email or on Twitter. I hope to see you soon!- Monica


Make a booking:
(If you’re booking for more than one, you will be able to change order quantities after clicking the Buy Now button.)



No Knead Bread

Courgette and Carrot Salad

From the orchard

Breaking down camp

Beetroot Gazpacho Soup

Mom made this awesome sign!

Pudding time