A Nice Cup of Tea … or Coffee

Oh, I’m so glad you’re here – welcome to my little party.  Look, I’ve made coffee already, but if you’d prefer tea, I’ll pop the kettle on.  Darjeeling?  Ceylon?  Do you prefer milk or lemon?

I was hoping you’d come along, so I’ve baked a cake.  I thought carrot cake would kid us into believing we were having one of our five a day, and this recipe from the Guardian looked good .  But I’ve got biscuits too: I made these with teff flour in case anyone’s gluten-free, but I love the slightly malty taste.

I hope Su will come along.  These virtual tea parties were her idea.  Is my carrot cake like yours, Su? And Jo.  Jo always appreciates a slice of cake, though usually at the end of one of her Monday Walks.  Which aren’t happening anywhere just now. Kiki wangled an early invitation, so … come on in! We don’t have to practice social isolation on line.  Let’s have a good time!

 

Inspired by Zimmerbitch’s Invitation to Tea.

And – oh look!  I have a six word post title.  Do you think I could persuade Debbie to come along for Six Word Saturday?

Pay-As-You-Feel, Eat a Good Meal

Let’s begin at the beginning.  A couple of years ago, Alison and her husband were in Saltaire, looking for a late lunch.  They found it at the Saltaire Canteen, and soon realised it was no ordinary café.  Here, the ingredients used were all past their sell-by dates, and had been intercepted from landfill.  They’d been transformed into appetising meals, mainly by volunteers, and customers were encouraged to pay what they thought was fair, or what they could afford.

‘We could do that in Ripon’, thought Alison.

Actually, that’s not the beginning of the story.  We need to go back to December 2013, when The Real Junk Food Project opened its doors in Armley, Leeds,  as a café offering meals made from food destined for the tip.  People ‘paid’ for their meals with money, by offering skills or even food.

It was the brainchild of Adam Smith, who had a Road to Damascus moment on a pig farm in Australia, where the pigs were eating discarded food he’d have been happy to put on his plate.  Back in England,  The Real Junk Food Project was born, firstly as a café: then as an ever-expanding movement helping others develop their own models; as a Sharehouse sourcing and distributing waste food for those cafes; pay-as-you-feel supermarkets of discarded food; Freegan boxes of intercepted food designed for families; for distribution in a school setting (breakfast clubs, or for families in need for instance); even outside catering.  I’d like to get married all over again for the pleasure of having a Junk Food catering team deliver the party!  You can see why Alison needed to talk to Adam.

She found a co-conspirator in her friend Janet, and between them they located premises at Community House, equipment, cookware, crockery, cutlery, napkins… everything you need to feed the masses.  I’ve dismissed that task in a sentence, but I don’t underestimate the achievement.  They found volunteers too.  I wasn’t in at the beginning, but I’m part of the team now, and I wouldn’t miss my stints for anything.

A year ago, the café opened.  It’s on Thursdays, Ripon’s Market Day.  People start to drop in from 11 o’clock for a coffee, maybe a cake.  From 11.30 they’re eager for lunch.  Seating is at refectory-style tables, so whether you come with a friend, family, or on your own, you’ll be sitting with others and soon be talking to those around you.

Look!  Here are a few sample menus.

The cooks for the day will have been to Wetherby the day before to collect supplies, considered the random collection of ingredients and devised and cooked a varied and tasty menu to suit everyone: there are always vegetarian and vegan choices.  There’s nearly always a soup or two, and good old fashioned nursery puddings are hugely in demand.

The volunteers have been in since 10 o’clock, setting tables, chalking up the menu, getting everything ready.  At 11.30, they become waitresses and waiters: taking orders, collecting and serving the food to the diners, taking turns to wash up, and finding time to chat and be welcoming.  Newcomers become regulars: regulars become friends. We have office workers; young families; elderly people who welcome a hot meal in friendly company; visitors to the city …

At the end, people put what they feel in a box by the door.  The point is to save food from landfill, not to make money, so those who can’t pay don’t need to feel embarrassed.  Some offer services instead – there were some electricians in one week ….  There are costs of course – notably the rent: so far donations have kept us in the clear.  Any profits are re-invested in improved services.

Then, for the volunteers, it’s time to wash up, tidy up, put things away, swab the kitchen floor, pack away the tables and chairs, vacuum … and finally go home for a rest and a nice cup of tea.

Wholemeal has become a real asset to Ripon community life. And look at the food that’s been intercepted from landfill!  Win-win.  Thank you, Alison.  Thank you, Janet, thank you Adam … and everyone else who’s made it possible.

Radio York transmitted its whole morning show from Wholemeal last Thursday.  Anyone who’s super-interested can listen here, on BBC Sounds.

Light-headed? Blame the Gin….

… because it’s Seville orange season, and time to make next Christmas’s supply of Seville Orange Gin, that perfect winter warmer after a day walking in the bright frosty air.

January Squares, # January Light

PS.  Several of you have asked for a recipe.  There are any number on the internet, but they are all similar to this one from The Cottage Smallholder.  I saw a different recipe that suggested cardamom, so I have used this instead of cloves.  And I only used 150 g. sugar.  Also.  Three years?  Not a chance.  We’ll be drinking ours at Christmas.

Nostalgia is a Freshly-Baked Loaf

The queue’s gone down outside Vanora’s now. You could pop in for a loaf.

A couple of months ago, a new baker’s opened in Ripon.  Goodness, it was welcome.  A baker’s shop as a baker’s shop ought to be.

Vanora and Andrew get up in the small hours, when all the world’s abed, to fashion and bake their loaves.  The great pails of dough will already by then have been slowly proving and rising over a period of hours.  This is sourdough, fermented from  the natural yeasts present in the air we breathe, rather than using the commercially-available yeast usual in British breadmaking.

And oh – the bread it produces!  A wonderfully chewy crust, and a loaf with a slightly sour, characterful taste.  Riponians have taken this extra-special bread to their hearts, and ahead of opening time (only Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at present) an eager queue forms outside the door.

How this reminds me of our years in France.  The first job of our day was to queue outside the baker’s for our morning bread, croissants or pains au chocolat.  It was an unhurried task.  We’d all stand cheerfully in line, catching up with neighbourhood gossip, swapping recipes: generally having a sociable time.  And so it is outside Vanora’s.  We meet old friends, make new ones, and once inside, are greeted by name by Vanora and Andrew as we take the time to chat to them too.  This, we all agree, is shopping as it ought to be.  Oh, and on Saturdays, Vanora makes croissants too.  Don’t tell anyone in France, but …. these are the best croissants we’ve ever tasted. You could stock up on brownies, focaccia, sausage rolls and pork pies too.  These last two aren’t our thing, but I’m told they’re far and way the best in town. (Please note:  I am not being paid by V&A for this shameless piece of advertising.)

Vanora serves a customer….
… perhaps with one of these loaves.

This isn’t the only reason for my feelings of nostalgia though. Brought up in London as an Anglo-Polish girl, east-European-style sourdough loaves were as much a part of my life as baps, cottage loaves and wholemeal tins.  Good memories.

This is an entry for Lens-Artists Challenge #75 – Nostalgic, despite the fact that I was limited to using my non-smart-smartphone to take my snapshots.

 

Cabbage glut? Be Korean – make kimchi!

Kimchi jars outside a house in Seoul.

If Korean, serve at every meal.

Fermented cabbage: sour, pungent and addictive.

To prepare … set aside whole day …

Ever since our holiday in Korea, I’ve wanted to make kimchi.  Every house had its earthenware kimchi jar, or jars, with various kinds of pickled vegetables fermenting happily away within.

This week I had a cabbage mountain, and two days ago, had the perfect excuse to get started, even though, strictly, it wasn’t the right sort of cabbage.  I watched this YouTube video by Maangchi, who’s the Korean cook to watch if you want to acquire a bit of know-how.  You can watch it too, but if you don’t feel like it, here’s my summary underneath.

Between soaking chopped cabbage, salting it for long hours; cooking and cooling a sauce base; preparing and processing onions, garlic, ginger; chopping piles of vegetables finely and adding Korean chilli flakes; mixing the lot together; packing it into an airtight container – you won’t be doing much else between breakfast and a very late lunch.

Now … now it’s beginning to ferment.  Sour already, it’ll become more pungent as the days and weeks go by.  Try a bit? If it’s your first time you may not like it.  But you may come to love it: fermented, sour, spicy, soft yet crunchy, it’s a meal in its own right or a fine addition to a simple plate of rice or noodles.  Just as well I made a lot.  It was a bit of a palaver.

Making kimchi takes a long time.

It’s worth it – don’t you think?

An offering for Six Word Saturday.

 

(Almost) all is safely gathered in…

Regular readers will know I’ve got into the habit, once a month or so, of revisiting an old post. And I’m reminded of what October used to mean in France. Blackberrying’s over now in England (the devil spits on the fruit as soon as October kicks in, didn’t you know?), but my inner-Frenchwoman has been squirreling away scavenged apples, pears, mushrooms – even a few unimpressive walnuts. It all reminds me of France, where foraging is a way of life…

October 25th, 2012

‘All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin’ *

Autumn colours mean it’s harvest time for foragers.

I’ve written before about the ‘au cas où’ bag: the carrier you always have with you on a walk, ‘just in case’ something tasty turns up and demands to be taken home and eaten.

Well, at this time of year, it isn’t really a case of ‘au cas où’ .  You’re bound to find something.  A fortnight ago, for instance, Mal and I went on a country stroll from Lieurac to Neylis.  We had with us a rucksack and two large bags, and we came home with just under 5 kilos of walnuts, scavenged from beneath the walnut trees along the path.  A walk through the hamlet of Bourlat just above Laroque produced a tidy haul of chestnuts too.

Yesterday, we Laroque walkers were among the vineyards of Belvèze-du-Razès.  The grapes had all been harvested in the weeks before, but luckily for us, some bunches remained on the endless rows of vines which lined the paths we walked along.  We felt no guilt as we gorged on this fruit all through the morning.  The grapes had either been missed at harvest-time, or hadn’t been sufficiently ripe.  They were unwanted – but not by us.

The walnuts we’re used to in the Ariège are replaced by almonds over in the Aude.  You have to be careful: non-grafted trees produce bitter almonds, not the sweet ones we wanted to find.  But most of us returned with a fine haul to inspect later.  Some of us found field mushrooms too.

Today, the destination of the Thursday walking group was the gently rising forested and pastoral country outside Foix known as la Barguillère.  It’s also known locally as an area richly provided with chestnut trees.  Any wild boar with any sense really ought to arrange to spend the autumn there, snuffling and truffling for the rich pickings.  We walked for 9 km or so, trying to resist the temptation to stop and gather under every tree we saw.  The ground beneath our feet felt nubbly and uneven as we trod our way over thousands of chestnuts, and the trees above threw further fruits down at us, popping and exploding as their prickly casings burst on the downward journey.

As our hike drew to an end, so did our supply of will-power.  We took our bags from our rucksacks and got stuck in.  So plentiful are the chestnuts here that you can be as picky as you like.  Only the very largest and choicest specimens needed to make it through our rigorous quality control.  I was restrained.  I gathered a mere 4 kilos.  Jacqueline and Martine probably each collected 3 times as much.  Some we’ll use, some we’ll give to lucky friends.

Serious business, this scavenging.

Now I’d better settle myself down with a dish of roasted chestnuts at my side, and browse through my collections of recipes to find uses for all this ‘Food for Free’.

Jacqueline, Martine and Maguy’s chestnut haul.

* Two lines from an English hymn sung at Harvest Festival season: Come, ye thankful people, come’

A contribution to Six Word Saturday, and Jo’s Monday Walk: it’s more than one walk Jo.  Extra value?  Or disqualified?

Breakfast like a king…..

When in Spain, do as the Spaniards do….

Every time we come to Spain, we know we could easily buy a carton of orange juice, a pack of coffee, a box of cereal and some milk and make our own breakfast. But where’s the fun in that?

No, when in Spain we do as Miquel does. We do as so many Spanish do. On our way out to begin the day, we call in at a local bar or bakery-with-café attached.

We sit down, maybe glance at one of the newspapers lying around, and order a coffee and a pastry and enjoy a few quiet moments before launching into action.

Our breakfast of choice includes a large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice – such a treat. We may choose a wholemeal croissant: I promise you, they’re delicious. Or even better, pan tostada con tomate. Chased down with a café solo, and a few minutes of people-watching, there’s no better start to the day.