Tag Archives: family dinners

A family dinner despite the news

Okay, this isn’t really a place to discuss politics, or the news…except that we do not live in a vacuum and everything we do or believe we are choosing is influenced  at some political level.

Friday 8th May 2015 was the day we woke up to the news that the Conservative party had done comparatively well in the General Election, and over the day the news led to the conclusion of events: we have a majority, albeit a small one, tory government.

Neither of us really knew how we were going to vote, right up until walking into our village hall. We live in a ‘safe seat’ constituency, so for us, it was all about how to most effectively register our protest at the current political system. I have met our Conservative MP several times. I quite like the guy; engages at whatever level in community affairs and has come out on a Saturday morning at my request to attend to a localised issue that is really important to our local youths, with – at the time- a three month old baby: I respect that. However, I do not share a political perspective with him, or the majority of voters locally. I believe there is a better way to organise social living on our precious planet; only one party represents my views remotely closely.

I am proud that I added my voice to the 1.1+ million voters who support the Green Party, and in proportional representational terms, lend legitimacy to Caroline Lucas‘s sole voice in Westminster, even though she only -technically- represents Brighton on a national scale.

So what can a green-minded family do in times of such despairing news? Well, we cooked a lovely meal and reflected on what is important to us.

Dinner: Tempura vegetables followed by Thai Green Vegetable Curry with a nice bottle of relatively local Pinot Gris. Heavier whites go better with stronger spiced foods, and wines from the Alsace region are usually a safe option for curries, particularly Riesling and Gewürztraminer.

Dinner menu: Tempura Veggies followed by Thai Green Vegetable Curry with a bottle of Pino Gris from AlsaceTempura Veggies:

  • 100g plain flour
  • 10g baking powder
  • Iced, sparkling water
  • Selection of vegetables cut into chunks

Method: Stir the flour and baking powder together in a bowl and gradually add the water until it is thick enough to cover your spoon / finger / mushroom quarter. Don’t over mix: you are trying to slow the developing gluten and any lumps in the batter mean less absorption of fat. The colder the water, the better. Ale (for a heavier batter) and other carbonated waters (soda, tonic) aid the lightness of the batter, literally through the air bubbles.

Plunge into a wok with heated vegetable oil and fry until lightly browned.

Remove and drain as best you can.

Serve with soy sauce, infused with chillies / coriander /  finely chopped spring onions – to taste (chilli-free for our boys).

Frying tempura battered veggiesDraining tempura veggiesAubergine, purple sprouting broccoli and mushroom Tempura battered vegetables

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thai Green Vegetable Curry:

Damian based this course on Jamie Oliver’s dish, but with the following ingredients (and no fish sauce, obviously):

  • Butternut Squash
  • Yellow pepper
  • Aubergine

I can’t recommend making your own paste enough. We have a Magimix Micro for whizzing up all our massalas and curry pastes. It makes all the difference when you can pick fresh herbs from your allotment or select them from your local Asian foods store.

Serve on steamed Jasmine rice and top with loosely chopped fresh coriander.

Infusing the vegetables in the pasteThai Green Vegetable Curry DSC_1810

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A fabulous family dinner that gave us time to reflect on what is important to us, what we must keep on striving towards to do our part in sustaining a fairer society and reducing impact on our planet. None of the vegetables in this dinner, apart from the garlic in the paste, were grown on our allotment: it is too soon in the season for us. But what is important is to do what we can to reduce our environmental impact and to keep talking about politics at home!

To finish, here is a photo of Sarah meeting Natalie Bennett (leader of the Green Party) along with Fiona Protheroe, a local Green Party council candidate in Skipton in 2013…a very positive moment in local activism.

Fiona and Sarah with Natalie Bennett - leader of the Green Party - in 2013
Fiona and Sarah with Natalie Bennett – leader of the Green Party – in 2013
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Broad bean risotto

I ended up having quite a disastrous year at the allotment: Too many unplanned jobs arose through the key seed-sowing time. That, plus stories from our allotment neighbours of mice decimating their ground-sown peas and beans, led me to never quite getting around to planting enough in time. I did, however, manage to sow enough field beans (var. ‘Wizard’).

2014-08-13 20.20.542014-08-13 20.21.05What a star crop! They fared better than the few longpod broad beans in the ground through the drought, and were less scarred by the winds a few weeks back. They are smaller than standard broad beans, but are prolific and taste fabulous. What’s more, if you crop them young there is no need to remove the skins. In fact, it’s our first year of growing this crop, so I have not seen old beans – you may never need to skin this variety.

As soon as I had enough broad & field beans, we sat down to a favourite risotto:

Broad bean & lemon Risotto
Serves 4

1-2 handfuls de-podded field beans
Other veg from allotment, chopped

3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
5oz Carnaroli or Arborio risotto rice
A good glug of dry white wine
1 pint Marigold veg stock, near boiling
1 Strip of lemon peel
1 Bay leaf and handful chopped mint
Handful herbs from garden (thyme & oregano both work)
Seasoning

Juice from 1/4 lemon
25 g butter/vegan equivalent
Small handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped

1. Prepare the vegetables and herbs, and make the stock. Good risotto requires you to stir and add liquid gradually, so ideally you need to be ready to go before you add the rice. If you have time/space, make the stock in a pan next to the rice pan and keep it heated. Use a large, flat-bottomed pan for the rice.

2014-08-13 18.01.122. Lightly fry the onion in the oil. Well before it browns, toss in the garlic and stir for another minute. To brown the rice or garlic would spoil the flavour.

3. Add the rice, lemon peel and bay leaf and stir to coat with oil. After about 30 seconds, you will hear the rice beginning to crack. Stir to make sure the rice is toasting evenly for a minute or so.

4. Add the wine. Prepare for the sizzle and steam cloud! Stir until evaporated.

5. Add 1 ladle of stock to the rice and stir, gently and consistently.

6. When the rice has absorbed the stock, add another ladleful. The stock should be hot when added, which is why it is best to have it in a pan over heat, rather than poured from a jug.

7. Add the vegetables at around this point. It takes about 20 mins for risotto, so allow 8-15 mins for the veg depending on cooking times. Field beans require about 10 mins using this method, as does courgette.

8. Keep stirring and adding a ladleful of stock when the liquid has been absorbed / evaporated. The rice and liquid should be keeping a creamy consistency by now.

9. When cooked – al dente rice and liquid gone, remove from heat. Remove the bay leaf, lemon zest and woody herbs if used. Squeeze the lemon over the rice and stir. Add the butter or vegan spread and seasoning, and stir. Do this step quickly, stirring fast to cool the rice to slow further cooking. This dish should be glistening!

10. Serve with fresh mint.

I may not make the most perfect risotto in the world; I believe it is quite an art. But the kids love it, and it’s a great Monday night dinner to finish off any white wine leftover from the weekend.

Pea and mint is another tried and tested recipe, that works ever so well with mangetout from the plot. I grow 3 varieties of mint in the herb garden; the spearmint complements the peas fantastically, and I find the chocolate mint works very well with the broad beans.

2014-08-13 18.54.26