Going green...

I don't think my ethical makeover is as successful as Leo Hickman's yet. I'm trying to buy more organic fruit and veg, and more local produce, but it's still very tempting when you run out of something just to nip over to Morrisons to pick up what you need, whether it's oranges to bake a cake with, or onions to make pasta sauce with. My lettuce, mange tout and courgettes are doing very well in the garden (despite wet, cold and grey weather), but not surprisingly, there's a limit to what you can make with them. Oh for an allotment, to be able to grow the lot! (Mind, not sure that would help with the oranges - you'd need a triple glazed conservatory in Newcastle for that one...).

I keep going back to the Soil Association website, to remind me why I'm trying to go organic in the first place. They have a huge amount of information and special reports on organic food and farming, on an easy to navigate website. I especially like their Food for Life campaign, which calls for radical changes in school meals - real food made from real, local ingredients rather than junk and slop.


Cake, cake and yet more cake

Now I never thought I was the girl for reading things like Australian Women's Weekly, with its Country Gals seeking Grooms features. But I picked up three of their mini cookbooks yesterday, on Muffins, Party Cakes and Slices, and boy are they good. I made orange and poppyseed shortcake to go with strawberries and ice cream (the easiest recipe I have ever tried to make), and then orange and poppyseed muffins for breakfast today (there's a theme here, I know. But when you only need one teaspoon of orange zest and you've got a whole orange, what's a girl to do?). Shortcake very good. Muffins - I'll let you know, as I've not got round to having one yet.


Milky milky

How the humble pint of milk became a villain. Apparently a gallon of milk will set you back around $3 to $5. I couldn't even tell you how much it costs per pint over here, as I buy it in 2 litre packs from the supermarket (as I suspect a lot of people do - milkmen are becoming a thing of the past in some areas) - 98p in Tesco, since you ask. There you can get soy milk, goats milk, semi skimmed, skimmed, Jersey...in fact pretty much every kind of milk under the sun. The milkman just doesn't stand a chance.

But you don't see as many adverts for milk these days as you used to (whatever happened to the Accrington Stanley boys?). It used to be promoted, as it was in the States, as the perfect food for growing children, supported by the free milk in schools for all policy (axed by the lovely Mrs Thatcher). Mind, the milk you got at playtime was fairly disgusting - frozen in winter, warm and smelly in summer. Maybe that's what put everyone off it...or maybe it was just the Mary Whitehouse Experience...


Tea=cultural icon?

A nice cup of tea is in the running to be part of a website dedicated to cultural icons. Too right. There's nothing more British than a good cup of tea (apart from talking about the weather of course). And I bet if you asked every person who lives on this island how they like their tea, you'd get a different answer from everyone. Making a cup of tea's a very personal thing. I hate it if someone else makes mine, because they always do it wrong. And I don't think that's just me - we all have minutely different ways of doing it..the length of time the bag/leaves stay in, the amount of milk that makes a perfect cup, the type and brand of tea that we use, the mug or cup we prefer to have it in, no two people are the same. What's an automatic process when you make it yourself sounds so complex when you try and describe it to someone else. So you end up compromising, and saying ooh, just a weak cup of tea with milk please, and knowing that it'll never be as good as if you'd made it yourself.


Ham, glorious ham

Deli owners in Manhattan are reporting an upsurge in business, after an art exhibit ofa bed covered with slices of processed ham was unveiled at a local gallery. Marvellous. Just think of the reaction if you covered one with pies...


A meal fit for a Shah

I think my favourite thing of all at A Taste of Persia has to be the Sabzi-o-panir - mixed fresh herbs, depending on what's in season, with feta cheese. Last night there were sliced fat radishes and a couple of spring onions too. When it's married with a piping hot flatbread, just out of the oven, and the Mirza ghasemi dip (a weird but wonderful mix of aubergine, onions, garlic, eggs and tomato) then the taste is out of this world.

I rather like their home-made baklava too - full of pistachios, and not sickly sweet and dripping in honey, like the Greek stuff tends to be. It goes very well with an espresso, that's for sure.


What's in the bag?

I know you're dying to know. Well, there must be a bit of mild curiosity out there at the very least. So here goes. My huge paper bag of organic Honey Tree produce contained

  • a very nice bunch of celery
  • two very fat and juicy tomatoes
  • one large frondy lettuce
  • one bag of rockette
  • one ripe, purple aubergine
  • three carrots
  • one huge onion
  • one proper bobbly cucumber (not one of those smooth supermarket beasts
  • five potatoes

All for the price of £5. The five potatoes promptly got put to good use in a huge pan of bubble and squeak (which for the uninitiated is mashed potato, cooked cabbage and bacon, all fried together with plenty of black pepper and olive oil). Of course once the big brown paper bag was empty the cat immediately went and sat in it, rolled around, and started rustling about. She is called Rustle after all.


First lettuce!

Yes, had the first lettuce and baby spinach leaves from my garden yesterday for tea. "My garden" sounds so grand, but in reality it's a back yard in Newcastle, with a little cold frame full of veggies, and some peas that are threatening to outclimb even the clematis. It felt so good though, eating something that I'd grown, watered and generally looked after for the last month. After going to France and returning to a slightly shrivelled set of plants, I'm reseeding my lettuce and mixed herbs, and also trying out some cress, lambs lettuce, chervil and Greek cress. I figure that lettuce in supermarkets is some of the most heavily sprayed veg with chemicals, so if I can grow my own, I can bypass all that.

In fact tomorrow I'm off to buy my first bag of organic veg from the Honey Tree wholefood shop at the end of my road. I'm intrigued as to what will be inside...