Free Water-Saving Device

I grew up in Canterbury, New Zealand, where water was plentiful, delicious, untreated and free. It came from glaciers, filtered through layers of rock through to artesian wells deep underground. Since then there have been ongoing warnings that the artesian wells are in danger of running dry, and meanwhile a huge increase in dairy farming has led to greater strain on river water and run-off polluting the previously pristine rivers. I read with alarm an article the other day about Government cuts potentially causing deaths due to poor water quality. I find it hard to believe this is the same place I grew up in, things have changed so much just in my lifetime.

Here in London one does hear warnings about reducing water use, but to be honest I don’t pay much heed. I don’t leave the tap running when I brush my teeth, and that’s my lip service to water conservation. Oh, and doing my washing with Eco Balls on the 30-minute cycle – actually, that saves a lot of water. But my motivation to use the eco balls came more from wanting to cut down on chemicals and time than actually saving water.

I really do take water for granted.

Then this morning, I read this article by Lucy Siegle: Can I Use Water And Be Green? I realised I’m really not doing enough to save water. Then while googling ways to save water, I discovered a really easy and FREE way to save water in your toilet cistern. Of course, if you have a brick on hand, just chuck one in there and you’re done. But living in a fifth-floor London flat there aren’t any bricks around. Enter Thames Water: they are giving away water saving devices to anyone who lives in the UK. Thames Water customers can order up to 50 free devices and other UK residents can order one each.

Click the link, and do it now!

Tagliatelle with cavolo nero

I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating. If I could only eat one meal for the rest of my life, it would be this: Skye Gyngell’s Tagliatelle with cavolo nero. I found the cavolo nero at the Marylebone Farmers’ market last week, at the same organic stall that sold the courgette flowers. Whenever I see cavolo nero I buy it. I love it fried with a bit of garlic and chilli and served with a squeeze of lemon as a side dish, but now that I’ve discovered this recipe I don’t think there is a better way to serve it.

Before:

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After:

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Does anyone else have a favourite cavolo nero recipe?

Courgette flowers!

One excellent reason to visit the Marylebone Farmers’ Market.

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Stuffed with a mixture of ricotta, pine nuts, and basil.

I then tossed them in a little flour, and battered them in a light batter made from an egg, some flour, baking soda and sparkling water.

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I don’t think they made it as far as a plate.

Smoky polenta chips

Another Ottolenghi recipe, this time from his New Vegetarian Guardian column, recipe here.  If I were Yotam Ottolenghi I would possibly think about taking out a restraining order by now, either that or hiring me to do his PR.

Anyway, the polenta chips.  The appeal of these was they involve scamorza cheese, and I had some in the fridge begging to be used up.  I didn’t have any quick polenta, so I use the normal kind, and cheated by cooking it in the microwave in 5 minute bursts, stirring very well in between, until it was cooked (about 20 minutes).  Far better than standing over a hot stove on a very hot day, stirring constantly.  And it didn’t seem to make a difference to the result.

60 grams of semolina and 60 grams of scamorza yielded the amount of chips you see in the picture:

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A good amount to share, you would think, but my flatmate only had a couple and I scoffed the rest. Oops. The scamorza did add a lovely smoky flavour, although I’m not sure these were special enough to bother making again. Maybe if I have some more scamorza on my hands.

Low impact life action plan – update

I think it’s time for a proper update on my Low-impact life plan, following last week’s tale of woe (only there’s another one coming this week, wait for it).

So. Where am I?

Food. I’ve been very good at taking packed lunches to work. My favourite lunch is inspired by the Leon mackerel superfood salad (which I probably have a recipe for in the Leon cookbook, but I haven’t looked): while I’m eating my breakfast, I put some quinoa on to cook. This then goes in the bento box, topped with some salad leaves, vegetables (these have included avocado, broad beans, grated beetroot, grated carrot, and grated kohlrabi), a fillet of smoked mackerel, and finally a handful of toasted seeds. I drizzle a bit of Omega oil over the top and squeeze over some lemon juice. It’s so good and really gives me energy for the afternoon.

I have realised I have to try to eat a bit less, as I am trying to lose a little bit of weight (3kg would get me back to about where I was when I arrived in the UK). I’ve upped the exercise a lot but find that on the days I exercise, I’m much hungrier. Fighting these hunger pangs is hard as I’m not used to being hungry. But I have to force my body to use up some of its fat reserves… preferably the ones covering my brand new abs.

Then yesterday at the People’s Supermarket I found myself working on the ice cream stand for four hours. It was essential to sample every flavour so I could answer customers’ questions (the Guava Sorbet is best. Parsee Caramelised Apricot is most popular. But Rose Petal and Cardamom is the flavour everyone wants to try). That, combined with some delicious Booja Booja truffles that came free in my veg box = Total diet fail.

Skincare/haircare

I’ve started using the Dr Hauschka cleanser as well as the products I already use. So now I have the whole Dr Hauschka “system”. I’m not very good at using it twice a day as I should, but I think it is making a difference. I have to press it into my skin with a gentle pressing, rolling motion instead of rubbing. This is taking a bit of getting used to and because my skin is oily/combination, it is supposed to take five minutes. For low-maintenance me, that’s a bit much. But I am rewarded by smaller pores and clearer skin.

The Liz Earle spf 15+ mineral sunscreen is great. I got a pack of three small tubes, and half of it’s gone already. I work outside so I have to slather myself in it. But it works really well. I’m slightly tanned and more freckled on exposed skin than I was, but haven’t been burned once this summer. I didn’t think 15+ was enough for me but I’m glad to be proved wrong. And even the strongest chemical sunscreens don’t protect my skin once they’ve been open for a year or longer, so I’m really happy with this.

Conditioner. I had a go at making my own leave-in spray. It’s easy. You just get a spray bottle, nearly fill it with water, add about a teaspoon of glycerin, two teaspoons of jojoba oil and two teaspoons of sweet almond oil. Add 10 drops of rosemary oil and shake. You need to shake it every time you use it as the oil separates from the water. I also added a bit of chamomile oil to bring out my hair’s natural blonde highlights. I’m still using my regular conditioner, as this is more of a detangling spray than a conditioner, but I might try using it on its own when my conditioner runs out.

I’ve also stopped using anti-perspirant, which contains aluminium. I know the jury’s out on aluminium, but I’d rather it didn’t get into my body all the same. I also sometimes get horrible painful lumps under my arms, which are usually fixed by switching deodorants. I decided to try a crystal salt deodorant instead, which works by killing the bacteria that feed on sweat and produce the rank smells associated with perspiration.

So it definitely doesn’t stop me from sweating, but I rather like not smelling like a chemical cocktail. It definitely stops the bad smells (I have sought outside verification) but it’s quite a strange sensation to just smell like myself. It’s another incentive to stick to the healthy diet, because diet definitely affects body odour. And it actually feels quite empowering and sexy. Speaking of which, the one downside: I seem to have become irresistibly attractive, not to men, but mosquitoes. I didn’t even know London had mosquitoes.

Exercise

This week I have been to two hoop classes, one Pilates class and done a LOT of walking. I have been rewarded with very sore shins. Hypermobility raises its ugly head again. So instead of going to a hoop event today I am resting. I’ve lost about a kilo since starting this plan.

Home

We’re trying some new natural cleaning remedies while trying to use up the chemicals we have left. There is a cleaning spray I’ve made for the kitchen that both Camilla and I are totally addicted to – the kitchen has never been so clean:

Nearly fill a spray bottle with water. Add 1 tsp baking soda, a few drops of liquid soap (Dr Bronner’s), and 10 drops of lavender or tea-tree oil (I add a bit of lemon oil too). Shake together.

The recipe is from Domestic Goddess on a Budget, which my mum sent from New Zealand.

I’m also loving baking soda (bicarb) which I buy from Unpackaged. It’s great for cleaning things like the bathroom sink – I just sprinkle it on, leave it for a while, and scrub it off. Gets rid of any strange drain smells too.

I’d like to add a category, Health. I’ve been deliberately ignoring this because I use over-the-counter drugs every day to control my hayfever. I seem to be allergic to every type of pollen, dust mites, and mould spores. I’m quite keen to try alternative methods that would get me off the drugs. So far I’ve only tried local honey, to inconclusive results. It tastes good, but I’m not very good at remembering to take it every day (but I am good at remembering to take the drugs…).

I was drawn into Lloyds Pharmacy the other day by a sign outside advertising an Allergy Reliever (which you stick up your nose several times a day and works by using light therapy) for £10. Thinking it was worth a try for a tenner, I took one to the counter, only to be told it was actually £19.99. I’m absolutely disgusted by their false advertising (it is also currently advertised on the internet, in sponsored Amazon and Google links for £10, then when you click through to the website it is £19.99) that I’m determined Lloyds will not get my money. However a similar product on Amazon is even more expensive. It has rave reviews though – could this be the solution? Well, even if I have to pay £30 for the Amazon product, Lloyds is not getting my money. I think as a pharmacy, people put a lot of trust in a business like Lloyds and such underhand and illegal marketing tactics are an enormous breach of trust. By the way, I made a written complaint on their website on Thursday but they have not replied. Bit of a recurring theme here. Sports Direct’s Customer (Dis)Service department haven’t even acknowledged my complaint. Good to know the customer matters!

Courgette tarts – recipe

It’s courgette season, which means time to come up with 101 ways to use the delicious and prolific summer squashes so we don’t get completely sick of them, because we’ll miss them when they’re gone!

I thought I would make some little courgette and goat cheese tarts for a quick summer supper. The days are so hot at the moment it’s all about things that cook in as little time as possible!

Unfortunately this did require turning the oven on, but they did not take long to cook. I bought ready-rolled puff pastry from the supermarket. This is not the weather to make pastry in, and even the ready-rolled stuff was quite difficult to handle in the heat, despite being chilled in the fridge first.

The pictures are from my first batch. I improved them in the second batch but didn’t take any photos.

You need:
Ready rolled puff pastry
Tub of soft goat cheese
Two courgettes
Thyme, and/or oregano – whatever you have fresh and on hand
Lemon
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

First mix some thyme/oregano and lemon rind into the soft goat cheese (the first time I just sprinkled it on top – mixing it in worked better). Slice the courgettes as finely as possible. You can do this crosswise or lengthwise.

Cut squares of pastry and then scored a line about 2cm in from the edge of the squares and about halfway through the pastry.

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Then spread the goat cheese mix on:

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Then layer the courgettes on top of the goat cheese. I did one layer in the pictures but I think it works better with two, if you can stop them sliding off the edges. It’s important to keep them within the scored line.

Season, brush with a decent amount of olive oil, then cook in a hot oven until the pastry has puffed up and turned golden brown.

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Serve with a salad. It’s also lovely with some parmesan shaved on top.

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Barbados dinner

I’m getting rather behind on the blogging again I’m afraid!  Let’s turn the clock back to Taste of London.

I’m rather poor this year so wasn’t planning on going, however at the last minute I received an invitation to attend a dinner at the Barbados tent, with fellow blogger Niamh from Eat Like a Girl.

As I stepped outside my door, I saw a few drops of rain on the ground.  I thought I’d better go inside and grab my umbrella.  I was so glad I did because it was pouring with rain by the time I’d made the 15 minute walk to the middle of Regent’s Park.  This was a shame because we were meant to be eating at lovely tables outside, and when we arrived we were told of the mad scramble to get the tables and chairs back out of the rain.  Instead we were seated on bar stools around the bar, just sheltered from the rain which showed no sign of letting up.  This was a perfectly acceptable arrangement however and made it very easy for the staff to serve.

And serve they did, including copious amounts of alcohol!  We were greeted with a rum cocktail, then moved on to Champagne, white wine, red wine (I didn’t catch the names but they were good), a shot of rum came at some stage during the meal, and then a dessert wine.  All this on a school night too – unfortunately for me I had to go to work the next day!

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What with the alcohol, and the passing of time, I have forgotten what was in this soup.  It was really good though.

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Next course, ceviche.  I love ceviche in all its limitless variations, so this went down well.

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Seared tuna on a bed of lentils.  Slight guilt over the tuna but let’s just imagine it’s sustainable, shall we?  The lentils were everyone’s favourite part of the meal.  Unfortunately they had an ingredient list as long as my arm, and I’ve forgotten most of it.  No recreating that part at home then!

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Slightly boring main course for me as I passed on the pork.  But I had seconds of the lentils, so it’s ok.

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Dessert was panna cotta.  The jelly on top had another enormous list of ingredients which I suspect included gelatine, but being polite, I ate it.

All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and a good showcase for the chefs who had come out from Barbados for the festival.  Turns out Barbados is definitely a good holiday destination for the foodie.