Vegan nut slice

Yep, you read that right. I may not be a proponent of vegan ideology, but I created something amazing, and it happens to be entirely free of animal products.

This ‘nut slice’ is great warmed through with chips and slaw, or works as a roast substitute, with roast spuds, leek sauce, and steamed veg. And gravy (of some kind). It freezes amazingly well, and can be warmed through from frozen in just 20 minutes! In fact, it’s best to freeze the batch as soon as you’ve eaten your first portion. If you reheat it without freezing it first, you risk it drying out.

With tomato, avocado, onion and caper salad

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Ditch supermarkets and help the environment, the new old-fashioned way to change your lifestyle

Supermarkets are the epitome of capitalism, institutionalising consumers, pushing prices down to the detriment of small producers, reducing quality, stifling innovation … the list of crimes against food culture is endless. (See my blog a couple of years ago on what the supermarket model has done to book publishing.)

But consumers need convenience, not just lower prices and wider choice.

We now know there’s a climate emergency taking place. We’re picking over the bones of humanity’s legacy, and even the most optimistic scientific projections show that we aren’t going to save the planet without some serious lifestyle changes. Wholesale. Literally, everyone in the West. Right now. Or by 2050, we could be looking at a world where only pockets of rich people have survived. And no, this isn’t hyperbole.

So, how do you make a lifestyle change without it getting in the way of your actual life? I have an idea …

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Bramble (blackberry) and banana spelt crumble

Fruit crumble is way easier than pie.

There, I said it. This may be sacrilege, especially to American connoisseurs of pie, but the British idea of a pie involves a lot of pastry—always—and sometimes … sometimes pastry is a place you just can’t go.

Crumble, however, is the easy bit of pastry without the iced water, the no-touch rule, the rolling and the cursing. Takes 5 minutes to make, 40 minutes to bake, and 10 minutes to eat, so as an emergency, no-fuss pudding, it’s close to perfect and hard to muck up.

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Roasted potato gnocchi: using leftover mash

This idea I blatantly picked up from Nigella’s book Kitchen, but unlike hers, it uses fresh homemade gnocchi. This is because using the bought variety and cooking it in this way results in hard, slightly powdery bullets—not my idea of food!

I think I got the original recipe for gnocchi from James Tanner’s Take 5, or possibly from the Cranks’ Light Cookbook, but needless to say, it’s probably all my own by now, given I don’t mess on with quantities. I’ve been making these for years because I like leftovers to be more than just ‘what we had yesterday’.

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Summertime pepper soup

Summertime isn’t the most soupy time of year, I know, but if you get lucky with a large bag of veg and don’t have either time nor inclination to do something fancy with it, soup is a quick and easy tastebud treat.

I wouldn’t normally suggest a pepper soup, given that you’d probably need at least 3 packs of supermarket peppers at around £1.50-£2.00 each, but as hinted at above, I got lucky with a big bag of about 8 yellow and red peppers for £1. They were on their last legs, so you wouldn’t want to do anything more exciting with them, but this soup …. hell yeah!

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Nuts about gingernuts

Gingernuts are the ubiquitous British biscuits that you dunk in a glass of cold milk or a cuppa hot tea. They should—in my opinion—be hot and fiery, spicy but not bitter, and as dry and crunchy as possible.

If you check the internet for a recipe, things can get a bit confusing as there are all kinds of strange ideas, including using stem ginger bits (posh!), treacle (erm…) and mixed peel (NOPE!) so today I gave Delia’s recipe a go, with a couple of changes. Her one-teaspoon of ground ginger seemed a bit ‘tea-and-biscuits’ or ‘ladies-wot-lunch’, and I personally want my mouth to catch fire as I eat. Also I abhor soft biscuits (those are cookies), so in my paranoia I did these on a lower temperature. Next time, I’m doing it with plain flour to see if they are flatter and crunchier still, but the results were good enough today.

And yes, I had to call the fire service for my mouth. You might want to tone down the ginger. Or not.

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Slow cooker rice pudding: simple, as rich as you like it and tasty a f

The rice pudding of your dreams

Rice pudding: the stuff of childhood. But there are a couple of different ‘usual’ ways to make it. The easiest way to date has been to throw it in the oven. Thing is, I don’t care for it as much that way, especially since the last one I made boiled over and made an unholy mess. The other way is to make it on the hob. If you’ve got the patience, that makes a creamy, delicious pudding similar to the stuff you get in a tin, but with a better (less tinny) flavour.

I don’t have that patience. But I do have a slow cooker.

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Cheese, leek and potato pies and pasties

Even the fussiest veggies will resign themselves to a shitty cheese and onion pasty from anywhere. Well, for years I’ve searched for the perfect cheese and onion pasty filling, and today, having paid almost £2 for a fairly substandard effort from a chain bakery, I finally cracked.

Here’s my version of an almost entirely homemade cheese, leek and potato pie and pasty …

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David’s Carleton Farm Food Shop, Penrith: a farm shop with its feet on the ground

David’s Carleton Farm Food Shop, Penrith is everything you’d expect from a farm shop—actually, scrub that! You won’t find something quite as singular anywhere else in the area. And yes, we’re inundated with some quite good farm shops in the area, but when they’re ‘good’ they’re usually also costly, and mainly out of my economic range—with the great quality, lovely customer service and food I can actually afford, for me, David Dickinson wins hands down … Read on for unadulterated enthusiasm!

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