I try and do as little work as possible. In the kitchen, this means using the fewest number of pans to generate the least amount of washing up. Here’s something that’s recently become a weekly ritual that provides five meals from a few vegetables.

Last time I cooked the quiche stage of the process, my mate Philippe – a great chef and all-round excellent person (“un bon mec” in French) – had a taste and recommended a couple of spices to add interest, which you’ll see in a minute.

Meal 1 – roasted veggies

veggie preparation

Use whatever veggies you fancy at the time. Probably best to pick these up on the same day as cooking. I went for a couple of potatoes (boiled from cold for a couple of minutes, then fried in a little oil to start giving it some colour), a sweet potato, a couple of courgettes, an onion, some celeriac, a red pepper (out of season, I know, but so good), a couple of large cloves of garlic, and a couple of parsnips. Looks like I forgot the carrots this time. Pour some olive oil over them and some honey, then mix by hand (I added the potatoes after this, to save burning myself unnecessarily).

Bang them in a high(ish) oven until they look like this (it might have been about 1.5 hours).

roasted veggies

Eat as much as you like (including all the potato – it’s a bit weird in a quiche) and leave the rest for…

Meals 2-5 – veggie quiche

Dig out a couple of spices. On the chopping board, below, are some coriander seeds crushed under a sturdy glass and chopped a bit (I don’t have a pestle and mortar at the moment), some paprika and massala.

spices

Chop your leftover (cold) veggies.

chopped roasted veggies

Stick some pastry in a tray that looks like it will do the job (I leave the pastry – flaky or not – for five minutes in a warm room before opening the packet, to make it more user-friendly, and also leave the grease-proof paper under it during cooking). Grate some cheese onto the pastry, then add the veggies (I added the rest after this photo).

quiche preparation

Beat five or six eggs with a fork (I do have a whisk, but this recipe is destined for a new site where we’ll use the minimum amount of equipment as possible). Add some milk (this bottle was full before – so, not too much) and the spices, and some salt and pepper.

quiche mix

Add this mix to the pan.

quiche before

And put into a high(ish) oven for about 35 minutes, until it looks like this. (I take the grease-proof paper off for a few minutes at the end, to crisp up the pastry).

quiche cooked

Eat one portion hot, then have some cold for lunch on three days. Or an easy dinner. Or a breakfast. (There are no rules.)

I’m currently working on a new website with Philippe, where he will demonstrate, though recipes, how to use spices to make restaurant-quality food you can prepare easily at home. When we have a few recipes up, I will give you the name. This summer’s guests at the écovallée yurt camp will also have the chance to cook with Philippe using veggies from just down the field – and eggs, if needed, from the chicken run.

Last week, some of our guests spotted people pulling crayfish (US: crawfish) out of the lake in nearby Lanquais. So they went back, armed with a chicken drumstick and a bucket, and pulled out about 60 in a few minutes. Unfortunately for our guests, they went out for dinner that night, which meant we got to eat them all ourselves!

First, I found this very useful picture story by George Monbiot on how to make a crawfish (UK: crayfish) net and how to cook them, then had a go myself. As these were quite small, I went for ten at a time for about five minutes in quite salty water. Here’s the before, during and after shot:

crayfish

Shelling took a while and you do end up with lots of waste – but you also have a delicious, ethical, foraged, restaurant-quality feast. Prawns have been almost completely off the menu for a few years for us, which is a shame because we love them. But these taste almost as good and we’ll be eating them again as often as we can. (For this first attempt, I fried the tails lightly in garlic butter, with a dash of lemon juice, and stirred them into pasta.)

Highly recommended – and many thanks to Tim, Janine and the boys for fishing them out for us.

Before the weather got too hot, we (or more accurately, Her Outdoors) got to play with the clay oven. Not just the usual bread making…

clay oven bread

But a whole roast chicken for the first time…

clay oven chicken

If you’re a meat eater – and have a clay oven handy – I can’t recommend this strongly enough. The wood-smoked flavour was incredible (although The Boy One wasn’t too keen) and final leftovers resulted in the best risotto I’ve ever made.

Here’s the book we used for the chicken instructions.

clay oven cookbook

Looking forward to many more experiments, as soon as the weather cools down.

Here are the amuse-bouches Philippe made for Her Outdoors’ show (see post below). I’m still undecided on which was my favourite.

amuse bouches

If you’ve found your way here to read about our journey from suburban comfort to rural self-sufficiency, please spend a few days plundering the archives. Or download the free book to read Part One of the story in a few hours (link on the right of the homepage)…

 

I have this idea for a book I may never write called: “Embracing Austerity”.

It would be full of practical information on managing the transition from the current, destructive, waste-based economy where almost everyone is stressed, unhappy and disconnected from the food they eat, to the new waste-not world where everyone will work hard, feel fulfilled – and the only unhappy people will be those who used to be fabulously rich.

One important section of the book would be recipes like this:

Roasted butternut squash ravioli

Roast some butternut squash from the polytunnel (or greenhouse). If you don’t have access to gas or electricity, a clay oven or neighbourhood bread oven will do. You’ll need to cut the squash length-ways into quarters, then cut again, smear with oil, salt, pepper, fresh herbs and chilli, if desired.

Make pasta, using that machine you bought years ago and only used twice. Or borrow one from a neighbour. You’ll need eggs and flour (and a recipe.) If you don’t have a pasta machine, you could use a rolling pin – the finished ravioli will just be a bit thicker. Which means you’ll eat less of it. Which means you can feed more people. Bonus!

Mash up some butternut squash. You won’t need much. At all.

Make ravioli with the mashed up squash. It will look like this:

Re-heat some tomato sauce. This was made by roasting a tray of tomatoes sliced lengthways, with a sprinkling of garlic, herbs, salt and pepper, and drizzled with oil, in a low oven (or clay oven) until it smelt incredible. This was then mashed, eaten as soup, with the rest reduced to use for this meal (with even more left over for pizza topping next time the clay oven is really hot).

Boil the ravioli for a few minutes, on a hob (or fire).

Plate up the ravioli, top with the sauce and some ripped basil.

Cost per adult serving last week: 7 cents. (Tasted like: €12.95.)

The breadmaking post seems to have revealed an appetite for recipes on this blog. So today I thought I’d have a crack at making a biggish waffle. (Again, this is something Her Outdoors usually does, which meant she was the perfect person to teach me – with the “Joy of Cooking” book on hand for reference).

1) First I put 1.75 cups of white flour in a Biggish Mixing Bowl (BMB) with 2 level teaspoons of baking powder and 1 tablespoon of sugar, and mixed them together.

2) I separated three biggish eggs and beat the yolks with 1.5 cups of milk (using a fork), until it looked like this:


3) I added the yolky mix to the BMB and mixed it all together until it was “not too lumpy”, like this:


4) Her Outdoors melted a couple of tablespoons of salted butter in our griddle pan over a high heat (thereby cheating me of taking credit for the whole thing) which she (!) poured into the BMB:


5) The egg whites were whisked (by both of us – with a whisk) until “stiff but not dry”, which looks like this:


6) This egg white fluff was then folded into the BMB with a biggish spoon until it looked like this:


7) With the butter-covered griddle pan back on a medium heat, I emptied the BMB into it (thereby regaining control of the situation):

8) I then waited for many minutes until the middle of the almost-waffle didn’t move when the pan was tilted.


9) Then I flipped the almost-waffle, only spilling a bit on the pan and cooker.


10) Her Outdoors then turned the heat down a little (argh) until the waffle was cooked through, which only took a couple of minutes.

11) I (yay) then slid the waffle onto a chopping board and took a surprisingly anaemic-looking photograph.


A biggish waffle like this is a pretty cheap and really tasty way to feed a family of four and have some left over for the chickens. It was excellent with butter and maple syrup, although a couple of rashers of crispy smoked streaky bacon would have made it even better.

Coming soon… Her Outdoors wielding a chainsaw.

So we watched the Jamie Oliver Christmas shows. Now, we love Jamie Oliver (not in a sexual way, you understand). His early TV shows were superb, as were his first books, and together they made a huge, lasting, positive impact on our cooking. He’s gone on to do Great Things, and we wish him and his expanding waistline all the best.

Excited by some of his seasonal recipes (although a bit weirded out by the number of supermarket packets being used – we’re more used to Hugh’s way of doing things), Her Outdoors made the waffle and hot chocolate breakfast on Boxing Day. Here’s the proof:


I hope I’m not too late to say: Don’t try this at home. It’s utterly inedible. Far too much baking powder and the salt was overpowering (we did substitute salted butter ‘cos we don’t have anything else, but even without it, it would have been an awful waffle). The hot chocolate was OK – superbly thick – but there were complaints of powdery nature. After a single bite each, we gave it all to the pigs and chickens, and Jamie’s reputation took a savage beating.

Although this experiment was a disaster, the idea of waffles and hot chocolate is a good ‘un. And fortunately, Her Outdoors has huge experience in pancakes and waffles, having lived in California for many years. So she took the waffle recipe from “Joy of Cooking” and the real hot chocolate from The River Cottage Family Cookbook, with a couple of minor modifications, and made this:


It was sublime. Exactly what we would have wanted on Boxing Day. Light, fluffy and filling waffle with a rich, sweet and chocolatey drink on the side. Proper – as Jamie would say in the old days – pukka tucker.