Regular readers of my blog will know that one of passions, and fortunately work, is harvesting seasonal homegrown vegetables, fruit and herbs and delicious food. For our no dig gardening day course at Homeacres on Saturday, I made lunch for 17 (including Charles and myself) using Charles’ gorgeous vegetables (plus some bought ingredients, things we can’t grow easily which I’ll explain later) for around £1 a head, including muffins.
The ‘rule’ I give myself when creating these lunches is that as far as possible everything must have been grown by either Charles or myself, freshly harvested or home preserved. I enjoy the challenge of being inspired by the abundance and rarely plan dishes beforehand; muffins or cake are the exception as they require more bought ingredients (flour, etc) so I need to make sure we have those.
Polytunnel and seedling watering at home meant the chopping and cooking started a bit later than usual, around 7:30 am. With the oven warming, I first chop, prepare and bake anything that needs it – it’s a lot of chopping!
Then everything is cooked one after another, as space becomes available including the muffins (or whatever sweet treat I make for afternoon tea) – this minimises energy waste, making the most of the hot oven. Charles’ oven is electric and on a good day runs off his solar panels.
Meanwhile, the raw salads and hummus are prepared, many using a Magimix. When we first started the courses at Homeacres I used a cheese grater to prepare the shredded salads, hard work and you need to mind your knuckles! A mandolin would work here too.
There is no fridge at Charles’ house, or freezer. Charles’ kitchen is rather small, there is no dishwasher so I have a lot of washing up to do too!
Everything is made ‘by eye’ except the cake/muffins and it is pretty much solid food prep/cooking and creating from 7:30 until 12:45, when I get the table prepared for lunch, with a 30 minute period when I am making hot drinks for everyone after they arrive.
Everything is plant based except for the muffins (which included egg, easy to replace with vegan flax ‘eggs’) and the butter we offer with lunch for those who wish to spread some on their bread.
For lunch I made…
Stuffed Gem squash *
Roast aubergine and borlotti bean pate
Roast aubergine, tomato, onion, courgette with borlotti salad
Seasonal roasted veg salad – cabbage (seriously, this is divine), onion, celery, summer patty pan squash, carrot, garlic
Cucumber, mint and lemon hummus
Thai inspired raw salad **
French beans with French tarragon
Roasted beetroot – red and yellow – with oranges and onions
Raw grated red beetroot and apple salad
Potato salad with French tarragon, chives and parsley
Sliced dressed yellow brandywine tomatoes (a huge beefsteak Charles grows every year from home saved seed)
Dishes of cherry tomatoes
Charles’ salad leaves
Charles’ homemade sourdough rye and seed bread, made with Homeacres sourdough starter and freshly ground rye –
C has a mill in the shed! ***
Courgette, pumpkin seed and sultana muffins for afternoon tea**
All of this food worked out at around £1 a head because most of the ingredients were home grown!
(* recipe in this blog)
(** recipe to follow in another blog soon – I need to double check the quantities)
(*** the recipe for Charles’ bread and several of the dishes above are in the food chapter of our book, No Dig Organic Home & Garden)
There were some ingredients that I didn’t have the time to use; I was disappointed not to be able to make my favourite sugar free fresh rhubarb chutney or Waldorf-inspired crunchy celery salad, but there was enough for everyone and plenty of left overs. The photos are not fancy ‘magazine lifestyle’ but I was a bit rushed trying to get everything out there in time.
This is why I love growing my own – the choice, colour, flavour, textures and pleasure of eating something that you have nurtured from a tiny seedling, not to mention the health and cost benefits.
It could be argued that as Charles is an experienced commercial grower of course we could produce all of this food, but his garden is under 1/3 acre cropped so not massive. I grow everything here (and more) in my home garden and allotment. Even small gardens could produce some of the ingredients, topped up with bought produce.
To work out the costs, I over estimated a bit to make it as fair as possible. We buy oil, pulses etc from a food co-op, which isn’t possible for many people, so I based these prices on current costs of organic groceries on a well known on line supermarket. Charles uses rye bought by the sack load and grinds it himself, but here I used the current price for ready ground rye flour. It would, of course, be even cheaper using non organic ingredients, or organic ones from a local market.
+++There was easily enough for 20 people, probably more like 24, so I have based my calculations on food for 20 +++
1.00 2 limes
2.25 3 lemons
1.20 2 oranges
50p dried chickpeas
1.33 4 eggs
3.00 rye flour and self raising flour for the muffins
50p soft brown sugar
60p pumpkin seeds
4.00 olive oil
50p spices, mustard, seasonings
(I haven’t included the price of running the oven as that would vary according to one’s appliance.)
Stuffed Roasted Gem Squash
This simple recipe works well with patty pan summer squash too or round courgettes. Ideally only those with edible skins as it makes eating them easier. Eat hot or cold. Yum!
- Gem squash
- olive oil
- any vegetables and herbs you have in your garden or kitchen that can be finely chopped
Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
Cut the squash in half, remove the seeds to make a hollow and place in a baking tray.
Finely chop the garlic, onions, herbs (I used basil, parsley and French tarragon) and veg from your allotment (or kitchen!) I used celery and the ‘end bits’ from grating the salads in the Magimix, those odds and ends that remain stuck above the shredding blades – yellow beetroot, carrots, courgette – very thrifty. You could also add seeds (including those from the squash), chopped nuts, breadcrumbs, grated cheese, whatever you fancy. Salt and pepper to taste.
Put in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil, stirring until it is all covered.
Spoon into the hollows.
Place the tray into the oven and bake for around 30 minutes – keep an eye on it, the right timing would depend on the size of your squash.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tray if you are serving them cold. Alternatively if you want to eat them hot, carefully remove the squash using a fish slice or large spoon and serve.
Because we had more people than squash, I cut each one in half when they were cool. That’s why I didn’t completely fill the cavities, because I wanted the filling to stay in. If I was keeping them as halves, they would have been loaded with stuffing!
If you are stuffing patty pans, you can slice off the top, remove the seeds etc, stuff and replace the ‘lids’, if you prefer.
Recipes to follow:
Thai inspired raw salad
Courgette, pumpkin seed and sultana muffins