Permaculture and pallets

I know a few people with a crazy pallet obsession 🙂

They can be very useful. I decided to have a go myself.

I was quite keen to introduce more herbs and salad leaves that I use everyday around the kitchen door to ‘zone one’ as the ‘permies’ might say.

It turned out that a couple of spare pallets donated from a friend were perfect for this.

No need to purchase/buy/invest in a single thing. Little effort for a lot of reward.

“The purpose – where I start – is the idea of use. It is not recycling, it’s reuse.” -Issey Miyake

 View from the doorway.

Salads and herbs close to hand.

How much might I be spending on bags of fresh salad leaves and fresh herbs to use everyday?

This has cost absolutely nothing

and I haven’t contributed to any destruction of the environment either through supporting the farming practices that would have been used to grow something I could have bought in a supermarket.

“We live in a disposable society. It’s easier to throw things out than to fix them. We even give it a name – we call it recycling.” -Neil Labute

 No DIY skills needed either turn the pallet over stand it up and secure it with bricks in the bottom or anchor onto the wall.

Makes a useful storage or tidy space too

plant pots sit right in

“There is no away” Barry commoner. 

These are his 4 laws of ecology.

  • Everything Is Connected To Everything Else.  There is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what affects one, affects all.  Humans and other species are connected/dependent on other species.  With this in mind it becomes hard to practise anything other than compassion and harmlessness.
  • Everything Must Go Somewhere.There is no “waste” in nature, and there is no “away” to which things can be thrown.  Everything, such as wood smoke, nuclear waste, carbon emissions, etc., must go somewhere.
  • Nature Knows Best.  Humankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but such change in a natural system is “likely to be detrimental to that system.” 
  • There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.  Exploitation of nature will inevitably involve the conversion of resources from useful to useless forms.  In nature, both sides of the equation must balance, for every gain there is a cost, and all debts are eventually paid.

  I have also reused containers from the kitchen that were saved waiting for a use

 My two year old put this little empty pot in here after we’d finished some raspberries. Its *that* easy.

You will undoubtedly have seen this but it always makes me smile

“The world generates about a billion tons of garbage a year. Those who live with it and from it are the poor – like the people of Cateura, Paraguay. And here they are transforming it into beauty. Landfill Harmonic follows the Orchestra as it takes its inspiring spectacle of trash-into-music around the world. Follow the lives of a garbage picker, a music teacher and a group of children from a Paraguayan slum that out of necessity started creating instruments entirely out of garbage. Landfill Harmonic is a beautiful story about the transformative power of music, which also highlights two vital issues of our times: poverty and waste pollution.”

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Craft teas

 You can make tea with whatever you like and its fun to experiment with combinations. I added two small slices or one large slice, of dehydrated pear and a tablespoon of dried rosehips (mine are whole crushed ones) to the infuser in the centre of my teapot and it made about 2 cups. An ordinary teapot and a strainer works just as well 😉

You can experiment with many many flavours and even tea bags or tea pot potions as I call my larger ones. I recently made some little bags for using herbs and dried flowers in foot and bath soaks (also on this blog) so I used more of these for teas as well 🙂

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blending flavours

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A finished ‘tea pot potion’

some of my favourite and more unusual combinations:

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They make great gifts and Ive recently put together some  gift sets of retro or vintage tins (you can reuse any tin or moisture proof container) to house a variety of flavoured bags. Home made gifts that do not cost the earth! Chemical free, no carbon footprint in making these, all completely natural straight from my garden! I know people will delight in receiving these as a gift. I would.

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I also drink many of these rather than purchasing ordinary tea bags.

Earlier on in the year I attended a permaculture course with Graham Burnett from Spiral seeds, one of our tasks on the course was to analyse the open ended effects of a cup of tea made with a supermarket brand compared to a home made lemon balm tea. Which offers more degree of control on shockingly limitless effects.

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sorrel (from the garden) and ginger. A great combination!

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What goes into your branded tea and what you get out!

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Permaculture system with you at the centre puts you in control!

Home made foot or bath soak recipe

Homemade foot or bath soak recipe:
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warm water to fill your bowl, 2 tablespoon of seasalt 1 tablespoon of epsom salts, 2 tablespoons of dried coconut milk powder, 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda few drops of lavender essential oil. Rosepetals and lavender from the garden -could add mint or lemon balm. I also used it in the bath with the addition of clary sage oil and some fresh rosepetals for extra relaxation Just mix it up and play around with it, the salt and oils soften and condition skin
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I also made some little bags to blend dehydrated flowers and herbs in for use in the bath or with feet if the idea of loose doesnt look comfortable. I made these as gifts for family and friends! Great way to minimse your effect on the environment as opposed to purchasing something filled with chemicals! Also hand crafted with love which I myself would defitnitely prefer to receive as a gift!
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Braised beef and Doncaster ale sausages with onion and leek grav

Braised beef and Doncaster ale sausages with onion and leek gravy, sweet potato chips and apricot chutney.

I thought I’d start by talking about local ingredients and some favourites from our rather excellent market. Sustainability is becoming more important to more people. It seems everyone is growing and making, not least for economic reasons. There is a tradition of growing, skills and advice are passed down generations. It isn’t hard to imagine how economic conditions help to keep these skills alive. In future posts -into the summer, I hope to be blogging about how we are pooling sources, skill sharing and trading with produce. Today the focus on ingredients from the local award winning market.

 So what did I find to treat us with in a tasty supper? Wilkinsons award winning sausages caught my eye. I am not a fan of the frozen supermarket variety. To me there is nothing more foul than a chewy bit of gristle in your sausage, I would rather go without than that and then of course there is the whole terribleness of the meat industry and the abuses and contamination of the meat and meat products. Its been a good while since since I had any. What specifically caught my eye was that these are made with beef, and locally sourced meat (their website and counter staff will tell you exactly where from) and Doncaster brewery ale. The beef is marinaded for 3 days in the micro-brewery’s Cheswolds bitter and then breadcrumbs and black pepper are added. No wonder they are prize winners, the pork version was awarded gold at a British Pork Executive competition. Alas I had just missed them making sausages, else I could have watched and taken photos for you. They do it right there at the stall. (I have since been told on a Thurs morning if you want to see.) Obviously onion and leek go pretty well, I picked those up for pence, and whilst looking I got a large bag of apricots for £1.50 (most of the stalls on Friday had this offer and those kinds of surprises are the best thing about browsing a good market) and that, I thought, would be enough for a nice fruity sticky meaty supper. Theres nothing better on a cold dark January night.

I wanted a drink to compliment the food and what better than a nice ale to drink with it and to use for the onion gravy?  The boys at Wilkinson’s told me that Doncaster brewery had just opened their tap room on Young St so off I popped for a nosey and to get a recommendation and a bottle. They were all out and assured me that everywhere else was, so I sampled a glass of sandhouse ale (after Doncaster’s historic sandhouses) and headed back to the market to see what the new market alehouse and deli might have to offer. Turns out rather a lot, friendly staff, with time for you and the inclination to chat about a shared love of local and sustainably produced food and drink. Who crucially, knew more about ale than me. Based on my ingredients I was recommended Imperial ale. From ‘The Imperial brewery’ just down the road in Brian Blessed’s town of Mexborough. It is a nice dark copper with a slightly sweet aftertaste and did the trick for adding a bit extra whilst still allowing the flavour of the sausage to be the star of the show. Right. Recipe time!

Supper for two

For the sausage:

4 Wilkinson’s beef and ale sausages

1 bottle of ale (won’t need it all for cooking!)

Homemade stock or demi glace or 1 stock cube (if you must)

1 red onion

1 clove garlic

1 medium leek

Cheater’s chutney:

Roughly 1lb of peeled chopped apricots or other fruit

1 med white onion

2 garlic gloves

1 tspn chili flakesflakes

Approx 100g of brown sugar (sweeten to your taste)

4 tbsn cider vinegar

Spicy sweet potato chips:

1 medium sized sweet potato

Teaspoon cumin seeds

Tablespoon chili flakes

Marmalade

Olive oil

From the market alehouse and deli I also bought lmperials’ “Bees knee’s” because you know I like bees by now I guess, and its brewed with local honey from Mexborough, a pale straw coloured ale, light and slightly sweet with a hint of that honey, lovely to drink with my supper (I accidently drank all the rest of the ‘Imperial ale’ whilst cooking.) I also bought Axholme brewing co’s pumpkin porter (they grow their own pumpkins for it) which I had with my second supper of leftover chutney and  poached eggs.

Method

Slice and chop your fruit, onion and garlic for the chutney first as this takes the longest and preheat your oven to 200oc or gas mark 7

Add all your ingredients into a pan on a high heat turn it down to a low heat for around 45 mins till the sauce is thickened but whilst the fruit still retains a bit of shape.

Whilst the chutney simmers, peel and slice your sweet potato. Coat it with the olive oil and spices (I put it in a bowl and use my hands.) Then place onto a baking tray, it doesn’t matter if you need to overlap, lightly smear a little marmalade over (a little goes a long way.)

Slice your red onion and finely dice the garlic (or crush with a little sea salt, which is better) add to a pan with a tablespoon of olive oil and soften gently whilst you slice the leek. Add the leek

Next heat your frying pan on a high flame and add the sausages turning regular to braise them for 3/4 mins. Then add to your garlic onion and leek.

Now deglaze yoiur frying pan with a good splash of ale and add your stock.

Transfer this to your sausages and again deglaze and stir up. Add ale and stock as required and season to taste, leave the sausages 7-8 mins to cook through.

Warm plates in the oven and serve with a large ale. Enjoy. We did!

Local honey and coconut lemon muffins

Local honey and coconut lemon muffins

2 eggs (medium)

4 tablespoons of honey (I used local honeycomb)

250ml milk (semi-skimmed or whole)

125ml vegetable oil

 400g self raising flour

lemon rind to your taste, I used a tablespoon

4 tablespoons of coconut (use less if you prefer)

The flavouring ingredients can be substituted for whatever you like. If you want to make chocolate ones do NOT use drinking chocolate and be sure to substitue 100g SR flour for the 100g of cocoa powder.

You will also need:A muffin tray and muffin paper cases

Whisk your wet ingredients together in a jug. Combine your dry ingredients into your bowl and make a well to add the liquid, mix untill it all comes together. Note: if you have any fresh fruit to add, do so right at the end after youve combined all the other ingredients. Fill cases two thirds full (for the right shaped muffins) and bake for 25 mins (approx, til brown)

This honey just makes everything better and really is a touch of magic in everything and anything. I am quite keen to keep my own bees and am researching the topic in order to get going this summer. So I just had to share how pretty it is.

For the cinnamon sugar 

You can add sugar to an airtight jar and flavour it with a cinnamon stick (or any other ingredients) or you may wish to mix cinnamon and sugar as I did, it makes a lovely decoration on the top too. A good ration is 2 tablespoons of caster and one tablespoon of cinnamon. I took a couple of good pinches and spirinkled over before they cooled so that it ‘stuck’.

I tried out my new dehydrator with fruit so have a couple of jars of dried pear and apple. Pear and honey is a fabulous combination. Trust me I can’t wax lyrical enough about that, pear and honey muffins are fabulous!

 

Pear and rosehip tea

I added two small slices or one large slice, of dehydrated pear and a tablespoon of dried rosehips (mine are whole crushed ones) You can make tea with whatever you like and its fun to experiment with combinations. I added this to the infuser in the centre of my teapot and it made about 2 cups.

Elderberry tincture

Elderberry tincture

Its so easy to make the most of natures abundance and to learn from her. Get outside.

This is just a quick reminder if you were thinking of using elderberries, its so easy! You need to discard as much of the stem as possible and just use the berries. Remember to leave some onthe bushes for the birds and take a pair of scissors so you dont have to tug at and snap at branches. I usually have a bag on my wrist and do a ‘snip and drop’ action haha 🙂 less mess as the berries can stain and a lot easier.

You need wash them either before or after they are removed from the stems and crush them lightly with a masher.

Fill a jar with your crushed berries leaving an inch or two from the top.

Cover the berries with a spirit of your choice and fill to the top.

Leave in a darkened spot preferably for aprox 6 weeks then strain and bottle or can (which means putting in a sterilised jar)

It will ast for a year or two. Easy.

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You can use any jar you save, to sterilse just wash it with hot soapy water, rinse and dry in the oven on the lowest temperature setting. I like to use brandy as having raised my voice in classrooms for years I find it soothes my throat and voice when I have a cold. I will probably use this myself more than syrup -though that is great for children and has culinary uses, tincture will have culinary uses too -you can always add a bit of honey 😉

Swiss Chard: Tourte de blettes

I have grown a fairly decent amount of Swiss chard (Its my first year of growing many things) I grew it from seed having made a conscientious decision to only use open-pollinated seeds, these were obtained from a local seed swap. I made spiced chard chips -the new kale chips 😉 and I pickled the stems in white wine and rice wine vinegar -for an Asian style pickle. I decided to make a Tourte de blettes with what was left over.

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Tourte de blettes, obviously isnt form Yorkshire 😉 Its a ‘funny sounding’ French recipe from the South of france, Nice. This is important as French cooking is very regional, and what you find in Nice you wont find in Paris. Really it isnt as odd as it sounds we are all used to carrotcake and nowadays maybe beetroot and cougettes in cake too. You should try these things if you havent they’re good! So, we are talking about a balanced medium -not too sweet tart, a sweet thin pastry made with oil, and a filling of chard, parmesan, raisins (I used sultanas) pecans (I used almonds -straying a bit far for some but it worked wonderfully) eggs to set it and some cinamon and brandy for soaking the raisins/sultanas. If that reminds you of a near christmassy mincemeat filing you’d not be a million miles off. That said though, dont expect it to be like that! I used golden caster sugar throughout.

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This my take on a Tourte de blettes. You can double this recipe for a larger tin. I used a small one.

For the pastry:

(160 g) plain flour
(30 g)  golden sugar
small teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
(30ml) olive oil
1 large eggs
Optional: 2 to 3 tablespoons whole milk (if dry and it’s necessary)

For the filling:

250g of Swiss chard *leaves*
pinch of salt
30g sultanas
brandy
15g almonds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
15g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
100g granulated sugar
1 large eggs
1 medium baking apples

Icing sugar to dust for presentation.

Method

1. Make the pastry dough by mixing together the plain, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Add the olive oil and the eggs, mixing until the dough is smooth.

2. Divide the dough into two pieces, one slightly larger than the other, wrap each in clingfilm and shape the two dough portions into disks. Chill whilst you continue (its useful to chill for up to an hour or so if it is sticky)

(pastry dough can be made up to two days in advance.)

3.preheat the oven to 180ºC, I wait til the pastry is done as cool environment is often adventageous

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4. Wash the chard leaves and place in a saucepan with a bit of water and a pinch of salt. Cover, and cook the leaves until they’re completely wilted, about 15 minutes.

5. Drain the leaves and run cold water over them, turning them as you rinse. This ‘sets’ the color. Once cool, squeeze the leaves as firmly as you can to extract as much water from them as possible. Dont be worried here your main aim is to avoid a watery tart!

6. Place the sultanas in a small saucepan and pour just enough brandy to cover. Simmer for a minute or two, until absorbed.Transfering to a cold bold to help them cool to room temperature.

7. Chop the Swiss chard and put it into a medium bowl. Coarsely chop the sultanas and almonds and add them to the chard. Stir in the cinnamon, Parmesan, and sugar, and then the eggs.

8. Lightly grease a small tart pan with a removable bottom.

9. Dust both sides of the larger pieces of dough and roll it between two large sheets of parchment paper. About halfway through rolling, peel away the parchment and re-dust both sides of the dough with flour, then continue to roll the dough until it’s the size that will fit into the bottom of the tart pan and go up the sides. It may not always be necessary to use the paper (or clingfilm can be used too) but it is useful for getting a nice thin pastry if you struggle with stickyness.

10. Peel away the top piece of parchment and carefully overturn the dough on to the tart pan. Peel away the other piece of parchment and lift and sink your pastry into the tin. press lightly into the sides. Smooth the dough into place and even it out if necessary. mine wasnt sticky and worked fine but it doesnt always for everyone. Patching it up is often necessary and if you dont your filling might leak.

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11. Spread the filling into the tart pan over the dough, then peel and thinly slice the apples, and lay them in an even layer over the Swiss chard filling.

13. Roll out the other disk of dough as you did the lower one, between two parchment paper sheets, and transfer it to the tart pan to cover the tart filling. You will be able to see yor apples but dont worry if not.

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14. Use your fingers to seal the dough at the edges to enclose the filling. A few gaps are normal.

15. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the dough is golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before dusting with icing sugar and slicing.

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