Summer in America is very different to summer in Northern Ireland, where I now live. You have lovely spring days that lead gradually into ever-increasing warmer days that bloom into those hazy days of summer that are so blissful and relaxing. Here, we get a week or so in May, then a week or two in September of good weather, maybe a high of 23c/75f degrees. Then, our days are pelted with rain, chilly, blustery winds, and the occasional hail shower. Summers are not known for being a great sunny season, hence the abundance of pale skin here in Northern Ireland!
But not all of life is so sour. Or at least it is, but should be celebrated not mourned! The long stretches of sunlight in May caught in between the rain showers are the perfect growing conditions for rhubarb. These jewel-toned stalks bloom within these intense bouts of rain then sun… then more rain. Although you might be tempted to think that rhubarb is only good for stewing and tarts, I invite you to take a closer look at this jewel of the garden and get creative in incorporating it into your dinners, desserts, and snacks this summer! And whatever you do, don’t forget to invite someone round to share in this tantalising, sour fruit!
Rhubarb & Strawberry Curd
Curds are surprisingly easy to make, yet complex and decadent to eat. Enjoy this curd as the filling for a meringue pie or as a topping for Irish scones… Or straight from the jar for a cheeky tart snack!
- 6 ounces of strawberries
- 2 ½ cups juiced raw rhubarb
- 1 cup sugar
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons melted butter (not hot)
- Chop rhubarb into thumb-sized pieces and place into a blender. You will need enough juice to produce 2 ½ cups, which is roughly 6 large stalks. Blend the rhubarb for about one minute.
- Place a sieve over a glass bowl. Pour the juice and pulp from the blender into a sieve and press the pulp against the sieve until mostly dry. Discard the pulp.
- Ensure you have enough juice. If you’re just under measurement, add a drop of water to make up the rest.
- Blend the strawberries and sieve them as well.
- Combine the juices with the sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan, ensuring the cornstarch is incorporated fully.
- Whisking constantly, bring the mixture to the boil and then remove from heat. The mixture should be thickened and glossy.
- In a separate dish, beat the egg yolks. Slowly add a portion of the juice to the yolks, whisking the yolks constantly to prevent scrambling the eggs.
- Once the yolk mixture has been combined, slowly add the mixture into the saucepan, along with the warm melted butter. Return to medium heat and stir constantly until the curd has thickened considerably.
- Sieve the curd and refrigerate for a few hours until set. It will keep for about a week in an airtight container, refrigerated.
- I used my curd as a summery substitute for lemon curd in my meringue pie. The inspiration for this came from the house we just moved into! The house is a lovely cottage on the edge of town, with beautiful trees and plants, including a thriving patch of rhubarb. Andrena, my neighbour who owns the house, gave me the inspiration and history of this pie: Ruth lived in the house we moved into. She made a simple tart by slicing rhubarb into a pie shell and dropping strawberry flavoured gelatine in between the rhubarb. After baking, it was sweet, tart, and gooey! But she didn’t stop there. The real showstopper was a tower of sky-high meringue that floated like a sugary cloud atop the tart. It was Ruth’s father who built the house back in 1927. Ruth was a phenomenal baker, baking regularly until 2 years before she died at 97 years old! It was only fitting to allow her legacy to inspire this recipe.
I know we’re late in the game on this one, but what’s Christmas without a little bit of chaos, right? Don’t panic if you’ve already got your stuffing or dressing sorted. Stuffing is not merely a side dish for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, but a delicious addition to the stick-to-your-ribs dinners that the cold, short winter days invite. This is such an easy dish to make, and this recipe will add a special warmth to any dinner you pair with it. Whether made into a loaf or as loose stuffing, I hope you will enjoy this as much as I do!
Sweet & Savoury Stuffing
- Rapeseed Oil, or any other oil for cooking, plus a few pats of butter
- 2 onions, diced
- 2 carrots, finely diced
- 2 sticks of celery, finely diced
- 2 cooked beets, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 persimmons, cut into medium slices, and then halved
- 8 ounces cooked and peeled chestnuts, halved (or find a pack of pre-cooked, vacuum packed chestnuts)
- 1 pound pork sausage meat
- 8 – 10 ounces dry bread crumbs or cubes
- ¼ – ½ dried cranberries, depending on your preference
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1 ounce fresh sage, chopped finely
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Heat the oven to 375f/190c/gas mark 5.
- In a large roasting tray, coat the beets and persimmons in oil, seasoning lightly with salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan. You will use this pan to eventually combine most of the ingredients, so ensure it has a high enough wall to hold it all. Brown the sausage meat, being careful to break up the meat well.
- Once browned, add the onions and saute until becoming translucent. Tip in the carrots and celery and saute for another 5-6 minutes.
- Stir in the chestnuts, sage, nutmeg, orange zest, butter, and cranberries. After mixing well, fold in the breadcrumbs. For a moister stuffing, or to make a stuffing loaf or balls, many people add a pint of stock to the stuffing at this stage.
- Once combined, add the stuffing mixture to the roasted beets and persimmons and stir gently until combined. Taste the stuffing mixture to ensure the seasoning is to your liking and then place the tray back into the oven, finishing off for another 25-30 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are just toasted nicely. If roasting as a loaf, bake in a loaf pan for 45 minutes or until heated thoroughly and crisped on top. Stuffing balls should take 30 minutes.
Although not overly healthy (or even at all), I have to share this recipe. It’s winter and there’s nothing like the scent of warm, cinnamon apples filling the house. Apples are synonymous with the holidays! Between caramel or candied apples, apple pies, apple sauce, or pork and apples, recipes are as plentiful and diverse as the varieties of apples. Although you might have a favourite go-to recipe for your Christmas or other family get togethers, I urge you to try this easy, cinnamony, upside-down comfort cake, even for an afternoon get together with friends over tea and coffee. You won’t be disappointed!
- ½ cup/115g butter, softened
- 2 cups/450g caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup/240ml milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 3 cups/375g self-raising flour
- 2 apples, peeled, cored, and diced
- A few drops of lemon juice
- 1 ½ teaspoon sugar
- Icing sugar, to dust
Heat oven to 350f. Grease a bundt pan. Sprinkle the 1 ½ teaspoons of sugar along the bottom of the pan. Add a few drops of lemon juice to the sugar and set aside.
Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla, cinnamon, eggs, and milk.
Fold in 1 cup of flour at a time until completely combined.
Spread the diced apple into the bottom of the bundt pan.
Place batter onto the apples one spoonful at a time. Bake 45 minutes or until a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean.
Once cooked, cool for 10 minutes and turn out onto a serving plate. Dust with icing sugar. It’s best enjoyed warm, fresh out of the oven, sliced with a thick spread of butter on top, a big mug of tea or coffee, and a few close friends.
Tonight starts the prep for my one week vegan/vegetarian keto diet experiment. As some of you know, I follow a moderate ketogenic diet along with my husband, as it has been helpful at managing his epilepsy [Here is a journal article about the benefits of the keto diet on not only epilepsy, but many other heath conditions as well]. Although I completely love meat, I also love vegetables, beans, and grains, and could easily enjoy meat-free recipes many days of the week. Also, I think varying any diet’s intake is healthy for the body and fun for the tastebuds.
Herein lies my difficulty.
After seeing so many delicious vegan/vegetarian recipes, I’ve had to bypass them for fat-filled and [animal] protein-filled meals to fit in with our keto diet. But. I. Love. A. Challenge. So, for dinners only, I decided to try out a vegan/vegetarian keto diet for a week to see how practical it is to follow under keto specifications, and to encourage others if they are interested in keeping up a high fat-low carb lifestyle without meat. And I’m starting tomorrow…!
We’ll be making fajitas with a base of mushrooms, aubergines, paneer, and walnuts. Recipe and ingredients will be provided tomorrow — please check back in! I’m away now to eat my weight in meat!
Food doesn’t just help restore the body; food and the creation of food restores my mind and soul.
Last week, I made pitta crisps for no other reason than to create something. My busy hands creating something of beauty and use is therapy for my soul. I’ve known the ebb and flow of life and death, of eustress and distress – good stress and bad stress. I’ve found that stress in my life can lead to a debilitation of vitality and creativity. Or it forces from the depths of me a need to create for creativity’s sake: stress is a conduit that can lead to creativity. This season of life has led me to the kitchen to create. I have discovered a love affair with food that I’ve always had, but never understood.
Food isn’t just something that keeps my physical body alive. It keeps an element of me breathing, sighing, and laughing, each emotion invisible within the beauty of the creation of food, taste, design, and combinations of ingredients and colours. Sorrow is eclipsed by the beauty of aesthetics and taste; joy and laughter magnified in the flavour and vibrancy it encapsulates. Various forms of creativity have always been a place for me to express my processings of both the life I live and the reflections of the life I observe around me – drawing, painting, printmaking, music, photography, and now, culinary arts.
There is a creative element to all of us – the need to both express and reflect – creative stories of our own telling and retelling. And, food is incredibly social! For the first time, I am not merely creating for my own processing and emotion. Sharing my sorrow or frustrations within a bite to eat lessens the load and soothes my body and soul. And how much more contagious is joy and happiness than when shared over a dinner, whether with one other person or over an evening dinner party? My journey thus far has led me to food: to create, enjoy, and, for the first time in my creative pursuits, to invite others to partake and enjoy this creativity with me.
With busy schedules and cheap, convenient food, lunchtime can quickly become less of a meal and more of filling a need. If you aren’t able to carve out a bit of time to stop and enjoy a bite to eat, then, at the very least, I can help with inspiring some healthy, quick, and easy lunchtime options.
All of these ideas can be adapted to meat-free by substituting with legumes, pulses, and/or seeds and nuts to up your proteins to keep you energised and active until dinner time!
- Salad Topper
This is the usual lunch menu Monday through Friday at our house. We sandwich a spoonful or two of this mix between fresh kale or spinach and some fresh fish and dress with cracked pepper, extra virgin olive oil [EVOO], and lemon juice.
Twice per week, chop, grate, and shred carrots, cucumber, cooked beetroot, scallion, avocado, celery, tomatoes, bell peppers, olives, pickles, mushroom, broccoli, radish……You get the idea. Any and all veg you have on hand can be tossed into a large bowl. The key to this salad is the variety of taste, colour, and texture. Get a good mix in there, add some seeds, nuts, and even some dried or fresh fruit like oranges, apple slices, grapes, or berries. Because of the variance of what’s in the fridge, this salad is anything but monotonous. Be adventurous and treat your taste buds to a wonderful variety!
And if you have a little extra time, try slow roasting some mushrooms, carrot batons, broccoli, red onion, garlic cloves, and pepper and add a few of those in to your salad for some complexity of flavour and texture. The onion and garlic especially become sweet and delicious – not at all sharp and pungent like when eaten raw! Roast the garlic it in its paper drizzled in oil and pop it out once cooked. It won’t stink you up like raw garlic does!
- Raw Bento Box
This lunch is perfect for busy workdays, commuting, lazy weekends, lunch with friends, picnics, kids lunches….It’s pretty much perfect all the time and every where!
Take your favourite fruit and veg and slice, dice, and chop. Compartmentalising the box
looks neat and beautiful and satisfies those of us with OCD helps keep the food pieces separate so you can grab and go, or makes it perfect for sharing. Bring some boiled eggs, nuts, cheese, or charcuterie to spice things up a bit. We sometimes add in some pittas or crispbread and mash an avocado to use as a creamy spread and then top with various veggies and cheeses.
- Tuna Salad
Mash an avocado with lemon juice and pepper. Chop and add in cooked beets, carrots, bell pepper, onion, celery, tomato, broccoli, edamame, coriander, chilli pepper, and mix. Top with baby sprouts and enjoy!
Drizzle with rapeseed oil or EVOO to loosen the mixture, or add a dollop of mayonnaise if you prefer it more creamy. Substitute in a plethora of mixed beans, quinoa, and legumes for tuna to make this a meat-free lunchtime option.
These are just three of the raw lunches we rotate here. We like these because they can be made in advance, are low prep time, and are so tasty and healthy! So, even if you can’t stop and nurture your soul during the day with a time of rest while you eat, now you can eat least nourish your body in a short amount of time!
Life is fast, exciting, and on-demand… and we are overstressed and undernourished.
Here at Lo & Slo, we are pursuing a slow life and slow cooking….but not with a slow cooker. We’re going back to our roots, to an old fashioned way of cooking: simple, creative, nutrient-dense food..with a few feel good treats thrown in!
A FAMILY JOURNEY AT A FAMILY PACE
We have to take it SLO. Between kids’ parties, doting friends and relatives, and the influence of modern society, we have a slow journey ahead of us to become a whole food, low stress, natural, healthy family.
In this media-drenched, data-rich, channel-surfing, computer-gaming age, we have lost the art of doing nothing, of shutting out the background noise and distractions, of slowing down and simply being alone with our thoughts.
The pace of life feels morally dangerous to me.
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life. …and not when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
Henry David Thoreau
Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.
Robert Louis Stevenson