Sunday, 17 February 2013

River Cottage Veg, Tomato salad, and yoghurt cheese

Today I want to share a summer salad that was inspired by thoughtful birthday gifts.  The post however is about little victories.  It is about overcoming my dislike of tomatoes, about overcoming my uncertainty about Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, about overcoming my bemusement at yoghurt cheese and enjoying life in spite of the challenges it throws up.

For my birthday I was given River Cottage Veg Everyday (by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) and a wonderful package of foodie marvels from my family.  I have always been a bit disinterested in Hugh FW due to my image of him as a rabid carnivore.  Watching his Christmas special at the end of last year made me finally decide that he was a chef of interest when it came to vegetarian recipes.

I had browsed the book in the stores and put it down a few times as well as seeing it on blogs.  Finally I was ready for it.  I haven't read it thoroughly.  Yet I found the introduction both heartwarming and a little disappointing.  I was pleased at his championing of vegetarian cooking.  He speaks of meals without meal being essential in reducing the amount of meat we eat.  However, as a nut roast enthusiast, I always feel a little misunderstood when people start saying that vegetarian cooking is not about old fashioned veg cooking.  It always seems to be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  I have said many times that nut roast have made it so much easier to share a roast dinner with the meat loving members of my family.

So when Hugh FW dismisses nut cutlets and has not one whiff of tofu in his meals, I feel like he is avoiding some really good sources of protein and refusing to explore some of the great recipes in veg*n cooking.  It means that he relies more on egg and dairy, which (despite my love of cheese) interests me less and less.

Having said that, he has many recipes that I'd love to make.  Kale and onion pizza, Macaroni peas, Halloumi, new potato and tomato kebabs, Stuffed cabbage leaves, Courgette and rice filo pie, Herby, peanutty, noodly salad.  The book is beautifully presented and it encourages the use of fresh vegetables.  I am looking forward to spending more time with it.

I find that the book leaves me in a mess of contradictions.  Despite all my protestations, many of the recipes I like have cheese in them and the recipe I first tried I managed to deveganise by adding cheese.  The yoghurt cheese was a present from my family.  I was unsure how to use it.  (I keep meaning to just spread the cheese on bread but manage to keep forgetting.)  I wanted to try it in a recipe that was simple enough to let the cheese shine.

The Tomatoes with Herbs recipe in River Cottage Veg Everyday caught my attention because the picture is so beautiful.  Tomatoes are beautiful.  Yet I have never been a big fan of raw tomatoes.  I still find it odd that Sylvia could eat a punnet of cherry tomatoes if given the chance.  I've got better at eating tomatoes as I have gotten older.

It was the cheap tomatoes at the supermarket that finally convinced me to try the recipe.  And the fact that I could add yoghurt cheese so I didn't feel I was just eating tomatoes. I served it with refried beans, guacamole and tortillas.  A perfect simple summer meal.  A great way to use my new tiki salad servers.  It would have been even better to have remembered to season the salad.  Next time!

I said at the start of the post that I would also share a few titbits of overcoming challenges in my life.  So here is one.  Sylvia and I had a long walk to Coburg Lake last Sunday when I made the salad.  We headed for the playground by the lake.  When we arrived, I couldn't believe how busy it was.  A peaceful lakeside area was transformed into a fairground that was the Anatolian Friendship Festival.  The playground was teaming with kids.  Fortunately there is another playground close by that we could walk to.  It was much quieter.  More our sort of place.

Another challenge is that, after 9 years and quite a few contract renewals, changes in my workplace have meant that my contract will come to an end in a couple of weeks.  I had an early farewell dinner last week.  Above is the beautiful bunch of roses from the Board.  I am not sure what this year will bring in work.  The one certainty is that I will not work fulltime in Sylvia's last year before she starts school.  There will be many changes.  It is both exciting and scary.  As well as roses and a Kindle, my workplace gave me a therapeutic Oxfam chocolate pack!

Lastly, we finally returned to our regular haunt, the Fitzroy Market for the first time since October.  Life has been too busy to get to the monthly market over the last few months.  It was great to be back.  We all had a sausage in bread.  It was a warm day so we were really pleased to get the second last icy pole.  It was a wonderful combination of chocolate and avocado.  Sylvia and I shared it, though quite a bit of it landed on her dress, dolly's blanket and the asphalt.  We also shared a vegan cookies and cream cupcake.

Yes this is Sylvia eating her icy pole while dolly and friends sleep under their blanket in the dolly stroller.  She got quite a few smiles at the market.  It was cute but not overly practical.

Lastly, E and I haven't been watching lots of telly lately.  Sylvia's sleeping has been quite unsettled what with hot weather and a couple of crazy months messing with her routines.  We have been working on it and have got it to the stage where we have both watched two full episodes of Midsomer Murders tonight and last Sunday.  It feels like a huge achievement!

I am sending the tomato salad to Karen at Lavender and Lovage for Herbs on Saturday because it has a generous amount of basil.  (She is encouraging bloggers to submit recipes with foraged herbs for this month but I wouldn't even know where to start foraging herbs.  Maybe I should look about me next time I am at the lake!)


Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago: On the Stereo: the soundtrack to my life!
Two years ago:  Earl Grey cupcakes and nutritious ganache
Three years ago: Feta Scones in a Flash
Four years ago: Potato salad, freak weather and bushfires
Five years ago: About Me Me Me Me

Tomato salad with basil and yoghurt cheese
Adapted from River Cottage Veg Everyday
serves 2

500g tomatoes
1 to 2 tbsp basil infused olive oil
1/2 to 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
small handful of basil, roughly cut with scissors
about 4 balls of yoghurt cheese
seasoning 

Cut the tomatoes into thick slices and arrange artfully on a shallow bowl so they overlap to share the dressing.   Drizzle with olive oil, then balsamic vinegar.  Scatter with basil and torn pieces of yoghurt cheese.  Season.

On the Stereo:
Renaissance of the Celtic Harp: Alan Stivell

19 comments:

  1. I felt the same way about that cookbook: so many vegetables without many obvious protein sources. Yes, green vegetables have protein, but I don't find purely vegetables to be that satisfying. However, there are some vegan gems in there (a few I have adapted on my blog - his summer chili is very good). Good luck with the new year.

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    1. Thanks Janet - I feel like I want it both ways when I get a cook book like this because in so many cook books I find the vegetables lacking but I want both vegies and protein - but you are right that there are lots of good recipes and they can always be adapted

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  2. I can see why you would prefer a veg-packed cookbook such as this one to Jamie's selections that require a bit of tweaking for a good 2/3 of the recipes! Interestingly, the things I like and dislike about Jamie Oliver and Hugh FW are quite similar - I enjoy their enthusiasm for food, and fresh food particularly, and their ability to champion the delights of good, well prepared fruits and vegetables. Both seem to have a good community spirit too. I dislike that they do still use meat in most their dishes and that Hugh, as you say, neglects a lot of vegetarian options! I am glad you're getting good use out of this book though and this looks like a nice way to experiment with raw tomatoes.

    On more important matters - I am sorry, again, about the changes with work for you this year. I hope and trust that they will sort themselves out and that the right position will come along, perhaps even a better position than currently imaginable. It sounds like you had lovely farewell celebrations at your current workplace and I think an Oxfam chocolate pack is just the thing for a job departure!

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    1. Thanks Kari - indeed it seems that many meat cookbooks can be tweaked but when there are so many good veg ones why bother. I too find Jamie and Hugh quite similar in approach to food and I love their enthusiasm - I live in hope of Jamie Oliver writing a vegetarian cookbook - I would definitely buy it.

      Re work, it is lots of scary change but some that will be very interesting I am sure - I'd like to think it means I get a little more time to do the things I want but I suspect not!

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  3. I think you'll really like River Cottage Veg. I was the same as you about Hugh, but the book has actually given me a soft spot in my heart. I agree that he's neglected some excellent veg foods, but many of the recipes are beautiful. I see you have the herby, peanutty, noodle salad on your list - it's excellent! I made it for a picnic, and it was really refreshing and summery with all of the herbs.

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    1. Thanks Sarah - I think my appreciation for Hugh is growing - I love a cookbook with some interesting text. I am hoping I might adapt the herby peanutty salad to be peanut-free (due to having a child with an allergy) but she eats other nuts so maybe cashew would work

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  4. I have never, ever heard of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, but that salad looks ridiculously good. Ooooh, I want a taste of it!

    I'm really sorry about your job, but here's to hoping that it provides a new and fantastic whirlwind of opportunities for you! I'm sure it will ;)

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    1. Thanks Dayna - Hugh FW is british and worth looking up (even if his name is a mouthful). I think it was time to leave my old job so hopefully like you say it will open up other opportunities

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  5. Sorry to hear about the work situation Johanna but I'm sure you are sought after for your skills :) And with in laws as vegan and vegetarian, they really do rely on a lot of other sources of protein. Otherwise they'd be quite unwell!

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    1. Thanks Lorraine - there have been some conversations that suggest there is some appreciation of my skills. I sometimes wonder if meat eaters don't appreciate the other protein sources because they get enough from a little meat and don't need to be as careful about it as veg*ns

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  6. This looks like such a lovely salad - very summery. And Sylvia looks like she is enjoying her icy pole. Sorry to hear about work. I hope you find something suitable soon. Things are rather tumultuous at my work at the moment and I am not at all certain where I will end up either.

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    1. Thanks Cakelaw - Sylvia did enjoy her icy pole and was very upset when the last of it landed on the asphalt. Sorry to hear things are unsettled at your work too - it makes it harder to stay focused on the work at hand

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  7. Looks so good! I love fresh tomatoes :)

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    1. Thanks Natalie - I think I have begun to appreciate tomatoes more because I am beginning to recognise how good fresh in-season tomatoes taste!

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  8. So first of all, I can't believe that you have been blogging for 5 years and I only just found you. Second, I adore this book! Isn't it incredible to see actual cookbooks that are beautiful, dedicated to vegetarians? makes me feel all warm and fuzzy! Such a great salad you made :) I'm sorry about your work, that sucks. You will find something really soon, I know it!

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    1. Thanks Cass - Firstly I thought you must have been a new blogger - now I will need to check how long you have been blogging. Secondly, yes beautiful vegetarian books are a joy - and there are some amazing books out there for vegetarians which I think help convince omnivores to enjoy vegetarian food. Am sure the work thing will sort itself out.

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  9. Glad you found a few things to make. Sorry to hear about your job, but I hope this year with more time with Sylvia won't bring too many challenges!

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    1. Thanks K - the year will bring many challenges but I hope it will mean more time for some of the good things

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  10. Thanks for your lovely entry into Herbs on Saturday and what a fascinating post too. I have this book and I love it, but my favourite recipes tend to be the ones that have cheese or eggs in them too. Karen

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