500 Year Vision

Take pleasure from walking lightly on this Earth

Cheat’s Marmalade

October25

Mandarinky is the generic Czech name for all small, sweet orange fruit with soft peel, in the UK we could call them Satsumas, Clementines or Mandarin oranges but they do not exist as separate entities here, so you have to scratch the skin of the orange in the supermarket in order to identify what you’re buying.

The fragrant rind of citrus fruit such as the delicious  Mandarinky we have in the shops at the moment can be a real treat with very little effort – and when something has been shipped so far to get to us, isn’t it fair not to waste any of it?
Wash satsuma and/or mandarin oranges before you peel them to eat. Keep the peels. Cut them into fine slivers or chunks. Put them into a glass jar. Cover the cut peel with honey. Microwave the jar until the honey boils – this will not be long so keep an eye on it. Put a lid on it. Let it cool overnight. Put the jar in the fridge the next day to set the honey. Use in place of marmalade.

The miracle that is Air Yeast!

October15

One of the brilliant things about hosting volunteers here is how much they teach us.  Over the summer, Rosie returned. She’s been doing all sorts of interesting things since she was here last year – including working in a free shop in Nottingham, taking over an allotment and teaching Forest Schools – where they take little ones into the woods and teach them skills as well as just how to play outside. Rosie know someone who is running an art project called Exponential Growth. This project encourages people to use a yeast culture that they grow, care for and share.

We were sent a starter culture from Loughborough in the UK which languished in the fridge for a bit while we searched for some rye flour to feed it. Luckily it was adopted by Joshua when he arrived at Nový Mlýn. Joshua has been travelling through Israel and Palestine as well as the further flung outposts of Eastern Europe and acted as our master baker while he was with us.  Bread was hand made on a daily basis.

We were concerned that our pet yeast may not survive without Joshua to care for it, but we’ve discovered that we can make a daily loaf of delicious sourdough bread in the bread machine. If course, it doesn’t quite have the character of the range of loaves produced by Joshua, however it does have the advantage of at least being bread, made at home on demand and much nicer than store- bought loaves.

We keep the pet yeast in a ceramic jug with a knitted cotton cloth over the top and feed it at least every 12 hours, each time adding matching quantities of water and flour – so the end mix is 1/3 starter, 1/3 water 1/3 flour. It doesn’t seem to matter very much which flour we use as the yeast breaks it down into a smooth bubbly batter.  Once the jug is full of a frothy mix, we stir it before tipping most of it into the bread machine – (4 tea cups full, if you’re counting), then add two tea cups of other flour, a good glug of extra virgin olive oil and a flat teaspoon of salt.  We then set the bread machine so the loaf will be ready for us first thing in the morning (so often it has an extra 6-8 hours to sit and ruminate further).

We all miss Joshua very much, especially Bunbury, but he lives on with us in yeast form.

Sustainable Foodie Culture

August11

A few different people have commented recently about how central food seems to be to our existence at Nový Mlýn. The kitchen is the heart of the house (even though the kitchen is currently in the lounge, with no drainage or running water). As the dishes are put away after one meal, it’s about time to start preparing for the next.
We eat, on average, 3 or more times a day – the usual times plus elevensies or afternoon tea if someone decides to bake a cake, make cookies or flapjack. After some hard physical labour, food tastes particularly nice, and we deserve the extra calories! If people weren’t working hard, then they would risk gaining weight staying here.
This summer we’ve started making our own pasta, basic cheese and bread (with the help of a fantastically useful bread maker). We also incorporate wild food into every meal – nettle & lambs quarters have replaced spinach, ground elder is a tasty bulky herb and chickweed appears in all our salads. We also have Burdock root (a Japanese vegetable), wild sorrel and watercress around and about. Of course, we’ve been picking the raspberries and bilberries from the forest… and adding these to honey to make a syrup. The terrible weather in recent days has also meant that we have fantastic mushrooms right now.
This is also our first year of growing vegetables at Nový Mlýn – a crop of potatoes (complete with a colony of Colorado Potato Beetles), a forest of courgette plants – though only two actual courgettes so far, many tomato plants, peas, carrots, parsnips, rocket, essential coriander (the green seeds are lovely in salads) – however it is the edible wild greens that we’ve had the most success with – I plant peas, and lambs quarters appear…
We also now have 8 hens, who each lay on average six days out of seven. When we have more than 4 guests with us (frequently over the summer) we have to top these up with bought eggs, unfortunately, so we should maybe plan on having more hens here next year.
Finally, 2010 has been the year that we’ve started to experiment with cider making! The valley is full of apple trees, after all. Our first batch from windfalls is busily bubbling away. The neighbour didn’t seem very optimistic about our prospects, but Czechs don’t have a Cider culture – they drink either apple juice or distil it into hard alcohol. You can only buy (very expensive) cider in specialist pubs here. We eagerly anticipate the results of our experimentation.

Nový Mlýn Garden Salad

June12

This year, with the help of Joann and our other workawayers, we have the beginnings of a vegetable garden.  I planted salad ingredients such as sorrel, wild rocket and spinach, and as they began to grow discovered that we had wild sorrel in the garden already,  as well as the peculiarly named leafy green Lambs Quarters which are very, very similar to baby leaf spinach in flavour and appeared everywhere in early June, just as nettle season ended. We also have abundant chickweed – which has popped up in any place where the ground has been cleared for planting, and of course, stinging nettles which we used as our spring green up until the time they started to flower, and the ground elder, which is still producing some young leaves we can use.

My acid test of any gathered food is my husband… if he is prepared to eat it then it’s fine. He would absolutely not consume something just because it was good for him.

We have many, many pea plants this year… partly because I threw onto the vegetable patch a bag of dried peas that I had soaked for sprouting.  It’s ridiculous not to soak dried pulses for a day or two before you use them, and the nutritional content of a seed which is in the process of germinating is  infinitely better than those long dead relatives you get in cans. However,  the young leaves on garden peas, are tastier again than the sprouts, so I’m glad I had too many and had to scatter them around the place.

Chickweed is an interesting plant – it is sold as a health supplement to people who want to lose weight – and not because of it being such a tiny green plant. I’ve not read anything in the New Scientist about it, which is a shame, because my personal experience is that it does seem to help you feel full after a meal. My friend Sara says this could be because it’s so nutritious that your body isn’t looking for more vitamins and minerals – non-nutritious food starves our bodies of essentials and causes our appetites to remain unsatisfied. It would seem perverse to dry chickweed out and put it into tablets, though, when it’s so abundant and tasty thrown into a salad. Ironically, if you search for chickweed on google you get  ‘how to kill chickweed’ – this terrible, invasive, nutritious & tasty salad ingredient…

And chive flowers!  What a discovery.  They are delicious.  After you pick the whole flower head, just nip the stalk away and you will have a handful of delicate, little, blue, crunchy, chive flavoured bells to decorate your salad.

So, on to the recipe:

  • 100 stems of flowering chickweed
  • 100 stems of lambsquarters
  • 50 sorrel leaves
  • 10 chive flower heads
  • dressing of your choice – half balsamic vinegar, half olive oil & a dollop of mustard, for example.

Mix and serve.

South Bohemian Stuffing Loaf

May15

When I tell people in the Czech Republic that we don’t use stinging nettles as a vegetable in the UK – I’m met with incomprehension – “don’t nettles grow in Britain” was one response.  When cooked correctly it’s almost indistinguishable from spinach in appearance, with a nice flavour, a natural organic – those stings protect it from most bugs, so pesticides are unnecessary, and zero food miles if there is any patch of unused ground close to home!  However, most people in the UK  have in mind an image of the deodorant eschewing as typical consumers of nettles. The nettle marketing board has a way yet to go.

You use the top couple of inches of the plant as a vegetable, so when you’re weeding next time, put this part of the plant aside for dinner, rather than on the compost heap.

Of course, you need to wear protective gloves while picking,  and wash them thoroughly as they grow close to the ground.  The best method for cooking I’ve found so far is to put them in a covered pan on a high heat in as much water as sticks to the leaves after washing. Within about 5 minutes (heating from cold)  they will have wilted down – take them off the heat as soon as they look like cooked spinach – you don’t want to destroy nutrients by cooking longer.  Use them in place of spinach in any recipe.

Sekanice is a local Easter recipe here which, according to my students, requires between 30-50% nettles. In my version of the recipe I substitute smoked tofu for bacon and soya for boiled pork – much to the chagrin of my Czech students. I have tested the recipe on non-hippie meat lovers, it didn’t last long despite the perceived weirdness of the ingredients.  Traditionally Sekanice is made for the Easter weekend. You can eat it hot, straight from the oven, and then cold, cut into slices over the next few days.

Sekanice uses nettles as the green because in the old days before we had vegetables flown in from Kenya, it was the first vegetable to come up after the snow.  The word Sekanice means sort of “Cut thing” – because you can harvest baby nettles using a scythe, and then you can cut the Sekanice into slices when it comes out of the oven.

Vegetarian Sekanice (pronounced Set can it say)

  • 8 eggs
  • 1 block of smoked tofu, chopped into small squares
  • 1 pack of soya chunks – soaked for an hour in vegetable stock, then fried in a generous amount of  butter or olive oil
  • sage
  • a handful of chopped chives
  • 3 bread rolls torn into chunks
  • 2-3 large handfuls of stinging nettles

Method

Prepare the soya – once it holds the same amount of fat and salt as boiled pork, it loses it’s holier than thou taste.

Heat the oven to 200 degrees c. & grease a large ceramic  baking dish (if you use oil to grease with, it’s really easy by the way).

Separate the egg yolks from the whites and mix the yolks with the bread chunks.  Whip the egg whites into a frenzy (in Czech, they say whip it into snow – when the egg whites are fluffy and form peaks).

Chop the tofu, bread & chives. Combine all the ingredients apart from the egg whites, mixing well. You will need to add quite a lot of salt and pepper as tofu and soya are not salted when you purchase them, like pork and bacon are.  Finally, fold in the egg whites and turn the mixture into the baking dish. Cook for 40 minutes or until the top has gone a nice baked brown.

Bohemian Flapjack

April28

We try to avoid buying junk food at Nový Mlýn, and instead encourage our visitors to bake when they have the urge to eat something sweet.  This is a super-easy flapjack* recipe for those with absolutely no baking skill or experience – or if you want to make something really, really quickly. We use honey in preference to sugar because of food miles, and oil is easier than butter, as you don’t have to melt it first.

Ingredients

  • Honey (a couple of hundred grams ish or  2 cups)
  • Olive oil (a couple of hundred mls ish  or 2 cups)
  • Rolled oats (up to 500 grams or 5-6 cups)
  • A hand full of  dried fruit, nuts, orange or lemon peel, chopped – what ever you have in the kitchen.  If you choose just two,  it’ll have a clearer flavour.

(or – equal parts honey and oil, with equal parts dry to wet ingredients)

Method

Heat the oven to 200 degrees c. and oil a metal baking sheet.

Combine the olive oil and honey in a large saucepan and warm over a medium heat. When it comes to the boil, turn off the heat and add the two or three types of flavouring ingredients – I normally stick to two so that it’s ingredient A and ingredient B flapjack – Almond and Lemon flapjack, or Walnut and Ginger flapjack etc … three flavourings becomes too much of a mouthful to say, if nothing else. Once these are mixed together, add as many rolled oats as you can – ie completely coated by the honey & oil.

Turn the mixture into the baking sheet and pack it down with the back of a wooden spoon. It needs to be an inch or 3 or 4 cms thick. Once it’s packed down, you can use a spatula to cut it into portions, then pack it down again. This’ll make getting it out much easier.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at a medium heat  for 20 minutes, or until it’s a nice golden brown. Let it cool before eating.

* Traditional Flapjack is something like American Granola bars.

Nový Mlýn Menu

February13

We’ve shared some great meals with visitors over the last six months, and each person who comes to us brings with them food ideas from their own family and culture. Here is some inspiration for when we forget what we could have for dinner:

Read the rest of this entry »

Nový Mlýn Apples in Honey & Incidental Mead

November30

By the beginning of October it was not possible to dry apples in the sun any longer and I didn’t want to buy a small and power-hungry fruit drying machine. We have made cherry compote, but I’m keen to avoid using sugar as the main preservative here because it has to travel so far (food miles) and is not good for our teeth or waistlines. Therefore, the majority of the cherry compote is, rather tellingly, still in the cupboard.
I’ve been doing some research about alternatives and have come across some great information about honey. My interest was sparked by a radio article about honey from the Pyramids still being edible after thousands of years in storage. Eating locally produced honey is said to help build up a resistance to hay fever, and it was used as a preservative since Roman times, long before sugar was available so far from the equator. I tend to use honey to sweeten my current favourite Dilmah Green Tea with Moroccan Mint, as well as breakfast porridge, therefore it made sense to also use it to store apples that could not be dried.
Apples sliced with the kitchen mandolin and layered into the honey worked very well – they have kept their colour (unlike the vodka apples from 2007 which went brown very quickly). The only problem is that we keep eating them… meaning that I can’t judge how long they will keep. They are delicious on porridge (made with water) with a dash of cream – a good, hearty winter breakfast.
The apples and pears that we cut into cubes behaved rather differently – they started to ferment in a very short time, and the liquid bubbled out of the storage jars, slowly spreading a sticky goo around the kitchen. I eventually gave up on these, instead I drained the fruit and put it in with a batch of mulled wine – the result – apple or pear poached in mulled wine has made a very tasty desert to share with guests. The liquid continues to ferment – I’m adding it to tea, but it is beginning to loose it’s sweetness so I’m curious to see how this incidental mead will turn out.
I look forward to experimenting with cherries in honey in 2010.

“Fancy” Mac and Cheese (serves 5-6)

October17

A fantastic Saturday night dinner:

Béchamel Sauce:

6 tablespoons butter

6 tablespoons flour

4 cups milk

salt and pepper

2-3 cups cheese, diced: a mix of Gouda and Edam (and cheddar if you’re lucky)

2 cloves garlic, minced

Pasta/Topping:

1.5 pounds elbow macaroni

1 cup breadcrumbs mixed with a few tablespoons melted butter

To make the béchamel, melt the butter and then add the flour. Mix well, then add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes on low. Warm the milk in a separate pot and then add it to the butter/flour/garlic mixture, along with the salt and pepper. Bring it to a boil and then add the cheese. Cook on medium-low heat until it melts. Cook pasta until it’s a little underdone, drain, and mix with sauce. Place in a greased casserole dish. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture on top and bake in the oven at 375 degrees F. for like 15-20 minutes, depending on how brown you want it. Remove, let it cool for about 5 minutes, and then enjoy!

Clafoutis for you!

October16

As cooked by Emily:

Clafoutis aux Cerises

Baked cherry pudding, serves 4-6

Butter for greasing

750g/ 1 ½ lb black cherries, or other fruits and berries

4 eggs

Salt

100g/3 ½ oz sugar

70g/2 ½ oz flour

70g/2 ½ oz butter

250ml/9fl oz milk

Sugar for sprinkling

Generously butter a wide, shallow oven dish and arrange the cherries evenly over the bottom. Beat the eggs lightly in a large bowl; whisk in a pinch of salt and the sugar. Sift the flour gradually, still whisking. Melt two-thirds of the butter and beat it tin. Stir in the milk.

Pour this batter over the cherries and dot with the remaining butter. Bake at 200°C/400°F/Gas6 for 35-40 minutes until the batter is set. If you don’t want to serve immediately, it may help to prevent the batter sinking if you turn the oven down to 150 °C/325°F/Gas3 and bake for a few minutes longer. Sprinkle with sugar and serve hot or lukewarm, with cream.

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