Sunday, 31 July 2022

Flatbreads with curried rougaille lentil noires

 After sharing some lovely pictures of Mauritius with my friends on Facebook, I was inspired to make a quick lunch with things that I had to hand.  One friend asked for the recipe, and since then more: here is what I did.  When I was young and loved to hang around kitchens, cooking was instinctive, you used what was available, with no recipes for every day food written down. 

I cooked the lentil dish instinctively and it is perhaps a never to be repeated dish, but it easy to make this version just yours.  

I have put a link to my 'standard' Mauritian rougaille, which is easy again to make into batches to freeze ready to bring out in the depths of winter, when sun warmed tomatoes or your glut just a memory.  Tinned tomatoes too are fine. This however was an improvised dish.


I had referred yet again to Bread from Ciabatta to Rye by Linda Collister earlier in the day to make some Poppy Seed Challah.  I've had this book for twenty years now and it is a go to book with many varied recipes.


Just sprinkling poppy seeds direct from one of my garden grown poppy seed heads felt so satisfying.


I glanced through the South Asian section and rather liked the thought of Pooris.  The problem with Pooris is that they are deep fried, you need oil, I have no oil not enough to use for deep fat frying, and with waistline to  work on,  I adapted the recipe but dry fried them, a little like one would cook roti. Of course there are lots of YouTube and recipes on line, but I didn't want to turn on the computer then.

This is how I made mine, and do feel free to vary amounts.  I just happened to have some Shipton Mill Chapati flour in the cupboard, but I read that fine wholemeal pastry flour with the bran sieved out will do. Just use any flour this is a true 'Cucina Povera' but strong flour will make them harder to roll out etc.

200g Atta/chapati flour

1 tsp salt

two teaspoons of the roasted and ground seed mixture see below

1 tablespoon melted ghee or butter, I used melted goat's butter

2 tablespoons yogurt, I used my sheep's yogurt

About 100ml cold water


Measure out equal amounts of cumin seed, coriander seed and black pepper corns, and pan roast in a shallow pan, I use my omelette pan.  I used about a desert spoonful of each. When you can smell a lovely warm aroma of spices, that is the time to quickly remove them before they scorch.  I tossed them into the bowl I am going to mix the dough in, or they will continue cooking in the pan.  When cool, I used my coffee mill to grind them.  I tried using my pestle and mortar, but needed more muscle that I could muster, I added the remainder to a small pot and will use the balance of the blend for other dishes.

Using the same small pan I melted the butter.

Back in that bowl which is now empty, measure out the flour and salt. Add the melted butter which you then rub in until evenly mixed.

Measure two tablespoons of yogurt into the cold but slightly buttery pan pan, than add about 90ml cold water, stir and add this to the flour, and mix with your hands till it feels smooth and pliable.  Add the remaining water and a little more only if required. You can work this all in the bowl until you have a big smooth ball, and since it is going into the fridge for a rest, use a bowl on the smaller side, which will fit, or else put it in a smaller lidded box.

Put the bowl with a plate over it in the fridge, or the sealed box,  for at least half an hour, mine was there for a couple of hours, that is fine. ( You can tell I was intending doing the washing up, so was minimising the dishes used, and I try not to use cling film if something else will do), I was giving my little kitchen helper some time off!

This takes a little time, so start this stage about half an hour before you want to eat, You are going to  divide it all into balls, which will then be rolled out thinly.  The size depends on how you want to serve them.  Partly roll each piece, then roll again thinly before adding to the pan, this wait in between helps the dough relax, and easier to roll out flat.  This amount gives five good sized ones, but perhaps next time I would have six.  We only ate four, and kept one to use for a pre dinner canapes, or gadjacks.  I think this is another Mauritian term, and they have so many varied types to serve with drinks at the Very Large gatherings.

Flatten each ball with your fingers and hands, which you can dust with a little flour, and then you can roll them thin on the worksurface ready to cook.



The first couple I tried with a little butter, but quite honestly the rest which were dry fried were much better.  You need the little scorching, and flip every few minutes, until you think they are cooked.  A higher heat is better, and I flatten the breads from time to time as well as they cook, with the spatula . They puff up in places like pittas. I put them on a plate in the oven, to keep warm until the batch was completed.

What to have this time as a topping?  Rougailles and curry are a staple way of making something tasty.  Cooking black lentils and keeping small batches frozen ready to pull out and use, rather than using sloppy cooked tinned pulses with the additives, is my way. I usually pull out a small pot every two or three days to defrost slowly in fridge, and they are ready to use in anything from a salad to adding to to a chilli. I also had some small roasted yellow tomatoes with garlic in a pot in the fridge which I used.



First in the same small frying pan that heated up the spices and melted the butter, I fried up a red onion cut into moons in a little oil: any colour will do, I just happened to have a red onion.  Then as it was started to brown, two cloves of garlic, and a thumb end sized bit of ginger both very finely chopped was added, together with a couple of teaspoons of fresh garden thyme, and a dessertspoonful of ready ground marsala curry powder.  It was stirred as it warmed through in the little oil together with the onions.  I put the lid on from time to time, as it needs to steam as well.  

After a minute or so of stirring, in went the pot of lentils and several tablespoons of the the roasted tomatoes, a little salt too.  A little water just to just a little wetness, rather than adding more oil. This techniques is called fricass√© and they use this to cook greens, fish and many other things. This section will only take five minutes or so.  It can be warmed up if making your flatbreads is taking a little longer than you thought. As for variations, they are infinite.  Have you a few peas from the garden, some spare chickpeas left in the fridge, etc etc?

 About three minutes before serving a good amount of fresh parsley went in, with a little left over to garnish the dish when served. Coriander leaves are better, but I had none!

A lovely fresh salsa or fresh chutney with a few chillies in would have been ideal, but I didn't have the right ingredients, so just mixed some lime and mango chutney together to add a little zing. The way you eat this is really by tearing a piece of flatbread, topping a spoonful of the lentil mixture then adding a little topping of chutney, a little like one would eat  poppadums with the pickle tray in an Indian restaurant, with your hands!



First Runner Beans of the Season

 A meagre picking but will be much appreciated.  This year the beans I sowed direct into the ground failed totally.  Maybe it was old seed, perhaps it was the weather, or it could have been mice.  I saw a little creature with large ears passing across the garden, so sweet!


These came from the perennial runner beans, one several years old and the others which were planted last year. I probably shan't have sufficient to make our runner bean chutney. These were white flowered beans, but I shall probably buy the self fertile red runner bean for next year.  Where the runner bean seed failed, I bought a tray of climbing french beans as by then it had got hot and dry, and french beans cope much better than runner beans with the heat.

Saturday, 30 July 2022

Saturday in the Garden - Six things and SOS

 SOS six things in the garden, and a SOS for rain.  A dark cloud came over during the week, and I ran out hoping for a few drops.  It bypassed me, but apparently the green at the Cathedral just a short way away have a good dose. 

The garden is really struggling, I have cracks 5cm wide in places.  Obviously it is deep clay there, do I fill them with compost?  The area highly mulched every year is also cracking, and the compost falling down, just to create a ready to crack zone for another year? The compost heap is still guarded by bumblebees, so I'll have to go out to buy some. 

1. After cutting back the Rozannes of which I am starting to tire, though I shall probably keep just one, I had a big gap.  I do have homes for the plants in a friend's garden, but it is really too dry to dig into the soil at present.  We rescued our bits of 'stumpery' which were posed on the wall, and which the undergrowth clearer at the cemetery had removed ready to be chipped or such like, and used them to fill certain gaps which need protecting, either from the young fox who now saunters along the wall several times a day, or the neighbouring cats who dare at their peril enter the garden. Could those people not appreciate our art installations on the wall?  A forced visit to enjoy the wonderful art in the Cathedral this week, could be part of their CPD?


Here the Japanese grass Hakonechloa Macra Aureola growing in a pot fills the gap together with some of the degraded wood. 

2. Nearby the deep red of Rose Munstead Wood is showing bleaching on some of the petals. It is getting the odd bucket of water, as I would hate to loose this.


3. Another pink shrub that has needed water is the Hydrangea.  I had three clumps and narrowed this down to two, and one is having no water at all so we shall see if that survives for another year.  In any case I would rather use the water on my vegetables.


4. For flower power and summer show you can't beat  Pelargonium Capricorn.  As it is growing in a pot, it too is also standing in a gap. I have already taken cuttings to be taken through the winter, as I shall be needing its pot. Just the one plant, and having been continually dead headed since May, I wouldn't be without this one. The spare gaps in the garden at the moment, are where semi dormant or bulbs are hopefully coping with life underground away from the scorching sun and winds.


5. The studio pot by Jacky Ardens from which the Pelargonium ardens had to be extracted last week, is now filled with new soil and the succulent Portulacaria Afra Variegata now in its second year with me.  I had a little bonus in that the bit which I had stuck into the pot had rooted, and now I have a second little plant growing on in its own pot.


6.  I just hope those snowdrop bulbs are coping underground.  The pansies all died off in the heat and lack of water, and for now are covered with some twisted root which I kept for their interesting structure, and were part of the art installation on the wall, or part of my poor woman's stumpery.


Since this is really 1a forming part of the original wood collection on the wall, I can sneak in a picture of one of the decorative oreganos in the garden: Origanum Bellissima as it tumbles onto the path.


With still no rain on the forecast for at least a fortnight, I won't take any bets on there being a hosepipe ban with days.  We are saving all possible waste water for the garden.  Hope things are better for the other gardeners, particularly those who are on holiday like The Propagator, who still has his anchoring post.

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

Tying hand bouquets with friends

 Spent a lovely time at Alison's Flower Garden learning how to made hand tied bouquets with all the flowers organically grown in her garden. Alison made it look easy, but we had help and tips, advice laughter and lots of ooh and aahs.



Thanks To Maggie and Carolyn for organising so many interesting things for our WI sub-group 'Bloomin Fun'. 



Saturday, 23 July 2022

Six on Saturday - 23 July 2022

 What a week of fluctuating temperatures: they were well into the mid thirties during the earlier part and now they are back to early twenties..  The fields have turned a straw like colour and I shall probably have to cut back several of the perennials such as the Thalictrum.  I may well have to find out plants that will withstand this summer dry too, as I have neither the resources, aka watering systems,  or the time to water the whole garden. Tubs have been watered of course. I expect that Jon and most others will have a similar view, but I know it hasn't been the same for all gardeners, and you and I can read all about the week in our gardens by following the link:  https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2022/07/23/six-on-saturday-23-07-2022/

Let's get on with Six things from the garden this week, and a little from the kitchen and a special outing.

1. First pickings from two tumbling tomato plants: they growing together in a 30cm pot on the patio, which is not smooth with paving stones or such like, but a deep gravel area.


The skins are a little tough, but were delicious roasted with some marjoram, and  with a little olive oil salt and pepper. I used them make a topping with garlic butter made from garlic and parsley from the garden, for some flatbreads. The butter had oven roasted garlic as well as fresh garlic. Enough here for many servings.  I shall cut into slices and freeze, ready for taking individual slices out of the freezer.



2. When the morning temperature dipped I just had to get out to do a little 'soil play', and made up a new 'Alpine Bowl gardens'



Saxifraga 'Pink Melba', Hebe buchanania minor, Potentilla nitda rubra all came together in a small bonsai pan to form a miniature garden this week.  I pinched a piece of the Pink Melba from the bowl I made earlier this year. I also added the little Cyclamen purpurascens but having checked up on its needs, it will most probably have to come out again as it requires deep shade and the others sun! I'll let it settle in and watch it, and it if looks stressed I'll move it to another grouping.  Ha!  Now I need to make a mini garden for a shaded situation, and I thought I had no projects to move onto!



The other little miniature garden I made earlier this year  had one little plant die on me, because I think I had overwatered.  Since then I've added a few bits from existing clumps of plants in the garden, and for now I am very happy with it.

3. Some more soil play again, but one involving water and 'mud',  Just the way to keep cool. I have a succulent that needs potting up, and I had in mind a studio pot by Jacky Ardens that currently has a Pelargonium Ardens growing in it. The plant had been in since May 2019, and I thought it would have been ready for a repot and soil refresh.   I had never seen, with my own eyes in the flesh, the root system for this Pelargonium, and had not realised that the whole of the tuber occupied the pot. Sadly the trowel damaged the edges...



Last time I had a pot bound cyclamen I had to smash the pot. So when the pot is more valuable that the plant, it is a real tussle to remove the root when it is this big.  In the end I washed out most of the soil, then had to remove a few of the lobes to get the root out using a long bread knife.


I already have last years cuttings in bloom, and have taken cuttings from the top growth on this one. So I am discarding the root.  I have another pot which will be even trickier to empty as the shape turns inward. This link to a video shows propagating P. Ardens  very clearly.  I remember watching this some time ago, when I was wanting to take cuttings, but I stopped the video before the pot was emptied and root cuttings taken, so I hadn't clocked about the huge tuber.  

4. The Nasturtiums are doing very nicely in the heat.  Some I have already uprooted as I was clearing the area of 'fazzled' hardy geraniums. This nasturtium has different shaped leaves and flame shaped petals, which resemble the Phoenix Strains.  The seeds were collected from the floor at a favourite garden a little way from here, there is no variation in colour all are this orange,  I have a few other types of nasturtium growing around the garden, some dark, others pale with spotted leaves.  I love them all.





5. This poppy is also giving me much joy at present.  




I admired it in a friends garden, and was given a little plant. I've looked it up and it is probably Papaver rupifragum var. atlanticum.  No wonder it is thriving in the heat see the full description on Plant World Seeds. I particularly think we need more plants that can cope with the current conditions in our gardens.

"You can forget to water it for weeks and it will still bloom! This incredible perennial poppy comes from the hot, dry areas of Spain and Morocco."

6. Thinking about dry gravel gardens and the little plants I bought after visiting Beth Chatto's Garden last autumn, the diminutive Limonium bellidifolium is a current favourtie there. Very difficult to photograph, but for sheer elegance caught in the early morning, it is my current 'bestest' plant in that area. The colour is maybe a little bleached in the early morning light, but it is the form of both the flowering stems and the rosette  of leaves that I particularly liked. I've since observed that the flowers close at night and gradually open during as the sun hits it.


That spot of orange in the background come from those poppies just mentioned before.

Yesterday I visited THR's garden on a trip no pictures permitted, and they had guards with very sinister looking riffles (of course to protect the lovely garden), so no seeds were picked up there, but I came back with some ideas for a couple of pea varieties: a good Mangetout 'Norli' which was half the height or less of the ones I grew this year, and pea Rondo and with no label but checking on Claire Austin's shop, a good  bright achillea  'Paprika', or maybe it was 'Funcke'  again a very drought tolerant plant.These are extras I realise, but just as much as for showing and sharing this weekly post very much serves as a reminder to myself.





Friday, 22 July 2022

Nectarine and Almond Cake

 Yesterday I was hunting down a Polenta Cake Recipe I had made a couple of years ago, and having found it, went to the source at Italy on my Mind.  I had a few minutes to spare, so looked at some of the other recipes which Paola wrote about more recently. My eye rested on her Apricot and Almond Cake post which includes the recipe. 

I didn't wish to go out to buy apricots, knowing that I had a few nectarines that were ready in the basket, I opted to adapt the recipe to use slices of these as a topping.  I also used goat's butter, and for the raw sugar used golden cane caster sugar, with a brush of honey on the hot fruit to give them a glaze, and a dredging of icing sugar to serve.



The recipe is spot on, and the cake served with a little yogurt on the side make for a delicious dessert last night. I think a few braised apricots to serve on the side would have been nice, but all this was a little last minute. It used up the last of the Brandy which has lasted over seven years!  It followed pan fried breast of duck, with some of the first of the season French beans from the garden.

Monday, 18 July 2022

In a Vase on Monday - All dried up and African Skies

 All dried up and African Skies just about sums up the situation here.  All the windows are closed except for the vents and curtains and blinds closed.  It just feel like winter inside but with the thermostat turned high.  Again that last feeling will probably not become familiar with the costs of fuel sky rocketing.

Let us show grace, and at least appreciate that we are far better off than people over in other countries in Europe who are experiencing far worse.

Yesterday I dried some freshly picky lemon verbena leaves: they sat on a shady bench with a cloth over the top of the basket to prevent scorching and the leaves blowing away in the strange hot dry wind, and a few hours later they are stored ready for my afternoon tisane. Sage leaves and bay are also drying out very quickly.



Over the last couple of weeks, as I find interesting seed heads when I am dead heading, they go in some tall vases in the conservatory. In the foreground are the species tulips. from which I had been saving seed, at the back Briza media and to the right some Achillea King Edward from the gravel garden.



However I couldn't resist picking some Salvia 'African Skies' and pare it with a stem of Rosa Grace. It was already 26 C in the shade at 10 am this morning, but looking at this will hopefully give us 'cool feeling.

I shall be keeping inside and with my feet in cold water on and off, my favourite way to keep cool, enjoying my current book, and from time dipping into Cathy post, to see what people have been adding to their vases this week. Cathy's anchoring post this week is called Knight in Shinning Armour!

Sunday, 17 July 2022

Visiting the Roman Villa at The Newt

 Just opened this Summer we visited at the first available slot a few weeks ago, and were completely balled over by the standard and care taken in creating this World Class experience and Museum.

Extract from Stonewood Design...

From a simple, elegant glass elevation, the Roman Villa Museum focuses its view towards a landscape which reinterprets the ruins of Hadspen Roman Villa.

Hadspen Roman Villa was discovered in 1832 . Excavations of the site took place between 1968 and 1970. This revealed structural remains, pottery, coins and part of a mosaic floor which suggested a substantial Villa. Further excavations in 2015 revealed the true extent of the Villa and its outbuildings. It had been built, adapted and enlarged from the 3rd to the 5th centuries AD. 

The Roman Villa Museum conserves and displays these archaeological finds in order to extend our knowledge of Roman Britain. A portion of the Villa, including the bath house, is on view in the centre of the Museum. 

A full scale reconstruction of the Hadspen Roman Villa is viewed at all times from the Roman Villa Museum.

The remaining part of the Villa remains have been re-buried for preservation.  Playful landscape design above allows visitors to appreciate the full scale of the remains below.

The reconstructed Hadspen Roman Villa enabled us to explore, through detailed research of Roman building techniques, our passion for craft, context and history in the creation of a 1:1 artefact.

The success of such a unique and ambitious project relied on the close working with our sister company 

Stonewood Builders.



I shall upload the best of the pictures I took, and the minimal of comments, which I may add to perhaps after our second visit!




We started at the Visitor Centre and Interactive Centre. With its glass wall overlooking the newly constructed villa, artefacts and also facsimiles are carefully lit and mostly in glass cabinets.  The headsets are set to give descriptions at any point.


Written descriptions help to understand the provenance of items, and it would take a few hours just to do this section justice.






I do like kitchenalia and there was plenty in the Museum including this magnificent Snail Storage Jar. I don't remember what snails tasted like, it is such a long time ago, and I may well try them again.  Now what a way to recycle your green kitchen waste, to make more food straight away!  




The walk from the Museum to the Villa gives one a clear idea of its wonderful setting, surrounded by vines, which will probably be grown in the Roman Fashion.



We entered the front of the Villa to be greeted by 'The Estate Manager' or such like who explained how the Estate worked.  He was an excellent 'enactor' and just loved his Roman knowledge carefully replying to the many questions we had.  Having visited Pompeii, Herculaneum, and many Roman Sections of Museums both in the UK and in Italy, we found it fascinating. 


Most people coming except for private guests of the Villa Owner would not have stepped further, and business done at his desk.



The audio set took us further into the house and now we have the voice of the House Keeper, telling us about each room, and a few things about the family.  She loved her mistress and not being a slave but employed, had a certain status herself.




This magnificent newly made wooden cabinet housed the Gods, and daily offering were made here.

The Guide took us into a tall double height room which was certainly designed to impress.  With furniture and artefacts scattered around as if the family had just left the room.





The Bath Suite was exquisite and very inviting indeed.  I wonder whether there will be special events here or even filming.  I'm quite sure of that...





The next area to be visited was the Kitchen, and there was so much to take in, and the commentary excellent.





Then there was the larder and storage area.  They were preparing for a banquet.





We then had a peep into the bedrooms and again the commentary explained the importance of appearance latest hairstyles, deep dyed clothes being high status, and all the shoes!









After that we entered The Master's Study, and what a grand room that was.  Built to impress for sure...I don't think he keeps a very tidy desk, but he likes it that way, and knows where everything is!!!!







Finally we had a tour around the dinning room.  Musicians had arrived in readiness for the party, and wine had been placed in the cupboard in readiness.






After our 'Street Food' Lunch, we had a lovely time looking round the garden of the Villa which had been carefully planted out in the Roman Styles, with herbs and kitchen vegetables outside the kitchen area.