Tag Archives: Vegetable

Puttanesca tabbouleh

4 Apr

This recipe is pretty low-key, but I just wanted to demonstrate the weird and wonderful dishes you can come up with when you just throw a bunch of ingredients in a bowl and see what happens. A good number of my recipes were invented on the hoof, my particular favourite being lentil curry with noodles AKA noo-dal. When I invented this salad, I needed an all-in-one carby veggie side dish to go with a quiche I was making (the recipe for which will follow in a couple of days). I came up with this and was really happy with the result. It’s tasty and tangy without dominating the plate.

A quick note on the recipe: It’s not a typo, I really do measure grains by volume in a measuring jug rather than by weighing it out, it’s so much easier.

Recipe (serves 2-3 as a side dish):

  • 100ml quinoa
  • 100ml bulgur wheat
  • 300ml boiling water
  • ½ ts salt
  • 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • Approx. 12 black olives, sliced
  • 1 tb capers, finely chopped
  • 1 tb lemon juice
  • 1 tb basil, finely chopped

Put the quinoa and bulgur wheat in a small saucepan over a hot heat. Allow to toast for a few seconds. Add the boiling water and salt, stir, bring to the boil and stir again. Boil for a couple of minutes, then turn the heat right down and cover the pan. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. The grains should be tender, and tiny white spirals will have started to pop out of the quinoa. Leave to cool.

Tip the cooled grains into a big bowl and fluff with a fork. Add the rest of the ingredients, mix well with a spoon or spatula and serve.


Growing vegetables without a garden

1 Jul

Home-grown vegetables taste infinitely better than those bought from a shop. Here’s my top three reasons why:

  • Freshness. The flavour of many vegetables degrades with every second that passes. Produce from a shop is at least a couple of days old, potentially weeks or months old. If you grow your own you can eat them within minutes.
  • Breeding. Commercially-grown vegetables are generally bred to be uniform in shape, size and colour, because sadly that’s what consumers and supermarkets want. If you grow your own, you can choose seeds and plants that are bred for flavour.
  • Ownership. If you put time and effort into creating something, it increases your appreciation of the end result.

As a big vegetable fan, it makes sense that I would have a go at growing my own, and getting the best, freshest veggies I can get my muddy little hands on. I’m not going to let a minor detail like not having a garden stop me. We did have an allotment for a couple of years, but it is too time-consuming if you work full time – I’ll leave that sort of thing to my Mum, who is retired and has two amazingly well-kept and productive plots.

There’s plenty of different things you can grow in containers, even in a small space. We have pots and tubs outside our door and outside our kitchen window. Here’s a selection of what I’m growing at the moment.

Broad beans and courgettes (zucchini). I’ve got these growing in two old recycling containers, with drainage holes drilled in the bottom. Courgettes are very greedy plants, so there’s a generous amount of chicken manure in there to help them along.


Potatoes. We’ve been growing spuds in a patio potato bag for a couple of years now, with great success. It’s really easy, you quarter-fill the bag with compost and nestle the chitted seed potatoes about halfway down. When green shoots start to show through, cover over with compost, repeat until it reaches the top of the bag (this takes a few weeks). As with spuds grown under the ground, as soon as either the fruit sets or the foliage starts to die back, the potatoes are ready. If in doubt, stick your hand in the compost like a lucky dip and grope around to see if you can find any potatoes. I’m growing pink fir apples this year, which are my favourite potatoes ever – they’re knobbly, waxy, earthy, nutty… heaven!

Strawberries. I’ve already mentioned that home-grown tastes better, but wow… strawberries are proof of this. If you’ve never tried a real home-grown strawberry you need to find some and do it. You will never go back to the bland, watery supermarket offerings again.




Herbs. It’s great to get home from work, think “oh, I need a bit of rosemary for my roast potatoes,” and to be able to snap off a sprig before I even get in the front door. Here we’ve got lavender on the left, and rosemary on the right. We’ve also grown thyme in the past. Any woody herbs should work well in a pot.


Garlic. If you want to grow something easy, garlic is a great way to start. You get a whole bulb of garlic (from a garden supplier, not a supermarket), break it into cloves and stick them in a bit of compost in a container. Six months or so later, each clove will have turned into a whole new bulb of garlic. Let the skins dry out and they’ll keep for months. Here you can see the scapes (flower stalks) are starting to grow. If you cut the scapes down, the resulting bulb will be much bigger, and you can cook with the scapes too, they’re a bit like spring onions or chunky garlic chives.

Growing chillies indoors

16 Jun

I love gardening, particularly if the end result is something edible. I live in a flat, with a small amount of outdoor space but no garden, so my options are pretty limited. I’ve discovered that chilli plants work surprisingly well indoors[1], which is lucky because I love hot food and we eat a lot of chillies in our house. A chilli plant is fairly compact, easy to look after, and can be high-yielding. Here are my two top tips, the first is simple, the second is a bit quirky but it works:

Put the plant in a warm, sunny spot. Not only will it generally be more successful, but also the more light and heat the plant gets, the hotter the chillies will be.

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Outdoor-grown chilli plants would normally be pollinated by our friends the bees. Unless you’re particularly happy to invite bees into your house (and as much as I love bees I wouldn’t voluntarily have one in my house), the flowers won’t get pollinated and you’ll end up with pretty but sadly fruitless chilli plants. So, what are you meant to do? When we first started growing chillies indoors, Mr Veg tried pollinating the flowers by brushing them with a little bit of tissue. This is really fiddly, and to be honest I’m not entirely sure it works. Shortly after this, I saw a TV gardening programme where they were talking about bees pollinating tomatoes, and they mentioned that the buzzing of the bee makes the flower vibrate and somehow this shakes the pollen into the right place. When I found this out I wondered if I could use something to vibrate the plant and quickly pollinate the flowers, eventually producing chillies. To cut a slightly-too-long-story short, pressing an electric toothbrush (or any other vibrating electric gadget you may happen to have at home) against the stem for 10 seconds once or twice a week will do the job of the bees. This isn’t a practical joke, it really works!

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[1] You might be reading this in a hot country and wondering why on earth I’m not growing them outside. I live in the United Kingdom, where it’s just not hot enough outside. To get a decent result here we need to grow things like chillies, peppers, and tomatoes under glass.

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