Recession-proof living

Recession-proof living

Jam and chutneys“Happiness is like jam – you can’t spread even a little without getting some on yourself” 

Since the 2nd World War, the world on the whole has been on an upward trend. Bigger, better, faster – certainly the last few decades – was the motto.  But now the momentum is slowly turning to go slow, community and nature. It has been coming for a while, but the Covid epidemic accelerated this process. 

There is so much fear attached to the word ‘recession’. If you are not 100% sure what the term means – it is the economy shrinking for the last 2 consecutive quarters, roughly since April 2022! Europe right now is in recession and other places in the world may follow soon.

But we are rarely told the upsides of a recession. So instead of fretting, let’s look a the good points a recession can bring:

  • We are forced to stop and think about what we really need and get rid of all that is surplus anyway.
  • We get more efficient with natural resources – food, energy to name a few.
  • Material possession gets less important and intangible qualities such as love, friendship, happiness, and nature come to the front. You can enjoy it a lot –  even with very little money.
  • Goods actually get cheaper and if you have looked after your pennies and have some savings,  now is the time to make big purchases. But go for quality rather than quantity.
  • It forces you to invite change into your life – a change of job, scenery, change of mind, and heart.

Economically speaking we are about to enter the phase of winter. The time to save, reflect and reorganize.

The ‘Biodynamic lifestyle’ is actually very compatible with this life phase.

  • It pushes you to be conscious of the environment and its natural rhythms
  • it urges you to produce less waste and recycle whenever possible
  • It is a very economically efficient way of life where you rely more on what you can produce instead of what you can consume.

Now that times are getting tougher and the environment is close to breaking point, this way of life makes real sense. So why are we not all living like this?

Producing takes skill and time. Once you take the time to learn the skill again, you will get faster and better and you will just love making your own homemade products. There is nothing nicer than bringing your homemade jam or chutney to friends. It is a thoughtful and useful present. As food prices rise you want to use up any bought food.  Here are a few recipes for you to try. 

Winter Chutney: 

Ingredients:  300g carrots, 400g apples, 300g onions, 200g tomatoes, 2 red peppers, 400g red wine vinegar or apple vinegar, 2 tbsp (tablespoon) sultanas, 1 tsp (teaspoon) salt, 1 tsp pepper, ½ tsp of cinnamon powder, a pinch of cayenne pepper, 500g jam sugar.

1)  Wash fruit and vegetables, chop, peel, deseed and dice them into small pieces and put all ingredients into a large, very clean pan. Bring to boil and cook gently for about 1 hour, stirring regularly. When vegetables have the desired consistency, pour the hot mixture into clean glass jars and seal immediately with cling film. Leave to cool. The chutneys last for a couple of months unopened.

Strawberry Jam: 

Ingredients: 1kg strawberries, 1kg jam sugar, 1 small unwaxed lemon, a small pinch of pepper

Wash strawberries remove stalks and cut them into small pieces. Rinse lemon and grate the rind finely. Put the strawberries, grated rind, pepper, and sugar in a clean pot and boil for about 4-5 minutes. Pour straightaway into clean (wash out with boiling water) jars, cover with cling film and tightly close the lids. Makes around 8-9 jars, depending on size. The best time to do this is of course in June but you can use this recipe for similar fruit jams, for example, plum jam – but I would substitute the pepper with a pinch of cinnamon. 

 Home-made cleaning products: 

Living in a biodynamic home and garden,  you will be surrounded by more diversity than most other gardens that use pesticides. The upshot is that you will attract lots of wildlife into your garden. In our garden – in the middle of London- we have earthworms, butterflies, spiders, cats, bees, many bird species, squirrels and even foxes can be seen on a daily basis.  But sometimes all these lovely creatures can become a bit much – especially when you have moths invading your clothes cupboards and eating your most loved garments. It can be a dilemma if you don’t want to use pesticides. So here is a recipe for my own super-effective and totally organic moth deterrent. And as a bonus it makes the carpet and furniture look great, too.  

Here is my home-made recipe that protects your clothes from moth or other insect infestation:
Get a large empty spray bottle (the ones you would mist your flowers with) and fill it with a mixture of 2/4 washing-up liquid (I use a lavender-infused liquid soap – you can dilute it slightly with some water),  1/4 99% IPA (alcohol) and 1/4 of white vinegar. Shake it well and mist it on your furniture, carpets, and even clothes. I also use this mixture on garden plants that have infestations like aphids.

Here is an article about home-made cleaning products 

Don’t throw food away before you do this:
Here is one of my favorite tips to rehydrate vegetables and salads that have gone a bit limp. Fill a bowl of cold water and add a small capful of white vinegar (in fact any vinegar will do, but go for a cheap one here as the results are the same). Chop your salad, and vegetables up and immerse them in the water.  Leave them in the bowl for around 30 minutes and you will have crisp, ready-to-eat salads and vegetables on your plate.

These are just a few examples of the many ways you can save and help the environment.  Initially, it does take a bit of effort and experimenting. But over time these recipes are quick to make and once you get used to the taste of homemade produce there is no going back!

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Baking bread

Baking bread

 

Today is a great day for extra baking and cooking. You can always freeze your meals in small portions to have them to hand on busy days ahead. This is a very efficient way to create home-made meals that saves time and energy.

Bake your own bread: 

Making your own artisan bread, especially sourdoughs have become a past time for many people now working from home. I grew up with sourdoughs and for me, these home-made loaves are what I call ‘bread’. Below you can read how to make your very own sourdough starter.

I have a breadmaker for ease but don’t worry if you don’t have one or if you prefer to do yours in the oven.  Below is a quick and easy recipe for all those who want to give it the first try. The recipe below is for a simple and tasty mixed loaf that can be done in any conventional oven. No breadmaker or sourdough needed.

baking bread   How to bake an artisan loaf

You will need kitchen scales, the ingredients below, a ceramic dish with a lid (ideally round), a bowl and a mixing spoon.
Ingredients:  560g wheat flour, 190g rye flour, 550g hot water, 16g salt, some cumin seeds (1/2 a teaspoon should be enough), 3gram of active yeast. You could add some linseeds or other seeds if you like.

1) weigh all the ingredients and put them together into a big kitchen bowl.  I use a big mixing spoon to blend them together. Then add some flour to your hands and knead the dough.  (please use enough plain flour on your hands, otherwise, the dough will stick to you). After a few minutes of kneading, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, and leave it to rest. I suggest a minimum of 3 hours. You could also prepare the dough in the evening and let it rise overnight. Then it will be ready for baking the next day.

Tip: To see if the dough is ready for baking. Pull some upwards.  If it rips easily it needs to rise a little longer.  A dough that is ready for baking should glide out and not rip straight away. Traditionally you let the dough rise up to 5 times. It sounds complicated, but you let it rise in the bowl and then just take a few minutes to knead it again and let it rise again. It makes sense to make a few bread loafs at the same time.

2) Once the dough is ready,  preheat the oven to 250degree C (480F) and put the empty ovenproof dish with lid into the oven. Yes, that is right – empty to heat it up!

3) Take it out when it is very hot (be careful handling it!) and add some sprinkles of plain flour to cover the bottom of the pan. This is important as otherwise the bread will stick to the pan and it will be hard for it to come out.
Then add the dough. With the mixing spoon create a line in the top of the dough – that is where the crust can rise and sprinkle some plain flour on the top.  Put the lid on and bake the bread (middle shelf) for about 35 minutes.
My Tip: Pour water into an oven dish and put it on the bottom shelf, so the bread bakes it in moist air.

Sourdough starter:

This is an old recipe from my grandmother. In Austria most loaves of bread are sourdoughs and when I was a child I can only ever remember eating sourdough bread. Here is a recipe for your very own sourdough starter. If you put it together today, it will take a minimum of 9 days before you can use it. But once you have started, you can keep your sourdough going for years. If fact, if it is fed regularly, it gets better and better. My current one is about 3 years old. You can then give part of your starter away to friends – to give them a headstart in their own process.

What is sourdough? 
In essence, it is a fermented dough that you add to your bread mixture before baking.
The reason it has become so popular is that it tastes so good as well as being beneficial for your digestion. Sourdough contains strains of the helpful lactobacillus, also called the friendly gut bacteria. If you suffer frequently from bloating or even IBS, switching to sourdough from a conventional bread might be a good move.

Here is how to make the starter: 
You will need 250ml of milk, 250ml water, 1 tbsp of sugar, 2.5 teaspoons of dry yeast, and 450g of plain flour.  If you are lactose-intolerant try to do just warm water instead.

Warm the milk to almost boiling and add the water and sugar. When the temperature has cooled to 40degreeC (105F) add the yeast. Cook at a very low temperature for about 5-10 minutes. It is important that the yeast starts to foam a little. Pour this mixture into a container that has a lid and add the flour. Mix well. Initially, you need to keep the lid off as it is essential that air can get to your new starter. I suggest you cover it with a tea towel or muslin cloth. Keep it stored in a warm place like an airing cupboard. The warmer the better – around 30C (80F) is ideal. After a day or 2, it starts to bubble. It is important to stir it once or twice a day. Soon a greyish liquid will form on the top – don’t be alarmed. This is absolutely normal and good. Hurrah it’s working!

Once it starts to smell sour – hence sourdough – it is ready to use. Now you can put the lid on and that is how it is stored. If you don’t intend to bake immediately put it in the fridge. There you can keep it literally for years!  Beware it is a live organism and therefore needs the occasional feeding to stay alive.

This is how to do it: Replenish it with 120 ml warm water (4fl oz) and 120g of flour. That’s it. Leave it to bubble up (ideally do this a day before baking and leave it outside). Then return it back into the fridge when it is no longer needed.

If you keep your dough outside, you need to replenish quite regularly (say once a week), when I keep it in the fridge, I only do it sporadically, usually after using it or at least every 2-3 weeks. Even if you don’t use it, it needs the occasional stir otherwise it will separate too much.

Now you are good to go. You can add this sourdough starter to the bread recipe above and you will have baked your first sourdough bread.

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Baking Christmas cookies

Baking Christmas cookies

Christmas is always a great time for baking and for get-togethers. So here are a few good recipes to get you into the mood.

Funky Christmas Cookies:

This is a very easy recipe and ideal for baking with children. First, make the dough and then get various cookie cutters and cut out the shapes you like. Finally decorate with tubes of edible writing gel, chocolate or other decorations. The more organic and well-sourced ingredients you can use, the better.

Ingredients: 120g butter, 120g plain flour, 60g semolina, 60g caster
sugar, 100g icing sugar.

1) Take a big bowl and put in the butter (leave outside for a few hours before use, so it is soft) and the flour. Then rub both together with your hands. If your hands get very messy and sticky, add some flour to your hands to make it less sticky.

2) Once the mixture resembles lots of little breadcrumbs, add the semolina and caster sugar. Then squash everything together until you have a firm ball of dough.

3) Set the oven to 150degrees/300F/or Gas Mark 2. Get out a baking tray to
place the cookies on.

4) Sprinkle some flour on a big wooden chopping board and then roll out the
dough with a rolling pin, make it quite thin, but not so thin that it breaks
easily.

5) Now use the cookie cutters to cut out various shapes and place them carefully on a baking tray. Once the tray is full put it in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes. Then take them out and leave them to cool. Whilst the first lot of cookies bakes, take the rest of the dough and repeat the step for another 4 to 5 times until there is no more dough left.

6) Add the icing sugar together with a tiny bit of water and mix together
until you have a gooey paste. Then add some natural colour and flavour (you can
find them in the baking section) and decorate your cookies.

Chewy Winter Chocolate Bites

These chocolate fudge pieces make a great Christmas present and you don’t
even have to bake them!

Ingredients: 200g/8oz plain chocolate, 50g/2oz butter, 1 tbsp cocoa
powder, 50ml double cream, 250g/9oz icing sugar, 8 glace cherries

1) Put the chocolate, butter and cocoa powder into a glass or ceramic bowl. Then take a saucepan and put some water in it and gently place a ceramic bowl over the saucepan, so that the water heats up the chocolate and melts it.

2) Stir everything together and pour the mixture into a plastic mixing bowl
and add the cream and beat in the icing sugar.

3) Chop the cherries into small pieces and fold them into the mixture.

4) Spoon the mixture into a shallow tin and smooth the top. Then chill the tin in the fridge until it is set. Once it is solid, cut it into small squares and put them into little muslin bags with ribbons. That makes a great Christmas gift.

Christmas Stollen

This is a German Christmas recipe and it is a sweet bread that contains
sultanas, nut, orange peel. This recipe makes roughly 30 portions.

Ingredients: 175g/6oz blanched almonds, 175g/6oz blanched sultanas,100g/4oz
currants, 100g/4oz finely dices glacee lemon peel, 100g/4oz finely dices glacee
orange peel, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla sugar, grated rind of 1 unwaxed lemon, 3 tbsp of
rum, 500g/1lb 2oz plain flour, 20g/3/4 of oz dried yeast, 90g/3oz sugar,
125ml/half pint of lukewarm milk, 1 pinch of salt, 250g/9oz butter/ flour to
roll out the dough, 150g/5oz of melted butter, 100g/4 oz icing sugar to dust.

1) Grind half of the almonds and roughly chop the other half. Then combine
with sultanas, currants, glacee peel, vanilla sugar, lemon rind and rum. Cover
the mixture with cling film and leave overnight.

2) The next day put the flour into a large mixing bowl, make a dent in the
middle and add the yeast. Sprinkle some sugar over the yeast and then add the
lukewarm milk and dissolve the yeast This will take a little while.

3) Once the dough has risen add the marinated fruit mixture.

4) Sprinkle some flour on a board and spread the mixture to form a rectangle of roughly 40x 30cm/16x12in.
Brush it with water and place the stollen carefully on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave to rise for a further 20min.

5) Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 degrees C/390 F/gas mark 6.  and bake the stollen in the center for around 40minutes.

6) Take the stollen out and check if it is well baked.Then brush it wih melted butter and dust it with icing sugar. Keep repeating this process until all the butter and icing sugar are gone. Wrap the stollen into an aluminum foil and leave at least for 3 weeks until it is ready for eating, because only then all the full flavours will develop.

Happy baking and eating!

Cooking and Baking

Cooking and Baking

 

TODAY IS A GREAT TO TO COOK IN BATCHES FOR FREEZING, MAKE  BREAD AND BAKE CAKE & COOKIES

I read that Mauro Colagreco, owner of the Michelin-starred restaurant Mirazur, situated on the French Riviera, has changed his menu post-COVID lockdown.  That would not be surprising for a place listed on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant list. But why is it news-worthy? Because he will tailor his offerings in accordance with what the moon is doing.

 

 

I am sure many readers thought ‘Ridiculous new fad- what next?’. Well, this ‘fad’ is actually not so new, it is in fact a few thousand years old.

 

 

Here is the article 

 

 

Mr. Colagreco reasons that he is already using biodynamically grown produce and so he might as well not stop there but carry this method over to the kitchen. Ah, now it makes sense.

 

 

In the Biodynamic garden, one aspect is that the gardener is plants, sows, and carries out any work in accordance with the biodynamic calendar. This has given Biodynamic farming always a ‘woohoo’ appeal, fit for a few crazy souls, but nothing for the sensible masses. But what many don’t realize is that for centuries this was actually THE normal way of farming, nothing ‘woohoo’ about this.

 

 

Generations of observations have led to practices which ‘just worked’ – olives picked on certain days had more oil and apples more juice. Spinach sown on this day was less susceptible to disease or grew quicker. The ‘why’ was less questioned, it just was called ‘tradition’ and it worked.

 

 

I assume the menu choices you will see in the near future at Mirazur, will be guided by the change of the moon phases and the elements.  When you take a look at our online calendar The Month Ahead   you will see that each day shows a moon phase (Waxing Moon, Full Moon, Waning Moon or New Moon) and an element (Water, Air, Earth & Fire) and activity symbols that are connected.

 

 

These symbols represent the observations that led to the creation of these calendars. But their widespread appeal was (and still is) that they are such great tools to structure time and life.

 

 

So what is cooking with the moon?

If you grew up with this ‘way of eating’, then your body is sort of programmed to fancy certain foods at certain times.
I guess this is nature’s way to make sure you get a well-balanced diet. If you have never heard or experienced it, then it does need a bit of time to get used to it. Firstly, you have to ‘detach’ from your current eating habits and ‘re-teach’ your body to develop what I call ‘healthy cravings’ and food management. I am currently working on a program that will teach these steps in more details.

 

 

But here is quick intro if you are completly new to this way of cooking and eating.

 

 

Eating with the moon cycle:

 

 

The Waxing Moon: As the moon grows, so do we. People seem hungrier and gain weight easier. It is a great time for those who find it hard to put weight on (say after an operation) or anorexic.

 

 

If you struggle with too much weight, it is crucial that you watch this time. Don’t lose weight, rather stabilize your weight and aim not to gain. Prepare meals that are filling and full of nutrients (fresh, healthy, organic produce is, of course, best) and that contains very little sugar and empty calories, such as white flour.

 

 

The Full Moon: Again, it is easier to put weight on, but as it is just a short time, you may as well enjoy it and go for a slap-up meal. Traditionally diets started at Full Moon.

 

 

The Waning Moon: Losing weight tends to be easier now.  We are also more active and as a result may eat less, as we are too busy with other things.

 

 

If you have no weight issues, just focus on moving more and keep eating a normal, healthy diet. If you need to lose weight, now is your perfect time. These 2 weeks go for it – there are numerous strategies depending on lifestyle habits and body types.

 

 

New Moon: Traditionally a rest and fast day.

 

 

Another area are the elements. Each day has a special quality and again you can see this on the calendar which ‘day quality’ is dominant.

 

 

Fire – dedicated to fruit – this could be picking, pruning fruit bushes and trees or making jam

 

 

Earth – anything to do with root vegetable and the earth. Digging, weeding harvesting potatoes, sowing carrots, etc.

 

 

Air: Anything to do with flowers and oils. Sunflower would be a top example. This is a great time to pick olives and press their oil, incorporate flowers into salads and dishes and eat ‘flowery’ vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower.

 

 

Water: Leafy vegetables like spinach, all kind of salads and in the garden a great day for planting, fertilising and extra watering.

 

 

The reason I combined the gardening and eating is that until very recently you would grow your vegetable, harvest and eat them – usually all on the same day. There were no chest freezer or fridges available. When your trees had an abundance of fruit, you made jams, compotes, cider or stored them in a way that it lasted for a long time.

 

 

Root vegetables got pickled or fermented. Freezing is not a bad habit, but it works best if you pick and freeze, so the nutrients stay as fresh as can be. If you take only one thing away – try to eat less, but better and shop for food that is ‘alive’ – ideally grown near you, by an organic or even better biodynamic farmer or grow your own, making sure the soil is a nutritous as possible.

 

 

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