Go Jamie Go! International Food Revolution Day, May 19 – Let’s Get Cooking ++++ Proper Good Picnics

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May 19th – the first ever International Food Revolution Day!

Good on ya Mr Oliver, you certainly don’t do things by halves. You take the bull by the horn (or in this case the school by the board) and you run with it. We are so, so with you, you and all the other sung and unsung food heroes, such as David Kessler (The End of Overeating), Michael Pollan (In Defense of Food), Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Fish Fight, River Cottage), Chef Anne Cooper (lunch lady extraordinaire), Annabel Langbein (The Free Range Cook), Stepanie Alexander (School Gardens program), Heidi Swanson (101cookbooks.com), Yotam Ottolenghi (Plenty) SAF (Raw Food Restaurant in London and Istanbul), and so many, many more.

Add in a few slightly less famous names such as the head at my son’s school who allowed us to go in and try out our successful “Eat a Rainbow” cooking lessons, my friends like Jo, Antonio, Janet, Eva, Lisa and Bintou who like me love, love, love food cooked from scratch with tastes and flavours that sizzle and spring with joy in the mouth.

So, May 19th is the first ever International Food Revolution Day  – see http://www.jamieoliver.com – and we support it from the bottom of our stomachs! Jamie suggests a number of things to celebrate the day – organzie a local food event, host a dinner party, find an event near you. This year May 19th falls on a Saturday so we won’t be doing a school event but what we will do is bring some really healthy gorgeous snacks to our usual hockey and rugby matches. How about fruit kebabs, morning glory muffins, blueberry and apricot scones and some mini club sandwiches? This will put those crisps and hotdogs to shame (virtually the only food offered at our Dutch Clubrooms)  or so we can but hope! And yes as the weather begins to clear (fingers and toes crossed) my thoughts are turning to picnics, picnics on beaches, picnics in gardens, picnics under woodland leaves and under stars. So, if the rains hold back we will be having a family picnic either on the edge of a sports ground or beside the blustery North sea, watching the surfies.

A few BIG, BIG wishes for local Food Revolutions (they are quite Large!)

One is that our kids demand healthy, gorgeous food from our senior school canteen with no compromise (and that they begin to understand that although good food doesn’t have to be really expensive, it shouldn’t be cheap) and school vending machines with healthy alternatives!

Two, that our school runs a summer fair that is a Good Ethical Food Fair with no candy floss or cheap hotdogs and spongey white bread!

Three, that sports & party centres stop stocking food like this stuff below- overprocessed, overcheap and over -yellow really!

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So, here’s one of my favourite picnic pie recipes to share with friends, relations and those who may become friends.

Spinach and a bit of Everything Filo Pastry Pie (top pic, not the one above!)

1 packet of filo pastry – thawed overnight in the fridge (I like the really long packs of filo not the small squares)

3 large organic eggs

300 grams of feta, crumbled or can use of mixture of feta parmesan, hard and soft cheeses such as mozzeralla

One box of EKO frozen spinach, thawed, and squeezed dry of excess water or a large bag of fresh spinach wilted and squeezed dry.

A quarter of a cup of pinenuts, gently fried in a heavy based pan with a tiny spray of olive oil

A handful of blanched almonds if you fancy

Sprigs of mint, washed, dried and torn (or coriander)

Some basil or fresh thyme

One large onion, chopped finely and fried until translucent

Pepper, freshly milled and a pinch of nutmeg

( and if you have some crusty bread past its best but not mouldy, pop in the food processor and whizz until it becomes crumbs)

A teaspoon of melted butter for brushing

Preheat the oven to 185 fan-bake. Lightly oil a baking tray or shallow pie dish.

This is a really simple recipe and will work as long as your frozen spinach has been squeezed dry of excess water. If you are using fresh spinach, wash carefully as it is often sandy then steam it in a little water and drain in a colander. Basically, you want a moist cheesy spinach mixture to place in the pastry, but if you think it’s too runny then add some breadcrumbs or some more herbs and nuts, if you think it too dry, add another egg or some crème fraiche.

If you haven’t used filo pastry before, the thing is not to let it dry out, so don’t open the packet until the egg mixture is absolutely ready.

Beat your eggs in a largish bowl, add in the spinach, feta and any other cheeses, nuts, herbs, and mix well. Give it a generous shake of pepper and if you like some lemon zest. Mix well – it should be quite thick and not too runny.

Melt the butter and have a pastry brush ready.

Open the filo packet and spread 3-4 sheets on the bottom of the baking tray or in the pie dish. Arrange your egg mixture on the sheets, leaving a good edge for folding up around the edges. Tuck the pastry around the mixture and now lay 2-sheets on the top of your mixture and tuck under the bottom. Brush gently with melted butter and add in a few more layers of filo and tuck around to form a rectangular pie. Brush butter on top. Bake in the centre of the oven until golden brown, some 25-30 minutes. Remove, allow to cool and wrap up in foil or place in a cake tin, ready for the picnic.

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I like to serve this pie with a minted yoghurt dip, some onion chutney or a fresh coriander chutney and a really good salad. Here’s an easy yoghurt sauce

Half a cup of Greek yoghurt

Half a cucumber, peeled, deed seeded and grated and set in a colander to drain excess water.

A sprinkling of black onion seeds, some torn mint, basil and/or coriander leaves or my new favourite spice – sumac (comes from a berry from a wild bushy shrub which grows wild in the med and the middle east – sort of soury, salty, sweet and hard to describe really!)

Black pepper and salt to taste

Mix all the ingredients together and taste to adjust seasonings. Chill in jar to serve with pie.

And a few of our favourite things for picnics…… are retro 70’s stuffed devilled eggs, sun ripened tomatoes, homemade mini pizzas, morning glory muffins, ANZAC cookies, coleslaws and mini ham/veggie burgers served with salad and tapenade, carrot and ginger dip, braeburn or cox’s orange apples and melty camenbert, scones with strawberry jam and cream etc, oh, it’s just endless…..

Extra fancy special picnics may require a visit to The Cheesecake Company for a really gorgeous birthday cake or to Baklust, Phillip Garlenes for a messy but delicious chocolate pie, Brood for a brownie or olive bread  -great with all the afore mentioned dips – lastly, don’t let the weather put you off. If it is truly yukky outside try a picnic at home on a rug in the middle of the floor – enjoy!

Below a pic of Rebecca’s devilishly good classic “made with her own hands” cheesecake decorated (by us) with mango, peach and mandarin! A super special birthday cake for every once in a while! See http://www.cheesecakecompany.nl!

But do remember, we can all cook and cook we must for life is delicious!

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Food-motions – a few glorious grains and soft spring rolls!

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The foods in the photograph above make me happy! I love the hot red of the chilli peppers, the earthy textured dark of the Haas avocado, my all time favourite, that little peppery creamy French brie plus those tiny tomatoes which baked with rosemary sprigs slowly are a prefect companion to any salad.

I just find food and meals just so wholesomely human really – a simple and genuine full circle of love, caring and shopping with sustainability in mind. I  do try and temper my desire to cook and experiment with consience and our small planet is constantly in my thoughts. Growing up in the 60s/70s on a small dairy farm taught me much about  the land, farming and the farmers lot. I try to buy my dairy products from sustainably run or organic farms. I like small holdings and kind farmers and large agri-business tend to make me nervous. Cruelty-free food seems to make  my meals taste so much more satisfying all round. And having frugal parents who were also avid food-lovers taught me to waste as little as possible and to re-compost that which was unusable.

Preparing food is something most of us do for ourselves and our loved ones every day of our lives.   We share meals, buy/trade/grow/ store food, throw away food  (alas) and plan our next meal every single human day. As for me – I teach kids & adults about cooking, develop new recipes, write and read about food (and the behaviours/habits which surround it) from morning through to night.  And I have spent many a glorious hour exchanging recipes, sharing food memories and just chewing the fat with people all over the world.  Time spend teaching and talking food makes me as happy as an organically farmed pig in clover, oh, it does. Food is beautiful, colourful, smell-licious and divine.

Food -motion. Food-ire, Fear of Food…..

However, there is the food-motion side of things. Mention ideas such as healthy eating, home cooking, slow food, meatless Mondays, smaller chocochip cookies, those unneeded sports drinks, more dark brown bread, using lots of spices and fresh herbs and then you start to get into some dark and emotionally-edgy conversations. Sometimes I feel a great chilliness hovering above my food laden table, often I am surprised to find that people feel threatened and challenged. I am rather shocked that people seem so unaware of the epidemic of diabetes and the rates of adult obesity in developed countries given the constant media coverage.

It never ceases to amaze me how Jamie Oliver attracted such bile for suggesting we should do more cooking in our homes and schools both in the UK and the US – thanks Jamie, you got us thinking although I wish more of us would watch your speech on Ted.com (2010 Ted Winner). Really, Jamie was not trying to make anyone feel bad, he just wants us to cook great food and consume it. Food is glorious, a priveledge to eat and have accesss to. So many in our world can’t get a good square meal that it would be a shame not to put our best into what we have and to teach our kids how to as well!  It is central to our human lives and we all need to learn more about it.

I believe that learning to cook is a great skill to have, teaching us manual dexterity, organizational and managerial skills, chemistry, intuition, self-efficacy, confidence and above all teaching our knowledge about where food comes from and how it impacts on our planet.  On a lighter side, it is just such fun and for that little extra bonus you get to eat the end result. My next cooking course “Eating A Rainbow” – simple, delicious dishes from around the world will be taught at The Hungry Mind Centre, just by the International School of The Hague on March 19 and 26th – come and join me if you fancy – register via http://www.thehungrymind.nl or phone 070 3681804.

Now onto proper stuff, like cooking. Below is a picture of  few of my fav nuts and grains straight from the organic market of course. And I have a new cookbook –  have just made some quinoa and beetroot burgers from the Vegetarian with a Vengeance Cookbook, lovely stuff ladies – I am impressed.

organic nuts and grains, homemade ruccola pesto and sun-dried tomotoes

But today I am feeling very spring rolly. Maybe it’s that hint of watery sunlight or a bunch of Thai basil I found at the Amazing Oriental. You can fill these fresh spring rolls with almost anything as long as it mix up it – it has to have crunchy, spicy, herby with all those textures added to the soft rice noodles. But you will need a good dressing. The Vegetarian with a Vengence book gives you three possibles – a peanut butter, chilli and soy ginger sauce, a hoisin coconut milk garlic sauce and a lemon grass lime – all of which sound great. My quickest and so far my best sauce is a simple mix of shoyu (a quarter of a cup), a good squeeze of ginger juice from a lump of coarsely grated ginger, some lime juice, and 1 tablespoon of palm sugar (or to taste!) Mix it up and add some coridander or holy basil leaves and it is divine. Can add water if it is too much for you!

Soft Spring Rolls

Now, make your soft spring rolls out of rice paper sheets. It is not really cooking as such but more an assembly line so it is best to be prepared and think about flavour combinations. Buy the rice papers at Amazing Oriental where you will see either the large round variety or half rounds. I get the whole rounds. Prepare a variety of tofu, vegetables and noodles, and nuts first.

I like to marinate the tofu in curry paste and then fry on both sides gently until crispy. Cut into thin strips. If you can find some sustainably caught shrim (eko shops or Marqt then fry it with garlic or chilli sauce and set aside.  Boil some rice noodles and drain. Add some mild seasame oil and seasame seeds to them and set aside. Finely chop some sweet carrots, spring onions, cabbage or lettuce. Dry roast or add tamari sauce to raw peanuts or cashews and put in a small bowl. Wash your holy basil, coriander and mint and dry. The secret is practise and organization. Jack seems to be much better at rolling the spring rolls than me. But I keep trying to get it right.

Some lovely soft spring rolls!

Have all your ingredients handy and in small bowls. Work over a clean tea towel and have a bowl of warm water large enough to place the entire sheet of rice paper in it. Dip in your rice paper in the water for a few seconds and drain on another tea towel. Place the soft rice papre on a clean teatowel and put a lettuce strip in the middle – you can overlap the edge or fold it in later. Add in your other ingredients, noodles, some nuts, tofu, shrimp, herbs, bean sprouts, carrot and spring onions. Fold or roll into middle and tuck in edges or leave lettuce outside at top. It is difficult to describe but you will develope you own method. There will be a variety of different shapes and sizes, and the tightness of the roll will vary until you get the hang of it. Persevere, it is worth it. The idea is to make bite sized rolls to dip into sauce and pop into your mouth. Eat within an hour or so or they will start to dry out. If you want them for later cover well in a air-tight container. Enjoy. Can also serve with a watered down version of a thai chilli sauce – or soy sauce.  And love, love, love

hearts of dark choc from Mary's in Brussels with rose petals!

your food – it’s better when you cook it yourself and cheaper. It really is!

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