Open Farm Sunday

One thing I've missed terribly this past year is growing produce for my family. There's a true joy in tending crops, soothing myself by digging hands into soil, learning from fresh challenges brought about by new weather patterns or pests. The best part though was always taking that all back to the table where a curious 3 year old will try something just because she's seen it grow. My daughter's curiousity about the changing flora and fauna in our new rural home is increasing almost daily but the joy of the first harvest of cucumber or potatoes will be much missed this year. 

produce growing at Goldhill Organics

It seemed inevitable therefore, that I made a beeline for local growers when we landed in Dorset back in November. I've been enjoying getting to know whose bees produce honey for our toast, and whose eggs are the best in the honesty box stretch we cruise regularly. When I stumbled over Goldhill Organics though, I had a feeling I was going to become loyal to their efforts very quickly. I'm delighted that my hunch proved correct. 

We now enjoy a regular supply of seasonal organic produce thanks to their vegetable box scheme. I tear open the box weekly and snap off stalks of celery to feed Little One who has undoubtedly appeared from nowhere to scrounge as I unpack. The family have been growing at Goldhill Organic Farm for over 25 years and it's a story of true passion that I've been dying to find out more about. 

Last Sunday, I packed Little One and I into a hot car and drove across beautiful countryside to visit their property as part of Open Farm Sunday. Open Farm Sunday is a charity event, encouraging visitors to learn about production in farms all over the country. From our first experiences of lambing this year, I knew it was something that would fascinate both my daughter and I so I was excited to attend. 

OPen Farm Sunday decorations
Open Farm Sunday decorations
Open Farm Sunday details

In between fields of cattle grazing, a prehistoric hillfort and meadows, is the farm itself. A family effort that has grown to the productive size it is today, Goldhill Organic Farm represents the word I've come to associate with our new environment: abundant. I stood enchanted as I watched fat bees buzz happily around some of the biggest Chive flowers I've ever seen and Little One helped herself to the coriander bed much like a child in a candy store. It's a magical place. 

retro ice cream van

The cafe and courtyard provided welcome relief after a fascinating, if slightly sweltering, tour of the raised beds and polytunnels. We treated ourselves to delicious ice creams from the retro van, stocked up on a little more produce from the farm shop and visited the studios on site. Local artists demonstrated glass blowing and their stunning paintings for visitors to enjoy and the atmosphere was a refreshing mix of nurturing and enthusiastic. 

When I began The Maker's Year, back in January, these were the stories I wanted to sniff out: local producers creating something truly magical that was sustainable and nurturing to both communities and the environment. Standing in the courtyard, I watched my daughter running excitedly in circles (thanks ice cream), families laughing together, farm members chatting about challenges and victories from this year's efforts and I knew I'd taken another step closer. There is something very special indeed about reconnecting with a growing cycle and knowing why this year the asparagus struggled but the beans have grown wild. I appreciate the fresh new crops just that little more and try to elevate my day to day cooking to make the most of it. 

Studio open day for Open Farm Sunday

It's really added to the pleasure of collaborating with the team for the new monthly recipes I'm developing as part of the Patreon rewards for the podcast. Each month, I'll be treating subscribers to a recipe that is seasonal, easy to achieve and includes tips for family meal times. I knew that these wonderful producers would provide just the inspiration I needed and Sunday's visit confirmed it. I'll be sharing sneak peaks of ingredients and trips to Goldhill Organic regularly on Snapchat, Twitter etc and you can also grab the monthly recipe by joining the A Playful Day community over on Patreon

Do you love growing produce? I know a lot of you do. Tell me how it's gone this year. I love these stories!

Store Cupboard Salad Dressings

I always know Summer is coming by the amount of vinegar and oil being added much more regularly to my shopping basket. The minute the weather picks up and the new produce comes into season, I gorge on fresh vegetables and have a constant rotation of simple dressings that add flavour and interest. 

With that in mind, I thought I'd share some of my go to recipes and a few tips for getting great results in a quick and simple way. Keeping the cupboards stocked with a few basics means you can knock together a healthy and tasty dish in just a few minutes. 

Tips for easy, yummy dressings:

Jars- I keep pesto jars, jam jars and spice jars with screw on lids. That way I can pop my ingredients in, screw on the lid and give it all a vigorous shake. It's really quick, not at all messy and any leftovers can be popped in the fridge for the rest of the week.

Ratios- The rule of thumb here is 3 parts oil to one part acid. You can mix things up by adding herbs, mustard or garlic but this basic ratio will yield a good dressing every time. 

Oil- I like to use cold pressed Olive Oil or at a push, extra virgin oil. I do use some of the nut oils like sesame from time to time but I don't think you can really go wrong with Olive Oil. 

Acid- Vinegar (balsamic, red wine, cider, white wine) or lemon fall into this category. I have been known to use limes but that pushes us into the fancy pants dressing range and that's a conversation for another day. 

Crush- When adding garlic or shallots, I like to use the flat of my knife to smash them along with a little sea salt. This helps grind them up and break them down further so you don't get that blast of onion or garlic that leaves you breathing your salad over people for the rest of the day. 

Mellow- If you are adding onion or garlic, try to allow 20 minutes for the garlic or onion to sit in the oil. This softens and mellows it a bit, infusing into the oil. 

Timing- Always try to add dressing right before you serve to avoid soggy greens. 

Store Cupboard Dressings for Salads and Vegetables

Store Cupboard Dressings for Salads and Vegetables

My go to recipes:

Jamie Oliver's Yoghurt Dressing- This one is perfect for that creamy dressing craving you have and a healthier option too. My addiction to sharp, unsweetened live full fat yoghut pays off here. Delicious. 

Whole Food's Simple Vinaigrette- I love this one for a more complex dressing over just oil and vinegar. I keep a range of herbs in a tin bath in the garden and just snip a handful of what I feel like that day. Basil with griddled asparagus and halloumi is a must!

Simple Lemon Vinaigrette- Summer is here so it's time to stock up on about a million lemons. Trust me on this tip, nothing bad every came of too many lemons (see this post on lemon and lime curd if you don't believe me!)

Chinese Grandma's Balsamic Vinaigrette- I love the taste of honey with the kick from mustard on this one. This is probably my go to on any given day. Balsamic vinegar just lifts vegetables to a whole new level!

 

So now the real question is, what salads and vegetables are you currently gorging on? I feel a trip to the farmer's market coming on!

Homemade Nutella (or how I raided the cupboards and won)

It started with some chives. I was trying to explain to the Tot how delicious chives are as we pottered around the garden this weekend. She remains suspicious of anything green so I wondered how I could cook them in a way she would give them a try and not lead to a long conversation about why she wasn’t going to try them.

 

This is getting to the Nutella, I promise.

 

It was perfect timing then that I opened this month’s copy of The Simple Things Magazine and found a ‘Tea Treats’ feature hosted by the blogger Ms Marmite Lover. Included in the selection of treats were cheese and herb muffins which gave us a great excuse for a little harvesting in the herb patch. The Tot helped create the muffins and only mild carnage followed.

It was while tidying away and idly flipping through other recipes in the magazine that I found the recipe for Homemade Nutella. I did a little happy dance when I recognised at least 3 ingredients that I had there and then which meant I could make chocolate spread! (To be fair, one of the ingredients was sea salt so let’s not be too impressed by my larder).

Cheese and Herb Muffins are featured in this month's The Simple Things magazine

Cheese and Herb Muffins are featured in this month's The Simple Things magazine

As is often the case when I start baking, half way through the process I realised I only had half of the correct ingredients and even then, not at the correct quantities. So what now follows is my successful solution to this problem so that you too can have homemade Nutella. I kept some quantities the same such as sea salt as I like a little savoury mixed in with sweet and I made sure it was a little crunchier than recommended because that’s how the Tot and I like peanut butter.

It’s a game changer.

Homemade Nutella

Homemade Nutella

I am an affiliate for The Simple Things because I love gardening, cooking, travel and the comfort to be found in a seasonal look at the gentler things in life. If you’d like to subscribe, please feel free to do so here (affiliate link).

Homemade Nutella

Homemade Nutella

Emergency Rations Homemade Nutella

Ingredients:

150g whole hazelnuts

200g milk chocolate, broken into pieces

100g plain chocolate, broken into pieces

2 tbsp. coconut oil

2 tbsp. icing sugar

½ tbsp. hot chocolate powder

½ tsp vanilla extract

¾ tsp sea salt

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

2. Pop the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes, being careful not to scorch.

3. While those are roasting, melt the chocolate.

4. Once the hazelnuts are ready and cool enough to handle, rub them with a rough paper towel to encourage the skins to flake away. You can peel off whatever is missed as you pop them into a blender.

5. Blend along with all other ingredients and distil into jars trying not to lick your fingers too much. 

Should keep for about a month in the fridge although I’d suggest you need to eat it up sooner because it’s delicious.

The Tot agrees…

Love Your Blog: Beginnings

Welcome back to our weekly Love Your Blog link drop! It's been fascinating reading so many wonderful blog posts from people exploring their sense of Community and Interaction. This week, I'm asking you to add your blog post about 'Beginnings' and return sharing mine.

Next week's prompt is 'Ugly'. Can't wait to see what you cook up!

Beginnings

It was hearing from so many bloggers last week that made me look back at some of my earliest blogger experiences. I started A Playful Day as a prompt for my own daily life, to encourage me to find a playful moment in every day. As a result blog posts would often be funny little stories about things like the neighbours having an exciting looking barbecue, cookie recipes, jumping in puddles and plenty of chatter about what I was knitting

black and white breadmaking photos from 2010! 

black and white breadmaking photos from 2010! 

It's been a funny journey going back into myself. The same people appear again and again like Lisa from Northbound Knitting who has sponsored me from very early on and supported my growth as a blogger, podcaster and knitter. There's something so reassuring to see my community has stayed pretty authentic feeling even with the way this blog and podcast have grown. There's much less knitting these days thanks to a sheer lack of time and poorly wrists so I tend to channel any knitting content into the podcast and use the blog to keep that broader, more playful feel. 

Food featured much more heavily on A Playful Day- I need to return to this goodness!

Food featured much more heavily on A Playful Day- I need to return to this goodness!

I guess I'm still finding playful moments and documenting them but it's more about what's feeding my brain these days from new designs, conversations with smart creative business women and a constant search for further inspiration after setting myself a creativity challenge with 'An Inspired 2015'. 

An inspired 2015 is a big part of A Playful Day's blog direction

An inspired 2015 is a big part of A Playful Day's blog direction

If you've been blogging for a long time, have you looked back on that first year at all? I'd love to know what you found!

Postcard Bloggers 2015 with Subway Knits

Today's postcard blogger is Maria of Subway Knits and she's talking food.  You might not be surprised to hear I spend quite a bit of time chatting to Maria about food. 

Next week I will be hosting my final guest blogger, Helen of Curious Handmade. Remember you can find all the blog hop participants by following the hashtag #postcardbloggers2015 and #aninspired2015

--------


Dear Kate,
Something happened recently that has taken me quite by storm, and stoked a flurry of inspiration and creativity: I have cooked more in the past two weeks than I have in the past 6 months. 

This may be an oxymoron, but while I love food and love to eat, I hate cooking. Or rather, I used to hate it. Chalk it up to the change in weather or the help of a new toy, but lately I am really enjoying it - the experimentation, the results, the lessons learned and using what I know about the food I ate before as inspiration. 

grilled octopus in thessalonki

grilled octopus in thessalonki

While I am far from The Aussie's [Maria's husband] cooking levels, thinking about food in general made me realize why I love to eat: I travel through food. When I travel, I am always looking out for something new to try, and places to go that are off the beaten path and really reflect the nature of a place. 

Sunset in Santorini

Sunset in Santorini

This was definitely the case this past summer in Greece. It was The Aussie's first time there, and we really wanted to get a sense of what Greece was like beyond the Acropolis (though going there is pretty much mandatory, especially when you are in Athens!). 

Riverside Restaurant

Riverside Restaurant

Food - and sharing that food with others - is a global unifier, and a way to go off the beaten path, set things aside, relax and just enjoy the moment. It was around the endless cups of Greek coffee, or around the dinner table with my family - with The Aussie trying to coax my yiayia's recipe for her yemistes piperies (stuffed peppers) out of her by using Google Translate on his iPhone - that now serves as inspiring memories for me which I try to recreate at home in my kitchen. 

Greek Coffee

Greek Coffee

Try to being the operative phrase, as I am still a bit of a novice cook. Often, it is The Aussie who recreates it, though he does ask me for my input on the Greek dishes he ate in Greece. He made pastistada again tonight, which takes me back to the hot summer days on Corfu, where the dish is from. 

Pastitsada

Pastitsada

Now I'm hungry!

Good food, good company, good meals for postcard bloggers 2015

Good food, good company, good meals for postcard bloggers 2015

xo,
Maria
 

Roasted Beetroot, Squash and Goats Cheese Salad aka the Shoulder Season Salad.

The other day I popped out to meet a friend for a playdate with our toddlers and on my way went past a really yummy looking vegetable stall. I couldn't help but slow my pace, point to the figs with the Tot and start adding things to a basket. It was a cold and damp day but I wasn't feeling soup. I wanted lots of vegetables but without the boiling. I wanted colour. I wanted flavour. 

I came home with a portion of squash. I'm not sure the exact variety but it had a creamy green skin and bright orange flesh. It looked great next to the purple and golden beetroot that I also brought home that day. I pondered and rummaged in my fridge, googled around and decided to sort of throw it all together and see what happened. 

What happened was delicious. 

Here's some rough notes for how I accidentally made the best 'Shoulder Season' salad I've ever made:

- Take equal volumes of various beetroots and squash- just go with whatever you find and look fr fun colours to put on your plate. Cube and skin them. 

- Cut some red onions into wedges and put all the chopped veg into a large roasting dish, big enough not to overcrowd them. Toss in about 2 tbsp oil (I used coldpressed olive), season and pop in the oven on 225c for about 35 mins. 

- Meanwhile steam some green beans. I think rocket or spinach would be wonderful here too. 

- During last 10 minutes of the roasting, drizzle 2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar over the beets, onions and squash and shake it well before popping it back in. 

- Chop about half a cups worth of walnuts and crumble a block of goats cheese. 

- Remove roasted veg from oven and toss in the beans and walnuts. Sprinkle over the cheese. 

I'd also seriously think about a maple and balsamic vinaigrette next time like this one I found- it looks delicious. 

Enjoy!