Chillies ahoy!

It feels like my chilli plants have taken forever to produce any actual chillies. Then again I’m not the world’s most patient person! Having outgrown both my indoor greenhouse and my living room window sill, I’ve relegated the plants to the floor, where they seem quite content:

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I think they might have sprouted chillies sooner, if I’d actually done some homework and found out that you should start feeding them as soon as they begin to flower. A bit of research also revealed that to get a good crop of chillies, you need to pinch out their leaves. Nope, I had no idea what that meant either. Basically it involves removing some of the plant’s leaves to encourage them to get bushy rather than just tall. Bushy is good because more stems means more chillies. And more chillies means I have to buy less from the supermarket!

IMG_0066As I ended up with more plants than I had space for, I gave a couple away to friends and family. I like the thought of other people enjoying the fruits of my labour, as it were! I’ll let you know how the chillies taste when they’re big enough and ripe enough to eat… hopefully that’ll be soon!

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Baby chillies

Way back in January when it was cold, wet and dark, I optimistically treated myself to an indoor green house, with the intention of planting some herbs and chilli seeds. Well, it’s taken a while, but I finally have some baby chilli plants – yay!

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I originally planted two lots of seeds; one lot from a packet my aunt had kindly given my dad (who eats chilli with everything, including cheese sandwiches), and the other from Mexican restaurant Wahaca. If you’ve ever been to Wahaca, you’ll probably know they give you cute free chilli seeds that look like this:

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Sadly, my Wahaca seeds never germinated, but they’d been lying in my kitchen drawer (the really messy one – full of keys, string and the instructions for the blender – that everyone has in their kitchen) for years, so I wasn’t too surprised. It’s been fun to watch the other chillies grow from tiny green stems to something that’s starting to resemble a plant, and I’m excited about being able to pick my very own red chillies, though I have no idea how long I’ll have to wait for that!

While I haven’t got round to planting any herbs yet, the chive plant I bought last Summer (mainly because I like their spikey, purple flowers) has miraculously come back to life after completely (so I thought) dying over Winter. It’s now bigger and stronger than ever, and this year it’s started to grow flowers. I have a fair crop of chives, so I’m going to make some parmesan and chive butter soon, which has got to be delicious smothered on corn on the cob. I’ll let you know how it tastes 😉

Introducing the GO Box

Polystyrene food containers, along with their partners in crime – disposable, plastic cutlery – are a pet, food related hate of mine, so I was pleased to find out a start up called GO Box have come up with a more sustainable solution. It essentially works like this:

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I was interested to read here that

The biggest potential impact might come from the food saved inside the containers—not the containers themselves. How much half-eaten Thai food goes straight in the trash? It’s possible that knowing a container has to be returned might be just enough motivation for more people to remember their leftovers.

I’m not sure if this idea will take off, but it’s nice to know people are trying to make what is currently a horribly wasteful practice more environmentally sound.

The capsule kitchen challenge

You’ve no doubt heard of the capsule wardrobe, but do you know what a capsule kitchen is? At a guess, you might say it involves reducing the amount of equipment you use to cook your meals. Well, it’s certainly not a bad idea to rid your kitchen of any extraneous gadgets (like that grapefruit knife or zester you never use), but Courtney Carver’s capsule kitchen challenge in fact involves choosing 33 types of food to eat in a three month period. Spices and condiments, aka ‘flavour boosters’, aren’t included in the 33 foods and after the three months, you are free to start again with a new list of ingredients.

Pondering this rather different concept, I made a quick list of the foods I typically buy and found I already eat a fairly limited range. This might be because I’m a pescatarian, and also somebody who doesn’t usually consume snack products, like crisps or biscuits at home. Thinking about it, I’m always aware when I go to the supermarket how many aisles I never need to go down, which makes my weekly shop much quicker!

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One aim of the capsule kitchen challenge is to see if limiting your food choices offers health and lifestyle benefits. Apart from the obvious fact that choosing 33 ingredients to work with encourages cooking from scratch, rather than relying on processed foods, the capsule kitchen challenge also promotes seasonal eating, as you change your food list every quarter. I’d probably have strawberries on my list in Summer, for example, and exchange these for apples come Autumn.

Like a capsule wardrobe, with a capsule kitchen the ‘less is more’ idea applies. For example, Courtney points out that working with fewer ingredients might allow you to be more creative in the kitchen. During the Breadline Challenge at the end of last year, having a limited amount of food to eat in a week definitely pushed me to use what I had available more ingeniously.

Taking into consideration how and what I usually eat, the capsule kitchen challenge probably isn’t for me. I do, however, like the concept and am sure for many people, following the simple challenge rules could make a real difference to their health. I think the beauty of it is, it promotes sensible, nutritious, homemade eating, without overtly being a ‘diet’ in the traditional sense that involves too many difficult-to-stick-to restrictions.

Save your herbs!

This blog post reminded me I was supposed to get started on planting my chilli seeds and herbs in my new mini greenhouse this weekend… It’s been cold and I’ve had other (indoor) things to do! I’ve already got my sights set on making some herb butter, but I like these salsa verde ideas too.

Herb butter

So many recipes call for fresh herbs, but it’s rare you use a whole bunch in one go. The bad news is they rarely last for longer than a few days, even if you store them properly (see how to do that here). So how do you stop them from going to waste?

Herb butter is an easy, quick way to transform wilting herbs into tasty capsules of flavour that’ll last you for months. Roughly chop whatever herbs you have (finely chop and add the stalks of soft herbs, but discard woody stems), then combine with softened butter. Finely chop or grate in any leftover chillies, garlic or even ginger, if you like, then place onto a piece of greaseproof paper. Wrap it up into a cylinder shape, twisting the ends of the greaseproof to secure. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm up, remove and slice the butter into rounds, then…

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