We have met before, it's just that I don't come here often. So it's not surprising that I'm vaguely familiar - but after our little rendezvous, you'll want us to stay in touch.
To those of you who have occasionally wondered where on earth I've been, apologies.
To those of you new here, welcome! Please take a look around. I'm doing the place up and it's on its way to being fabulous. Make yourself at home.
I couldn't possibly fit all the stories behind my radio silence into one blog post, but all in good time. Let's take this post as a relaunch of sorts, and allow me to reintroduce myself as
AN AWARD-WINNING COOK!
Right now, my bill-paying work does not include cooking. This could be a Sorry State Of Affairs, but it does allow me to cook more in my spare time, i.e in a leisurely fashion, and this is a Good Thing. It is a particularly Good Thing when it means I win prizes.
Over the past two years, my lovely home town has introduced me to new friends, new skills, new cuisines and new cooking opportunities. It is a Transition Town, designed to nurture ventures that seek to build, promote, or improve a sense of community. Aside from volunteering locally, I am barely more involved in helping this movement than any average Joe, but I do at least like to think that by doing a little bit where I can, even if that's just explaining the concept to somebody, I am doing something positive.
Every year, Transition Town Tooting runs Foodival, a celebration of growing, eating and cooking locally produced and sustainable food. And with that comes the Top Tooting Cook competition.
So on Saturday, I went along to see the frankly enormous mountain of vegetables that had been grown in local community gardens, allotments, backyards and window boxes, and as an entrant, I was allowed to take my pick of the beautiful produce on offer.
- Tomatoes - big, small, green, yellow, red and orange. Some squishy and some firm
- A piece of horseradish root
- Some home-grown and dried garlic
- A small beetroot
- Some beautiful nasturtium flowers and leaves
Back home, I put the tomatoes (about 2kg in all) along with the washed and peeled horseradish, half a clove of garlic, a good bunch of basil and a small slice of beetroot into a blender in batches, before using a stick blender to make the mixture really smooth. I added a healthy dose of freshly ground pepper, about 2.5tbsp of red wine vinegar and a good couple of pinches of salt. I was being halal-friendly on this occasion, but if I wasn't, I'd have added a couple of shots of vodka.
After tasting the mixture (and adding more horseradish, seasoning and vinegar to make it really punchy), I poured it into clean muslin cloth in a bowl, before tying the cloth into a bag, knotting it really well and hanging it over a bowl to drip through overnight. This needs to be done somewhere cool where pests won't be a problem - the best place for me happened to be the living room and my housemate reported quite enjoying the aromatic water feature during her film night.
This 'moonblush' method is such a simple thing to do with tomatoes that I often pick up a bowl of them from the greengrocers at the end of my road, or pounce on a reduced punnet in my local supermarket - because it's so much better than the sunblush tomatoes you can get from the deli counter, and so little effort. Give it a try!
Anyway, by Sunday morning, the muslin bag was considerably lighter, and below it shimmered a bowl of gloriously pink and clear liquid, which I tasted for seasoning (only salt can be added at this stage!) and then chilled.
Just after lunch, off I went to Foodival, where I presented my consomme decorated with some baby basil leaves, some drops of beautiful olive oil and the nasturtiums:
There's going to be runner bean chutney, squash and sage risotto, courgette curry, carrot cake.....