Thursday, 29 December 2011

Beetroot part 2

Borscht was delicious, but as you can see from this photo, the beetroot lost its colour in the cooking!  This has happened to me before with other unusually coloured vegetables such as black string beans and purple cauliflower.  Any ideas why?

Tuesday, 27 December 2011


Sorry, have been away for the last two months working on a Welsh-language panto doing wardrobe so no time to post but will try to do so more regularly now that I'm back...  Trying to live sustainably while travelling was an interesting challenge.  One area in which I definitely found success was the lunchtime sandwich -- somebody (I forget who) wrote that if you wanted a sandwich on Friday, you wouldn't make it on Tuesday and then stick it in the fridge to wait -- yet this is precisely what ready-prepared sandwiches for sale in supermarkets and petrol stations are!  I only had to resort to them a couple of times on tour; the rest of the time I was able to find local bakeries or cafes that would make me sandwiches to order -- and not only were they fresher and tastier, they were often cheaper as well!

Back home now and back to cooking -- check out these lovely variegated beetroots from my veg box -- on their way now to becoming a yummy pot of borscht!

Monday, 24 October 2011


So the long awaited bathroom renovations have finally begun, and I am finally, after a very long and frustrating search, going to have a water saving toilet...

The government tells us we need to save water.  Dwr Cymru tells us to save water.  (Personally, I knew that I should be saving water anyway, even before I was told...)  So I'm redoing the bathroom and I know that my toilet is quite old and probably uses 11 or 13 litres a flush (yes, I already did the brick in the cistern thing...)  I want to put in a water saving toilet, but can I find one?

Went into my local builders' merchant and the guy there had no idea about the water usage of any of the toilets they sell.  So I went to the internet and learned all about the differences between valve toilets and siphon toilets.  As best as I can tell, and conversations with several plumbers confirm this, siphon toilets are so clearly superior to valve toilets that I'm baffled as to why on earth the UK government ever legalised them.  So I decide I want a siphon toilet -- but if you look on plumbing supply web sites at toilets, they give you options about style, cistern shape, matching sinks, etc, but I have yet to find a mainstream website that actually tells you about water saving toilets and how much water they use.

I rang Dwr Cymru and spoke with somebody who said that yes, they would suggest that I install a water saving toilet, but no, they can't help me find one.  Waterwise has a list of water saving products for the bathroom that includes some toilets, but when I followed the links for one of the toilets, it directed me to the manufacturer's web site which in turn asked for my postcode and then suggested that my local builders' merchant that I'd already been to stocked their toilets -- don't know if this is true as I didn't bother going back there and specifically asking for this toilet, but when I first went there and asked for a water saving toilet the guy looked at me like I was mad.

I eventually found the ES4 4/2.7 litre siphon toilet but only because I was previously aware of the Green Building Store from my quest to find non-toxic wood preservative for the shed -- but I had to be very determined in my quest!  Why is this information not more readily available for consumers less motivated than myself???  And why are leak-prone valve toilets becoming more and more commonplace when they are so clearly the worse option???

The above photo shows the new cistern, still in its box, sitting on top of the old cistern -- so if it's that much smaller IN THE BOX, imagine how small it will be out of it!  And how much my water bill will go down!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Have posted the following to the Carmarthen Journal -- let's see if they print it -- not sure if I've sent it too late for this week's deadline...

10 October 2011
The Editor
Carmarthen Journal
18 King Street
SA31 1BN
Dear Sir,
There has been much said in these pages and at the meeting hosted by Llandeilo Town Council last Wednesday night about how we need Sainsbury’s in Llandeilo because it is cheaper.  I decided to check this out for myself and discovered that it is not as clear-cut as it seems.
I went to Sainsbury’s in Lampeter and checked prices on a number of items there and then checked the prices on the same items in the Co-op in Llandeilo and found that a number of basic items, including wholemeal sliced loaf, milk, cream, and margarine, are exactly the same price in both stores.  Some items, such as white granulated sugar, are cheaper in the Co-op.  Tea is cheaper in Sainsbury’s while instant coffee is cheaper in the Co-op.
The conclusion to be drawn from this is that which shop is cheaper for the individual shopper depends on what you’re buying – Sainsbury’s is not necessarily cheaper than options we already have in Llandeilo – and, in fact, milk is cheaper in CK’s than in either Sainsbury’s or the Co-op.
Another point raised at the meeting last Wednesday was how much local produce Sainsbury's would stock in the proposed store.  The representative from Sainsbury’s said that he couldn’t say how many items from SA19 there would be as there wasn’t presently a store in SA19.  In the Sainsbury’s in Lampeter, which has been open for over two years now, postcode SA48, I was unable to find a single item produced in the SA48 postcode.
As the representative from Sainsbury’s confirmed in response to my question, if, after the store is built, it then transpires that it does adversely affect local businesses or adds to the traffic and pollution problems in Llandeilo, we have no recourse.  Is it worth taking this chance?  I think not.
Yours truly,

Jessica Wecker

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Llandeilo Fawr Town Council's
Public Meeting on the Sainsbury Issue.

Llandeilo Town Council have decreed in closed session the rules for the meeting will be thus:

The Public Meeting will go ahead on Wednesday, 5 October.

The meeting will be held in the Civic Hall, Crescent Road, Llandeilo, at 7.30 PM.

The meeting will be open to all.

The Chairperson will be chosen by (?) from 5 possible options.

There will be two presentations, each lasting 15 minutes. The first presentation will be from Sainsbury outlining their proposal, and the second from Save Llandeilo's Future.

Next, a 30 minute session responding to written questions.

The closing date for written questions to be received by Roger Phillip's (Town Clerk) was 5.30 PM, Thursday, 29 September.

Next, speakers will be instructed to leave the platform, and having left the platform the speakers will be told they can leave the meeting if they wish.

No questions will be allowed from the floor.

Instead, without the speakers being present on the platform, the Council then will allow 30 minutes for the audience to debate the implications of Sainsbury's proposal amongst themselves.


Poster by Save Llandeilo's Future

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

E150a - Plain caramel (colour) - A natural food colour, ranging in shade from dark-red through to dark-browns and blacks.*  Okay, it's not one of the harmful E-numbers, but what's the point?  Is it really necessary?  Traditional balsamic vinegar is made from nothing but fermented grape must.  It gets that lovely caramel colour naturally.  Aspall, who make a lovely organic cider vinegar that I have been using for years, recently came out with a balsamic style vinegar made from English apples.  I was about to buy it when I noticed it had added caramel colour on the ingredients list along with apple cider.  According to their web site, it is "made by blending the finest Cyder Vinegar with the must from reduced Cox Apple Juice."  So the added must from the juice is what's giving it the balsamic-style flavour -- why is it then necessary to add colouring?

I wrote to them to ask this (first by email on 11 July to which I received no response, and then by post last week, to which I did receive a response today) and they said, "We add the caramel colour just to make it darker, it does not affect the taste."  So why add it then?  There's a bit on the web site where they go on about how natural their vinegar is:
Unlike many vinegar producers we neither add preservative nor pasteurise our vinegars. Vinegar is nature’s great preservative so should need no external help in this respect. As for pasteurisation, it only has the effect of destroying many of the nutritional and flavour benefits inherent in vinegar, and so it would seem a crying shame to undo all the hard work of getting this far only to dilute the quality at the finishing post. 
So then why add the caramel colour?  Also of interest is that it doesn't mention the addition of the colouring anywhere on their web site that I can find.  In fact, they imply that nothing else is added to it:  "We simply use apples instead of grapes and the result is a match for many a quality balsamic."  Why can't we just have honest food?

After a bit of poking I have found a Welsh company, Toloja Orchards, who are only located about 25 miles away from me, who, according to their web site, make an oak matured cider vinegar from their own apples, so the next battle is to find somewhere where I can buy it...  Watch this space...

* Stefan Gates, E Numbers: Is your food really going to kill you? The truth about E numbers (London: Cassell Illustrated, 2010), 83.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Finished products! Cauliflower, cucumber and Nant Du bacon salad...

Apple pie! (More apples left, plus I gathered some more this morning, so there will be chutney to come as well...)
Scrambled honesty box eggs with mushrooms and onions, and a side of tomatoes with home-made pesto...

Friday, 16 September 2011

Feeling a bit more cheerful today as I have got lots of lovely treats!

The biggest field mushrooms I have ever seen, picked this morning on the farm I work at:

Also from Blaenau, windfall apples -- and there will be more of these to come as well I'm sure...

And this surprise in my veg box when I got home -- a yellow cauliflower -- yes, it really is that colour, it's not just a bad photo!  I've had purple cauliflowers and green fractal cauliflowers today, but nothing like this golden colour!

Will post photos of all these after I've cooked them...

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Okay, sorry, I may have been getting a little morbid in the last post, so a few thoughts about where my thoughts are coming from these days...

In case you haven't heard, there's a proposal to open a major enormous Sainsbury's supermarket right on the edge of our lovely little town that doesn't really have any national chains.  This will totally destroy the town -- I can't even count the number of traders who have told me that they will go out of business if it happens.  So I've been spending a lot of time talking to various people around the town and trying to convince them that this will be a bad thing for our town.  One of the questions people who support the proposal ask me most frequently is where I do my weekly shopping then.  I pause for a minute, and then attempt to explain that I don't do a weekly shop in the sense that most people mean it.  I don't go to the supermarket every Saturday morning and throw loads of packages in my trolley.

My meat either comes from one of the three independent butchers we have in town, or from my chest freezer, which has half a lamb and half a pig that I've bought from farmers I know.  I get a weekly veg box delivery, of locally grown organic veg, and I supplement this with veg from an independent shop in town.  Cheese I buy from one of the butchers or from one of the delicatessens, and the same for my butter.  Eggs I get from an honesty box that I pass on my way to work.  If I want bread, cakes, or cookies, I make these, with flour and sugar from the delicatessen.  We do have a small Co-op supermarket and I go there occasionally to get a few things I can't get anywhere else: loo roll and cream are the two things that spring to mind.  I get wine there sometimes as well, although usually from the independent off-license in town.  And that's about my food shopping!

But when I try to explain this to people who want the Sainsbury's, they don't even seem to understand what I'm saying -- it's like I'm speaking a foreign language or something -- they continue to insist that I must do a weekly supermarket shop somewhere...  So I'm sort of feeling like my life is somehow so drastically different from everybody else's (no weekly food shop, no television, no new clothing...) that I struggle to even find a starting commonality...  Anybody else feel like this?

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

What is the meaning of life?  Is it just about being happy or is there more to it than that?  Can we still fix the world or is it too late?  Answers please...

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Sorry, I know I have not been posting -- still not in the habit of using the computer -- it seems to take so much time!  Not much news to report really -- I'm still working on the ciabatta...  Will try and post something informative with pictures later in the week.  In the mean time, if you're looking for reading material, check this out...

Monday, 15 August 2011

Rhoi gwaed

At the risk of being controversial...

Just got back from giving blood.  This is something I have been doing on a regular basis for a long time.  Now the main purpose in giving blood is to help other people to live.  I also happen to believe that many of the problems facing the world today are ultimately due to the exponential population growth the world has experienced and that in the long run (if not the short run as well) the world would be a better place with many fewer people.  So should I keep giving blood?

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Bara, rhan dau

Well, the bread was sort of a succcessful failure...  The crumb, as you can seen in the above photo, is lovely, and the texture is lovely, and the flavour (sorry, no photo of that) is lovely, but the dough was way too wet, and I couldn't really shape it properly for the final proof (not to mention that it was oozing off the edge of the counter before that) and when I finally did give up and chuck it in the oven, something odd happened to the bottom crust -- see next picture...


Yes, that's the bottom crust as it was when I took it out of the oven.  No, I didn't slice it in half.  So one of two things: Either too much water -- I have never worked with a dough this wet before -- or, I didn't knead it enough to start with.  When I first started kneading, it wasn't really even kneading.  I had this gloopy mess on the counter, and I sort of scooped up handfuls and folded them back into the gloop...  After about 25 minutes, it had developed some sort of tension, and was sticking to my hands less, so I decided it was ready to rise.  Perhaps I stopped kneading too soon?  Anybody have any experience they want to share?  For the record, the recipe is from Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley...  But it was delicious, so if I can just make it a bit more handleable and sort that bottom crust, I'll be all sorted...

Wednesday, 27 July 2011


So one of my many jobs at the moment is working up on a farm by Llyn y Fan Fach, and the farmer's wife runs a cafe in the farmyard.  She's after baps for making filled rolls, so I offered to make her some.  Made her some lovely rolls last week, and she said she loved them, but they were too much like the rolls she makes, and she wants something "lighter" -- in texture, not colour.  What she means is she wants something that tastes more commercial, without having to actually buy commercial rolls.  I am now trying a new recipe for ciabatta-type rolls, so I'll let you know tomorrow how it works out (sponge above) but it raises the question about how we have to adapt/modify what we eat to what we can make without resort to flour treatment agent, enzymes, etc...

I don't think I have a deprived diet at all -- I eat lots of fresh vegetables, local (delicious) cheeses, local meat produced by farmers I know, homemade bread -- but I do think about food in a different way than one does if one just goes into the supermarket and picks things off the shelf.  I have to think about what time of year it is -- in the summer I eat more salads and in the winter I eat mainly stews.  If you currently eat a supermarket ready-meal diet, it's not possible to simply switch to making things from scratch and have the end result be the same.  Personally, I think the end result is better, but I think that the farmer's wife is concerned that her customers want the bread to taste the way they are used to -- and I can see her rationale, and this is what stops me from opening my own restaurant -- because I would be too stubborn and I would lose customers -- but ultimately we do need to change the way we eat.  Is there an easier way to get there?

Monday, 25 July 2011

Dw i wedi dod yn ol...

After much deliberation, I've decided to start blogging again...  Several reasons:  1.  A neighbour said to me last week that I was the greenest person he know -- I don't particularly think my life is that extraordinary, but if he does, maybe it is?  2.  By complete chance, I met a couple of people last weekend who I'd never met in real life before but who had been regular readers of my blog and found it very useful -- so perhaps I do have something to say?  3.  One comment/criticism I used to receive a lot was that it was great that I was doing all this, but not everybody has four acres, etc.  Well, now I live in a very small house on the edge of a small village with a very small garden, so perhaps more people will be able to find that there could be a similarity between my life and theirs now?

In any case, as always, I'm going to start with food.  The above photo is a lovely bowl of chicken soup I made with a chicken kindly given to me in exchange for helping my friend Gerry learn how to slaughter his own chickens yesterday.  The carrots and greens are from my veg box delivery (I have no garden this year as it's presently a building site!).  So that's a whole bowl of soup that's never seen the inside of a supermarket, and it was delicious!

More to come -- watch this space -- I'm not really sure how long it will take people to discover that the blog is live again...  But your thoughts and suggestions for future posts are always welcome.