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Jenna Todd Jones

Jenna Todd Jones


Neuroscientist, (moderately) crazy cat lady, master baker, homebrewer, and gardener. Blog in tribute to the most excellent Julie & Julia http://www.jenandjulia.tumblr.com

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10 May 2014

The challenge of leftovers - bread and tomato soup?

A recent e-mail from Foodcycle, a National campaign to limit food waste, has requested recipes for a cookbook to be sold to raise money for charity (image 1). Below is my contribution that I discovered recently as a means of using leftover hard cheese rind (always seems such a waste!), although this isn't strictly vegetarian as requested I tweaked it a little and left the cheese as optional. Bread and tomato soup: From the Tuscany area of Italy this is a great recipe for using up a few leftovers such as old stale loaf bread, fresh or tinned tomatoes, cut herbs, and even hard cheese rind. Though it is an hour cooking time you can walk away from the pot for large chunks of time while the smell fills your kitchen! Preparation time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 1 hour Serves: 4 Ingredients: 400 g of ripe tomatoes (peeled, de-seeded, and coarsely chopped; or roughly 1 tin of tomatoes) 1 celery stick (chopped; or substitute with 1 small white onion, chopped) 1 garlic clove (chopped) 1 tablespoon olive oil Salt and pepper 2 slices of stale bread (cut into small cubes including the crusts; although not sliced white packaged bread!) A handful of basil leaves, or alternatively flat leaf parsley or coriander (torn, at end of cooking) Recipe: Add the tomatoes, celery stick, garlic, olive oil and 1.2 liters of water to a pan with a pinch of salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer with no lid for around 30 minutes (adding leftover hard cheese rind here if using), then add the bread and simmer over an even lower heat for 30 more minutes with no lid. Note that at this point you essentially have a tomato soup you could just go ahead and eat, but it's also a useful way to use up bread. Taste and season to your liking then serve in warmed soup bowls topped with the punchy herbs, tear these by hand at the last moment so that the oils aren't lost on the knife blade. Notes: To easily peel whole tomatoes gently score a knife across the bottom and top in a criss-cross fashion and place in boiling water for 20 seconds, wait for them to cool then peel away the skin. You can add leftover hard cheese rind at the simmering stage to add flavour (e.g. parmesan or pecorino, buy vegetarian or only use rennet-based cheese for non-vegetarians).

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9 May 2014

Digging for victory

Admittedly there is nothing more in the war-time theme here other than the title - except perhaps for the fact that gardening was something my grandfather did during the war and passed on to my father who passed it onto me. I will be forever grateful of growing up in a home where having flowers to admire was equaled by having vegetables to enjoy all year around. Since moving to Bristol I have tried my hardest to maintain a kitchen garden, and fortunately given the space I have out back I have previously had a glass greenhouse and now several smaller polythene houses and tubs. When I first moved here I was delighted to find that the city was ostensibly a good place to think about growing your own food and buying locally grown and produced food (see image 4). I got on board and have been eating my own vegetables and herbs ever since including potatoes, carrots, mangetout, tomatoes, cucumbers (image 3), spring onions, radish, lettuce, courgette, turnips, as well as basil (green and purple), mint (English [image 1], spear, and chocolate), sage (green and pineapple), oregano (green and variegated), coriander, fennel, dill, Vietnamese coriander, lemon balm, parsley, and rosemary. While shopping at a well-known supermarket I noticed that a polythene wrapped back of herbs was 90p for around 30g. An entire plant was £1.50 – I sprung for the whole plant, with a view to planting it somewhere in our herb patch. However, by this logic my entire garden will be a herb patch by the end of the summer, so how can I prioritise? What herbs are most useful or practical to grow? Although I enjoy gardening I tend to attack the job in much the same way as my cooking, read the instructions, and then just have a go. Either it works, or it doesn't. Admittedly, I won't be running a farm (well) anytime soon, but it tends to work fairly well for me, but herbs? The bane of my life! Some I plant one year and the seeds never emerge from the soil, the next year I plant up the same thing and it grows and spreads ferociously (c.f. this years bountiful coriander, image 2). In the end I've resolved to plant herbs where I can without worrying too much about, while keeping in mind those that are a little more sensitive. If there's any advice I can give (and take myself) moving forward: mint should always have it's own pot (like potatoes it dominates and strangles other plants); and basil emphatically does not grow as well on this continent as it does in the Americas, don't put it outside, definitely don't put it outside before July, in fact probably keep it inside and nurse it like a child. Images: 1 - Preparation for mint julep cocktails, and perhaps more importantly, mint julep cupcakes 2 - Still trialing macarons, these from Stokes Croft with the soft green backdrop of our herb patch behind 3 - Cucumber seedling, grown from seed with a propagation table and hardening off in the greenhouse 4 - Bristol Food Connections talk at the Canteen, Local Food: Pollyanna or panacea?

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3 May 2014

Increasing food efficiency - having your cake and eating the leftovers too

Currently I am practicing macaron recipes in preparation for a friends wedding at the end of May. For a day of celebration that is every bit in their character we are going to be partying in a Yurt somewhere south of the city with no wedding cake, but a tower of biscuits and cookies supplied by the guests! I once made macarons for a friend several years ago with a perfect turn out (if I say so myself) on my very first try. Now, two attempts in, and I've still got cracked domes, hollow shells, and too much buttercream filling (quelle horreur!)... BUT, this makes for an interesting conversation about food efficiency. Macaron shells are essentially meringues that require only egg whites, almonds, and sugar, leaving behind a good deal of unused egg yolk. Stuck with what to do about this I researched the fillings for macarons. A traditional buttercream filling is just that, creamed butter with powdered sugar; however, if I had taken this route I would have been left with a bowl full of egg yolks that I would inevitably put in the fridge and forget about. Instead, I found a recipe for French buttercream filling (apparently a variation on Italian buttercream filling, who knew?) that involves warming egg yolks with sugar over a bowl of simmering water and then whipping with soft butter. The result is a glorious (and, of course, dangerously calorific) bowl of thick, shining buttercream - the perfect filling for macarons. Having said this it transpires that if you use 6 egg whites to create your macarons, 6 egg yolks will make roughly two times as much buttercream as you need to fill them (hence my over-filling issues).On my second attempt this left me with 3 egg yolks doomed to a short life on the top shelf of the fridge before a swift slide into the trashcan afterlife. But all is not lost, since if you happen to be making these close to, or on, the weekend as I do, you can turn those egg yolks into a homemade Hollandaise sauce by similarly whisking over a bowl of hot water until they thicken before taking off the heat and whisking in some melted butter. Pour over poached eggs and bacon for a Benedictine breakfast! And remember to put your egg shells into food waste recycling, whether that's your own or the council collection service (you can request one for free here http://www.bristol.gov.uk/page/bins-recycling-and-street-cleaning/order-new-bins-boxes-and-nets).
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1 May 2014

Ship-shape and Bristol foodie

After much deliberation - my challenge? To increase my food efficiency! Over the next few weeks I want to try and streamline my shopping and cooking experience by limiting waste, expense, and food miles, as well as increasing the nutritional efficiency of each meal. Being conveniently located in Bristol - a city that prides itself on local food supply, food recycling, and city farming - I'm sure this won't be too difficult, but I'm anticipating an interesting and informative journey. I keep a blog (http://www.jenandjulia.tumblr.com/) in any case that keeps track of good recipes that I find or tweak myself, and photographs that help me keep track of what I'm eating. Mostly my job involves science outreach and talking about the brain, so writing about food consistently will be a brand new experience and I'm very much looking forward to it. Over the next while I hope to write about our brand new garden compost heap and how we limit food waste before it simply gets thrown away, our vegetable and kitchen herb growing, home-brewing including where our hops come from and where our grain waste goes, how you can increase the nutritional value of your food and why this is a good idea, where to buy locally supplied foods and whether this is a consistently viable option, as well as the practicality of making your own version of shop-bought foods like bread and pasta...but for my first post? Well, macarons of course!

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