Monday, 7 November 2016

Garden makeover ~ state house unit / semi-detached

Having a garden is essential to me, so when I look at a place as a prospective resident this is an important consideration, especially with regard to landscaping.  

In the last couple of places I've lived I've been fortunate in having permission to do pretty much what I liked.  In the place before that the contract specified "No landscaping", which was fine as I knew that from the start.  In the place where I live at present I discovered belatedly that the owners notion of the joys of having a keen gardener as a tenant did not include what I had in mind at all, and the resulting misunderstanding has resulted in an impasse.  Hence my advice to other gardeners who are tenants is to check, check and re-check and if in any doubt to get an understanding about that written down as part of the tenancy agreement. 

In this enforced hiatus I have been looking back on gardens I've created in the past and drawing together a record of those achievements. 

It's possible to make a big difference to an undeveloped property if one has some kind of creative vision to follow and an interest in putting in the work to make it a reality.  It need not be costly or difficult, but it does require quite a lot of effort over a period of months or years.  One-week garden makeovers don't interest me.  The joy I derive from gardening is of a slowly evolving project each part of which suggests other parts with the whole developing naturally over time, often in ways one could not have foreseen.

In this article I want to share what I achieved in the grounds of a former state housing unit.  That property had been purchased along with neighbouring units by a private owner who then rented it to me.  The place felt comfortable but had no garden established at all other than an uneven lawn and some overgrown shrubs on one boundary.  I had very little money but quite a few plants in pots which I had brought with me. 

When I first looked at the place I could see the potential but needed an assurance that I could develop the garden before deciding to take on the tenancy.  I asked the landlord if this would be permitted.  "Go for your life" he responded, and pointed out a considerable mound of topsoil out the back which I would be free to make use of.  And so I moved in and set to work.

I show photographs relating to one area at a time which I hope makes progress easier to follow.

At the time that this first photograph of the front yard was taken I had already done a great deal:


Gone was the half-round timber garden framework; the ground where I wanted to put my borders proved to be stony and the only tool I had which was effective was the sharp pick end of my trusty grubber which I applied enthusiastically; a load of manure had been spread; and the first of many loads of topsoil had been barrowed onto it.  In the corner I placed my first plant, a native toe toe, which gave me joy every time I looked at it.  It turned out to be rather too large in habit for that corner and I eventually removed it, but in the meantime I enjoyed it to the full!  That black mark on the right hand of the fence was used engine oil, which a thoughtless former tenant had dumped on the spot.  A kindly friend sanded the stain off the woodwork and I dug out a great deal of contaminated earth.  My garden was on its way!

I do like gardens to be mounded up from the edges, and the ready supply of topsoil enabled me to achieve this:


Here is the same corner at a later stage:


And a little along to the right proved to be a good position for my irises:


Underneath the front of the unit the garden was also coming along.  Here it is early on:


And here it is after a year or so:


I loved that hebe, and the neighbouring white Japanese anemone looked great with it:


Just inside the gate was a damp shady area.  The lawn there didn't do well so I put in a mounded bed.  Pavers added into its edge gave push chairs (and people) room to get in the gate and turn.  I spread topsoil on the lawn at the side of the path to make it level with it and therefore safer.


That corner garden took a while to get established.  I added in a border under the hedge at the right and filled it with spring bulbs.  Having a good entranceway lifts the tone of a place when you come in the gate...


... and is easy on the eye from any angle:


A later project came with the installation of a small round garden in the front lawn.  I created this to provide suitable placement for a long wished-for birdbath.  Not being about to afford to buy one I set out to make my own, the details of which you can find here:
Although that particular birdbath had a brief lifespan due to accident it was a successful project and I look forward to making another at some stage.  That article is one of my most popular so if you are keen on making one it could be worth a look.

Making the shape for the round garden was the easy bit, but even that took a lot of work.  Here I am getting going on it.  It got bigger as I worked!


Thinking that the birdbath could stand on some kind of little cairn I sourced some stones from a farm quite some distance away.  However, instead of buidling the cairn I placing the stones in a circle with the earth mounded up inside it.  There's my hypertufa birdbath:


It wasn't long before I became dissatisfied with the circle, realising that the rocks were somewhat out of place in that there were no others in the garden.  I rearranged them as you can see below.  By that time the birdbath had suffered a demise, having been tripped over and broken, but the lampshade I had used as the mould for it served well enough in its place.  Later I added stones into the birdbath to make it shallower:


Here is the little garden from ground level:


I was never entirely satisfied with this little plot but learnt a lot and enjoyed the process.  That's what gardening is all about - for me, anyway, and in keeping with the philosophy of nothing venture, nothing win.  I particularly love working with rocks and always have done.

The garden went through many phases, some of them successful and others not.  The photograph below shows that the garden had become untidy and the tomato vines disorderly.  The tomatoes had not had a sufficiently long hot period in which to finish ripening so I decided to see if I could transplant them into pots...


... and place them in the garage which was warm and dry and got some sun.  It is not a process that I would recommend or repeat as it was far too difficult - bits of vine trailing in all directions, and although it may have resulted in a little more ripening than otherwise the fact that I can't remember tells its own story!
  

The area outside the front gate was one I started early on.  Frontages set the tone of a place and a barren frontage suggests a degree of deprivation.  How much better to be welcomed to an area that is well planted and attractive.  By the time this photograph was taken I had filled in the existing boxed area with topsoil and manure and put in some young plants:


In the fullness of time those plants became well established and I added a rose bush.  How much better it is!  The area is a lot softer and looks as if someone cares about it, which was quite right!


For those passing through the gate it was seen from this angle:


The suitablility of plants for an area is something I have learnt by trial and error.  The bed in which I planted these shasta daisies, well manured, proved to be far too narrow for them; they took off with considerable vigour in their new home.  They were beautiful, but each year I needed to nip in early to tie them up, and each year I seemed to be a little bit too late to do it effectively!


Gradually I worked my way around the grounds developing different areas little by little.  The area between the back of the house and the garage was handy for storing my extra potted plants as it was sheltered and easy to water.  It hadn't always been like that.  When I moved in it looked like this:


The landlord put in a fence to divide the grounds of one unit from the other.  He liked building fences and was good at it.  I was doubtful about the value of that particular division initially but ended up agreeing that it was helpful.  It provided good shelter.  The narrow border against  the house to the right was well established by the time I took an interest in the remaining in-between plot.  You can see my extra plants sitting in there in their pots.  I decided I wanted to plant most of them:


Gardening always requires quite a bit of moving things around.  Before I added in additional topsoil I had to lift all those pots out:


A stack of spare cobbles out the back provided a source of stepping stones so that weeding and access was easy and clean.  Due to the narrow area I had to put the plants in fairly straight lines, something I usually avoid, but the different structure of neighbouring plants would provide the variation I wanted as they grew:


And so it proved to be:


As they put on more growth everything became more dense.  There was a lot going on in there!  It became one of my favourite parts of the garden.  Just passing, which I did often, was a source of pleasure and refreshment:


The one remaining part of the garden I have yet to talk about was actually the largest and, as is so often the case with large areas, treatment of it was more challenging than the smaller ones.

Whereas the front garden of the property was rather boxed in with fences and even a gate that latched, the back was completely open to a roughly shingled drive which followed one boundary and then curved around behind it providing access to other flats.  The part of the drive adjoining the front garden was both fenced and hedged, but the back was not, and our landlord was keen to put up a fence.  Fences have their place, but I did not want one in that position where it would have created deep shadow and a sense of enclosure.  I thought this could be better handled through the planting of a border.  However, it was a considerable length, about 50 feet all told, and would be a big job to establish.  I put it off and put it off until one day I got seriously ticked off by a neighbour's visitors backing onto 'my' lawn to turn their car, quite unnecessarily.  It was understandable though, as there was nothing to show that anyone valued it particularly.

This early photo shows just how open that area was when I first moved in.  That's our washing line at the left.  The view across to the neighbours' back yard was all very well while those particular tenants were there and kept it tidy...


... but after they moved it became unkempt.  At that point my landlord fulfilled his wish to put in a fence along that boundary.  You can see ugly tyre marks on my lawn, the result of a late night incursion by a local idiot. 


Soon after this incident I decided to level that stretch of lawn.  An energetic sister gave me a hand.  I had been wanting to do this for a long time as every time I walked across it its uneveness annoyed me.  I had no clear idea of how much work it would take or how much soil would be needed but just got stuck into it!  I had thought that it felt much more uneven than it looked, but apprearances can be deceptive: it was far more uneven than it looked, and after emptying thirty barrowloads onto it we gave up counting!  That seemingly endless mound of topsoil out the back was a great resource:


Digging and carting all those barrowloads was solid work, but raking the fresh topsoil evenly across it seemed to take more effort, perhaps because we were tiring by then!  It was great to have someone to help.

Before we spread the topsoil the old strip of carpet that had formed a path from the back door to the clothesline had been removed.  I was glad to see it go as it was unsuitable and shabby.  My work in the garden inspired our landlord to put in a proper paved path in its place.  It was at a different angle and smartened up the place considerably!

I had thought about that border for a long time.  Early work on it was every bit as arduous as I expected:


I could not have done it without my trusty grubber:


Once I got the strip dug over and seedlings planted the difference it made was considerable: 


That difference grew along with the plants.  Although not visible in this photo I had planted carefully spaced shrubs and grasses as regular intervals which would show up more as they grew.  At this stage the most visible show is of flowers, mostly marigolds, which self-seed easily.  I had also tidied up the outer curve of the lawn by cutting it back with the spade:


Here the border is getting a little more height:


As is common in rented accommodation there came a time when we realised we needed to move and the slow process of selecting and potting up those plants I wished to take began once more.  There were rather a lot, but the garden was still full and I left it in top-notch tidiness.  We had been there three and a half years.

I took these final photographs on the morning of our removal.  Look how beautifully those grasses have filled out and the hebe shrubs growing up nicely, all their leaves defined by frost!  You can see a few of our removal boxes lined up at the left.  


I really loved that garden, and the back border, which had been so tough to get started, had become a favourite part of it, a crowning achievement.  The repeating pattern of planting shows up best from this view outside the back door:


Those big grasses are carex, the seedlings of which had come from an earlier streamside garden in another city.  They get very big and tall.  Although they are best suited to a wet situation they did very well in this much drier spot.

How much had that garden cost me?  Not counting the cost of vegetable seedlings, which I consider part of housekeeping expenses, perhaps $100, most of which was supplied by the landlord for the purchase of a small number of shrubs.  The rest of the plants came from earlier gardens and from friends, family and neighbours.  Gardeners are among the most generous people I know, partly because plants by their nature grow and multiply, but also because gardeners enjoy sharing what they grow.  It's a great way to share. 

And so I was off to my next home where I created a new garden on a hillside near a beach.  I'll write about that another time. 

If you enjoyed this article you might like to look at my other gardening articles.  They can be found via the link below:
A look at a very different garden I landscaped, this time for someone else, can be found here:

      Sunday, 19 June 2016

      Celery and corn soup ~ or chowder ~ distinctive and different

      ~ Recipe updated to include pumpkin ~
      My soups tend to be a bit similar to each other.  This one, which is mostly celery, cream style corn (partially liquified corn kernals / maize), and a chickpea flour sauce, is quite different and very flavoursome.  An added bonus is that it is simple to make: 


      In the past I've used an ordinary milk sauce as a base, and this was the first time I had experimented with the chickpea flour sauce.  It worked a treat!  Both are good, but I think the chickpea flour sauce is quite a lot better both in texture and flavour.  

      This soup can be termed a chowder due to its creamy sauce and chunky vegetables.  (I think that's right!)
      Celery is a tasty vegetable, but rather hard to store due to the length and bulk of each plant or bunch. 


      I have been told that standing the bunch in a jug of water can work well, but when I've tried this after a few days the whole thing has begun to wilt.  I prefer to store mine in the fridge, carefully wrapped in layers of tea towels and nylon bags to keep it cool and crisp.  My success in this respect has been variable, probably dependent on the freshness when purchased.  This evening when I got out a bunch I had carefully put away a bit over a week ago the whole thing, although still beautifully green, had become rather floppy.  It was time to cook it up.  Celery soup or chowder is a good way to use up a large quantity of this sort. 

      I use a lot of milk but like to know what the alternatives are and to experiment with them, which in this instance produced better result than the original recipe.  The use of chick pea flour makes this vegan.  I'm gradually building up my repertoire of vegan food.

      Ingredients and method: 
      I use two pots / saucepans: one for the soup, and one for boiling up the darker leaves and stalks from which I then use the liquid. 

      Ingredients:
      • Celery - I used most of one bunch.  500gm of it was suitable to go directly into the soup pot 
        • The remaining darker leaves and stalks, which might have been a bit bitter, I put into the separate pot with 2 cups of water and boiled it all up so that I could add the liquid to the soup later.  If using, strain off the pieces of celery and use the remaining liquid.  If the chowder seems the right consistency without it, you can freeze the stock for use another time.
      • Vegetable oil / margarine / butter - a tablespoon or two - sufficient in which to saute the pale chopped celery.
      • Curry powder (I use mild) - 2 tsp  
      • Pumpkin - 150 grams - chopped - optional extra.  I added this when I last made it and it was even nicer.  I have chopped pumpkin wrapped in waxed paper parcels in the freezer with the weight noted on each one.  I didn't think to check how much this was in cup measurements -  perhaps one, one and half, or two.  The amount isn't all that important unless you wish to replicate what you've cooked, in which case it's very useful indeed.
      • Corn, cream style - 1 tin - 410gm - this is partially liquified corn kernels - 'maize' if you live in the U.S. of A.
      • Cold water - about 2 cups.  The temperature of the water is important - see method below.
      • Chick pea flour (also known at gram flour, besan, or garbanzo bean flour) - half a cup
      • Salt - 1 to 2 tsp - as desired. 
      Method:
      • Chop the stalks and pale leaves, putting aside the darker outer ones along with the dark leaves.
      • Put these dark leaves and stalky bits into another pot with 2 cups of water, and boil them so that the celery water can be used later.  Keep this separate for the meantime.  This will easily produce 2 cups of liquid which can be added to the soup once the other ingredients have been combined and cooked. 
      • In the second pot melt or heat the butter or oil.
      • Add the remaining celery and cook it gently, stirring it so that it doesn't catch on the bottom of the pot.  Cook only until the celery has softened a little.
      • Add the curry powder to the celery.  
      • Stir in the creamed corn.
      • Into a water-tight container put 2 - 3 cups of cold water filling it no more than two thirds full.
      • On top of this cold water place the spoonfuls of chick pea flour.  The cold water will enable it to combine with the flour which will thicken as it cooks.
      • Close the lid tightly and shake it vigorously.  This will combine the flour and water.  This is the simplest way I know of combining flour and water into liquid form and saves the hassle of fussing around with lumpy and oily messes - never mind that 'real' cooks might faint at the suggestion!
      • Add it to the soup pot while stirring.  
      • Add about 2 cups of celery water to make the soup a good consistency.
      • Have a taste and add a little salt if desired.
      The dark celery leaves, boiled with water.  I added some of the water to the soup later, and put the rest in the freezer.

      Last time I made this I served it with toasties: toast spread with tomato relish, then chopped tomatoes, lots of fresh parsley and then cheese - grilled until the cheese browned slightly.  It was a very satisfying and tasty meal.

      Chick pea flour is higher in protein than other flours, contains no gluten, and is good for thickening.  It has a distinctive flavour and is good in savoury dishes.  I recommend it.  The Wikipedia article linked to says that it can be used as a replacement for eggs in baking, which might be worth trying. 


      Meanwhile, enjoy your soup!
      .

      Friday, 10 June 2016

      Rice custard ~ baked ~ delectable!

      This delicious dessert has been enjoyed by everyone who has tasted it.  It is particularly suitable for those who are frail or convalescent as it is easily digestible.  I first tried out the recipe for my frail and elderly mother, whose small appetite challenges us to find new and inventive ways of getting carbohydrates and other nourishing food into her.  She loves it.  It is also great way to use up that cup of left over rice - as long it isn't much salted.  Needless to say, the rest of us made happy inroads into it as well and it has become a favourite!  It's delicious hot or cold, and not too sweet.

      Baked rice custard with jam and cream, a special treat.  What an indulgence!
      In the photographs I hope you can see that the whole custard has held together well and a thick layer of baked custard formed on the top.

      Ingredients and method:
      • Cooked rice - 1 cup.  I use Basmarti
      • Salt - 1/8th teaspoon - if desired
      • Eggs x 2
      • Milk - 2 cups
      • Sugar - 2 tablespoons
      • Vanilla essence, a few drops if desired
      From this you can see that the basic custard is a simple ratio of 1 cup of milk with one egg and one tablespoon of sugar, so it's easy to vary the overall quantity.

      I start with warm rice and milk so that the mixture is warm when fully combined and placed in the oven.  This ensures a predictable baking time.  If starting with cold rice it can be put it in a steamer or the microwave to heat up a bit.  Just be sure that the rice and milk are not so warm as to begin to cook the eggs before everything is combined and in the oven, or you could end up with rice and scrambled eggs! 

      Set the oven to 160 degrees Celsius / 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  
      Beat eggs and salt, add sugar and then warmed milk.  
      Put rice into a buttered casserole dish and put the liquid over it.  
      The dish containing the custard is baked in what is called a bain marie, or water bath.  I have found the best way to do this is as follows:
      • Place a large and empty baking dish into the heated oven.  Mine is enamel. 
      • Place the filled casserole dish into this baking dish
      • Once the oven rack bearing the tray and baking dish has been pushed into the oven and everything is in place use a jug to carefully add warm water to the baking dish until it is perhaps half full.
      Bake for about 30 minutes or until gently set.  

      Do be careful not to overcook it as if set hard it won't be nice at all.  To test that it is sufficiently set open the oven door and with a carefully protected hand gently lift one side of the casserole dish and tilt it.  It should still quiver or at least move a little.  When removing the casserole dish from the oven take care not to slop the hot water from the baking dish.  This can be removed later when the water has cooled.  Just remember that it is there before you use the oven again - and yes, I've done it: slopped cold water everywhere when whisking the dish out to make way for something else!

      I've added another photograph so that you can better see the handsome Temuka pottery bowl I've served it in, a design which has a favourite glaze from years gone by. 


      My other recipes and foody articles can be found by following the link below:
      Articles in my Elderly and Dependent series can be found by following the link below:

      Sunday, 1 May 2016

      Matching fabric ~ getting patterns to line up across seams and joins

      When sewing I have always found matching patterns vexatious.  It's so hard to get it exactly right. 

      However, when joining up pieces of this material into suitable lengths for curtains I hit on a solution that works for me: 
      I sewed the pieces from the top - effectively topstitching them together: I turned one seam allowance over - by about a centimetre; laid it over the other piece where I wanted them to join; lined up the pattern and carefully pinned it; then even more carefully stitched it.  The join is visible, but the pattern joins up very well indeed.  
      This photograph was taken after the curtain had been washed and was still on the clothesline, so the seam, at this time fresh from the wash and unpressed, is more visible that it was after being ironed.


      Here is the same curtain, photographed from further back.  You can see the join running from side to side, but the pattern is uninterrupted:


      The trained eye always looks for joins and junctions, and when finding these it's a matter or what is most visually acceptable.  For me a seam in which top-stiching is visible and the pattern on the material is properly matched is a great deal easier on the eye than an invisibly stitched seam and an imperfectly matched pattern.  

      One would not usually expect horizontal joins in curtains.  However, this material came from two bedspreads bought secondhand because I liked the material.  Not having any use for the bedspreads I unpicked the seams so that I could use the material for curtains, appreciating as I did so the faultless construction and matching of the comlex repeating pattern.  Every piece had been cut and sewn with beautiful precision - very skilful work!  

      I remember and appreciate the material and worksmanship that went into those bedspreads every time I look at the curtains.  Quality endures, gives longevity, and makes it possible to modify and re-use materials in other, sometimes unexpected, ways.  Whoever made them could hardly imagine them hanging in my house as curtains! 

      To find my other articles about sewing and housekeeping click on the link below:
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      Sunday, 24 April 2016

      Deodorant discarded ~ hand-santizer way better

      One for the bathroom
      A vast amount of money must be poured into advertising deodorants: we see them so often on our television screen: we are informed of how this one doesn't stain, how that one has motion sensors, whatever that means, and another advertisement informs us that our armpits are ugly.  Really?  It's all such a nonsense and a waste.    

      When a veteran of the Christchurch earthquakes told me that she used hand-sanitizer instead of deodorant I decided to give it a go - and have never looked back.  One of the many problems that beset Christchurch residents during the acute earthquake period was the absence of the usual household water supply.  How to keep clean and smelling acceptable was a pressing issue, and this was one of the solutions.

      The secret of success is simple: armpit odour is caused by bacteria.  Hand-sanitizer is largely alcohol.  Alcohol kills the bacteria and that's it. 

      How I apply it: I wash in whatever way suits me: a wet soapy flannel is just fine if I don't have time for a shower; dry normally; push the pump on the hand sanitizer once to get one blob on my hand, rub my hands together and pat under my arms.  It dries in next to no time and works perfectly.  What could be simpler?

      I'm not aware of it causing any of the discoloration of clothing or build up in any residue that is associated with regular deodorants, and no special laundering is required.  Furthermore, it's not perfumed in any way that lasts beyond initial drying - what a relief that is!

      Hand-bag sized hand sanitizer
      I always carry a little bottle of hand sanitizer in my handbag and can pat on a bit more if needed, which is hardly ever the case.  I've never had any reason to go back to using ordinary deodorant. 

      If you try it see how you get on.  If it suits you, great; if not, at least you gave it a go.  Everyone is different.  Products vary too, and some may contain ingredients that suit you better than others. 

      Most deodorants have aluminium in them.  I remember years ago looking for a 'natural' deodorant, one that didn't have aluminium in it and found that all the ones I tried were disappointingly ineffective, so at that time I went back to using more commonly stocked deodorants.  I don't recall that hand-sanitizer products even existed in those days. 

      Aluminium is very prevalent in the natural environment, and although probably harmless I prefer to avoid using it in this sort of personal product and in cookware.  I'm not aware of it as an ingredient in hand-sanitizer.

      In the past Aluminium has been suspected of being linked to Alzheimers Disease.  However, this is no longer considered to be the case.  I have included the link below for those who are interested in reading more about it.  It is on the Canadian Alzheimer Society website, dated 2/10/2016:
      Disclaimer: Please note that what I have written here is not medical advice.  Rather, it is what works for me.  I am not a pharmacist or health professional.  Each of us must take responsibility for our own health and welfare.

      Another article which discusses the use of hand-sanitiser as a deodorant can be found here:
      My other articles about health and the thrifty medicine can be found in on my page:
       .

      At last - a new nightie for Ellen ~

      I've been looking for nice nighties for my elderly mother, Ellen, for over a year, and at last I have found one.  Here it is: 

      I found it in H & J Smith (formerly trading as Arthur Barnetts).  When returning to this shop to look one more time a rack of these nighties immediately caught my attention.

      What Ellen wanted was something soft, feminine and practical, which can go through the rest home wash and tumble dryer.  It needs to have long sleeves, be of reasonable length, and easy to get in and out of, a description that this nightie easily meets. 

      I picked out two possible sizes and took them to the counter, where the assistant helped me decide what to do.  I told her of my lengthy search and said how pleased I was to find something suitable at last, and she remarked that the other nighties would sell very quickly as they had "nothing else like them". 

      I asked if I could take two different sizes for Ellen to try on, since Ellen isn't able to get out to shop, and this was agreed to: I would have to pay for both, but could return the one that didn't fit for a full refund - no problem.  This is different from the shop's published statement of terms and conditions for returns so I was glad I asked.

      Ellen was delighted.  She liked the style so much that we decided to see if we could get a second one.  I phoned the shop and asked.  They didn't have another in that size, but their Invercargill shop did and they had it couriered up.  It was just as well to have arranged this when I did as by the time I went in to collect it a few days later it all the others had disappeared.

      There should be a message in this for retailers.  Can we have more like these please!  What was so unsuitable about the others?  Mostly it was the colour of the fabric and the patterns on them: most had some or more of the following features: stripes, spots, garish colours such as vivid cyclamen pink, intense turquoise, grey, or black, or had cartoon characters or witticisms printed on them.  Simple elegant nightwear in pale colours with soft restful patterns, if patterns there are - this is what we want.  I know that Ellen and I are not the only ones.  It shouldn't be hard and it isn't.  I am sure that it is just a matter of stockists being more discerning.  Good luck to all my fellow shoppers!   

      Readers may recall that I mentioned my search for nighties in my article:
      Other articles in the Elderly and dependent series can be found via the link below:
      A full list of my articles about shopping and housekeeping can found via this link:
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      Saturday, 19 March 2016

      Lentil curry ~ with apple, onion and capsicum

      Spice things up with a tasty lentil curry - this one is a favourite, and always popular in our household. Raw lentils, as pictured, look the dullest things imaginable, but once cooked they can become a great basis of easy, tasty and nutritious meals.

      This vegan curry is easy to make and very flexible:
      • Ingredients can be adjusted or substituted according to what you have to hand.  
      • It keeps well if refridgerated, and indeed, is likely to be even more tasty the next day - if you have any left, which is fairly unlikely.  
      • Expecting guests and wondering what you can prepare ahead of time?  This curry is an excellent choice as it can be cooked the day before and is easily reheated.
      • It's a crowd pleaser!

      Ingredients:
      • Lentils, brown or green - 1 to 1+1/2 cups of cooked lentils.  Note that the raw ones pictured are labelled 'green'.  They look brown to me!
      • Onions - 2 large - chopped
      • Oil - 2 Tablespoons, approximately
      • Capsicum / bell pepper - 1 - chopped
      • Apple - 1 - chopped - peeled if you wish
      • Sultanas - 1 Tablespoon - approximately
      • Curry powder - 2 teaspoons.  I use 'mild'.  Choose the degree of heat that suits your taste.
      • Kikommen or other soy sauce - 1 Tablespoon
      • Salt to taste.  I use about a teaspoon.
      • Enough water to ensure that the ingredients all soften and cook through - perhaps a couple of cups. 

        Cooked lentils:
        These take a while to cook - I would say anything from 30 - 45 minutes - but are simple enough: they do not need to be soaked; just boil in water, add a teaspoon of salt for every cup of dry lentils, and put in a bay leaf if you have one.

        I keep a supply of cooked lentils in the freezer, in pottles containing about a cup to a cup and a half.  This greatly speeds up any meal made with them.  They defrost rapidly in hot water, and in this recipe this same water can be added to the other ingredients as needed.

        Method:
        • Heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan, and add the oil to it, then onions and capsicum.  
        • Once these are well cooked, add the apples and sultanas.  Add a little water if needed, but only enough to prevent them from sticking to the pan.  
        • Then add the curry powder and stir carefully while it cooks, which is likely to be short time, perhaps a few minutes.  It's easy to burn spices, which is why it needs to be stirred carefully at this point.  
        • Once the aroma of the curry is evident the water can be added and the kikommen sauce.  
        • Add the cooked lentils.
        • Allow it to cook through, keeping an eye on the liquid, which will fairly rapidly be absorbed and steam away, so keeping a lid on the pan will help conserve it until cooking is complete by which time any excess moisture can be allowed to evaporate.  
        The consistency of the curry is hard to describe: it holds together and can easily be served using a slotted spoon.  It is not a stew, which would be served in a bowl.

        This curry can be served with either rice or potatoes, and accompanied by salad or a combination of steamed vegetables.

        If you like toasties you could serve it on toast.  

        Those who enjoy cheese would very likely enjoy grated or melted cheese on top. 

        My other recipes and food articles can be found via the link below:
        For a range of vegetarian and vegan mains dishes set out by protein type you can follow this link:
        .