Post Christmas recipes and a wet nature walk

Like many I am feeling heavy after the Christmas fare, despite not eating a Christmas day dinner! There has been a long season of entertainment all with excess calories so I thought I would cook a winter hearty food and then go for a stroll to walk excess calories away.

Out into the rain then and sludging through mud down to Bluebell Wood with the dogs. No-one about, oh the joy of winter walks. At first sight, all is quiet in the wild wood. Leaves have finally been ripped from branches by high winds, leaving the tree frames for us to delight in their form and make birdwatching easier. Robins and blackbirds huddle against trunks, a buzzard flits branch to branch upsetting wood pigeons. On the ground the green tips of wild garlic are exposed by driving rains wearing the humus away. The river below is full to the brim, rolling over Heron Rock with an afterthought of spray. Herbs like Robert and comfrey withdraw into the ground but the Winter Heliotrope glories in the open canopy, its leaves hearting up out of the earth and a lone flower head displayed to remind me of the November scent of its even earlier blooms. Ylang-ylang is the nearest smell I know to it, a hyacinth-grouped head of daisied flowers, rays and florets exuding delicate perfume. I pluck one and inhale the fragrance but it is fleeting after losing connection to the earth. I place it in my mouth and taste a faint pollen reminder of the smell. I intuit: “Light in the darkness; growth in adversity; let the challenges be your light”.

Walking past the picnic area I see pallets piled ready to make a play area. Its meant to be a forest school, only no-one yet learned which tree is which or how they integrate with our lives and help us, so several plums and gages have been cut away which would have given fruit for jam and spreads. It is though a good step, to have children and adults working together outside. I send my love and thanks to those trees. Some may grow again from stumps when the humans are bored and gone to new play places.

Striding now, my old wet dogs looking tired, I stop at a the sound of chirruping in front, then all about me. I am surrounded by long-tailed tits, their bobbing heads and flexing tails swinging on ash and oak twigs. Always on the move, always in a family group, I try to record their singing over the pattering of rain. I try to walk in their flight path but its never linear and they soon whirl away and lose me. I re-test the heliotrope’s musky fruit flavour. Spring blossom no longer feels so far away.

I promised you recipes so here you are:

beetroot dish

Puy lentils with beetroot and red onions (to serve 4)

Soften 2 red onions  and a couple cloves garlic in 1 Tablespoon olive oil

add  227g (8 oz) puy or small brown lentils

2 tsp dried crumbled rosemary leaves

1 dessertspoon bouillon powder (I used Marigold vegan)

2 fresh beetroots, topped and tailed and cut in 1cm chunks

a good splash  80ml/ 3fl oz apple or dry sherry type wine

black pepper to taste

1 Tbsp dried green seaweeds for the je ne sais quoi

water to cover all

Simmer till lentils are soft, adding more water if needed to leave a soft mixture.

Add a chopped apple, handful of chunked green beans for colour and steam through for 10 mins.

Clever clogs AGA owners can do this in the medium oven. the rest of us can use a saucepan on a cooking ring. Forest schoolers/ bush-crafters will of course be cooking over a controlled camp fire!

Serve with steamed rice cooked with coriander seed and …..

DSCN2437 (1)Christmas sprouts

Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of caraway seeds into a saute pan and heat till fragrant.

Add a dash of light cooking oil (e.g. almond) and heat gently.

Quarter 10 brussels sprouts, add to pan, put a tight lid on and start to steam/ saute the veg. for 3 minutes.

Mix in the pulp of a finely sliced orange, put lid back on and simmer for 2 more minutes before serving. Just as nice served cold.

You may have noticed that Tiddler has not helped with these recipes. She is sulking because of the lack of butter (she is not vegan!) and fast asleep full of Christmas goodies. The sprouts here are a pretty shade as they are a purplish variety ‘Redarling’ bought on the stalk, I prefer to buy Brussels sprouts this way as I think they keep much better.