Tag Archives: plants

Homemade Aloe Vera Moisturising Gel and Some Exciting News!

4 Feb

The aloe vera plants on our roof terrace are out of control. They are in fairly small pots and they seem to produce new leaves overnight. So many leaves that the pots are actually splitting. The Washer Up decided to cut them back today which meant we had carrier bags full of aloe vera leaves.

It seemed such a shame to throw them all away so I did a google search to see how difficult it would be to make some aloe vera moisturiser. After all I buy aloe vera face cream from Mercadona. It turns out that it is really easy (if a little messy). All you do is blend the fresh aloe gel with some sweet almond oil (that you can get from the pharmacy) and there you have it. Your own 100% natural aloe vera  moisturising gel.

It admitedly looks a little bit like snot but disappears into your skin really quickly and leaves it feeling, soft, smooth and nourished. The Washer Up’s hands are reaping the benefits and I can defintely see the difference in my face.

Homemade Aloe Vera Moisturising Gel

Makes 1 jam jar.

  • about 200 gr aloe vera gel  (I used about 4 big leaves)
  • 1 or 2 tsp sweet almond oil
  • a few drops of your favourite essential oil if you want it to be scented (optional)

You  may want to use gloves and protect the worksurface with a plastic bag or something.

The aloe starts to oxidise (turn red) quickly once it is cut so you have to do it straight away.

Split the aloe leaves down the middle, open them out and scrape the slimy gel out onto the scales with a teaspoon.

When you have about 200 gr tip into a bowl or blender with 1 or 2 teaspoons of almond oil and blend until smooth and slimy.

Tip into a sterilised jar and keep in a cool place (my bathroom is freezing) or in the fridge in summer.

This can be used as a face, hand and body moisturiser but it is also excellent for burns, sunburn, skin irritations and mosquito bites.

Things That Made Me Smile Today…….

The almond blossom is really early this year because of the mild weather we have been having up until this weekend which has been freezing cold. I love the candy floss trees with their barely pink delicate blooms. It is one of my favourite things about living here, it signifies that spring is not too far away.

I have some very exciting news to tell you. Next week we will be going to Cape Town. As many of you will already know, my Dad lives there so we are primarily going to see him but also….

We are going for three weeks, during which time I will be travelling around the Cape eating in some of the best and most popular restaurants the region has to offer.

I am a contributor to Getaway Magazine which has won South African Travel Blog of the year for two years running. They recently held an award ceremony of their own in Cape Town (which my dad attended on my behalf) and to my complete surprise I won the award for best food blog!!

I will be compiling a list of the best restaurants for vegetarian food (not vegetarian restaurants) in the area with reviews, recommendations, and a Vegetarian Culinary Journey Route.

We  start the tour in Cape Town then move on to Knysna, Plettenberg Bay, Montagu, Robertson, Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and then back to Cape Town again.

We have lunch and dinner booked in a different restaurant every day. Such is the quality and choice of fabulous restaurants out there, there are still quite a few that I won’t have time to get to unfortunately.

I will be taking my camera to photograph the restaurants and food and will hopefully be posting a quick photo daily just to let you know where we are and what we’ve eaten.

I have also asked if the chefs in these gorgeous restaurants would be willing to share the recipe for one of  their favourite vegetarian dishes for me to recreate when I return home.

I have already received some fantastic recipes for such delights as, Goats Cheese & Beetroot Lollipops from Peter Tempelhoff, winner of award for Best Chef 2011. Peter is Executive Chef for three of the best restaurants in South Africa including The Greenhouse, winner of the award for Best Restaurant 2011.

As you can probably tell I can’t wait to get started. We leave on Tuesday, arrive on Wednesday morning and have lunch booked at Harbour House at The Waterfront in Cape Town.

For dinner we have reservations at The Mount Nelson Hotel’s restaurant Planet. The Mount Nelson (or Nellies as it is affectionately known) is a local institution famous for their afternoon tea. The Planet chef, Rudi Leibenberg has had the foresight and invention to create a four and six course vegan tasting menu. Yes, a vegan tasting menu! It must be the first one ever.

I will let you know the rest of our itinerary when we get there. But until then I’ve got some ironing and packing to be getting on with…

Chana Saag – Indian Spiced Chickpeas with Spinach

25 Jun

Our chilli plant on the roof terrace has loads of green chillis on it all of a sudden. I’m sure it grows about 5 centimetres overnight. It’s been so hot here  so we have been watering it really well every evening when the sun goes down. It seems to be very happy there.

This is my cue now for putting chilli in everything. Not that I need another excuse. The Washer Up loves anything with chilli in it especially Indian food. Apparently eating chilli cools you down in hot weather too. Like having a cup of tea is supposed to. I don’t know about that but I’m willing to give it a try, this heat is unbearable.

Chana Masala (chickpeas in a spicy sauce) is one my favourite dishes. I always order it, along with Tarka Dal (spiced lentils), and Saag Aloo (potatoes with spinach) when we go out for Indian food. I borrowed this recipe from Dani at Moderate Oven which combines two of my favourite dishes. Chana Saag is spiced chickpeas with spinach. I’d never tried it before and couldn’t wait to debut our homegrown green chillis.

Chana Saag-  Spiced Chickpeas with Spinach Recipe

serves 2-3, adapted from Moderate Oven

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 cardamom pods, bashed
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tin (400 gr) chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 300 gr frozen spinach (not defrosted)
  • 1 tin/jar (400 gr) cooked chickpeas, rinsed & drained
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped plus some leaves for garnish

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and cardamom pods and cook for a minute until they start to pop, don’t let them burn. Add the onion and cook for around 4 minutes. When the onion begins to soften & brown then add the ginger, garlic & green chillis and cook for another minute.

Stir in the ground coriander, cumin, turmeric & cayenne pepper until coating the onions then add the tinned tomatoes. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring for 3 or 4 minutes. Add in the frozen spinach, stirring the tomatoes around and over it and simmer, partially covered, for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to break up the spinach until completely thawed.

Remove from the heat and use a stick blender or processor to (carefully) puree the spinach until smooth. Put the pan back on the heat with the spinach and add the rinsed chickpeas to it. Season with salt, pepper & garam masala and simmer, partially covered, for 8 -10 more minutes, stirring to make sure it doesn’t dry out. Add boiling water if necessary.

Stir in the chopped coriander, squeeze over some lemon juice and check the seasoning. Add more salt or lemon juice to taste. Serve sprinkled with fresh coriander leaves and a wedge of lemon on the side.

That reminds me I must go and water the chilli plants, it has been another ridiculously hot day, they must be thirsty!

Things that made me smile today…..

I think it must be baby snail (caracolillos) season. They live on the wild fennel at the side of the road. You see people with buckets picking them off.

It looks like they like artichokes too. If I wasn’t  vegetarian I would make a Snail, Fennel & Artichoke Risotto. But I am, so I won’t. Don’t let me stop you though….

Buen Fin de Semana!

Fennel and Orange Risotto with spring onion, goat’s ricotta and chilli

8 Mar

The fennel plant we are growing in a pot on our roof terrace is ready to harvest. Is ready the right word? I’m not sure.

Some of the spring onions are looking good too. Spring onions (cebolletas) in Spain are huge. They are completely different to the spring onions/scallions you get in the UK or US. So when I say use 1 spring onion it’s probably equivalent to 4 or 5 scallions.

I have been looking for suitable fennel recipes for a while now. Something to really showcase our first and only fennel. It had to be something special.  The classic Fennel & Orange Salad sounded lovely and fresh but it is raining here at the moment so I didn’t really feel like a salad. I wanted something warm and comforting. I came across a recipe for Orzotto with Sausage, Fennel & Rosemary on The Culinary Taste. Orzotto is a barley risotto. This was exactly the kind of thing I had been looking for. Minus the sausage, obviously. Rita said she was inspired by a Jamie Oliver recipe for Fennel Risotto so I asked her what other ingredients he had added. His recipe was for Fennel Risotto with Ricotta & Dried Chilli.

Jamie’s recipe used the zest & juice of a lemon as well. This got me thinking back to the classic fennel & orange salad combo and I decided (living in Andalucia) to use orange instead of lemon and our beautiful spring onions were the natural substitute for normal onions.

local cheese producer makes a goat’s ricotta (requeson in Spanish) which I had been wanting to try for a while. So, I had all the ingredients for the perfect, seasonal, locally produced, homegrown dish. Exciting!

Fennel & Orange Risotto with Spring Onion, Goat’s Ricotta & Chilli

Serves 4 vegetarian. Adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter plus 1 tbsp for finishing
  • 1 fennel, finely chopped fronds reserved for garnish
  • 1 stick celery finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 large Spanish spring onion or 4 or 5 small, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • salt & black pepper
  • a splash of white wine/vermouth
  • about 300 gr risotto rice (I used brown)
  • about 1 litre of veg stock
  • about 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 4 tbsp goats requeson (ricotta), normal ricotta or soft goat’s cheese
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • about 50 gr grated parmesan

Put the veg stock in a small pan over a low heat. Heat the oil and 1 tbsp butter in a large pan over a medium heat and add the fennel seeds, spring onions, celery, and chopped fennel. Cook for a few minutes until softened and translucent then add in the garlic and cook for another minute. Add in the rice and stir to coat in the oil and butter. When the rice starts to turn translucent add in the wine and cook until it evaporates.

Add a ladle of the hot stock and season well with salt & black pepper. When all the liquid has been absorbed add another ladle of stock, stir or swirl the rice, wait for it to be absorbed and repeat until the rice is cooked. This should take about 18 minutes with white rice and longer with brown.

When the rice is cooked remove the pan from the heat, add the tbsp butter, parmesan, orange zest, half the orange juice and crumble over the ricotta. Stir, put the lid on and leave for 2 minutes.

Taste and add more orange juice if you think it needs it. Serve in warmed bowls garnished with a pinch of dried chilli flakes and the fennel fronds. Have a bowl of the ricotta and Parmesan on the table for people to help themselves to.

The flavour combination of the fennel and orange is really bright, slightly sweet & fresh. Together with the creaminess of the ricotta it is a deliciously rich dish, unusually reminiscent of a dessert in some ways. But don’t let that put you off. Serve it as a starter or lunch dish rather than a main course to people who appreciate different flavours and they will be left wanting more….

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