The Contented Vegan The Contented Vegan
The Contented Vegan Newsletter
Real Loaves & Pickles

by Peggy Brusseau

Hello from London!

We’re off to have a short break, the first in nearly two years! We will visit Kent, the county just south-east of London that supplies us with cherries, hops, apples and potatoes. From time to time we also buy wild garlic and greengage plums from Kentish growers. It is a beautiful region and a wonderful season in which to see it.

Bottling the Seasons

Speaking of seasons, I spent the first half of this month preserving foods for use later in the year. So far, I have several jars of tomato compote and quite a few of various home-made pickles. My favourites are sliced cucumber with clove and peppercorn; pickled radish and turnip with cayenne; and a simple cabbage and fennel pickle that never stays around for long. These are all quick to make. It’s very satisfying to see the jars filled and stowed on the shelf.

The ‘put by’ will continue for a while longer, though the ingredients change. For instance, this month delivers the perfect ingredients for making jams and chutneys. The new plums and apples always provide a reliable base with a thick consistency and sweet undertone. I add spices, onions, dried fruits, chilli and chopped roots… whatever combinations seem appropriate as I raid my stores. I end up with equal amounts of sweet jams and spicy chutneys, all varied in colour and texture.

Reasons for Real Food

It might sound like I live in the country with a huge farmhouse kitchen… But, no! Ours is an ordinary kitchen in a London flat. It’s just that the food we buy from the farmers’ market each week demands to be celebrated. It is very fresh, clearly in season and feels precious. I can’t waste any of it! So, I roll up my sleeves and get creative. I experiment. I play. I make meals people like and then share the jams, chutneys and pickles as gifts whenever I can.

It might sound like I spend all day, every day in the kitchen. Again, no! I have a very full life. But, years ago, I reclaimed my diet. I dropped fast-food and welcomed real food. Everything about my life improved. Obviously, health… all that fibre, those nutrients and phytochemicals. But my state of mind benefited, too. Making meals ‘from scratch’ is very focussing and calming. It’s a chance to process other aspects of life while, at the same time, doing a very practical and sensory task.

Beyond the task is the pleasure. Of eating, of course, but also the pleasure of preparation and of sharing. Real food allows real connections. That might sound trite, but it’s also true. So, no, I’m not a slave to the kitchen. I’ve worked out how to prepare food without losing its realness along the way. I’ve learned how to do it quickly, easily, simply… but calmly and in utter peace and gratitude.

Crowded Cupboards

What remains of September draws my attention to mushrooms, walnuts and cobnuts, cabbages and early squashes. I have made a shopping list for dried beans and lentils. By the end of the month, I will have restocked the jars of pulses that adorn my shelves and will have made the Christmas puddings, too. Later still, possibly into October, I will make sloe gin from the market sloes.

Autumn occasionally inspires me to bake and so I will ensure I have good flours in store, ready for the moment when I get the urge to make a loaf or cake. These things enrich us. No matter the nature of our day job or the anxieties we carry, preparing real food can bring us home to ourselves. It feels correct to make room for this, even just a little.

Make a Pickle

Here is my recipe for Pickled Radish & Turnip with Cayenne. These pickles are spicy. I sometimes chop them further and add them to a rice salad. They are delicious beside a warm dish, such as pasta or baked potato; you can include a layer of them in sandwiches, too.

Go ahead and adjust the ingredients as necessary. For instance, you can make just one tiny jar, if you wish. The process is very simple. Add sliced carrot, chunks of garlic or thinly sliced cabbage heart, too. Experiment!

2 bunches of red, white or purple radishes
2 medium turnips
1 tablespoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne
approximately 300ml white vinegar

Top and tail the radishes and turnips. Slice the radishes; cut the turnips into chips or slices. Put the vegetables in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the salt over them and toss the vegetables so the salt is distributed. Cover the bowl and leave it to sit for 30-60 minutes.

Select two or three jars with re-sealable lids. These can be Kilner jars or recycled jam jars. Place the open jars and lids in a baking tray. Boil the kettle and pour this water over the lids and jars, filling the jars to the brim. Leave to cool for 30-60 minutes.

Measure the cayenne and vinegar into a pan and stir well over a low heat until it is almost hot.

Drain the water from the jars. Lift the vegetables from the mixing bowl and firmly pack them into the jars. Discard the liquid at the bottom of the mixing bowl. Pour the warm vinegar mixture over the vegetables, ensuring the vegetables are covered by the vinegar. Seal the lid on each jar.

I leave these pickles for at least 24 hours before I sample them. One week is better! Once I open a jar, I store it in the fridge and use within 6-8 weeks.

Have fun!

Unsubscribe   |   Manage your subscription   |   View online
Peggy Brusseau
The Contented Vegan