I am now two weeks in to my live local challenge, consuming food sourced/produced within 31 miles. Last week I was butter making, bread baking and soliciting sea salt from strangers. You can read about my fledgling efforts in My live local challenge: week 1. This week the novelty of my project has worn pretty thin. All I want is a cup of tea, to echo the words of Samuel Johnson
[I am] a hardened and shameless tea-drinker…who with tea amuses the evening, with tea solaces the midnight, and, with tea, welcomes the morning.
I have had some real successes this week. I am no longer spending my evenings wallowing in grief over a glass of tap water and a raw carrot. I’ve started to build up my store cupboard and produce some legitimately passable meals.
Whilst the production of hard(core) cheeses requires rennet and a lot of patience, it is possible to produce a mild-flavoured soft cheese in under 15 minutes. All you need is milk, buttermilk and an undiscerning pallet. Traditional buttermilk is the slightly sour liquid byproduct of the butter churning process and in my new capacity as an amateur dairy maid I have been producing prodigious quantities of it.
- Combine milk and buttermilk in a pan, ratio of 4:1
- Add salt (~2tsp to 1l milk)
- Heat until the curds and whey separate (~80oC)
- Either consume on a tuffet with an eight-legged friend
- Or strain liquid off through a cheese cloth until curds are firm
I would describe the taste of this cheese as inoffensive. I wouldn’t cross the road for it*. 4/10
Boris (my sourdough starter) went through a bit of a rough patch last week. He was sluggish, odourous and covered in a slimy residue. I like to think of that period as his adolescence. Thankfully this awkward phase is now behind us, Boris is hail, hearty and reproducing!
Translation= Green juice (seriously, people need to get more creative with their naming)
Verjus is formed by blending and straining unripe grapes or similarly sour fruits such as crab apples. It brings a tart tang to a dish and was popular in pre-citrus Britain (a dark and unenlightened time). I am rapidly working through the batch I made back in September, using it as a replacement for lemon juice. When life doesn’t give you lemons make verjus.
As you can see my ‘green juice’ is actually orange. It oxidised whilst I was faffing around taking photos.
The wilds of the Thames tow path.
I have been helping at several harvests with Oxford Abundance. I spend my time at these events munching on fruit, climbing trees and generally regressing to childhood. On Sunday I volunteered at an apple pressing day which I left with a bottle of freshly squeezed apple juice. It looked like ditch water and tasted like ambrosia.
This week’s biggest challenge
Last Saturday I invited my sister for dinner in order to prove that it is possible to cook something worthy of company with my limited range of ingredients. My number one rule for hosting: be extravagant. Everyone loves to be lavished from time to time. It is unsurprisingly challenging to lavish anyone whilst adhering to a 31 mile diet, but I thought I’d give it a go. This is what I produced, drum roll please…
Presenting beetroot, leek and red onion tart with a mixed nut and spinach pesto base and a honey–butter glaze.
Liddy’s comments: Surprisingly filling and scrumptious. Nice to eat something so nutty.
Subtext behind Liddy’s comments: I was worried that I would come to your house and starve. The food was edible, which is much better than I expected. I like nuts.
Leeks from Cultivate Oxford, spinach from the Clays market garden, and beetroot and onions from Hogacre Common Eco Park. Walnuts, cobnuts and walnut oil from Heath Farm. Butter and flour sources as previously mentioned.
*An insight into my upbringing
My family have two measures by which we judge the quality of different foods.
1. Would you cross the road for it?
Example: There is a stall handing out free muesli on the other side of the street. My feelings towards muesli are lukewarm but I would probably still wonder over and grab a complimentary packet.
2. Would you fight a bear for it?
Example: I come home to find a bear has broken in to my house and stolen my muesli. The bear is welcome to the snack.
In honesty I have yet to find a foodstuff that I would fight a bear for. Maybe we need to lower the stakes.