“Gourmet Challenge” Quiche

Screen Shot 2018-10-07 at 17.27.52

When my children were tiny and right up to their teens, we often spend the summer in our family hideaway on the Sierra Tramuntana on the isle of Mallorca. Here, for the blissful weeks of summer, we would live and eat simply.  What’s lovely is that over the years, many friends joined us at Melcion and the love grows.

1011252_439911849482813_3379456006831541369_n.jpg

Photo: my father and my son Jack.

One of our favourite family games at Melcion is Gourmet Challenge. The premise of the game is very simple: you have to rustle up a gourmet feast just from the ingredients you can find around the house and the garden.

The idea is quite simply Waste Not, Want Not. I abhor gratuitous trips to the supermarkets just to pick up one or two missing ingredients – what a waste of petrol, what a waste of time and what a waste of money, because you always end up buying more than what you set out for.

And the best thing about a Gourmet Challenge is you never really know what you’re going to get, and it is fun!

10153135_440781902729141_3311007851795113775_n.jpg

Photo: my little gourmets.

So, on this rainy day, I made a “Gourmet Challenge” Quiche. I found an old bag of spinach in my freezer that had been thawed and refrozen so many times, a leek (slightly off), two tomatoes and half an onion. I had the usual staples in my house – milk, cream, cheese, butter, eggs, garlic.  I even made the pastry from scratch!

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C/350 deg F.

For the pastry:

  • 100g unsalted butter, straight out of the fridge
  • 200g flour, sifted
  • 6 tablespoon cold water.

Cut the cold, hard butter into small cubes (save the wrapper for greasing the flan tin).  Rub the butter and the flour until they resemble breadcrumbs.

Add the water. Knead the dough, but not excessively, because you are not making bread! Shape into a ball, wrap the dough in beeswax wrap (or cling film, if you don’t have it) and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Grease the flan tin with the butter wrapper. Lightly dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour and roll out the dough.  Line the greased flan tin with the dough. It doesn’t matter if your dough crumbles – you can see from this photo that mine didn’t come away neatly in one large piece and I had to patch it up!

IMG_5221.JPG

It is highly recommended that you pre-bake the flan before adding in the filling, but I didn’t. If you wish to do things by the book, here’s how (as my mother would):

Line the pastry with foil and weigh down with baking beads or beans. Place the tin on a baking tray, then pop in the hot oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove the beans and the foil, then return to the oven for a further 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden.

For the filling:

Here’s the thing: baked cheese tastes good, no matter what.  This quiche that I made was especially yummy because I crumbled garlic Boursin into it (such decadence).

  • 3 large, organic eggs
  • 50g grated cheddar
  • 1/4 a garlic Boursin
  • 6 tablespoon creme fraiche
  • Approximately 50ml cooking cream
  • Salt and pepper

Mix all together until you have a thick slurry – adjust the volume of cooking cream used. Season generously.

These are the possible vegetable filling for your Gourmet Challenge Quiche (only the first four ingredients are important, the others are up to you):

  • Olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • One red onion, sliced
  • Half a bunch of thyme
  • Few rashers of bacon
  • Frozen spinach, thawed, and water squeezed out
  • Leeks, sliced

Saute the garlic in olive oil until fragrant. Add the rest and continue to saute until thoroughly coated with the garlic-olive oil. Pour this into the prepared flan dish and finally, pour in the cream-egg-cheese slurry.

IMG_5222.jpg

Bake in the preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the filling is almost set. Leave to cool slightly, then carefully remove the flan tin. Delicious either hot or cold, and lasts for a couple of days in the fridge….enjoy 🙂

43253634_531922887254721_8654733583933505536_n.jpg

My cookbook, The Ca’n Melcion Cookbook which chronicles the food of those magical summers, is available on Amazon. Click on this link for a free preview.

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 0.07.32

Screen Shot 2018-10-07 at 21.03.07

DSC_0404 copy

 

 

Super Bees food wrap – the Beeginner’s set

Screen Shot 2018-06-22 at 9.52.32.png

Start your plastic-free life with this starter kit. Learn how to use each SuperBee’s Wax Wrap for many items in your kitchen and home. Includes 3 different sized beeswax wraps in pretty patterns.

Handmade from:

  • 100% Cotton
  • Beeswax
  • Tree Resin
  • Organic Coconut Oil

Quantity & Size:

  • 1 x 20 cm x 20 cm (7.9 in x 7.9 in)
  • 1 x 26 cm x 26 cm (10.2 in x 10.2 in)
  • 1 x 33 cm x 33 cm (13 in x 13 in)

To order, please visit their website: and please do mention us!

Cash for old clothes

Whilst we worry about plastics, we seldom worry about old clothes in landfills that are choking up the planet.  Our overconsumption and fast fashion  has brought about a massive rise in textile waste dumped in landfill sites. And these days, garments often have nylon bits in them, that will take 40-50 years to decompose.

My daughter recently sold off her mountain of old clothes at her school’s car boot sale. She was selling almost-new tops, dresses and trousers off for THB20, which is less than 50p. Apart from giving a lot of joy to the new owners, she was also minimising the strain on landfills (and earning herself a little sum in the process as well).

Screen Shot 2018-06-20 at 14.49.07.png

Recently, John Lewis announced a buy-back scheme for the old clothes it sold:

Screen Shot 2018-06-20 at 15.10.03.png

You can read the full story here.

We strongly applaud its action and urge more retailers to follow the lead.

But as consumers, we can do our bit by taking the following steps:

  1. Buy less. Resist impulse buying.

  2. Buy ethical. Opt for items of clothing that are ethically sourced and do not rely on slave labour.

  3. Donate.

  4. Re-sell.

  5. Repurpose. Read our article about turning a holey dress into a bag here.

Brain-washing DOES work

Last night, a friend brought us dinner from a local Thai restaurant. The food was delicious, but what ruined the enjoyment for us was the fact that it was packaged in plastic bags AND then put into polystyrene foam boxes (wholly unnecessary).  The polystyrene boxes were clean – I mean, like completely clean! – because the food was in plastic bags, but what should we do with those boxes? Donate them to the other food stalls?

The friend who had brought the food laughed at us. “Just throw the boxes away,” she said, looking at us as if we were barking mad to be stressing over eight polystyrene boxes. “Nobody wants them secondhand, they’re cheap-cheap!”

A few short years ago, the pile of needless food packaging sitting in my dustbin would not have caused me such consternation, but now it does. That eight polystyrene boxes did bother me a great deal. And that is a good thing.

Because they are so bad that New York City is joining a growing group of cities in banning them: single-use expandable polystyrene products (including cups, bowls, plates, takeout containers and trays and packing peanuts) are not allowed to be possessed, sold, or offered in New York City. They are almost impossible to recycle and causes havoc when leaked into environments and contaminate drinking water….imagine eating a ball of styrofoam. That’s what some animals are doing, blocking up their intestines.

Look, this bird is eating discarded foam!

pacificbeach.jpg

Photograph from Midtown Miami Magazine. Please click on the read a very good article.

So when people tell me to stop proselytising about environmental issues, I tell them this: brainwashing does work. I absolutely loathe these awful packaging now instead of shrugging them off, ignoring the problem.

I hope more governments will join NYC and other cities in banning single-use EPS or levy high taxes on them to make them unattractive.

IMG_3902

“Bioblitz” – a lovely project for the whole family and community

Rape_seed_plants_-_geograph.org.uk_-_169450.jpg

Photo: rape bushes(wikipedia)

I never forgot the time my first visitor from Asia, on his first trip to the UK, gawped in wonder at the profusion of yellow flowers that grew along the motorway. He thought they were so beautiful, until I pointed out to him that these plants were actually poisonous weeds: in my teens, I had to clear these rape bushes from the fields before the horses ate them.

 

There’s no doubt, there’s much richness, beauty and diversity in the flora and fauna of lay-bys and hedgerows. I’m not a professional photographer, but whenever I publish and share photographs of aspects of my hometown (Hampshire, UK), people would comment, “Oh, where was that taken?” and almost always expressed surprise when I told them, “Just the hedgerows,” or “Just by the railway line.”

 

Whilst living in Asia, I had a helper from Indonesia who showed me the abundance that was found in the Asian version of lay-bys and hedgerows.  Rosmawati would go for long evening walks in our neighbourhood and would often come back with a stash of plants, flowers, herbs or even unusual insects to show us. I never ceased to be amazed at the treasures she could find in the concrete city that we lived in.

But sad to say, wildlife is fast disappearing all over the world. The naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham is launching a #WeWantWildlife ~ Citizen Science Campaign.

Screen Shot 2018-06-13 at 15.58.03.png

For ten days, in his Bioblitz, Chris and his team of experts will be visiting 50 wildlife sites in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales to highlight the extent to which the nation’s wildlife is under threat. The aim is to record the wildlife species living naturally in nature, rather than in nature reserves.

Please visit his website, and join if you can!

On Monday, 23rd July 2018, the team will be at Yateley Common Country Park, and so will I!  Please follow us here for photos and updates…..and perhaps start a Bioblitz where you live, too? It’s a fabulous project to involve the whole family and community!

Screen Shot 2018-06-13 at 16.06.12

Photo: “Just the hedgerows” (Hampshire, UK)

Screen Shot 2018-06-13 at 16.05.19

Photo: “By the railway line” (Hampshire, UK)

Immerse yourself in the beauty of Yateley Common: Yateley Common.

Environmental stewardship

Here’s the facts:

31949065_191589701486426_2870776030639947776_n.jpg

(Image: Vizu Organics)

Unless we pass on environmental stewardship to the next generation, our efforts die with us.  And never too young…..

Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 10.09.46

Here’s a sweet photo of three-year-old William Mosley collecting rubbish on the beach, so disgusted was he by “very silly humans” dropping litter in the streets and everywhere. You can read his story here.

At this age, children are enthusiastic and absorb new ideas like sponges. Live green in your family today and it becomes a way of life for these adults of tomorrow.

But teenagers are every bit as fun to recruit for the green drive: they are vociferous, outspoken and looking for crusades.  Here are four fun things you could do with teenagers:

  1. Visit eco-restaurants for bonding time. Read our Green Spaces review for ideas.
  2. Experiment with making green skincare products.
  3. Repurpose old clothes together. We made a cloth shopping bag from a holey old dress!
  4. Beach clean-ups and BBQ on the beach. We all love a good party.  Please follow us here and on Facebook to be kept informed of our forthcoming party (in Sept/Oct). 

Domestic food waste

It seems that almost all the focus is on plastic because the numbers are glaring: it takes hundreds of years to biodegrade, millions of tons end up in the oceans, all the plastic that has ever been made is still here on earth.

But domestic food waste is another issue that should be on our radar….wait a minute, don’t fruit peelings and vegetable stubs decompose? They’re organic matter, right?

Yes, they do decompose in landfills, but not in a good way as they release methane, which is a greenhouse warming gas (whether you subscribe to the theory of greenhouse warming or not, the fact is that rotting food is clogging up the landfills).

Today, my domestic waste weighs a whopping 5.8 kilograms, and that’s average for this family of three (because we eat lots of fresh stuff, I make every dish up from scratch and I rarely ever buy ready-made-meals). That’s heck a lot of rubbish for the already over-flowing dump!

But I don’t have a garden at the moment, and just throwing food scraps (even if it is just green) will attract rodents.  So making a food composter might be my next project….it looks simple enough (from this excellent youtube video).

Please follow us here (by clicking on the “Follow” icon on the page) or in Facebook. We will keep you up to date in the coming months on the home-made composter as well as other interesting things! Thank you!

Note: Here’s an idea for reducing food scraps – I use them to make delicious and nutritious broth. Please click on this link to read more. We will be adding Leftover Recipes here soon!

 

VISIT: KATHU WET MARKET AND LUNCH AT AN ECO RESTAURANT (Friday 15th June, 10.30am-2pm)

Thai_market_vegetables_01

Kathu Wet Market is reputed to be amongst the best in Phuket and you can pick up lots of fresh bargains here, including the more exotic stuff.

Taifuun, the Thai owner of the eco-friendly Quick Burger Bar will join us for our market walkabout (and explain things to us) before lunch at his restaurant nearby, where homemade burgers cost only 79THB.

There is no cost for this trip – you just have to pay for your own lunch. We will meet at the CIS office at 10.30am and car pool over. Don’t forget to bring your bags!!!

Join us this Friday. Unfortunately, the maximum number is 10, so please let us know ASAP if you plan on coming. Do come, it will be fun!

Environmentally friendly educational toys

Think before you buy: your kids’ toys are killing the planet. 90% of all toys sold is made of plastics, and there are very few toys that are able to be recycled or repurposed.

******

When my children were tiny, I caused some bad feelings amongst family members because I banned plastic toys: I politely refused to accept those noisy, battery-operated, garish plastic monstrosity, especially those with flashing lights!

My parents-in-law used to make toys for my children: almost 30 years later, we still have some of those precious toys (Photo: Harry Helium, made by my mother-in-law based on a story I wrote).

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 15.37.21.png

My parents, who weren’t so good with the sewing machine or hammer, nails and saw, entertained the children with nature (Photo: drawing from 30 years ago!)

mushrooms.jpg

No, they did not suffer not owning any plastic toys. They made their own with discarded packaging and stuff they find around the house (Photo: the two sisters making something).

DSC00123.JPG

When my children got older, I softened my stance a bit and allowed Legos into the house. But by then, they had gotten over the idea that toys are fun. They much preferred pets, and at one stage, we had two dogs, two cats and eleven rabbits. That rather large menagerie did not leave them much time for gadgets either!

Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 16.34.15.png

Recently, I visited my children’s father’s classroom (he teaches Design & Technology) and saw these Chinese puzzles that his Year 8 students made:

This can be made environmentally friendly by suing softwood. The design is from MYP Design & Technology textbook published by IBID Press.

Here is something you can make simply at home with your children, using paper or even flour tortilla! A hexaflaxagon that my daughter made:

Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 14.59.56

The instructions are here. Have fun!

Related reading: There’s A Huge Problem With Kids’ Toys That No One’s Talking About

Here’s an innovative company repurposing plastic toys:

First published in www.raisinghappystrongkids.com

The cost of small things

Last week, we made four circuits round a particular block in Phuket Town trying to find parking so that we can buy ribbons. Think about the hydrocarbons burned in our quest to buy those pretty things.

Moreover, those pretty things, if you think about it, are synthetic materials (polyester, nylon, and polypropylene) and harsh dyes. There is nothing natural or organic about those ribbons at all – they cost a mere THB50 per roll, so chances are that they were manufactured in some sweat shop with slave labour.

But we need those ribbons!

Do we, actually?

I managed to salvage these from old clothes that are headed for the recycling bin. And these “ribbons” are much prettier, if you ask me. I wish I had thought about that sooner.

The thing to do is to get into the repurposing mindset and delete the word “BUY, BUY, BUY” from our modern psyche. 

Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 14.59.18