Soap and Spaghetti

I’m currently well-supplied with liquid shampoo

A year ago, whilst I was participating in National Blog Posting Month, I wrote about shampoo, particularly focusing on the ingredient SLS, which seems to be an undesirable thing to splash on our skin. Eventually, after much research and discussion, I chose to buy my shampoo in bulk from Faith in Nature. I was not entirely happy about this as I was still buying a product encased in plastic and I was still buying a liquid. Ideally, I’d like to use a solid shampoo that does not contain SLS. Why a shampoo bar rather than bottle? Well, because if we buy liquids we are paying (in money and in cost to the environment) to transport water… something that most of us reading this blog have readily available in our homes. For the time being I have plenty of shampoo and so I’m not looking for a replacement, but I did recently come near the end of my big container of liquid soap – I have been using a product from Sonnett that is marketed as handwash, but that I use in the shower too.

Soap and spaghetti

Soap and spaghetti

I stopped using bars of soap many years ago because I found that they irritated my skin (I used to be prone to eczema, although that has disappeared as I have got older). I seemed to be better with shower gels, particularly those based on coconut or other natural oils and with no artificial fragrance. However, recently it seems to have become relatively easy to buy soap from small producers who make it from natural oils, such as sunflower and olive, rather than petrochemicals or palm oil (which I avoid at all costs because even the ‘ethical’ stuff may not be). It turns out, unsurprisingly, that these are much gentler and suit my skin well. I’m delighted by this because this means I’m supporting small, local businesses and not paying for the transportation of water (effectively I’m buying a concentrate rather than a solution). In addition, these soaps tend to come in little or no packaging, which is yet another bonus. I would really like to find someone in my area who makes soap from lanolin because this fits in with my support for British wool producers and would further reduce transport of materials.

But what, I hear you ask, does this have to do with spaghetti? Well, in the same way that it is not a great idea to transport water around the world, I’ve recently been thinking that it’s not a good idea to transport air. And we do an awful lot of this. I’m thinking about goods that are packed ‘loose’ and so have gaps between all the individual bits. So, if you buy spaghetti you are being more environmentally sound than if you buy rigatoni – which not only has spaces between the bits, but also inside them! I suppose the best thing is to make your own, as Mr Snail does when he has time. Flour – the main ingredient – is generally quite tightly packed and you can add locally-produced eggs and oil if you want those ingredients.

So that’s today’s tip for  sustainable living: avoid products with extraneous air or water! Buy soap and spaghetti… just don’t serve them together.


No too bad for 'left-overs'!

Not too bad for ‘left-overs’!

We used to have a friend who detested left-overs… he simply would not eat them. He probably would have died of starvation in our house as ‘left-overs’ comprise a remarkably high proportion of the food we eat. But when I come to think about it, many of our left-overs are created deliberately, they are not the result of an accidental over-estimate of the food required. Like Sam Vimes, our food does not need any favours.

‘Needs eating up.’ That was a phrase of Sybil’s that got to Vimes. She’d announce at lunch: ‘We must have the pork tonight, it needs eating up.’ Vimes never had an actual problem with this, because he’d been raised to eat what was put in front of him, and do it quickly, too, before someone else snatched it away. He was just puzzled at the suggestion that he was there to do the food a favour.

Terry Pratchett. Thud!

I like cooking enough on one day that I have something to eat the next. It’s not about using waste, it’s more about planning ahead. In this world of ours where ready meals are so popular (according to the BBC, ready the meals industry is worth £2.6bn in the UK alone), I quite like making something myself that can be quickly heated up.

I can always find a container in which to freeze or store left-overs

I can always find a container in which to freeze or store left-overs

A rather strange programme on the BBC last week, Nigel and Adam’s Farm Kitchen, encouraged us to make and freeze our own ready meals, Although growing your own durum wheat with which to make your pasta (as they did) seemed an unattainable starting point for anybody watching the show, I was hopeful that the subsequent demonstration would provide some good ideas for viewers. Unfortunately, Nigel Slater got carried away and made 30 small lasagnes, each in their own foil tray. Hmmm… in our house, we would have made a large lasagne in a Pyrex dish, cooked it, eaten some of it and frozen individual portions in reusable plastic tubs. OK, this would require portions to be transferred out for reheating in the oven, but since most folks reheat in a microwave, there’s really no issue.

I regularly make a big pot of spaghetti bolognese ,or of soup, with the specific intention of having food for the next day or for the freezer. And if you have one of those discerning individuals who does not like to eat ‘left-overs’, just assure them that you have made Réchauffage; after all, the French are great cooks, so it must be good!


An abundance of eggs

An abundance of eggs

Recently we have been rather eggy… no, not annoyed, just egg-full! Lorna has pretty much given up laying, despite only being three years old: we haven’t had an egg from her since Christmas. The other three (including Esme, who is the same age as Lorna) are giving us an egg each almost every day. Even with an occasional day off, this means we are getting about 18 eggs per week. I think that this level of production is being supported by the abundant leafy greens that they are consuming: kale, broccoli leaves and a wide variety of oriental leaves from last autumn’s planting (which we too are enjoying).

It’s great to feel that the garden is so abundant, but sometimes the number of eggs does seem overwhelming. The easiest solution is to give them away: our lovely neighbours look after the hens when we are away for a weekend and so we often give them a box of eggs. However, we do like to make use of much of what we produce ourselves and, to this end, recipes that include eggs are really useful. Of course, there’s always cake, but if all the eggs went into cakes, we’d be the size of elephants by now… or perhaps the shape of Humpty-Dumpty! We often have poached or boiled eggs for our lunch – always with homemade bread using our locally milled flour, but even that has its limits.

Recently we have been enjoying Scotch Eggs made with Glamorgan Sausage (breadcrumbs, cheese, sage and onion bound together with beaten egg). This is a lovely combination of flavours, but being deep-fried we don’t want to have them too often.We also quite often have hard-boiled eggs (7-8 minutes so the centre of the yolk is still soft) with garlic mayonnaise (again made with fresh eggs if I have the time) as an element of Tapas, along with patatas bravas, broad beans with spring onions, monkey bread and fried sweet peppers… all of which often have elements from out of the garden. Alternatively, a Spanish tortilla always goes down well – sometimes spiced up with some small chunks of chorizo in it.

Pasta drying on the kitchen table

Pasta drying on the kitchen table

Perhaps the least egg-like use is making pasta. For every 100g of flour in the pasta, you use 1 egg. That’s it as far as ingredients are concerned – it just takes some kneading and quite a lot of rolling. We do have a little pasta machine for rolling it out (like a tiny mangle that you clamp to the work surface) which makes life easier, but it’s not necessary. Mr Snail-of-happiness usually makes the pasta and then I use it for cooking, so it’s a team effort. I usually make it into a layered lasagne, but I think I might have a go at fresh ravioli next time we make it. It’s great because you can freeze it too.

So, those are some of my favourite egg dishes, but I’m always looking for new ones. Do you have any suggestions?

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