Recipe: Sweet Potato and Broad Bean Risotto

I just love sweet potatoes! They are so good for you and so full of flavour that they don’t need much fiddling about with in order to make a delicious meal out of them. Sweet potatoes provide energy like a typical carbohydrate but contain the nutritional density of a vegetable, making them a wise choice for those adopting a healthy diet this summer!

This risotto is an easy, filling and nutritious recipe, perfect for all the family. My girls aged 7 and 4 devoured this and then asked for seconds! Happy mummy ūüôā

Serves 4 hungry people.

Ingredients:

200g arborio rice (I used the quick cook kind)

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced

1 cup broad beans (mine were frozen!)

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

A small handful of fresh sage leaves (or 1 tsp dried)

A couple of pints of good quality veg stock

2 tbsp cider vinegar (or 1/2 glass white wine!)

Salt and pepper to taste

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Method

1. Get your stock going in a small pan and leave to simmer quietly

2. Gently fry your onions and garlic in a knob of butter (or your choice of oil)

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3. Add the rice and sweet potato and fry gently with the onions and garlic (if you’re not using quick cook rice add the sweet potato later)

4. After a minute or so, add the chopped sage leaves, broad beans and cider vinegar and reduce down a little.

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5. Begin to add your hot stock (keeping it simmering gently is the trick to risotto rice that cooks efficiently!) stir each glug of stock in well until the rice begins to absorb it and then add another until all the liquid has gone, or the rice is tender.

6. Season to taste and if desired, swirl in some natural yoghurt or top with your favourite cheese.

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This is a very simple dish so feel free to play with this recipe! I just love pairing fresh sage with hearty vegetables such as sweet potatoes or butternut squash, but equally, change the herb to your own taste. A grating of nutmeg into this risotto would make it even yummier!

Don’t forget to share your tips and tricks below!

Jaime xx

Recipe: Sweet Potato and Broad Bean Risotto

I just love sweet potatoes! They are so good for you and so full of flavour that they don’t need much fiddling about with in order to make a delicious meal out of them. ¬†Sweet potatoes provide energy like a typical carbohydrate but contain the nutritional density of a vegetable, making them a wise choice for those adopting a healthy diet this summer!

This risotto is an easy, filling and nutritious recipe, perfect for all the family. My girls aged 7 and 4 devoured this and then asked for seconds! Happy mummy ūüôā

Serves 4 hungry people.

Ingredients:

200g arborio rice (I used the quick cook kind)

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced

1 cup broad beans (mine were frozen!)

1 onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

A small handful of fresh sage leaves (or 1 tsp dried)

A couple of pints of good quality veg stock

2 tbsp cider vinegar (or 1/2 glass white wine!)

Salt and pepper to taste

image

Method

1. Get your stock going in a small pan and leave to simmer quietly

2. Gently fry your onions and garlic in a knob of butter (or your choice of oil)

image

3. Add the rice and sweet potato and fry gently with the onions and garlic (if you’re not using quick cook rice add the sweet potato later)

4. After a minute or so, add the chopped sage leaves, broad beans and cider vinegar and reduce down a little.

image

5. Begin to add your hot stock (keeping it simmering gently is the trick to risotto rice that cooks efficiently!) stir each glug of stock in well until the rice begins to absorb it and then add another until all the liquid has gone, or the rice is tender.

6. Season to taste and if desired, swirl in some natural yoghurt or top with your favourite cheese.

image

This is a very simple dish so feel free to play with this recipe! I just love pairing fresh sage with hearty vegetables such as sweet potatoes or butternut squash, but equally, change the herb to your own taste. A grating of nutmeg into this risotto would make it even yummier!

Don’t forget to share your tips and tricks below!

Jaime xx

How I Brought Nature Back to my Urban Garden

I am so proud to say that the birds are back! We currently have a jolly little resident robin and a pair of inquisitive blue tits, who although have yet to move in; have been exploring our homemade bird boxes and feeding in our food-draped tree for a while now. Starlings and blackbirds battle for space at the feeders and the ever-rare sparrow, perches cautiously at the fence as though mustering the courage to descend and enjoy an afternoon treat. This hasn’t been an overnight success, it’s taken around five years to get to the point where wildlife is finding us as well as us finding it. I live for nature and although my garden is a modest, postage-stamp, urban space, I have managed to create an environment where even the freest of birds are happy making their homes here and here’s how it happened.

Years 1-3

We bought our home in 2009 through a new-build home scheme. We were impressed by the sound eco-standards (Bonus – cheaper bills!) and although the outdoor space was small, it was infinitely better than our previous London dwelling where the ‘garden’ was a concrete slab by the communal bin store. Although by London standards, we felt pretty lucky even then! When we finally moved into our new home the front garden had been turfed and was bordered by a bee-friendly hedge which was good, so we turned our attention to the back garden – and goodness did it need some attention!

My eldest at aged 2, helping to weed the mud flat!

My eldest at aged 2, helping to weed the mud flat!

So we got to work improving our little slice of England and set about de-weeding the barren mud flat we had inherited. The soil quality was so bad and when we explored under the earth later on, we found tonnes of rubble and concrete left by unscrupulous builders. This in addition to a typical Kentish clay soil left us with a compacted, solid and unorganic piece of land from which we were hoping to create our very own piece of outdoor heaven. It was going to be a tough road! We began by using the neighbour’s rotivator (Tip: Beg, borrow and steal!) to turn the compacted land and then ordered a truck-load of organic soil from a local company, which helped to enrich the ground before laying turf. As a wildlife lover, I’m not a huge fan of masses of pristine lawn, but in order to create a space where our daughter could play, camp, kick a ball, it was necessary for us at the time. As you’d probably expect, our lawn has now shrunk quite considerably in order to make room for lush borders and a couple of raised vegetable beds.

A lawn to kick a ball around on.

A lawn to kick a ball around on.

The next job was planting an ornamental tree for rich spring blossoms and I went for the Cheal’s Weeping Cherry, which gives an early pink/white show of flowers in March (Usually just in time for my birthday!) before sweeping branches drip with lush dark green leaves in Summer. The leaves turn a beautiful deep red colour in Autumn before dropping in Winter and providing the ground below with a rich leaf-mould. This was no mean feat as when we began to dig the planting hole we discovered the soil depth was only about four inches – less than the depth of the spade we were using. Several telephone complaints, lots of organic matter and one determined hubby later, we finally got the tree in the ground – and going by the land it was planted in, it’s nothing short of a miracle that it’s still thriving! I had hoped that by installing a tree, its roots would¬†help to break up the compaction that still existed under the soil. If you are doing the same in your garden – make sure you do your research and choose a tree with the appropriate final growing size! A fruiting cherry tree would have swamped our tiny garden – and house! A mistake no-less, made by our neighbours who had to hastily remove their new tree a year after planting on realising their error (Cue large sighs of relief from neighbours either side!)

The marshmallow pink of the 'Prunus Kiku Shidare blossom.

The marshmallow pink of the ‘Prunus Kiku Shidare blossom.

We then began to mark out and dig our borders and this is where the magic of time shows the most amazing results. For the the first few years I needed to build up a lush backdrop and began by planting flowering evergreen shrubs such as Choisya and Hebe and then began to experiment with wildlife-encouraging perennials. Lots of these failed of course and as an amatuer gardener I was learning along the way, but still each year some plants would come back and I was inspired by this and simply kept up a routine of filling the spaces with more flowering perennials each year, hoping to create a burst of bee-attracting colour and scent in the warmer months.

An early scabious proving endless joy for a little explorer.

An early scabious proving endless joy for a little explorer.

We began to use a compost bin to increase the nutrient content and bio-diversity of our garden and its soil and also installed a basic water butt to enable us to water our flourishing garden ecologically. It became a labour of love and soon I began to see a difference. The garden was beginning to feel like that little slice of outdoor heaven we were after.

Years 3-5

In the last two years we have expanded our borders and installed two raised vegetable beds. The small, round picnic lawn that remains is enough for us and our wide borders actually give the sense of more space, more depth. It’s funny how peering through thick green bushes at the back of borders, actually deepens this sense of space, this sense of mystery, it begs the question; ‘what’s behind there?‘ So even in the tiniest of gardens, don’t be drawn in to cutting perfectly straight, thin borders – go wild and create a deep, lush backdrop for your outside space. For really tiny gardens, bamboo canes work brilliantly for this; adding depth, height and texture, whilst taking up as little room as possible.

We built our vegetable beds from two basic¬†raised bed kits bought¬†for pennies from the local DIY store. Raised beds were a necessity for us as our soil was so bad, but they also help to contain your planting zone and help to structure and plan your planting. I usually operate a square-foot gardening¬†technique rather than growing in traditional rows, and this is a great way to maximise variety in your useable space. Having them raised also brings them that bit closer to you when gardening (sore backs anyone?) and means you can easily target your soil, fertiliser and feed. I filled the first raised bed with homemade and shop bought compost and some left over top soil from when we cut our turf. The new bed was ready to use immediately and that was treat but it was also rather expensive to fill! We prepared the second bed a year before using it and in this bed we¬†started by using¬†as much ‘filler’ as we could, before topping with finer soil and compost. Into the void went; left over straw, some large pumpkin carcasses left over from Halloween – which had been two big for our little composter, some shredded paper, ‘rough’ compost from our own bin and some wicker strands which had come from a disintegrated old basket. It was only after the main volume had been filled that we topped this with soil and finer compost and then we covered it with tarp and left for a year, or perhaps longer, until when uncovered, a rich planting bed had been established. This way is so much cheaper than buying in a tonne of crumbly compost and is so much more friendly for the environment, increasing your own biodiversity as you do so.

Next to our vegetable beds we have a herb patch to die for, although it really does need sorting and investing in. At the moment we grow lavender, rosemary, marjoram, sage, mint and two varieties of thyme, as well as having some recent success with annuals such as dill. Moving forward, the herb patch is my next project, it needs expanding, organising and improving – any tips or inspiration from other small-garden growers? Might try barrels or pots next? Although it’s a productive patch¬†its scruffy and the plants are definitely not at their best.

Our tree has really come into its own now¬†and as well as solar-powered fairy lights, is strung up with all sorts of feeders for all sorts of birds. At¬†it stands¬†we have; peanuts, seeds, fat balls and a mealworm block. We also have two bird ‘houses’ for smaller, wild birds and of course, the seed heads left on in winter from all of my flowering plants. This ‘messy gardener’ method really works and makes you so much more time efficient! As the proverb advises with dogs, let the autumn leaves lie, and they will in turn give you a rich leaf mould to seep into your borders or to spread on your vegetable garden. As mentioned before, don’t snip and prune your summer plants at the end of their life – leave them be and their seeds will spread to double your stock next year and the birds will feast on them in the coldest of months, when abundant food is all but a sun-filled memory. Plus, hydrangea flower heads look beautiful on frosty mornings!

As well as the herb patch, I also have aspirations to grow more fruit; berries in particular and so this year I am going to try to find a spot for a burgeoning fruit cage; again if anyone has any tips for doing this on a small scale do let me know! I do have a new blackberry plant behind the veg plot now, which provides good cover for the birds and hopefully some yummy fruit this year for our jams and pies.

So, there you have it! A feast for man and beast alike in the smallest or urban gardens. I’d love a vast plot one day (wouldn’t we all!) but for now and at least the near future I have built my little slice of outdoor heaven and I hope this inspires other small-space gardens to do the same! Please share any question, comments tips or tricks below! I’d love to hear from you.

Jaime xx

Samphire Hoe – Dover

It’s crazy to think that we’ve been living in Kent just over five years now and we still have so much to explore and see! It’s a huge county, and Ashford; where we currently live, feels like the perfect epicentre between London to the north, the coast to the south, the downs to the east and the Weald to the west. It’s the nature lover’s dream!

I’ve been wanting to visit Samphire Hoe for a while now – I’m always looking for rugged new spots for Sunday afternoon walks, and so when the sun began to shine brightly this weekend, we quickly donned our boots and thermals and headed down to the coast.

Samphire Hoe is a beauty spot located at the famous white cliffs of Dover, and in the low sun this Sunday, these majestic white cliffs certainly provided a magnificent backdrop. The Hoe has a plenty of metered parking and also a tea room/info centre, which is – according to their website- open everyday during peak season and every weekend year round. We couldn’t find anyone serving tea but we did speak to a friendly gentleman in the site office, who let us park for free when we had run out of small change, for the rather old fashioned pay machine (no pay by mobile here!) Located just of the A20 heading to Folkestone from Dover, it’s easy to find and makes a great place to stop for a quick stretch of legs or rustic family picnic.

Hope our photos give you a taste of what to expect at this lovely Kentish beauty spot.

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Jaime xx

#reasonsforbeinghappy – Week 5

It’s been a testing week! Long work days have left me feeling drained and weary, and mornings have seemed as brutal as the uprooting of long-established shrubs, who’s roots are firmly planted in their bed. Winter is a natural hibernation period for many species (Even the birds stop singing in Winter!) and so we must, in order to preserve our health, learn to take it easy and switch off this season. Although there have been lows this week, it is still possible to see the highs and I live for these moments. My goal is to make more of these moments and to savour them!

1. Clear home, clear mind
I have been reading lots lately about breaking free of the mundane, everyday ‘cycle’ we all live. More on that later! For now though, to work towards this freedom we all need to downsize our lives – stop buying ‘things’ and clear cupboards of their ‘stuff’. I have given away two bags of clothing this week – most items had not been worn for several years and the breathing room they leave behind is far more beneficial than saving them for ‘that’ day. Now just to work on Hubby’s side of the wardrobe…

2. Seasonal suppers
The foodie highlights this week have all been seasonal delights; Parsnip gratin, beetroot soup (A staple in our house!) and a gorgeous roast squash and leek risotto. Winter tummies favour the warm and the filling so dig out that slow cooker and stock up on seasonal roots this Winter. Featured image is of a beautiful Crown Prince squash (Fondly known in our house as a ghost pumpkin!) My all-time favourite squash; it’s sweet with firm flesh and delicious roasted whole with a filling of cream, thyme and Parmesan cheese. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

3. A bloggers chat
I finally caught up with my bestie and fellow blogger this week and what began as a quick catch up, turned into an epic chat about everything from world travel to teaching, and everything in between. We talked lots about the blog; she really is my go-to-girl for advice on the technical stuff and I came away from our chat with a new sense of determination and inspiration. I have dusted off my laptop and dug out my notebook – I can’t wait to share lots more posts with you this year!

#reasonsforbeinghappy from around the globe:

 

I love hearing good news! Congratulations @KaraWillow, good luck in your new position! Do you have any good news to cheer up this final cold winter month? Share your happy stories below!

Jaime xx

An Early Midwinter Morning

As I move around in gentle light. A shift’s occurred which ends the night. An ever flowing change by sun, which fades again once dusk’s begun. For now, I peek fresh-faced, anew, from hours of sleep a yearning to, start the day, light rises now, the moon steps back a graceful bow. A gentle mist hangs on the land, a winter frost clings on each strand, of grass, and plants alike do glisten with specks of glass and dew drops hidden. The birds will rise soon, crystals fade and melt in warming sunshine rays. The depth of Winter centres me, grounds me, holds me sets me free. Morning light, you let me see, morning light will be, will be.

Jaime xx

#reasonsforbeinghappy – week 4

I can feel it.  We are almost through January and Spring is not too far now. The evenings are getting lighter and in the garden, crocuses are beginning to peak above the leaf-mould canopy, to warm their growing stems in the ever-low  sun. The threat of snow still looms but with the longer days comes hope, a sense that all will be well and that good is coming.

1. Bulbs-a-springing

Crocuses, daffodils and snow drops, all beginning to appear in my garden. The fruit of last year’s labour when I planted what felt like a tonne of bulbs.

2. Birds-a- singing

Two homemade bird boxes (courtesy of a very handy hubby and the local wildlife club!) one pretty fresh water-holder, a peanut feeder, mealworm feeder, seeds and a fat-ball holder. Plus a big compost bin and lots of year-round green foliage have all helped to bring birds back to my garden. I just love slow weekend mornings spent watching the birds out the window, feeding and enjoying our garden wares. The excitement felt by my children last weekend when a blue tit explored one of the bird houses was just immense. We even have a resident robin! Stay tuned for a new post about how I brought nature back into my urban garden.

3. Baby arriving!

January can be a tough time of year. The highs of the holiday season seem like distant memories as we fall back into our daily routine and try to give our bank accounts a break. So nothing could warm my heart more this month than the news of a new baby! Congratulations to one of my dearest, oldest friends, we can’t wait to meet her!

#reasonsforbeinghappy from around the blogosphere:

@KitchenGoddess3: #reasonsforbeinghappy I’ve been on a fantastic long weekend to Edinburgh.The perfect chance to recharge my batteries

What are your reasons this week? Let us know below!

Jaime xx

Stay ahead with Bloglovin

Love reading blogs online? Look no further I have the perfect site for you! Bloglovin is a place for storing, sharing and connecting with blogs from different forums. If you currently follow blogs from wordpress like mine, and also have favourites elsewhere then why not follow them all together in one place! It’s a brilliant way to keep up to date with your favourite bloggers and the app makes it even easier to search and follow blogs. Download it here. Why not start right away!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Jaime xx

Seasonal Yoga – Winter

I was lucky enough to find a new class this week. Housed in a beautiful local environment centre, I’d been to this place lots before with my children; where we’d walk, forage and stop for hot chocolate on chilly afternoons. This week I followed up on a poster I’d seen on one such afternoon and grabbed a spot in a Kundalini Yoga class. My previous yoga experience has mainly been with Dru Yoga (and of course my beloved Yoga Studio app) so I was excited to branch out and develop my practice. I learnt so much in that first session and having spent the past 24 hours rolling the new wisdom around in my mind, I want to share a mantra that really stood out to me; work with the seasons.

In Winter, we naturally want to hibernate. We plump up to keep warm and as the sun rises later, so we find the waking harder, forcing our feet to find the chilly floor in the cave-like room, like early daffodils eager to bloom in the midst of January. The midst of Winter. We spend our evenings curled up with blankets and we slow down, a little, saving big plans for Spring holidays and long summers. Well this week my sleepy eyes were opened; we can, and must, extend this mantra into our practice. Don’t fight Winter, go with it. We are naturally less supple in the cold and for most of us, the last thing we want to do is wake ourselves up with a dynamic set of poses. Like birds who stop singing in Winter, we too need to conserve energy to survive the winter hardship, save the exertion for the Spring and for now, hibernate. Give in to the season and give yourself time, check your awareness as it flows from the top of your body and into your feet in soft waves. Do this in abundance. Now is the time to indulge in you and indulge in the still and the quiet.

In terms of yoga, Winter is not the time for ferocious challenges, for a billion rounds of sun salutations or for contorting your rigid muscles into new poses. Save it. Save it and be glad to know that you can tackle these with joy in the sun-blessed mornings of Spring, but for now be rested. Meditate and keep a soft, flowing practice, indulge in savasana and bring your focus back to the gentle fizz of awareness in your body.

Light a candle for your practice this weekend and lay still, check your awareness from top to tail and then hug your knees to your chest, gently pivoting them forward and back as you breathe in time. Compress – breathe out, release – breath in, letting your tummy fill deeply with air. Compress, release, compress.

Indulge in you this winter.

Jaime xx

Image credit: www.bevitality.com