Friday, 5 July 2013

My rooftop garden

And now for something slightly different: A couple of months ago, I moved house, from a place with no outdoor space whatsoever, to a place with a sizable roof terrace. I'm very excited about this, and have been gardening like mad! I have a mix of herbs, vegetables and flowers (whereby I tried to pick good flowers for bees), and most of my containers (as well as my garden furniture :D) was either found or re-used from other stuff. Just some pics to show you what I've been up to:

Making a pallet garden

Filling the pallet with earth

...and planting the first plants: thyme, strawberries, lavender and echinacea

The pallet in its vertical position, after giving the plants a week to settle in horizontal position. I added some flowering plants, cat grass (in a bid to keep my two furry monsters away from the rest of the plants :-)), various kinds of lettuce, and planted land cress, garden cress and coriander seeds.

The bean box, built from the wood of an old Ikea futon frame

The pallet plants growing

...and adding irrigation pipes (old curtain rails with holes drilled in them) when watering the pallet proved tricky

The emergence of the snow peas

Box built from shelves of a disused Ikea shelving unit, filled with tomatoes and indian cress

...and the terrace today :-)

You can't see it too well here, but my honeysuckle is growing enthusiastically. Also in the pot are rosemary and lavendar, and in the pot next to it are indian cress, mint, and a courgette plant - unfortunately, I think the courgette has Zucchini Yellow Mosaic Virus, and I'll have to take it out as it's unlikely to produce much :(

Under the second pallet, the rucola has blossomed (after I got to use loads of it in pastas and salads) - once it goes to seed, I'll try to harvest and save it for next year.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Great vegan fennel and asparagus risotto

Joy! My weekly CSA packages have started up again: I get mine from a small vegetable farm run by a friend, Tuinderij de Groene Steen. In the winter months there isn't enough produce to make the packages, so I have to do without. However, they've been back for a few weeks now, and this week my package included - among other things - fennel, green asparagus, and fresh garlic, which I turned into a deeeeelicious risotto. I'm currently trying to refrain from eating the portion I saved for lunch tomorrow....

This is an adaptation of a recipe I've been making for a long time: before, I've always used roasted red peppers in stead of asparagus - either way is lovely, I'd recommend you make this version in asparagus season, and red pepper the rest of the year :)

(serves 2)

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 3 small onions, chopped
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, minced (adjust quantity to taste)
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, chopped, including stalks and fronds
  • 120 ml dry white wine
  • 120 grams arborio rice
  • 500 ml vegetable stock
  • 8 large green asparagus, heads removed and stems halved lengthwise (if you have smaller asparagus, use more and leave them whole)
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 tbs ground almonds
  • 3 tbs nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • salt and pepper to taste


1) Gently grill the asparagus - both the halved stems and the heads - in a grill pan or under the grill in your oven. Turn and taste occasionally: The asparagus should be cooked, but still firm. When they are done, remove from heat and set aside.

2) Meanwhile, over a low fire, gently sauté the onions, garlic and fennel in the olive oil, for 10-15 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent.

3) Add the rice, and fry with the vegetables briefly, stirring so the grains are covered in oil. Then, add the white wine, and cook until the wine is absorbed - this should only take a couple of minutes.

4) Add 1/3 of the vegetable stock, and simmer gently. When it begins to be absorbed add more in small amounts: you may not need all the stock, and cooking times can vary depending on the rice you use. It took about 25 minutes for my rice to cook, taste regularly to see whether yours is done: risotto should be very soft in texture. When it reaches that point, stop adding stock and remove from heat.

5) Chop the grilled asparagus stalks into bite-sized pieces, and stir into the risotto.

6) In a bowl, combine the nutritional yeast, almonds, garlic and onion powder and salt. Then, stir into the risotto together with the lemon zest. Taste for seasoning, and garnish servings with grilled asparagus heads.