Accidental Edinburgh Fringe ‘Greek’ yogurt

Last week I took a notion to make yogurt.

I was prompted in part by reading Tom Hunt’s Waste not column in Feast in the Saturday Guardian.

Each week in the Feast food supplement, Tom Hunt highlights various ways to reduce waste in the kitchen focusing on a different ingredient each week. This week it was chillies.

To make the most of chilli waste, you can save discarded seeds and dry them to season other dishes, and in something of a revelation to me, it turns out that the green stalks of chillies contain the beneficial bacteria lactobacillus and can be used instead of a starter to make yogurt.

I had chillies that I was using to make Menemen ( Turkish egg dish) for brunch and lots of milk – so was looking forward to trying out this eco tip.

So far so good – except I had not read to the end of the recipe – where I noticed it asks for 10-15 chilli stalks.

While I do like my Turkish style eggs spicy – 10 chillies is a bit too spicy !

Having decided to make yogurt I did a quick trawl of the internet for yogurt recipes – more by way of a reminder of quantities, as I have made yogurt in the past.

In my teenage years, I went through a phase of making soft cheese ( crowdie) and yogurt. I would like to say I was ahead of the artisan foodie curve but probably closer to the truth is that I lived on a farm in a small Highland village & was just a bit of an oddball.

Making yogurt is not complicated – and sometimes can happen by accident as I found out when I left a carton of milk on the windowsill of a Premier Inn hotel room on a business trip a while back. Reader – I ate it.

So back to my yogurt making – having gleaned the essential facts from the internet and reminded myself of the steps and quantities – this is what I did.

1. Gently heated up a pint of full-fat milk.

2. Left milk to cool to the temperature of a hot bath ( 45 degrees C )

3. I then took a couple of tablespoonfuls of Greek yogurt – from an existing tub, to use as the starter.

4. To warm the starter, I mixed a couple of tablespoons of the warmed milk into the Greek yogurt to make it runny and less cold before adding it back into the rest of the warmed milk.

5. I used my slow cooker to heat up the stoneware container so that the mixture went into something warm. If you don’t have a slow cooker – the important thing is to put the mixture into something that can retain heat – a thermos or just a sealed container than will keep the temperature even.

6. Having warmed the container – I put the yogurt ( that I had warmed a bit) into the warm milk then put the starter + milk mixture into the warmed slow cooker pot.

7. I switched the slow cooker off and took the stoneware container up to a warm room where I covered it in a thick blanket and left it for a few hours.

About 5 hours later it was well on the way to becoming yogurt but I decided to leave it overnight.

The next morning TA DA !

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It tasted ok – quite mild, but I thought it was a bit runny and as I eat a lot of Greek yogurt I thought I would try straining it to see how it turned out.

I put the yogurt into a muslin lined sieve over a bowl and left it to drip in its own time.

I was heading out to a show at the Edinburgh book festival so I just left it dripping.

We ended up staying out later than planned and going to some more stuff at the Fringe so the yogurt had been doing its dripping thing for about 9 hours by the time we got back.

The result was a small ball of thick yogurt – maybe closer to fromage blanc than Greek yogurt in texture – but with a lovely mild flavour.

As I don’t have any pigs I drank the leftover whey – the strained liquid. No idea if it’s good for you but it was a refreshing slightly tart drink.

To make the yogurt a bit creamier I added back in a couple of spoons of full fat milk and the end result was quite close to the shop bought varieties.

It’s a fairly easy thing to do. I don’t think it gives any better result than buying a tub, but it’s quite satisfying making your own.

I might experiment with different types of milk ( e.g. Jersey or unhomogenised ) and also the length of time I strain it to see if that makes a difference to the end result.

Meanwhile, I have started saving my chilli tops in the freezer ( which I hope does not destroy the lactobacillus) and when I reach 15 I will give the chilli yogurt a whirl.

art on a Monday

 

Unusually for a Monday morning at 9am, I was queueing to get into BBC’s big tent in Edinburgh to watch the recording of Janice Forsyth’s Radio Scotland show. Was a last minute thing to do when a friend asked me to join her.

Each day the magazine showcases a tiny but eclectic mix of what’s on at Edinburgh Festival and Fringe,  and I had no idea who we might see. As it turned out – this ‘chaos of delights’ as described by Janice had a loose theme around ‘finding your voice’ featuring – impressionist Jon Culshaw, a Capella singer Kate Dimbleby, all-round Renaissance man and ball of energy Robin Ince, each providing small snapshot of their shows with a  light touch and laughter to start the week.

While I knew both Jon Culshaw and Robin Ince – the beauty of this format is discovering something unheard of. Today for me from the official festival Geoff Sobelle’s theatre piece – Home- described as ‘a spectacle and illusion, choreography, storytelling and music’.  Geoff and his musical partner Elvis Perkins talked us through the idea behind Home and shared short musical taster.

More music came from the contrasting styles of Super Furry Animals lead singer Gruff Rhys, and blues band ensemble Blueswater – providing toe-tapping playing, stellar singing and a  harmonica virtuoso.

A smorgasbord, an amuse bouche, a carefully portioned taster of just a few of the shows on in  Edinburgh at the moment.

Janice Forsyth holds it all together with an easy grace and humour. Would be nice if all Mondays could start this way.

 

 

grace and gratitude

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Went out running this morning –  earlyish. I could say it was with a spring in my step and vim in my vigour but that would be fake news.

The grey mist and drizzly gloom of yesterday had lifted and the air was fresh ( funny how quickly we wish the hot, hot temperatures would return after only a few days of rain). I was listening to a good podcast – an episode of the Food Programme featuring chef Marcus Samuelsson*  The story of his life through food is full of twists and turns and distracted me from my niggly knee and cranky outlook.

As I reached the turning point in this 3-mile run – it’s beyond half way and feels like the home straight- I saw a favourite tree against a background of watery sunlight and blue and white sky. On a summer evening, this is a good place to watch the swifts and house martins swoop and glide.

Today as I ran past the tree, I saw a small feather flutter slowly down from the branches above and running, caught it mid-flight and mid-stride in a rare elegant move.

Graceful even.

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*BBC R4 Food Programme – Episode with Dan Saladino featuring Marcus Samuelsson  ‘Keep it Sticky’

 

 

Hair raising tales of sub zero running

Excuse my feeble attempt at a clickbait headline, I must be spending way too much time reading Buzzfeed quizzes and letting those  ‘lose belly fat now’ Facebook messages seep into my consciousness.

In the interests of accuracy, this tale is short on drama and is mostly an excuse to share some pictures taken during a beautiful cold day on Sunday, when my hair froze when I was out running.

Nothing alarming really, and although chilly at minus 5 degrees C the air was dry and the paths easy to run on.

Give me frozen hair over a slippery path any day.

Home run weekend – December days

IMG_2679After the hurly burly of London life, it’s good to get back home and run in more of a rural setting. I run these same paths all year and have done now since I started running in 2009, but now that they are temporarily reserved for weekend running, I really appreciate the space and peace and realise how restorative time in the countryside is.

And of course to run with friends.

I had slightly fallen out of love with the Dell path and its variations after miles of marathon training.  I stopped seeing the tiny changes of nature and instead only saw trees as milestones of intervals and tempo runs.

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This weekend was icy cold with temperatures as low as minus 6 degrees on our Sunday run. Face tingling, crisp air gasping, cold runs with chums.

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December – Ho Ho Ho and the comfort of traditions

So here we are again – another year is coming to an end and my all time favourite month is here. I say favourite but it is a bit of a love/hate thing. Mostly I love December – it’s my birthday month and I can deal with winter even if the older I get, the more I find the short days a tough gig and increasingly look to December sparkly excess to carry me across to a new year and longer days.

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There is something about approaching a year end that makes you even more aware of your unfulfilled life ‘to do’ list and take a reflective view of the story so far. Then for me anyhow, I just end up carrying forward unticked life goals into another year !

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Back when my girls were younger – December heralded a kind of rabbit in the headlights – let’s just get through this month kind of vibe. In between badly crafting Nativity costumes, baking for the Christmas fayre and watching the end of year dance shows, I poured flame on the December fire by creating extra, arguably unnecessary, traditions of ‘our family advent’ and Christmas morning baking.

Then as my children became young adults – I switched my December madness to a different focus so for the past few years, I have opted to run every day in December – following a Scottish based challenge –  the Marcothon – where you run a minimum of 3 miles every day in December.

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And just in case running every day was a bit too easy – the first time I did this, I decided to write about running every day in an aptly named blog Decemberism and found that writing about running every day was almost as hard as running.

Time passes and I am more of an established runner now – but alas not an established writer. It is tough to commit to running every day for sure – but I find it a lot harder to write daily, or even to just  get into a writing habit.

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So this year I am going to make a big fat effort to write more, and if I can I will run each day in December even if it’s just a run around the block on some days. I will keep to this daft December habit not least because, after 6 years of doing this, it has become a December ritual and maybe like many of us I find comfort in the salve of habits that over time become traditions.

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writing and running in the key of green

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Running in the months of  January, February and quite a bit of March – the skies have been grey, the trees bare and the paths muddy brown.

But this weekend the sun came out and as if by magic everywhere was green.

Wild garlic seemed to grow overnight into a lush fresh carpet of pungent loveliness and even my neglected garden threw up some vibrant colour – bless my everlasting die hard euphorbias.

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With Monday a rest day from running, I picked some of the wild garlic and made pesto.

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Mid life marathon training tales – with bonus horoscope feature !

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It turns out that those of us with star sign Capricorn are sure-footed late developers. I am definitely given to a bit of pondering and weighing up of options on significant decisions before jumping right in – but whether this is written in the stars or just how I am depends on how much store you may put on astrology and other unscientific interpretations of life.

Astrology aside, in a rare impulsive moment ( following a year-long debate with myself), I signed up for a marathon. I don’t want to fully admit to going through a bit of a mid-life wobble – but how else to explain why I voluntarily forked out £ 55 to let me run for many hours covering a distance of 26.2 miles on my own 2 feet ?

I have no idea !!!

Having running as my hobby of choice for 8 years, I have often thought that a marathon was maybe something I should really do at some point – a natural progression as it were. But when discussing the marathon experience with fellow runners – I can’t say it got a ringing endorsement !

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And unfortunately as a moderately experienced runner and reluctant competitor – when it comes to thinking what taking part in a marathon might entail – I do not have the benefit of blissful ignorance. Not for me that unfettered happiness, or joyful optimism of just setting out to ‘do a marathon’ with no insight as to how shit I might feel before the end.

I have run a few half  marathons – and I know and remember how tough it can be to keep running for a long time in a race and just how much you have to dig deep to find mind tricks to help you cover the distance. Maybe if you are a proper runner who runs a 10 miler daily as a small ‘amuse bouche’ of your running diet , or you are a dedicated competitor who loves winning above pain – then this overrides any negative self talk.

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But as I am neither of these, each time I have completed a half marathon – at around mile 10 or 11- I think ‘I am not doing this EVER again’ followed quickly by the recognition that of course to get to the end  I just need to keep going for about 25 or more minutes or the equivalent of just one ‘December run’ or I try to break it down to how many songs in 3 miles  – 7, 8 ?

Then of course as I cross the finish line, I experience  a level of euphoria that is hard to convey – but never at that point have I had a desire to just loop back and do it all again.

But as the most excellent Erica Jong said – Feel the Fear and do it anyway, and so I am 🙂

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Notes

I am signed up for the inaugural Stirling marathon on May 21st – if I finish it I am guaranteed a PB and if I get the marathon bug ( unlikely ) I could be one of those folk who do it every year until I crumble into a crinkly heap.

To help me make this big leap – I am working with Sally at fitnaturally who is providing a training plan and to be honest she has helped me have the confidence to even contemplate this big challenge.  I will  be writing about my ventures into this new territory.

 

 

 

Commuting musings – Friday 26 Aug

Today after a misty kind of gloomy Thursday, the sun is shining.  I frequently walk along  various lengths of this stretch of the canal – and prefer walking over running or cycling.  The slower pace of walking is meditative and I see more. Early morning sunshine is always uplifting but maybe even more so when you live in a place where these few sunny days are to be cherished.  Late August there is a tiny hint of Autumn and a reminder that these lovely long days of summer daylight are beginning to shorten.  Sometimes when I start my working day with this 30 minute nature interlude the temptation to bunk off  work and just keep walking is very strong.

But so far I have not yielded to temptation …

 

Rainy Friday run

Most Fridays by the time I get home , I just feel like pouring a glass of wine, eating some salty snacks and mellowing out the week that was. Is a very nice way to unwind and start the weekend.

But now and again I make an effort to run after work on a Friday , and when I do wonder why I don’t do it more often.

A couple of glasses of Sauvignon blanc and some of my favourite Tyrrell crisps is an enjoyable way to soften the edges of the working week and to punctuate the start of the weekend – but an end of week  run seems to deliver a bigger benefit on the mood enhancing front.

And by way of a bonus – I am writing this at 8am the day after with a clear head and a bit more energy than usual.

This week I have not managed to do much running or exercise generally. I hurt my back on Sunday and it has put me off running a bit ( or maybe for once it made sense to listen to my body telling me to rest and recover).

The weather has been doing that cruel thing of delivering magical sunny, warm days during the working week – only for it to return to more typical Scottish August rain come Friday.  But despite this weekend change of weather, as I walked back from the train station dodging puddles and car splashes – I could feel the freshness in the air and was really looking forward to getting out in the rain – feeling it on my skin and clearing my head.

Maybe not the best conditions for taking pictures, but perfect salve for the soul.

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