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vegetating Just Vegetating: A Memoir

What does the gardener do during the long winter evenings when pottering in the garden simply isn’t an option?  Well, at the moment, I’m dipping into a memoir by Joy Larkcom.  Aside from having a glorious name, Joy is a gardening writer, who, during the 70’s, toured Europe to find out how people grew vegetables in different parts of the continent and to bring back rare varieties to the UK.  Her work changed how we grow our veg today, as well as recording, in some cases, practices that were disappearing from the landscape.  This memoir includes Joy’s writing from that trip, as well as her later discoveries in China and her own gardens back in the UK and later in Ireland.  A wonderful companion for those winter evenings.

Just Vegetating: A Memoir by Joy Larkcom

Check out some of Joy’s other books about growing vegetables: 
The Organic Salad Garden
Creative Vegetable Gardening
Grow Your Own Vegetables
Oriental Vegetables

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We don’t often cover motorway services on this blog, but the original Offmotorway website was created because of the dire state of the food (particularly vegetarian food) served at the UK’s motorway service stations.  The site existed to recommend getting off the motorways and finding alternatives, which is still largely to be desired of course.  However I do occasionally cover interesting developments when something pops up!  And in this spirit, I finally made it to the new(ish) services at Beaconsfield, Junction 2 of the M40.

beaconsfieldservices

The services caused a stir when they opened earlier this year as this is the site of the first pub allowed at a motorway services, operated by JD Wetherspoon.  But that aside, this is a slightly different service station, which makes for a pleasant stop.  It feels more like a shopping centre than a services, with a large, airy interior.  There’s a huge selection of food outlets, so no shortage of veggie options, although they are all chains.  Patisserie Valerie are there, a favourite still, despite it’s expansion over recent years to near ubiquity in every town in the country!

What sets this place apart though, is the outside space, with a lake, small walking trail, picnic area and children’s play area.  All free to use of course, even if you bring your own sandwiches and flask of tea.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of having a pub at a motorway services, at least here there is evidence of careful thought having gone into the design.  And you can take a proper, relaxing break here if you want to rather than just be ripped off buying terrible food!


The reason I ended up writing ‘Early Vegetarian Recipes’ was because of a lady called Florence George, a cookery teacher and writer from the early 20th century.  She just happened to have a been a teacher at my old school (slightly before I attended.  Obviously), who wrote a book called ‘Vegetarian Cookery’ in 1908.  It was while looking for her book in the British Library that I discovered the other wonderful vegetarian writers of the time.

I’ve now discovered a book, published by the school (King Edward VI High School), which looks at the life of Florence George and the history of cookery teaching in schools.  It’s a fascinating story as Florence was one of the first teachers to attend the National Training School of Cookery in London.

A large portion of the book is devoted to recipes, including a section of vegetarian recipes.  They are mostly simple recipes as you would expect from a school collection, but there’s plenty  here for adults looking for something quick and easy.  These tasty chick pea croquettes fall into that category.

chickpeafritters

Chick Pea Croquettes

1 1/2 lb cooked chick peas
2 cloves garlic
2 tblspns chopped parsley
1 medium potato, cooked
1 tblspn soy sauce (use tamari for wheat free recipe)
squeeze lemon juice
seasoning
flour for coating (use gluten free)
vegetable oil for frying

Mash the chick peas with the garlic and potato.  Add parsley, soy sauce, lemon juice and seasoning and mix well.

Roll the mixture into croquette of fritter shapes, then into the flour.  Cool in the fridge for 1 hour if possible.  Fry the croquettes or brush with oil before cooking under the grill.

Recipes for Success: 125 Years of Cookery at King Edward VI High School for Girls by Sally Huxley

Don’t blame me, it’s the title of a rather wonderful little book that tells you all you need to know about baking, including, of course, how to avoid a soggy bottom (to your pies)!  And if you don’t know what to do with yourself now that The Great British Bake Off has finished, this is for you.

Written, rather brilliantly, by Gerard Baker, this book gives you a mini history of how cakes, bread and biscuits all evolved over time, as well as the scientific basis for how the ingredients work.  Thus you find out the difference between puff pastry and flaky pastry, how biscuits got their name and how to avoid some common baking problems.  Each section comes with a simple, well described recipe.

I love the histories in this book, but also that it manages to teach the basics without sounding condescending.  It’s beautifully written and designed and should absolutely have a place on the shelves of every baker, new or experienced.

How to Avoid a Soggy Bottom and Other Secrets to Achieving a Good Bake by Gerard Baker

I have to admit that I’ve only stopped off here for a late night coffee, but Le Train Bleu restaurant quickly became one of my favourite places.  Despite a rather unpromising location above the Gare de Lyon in Paris, it’s full of atmosphere, and transports you to another time and place, whilst leaving you feeling impossibly glamorous!  That’s quite an achievement for a cup of coffee and a couple of macaroons!

Open since 1901, the café claims Coco Chanel, Brigitte Bardot, Jean Cocteau,  Salvador Dali, Jean Gabin and Marcel Pagnol as regular customers.  The restaurant certainly lends itself to rendezvous of all kinds!

The main restaurant.

The main restaurant. (c) Le Train Bleu

I loved the old, rather beaten up furniture in the nook where we drank our coffee.

I loved the old, rather beaten up furniture in the nook where we drank our coffee.

Coffee and macaroons!

Coffee and macaroons!

 

Le Train Bleu, Gare de Lyon, Paris

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