Free food, yes it’s everywhere and there’s no need to be afraid of it. Autumn is, without doubt the most exciting time for food lovers in our country as our temperate climate lends it self so well to an abundance of fruits and nuts practically weighing down heavy boughs and begging to be picked. Apples are throwing themselves at us and we’d be mad not to take them. Who in their right mind would choose a too-sweet Pink Lady shipped from New Zealand and with a hefty price when all we have to do is make friends with that woman down the street whose apple branches are leaning out onto the road
That unwritten but much mentioned law in our European mainland where you are free to take whatever fruit that leans out onto the pavement and gets in the faces of passers-by, doesn’t exist so staunchly here. You are more likely to feel embarrassment if caught, red handed, helping yourself to the neighbours plums. If you see something sticking out, clearly not being used then why not knock on a door and ask if you can have the free food that’s going to rot on the ground otherwise. In my home-town of Limerick there’s a little walkway behind some houses that’s an Alladin’s cave of free stuff; apple trees lean cheekily into the lane, so that’s an apple tart for me, beautiful and bountiful elder trees provide flowers and berries and are out of the way of nasty sprays, rosehips are ready now too and people also unofficially use one of the walls for compost and emptying lawn mowers so there is the finest crop of nasturium seeds for pickling, as well as the odd tomato plant in summer. It’s an accidental permaculture community garden, there to be fed from and enjoyed.
Just this morning the lovely Maggie knocked on my door with a box of sweet apples, a bunch of the darkest green cavalo nero kale and a bowl of walnuts. Now normally I buy my nuts from the supermarket and I don’t doubt they are sprayed in their homeland of California before spending weeks on a container ship, contributing to a massive carbon footprint just so I can feed my foodie desires. Walnuts are one of the most perfect foods being full of protein (no, it’s not just in meat) fibre and antioxidants (things that help you get bad other stuff our of your body). It is said that nature provides us with the right food for the parts of our bodies that need it most, so walnuts look a lot like little brains and that’s because they are especially good for your brain health, being full of those healthy omega 3 fatty acids. Eating walnuts regularly will help to lower your bad cholesterol and don’t listen to the old rumours that nuts are fattening, we all know enough now about the good fats in nuts, avocados and coconuts (also a nut) to chow down happily on a small hand-full of nuts every day.
Walnut and Chickpea Brownies
I made these up one evening when I was mad for something sweet, cupboard was bare and nobody could be bribed to go to the shops to buy Chunchies. They are madly simple and totally tasty and smugly gluten, dairy and refined sugar free to boot. The chick peas might seem like a mad ingredient but they make the brownies very moist and pack a protein punch.
Preheat oven to 180degrees C
Line a tray with baking parchment about 8 x 20 cm (medium)
1 cup walnuts
1 cup dates
4 tblsp coconut oil
1 tin cooked chick peas, drained and rinsed
50mg dark chocolate
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
In a food processor blitz the nuts to a rough powder, add the dates and blitz again and add everything else but the chocolate.
Chop the chocolate into small chunks and mix it into the brownie mix which will be quite thick and chunky.
Spread the mix into your prepared tray and bake for 35-40 mins. Leave in the tray until fully cooled as they are very fally-aparty otherwise. These keep for days and taste even better as time goes on. Use them to make friends with vegan Hollywood-A listers.
Apple and Walnut Smoothie
I was recently cornered by a well-known actor who was keen to tell me his recipe for a cacao-maca smoothie. Now I might be into all this healthy food but there’s nothing I enjoy less than someone who talks to me like it’s me talking to myself so I zoned out but I did perk up when he talked about this apple-green smoothie. Personally I would not eat raw kale in a fit as it’s too hard to digest but you can’t argue that it well trendy still. There’s a reason why we only fed it to cows in this country, kale needs to be cooked well for us to be able to break down the tough fibers but I do love it, especially with some crispy fried chorizo and a poached egg on sourdough, yummm. Make this in a nutribullet or regular blender.
1 1/2 oz collard greens - kale (optional)
1 orange - peeled
1 apple - chopped
3 tbsp walnuts
1 tbsp flaxseed
1 cup water
1 cup ice
Fire everything into a blender and blitz, decorate your glass with a few extra nuts for show.
P.S if you love oranges and can’t be bothered chowing through loads of them them just peel a few and fire them into the nutribullet and zap, delicious orange smoothie.
Hats off to our amazing Urban Co-op, now re-located to Ballysimon in the Eastway Business park who just last week welcomed their 1000th member. The co-op has gone from strength to strength from our first home in Limerick city centre and now the new premises with extra rooms for cooking demos and yoga classes. You can get locally grown, organically produced seasonal veg, eggs, sourdough breads and grain free baked goods, raw milk, goat butter and yogurt for anyone who can’t tolerate cows milk and a huge range of dry goods like brown basmati rice, lentils, great coffee from a number of Irish and international producers as well as fresh and frozen organically reared chicken and chicken livers, feet, carcasses and necks as well as the best quality red meat, . The co-op draws shoppers from far and wide and just keeps on growing.