#CookForSyria

I would like to introduce #CookForSyria.  This amazing idea was created by UNICEF ( an organisation that helps children in need all over the world ), Clerkenwell Boy ( an award-winning food instagrammer ), Serena Guen ( publisher, businesswoman and philanthropist )  and a few top chefs, as a way to fight the terrible humanitarian crisis in Syria.

#CookForSyria is a recipe book full of traditional and modern delicious Syrian, Middle Eastern food. Each recipe is donated by world-class chefs who want to make a difference! Any profits made on the sales of this incredible book are donated to aid the people of Syria affected by the tragic events.

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Food is about sharing and hospitality, we may only have a little for ourselves, but we will give some to you because we are all hungry. Food can form friendships and relationships and is an integral part of a community.  This book aims to capture that and bottle it, to use it to work towards peace.

I have already made four recipes out of his book and I’ve only had it a week and a half! They are so good! But the best one had to be this one:

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Syrian Onion and Parsley Meatballs on Spicy Cous Cous with Roasted Butternut Squash and a Tahini Yoghurt Sauce. 

It was seriously nice. Here’s the recipe for the meatballs, the sauce and the topping if you’d like to have a go:

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/2 kg of minced beef

1 large onion

a bunch of parsley

1 butternut squash

For The Sauce

2 tbsp tahini

2 tbsp yoghurt

2 tbsp water

juice of one lemon

1 clove of garlic

For The Topping

Handful of pine nuts

Knob of butter

 

Method:

Cut the butternut squash into cubes, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with oil. Roast in the oven until tender. 

Very finely chop the onion and parsley. Put both in a bowl with the mince and season. Mix together with your hands. Form into meatballs the size of ping pong balls and roast in the oven at 180C/356F for 10 minutes. 

Mix the tahini, yoghurt, lemon, water and finely chopped garlic together with some salt until it forms a smooth, runny consistency. If too thick, add a little drop of water. 

Melt some butter in a pan and toast some pine nuts.  

Layer the meatballs and butternut squash in a bowl, drizzle with the sauce and then the pine nut topping.

Serve hot with cous cous, flatbreads, pittas or salad and enjoy……….! 

I encourage you to buy this book, not only shall I tempt you with tales of pomegranate, spices, olives, pistachios, figs, bread, houmous and more, it is also working to change the world and to raise awareness of these people’s plight.

Let’s #CookForSyria to show we care!

 

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Poppa

 

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The next part of our adventure takes place in Kent. Currently we are living in a house here, taking care of a good friend’s 95 year old father.

We are looking after Poppa, as everyone calls him, in his own home on Romney Marsh.

It’s a lot of work looking after Poppa and a lot of it my parents have to do, but I am Chief Tea Maker and I do bake a lot of cakes and puddings for him, as he does have a very sweet tooth. He’s a lot of fun to be around and everyone loves him.

It’s funny, but exciting for us to live in a 3 bedroom house, seeing as we’ve only ever lived in tiny houses and, just recently, in the back of a car!

We have our own room, me, my brother and sister, and we look out of our window in the morning across the flat marsh with sheep grazing in the sunrise. It’s beautiful.

I’ve set up my own little corner on the landing with a table and a chair. I’m right next to a window again and the view looks like a painting. I have my stack of books and my writing stuff. And, of course, a tin of biscuits! It’s blissful.

This morning Poppa did some Homeschooling with us. He seemed to be enjoying himself. He made everyone laugh by playing Irys’ recorder!

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Looking after Pops is a pleasure for us.

We always said that if someone’s in need of help we would make it part of our journey to help them and we are.

 

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A good student

A few helpful tips and points from Andy

Today I was sitting in the manor house kitchen, sipping yannoh and chatting, when Andy came in.  “Hey Gracie,” he says, ” I’ve just read your blog.”  ” Is it all correct?” asks Mum, ” I mean all of the facts and figures?”  ” Well,” Andy answers ” I’ve made a few notes of things you could change, add or include.  Do you wanna come up to the office now?  We could discuss it, you can make some notes of your own”.  ” Sure.” I reply and I follow him up the creaky wooden staircase to what all of us call the ‘Top Office’.

The next hour or so was spent in a comfy chair, with a view out onto the wheat field, discussing extra information concerning wheat, illnesses, spelling mistakes, varieties, questions and so on.  I learned a lot in this short period of time, these are the main points that Andy talked about.

Now for Summer Harvest! Part 2.

 Why Do We Grow Heritage Wheat?

Heritage wheat is taller than modern wheat.  The reason why our ancestors grew tall wheat is because it grew higher than the weeds and so cast a shadow over them.  Obviously no plant can live without sunlight, so, simple as, the weeds died.

Now farmers want to put chemical fertilizer on, if they put it on the tall varieties of wheat they’d get super huge and topple over.  Therefore they have to create a small type of wheat so that when they put the fertilizer on the wheat grows to the right height.  But the weeds can grow easily in short wheat, so now what do we do?  Easy, we spray the field with weed killer!  Ah, but what if you’re an organic farm, like us?

Now you’ve covered your wheat field in weed killer,all the weeds are gone.  In most fields of modern wheat it’s all the same variety, unlike a lot of heritage wheat where it’s lots of different types.  Without the weeds the illness just passes from plant to plant to plant.  Whereas if there were weeds the disease would hit one and stop because that species isn’t affected by it.  Because all the plants are identical the illness spreads mega fast. So?  We can easily spray the plants with fungicides to stop diseases.  Oh no!  The organic problem has just popped up again. Eeeeeeeeeeek! Here come some pests, ahhhhhhhhhhhh, what can we do?  DON’T PANIC, we’ll just put some pesticides on. Grrrr, why does that same old prob keep ruining everything?!

So you see how many chemicals and horrible, disgusting, artificial substances are in the bread that you eat?  If we all just grew heritage wheat, all these things wouldn’t be needed.

Thanks Andy for your advice.

If you want to learn more about heritage wheat visit Andy’s wesite:

http://brockwell-bake.org.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Harvest!

Harvest weekend is here at last!

Harvest weekend is here at last!

Imagine this:  a field of beautifully  golden wheat, it’s perfectly ripe and sways gently in the warm, humid, summer breeze.  Harvest  weekend has finally arrived!

Where I live, on a farm in Sussex, the harvest is a big deal for everyone, men, women and children alike.  Everyone  has to muck in and pull their weight.

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Tiger enjoying herself.

Tiger enjoying herself.

Loading up the trailer

Loading up the trailer

Long ago scythes and sickles were the only means of harvesting, but recently they have been forgotten because of modern technology such as combine harvesters.  Not only do combine harvesters do the job in a very short amount of time, they also save a vast quantity of human sweat.

Working in the early evening sun

Working in the early evening sun

Everyone helps out.

Everyone helps out.

Andy, our chief baker here on the farm, is incredibly knowledgeable about all sorts of grains, baking and the whole process from grain to loaf.  People say that he is one of the most learned people about wheat.  He specialises in something called heritage wheat.

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Heritage wheat is very old wheat.  Wheat that you might say is not used by any farmers anymore, except growers of this heritage grain.  It’s Andy’s passion to reintroduce these old varieties back into use.  You may wonder how he gets hold of the grains, well, that’s simple enough.  There are two different ways.  Number one is a seed bank, there are usually one each country.  For every type of grain that is ever cultivated, they save about 180g.  People can get it from the bank in tiny quantities. Number two is more romantic, but probably less used.  It’s  where you visit an old mill and with special permission, take up the floorboards and gather the ancient grains that have fallen through over hundreds of years.  The absolute maximum age that you can still grow wheat at is around 40 years old.

The main reason why types of wheat get wiped out, is because of illnesses.  Most types last 8-9 years before an illness that can take them over forms.

Once you have the grains, maybe fifty or so of them, you sow them.  Then when you harvest them, you find that each head has say fifteen grains in it.  Again you sow all of these seeds and the numbers keep multiplying.  Soon you have a whole field of heritage wheat.

Anyhow, because we were harvesting heritage wheat, it seemed only proper that we did it traditionally.  Plus we were all wanting to do it with scythes and sickles.

We must get it in before tommorrow, because it is due to rain.

We must get it in before tommorrow, because it is due to rain.

Before the harvest Andy worked extremely hard, sowing, reaping, sowing again, reaping once again, he’d been nurturing this wheat for 7 long years.  We just came to help with the cherry on the cake.

All weekend long us workers harvested, sometimes having breaks to sit in the shade and sip cool icy water or run down to the river and have a refreshing swim.  Our wide-brimmed straw hats bobbed among the long yellow stems, as we waded through, collecting the heads of the Orange Devon Blue Rough Chaff, which is dark and furry and leaving the tall, light, velvetty Old Ken Hoary.  Us kids would run up to the taps and fill jug after jug of cold water, then pour it into cups with a splash of ginger cordial for the other workers.  We’d cut sheaths of a certain type of wheat and tie it with tape, writing its name, whether Welsh Hen Gymro or Chidham Red.  We separated the weed from the wheat, all the while munching on crunchy grains.  Each tastes a little different, Old Kent Hoary is slightly spicy, ODBRC is more sweet.

Evan working hard

Evan working hard

Chewing grains of wheat

Chewing grains of wheat

where's Irys?

where’s Irys?

Ah! There she is!

Ah! There she is!

At noon we all walked down to the manor house for a delicious and totally traditional lunch of pickles, cheese and , of course, bread! We all talked pleasantly and discussed the afternoon’s work.  The puddings were all made by me, they included flapjacks and rhubarb & plum crumble. In the evening there was music, meat, a campfire and beer.

Yum!

Yum!

The grand finale of the harvest weekend was when we loaded all of the sheaths onto the tractor trailer and followed it up to the bakery were we unloaded and had a team photo taken on the trailer.  Then we all rode back to the field to do it again!

Such a wonderful photo, full of beauty

Such a wonderful photo, full of beauty

Daddy!

Daddy!

Tiger looks like a proper country girl here!

Tiger looks like a proper country girl here!

This is Andy proudly showing off his the product of his hard work

This is Andy proudly showing off his the product of his hard work

 

Lulu waiting to catch the sheaf that is about to be thrown down to her.

Lulu waiting to catch the sheaf that is about to be thrown down to her.

Well done!

Well done!

Overall I loved doing the harvest, getting a feel of how it used to be for people in the books I read, like Laura out of Little House on the Prairie, and learning so much.  This weekend has been part of my homeschool life education.

 AwesomeTeam photo!

AwesomeTeam photo!

ME!

ME!

Lulu, Evan, Tiger, Irys, Dad and Me

Lulu, Evan, Tiger, Irys, Dad and Me

Tiger and Ev on the trailer

Tiger and Ev on the trailer

 

A good view!

A good view!

Blackbird Rescue

On Saturday Mum, Irys and I were sitting inside, when we heard shouting outside and saw Dad’s hand by the window, in it was a male blackbird.  I rushed outside, so did Irys. “Is it dead? Dad, is it OK?” I asked. Dad and Evan explained how they’d found the poor bird hanging upside down by a thread tangled round it’s claw. It had been hanging there on a bramble.

Blackbird Rescue

Blackbird Rescue

I went in and got a pair of scissors, gently I tried to cut the thread off. He squirmed and fidgeted, but Dad stroked and soothed him. By this time Mum had emerged and she began the delicate operation of freeing the bird from the string. Eventually it fell off and we picked up our little blackbird and put him in a small sheltered  building. As we put him down, we noticed that his leg fell from under him. I thought it might have been broken. He sat down and rested with his eyes closed. We got him a worm and a dish of water.

Bad day for blackbird

Bad day for blackbird

A Delicate Operation

A Delicate Operation

When we went out, we freed him and he hopped off. Hopefully he’ll soon be back to normal and singing his sweet song again.

"Thank you for rescuing me, but I'm glad I'm free now"

“Thank you for rescuing me, but I’m glad I’m free now”

Project Patrignano

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The Logo

 

As part of my schoolwork, I’m doing a project about a drug rehabilitation community in Italy.   Everytime I do some of my project I learn about a different aspect of the community, from their daily life and how they are helped to the addicts stories and other peoples experiences when they visited.  This time I covered how San Pa (it’s nickname) started, a little of it’s history and a few significant events that have made it what it is today.

Hopefully this will be the first of many blogs on San Patrignano.

I’m interested in them because I’d really like to go there one day, I would love the experience and I really want to help people and through San Pa I think I could.  I think I could learn a lot from them about how to be a light in the darkness and while I’m there I might pick up a few Italian cooking tips, too.

PROJECT PATRIGNANO

In 1978 a man, named Vincenzo Muccioli, was concerned about the use of drugs in our world and wanted to help people who were addicted and needed some guidance and love.  He invited a small group of young adults into a house his family owned, where they lived with Vincenzo and his friends, who were helping him with the project.  Gradually more people wanted to come and Vincenzo and his friends found it hard to ignore their needs.  The first workshops, livestock areas and gardens started to appear and slowly the little community was growing into the big, successful one it is today.

By 1982 San Patrignano was home to about 200 people housed in trailers and outbuildings, by 1992 it had multiplied its population by 10,  giving it a total of 2000 residents.

On the 19th September 1995, in the midst of difficult times, Vincenzo died.

Anyhow, San Pa didn’t die, Vincenzo’s son Andrea took up his fathers role and still runs San Patrignano today.  He knew it was important to keep his dads good work going.

In 1996 the first ‘Vincenzo Muccioli Challenge’ international show jumping competition was held in his honour, at the community’s equestrian centre.  The next year they received certification as a non-government organization.

In 2002 and 2004 San Patrignano organized and managed a drug abuse prevention campaign for the prime minister, at last they were getting the recognition the deserved.

Every year thousands of students and professionals from Italy and all over the world go to learn more about San Pa and that gives them more contact on the internet, which helps more people to find out about them.

In 2006 Andrea Muccioli was awarded the title ‘Social Entrepreneur of the Year’.

Also in that year, San Pa launched the 2You project, implemented in 20 different Italian cities, teaching  school age children about drug abuse.

Since ’78 the community has welcomed over 20,000 people, 70% of whom have turned drug free and gone back to live with their families really happy.

GO SAN PATRIGNANO!!!!!!!