The sprouting life

I love reading about polar exploration. No idea why, but I find accounts of bewhiskered Victorians tramping through the ice eating their shoes endlessly fascinating. All the more so now that I live within shouting distance of the Arctic Circle.

I was reading about William Edward Parry, and how he kept his crew fit by growing mustard and cress on top of the heating pipes inside their ice bound ship, and instantly decided to give it a go. 
Now, I won't pretend that scurvy is a clear and present danger in Aberdeen in 2013. Hardly that. But there are days when the wind howls and the rain pelts and everything is the exact shade of slate grey, when the last thing you want is to leave the house to buy plastic wrapped pasticky vegetables. And those days can fall on May 23rd, like today.
On those days it's just easier to take inspiration from a book of Polar exploration than from Elisabeth David waxing lyrical about the diet of the Mediterranean peasant.

Also, it dispels that weedy hippy image you can't help associating with sprouts. Not that Polar explorers are gourmands, but weedy? No.

Turns out, it's very easy to sprout stuff. Seeds just can't help themselves, they really really want to become plants. So this method works with anything, but to my taste, lentils are the best. They are quick and they are so delicious, you can't stop munching once they're out. Seriously. Forget about the health thing, these things are just plain irresistible.

You need a biggish glass jar, very clean, with no lid. Fill it about a third of the way with lentils.  Cover with water and let it soak eight hours or so.

Now drain it well. Cover the jar with a piece of muslin . I find the ones sold in pharmacies best for this. Snap a rubber band to hold it in place.

You rinse the lentils twice a day. This takes about three seconds. Simply pour water through the muslin, swirl it a bit, pour it out through the muslin, which acts like a sieve.

In a couple of days you will see little curlicues.  These are Polar times. I bet they sprout more quickly in warm climates. 
You can eat them like that, but I like to wait a bit more, until they look like tadpoles. 

Once they're ready, rinse and keep in the fridge, with a proper lid on. They keep for a few days like that, but I generally eat them pretty quickly. They make a perfect snack, with a little salt or soy sauce.


Picnic season

Picnic season is here. It doesn't matter if you are in the "sit on a nettle, eating a wasp" camp or constantly babble "everything tastes better outdoors".
 Like it or not, at some point between now and the end of September you will be balancing a sandwich on your knee.

I myself, am a big fan. I am so prone to picnics that I have several times dragged my children to our neighbourhood park in dead of winter, clutching a thermos of hot chocolate and some biscuits, the better to enjoy the too-early sunsets.
Scotland has that very British craziness of combining the perfect scenery with the worst possible weather. And yet we soldier on.

I won't post recipes, because really, all you need for a picnic is some sunshine, a bit of grass or sand, a blanket, cheese, bread, fruit and water. And if you can make sure the beer is cold, bless you. And nobody ever said no to chocolate.
And don't forget to pack a bottle opener, and a fresbee, or a ball, or a kite, or something that will lull you into a pleasant sense of having been active and outdoorsy as you drift off into a well deserved nap.

I was used to hot weather picnics, which mean coolers full of ice where you nestle the cherries and the chocolate. Where a blanket has to protect your bare legs from thorns and spiky dry grass. And where shade is of the essence.
Now I grapple with such issues as wind breakers, waterproof blankets and wellington boots. But I am free from the ghost of melted chocolate, and if I want a cold drink I only have to plunge a bottle into the icy sea for a couple of minutes.

I do have a bit of a problem with the props. I take a stand against tupperware, paper plates and napkins and plastic glasses. And I hate to see packaging marr the view.
So it's wicker baskets and inconvenient picnic tins for me. And tiffin boxes, striped tea towels, Swiss army knives and enamel plates and cups. It's annoying, but picnics aren't about convenience. They're about nostalgia and pretending to be a character in English literature. Up to you wether you want to be Sebastian with the teddy bear and the strawberries, or Ratty and Mole with the potted-ham-potted-tongue.



Better weather, sunshine, the first timid buds showing...spring is late this year, but it will come, eventually.
A meal of salad, paté and toast, with some rhubarb and custard at the end, is perfect.
The crayons and pencils and watercolours come outdoors after a whole winter inside, and so we have more sketches, which can only be a good thing.
More soon.