Wrapped in Newspaper

Ethical lifestyle blog and vegan recipes


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Vegan Chocolate Beetroot Cake

Vegan-chocolate-and-beetroot-cake

I love beetroot! Whether it’s roasted, shredded up raw in a salad or squished up in a burger, it’s blimmin’ delicious AND it’s in season for most of the year! Win, win, win you might say? Well not always…

beetroot-varieties

If we take asparagus as a contrasting example, it’s in season for such a short amount of time that it’s like, quick, quick cook something delicious before the season is over! But with beetroot, it’s just there month after month and it’s like, more beetroot but I already had it fives ways last week, what can I do with it now?

Well I have the answer, chocolate beetroot cake!!!

vegan-beetroot-cake

vegan cake

chocolate-and-beetroot-cake

This isn’t as super healthy as some of our recent recipes but it’s not too far off so lets not worry about it too much : )

Vegan Chocolate Beetroot Cake

2 Medium sized beetroots, peeled and finely grated
115 g Spelt flour
70 g Brown rice flour
50 g Coconut palm sugar
3 tbsp Cacao powder (or 5 tbsp cocoa powder)
2 tsp Baking powder
Pinch of salt
60 ml Maple syrup
50 g Dark chocolate (80% or more)
150 ml Rapeseed oil
50 ml Non-dairy milk

For the topping:

50 g Dark chocolate (80% or more)
3-5 tbsp water
50 g Pistachios

  • Over a low heat, melt the chocolate and maple syrup in a saucepan.
  • Once melted, remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly whilst you measure all the dry ingredients into a separate mixing bowl.
  • Stir in the oil and almond milk into the melted chocolate before adding the grated beetroot.
  • Mix well before stirring in the dry ingredients.
  • Pour the mixture into a well greased 18cm cake tin and bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 25 minutes of until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  • Turn out the cake onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
  • Over a low heat, melt the chocolate. Slowly add in a tablespoon of water at a time, stirring continuously. Keep stirring and adding a little more water until you get a nice smooth consistency that has a lighter colour, resembling milk chocolate.
  • Pour the chocolate over the cake and spread evenly.
  • Roughly chop the pistachios and sprinkle over the cake.

Amy x


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Creamy vegan pasta

vegan pasta

 

The big news for me is that I successfully got in the London Marathon ballot! Cue excitement and smug feelings that I got a ballot place, which fyi are really hard to get! But, now the reality has dawned on me and I’ve got a shed load of work to do before I get to that start line and it is the training that scares me more than the marathon. When I was training for the half marathon it was Spring, it was reasonably dry and running outdoors was a joy. I’m definitely more than a little apprehensive about dark, cold, rainy training runs.

Obviously before my big runs I’ll be carb loading. I’m not one for white pasta usually, and always try to stick to wholewheat pasta and brown rice etc. But, when I was in Italy I had no stomach problems from their pasta (or any of the food) – so I sourced some of the “good stuff”. So here is a perfectly creamy mushroomy pasta that will either help you before those training runs like me or just help you when you’re in need of that comfort food fix on these cold nights.

creamy pasta

pasta

Creamy vegan mushroom pasta

 

Creamy vegan mushroom pasta (serves 4)

A glug of olive oil
200g mushrooms
1 courgette
A handful of thyme sprigs
1 tin of coconut milk
275g dried pasta
Salt & pepper

1) Chop the mushrooms really thin. In a pan, heat the olive oil and start cooking the mushrooms. Thinly slice the courgettes and then add to the pan. Once they are cooked through, add the coconut milk and heat slowly, allowing the coconut milk to melt down and soak up the mushroom flavours.
2) In another pan, cook the pasta in boiling water as per the packet instructions.
3) Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the coconut and mushroom sauce. Add the thyme (remove the leaves from the stalks) and stir through to cover the pasta with the sauce.  Season with salt and pepper. Either serve straight away, or put in a dish and bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 180C.

Enjoy !

Veronica x


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Reflections on natural growing in the company of bees

I find it difficult to come to terms with the extent and rate at which we are devastating life on our earth. WWF’s living planet report has just revealed that in the last 40 years the Global Living Planet Index shows a decline of 52% for vertebrates and 45% for invertebrates. Quite shocking isn’t it?

another visitor






A bumblebee resting on my finger

Sat pondering these crazy figures and reflecting on the six months I spent learning about how to grow ecologically in the Schumacher College gardens, I stumbled upon this scribbled into a corner of my notes from the apprenticeship…

“It was a while before I understood, but the bees were simply doing what bees do: acting as the gardeners of the world and making their incredibly generous gift of the landscape.”

I didn’t record from whom or where I happened upon this quote, but it somehow helps me to articulate the hopeful and reassuring quality of the experience I had day-to day of working in a vegetable garden so full of bees simply doing what bees do.

hazelip vegetable garden

The synergistic vegetable garden at Schumacher College; a place full of bees … plus ducks!

This is the mandala shaped synergistic vegetable garden we planted during the course of our apprenticeship [with four lovely ducks for slug control]. The garden consists of curved, raised beds and adopts a no dig system developed by a Spanish lady called Emelia Hazelip who pioneered natural farming techniques initially written about by the hugely inspiring Masanobu Fukuoka from Japan.

“People interfere with nature, and, try as they may, they cannot heal the resulting wounds. Their careless farming practices drain the soil of essential nutrients and the result us yearly depletion of the land.” – Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution

In his book, The One-Straw Revolution Fukuoka tells the story of his life dedicated to exploring methods of natural farming. Out of decades of careful observation of the natural re-wilding of plants, insects and animals on his land, he developed a ‘no nothing’ approach to growing food there. His approach worked in harmony with nature, offering an alternative to practices relying on monoculture planting with high inputs of pesticide and fertilizer. Both Fukuoka and Hazelip recognised that it’s possible to achieve yields similar to that of modern farming methods by embracing natural processes and growing an abundant polyculture in a wild state with an undisturbed, living soil full of fungi and bacteria.

hazelip overview

Honeybees on edible Chrysanthemum amongst a polyculture of Chamomile, Cabbage, Salad leaves, Peas, Beetroot and Calendula

In this garden the soil is left undisturbed and only the edible parts of plants are removed so that roots and outer leaves are left to compost insitu providing the organic matter needed to maintain fertility in the soil. Mulching is used to maintain soil structure and moisture, enriching the earth so that prepared fertiliser becomes unnecessary. The approach to disease and insect control is to grow crops that can exist together as part of a healthy, functioning ecosystem and create habitat for natural predators who can maintain pest populations. The understanding is that over time nature, undisturbed, becomes a self-regulating balance.

hazelip five

Bumblebee face peering over some Borage next door to Calendula and Courgette 

The garden is a polyculture of vegetables, herbs and edible flowers and the result over the summer was a garden packed full of honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees. The number of spiders, beetles and other jumping, scurrying things in this garden is also quite amazing!

male cuckoo bumblebee on calendula

An old male Cuckoo bumblebee visiting Calendula with Onion and Courgette beyond

Most popular amongst all of the bees were Borage, Cornflower, Calendula, Garland Chrysanthemum and Poached egg plant along with Courgettes and flowering Globe Artichoke as firm vegetable favourites!

carder bumblebee on cornflower

Carder bumblebee visiting Cornflower

I had many serene moments working in this garden while the bees, themselves hard at work, merrily buzzed around me as I wandered through the sculpted circular pathways. Their constant presence meant that my rusty bumblebee identification skills developed fast and throughout the year, I noticed when a new species appeared, emerging from hibernation. Next year I shall be more prepared to document them all!

woodchip pathways

A woodchip pathway lined with Chamomile leading through the centre of the garden

There were lots of curious but heartening moments working in the mandala where I would find a bee resting on me, as if the excitement of the garden was all too much for them! Staying for minutes and in some cases much longer, they would rest before gathering the strength to continue their journey amid the flowers, back to their nests bearing sweet nectary gifts from the garden. In these moments I had the sense that I was working with the bees and for a same cause; to initiate life, to encourage beauty, to be productive and to be fed.

me and a bee

A bumblebee taking a rest on me

It is widely accepted that our modern agricultural practices are having a negative impact on the health of the soil, ecosystems and the quality of our food. So could this way of growing that more closely mimics what happens in nature become a viable alternative? The garden certainly did produce some beautiful food this year but at Schumacher College we had the luxury of experimenting with these methods without the commercial pressures involved in producing food. With the garden in its first year and a booming slug population, it is yet to be revealed how productive it might be in the long term. For our sake and the sake of the bees, I hope this way of growing is more widely used in the future and its definitely what I will be working with in my own vegetable patch.

carder bumblebee on edible chrysanthemum

Carder bumblebee on edible Chrysanthemum

There is such a huge potential for food growers to provide habitat and forage for bees and it’s amazing how quickly they will begin to congregate when there’s something sweet on offer! Working in this vegetable garden gave me a hopeful glimpse of what it would feel like to be in a world animated with biodiversity. Agricultural land really shouldn’t be as barren and lifeless as it is. It should be alive and bustling full of scurrying, buzzing and blooming things. So come on growers, get growing naturally and watch the bees do what bees do : )

PS; If you’re interested in finding out more about synergistic gardens, check out this video by Emilia Hazelip


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Blogiversary – One year on

I can’t quite believe it has been a whole year since Amy and I started this blog. Sometime we still can’t quite believe that people actually read what we write to be honest! So thanks : )

If you’re a regular reader, you probably know what we are all about. But, if you’ve just come across us here is a little glimpse. Having both turned vegan in 2013, after rescuing some ex-commercial chickens in 2012 and then being bombarded with questions about what we ate, why the heck we gave up meat and cheese, we decided to explain the whys and show the whats on this blog. If you want to read more about that, you can read a more detailed version here.

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Wrapped in Newspaper has developed from our original idea and so have we. We both have changed our eating habits, not just removing meat and dairy, but now we also try to eat a low sugar, clean lifestyle. (Although you wouldn’t think so with the amount of cake I’ve eaten in the last week – it was my birthday!) We have definitely come along way from our first blog post! Our sweet recipes are now a majority of whole wheat, refined sugar free and healthy. We don’t just write about food here, we also talk about how we are both making a conscious effort to live a more ethical lifestyle through eating seasonal food, our shopping habits and decisions we make.

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We made a decision when we started out that if we had opportunities to work with brands we would turn them down and now we get the odd email with these offers this still remains the case. We do not want to feel obliged to write about something that we have been sent for free, and wouldn’t necessarily buy. We only post about things we genuinely want to, and nothing has been sent to us for free from PR agencies.

One of our biggest highlights over the past year was when Instagram featured our account as a suggested user…CRAZY! Cue an insane number of followers – we were gobsmacked! Give us a follow if you are on IG! We post lots of different photos.

This week I thought we’d have a look back over the last year and remind you of some of our favourite posts that sum up what this blog is all about.

Apple Dorset Cake
Now, although this isn’t sugar-free we are in the midst of apple season and this is the perfect pudding for a chilly autumnal evening, Amy veganised one of our family favourites.

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Hazelnut & Chocolate Truffles
I made these truffles when I was in the midst of cutting refined sugar completely from my diet, and I had just been allowed to reintroduce natural sugars. HELLO dates! These are the perfect snack when craving a little something chocolatey and sweet.

Vegan Chocolate Truffles

Vegan athletes
We’ve both taken to exercise this year in a big way and we love it! Amy completed a 100 mile cycle ride and I completed a half marathon and am about to start training for the London Marathon – yes I got in via the ballot! Read about my running here and read about how we fuel ourselves before we get up and go here!

vegan porridge

Bee-friendly

Since joining the Wrapped in Newspaper team, Hayley has been inspiring and educating us with her love for bees and her quest to find out more about the difficulties honeybees are facing. Many people who question veganism are often exacerbated by the fact the vegans won’t even eat honey, but Hayley has shared a non-vegan perspective on honey that will make everyone think twice about consuming honey and the way in which we farm honeybees.

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Sprouting Lentils
Whilst I have my allotment to grow things, Amy has a flat and space is limited. Here she shows us how to sprout lentils, which fyi are super nutritious and easy to do, plus a tasty stir-fry recipe.

sprouted green lentils

Convenience shopping
We are both big fans of our veg boxes. You should definitely think about signing up for one! This is one simple way of buying local, delicious veg that hasn’t been shipped half way around the world!

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Thanks to everyone who has come to visit our little corner of the worldwide web. We are looking forward to our next year of creating delicious, healthy, seasonal, vegan recipes and sharing ideas on how we can have a more positive impact on the planet through our everyday lives.

Veronica, Amy & Hayley x


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Crumbly plum and hazelnut tart

A few weeks back I went to a pick your own farm and harvested my body weight in plums, well, almost. That day I picked a whole host of fruits, cultivated and wild. By the time I had got home and de-stalked elderberries and picked through blackberries, the last thing I wanted to do was think of what to do with all the plums. So I decided to preserve them so I could figure out how I wanted to use them at a later date. I gently stewed them up with a little xylitol sugar and put them into jars. I could simply have halved them, removed the stones and frozen them but they just look so lovely in jars, I couldn’t resist.

Now all I have to do is figure out what to do with them. Plum crumble? Plum muffins? Plum tart? Plum strudel? All of the above?

Plum Plums

This weekend I stumbled across a recipe in Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet for a Plum Tart that I would describe as being half way between a tart and a crumble which seemed like the perfect use for some of my plums. So I got to work veganising, de-sugaring and healthifying the recipe.

Those of you who are Wrapped in Newspaper regulars will know we are trying to cut out as much sugar from our diet as possible and for that reason, if you are a bit of a sugar addict, then you might find this recipe a little on the sharp side. Not that I had any complaints from my sugar-fiend boyfriend, but just a word of warning.

Vegan crumbly plum tartVegan plum tartVegan crumbly tart
Crumbly plum tart

Crumbly plum and hazelnut tart

50g Hazelnuts
100g Rye flour
75g Wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp Baking powder
2 tbsp Xylitol sugar
1/2 cup Coconut oil (solidified)
1-2 tbsp Non-dairy milk
25g oats

For the filing:
300g Plums (stewed or cut into small chunks)
1 tbsp Cornflour
2 tbsp Rice syrup

  • Begin by toasting the hazelnuts over a medium-high heat for around 10 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid burning and once the skins start to peel away, remove from the heat.
  • Rub the hazlenuts between a folded, clean tea towel to remove most of the skins and finely chop or quickly blitz in a food processor.
  • In a large mixing bowl stir together the flour, baking powder and sugar.
  • Add in the solidified coconut oil (chill in the fridge if required) and rub the oil into the flour using your fingertips to create fine breadcrumbs.
  • Stir in the chopped hazelnuts then add in the milk a little at a time until the mixture starts to hold together.
  • Press around half to two-thirds of the pastry mixture in the base of a greased springform or flan dish to form the base.
  • Cover the remaining mixture and pop in the fridge briefly whilst you prepare the plums.
  • Stir all the filing ingredients together and pour onto the pastry base.
  • Remove the remaining pastry mixture from the fridge, break the mixture into crumbs using your fingertips and stir in the oats.
  • Finally pour the crumbly topping over the plums and bake at 195C for 45-50 mins.
  • Check at around 30 mins and if already nicely golden, cover with foil for the remaining time.
  • Sprinkle with just a little cheeky icing sugar if you fancy.

Enjoy!
Amy x


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Roasted fennel salad

If you are  a regular reader you may have (or you may not) noticed we have been a little quiet around here for the last few weeks. We hadn’t planned to have a two week break, but we both went on holiday (yay!), getting our butts into gear and planning posts doesn’t always come strongly around here! We both tend to write our posts on Sunday evenings ready to go live the next day!

I haven’t been doing so well on my clean eating lifestyle, sugar has been creeping back into my diet, and I spent two weeks on holiday consuming my body weight in pizza, pasta and prosecco – and what a great time I had!

Now it’s back to reality, life goes on and it is time to get back into my clean eating. In our veg box this week we got a lovely fennel. Roasted fennel is one of my new favourite flavours and this warm fennel salad is so tasty you just have to try it! This salad makes a perfect weekend lunch or make it to take to work. It is full of flavour thanks to the lemon and thyme.

Fennel

Thyme

Roasted fennel

Roasted fennel and vegetables

Roasted fennel salad

Warm fennel salad

Roasted fennel salad
Serves 2-3

Half a fennel bulb
2 cloves of garlic
1 red onion
3 tomatoes
A handful of fresh thyme
1 lemon
1 tbsp coconut oil
Half a courgette
Watercress
100g bulgar wheat

1) Set the oven to 160C , chop the fennel into slices, in a large roasting tray melt the coconut oil, then add the fennel, chopped onion and cloves of garlic. Chop the tomatoes and add to the tray. Add the sprigs of thyme and squeeze the lemon and throw in the rest of the lemon wedges. Roast in the oven for 30-35 minutes, remember to  stir it around every now and again.
2) Cook the bulgar wheat in a saucepan, as per the packet instructions, it usually takes 15 minutes and the water soaks into the wheat.
3) Once the fennel, onions and tomatoes are roasted, remove from the oven and remove the sticks of thyme, the leaves should just fall off into the pan. Add the bulgar wheat and stir through the vegetables. Place back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes.
4) Season with salt and pepper and serve with watercress and thinly slice some courgette. You can remove the garlic cloves if you prefer, but I love to eat roasted garlic. Serve with the lemon wedges.

Enjoy this delicious warm salad

Veronica x

 


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Marking the seasons // elderberry flu remedy

There’s a suspicious tinge of orange on the leaves. The nights are drawing in. It would seem that Autumn is upon us.

It’s hard to put a finger on the start of Autumn, it’s one of those seasons that sneaks up on you. One minute you’re thinking about taking a jumper out in case it gets chilly in the evening, the next you’re trying to figure out where your thermals’ got to.

The appearance of ripe elderberries and sloes, or the first tinting of oak trees is traditionally used to mark the start of Autumn. I found these sloes ripe and ready for my sloe spelt cake recipe two weeks ago and as for the elderberries, well I was too late, they had already past their best.

Blackthorn

London’s microclimate can do some funny things but it has been found that, on average, native trees are producing ripe fruit 18 days earlier than a decade ago. Whilst this might be great news for the forager, for animals it may mean that their food reserves could become depleted earlier in the winter. One thing’s for sure, you won’t notice anything until you actually get out there and look.

Rose-bay-willow-herb

For my Dad, it’s not so much the start of Autumn but the end of Summer. He knows Summer’s on its way out when Rosebay Willowherb goes to seed.

For me Blackberrying marks the transition from Summer to Autumn and this year I was determined not to miss out on a bumper crop. I escaped the hustle and bustle of London and went out to the peaceful countryside of the Chilterns on a little foraging expedition and I was not disappointed.

Blackberries

Blackberries and apples

Sometimes nature is just telling what to eat. Blackberry and apple pie anyone?

Blackberrying

Those couple of degrees change in temperature really can make all the difference, as out in the countryside I found elderberries to be perfectly ripe. With an outbreak of colds at the moment brought on by the change of season, I knew exactly what I had in mind for those elusive elderberries that had evaded me only weeks before. Elderberry syrup.

It’s said that a small amount of elderberry syrup taken daily can immunise you against the flu. It’s quick and easy to make and you can freeze it in ice cube trays so they’re ready and waiting for whenever the flu strikes.

Elderberries

Elderberry-stalks

Elderberry-flu-remedy

Elderberry Flu Remedy

Elderberries
Slice of lemon
Thumb size piece of ginger

  • Pick the elderberries on a dry, sunny day as that’s when they’ll be at their sweetest.
  • Remove the stalks and wash them.
  • Put them in a saucepan and just cover them with water. Bring them to the boil and simmer for around half an hour or until soft.
  • Strain them through a sieve, to remove the seeds and the skins.
  • Place back on the heat and simmer gently to reduce the liquid down.
  • Leave to cool and place in ice cube trays, freeze until flu season is upon us.
  • Place one elderberry ice cube in a cup with a slice of lemon. Grate the ginger and squeeze out the juice between your fingers into the cup.
  • Pour in freshly boiled water and stir.
  • Drink this delicious warming drink when flu is going round to keep it at bay.

Amy x


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Spanish inspired bean stew and patatas bravas

I’m counting down. Counting down until I go on holiday, a much-needed holiday I can tell you. We are travelling around Italy for two weeks and I for one can’t wait! I hate going on about being busy, but I have been. Busy with a new job, busy training for a half marathon, busy trying my best to grown some veg, and busy writing blog posts. I know i’ve neglected relationships whilst I have been going through this hectic period and I’m planning on balancing my time a little better when I get home.

One of the vegetables I have been growing for the first time this year is the humble potato and boy oh boy, what a treat they are! Before you put the seed potatoes in the ground you need to allow them to “chit” which means leaving them in a sunny spot and waiting for them to start sprouting. When it came to planting, I put mine in rows and then mounded the soil up over them, they then pretty much sorted themselves out. The leaves started growing, they developed some really pretty, delicate flowers and then they started dying back and the leaves started yellowing – it is at this point that they were ready to dig up! There is something quite exciting about digging up one plant and seeing the numerous golden nuggets that have formed, all from that one sprouted seed potato!

So, what to do with all the potatoes? I’m feeling in the holiday vibe so I got all Spanish inspired with this delicious dinner.

Patatas Bravas

Bean stew

Spanish bean stew and patatas bravas

Spanish vegan food

Bean Stew and Patatas Bravas
Serves 4

For the stew:

1 tbsp coconut oil
2 tspn paprika
2 tspn smoked paprika
1 onion
1 clove of garlic (crushed)
1 tin of butter beans
1 tin of kidney beans
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
A red pepper
A tspn of dried chillies
500ml of veg stock

For the potatoes:

1 tbsp coconut oil
8-10 potatoes
2 tbsp smoked paprika
2 cloves of garlic

1) Heat the oven to 180C.
2) In a large tray put the coconut oil and place in the oven to melt.
3) In a large pan melt some more coconut oil on a medium heat for the stew. Add the chopped onions and sauté down for 5 minutes until soft.
4) Pull out the tray from the oven and place the chopped potatoes, sprinkle with the smoked paprika and throw in the cloves of  garlic. Put in the oven for 30 minutes making sure to stir them around every once in awhile.
5) Back in the pan, add both paprikas and stir through the onions, add the crushed garlic and cook for a minute. Add the beans, chopped pepper, tomatoes, and stock.
6) Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Add some chilli flakes and stir through, season with salt and pepper.
7) Get your potatoes out of the oven and sprinkle with some salt and pepper.

I just put the dishes on the table and everyone helped themselves. Some red wine wouldn’t go wrong here too!

Enjoy!

Veronica x

 


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The bees of Eden

This August I cycled across the Devon countryside and into Cornwall to visit the Eden Project. I’d been meaning to visit for years and despite the challenging psychological battle with the hills, I’m very glad I did. Never before had I seen so many species of bee alongside each other in such numbers as in the gardens of Eden. It truly was Eden for the bees!

The Eden Project

 

The biomes, which house all sorts of amazing plants, were impressive but far more exciting for me were the outdoor displays because of the huge abundance of bees. They were everywhere enjoying the nectary delights of the herbs, wildflowers, heathlands, ornamentals, vegetables, textile and medicinal plants, bringing the displays to life with their dancing from plant to plant.

Bumbles on Lavender

Bumblebees on Lavender [Lavandula x intermedia 'Grosso']

The part of the Eden garden that offered the greatest bee spectacle was a vast patch of lavender absolutely packed full of bees. I had never seen so many bumblebees in one place before and as I stood to watch, I counted 5 different species of bumble alongside honeybees who were also getting in on the action. There were 10-15 bees on each lavender plant at any one time so there must have been thousands in the entire patch. The plants were swaying with all the black fuzzy beings nipping across it from one plant to another supping delicious nectar as they went. Beeautiful!

Bees on garlic

Yellow-Legged Mining Solitary Bee [Andrena Flavipes] on flowering garlic

Another charming bee moment was in the vegetable garden with the flowering garlic. Honeybees and solitary bees were all over the flowerheads, taking their time crawling slowly over the surface meticulously inspecting each tiny flower on their way. The bee captured in the photo above is a Yellow-Legged Mining Bee, one of the most common solitary bees in the South of England and that’s a honeybee in mid flight beyond. The Eden veg plot was letting a lot of their veggie plants go to flower, which is a great way to attract the bees into your garden!

Hives at Eden

Honeybee hives at Eden

Sometimes people talk about different species of bee competing for food, the theory being that if you introduce honeybee hives, you are starving bumblebees of forage. At the Eden Project they have these colourful hives packed full of honeybees who were all over the gardens happily foraging alongside the bumbles and others. I’m inclined to think that if you have a good level of plant diversity that there is more than enough to go round for everybee. It certainly felt like the case at Eden where there were plants like this Pineapple sage feeding honeybees and bumblebees simultaneously.

Honeybee

Honeybee on Pineapple Sage [Salvia elegans ‘Honey Melon’]

Common Carder Bumblebee

Common Carder Bumblebee [Bombus pascuorum] on the same Pineapple Sage

The Eden Project is one of the best examples for biodiversity I’ve seen. The huge variety of plants, many of which are favorites to many species of pollinators including bees created a spectacle for anyone visiting … especially bee lovers. They even have a bee sculpture paying homage to the little beauties : )

Bombus sculpture

Bombus sculpture

So why is biodiversity so important for bees and us humans? A diverse mix of plant species growing alongside each other has existed naturally for a millions of years and the bees evolved alongside this, adapting their specialised and intimate relationship with the many different species of plants along the way. Bees need this variety of food and a balanced diet to have healthy immune systems just like we do in our diet.

Honeybee in geranium

Honeybee on Geraniums

We have been warned for decades that the fall in global biodiversity is in danger of reaching a point of no return and the decline in our bee population is a very visible measure and stark warning of this. A study carried out by the charity Buglife in Cornwall (where the Eden Project is based) showed that in the last 50 years the area has already lost 8 species of bee.

Brown Banded Carder Bumblebee

Common carder bumblebee on ornamental flowers

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White tailed bumblebee [Bombus lucorum]

honeybee approaching

Honeybee approaching!

The more I learn about bees, plants and climate change the more I realise how vitally important biodiversity is for human survival. Healthy ecosystems are equipped to resist and recover from a variety of disasters but monocultures are wiped out very easily.

Plastic bottle bee

Bee sculpture made from plastic waste

The Eden Project is a fantastic example of how people can turn things around by supporting our bee populations and re-building healthy ecosystems. The Eden site was an abandoned quarry but has been transformed into a place buzzing with biodiversity and is an amazing educational base inspiring people to strive for a greener life.

Eden Quotes

So do have a trip to the Eden project, experience how distractingly beautiful and full of bees a biodiverse world could be and get planting some Lavender : )


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Sloe spelt cake

When you eat the seasons you can’t help but rejoice when you reach that time of year when there is food a plenty. Late summer is such an amazing time for food, there are an abundance of vegetables around and at last there’s plenty of fruit to be found. And I don’t mean in the supermarket!

Sloe-berries

Wander outside and keep your eyes peeled in hedgerows and parks. There’s berries galore to be found and this year there is a bountiful crop of sloes to be found!  The hot start to summer followed by a whole load of rain has left the blackthorn bushes dripping with sloes. You’ve endured the rain so you may as well enjoy its fruits.

Sloe-spelt-cake

I know that sloes are synonymous with gin but I have a love for spelt cake right now and I think a little sloe compote makes the perfect accompaniment.

Vegan-spelt-flour-cake

The cake is made with spelt flour, ground almonds, coconut oil and a little xylitol sugar. I won’t pretend its like a Victoria sponge, because its not. But what it is, is healthy, tasty and filling. The high sugar content in ordinary cakes combined with lots of fat and innutritious white flour will give you a sweet fix but won’t leave you satisfied. There’s just nothing in there to nourish you and make you feel full so you keep on wanting more. This spelt cake however will leave you feeling great. Spelt is a whole-food unlike wheat which means it retains all its nutrients which can be easily absorbed by your body due to its high water solubility. See, you really can have your cake and eat it.

Spelt-and-almond-cake

I will let you in on a secret, I was actually going for a slightly marbled cake, using the sloe compote but I didn’t quite put enough in. To get a more marbled effect don’t over stir the compote into the cake batter but also be careful not to add too much as your cake might not come out in one piece.

Spelt-cake-with-sloe-berry-compote

Vegan-sloe-spelt-cake

Sloe spelt cake

125g spelt flour
100g ground almonds
75g xylitol sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
200ml almond milk
80g coconut oil
1/2 tsp almond essence

For the compote:
150g sloe berries
2 tbsp xylitol sugar

  • Start off by greasing a 8″ cake tin and lining the base with baking paper. Pre-heat your oven to 180C.
  • If you’re coconut oil is solid, place it in an ovenproof dish for a few minutes when preheating your oven to melt it.
  • Weigh out all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, stir through and set aside.
  • Wash the sloes and remove any stalks. Place them into a saucepan and just cover them with water, bring them to the boil then simmer on a low heat.
  • Once they start to break up, drain off the water and rub the fruit through a sieve into a clean pan.
  • Return to the heat and add 1tbsp of xylitol sugar and stir until dissolved then remove from the heat.
  • Return to your cake mixture and stir in the almond milk and coconut oil.
  • Promptly pour half the mixture into the cake tin as the batter will quickly start to thicken.
  • Spoon in a few tablespoons of the compote, lightly swirl into the batter before pouring the remaining batter on top.
  • Be careful, unlike me, not to let the compote go to the edge of your cake as you will end up with blackened edges to your cake, like I did.
  • Bake at 180C for 40 -45 mins until a knife pushed into the cake comes out clean.
  • Carefully turn the cake out onto a wire rack and cool.
  • Serve with the remaining compote.

Happy foraging. Happy caking.

Amy x

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