Crop Without the Pop

Padre’s Ramblings

I have really started to get in on this whole gardening thing, and the idea of growing stuff to eat is fascinating to me. I have started to grow tomato plants from a single slice of tomato, and celery from the bottoms of the stalks. Another area I have started experimenting with is sprouts. I watched a couple of YouTube videos, and decided to try popcorn sprouts.

I took 1/4 cup of relatively old popcorn kernels and put them into 500 ml of warm water in jar and covered it with a tea towel. After soaking for a day, I drained it, and put fresh water in for another 24 hours. I repeated this for three days, and then placed the kernels (some showing a bit of root) into a sprouting tray, and filled it with water just below the kernels. I covered it with the the “black out” top and changed the water every two days for 10 days and got the sprouts in the photo. Having used older corn I got about 70% germination, and the kernels grew at differing rates.

All in all it produced about 1 cup of sprouts which were a little fibery but as sweet as any corn on the cob I have ever had, and in fact the yellow-green sprouts tasted like corn on the cob. I was a nice addition to my salad.



Birdseye vs. McCartney

It is hard to believe that it has been a year since the Western World seemed to be going crazy with Veganuary.  Fast food outlets, and supermarkets seemed to be climbing over each other to prove which had the “best” plant based options.  But as we all know, the health and environmental benefits of such foods were eclipsed by a world-wide pandemic.  Lock-downs and hospitality venue close-downs led to takeaway and drive through menus only, and one of the first casualties of this was the plant-based menu options.  KFC and Burger King quickly withdrew their veggie burgers in their “reduced crisis” menus.

Supermarkets, however continued to provide veggie options, though over the year I did not see as many options as I would have liked.  Nonetheless, companies such as Quorn and Cauldron continued to provide tasty fare. 

Among these options are two very similar products.  These are The Linda McCartney Vegetarian burgers and Birdseye’s Green Cuisine Meat Free Burgers.

I have reviewed Linda McCartney’s Vegetarian Mozzarella Burgers before.  Each burger has 238 calories with 17.8 grams of protein and 13.5 grams of fat.  The carb measures at 10.1 grams of which 1.3 grams is sugars.  The Birdseye competitor also has 238 calories per burger with 14 grams of protein and 17 grams of fat (1.3 g saturated).  

The higher fat content in the Birdseye burger gives it a slight flavour edge in the burger mass, but the McCartney burger’s cheese content compensates for this to make them roughly equal in taste (in my opinion).  

When grilled according to instructions, they both have limited shrinkage, through the McCartney product is slightly thicker.  Both have a very similar plant mass texture, with the Birdseye burger having a very slightly richer colour.   The McCartney’s cheese does give a twist to its overall texture by giving a stringy cheese presence when hot.  

The plant content does differ considerably with the McCartney being primarily soya mixed with chickpea flour.  The Birdseye burger is mainly rehydrated pea protein (60%), bamboo fibre, and pea flour.

All in all it is a toss up.  The two products even cost the same at both Sainsbury and Tesco.  That said, the Birdseye is more vegan friendly as it does not have the dairy content of the McCartney option.



Easy Spicy Hummus

It has been some time since I last posted a recipe. Sadly it has been very much same old – same old for me during the lockdowns. Today, however, I decided to literally spice things up a bit by making some homemade spicy hummus. This is an easy (or even cheaters) recipe as I have not gone through the whole process of soaking and preparing my own beans. That said I think this is far nicer than most store bought varieties and a lot less expensive.


  • Chick Peas (Garbanzo Beans) – 400 g can in water
  • Haricot Beans (Navy Beans or similar)  – 400 g can in water
  • Garlic – 1 large clove
  • Lemon Juice – 1 Tbs
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 1 Tbs
  • Curry Paste – 1 Tbs (I use Tikka)
  • Cajun Spice – 1 tsp
  • Water – < 1 Tbs (as needed)


Peel the garlic and blitz in a food processor.  Then add the curry paste, lemon juice, and spice.  Drain the tins of beans/peas and add to the processor and blitz on high for one minute.  With a spoon stir the mixture to allow any chucks to be moved to the blades, and blitz again for half a minute. You can if needed add splashes of water to reach your desired consistency (I prefer mine on the thick side).  Spoon into a storage bowl and chill.  That’s all there is to it.


Vegan Ice “Cream” Review: Ben and Jerry’s


Cookies on Cookie Dough Pint

image: Ben and Jerry’s

It’s Veganuary and Foodie Friday.  That being the case I decided to go to my local supermarket and pick up one of my wife’s “go to” treats – Halo brand non-dairy frozen dessert.  As I went to the freezer compartment Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough Non-Dairy Ice Cream caught my attention, so I picked it up instead.

This frozen treat does have a fairly decent “ice cream” feel to it.  Though the way it softens has a slightly different texture to it than softening real cream.  It does have a nice flavour though, and once one allows for the dough and chocolate chunks it does compare favourably to “the real thing.”

The blend has three different plant based oils in it (rapeseed, coconut, and soy), and it also is fairly high in the sugars with 28 grams of carb (19 g of it sugar) for every two scoops.  This works out at 230 calories for every 2 scoop serving, which is considerably higher than in Halo (which I will review soon).   It is however a yummy treat, and being kosher, vegetarian, and vegan certified does open up a lot of options to those limited in the dessert department.

The dough balls, and chocolate chunks are fairly large, and the portions of them fairly generous.   All in all, this is a very nice “occasional” treat, and I may soon test out some other Ben and Jerry’s non-dairy options.


Hummus and Caramelised Onion Wrap

It has been a while since I last posted a sandwich idea.  I have recently been eating more salad based meals, and wraps.  Theses are quick to prepare and easy to transport.  One of my recent favourites unites hummus, hard boiled egg, and caramelised onion.


  • Plain Flour (or Tomato) Tortilla 1
  • Standard Hummus (Though caramelised onion type works too) 2  heaped Tbs
  • Egg (Hard-boiled) 1
  • Onion 1/2 medium
  • Vegetable Oil splash
  • Tomato
  • Sugar 1/8 tsp (optional)
  • Water (as needed)


In a small frying pan heat the oil.  Dice the onion and add to the oil.  Fry this off until it begins to brown.  Splash with small amounts of water to deglaze and add sugar if used and stir fry well.  Remove from heat but leave in the warm pan.  Shell and dice the egg, and dice the tomato.  Lay out the tortilla on a large plate and spoon the hummus into the centre.  Spread the hummus evenly over the centre half of  the wrap.  Then add the onion and spread in the same way.  Add the chopped egg and tomato and season with salt if desired.  Fold the bottom eighth of the tortilla upwards and then do the same with the top.  Fold the two sides over the centre to complete the wrap.

That’s all folks.




Sainsbury’s Love Your Veg Green Veg & Mozzarella Risotto Balls: A Review

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I was looking for a quick to prepare mains to treat myself with.  I had seen the Sainsbury’s Love Your Veg line before, and the risotto balls seemed to be a tasty way to check it out.

I bought a package, which was convenient in its packaging of two compartments containing three risottos each.  I prepared one half of the pack using the oven at 200 C for 14 minutes, and the other a day later in the microwave for 3 minutes on high.

These balls are 25% rice, and about 10% cheese, the rest being vegetables (carrots, peas, and green beans), herbs, and bread crumb.  The oven baked balls were nicely crisp in their crumb shells.  The rice and veg mix within was a little crumbly, and while having a bit of a herb taste, the cheese flavour was minimal.  Three balls were a decent sized portion.

The microwaved ones lacked some of the external crispness, but were not appreciably different in texture or flavour.

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Each ball has about 126 calories, and provides 6.4 g of fat, 3.4 g of protein, and less than a gram of sugar.

These, while not phenomenal, did provide a nice break from the ordinary.   I think they would make a good vegetarian side dish, and as a main okay in a pinch if time is short in meal prep.

All in all 4.0 out of 5 as a snack, and 3.5 out of 5 for a main.



Salsa Dhal

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Here is a fusion dish which has its origins in the realm of “what’s in the fridge?”. While it may not be the most inspiring beginnings for a recipe, the end result is tasty and well worth the making.


  • Red Lentils 2 cups dried
  • Onion 1 large
  • Red Bell Pepper 1 large
  • Garlic 2 cloves
  • Sweet Corn 1 cup
  • Peas 1 cup
  • Oil 2 tsp
  • Chili Paste 2 Tbs
  • Medium Salsa 2 Tbs
  • Black Pepper 1 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Water 1.25 litres


Peel and dice the onion and garlic, and dice the pepper. In a large pan or medium soup pot heat the oil. Stir fry the veg for two minutes and then add the chili and corn and peas. Pour in the lentils, and then pour in the water. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and keep at simmering boil for about 15 minutes (or when lentils are tender). Stir in the salsa and seasoning, and dish into bowls.


Butternut Squash Mash with Garlic and Turmeric

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Butternut Squash Mash served with Garlic Prawns

In my limiting of the use of potatoes in our diet, I have used several alternatives for mash including celeriac and squash.  This butternut squash dish is tasty, and has a creamy texture.  It is colourful as well and can make a really nice presentation.


  • Butternut Squash 1
  • Butter 1 heaped Tbs
  • Double Cream 2 Tbs
  • Turmeric 1/2 tsp
  • Garlic Powder 1/4 tsp
  • Water to cover
  • Salt large pinch


Peel and dice the squash removing the seeds. Place the squash in a medium pan and cover with water. Add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil.  Cook for 15 minutes or until soft. Drain the pan and add garlic and turmeric to the cooked squash. Add the butter and cream and mash well with a potato masher, or with a electric mixer.

Serve as a side or as a topping to a casserole.


Simple Garlic Rice

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Garlic Rice

This is a quick and easy dish to use as a side, or as a vegetarian main. I like garlic, and it makes for a tasty addition to the rice.


  • Garlic 3 to 4 cloves
  • Butter 2 Tbs
  • Rice (Basmati or white long grain) 1 1/2 cups
  • Water 3 cups
  • Salt 1/2 tsp


In a medium pot melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat.  Peel and sliver the garlic and fry until lightly browned.  Add the remaining butter and the rice, stir until the rice begins to brown.  Pour in the water and cover the pan.  Raise the temperature to high and bring pot boil.  Reduce heat to low boil and cook for 10 minutes.  If using an electric hob turn off heat and allow residual heat to cook it for 10 more minutes.  If on a gas hob reduce to a flickering small flame for 10 minutes.  Remove the lid and look for gaps in the top of the completed rice where bubble came through. If ready double check that there is no remaining liquid, if there is allow another minute or to. When dry, then serve.



Cauliflower Cheese

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  • Cauliflower 1 medium with outer leaves removed
  • Butter 2 Tbs
  • Gluten-free Flour 2 Tbs
  • Cheddar Cheese 150 g (mature is best)
  • Milk 200 ml
  • Double Cream 3 Tbs
  • Ground Garlic Powder 3/4 tsp
  • Ground Black Pepper large pinch
  • Salt to taste
  • Water as per pasta instructions



Cut the cauliflower into florets and place in a steamer over high heat for 5 to 7 minutes.  Leave covered and set aside. In a medium sauce pan melt the 2 tablespoons of butter, and then stir in the flour until lightly browned. Grate the cheddar cheese and slowly stir it in, adding splashes of milk until the cheese melts and the mixture becomes a thick sauce and remove from the heat.  Stir in the garlic, pepper, and cream.  Stir well, then add in the cauliflower.  Mix well until the cheese has coated the cauliflower well. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.