We started the #mugappreciationsociety

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My friend Maria – also known as Feisty Tapas  – and I have been working together for over one and a half years on the same project, and over that time have discovered a mutual love of food (despite the fact that I’m vegan and Maria is Spanish and is obsessed with chorizo), social media, blogging and… mugs! So after chatting over our respective morning cuppas at the creative agency where we both work (I had hot orange, Maria is a coffee fiend) we had a fun little brainstorm about sharing our love for mugs on Instagram.

Maria has been encouraging me to Instagram more and more, as there are huge communities out there dedicated to all the things I love – growing your own, veganism, good food, CAKE (lots of cake) and wildlife friendly gardening. And mugs. Mugs are great and I use them for pretty much all tipples… hot chocolate (with hazelnut milk), orange squash, herbal tea, wine, G&T, and I imagine I’ll be enjoying my forthcoming batch of sloe gin in a mug too. I’ll even eat homemade soup out of a large mug. I have no shame. I just prefer drinking out of mugs, and there are so many designs that reflect my general ethos on life. If it’s got any kind of wildlife on it, I’m all over it. Flowers? Yes please. Cats? Everybody needs at least one cat mug in their life! And the bigger the mug, the better.

But let’s rewind. On spying my very floral Waitrose mug on my desk at work, Maria encouraged (read: told) me to Instagram it. We had a little think about whether we should encourage others to do the same. I flippantly suggested that we tag the pictures the #mugappreciationsociety although at first Maria wasn’t too convinced. “Isn’t it a bit long?” she asked before doing some cursory research and declaring that perhaps it was the hashtag we should go for. So we did.

Where it all began - image ©Feisty Tapas

Where it all began – image ©Feisty Tapas

Maria has a substantial following on Instagram and tagged a few people to join in with our #mugappreciationsociety. And then it exploded. We’ve gone international and there is a LOT of love out there for mugs. So feel free to join in with us. Whether it’s a one-off prized possession, charity shop find, retro, a little chipped and battered or a pristine tea cup and saucer (cups are welcome too!), then just tag #mugappreciationsociety and you’ll be welcomed into the fold :) Find Maria at @feistytapas and me right here: @lunalucy

mugappreciationsociety

Potato Recipes Part One: Vegan Tapas – Patatas a lo Pobre

I did a ‘test dig’ to see how the Picasso potatoes were faring, and found that although they were growing well (no scab, good colour, good texture), size-wise they need another couple of weeks in the ground. I’ve read that during this time when the top growth begins to yellow and wither it’s a good idea to cut off the potato stems so that the energy goes into creating bigger tubers. So that’s what I did – and low and behold a fortnight on and the potatoes are looking a good size!

Picasso main crop potatoes

Picasso main crop potatoes

I didn’t want my ‘test’ dig smaller potatoes to go to waste,  so decided to start looking into some alternative potato dish recipes. I mean, I love roasties, but I wanted to enjoy my Picasso potatoes in a variety of ways beyond my beloved roasties and mash. Having visited a Spanish bar in Brighton recently and fallen in love with patatas a lo pobre (“poor man’s potatoes”), I thought I’d try and turn my mini harvest into a couple of tapas dishes for dinner.

I decided to go with patatas a lo pobre (potatoes in a garlicky oil with onions and roast peppers) first – you’ll find the recipe for patatas bravas (potatoes and a slightly smokey, spicy tomato sauce) in Part Two. For the one patatas tapas recipe, I used around 1.5lbs (650g) potatoes. This is enough for two medium sized portions. Main crop/floury potatoes are fine, and large second early Charlotte potatoes work really well too. I used a combination of both as I’m trying to keep thrifty and reduce waste, so homegrown Picasso and Charlotte potatoes were used.

Patatas a lo Pobre vegan Spanish tapas

Patatas a lo Pobre Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients
1 red & 1 yellow bell pepper cut into strips and roasted
2 medium red onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
freshly chopped parsley to garnish
vegetable oil – I always use a mild and light olive oil blend

Method

1. Preparing the potatoes:
Cut around 1.5lbs potatoes into large chunks. Par-boil for 10 minutes, before draining. Then in a roasting pan, drizzle liberally with oil (I used a mild and light olive oil blend) and cook in the oven for around 30-45 minutes on Gas Mark 6 until the potatoes’ outer layers are thickened and crispy, but not too tough. You can leave the potato skins on if you want, although older potatoes or main crop potatoes might need peeling first. Towards the end of roasting the potatoes, you can move the potatoes up to the top shelf to ‘harden’ them off!

2.As the potatoes begin cooking in the oven, cut the peppers into thick strips and roast in oil on the oven top shelf. Remove after 20-30 minutes, leave to cool in a plastic bag for about 10-20 minutes and then peel off the tough outer skins. If you can’t be bothered to do this, you can go the much more expensive but less faffy route of buying roasted peppers in a jar!

3. Finely chop the red onions, and add to a saucepan, sautee or sweat in vegetable oil for 3-4 minutes before adding in the minced garlic. Sweat for another minute or two, making sure that the garlic doesn’t stick or burn. Add the roasted red peppers and mix in thoroughly for another minute or so, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Serve up the onions, garlic and peppers and mix in some of your cooked patatas. Keep some of the oil from the saucepan and drizzle (it will be infused with onion and garlic flavour, helps to add a punch!) then add the chopped parsley garnish. You can also add a little drizzle of good quality virgin olive oil or white wine vinegar.

 

Sprucing Up The Kitchen Steps

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I’ve been so busy with work lately that all my planting in has had to go on the back burner, so outside my kitchen door is a small jungle of poorly department rescues, fruit and veg plants from friends and a few naughty purchases for the flower borders (echinops, eryngium, etc etc etc). But one thing I did manage to get done with great success was install a new hanging basket outside the back door.

The back of the house looks pretty drab and the stable door is in dire need of a new coat of paint. I’m thinking a sage green to brighten it up. Years ago, when the kitchen extension was built, the door was installed and when we all came back the builder had stained it a really dark colour! It hasn’t been touched in over twenty years, apart from the installation of various sized cat flaps (which were eventually upgraded to a small dog flap after our gargantuan fluff monster cat Ted was found wearing the cat flip around his middle one day).

I’ve bought all the sanding bits and pieces for the back door, but it’s yet another job that I need to get done before Autumn really sets in in a couple of months. So much to do, so little time, yada yada yada.

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But after adding my poorly department herb pot to the top step by the kitchen door, I was a momentarily inspired to at least brighten the area up a little more. Rich installed a hanging basket bracket that I found for a couple of quid at B&M, and my local garden centre had half price reductions on their wicker hanging baskets. Plant Me Now kindly sent me a beautiful selection of hanging basket flowers, including petunias and lobelias, and I shoved them rather haphazardly one Sunday afternoon. But miracle of miracles, they grew, they flourished and bloomed… and I remembered to water them regularly! A few weeks late and they’re still looking great!

Next year, instead of flowers I might opt for an edible hanging basket, with nasturtiums, tumbling tomatoes and some flowering herbs to attract the bees… but for now, the sight of the bright blooms is enough to give me a little cheer on even the gloomiest of days.

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