This week Susan, her wife and baby travel to the Peak District for both a parkrun and birthday celebrations. Determined to continue with their watercress adventure, they take a supply of the green stuff with them so they still reap the health benefits of watercress while away from home.
So the time finally came for our trip to the Peak District. After ensuring I packed my bag of watercress and my wok along with the other ingredients for my Vietnamese rice paper rolls and Pad Thai, I managed to go to work with both sets of house keys, successfully locking my wife in.
After I had uttered many apologies to her and my mother-in-law who had rescued her, we ended up leaving several hours late. This meant rather than the relaxed journey south we were anticipating we had to face the full fury of Storm Callum along single track roads in the dark in a high sided campervan. Not a good start!
It wasn’t until the next morning when the mist had lifted that we actually saw the view.
We had decided to do Clitheroe Castle parkrun whatever the weather. Unfortunately English parkruns start at 9am. Because of the country roads we realised we would have to get up at 7am to ensure the wee one was fed and changed before we hit the incredibly slow and winding road into town.
5 facts about Clitheroe Castle
Clitheroe Castle is a ruined medieval castle in Clitheroe, Lancashire
Thought to be built in the Norman period in the twelfth century
Property of the de Lacy family, the honour later merged with the earldom and then Duchy of Lancaster
Given to George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle in 1660, the castle site remained in private ownership until 1920, when it was sold to the people of Clitheroe to create a war memorial
Today the buildings on the site are the home of Clitheroe Castle Museum
Fortunately the mist had lifted leaving only a miserable drizzle. Clitheroe Castle is on a pretty taxing hill and the five lap course meant we deserved our sausage sandwich afterwards. Which made me determined to sneak something healthy into the Saturday night party buffet.
The baby was sleeping so we didn’t join the afternoon celebrations in the pub. This meant I had the kitchen to myself so I decided to make some lunch for the wee one. I found a vegan sweet potato and watercress soup recipe that I know I will be making again. It only took twenty minutes and used up a few things I had brought with me for emergencies.
I started by frying a chopped onion and two cloves of garlic in a couple of squirts of olive oil for five minutes. Then I added 2 chopped celery sticks and two peeled sweet potatoes that I had cut into cubes. I boiled it up in 4 cups of water for 15 minutes then mashed it with a potato masher. At home I would have blitzed it with my hand blender to give a finer texture. I added 2 large bunches of snipped watercress and simmered for a couple of minutes before siphoning off some for the wee one. To the adult version I added a couple of veg stock cubes and a sachet of miso paste.
By this point some of the crowd had started to return from the pub. The soup was devoured along with some seeded loaf I had picked up from the baker’s. I politely declined the vegan butter and enjoyed mine with full fat cream cheese.
Having warmed up, I was in the mood for more cooking so I returned to the kitchen. I had already boasted that I would be cooking pad thai despite never having made it without fish sauce. I took to the internet and hedged my bets using all three of the suggested fish sauce alternatives- miso paste (which came from an instant soup base), tamarind sauce, and teriyaki sauce. I stir-fried red onion and spiralized some carrots then added a healthy dose of watercress at the last minute to preserve as much of the goodness as possible.
If you’re looking for a non-Vegan Pad Thai recipe try this one but remember to add a handful of watercress!
I then moved on to the Vietnamese rice paper rolls. I buy the sheets of rice paper from the Chinese supermarket and keep them in the cupboard so that I always have them to hand for a quick starter. You can add whatever filling you like but the secret is not to overfill.
First, soak the rice paper circle on a shallow dinner plate filled with boiled water for about 5 seconds until it softens then remove it from the water, lie it out on a clean plate, fill and roll.
I layered coriander, watercress, grated carrot, a teaspoonful of sweetcorn with a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Then I added a few strands of rice noodles that I had coated in sweet chilli sauce before folding it into the world’s healthiest vegan spring roll and serving on a lettuce leaf.
The birthday girl was delighted with both the pad thai and the rice paper rolls. Her wife who has a peanut allergy was also delighted we had left out the peanuts in favour of cashews. It was a definite crowd pleaser.
I must admit I did suffer from a bit of food envy as the birthday girl’s former boss brought a home-made green lentil dahl which tasted a-mazing. I did manage to get the recipe from him and it will definitely feature next time I make Indian. Quite possibly next Friday night- watch this space!
One person seemed more interested in the balloons than eating though!