JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day


Saturday, September 08, 2007

Misr wot and injeera























This morning I visited a wonderful roof garden on an office building in the centre of Reading, where there's not much greenery. Not just any old roof garden, but a permaculture forest garden - in other words, a garden that has been carefully thought out and built to be self-sufficient, to require little maintenance, to feed (in many senses of that word) those that use it.

As it is September, the end of our growing season, the garden is overblown and untidy, but still full of life - amazingly, three storeys up, there are insects and birds (no slugs though, lucky them!). There were apples, pears, cobnuts, medlars waiting to be picked, we drank lemon verbena tea made from leaves plucked earlier from the bush. I was given some of this year's harvest of emmer, the earliest sort of wheat to be cultivated in the British Isles and which looks remarkably like barley at first glance. The next village but one is called Emmer Green, and it is thought to have been named after this primitive wheat. So I am lucky to have the chance to grow this rare plant, sourced three or four years ago from Newcastle University.

The roof garden was made five years ago by the charity RISC - Reading International Sustainability Centre - in order to get grants to pay for a new roof; the old one was leaking, and there was no money in the pot for that sort of expenditure. It's been a huge success, and is visited by groups of schoolchildren, as well as gardeners.

I've come away feeling hugely inspired to do more to make my garden self-sustaining: I've got a leaflet showing me how to make a very small but highly efficient machine (that's too strong a word, but I can't think of a better one at the moment) to make liquid feed out of nettles. Now I know you can just do this in a bucket, but have you smelt the resulting brew? And this way uses a little length of drainpipe which you hardly notice, and which has a lid (made of the bottle you keep the feed in).

Back down on street level, I noticed that the global cafe had been recently taken over by new management, and now specialises in Ethiopian food. Lunch sorted: misr wot with injeera. I've been longing for this food for a few years now (in the 1980s I spent time travelling in Somalia, Eritrea and northern Sudan); I didn't realise I could find it so close to home. Misr wot is a spicy lentil stew - I've now got a recipe, and will try it out one day soon and blog it. Injeera is bread, a sour flatbread, full of little holes on the top like a crumpet; this was made with wheat, it's far far better made with tef or millet, but it was wonderful to eat it again after decades. And Tutu, the chef proprietor, brought me a lovely traditional pot of coffee to end with.

Then over to the cricket club, where I saw Horatio take a wicket, then home to find that Lettice had scored a goal in her hockey match and won 4-0, that Alfred's team had won their rugger match; that England had won the one-day test series against India, the football against Israel to qualify for Euro 2008, AND the first match in the rugby world cup (apologies to Americans reading this for a blatant display of patriotism). Could it have been a better day?

11 comments:

TopVeg said...

The roof garden sounds fascinating. I would love to learn more about it. So interesting to see how others go about things.

So glad it has been such a splendid day!

TopVeg

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

I'd say that was a terrific and fascinating day of wondering. I'd love to try that spicy lentil stew with you!

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Great post Joanna! The roof garden sounds inspirational and the global cafe of particular interest. Off to check it out right now...

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

Just had a look. We are definitely going there - thanks Joanna.

Joanna said...

Amanda, if you go, get in touch with them beforehand to see if you can visit the garden, which really is extraordinary. I'll be so interested to hear what you make of it all ..

Joanna

Stacey said...

This garden is amazing! I *must* visit-- or a similar one in my area. I wonder if one exists.

Riana said...

what a wonderful garden and wot and ingera are my favorite!!!! now i have to make some, thanks for the inspiration. I have a ton of nettles and lemon verbena if you want some :)

Joanna said...

Stacey, not sure whether there's another similar garden, but follow the link to the website and get in touch with them - it's the most fantasticallly friendly place, and they're in the business of educating us, so they'll help find another garden if they know of one! Otherwise, it's worth a visit if you're near Reading (not sure where you are)

Riana - your comment is tantalising, wot I can manage to make, but injeera? Very keen to know how you make it!

Magic Cochin said...

I've read about the RISC roof garden - lucky you for living close enough to drop in. And the Ethopian food sounds delicious!

Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! It's like buses - we wait for ages without a win and look what happens - too much to celebrate on one day!

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

I'll let you know. Thanks again Joanna. Funny how so many wonderful places can exist but aren't over publicised. So you only ever find out about them by chance.

Felix said...

Thanks for the great description of the roof garden! I have just started a knitting group at The Global Cafe and we very much enjoy the lovely, Ethiopian food...

...I'd love your misr wot recipe whenever you get a chance to blog it, as I really want to cook this at home, as well as buying it every week in The Global Cafe!