Blog Archive // Recipe

4 Seasons in One Day

Hopefully you noticed that last weekend the clocks went back, which may have meant an extra hour in bed, but also sadly marks the start of proper winter. Some of our international students might be forgiven for thinking that winter started months ago; the summer of 2012 was remarkably brief, even for Scotland.

Back in June, I had higher expectations for sunny weather and invited visitors to the Food for Thought 600th Anniversary Fair to enter our ‘Tallest Sunflower Competition’. I cannot say that we were inundated with entries.  My own attempt to grow a giant bloom was thwarted by some haphazard builders who, ironically, were installing solar panels on the roof of my building. I can laugh about its now… just.

I had almost given up hope of seeing any Transition sunflowers when a fortnight ago, Barbara from the Management School sent me the most spectacular pictures of her sunflower bathed in glorious Fife sunshine (yes, it does exist!). Not only does Barbara appear to have some of the greenest fingers in Fife, she also takes a stonking photo, some of which can be seen below.

Spectacular Sunflower (Photo B. Lessels)


Barbara's Beautiful Sunflower and friends

I was so pleased with Barbara’s triumph because it appeared her sunflower was the sole survivor of the Scottish summer. However, later that week, I went to visit my parents and my Dad called me out into the garden where, hidden behind the blackcurrants in a wee patch of mud, was the second (undoubtedly less glamorous) Transition sunflower (as exhibited in the undoubtedly less professional photo below).

He's a bit surly but he's got a good head of hair.

This got me pondering how on earth two sunflowers had survived October in Scotland: surely they thrived in sunny summer temperatures? Of course, I immediately turned to Google.  It turns out that sunflowers require only daylight, fertile soil and water; 3 ingredients we have in abundance in Scotland. They are remarkably hardy plants and can survive baking heat and chillier climates (although apparently not solar panel engineers).

Next year I have decided I am going to participate in some Guerrilla Sunflowering and plant lots. Not only will they provide a visual feast in October 2013 but they will also help fill my larder for a winter of tasty (and nutritious) snacks.  According to the internet, sunflower seeds have a low GI, are a good form of magnesium, protein and b-vitamins and have cholesterol lowering properties.

At the Food for Thought Fair I provided Homemade Energy Bars and Spicy Sunflower-seed Snacks, the recipes for which can be found in our usual spot (or by clicking here). If you were successful enough to grow your own sunflower, you can dry the head and retrieve home-grown seeds for your Spicy Sunflower Snacks.  Alternatively, as this week was Hallowe’en, why not adapt the recipe to use pumpkin seeds, providing a seasonal and tasty way to reduce food waste (more recipes on how to use your Hallowe’en lantern can be found here).


Speaking of waste, my other top tip from the summer is the realisation that spring onions grow fantastically when placed in a glass of water on a windowsill. Ok, I’ll confess this ‘tip’ is a blatant attempt to shoehorn the final season into this blog-posting, but it does work, as the picture of our ‘Nutella-jar-spring-onion-farm’ attest. Just because its November and freezing outside, doesn’t mean you have to stop growing your own food.

Happy Hallowe’en!






The Eighth Wonder of the World?

Regular readers of the Transition blog know that I am very enthusiastic about reducing our carbon footprint in the kitchen. So when Ali asked me if I would like to trial Transition’s new Wonderbag, which claims to be ‘saving the planet, one stew at a time’, I jumped at the chance! Aesthetically it resembles something between a piece of 1970′s furniture and a large tribal-print turban and, whilst I am always enthusiastic about trialling a new piece of kitchen equipment, I will admit I was a little dubious as to the usefulness of this somewhat garish kitchen utensil.

A 1970's beanbag or brilliant cooking device?

The Wonderbag works by providing insulation to a cooking pot. The food is first brought to the boil on a stove and then the pot is placed inside the toasty cocoon of the Wonderbag to continue cooking. The insulation provided by the Wonderbag ensures that the pot retains enough heat to cook the food. The bag also works for cold food and it can apparently keep foods frozen for up to 12 hours: working as a kind of squashy coolbox.

Throwing caution to the wind and completely disregarding the ‘safety tip’ to avoid ‘putting lukewarm food in the Wonderbag as it is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria’ I decided to experiment by making yoghurt. A very successful experiment it was too.

Yoghurt: a wonder food?

I will fully admit this is a slightly selfish choice; yoghurt is probably my favourite food ever. I eat it every day. It is amazing by itself, with granola, over crumble,  in cake (lemon and poppy seed especially), as salad dressing… the choices are endless. However, I do admit that it is freely available across the land which does raise the question of why make your own?

We probably know yoghurt is pretty good for us; we’ve all seen those adverts attesting the need for ‘happy bacteria’. Whilst perhaps not the miracle cure suggested, there is some evidence which shows that yogurt has some serious health benefits, not least it is a source of calcium, protein and vitamin B12 (good for the brain!). On the other hand, there are a number of commercial brands which pack their yoghurts with additives, sugary jams and other nasties, seriously undermining the health benefits. We are seeing more brands which chose to use organic products, shun additives and offer a more ecological alternative but these do tend to be a bit more expensive.

The jury is out on whether it is actually cheaper to make yoghurt yourself. I reckon it cost me £2.06 to make  two batches of 500g. Two pots of shop-bought organic yoghurt would have cost around £3.00. You have to have a fairly heavy yogurt habit to see a significant saving.

The major saving for me is not in the food itself but in the packaging. Yoghurt is a huge contributor to food waste in the UK: there are estimates that over 1 million pots are thrown away every day! This can be for a variety of reasons, sometimes you buy more than you need, sometimes you buy multi-packs with flavours you are not so keen on, sometimes we just need a certain amount of yogurt and have to buy a large tub (I hear this is a problem, I will confess its not one I suffer from).  On top of the food waste created, all of this yoghurt comes in plastic containers that are made of mixed plastics which are quite difficult to recycle. We are lucky in Fife that our Council will recycle the debris from our yoghurt nomming habits, but people in other places are less fortunate.

The homemade yoghurt in my fridge is currently held in a no-waste tupperware. I can add whatever flavour I wish to it. It can be used for sweet or savoury dishes. I can use it to start my next set of yoghurt. There will be no waste. Plus I made my own yoghurt – how cool is that?! The result was pretty creamy and I realised that this is half the fun; experimenting with different levels of starter can provide a more sour yoghurt (ideal for cakes and savoury dishes) or a creamier alternative (a perfect substitute for icecream in desserts). I thought my current batch was a brilliant base for a yummy breakfast yoghurt.

Wonderbag Yoghurt

If you are inspired by my efforts and would to have a trial Wonderbag or even get your own, please contact Ali at the usual Transition email address.

The Breakfast of Champions

Wonderbag Yogurt


  • 500 ml milk
  • 3 tbsp of milk powder (optional)
  • 3 tbsp of organic yoghurt (with live bacteria)


  1. I used Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s recipe with a few adjustments
  2. Heat the milk in a saucepan until it reaches 46C or until you cannot keep a (clean) pinkie finger in it for 20 seconds without serious discomfort (this is the highly technical method I used)
  3. Add the milk powder and whisk
  4. Transfer to a prewarmed glass bowl and stir in the yoghurt
  5. Top with a saucer and place inside the Wonderbag.
  6. Leave alone!
  7. 8-10 hours later, sit back and enjoy your newly created yoghurty creation!


  • For your next batch of yoghurt, you can use 3tsp from this batch as a starter.
  • The milk powder is used for thickening the yoghurt. If you’d prefer a drinking yoghurt (ideal for smoothies) or a pouring yoghurt like Scandanavian filmjölk use less.

The Breakfast of Champions

Homemade Granola


  • 5 cups of porridge oats
  • 3 cups of mixed seeds (pumpkin, sesame, linseed)
  • 1 cup of wheatgerm
  • 1 cup of chopped mixed nuts
  • 1 cup of apple juice
  • 1/2 cup of honey
  • 2 tbsp of cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp of cardommon
  • 1, 1/2 cups of raisins


  1. Place the oats,  seeds, wheatgerm, nuts and spices in a bowl. Stir in the apple juice
  2. Add the honey and stir until coated
  3. Spread on a large oven tray (lined with baking parchment)
  4. Bake in a medium oven (180C) until crispy and brown (although it will crisp up as it cools)
  5. Leave on the tray whilst it cools
  6. Pour into a large bowl and stir in the raisins.
  7. Will keep for weeks (depending on how hungry you get)


  • You can really add whatever you like to granola. I quite often make it when I seem to have lots of left over things from baking: coconut flakes, nuts, seeds, spices, dried fruit all work well.

(As usual, a downloadable pdf of these recipes is available on our recipe page)