Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Jo Jo's Kitchen Garden featured on Yahoo!


Over the summer, I worked on a kitchen garden project for Yahoo. It involved filming a series of videos on my gardening tips and cooking demos.

Here are the links to the two articles featuring my videos :

I have also launched a new website Jo Jo Garden Cook which is focused on growing vegetables and Chinese/ South East Asian recipes.

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Stir-fried (Unripe) Butternut Squash with black bean sauce recipe


So, what do you do with all those unripe butternut squashes at the end of summer? They haven't yet developed the sweetness we associate butternuts with which can be off-putting to some. So, try this: stir-fry them with black bean sauce and garlic.

When this dish is served, the squash should be tender and coated in the sauce, the peppers and spring onions with just a little crunch. The trick to getting this right is to slice the squash into thin, equal sized pieces so that it cooks quickly and evenly.

Garlic and chilli should be roughly chopped, not minced so as not to burn in the wok.

I'm using store bought Lee Kum Kee black bean and garlic sauce out of a jar - this is probably the most well known and loved brand of ready made Chinese sauces. Different brands will vary in saltiness - and black bean sauces then to be quite salty - so use sparingly and taste test as you cook, adding more if necessary.

This recipe is also published on my new site : Jo Jo Garden Cook

Stir-fried Butternut Squash with black bean sauce recipe

Serves 2 as a main, with rice


500g butternut squash (about half a large one), peeled and sliced into 2mm thick pieces
1 bunch spring onions, cut into pieces
1 large bell pepper / capsicum (any colour), sliced
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 medium red chilli, sliced at a diagonal
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tbsp black bean sauce
1 tbsp water
1 tsp sugar

  1. Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan over a medium heat.
  2. Add squash and fry for 2 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, red chilli, bell pepper and fry for 30 seconds.
  4. Add spring onions and fry for 30 seconds.
  5. Add black bean sauce, water and sugar and toss through.
  6. Stir-fry until squash is tender (approximately 3 - 4 minutes)

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Compostable Coffee pods by Black Insomnia - Nespresso compatible

I recently received a selection of Black Insomnia products to review and one in particular caught my eye - the Black Insomnia Nespresso compatible coffee pod.  

Why? Because it is 100% home compostable. That's right - this is a completely eco-friendly alternative to the standard aluminium and plastic capsule. Made from 100% corn starch, these coffee pods can be thrown directly into your home compost along with your vegetable scraps. 

Wow, really? Yes, there is no need to faff about with rinsing out pods or driving your used pods to your local collection point. According to Black Insomnia, simply throw the pods (lids and all) directly into your compost bin and it will breakdown in six weeks. 

Can I throw them into my food waste bin that the local council picks up? Yes, you can! 

An aside: My compost bin is seen here filled with my homegrown Chioggia beetroot scraps - aren't they just the prettiest candy coloured beets? And they match the compost bin! 

Did you know? 39,000 capsules are produced every minute, 29,000 end up in landfill (Source: BBIA article, read here).

How about freshness, taste and quality?
So, a lot of coffee pods are made from aluminium and this is primarily to protect freshness and taste. And you may wonder whether packaging made from corn starch is up to scratch - according to Black Insomnia, after years of research and testing, these pods have been designed to keep the coffee fresh for up to 15 months. 

Want to know how? This is achieved by using shells from sunflower seeds which provide natural protection against light and oxygen, both of which are damaging to coffee - and are therefore ideal to protect the ground coffee in each pod.

This is a very strong, medium roast coffee.  The company uses traditional barrel roasting techniques to create a smooth, rich taste from a mix of Arabica and Robusta beans.

How much are they and where can I buy them?
Black Insomnia home compostable coffee pods for Nespresso© Machines are £19.95 (for a box of 50), including free shipping.  You can buy them directly from Black Insomnia.  

A little bit about Black Insomnia Coffee:
  • Their product range includes ground coffee, coffee beans, coffee drip bags, coffee pour over bags and coffee pods
  • Their coffee has been independently verified as The World's Strongest Coffee with 1105 mg of Caffeine per 12 fl. Oz cup, equating to more than four times the strength of Starbucks or other typical high street brands.

So, now you can enjoy your morning coffee knowing that it isn't going to end up in landfill! 

Friday, 10 July 2020

Black Insomnia 100% compostable coffee pods

Black insomnia compostable coffee pods

Black Insomnia first to launch 100% compostable coffee pods in the UK

Black Insomnia Coffee Company, the maker of the world’s strongest medium roast coffee, has launched a revolutionary Nespresso©-compatible coffee pod which is 100% home compostable.

The new pods, which are certified by TÜV Austria as ‘Ok Compost Home Compost’, present a completely eco-friendly alternative to the standard aluminium and plastic capsule. This means they can be disposed of alongside home food waste and will compost in the garden within six weeks.

According to research, 39,000 coffee capsules are produced every minute globally, of which 29,000 end up in landfill. Nespresso themselves concede that 71 per cent of their capsules are not currently being recycled.

Even those capsules which are recycled require vast amounts of energy to do so, making compostable pods the most eco-friendly solution. Black Insomnia is the first coffee company to provide coffee in this new eco-friendly way in the UK.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Stay at home: Zucchini / Courgettes and Squash seeds to sow

Top left: Genovese, Rugosa Friuliana & Striato 

Starting your kitchen garden? Grow Zucchini & Squash

Custard White
If there was ever a vegetable plant made for the novice gardener, it has got to be the humble courgette (zucchini).  Easy to sow from seed and generally low maintenance they produce an abundance of fruit throughout the growing season making it one of the most productive in the kitchen garden.

This year, I am sowing not just zucchini but also squash seeds from Italian company Franchi. They stock interesting and unusual varieties that will make your zucchino growing journey anything but boring.

Note: I ordered seeds from their website during the UK covid-19 lockdown and they arrived within the week.

Here are some that I've grown in the past from the Franchi range:

Rugosa Friuliana (zuchetta) - a firm favourite of mine with knobbly, pale yellow fruit and tasty dense flesh.  There is no need to peel them and they are delicious.

Custard white (zucchino) is pretty round fruit with scalloped edges and their shape makes them perfect for the summer barbecue (sliced).  The fruit can be harvested both small (sometimes sold commercially as 'patty pan squash' in it's baby form) or larger. The skin is delicate and there is no need to peel them before cooking/eating.

Genovese and Striato are both typical classic shaped zucchini but their colouring is what makes them striking. The former is a pale green, creamy fleshed variety from Genova and the latter a dark green striped one.

This year, I am going to try Bolognese with oval fruits, Greyzini Ibrido F1 and Spaghetti squash.
Rugosa Friuliana (Zuchetta) 

Genovese (Zucchino)

Zucchini and squash do require a good amount of space as these are large plants (about 90cm between plants). They are prickly too, so best not placed in a spot where you are likely to brush up against them.  It goes without saying that good soil is a must and I like to boost the plants with seaweed fertiliser (like Maxicrop). Once they start producing, the general rule of thumb is to keep picking them small and pick, pick, pick or you'll end up with marrows (and lots of them!). 

And importantly, don't plant out seedlings too early - it is generally safer from June once the risk of frost has passed.

Franchi seeds can be purchased online from Seeds of Italy here (UK Only).

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Stay at home : Harvest & Preserve herbs

Harvesting and Preserving herbs from the garden

Getting food into the house has proven to be challenging over the last few weeks. We normally use Ocado for food deliveries but in recent weeks, both their app and website have been impossible to get into.  We are gradually adapting to our new way of life but being in isolation means we can't simply just pop out to the stores as we have done so often in the past.

With dwindling fridge supplies, I walked around the garden today for a breather and was grateful to find three clumps of largely neglected chive plants - two in the herb garden and one in the vegetable patch.

There was rhubarb and herbs too; bay leaves from a potted bay plant, marjoram with new growth, hardy rosemary and some overgrown spring onions.  I breathe a sigh of relief - we won't starve - sign of life in the garden means we won't starve. 

My plan is to keep harvesting new leaves for preserving (either by drying or freezing). The plants should then continue to grow over the coming months, leaving me with a bountiful harvest of herbs by the winter when the plants slow or die down.

Friday, 27 March 2020

Stay at home: Conserving and Extending spring onions

UK lockdown:  Day 4
Self isolation: Day 14 

Our family of three have been 'self isolating' as we have symptoms of the coronavirus. It has been 14 days now and our last food delivery was over a week ago.

At a time when getting food and supplies to the house has become increasingly challenging, I am trying to conserve what I can and make it last just that little bit longer. Herbs, garnish all seem a little lavish in the current climate when so many are struggling to get basic essentials.

Even More Spring Onions
Here's something you can do that will extend the life of your spring onions. Ask the kids to help and be responsible for caring for their plants.

Friday, 30 August 2019

Richard Buckley's "Plants taste better": Vegan recipe book

Plants Taste Better by Richard Buckley

Chef Richard Buckley has released his second recipe book Plants Taste Better, a beautiful hard back book with sophisticated vegan recipes.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Stir Crazy by Ching-He Huang

Stir Crazy by Ching-He Huang (Photo courtesy:

Mastering the wok with Ching-He Huang

This week, I was delighted to receive a copy of Ching He-Huang's latest cookbook in conjunction with the launch of her line of organic soybean and edamame noodles for Yutaka.

Stir Crazy is Ching's collection of everyday stir fry recipes written with the busy in mind.
In it, she offers plenty of tips on how to cook the perfect stir fry - with simple recipes that most people can try at home. 

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Japanese inspired burger with panko breadcrumbs

Japanese inspired burger with panko breadcrumbs (photo courtesy Yutaka)
Give Your BBQ A Japanese Twist

Who is feeling the heat this summer? With temperatures soaring, it's the perfect weather to be cooking on the BBQ.  This week, I was sent some sample Yutaka products to review -  their miso paste, panko breadcrumbs, wasabi paste to name a few and some recipes to add a Japanese twist to traditional BBQ-ing.

Now, I really love miso paste and try to add it to just about everything, so this Japanese-inspired miso laced burger really hits the spot.  Top with wasabi mayonnaise and what more could your heart desire?