Newsletter July 2008

 Ahimsa logo It has always been our dream to purchase land with its own water supply in a remote un-spoilt setting to establish a place where peace, healing and a sustainable lifestyle could flourish. Six weeks ago this became a reality when we purchased a small hillside Quinta overlooking the river Zêzere in the province of Beira Baixa, Central Portugal.

Our vision is to create a biotope where people from all walks of life and cultures can come together in 'peace', to enjoy peace and more importantly promote peace. In these early stages we need to get at least one of the five buildings functional and this is our aim over the next 12 months. At the moment there is a large threshing floor which will be repaired and become a covered space for meditation and yoga surrounded by cypress, pine and sweet chestnut trees.

 

 

50_152_fonte-de-baixo.jpg In a few weeks time our Architect Manfred, who specialises in ecological and sustainable building will begin the drawing stage. We want to design and build the hub from which future projects we want to run will be staged. As you can imagine we are incredibly excited about this project. When Bruni and I first started to plan Projeto-Ahimsa, our idea was to share our passionate belief that when you live non-violently, in harmony with the universe, life is sweeter in every sense.

We have both always believed that everyone can have a slice of Projeto-Ahimsa. If the volume of interest already received is anything to go by, you do too. With this in mind, we welcome any donations of labour, be it gardening, plumbing, stonework, general building, electrical, etc. We are not in a position to pay you but we will find you a bed and provide you with wonderful food and Bruni will throw in a Thai-massage to tend away aching muscles.

Your reward will be to know that you built a place of peace and tranquillity and a resource from which other people can learn to live more gently.

The first thing we need to focus on will be pulling a development and building plan together. We have an acre-and-a-half of clear land to immediately bring into productivity. Each month apart from regular updates, there will be some delicious recipes from the Ahimsa kitchen for you to try using seasonal ingredients.

Ahimsa-Kitchen

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From our vegetable terraces and small orchard come these seasonal recipes which we hope you will enjoy.

Beetroot, Rocket and Queijo de Évora Salad

Serves 4 as a starter

(Instead of Queijo de Évora, Feta cheese can be substituted)

From the north-east of Évora comes this classic combination of textures and flavours, crunch from the beetroot; hot and leafy from the rocket; salty and crumbly from the Queijo de Évora all put together in a matter of minutes.

Ingredients:

500g beetroot, preferably baby ones that you can keep whole, otherwise cut them into 3cm chunks

A couple of handfuls of rocket leaves

125g Queijo de Évora

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Lemon juice

Freshly ground black pepper

Wash and peel the beetroot, simmer gently, or steam, for 7-10 minutes, until tender but still a little al-dente.

Put the rocket leaves in a salad bowl with the cool beetroot, then crumble the Queijo de Évora on the top. Dress with the olive oil and a good squeeze of lemon juice and a few twists of black pepper. Toss well together and serve.

Deep-fried Stuffed Courgette Flowers

Don't miss the opportunity to taste one of the real treats of summer.

Serves 4 as part of main course

50_155_courgette-flower.jpg Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

500g small courgettes, finely sliced

2 tablespoons cream

50g Parmesan Cheese, finely grated

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

8-10 fresh courgette flowers

Sunflower oil for deep-frying

For the batter:

250g plain flour

1 large or 2 small egg yokes

Pinch of salt

350ml water or for a real treat, substitute with pilsner style beer

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, then add the garlic, courgettes and a little salt. Cook the courgettes gently until softened without browning. Continue to cook slowly, stirring regularly until completely softened and almost all of their water has evaporated (this may take 20 minutes or more). Remove from the heat and with a fork or a potato masher reduce the courgettes to a rouge purée. Return to a gentle heat and stir in the cream and parmesan and bubble for just a minute so that the cream is incorporated and reduced a little. Season to taste and allow the mix to cool.

To make the batter - quickly mix all the ingredients together, adding more water (or beer) if necessary to bring the batter to the consistency of thick paint. Don't over mix the batter, or it won't have the light mixture you want - don't worry if there are a few lumps in it.

Check your courgette flowers for insects, then carefully spoon the cooked courgette mixture inside them with a teaspoon. You should get 2-4 good teaspoons in each depending on the size of the courgette flowers (any leftovers can be used as a sauce for pasta).

Heat the sunflower oil in a saucepan or a deep-fryer until a small piece of bread thrown in takes about 1 minute to turn golden brown. Dip the stuffed flowers in the batter and lower them carefully into the hot oil. Do not cover and cook between 2-4 at a time, depending on their size and the size of the pan. Deep-fry for 1-2 minutes, until puffed out and golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper to remove the excess oil and serve with flaky salt. Serve with new potatoes tossed in butter and finely chopped mint and a green salad.

Strawberry Granita

Serves 6 easily

I don't actually own an ice-cream machine but enjoy the taste and texture of ice cream and sorbets. This recipe is a quick and easy way to make a delicious fresh fruit dessert. This particular recipe is with strawberries but other soft fruit such as raspberries, gooseberries, currents or even rhubarb can be used.

50_156_strawberry-granita.jpg Ingredients:

Crush a kilo of strawberries (or other soft fruit) and rub them through a nylon sieve to extract the seeds.

Whisk up to 200g icing sugar and the juice of 1-2 lemons to sweeten and sharpen to taste. Don't worry if the mixture is a little too sweet or a little too sharp as this will mellow when it is frozen.

Pour the purée into a bowl or large dish, ideally not deeper than 4cm so it will freeze easily. Put into the freezer until solid. Defrost for about half an hour before serving, then use a fork to scratch the surface of the frozen fruit pulp, piling the frosty shards into serving glasses. Serve quickly, before it has time to melt.

Sustainability Tip

Each month we will share with you a range of tips and ideas for recycling, conserving and living a greener life. Reducing our carbon footprint is for all of us a challenge which has been a useful catalyst for use at Fonte de Baixo as we have no refuge collection or connection to mains sewage. What ever waste we produce, we have handle its disposal so trying not to create it in the first instance must be sensible place to start. Below are just a few ideas that have worked for us:

Where possible, choose second-hand furniture rather than buying new items.

We have had such fun rummaging around markets and bric-a-brac shops for the furniture we need to make our space feel more homely. Often second-hand furniture has a charm some new items lack. After all, they are just younger versions of what later gets termed 'antique'. We have been amazed at the wonderful bargains and the beauty of classic Iberian furniture that is available if you take the time to look.

Use vinegar mixed with water to replace chemical-based window cleaner.

At the moment we don't have any windows to clean, but when we do, we will be using some of our old grape juice to make wine-vinegar for cleaning. If you add five parts water to one part organic vinegar in a reused spray-bottle, the cost works out at less than a third of the cost of a major supermarket brand and just as effective.

Brushing the toilet for a brief minute daily will seriously reduce the need for chemical toilet cleaners.

It is our aim to deal with all our black water waste (toilet waste) through three cascading reed beds, oxygenated via a flow form. Pouring toxic chemical cleaner into the system is therefore not advisable but surprisingly, it is also not needed to keep the toilet bowl sparklingly clean either. By giving you're your toilet a regular, good brushing, you will find that a litre of Ecover, environmentally friendly toilet cleaner will last you up to two years.

If you need wood for DIY around the house, check nearby recycling centres or see if there is a reclaimed wood supplier in your neighbourhood.

In the work we plan to do at Fonte de Baixo we will require a lot of timber. In one way we are very lucky as we have approximately half-an-acre of Eucalyptus which we want to grub out or use for coppice timber later on. As we grub this non-indigenous species we will replace each tree with an indigenous species, preferably with something to eat or use from its branches. This is called Permaculture, using whatever space we have to provide either food or fuel for our consumption. This not only saves tress but can add an unexpected aesthetic to the woodwork we want to undertake. In the UK, there is a list of reclaimed wood suppliers at www.recycle.mcmail.com/timber Check of course that the wood is disease free.

If you need a trades-person such as a plumber or carpenter, find someone who is based locally. You could also join the local green-currency system and see if there is anyone there that can help you.

Hiring local people reduces the amount of congestion and pollution due in unnecessary travel whilst at the same time recycles money in the local economy.

Finally, the Bees

The first real residents at Fonte de Baixo are three hives of honey bees. Over the next few years the number of hives will grow up to twenty. The bees and their honey crop are a valuable resource and both Bruni and I use the honey in a variety of different ways which we hope to share with over the next few months. Many of us will spend more time in the sun over these next few months which results in dry and hardened skin. Bruni makes a wonderful bath treatment to re-moisturise and soften the skin while you gentle soak away tiredness and stress.

Foaming Honey Bath

(Enough for four baths)

You will need:

225 ml sweet almond oil, light olive oil or sesame oil

175g honey

100g liquid soap

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Method:

Put the oil into a medium bowl and carefully stir in the remaining ingredients until fully blended. Pour into a clean plastic bottle with a lid. Shake gently before using. Pour under running water and enjoy a warm, silky escape.

If you want to add anything to our newsletter, events, workshops, things or services for sale or trade, please don't hesitate to send them through and we are happy to add them to future newsletters.

From Projeto-Ahimsa and Fonte de Baixo -

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