Making a dough proofer and more red lentil soup.

I have really struggled posting since we returned from our trip. This has resulted, I think,  from a combination of a few things. It is so flipping cold, wet and miserable here we just haven’t been doing a lot of work, there is an element of frustration that we are so close, yet so far away from completing the target  and I fear I just keep repeating the same old thing. I need a bit of a boost and motivation (or a return to the Mediterranean) I think.

Anyway, whinge over and here is what has been happening over the last few weeks.

BREAD-

I’ve been having fun playing around with a few different concepts in relation to mixing, proving and using different flours. Because it has been so cold it is difficult to find a spot with a fairly consistent temperature to prove my dough. I have previously investigated buying a dedicated proofer but they are ridiculously expensive for what they are and the scrooge in me refuses to fall in to that black hole. Also, with baking for just ourselves, a few family and friends, it doesn’t really matter if the consistency varies a little between each batch and management of time can be adjusted to suit. Anyway, I thought I’d have a go at creating something that if really necessary, I could use. My initial experiment comes in the form of a lizard/reptile heat pad that I bought for $6.00ish (including postage) from eBay.

Reptile heat padIt has a temperature dial  and is only 5 amps so won’t use much energy. It didn’t come with an Australian plug but a quick fit of one of our travel plugs and we were off and running.

I put the mat, dough and a jug of water (to keep humidity levels up) in under a plastic storage box and monitored the temp over a few hours.

DIY prooferIt seemed to work really well, but next time I will put the bannetons on a cake rack as it did show signs of being a bit too warm on the base of the dough. I will probably use a tub that isn’t as high too. Quite happy with the result though for the first test. Temp got up to about 23 over an hour.

Bread prooferThe next experiment was using some new Teflon Baking sheets/wraps. As most of you know I’m a bit of an ‘anti-waste’ freak and Tammy from over at Gippsland Unwrapped posted about these sheets a few month ago. Because I’m baking in a cast iron pot and not on a stone, I need to use baking paper every time I bake bread. There is a wide selection of better ethical and environmental choices to make in selecting baking paper but I thought I’d try these sheets.

Teflon baking sheetThey certainly moulded to accommodate the pan quite well and they baked in my tiny little oven set to the max without any obvious issues. I haven’t researched issues such as embodied energy or outgassing but I’ll get to that later. The bread baked well but seemed to have more moisture trapped on the base than I would normally get.

IMG_8538It certainly didn’t create an issue bad enough to stop us enjoying some fresh bread with calamari, a home made tartare style sauce and a fresh salad made with lettuce from the garden, roasted capsicum and red onion drizzled with olive oil and red wine vinegar.

IMG_8534 I find store bought tartare sauce awful and home made is usually  loaded with mayo, so I adapted by mixing, greek yogurt (app 3/4 cup, maybe a generous 1/2 cup), a generous tablespoon of mayo, 1tblspn of dijon mustard, 2-3 gherkins finely chopped and about a tablespoon of capers finely chopped. S&P and mix all together, add a squeeze of lemon and it’s done. So much nicer and I would think healthier than store bought. I tend to judge a pub dining room by whether or not they make their own sauces and condiments. It takes only a minute and adds so much flavour to the meal. This lunch was with our daughter and our gorgeous grandson who turned 6 months old last week. It’s great that he is now old enough to sit up at the table in a high chair so he can get used to sharing the ‘family gathering’ food fest that will certainly be a regular event. Look, he already loves the wooden spoon!

Last of tomatoesI picked these tomatoes and rocoto chilli from the greenhouse yesterday. I think this may very well be the last of the crop although there are flowers on the tomatoes up near the roof. I’m impressed  to have picked these and it’s nearly August. Don’t hold your breath for more to follow for a while.

String & Salt ChaiSunday morning chai. We started a winter tradition of making ginger tea after we returned from India about 3 years ago. It is a beautiful brew where you bring milk, cardamon pods and ginger to the boil  then add black tea allowing it to steep for a few minutes before pouring. We tasted the chai tea String & Salt (my favourite shop in Gippsland) sell at the Warragul Farmers Market and it was really nice, very similar to our Indian brew but with a few extra punches. They sell a pack that makes a 2 litre mix so you can keep having a hit over a few days. I might have to see if I can leave a couple of containers for refills rather than have the little plastic bags each time. They are so accommodating I’m sure we can arrange something.

Comparing Red Lentil Soup

The last red lentil soup post I did related to the Turkish Bride Soup Recipe I used in the Anatolia cook book.  I didn’t have red lentils for that but it didn’t change much except the colour. Well I’m all stocked up on red lentils again so today I tried a recipe from the book Turkish Fire by Sevkap Yuce. This recipe was so simple (even after my tweaking) and was absolutely delicious.

Red Lentil SoupRed Lentil Soup with Milk from Turkish Fire. Original recipe on left, my adaptation in brackets

1/3 c olive oil (drizzle to cover bottom of pot)

1 large onion diced (1 large white and 1/2 red onion chopped)

1 Tablespoon flour

1 tablespoon tomato paste (used a bit more)

1/2 cup red lentils

1 tablespoon pul biber (1 tablespoon kashmiri chilli flakes)

1 cup milk ( I omitted, using extra water)

(I also added 1 roasted red capsicum)

 

Sweat onion in oil in pan, add flour and tomato paste cook a few minutes. Add lentils, pul biber or chilli, 2 cups (3 in my case) water, roasted red capsicum and simmer until lentils are tender. I turned the heat off after about 15 minutes and let it sit until serving the next day.  Serve with a dollop of greek yoghurt, chopped parsley or herbs of choice and with crusty bread drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with garlic. I LOVED this soup!

Finally, a kitchen update.

I know, this has been going on and on and on and on for so long even I’m sick of it. The good news is that the bench tops have arrived and they are simply stunning. Can’t really see in this pic but believe me, they are great. They do need another coat of oil sealant but we love them. Cupboards are in (need a few more handles), oven is in place (not connected), floors are done and it is looking great. That vacant wall on rear left is where my 1920’s dresser that I’m restoring is going to go. Jobs left to do are:

  • Decide on and install a rangehood (hardest thing in whole project)
  • Finish restoring mantlepiece, paint and re-fit it to chimney.
  • Display shelves (same timber as benches) in alcove on right of chimney
  • Finish painting windows
  • Tiling (minimalistic)
  • Fit dishwasher and sink plumbing, connect gas & power to cooker (honeymoon son’s jobs)
  • Enjoy!

IMG_8510This photo taken 12 months ago of the wall where the cooker now sits between 2 windows and the room extended. God, I get the jitters when I think of how much work stripping that chimney has taken. Not to mention all the other jobs as well.IMG_2242-001 The photo below shows the old back of the house which was removed and the rear of the house extended. That old wall lines up to about 1/2 way along the island bench and where the new second window is. IMG_3114 Has it been worth it?

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A couple of favourite winter things.

There are two things I love to do in winter, eat soup and to listen to live music at our friends shed when they hold a home concert.

The soup is easy, almost anything can be thrown together to create a great soup but we do love a good pumpkin soup. We were graciously given some pumpkin by friends at the end of their harvest and tonight I used this to make a batch of pumpkin soup. This pumpkin looks exceptionally nice and I have saved the seed from it with the intention of having a much more successful season next year.IMG_0543-001Served with greek yoghurt and flat leaf parsley and toasted pumpkin seed sourdough.IMG_0546-001 To make this pumpkin soup I keep it simple,

  • 2 onions, (or leek)
  • 2 tspns curry powder
  • 2-3 teaspoons grated ginger
  • however much chopped up pumpkin you want to use (4 large handfuls as a guide tonight)
  • stock or sometimes I just throw in a packet of chicken noodle soup.
  • enough water to cover what’s in the pot.

Chop the lot up, put into a pot and bring to boil, simmer until pumpkin is cooked to soft and mushy then blitz with a stick blender. You can add coconut milk if desired but I prefer not to.

Music warms the cockles.

The other delight is taking the time to just sit and listen and appreciate live music in a cosy setting. Blues and country is normally on the playlist on these afternoons but it really doesn’t matter. Great people, cosy atmosphere and wonderful local music. When the day is blustering outside and rain is starting to fall, you can just mellow out a little and get the heart beat back into sync.

IMG_0539-001

IMG_0541-001Warm and snuggly at the shed!

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Making do in the kitchen! Hot air balloon flight-Tick!

I have not been that motivated to do much since we returned from our holiday in the balmy summer warmth of the Mediterranean. I’d never understood why people head to warmer parts over winter, but I can now see why.  One bright and sunny thing we have going on is that our oranges are ready for picking to give us a daily serve of juice. These oranges are sweet but with a degree of tartness which I like to give you a bit of a zing.IMG_8488With the imminent move into the new kitchen, I’ve been trying to avoid shopping for much, as we will soon have to move everything from the makeshift kitchen to the new kitchen (never thought it would happen!). This means the fridge and freezer will need to be cleaned out and defrosted and all pantry items sorted through and some culled. So there has been a few “make do” meals happening rather than throwing things out. Breakfast today was sourdough pancakes with maple syrup, lemon and sugar, fresh juice and a lovely cup of tea. Didn’t use much in the way of pantry surplus, but it did mean I could use the sourdough starter that would normally be discarded. These pancakes are always so light. To make the batter I use approximately 1 cup 100% sourdough (SD) starter, about 3/4 cup of SR flour, a generous tablespoon of sugar, one egg and enough milk to mix to whatever consistency you prefer.IMG_8491Our first breakfast in the almost finished new family room. The pancakes look a little wonky but were fine.IMG_8493As I work through using (or chucking) anything in the freezer that should go, I’ve found that the ‘toy oven’ put on a very low setting is a great place to start the defrosting process. The item then goes back into the fridge to avoid contamination as it completes the defrosting process. I have some lamb chops defrosting on the top of the oven here. I also ran out of my normal bread flour so I am using up whatever is to hand. This Italian flour was used to make a loaf scored to resemble a sunflower about to open.IMG_8480It is quite pretty, not necessarily like a sunflower, but pretty. Sunflower loafThe chops were grilled with a pomegranate molasses glaze. I served them with leftovers of a dish I made earlier in the week. Stuffed eggplant (vegetarian), a red pepper burgul salad and some obligatory mash. Sadly the chops were as tough as old boots! The rest however was  delicious.IMG_8495 It is that time of year where we are inundated with oak tree leaves falling. This is one of the collection points from last year where we had added manure, grass clippings and other organic ‘stuff’ throughout the year. What is in the barrow is the result, beautiful black, crumbly compost. I emptied this bin and re-assembled it for collection of this years leaves. Once it stops raining I can start re-filling it. I do run the mower over the leaves to  hasten breaking down.IMG_8478

Holiday snaps – Hot Air Balloon flight, Goreme Cappadocia.

I had thought that on our return I would be very organised and would carefully put together a series of posts in correct sequence of our journey across Greece & Turkey but I just haven’t, so I’m randomly putting up a few shots. These are a few of our hot air balloon flight across Goreme Cappadocia. It took quite a lot of self-help to get me onboard and I am thrilled that I did. Being among 90 hot air balloons up in the air at the same time was amazing. I was fine once I had clipped the safety harness on, which alleviated my fear of jumping out. Over at Almost Italian, Francesca has just posted about preferring to look up rather than down. I know we’ve touched on heights before but I am so pleased (and chuffed with myself) that I overcame the doubt and fear.

IMG_2649Sunrise in the sky at 4000 feet.IMG_7283Capadoccia hot air balloon IMG_7212 IMG_7225 IMG_7242 Landing. These guys actually pull you in and ‘park’ the basket on the back of the trailer. Skill levels and brawn that would astound you!IMG_7294I think I took about 400 photos during this flight. It is still too amazing for me to sort inside my head to work through which ones are special and why.

I may still get to doing a series of better constructed posts, I hope so for my own sake.

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Tastes of Turkey

One of the things I enjoy most about travelling is the exposure you get to seeing how different cultures eat, cook and celebrate the special events in their lives. The food in both Greece & Turkey was wonderful, healthy, fresh, colourful and varied. I have come home motivated to try a lot of different dishes so I reserved a couple of Turkish cook books at the local library, this one, Anatolia-Adventures in Turkish Cooking arrived Friday so I’ve done a couple of test meals.

Anatolia Recipe BookYesterday I made ‘Ezo The Bride’ Soup, or also known as red lentil and burgul soup. I had been eyeing off a recipe for Turkish Bride Soup that Annabel Langbein has developed but I hadn’t gotten around to making it. This soup seems to have many variations to both the ingredients and the story as to how it evolved, when I googled it, no other recipes seemed to use rice as well as lentils and bulgur and many others used butter to cook the onion first.  I didn’t have enough red lentils so I made up the balance with brown lentils. Served with some pumpkin seed sourdough it was a hale and hearty meal indeed and one I think, that would be extremely high in fibre content. Oops, should have wiped the bowls before taking pictures I think!

Turkish Bride soupI mentioned last post that I made some red pepper paste, this paste is used in just about everything in Turkey. It is as common as our tomato paste is and it is delicious. The version I made is quite spicy as I used my rocoto chillies as well as red capsicum to make it. This pic shows some tomato paste on the left and some weird-looking pepper paste on the right. It has been stored in the fridge with olive oil covering it so it looks strange but you can see the brilliant colour of it. Most of it is still hiding under the layer of oil.

Pepper pasteTonight I made a version of Lamb kebaps with Barbecued salad.

Lamb kebabsThis was delicious! I deviated a little in the cooking as I didn’t have any meat skewers and our little grill pan is all that is available at the moment so it was easier to shape them like kofta. I made these a little earlier so the stove was free to cook the salad skewers, I also included some eggplant in the vegies to grill. The meatballs were reheated just prior to serving.

Kebabs fryingI couldn’t be bothered making pita bread so it was served with some mountain bread (not really recommended) and some greek yoghurt. I’m glad I halved the paprika in the sauce mix as it was quite hot, tasty but just a little too much.

Ready to eat kebabs

Both of the recipes I tried were really nice so I’ll continue testing a few more. I will create a document and add the recipes for these dishes later.

Last year I mentioned we had bought a Kitchen dresser, and that I was going to give it some TLC. I just didn’t like the shiny lacquer finish that had been applied and I wanted it to look far more soft and silky.

Antique kitchen dresser

well I’ve finally been working on getting it to look more like it would have originally. It means going over every part of it with water based paint stripper, lots of sanding, possibly some oxalic acid applications to remove some black staining, lots more rubbing with steel wool then applying a finish of beeswax and carnuaba wax. So far it looks promising as to how it will progress but there is a long way to go yet. This is after the first attack.

Sideboard drawersSome would think this enough to burn the unit but I happen to love wondering about what it may have been that chewed its way along the back of this drawer.SB Drawer eatenHere are a couple of pics taken in a little restaurant in Goreme Cappadocia Turkey. These women sit here most of the day making dumplings, Turkish ravioli (manti) and other beautiful goodies.Goreme mantiThis is the setting our table was placed, you look out over some of the amazing ‘homes in caves’ which is what this area is most noted for.IMG_7137 This will give an indicator as to how much the tourism industry is effected by the unrest in the area. Normally would be packed at this time of year.IMG_7136We under-estimated how much food would be served by a mile. This was the appetizer,IMG_7139Followed by the main meal of Turkish ravioli (this is what the women made) it is about the size of the tip of a finger and painstakingly shaped to perfection. There is about a match sticks head worth of filling in each piece. This was served with yoghurt, red pepper paste and dried herbs. The other dish was smoked roasted stuffed eggplant and I am drooling remembering it! The bread was baked in their wood oven and I thoroughly enjoyed every morsel!Manti

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Sourdough sharing, garden and exteno update.

It has been great to be able to share some sourdough loaves with our friends at their social gatherings over the last couple of weekends. Home-made bread always seems to go down so well!

After being away for 5 weeks, it took a couple of days to re-invigorate Phoenicia (my pet name for my starter) into action by feeding her twice a day, she was back in form and rearing to go after 3 days. Good sourdough culture is pretty resilient and strong and can easily be revived after quite a long time if it has been kept refrigerated. IMG_8423-002With this dough made of 80% bread flour and 20% rye flour, I made an assortment of loaves to share and 2 loaves for ourselves.IMG_8433 I have quite a few people ask how I manage to bake the bread in a barbecue. It has taken quite a bit of experimenting but I seem to be coming up with some fairly consistent loaves these days. This cold weather does mean a lot of watching as there is a massive amount of heat loss in the barbecue. It then leads to over-tweaking which can lead to easily burning. It is usually only baguette style loaves I do in the barbecue as they just won’t fit in the ‘toy oven’.

I shape the loaves and prove them on a couche (heavy linen cloth but you can use a T-towel) until about 30 minutes before baking. Barbecue is then turned on, I light the two outside burners on medium and the 2 centre burners on low. I have a large floor tile over the hot plate and grill rack to diffuse the heat and an old cast iron pan with hot rocks in it which will be used as a steam injector when baking. These 2 loaves are ready to be slashed/scored and baked.

IMG_8442 They then go into the barbecue on a little rack to lift off the really hot base and I pour about a cup of water over the hot rocks to create steam then close the lid. The 2 middle burners are now turned off, just the 2 outside ones remain on. These 2 loaves were cooked for 8 minutes then turned and the outside burners turned to low, then cooked for a further 15 minutes.IMG_8444This is the Sunbeam barbecue I use, it’s been a great workhorse for about 10 years.IMG_8443 Finished loaves included, an olive, chilli and cheese loaf, a rosemary baguette which I sprinkled sea salt on top of mimicking Carol Fields’s ‘panmarino‘ yeasted loaf which I baked last year. 2 plain baguettes and 2 crusty 900g loaves. This is the basket of goodies ready to take to a party.IMG_8450Things obviously didn’t stop growing while we were away! This is my garlic bed which has had self-sown poppies decide to take up residence. I thought I eliminated these last year but obviously not.IMG_8418-002 Now that’s more like it!IMG_8421I found a couple of giant celeriac which I’m yet to cook. I hope they aren’t too woody, they may end up frozen and used as stock flavouring if they are.IMG_8419-001In the greenhouse I was greeted with loads of cheery rocoto chillies so these along with  a couple of red capsicum, were turned into some Turkish red pepper paste. I’ll let you know how that goes later!IMG_8414 I was very concerned that my precious oyster plant had croaked it but I notice some new little shoots appearing. This must be a perennial, I can’t find much info on the internet so if anyone can share their expertise I would love to hear from you.

IMG_8416The eucalyptus caesia (silver princess) turned on a beautiful show for our return. The wattle birds are loving this tree.IMG_8412-001and what a delight seeing some cheery jonquils in flower.  IMG_8408It is nice to be home and to get back into the exteno for its final stages. Floors are now done so kickboards can go on, bench tops in this week, architrave and skirting boards ordered, painter booked and most exciting part is I can organise for the oven to be delivered. Ironic isn’t though, our son, who is our plumber left the week before we got home to go on his 12 week honeymoon. One day the planets will align.FloorsIt is lovely to be home!

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Home! Wondering why I’ve been quiet?

Home now after touring Greece and Turkey for the last five weeks. I haven’t posted while we have been away as I like to think that holidays are exactly that, time to tune out, forget about deadlines and responsibilities and stresses that can happen if internet access is limited or expensive. Not happy about returning to the low temperatures here though! What an amazing trip we have had, I can’t remember 90% of what we have seen, visited and eaten, but by revisiting my photos I hope to rekindle, remember and share our experiences. Stay tuned!IMG_2649

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Foraging fun in West Gippsland.

Well, I have had the loveliest day! What better way to warm the cockles of your heart than to spend the day foraging for fungi and other edibles with a group of like minded people trudging through paddocks and over hills in West Gippsland?   Following the hunt, we returned to S&S HQ and shared the most wonderful dishes created from our finds. Thank you so much Michelle and Dave at String & Salt, and to chef Trevor Perkins for making this event so enjoyable.

String & Salt sharing the harvestAnyone who knows me knows that I love mushrooming, or more importantly that I love making the most of using anything that is freely available! I can remember when, as a child we would be driving along the road and dad would pull the car up, grab his bucket and boots out (Niblicks boots of course, they were always in the car ready to don in these moments) and we would head out across paddocks in search of the perfect ‘shroom. I can also remember mum sitting in the car rolling her eyes and sternly saying “Stanley, one day you will get shot for trespassing!”. Well he never got shot, and I have happy memories of him teaching me all about what makes a good mushroom. I think this is also where I learned to appreciate cow dung and not to worry about handling it. Back in those days, field mushrooms or canned mushrooms (Edgell ?) in sauce were the only mushies on our menus. Little did we know what culinary delights of the fungi world were being kept from us, yet another example of how being multi-cultural has helped us grow and expand our pallet.

String & salt offered this day as part of their 2016 cooking series and once again they have delivered the goods!

We began the day with a nice cuppa and greeting at the shop in Warragul and were then bussed around to a few different locations of West Gippsland close to Warragul. Today also helped me to remember that we need to celebrate and appreciate our local area, I hadn’t looked at it through ‘visitor’ eyes for ages and it was a nice reminder of how beautiful this area is. The day was drizzly but not cold or windy. Beautiful!
West GippslandOur first stop was to collect some walnuts, at first glance it didn’t appear there were to be many for the taking, but somehow you eventually start to actually focus on what you need to see. At this point it was quite wet which didn’t make it easy. The walnuts looked a bit bedraggled when collecting, but that was not the case once we cracked them open later. Gold!Collecting walnuts, foragingNot a bad a walnut harvest here!WalnutsNext, there were a couple of stops to hunt for an assortment of fungi including saffron milk caps and slippery jack mushrooms, as well as some education on what to look for, how to err on the side of caution and to be aware of the potential toxicity of many varieties. Trevor explained a few techniques for testing and again re-iterated not to eat unless really sure of what you have.IMG_0055 Don’t go here!IMG_0050 Sometimes you need to look carefully to find these treasures. We also collected some wild greens that went into a salad later.MushroomIt was amusing watching everyone and seeing their focussed attention on the hunt. ForagingEveryone celebrated each others success when a discovery was made with a whoop of delight. Our walk back to the top of the hill was met with Dave serving the most wonderful chai. This chai is a blend they have at String and Salt and it went down so well after our hike in the wet. Dave demonstrated his adeptness in cooling and frothing the chai in the traditional manner! ChaiThere were also “chestnuts roasting on an open fire”…………no jack frost nipping at our toes though!Roasting chestnutsNext we were  off for another search,IMG_0054then back to S&S HQ, we did stop along the way to collect some wild apples from the roadside. These apples were similar in appearance to a golden delicious, taste was not too tarty nor too sweet and it held up well in the galette that Michelle made later.IMG_0070Once back at S&S HQ, Trevor, Dave & Michelle along with some very damp assistants prepared the bounty while sipping on some wine and enjoying a beautiful dukkah. These are a few of our discoveries. The orange ones are saffron milk caps and on the left are field mushies, there are some slippery jacks mingled within along with some brittle gills.IMG_0092Some of our other finds, apples, wild fennel and greens.IMG_0095Never having been brave enough to eat anything other than field mushrooms or the shiitake I grow, it was great getting to experience the different varieties. They are so meaty and didn’t break down when cooked. We thoroughly enjoyed the mushroom risotto, wild greens salad and apple galette (forgot to take a pic of that) that we shared. The galette was served with vanilla cream and was delicious.Muchroom risottoThankyou to everyone involved for such a great day!

Other catch ups.

Sourdough bread this week was an experimental bun bake. I used my basic sweet sourdough and made fresh pomegranate, walnut, cinnamon and sultana buns. Topped with a caramel glaze they were a great success. These are the buns before proofing,Bun dough rolledThis is  the final result. Baked in the oven at work, they went down extremely well.Buns cookedFinally, our bench tops are under construction. How beautiful is this timber? I am so pleased we decided to re-incorprate some of the almost 100 year old timber we removed during demolition into the new exteno. Getting very excited that I will soon have a ‘real’ kitchen!bench tops from reclaimed timberHappy mothers day to all the mums out there, hope you had a day as lovely as I have had.

 

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