Onion & Rosemary Bread

For years I have been working on mastering the perfect loaf of bread. While the search still continues, I am far more relaxed about the process than I used to be, happy as long as the end result is tasty and edible. I have even developed some pretty innovative ways of using up ‘dud’ results.

Last year I facilitated a bread making workshop through the Baw Baw Sustainability Network and I have attached the workshop notes at the bottom of this post.

The onion and rosemary bread I made croutons from tonight is really only the basic recipe from these notes with 2 onions that had been sliced and microwaved till soft and a couple of tablespoons of ground rosemary thrown in just before the final kneading. The flavour of the onion came through really well in the croutons.

BREAD MAKING WORKSHOP HANDOUT

Warm Chicken Salad

I always seem to have run out of steam when its dinner time and I’ve had a busy day at work. I like to keep evening meals really simple to prepare, not taking up too much time to cook and to be relatively healthy. As usual I don’t really deal in measurements, it sort of evolves around how much is needed and adjusted accordingly. Too much and it ends up in a lunch box, too little and we can always have an extra treat after dinner! This was tonight’s fare.

Chicken ( cut into short strips), put into a bowl and pour enough sweet chilli sauce in to give chicken a thin coating, stir through and sit till ready to cook.

The other things I am adding to this salad tonight are some onion bread crouton, crunchy potatoes, cucumber, seared cherry tomatoes, beetroot, feta cheese and some fresh herbs. As my bok choy has bolted (if anyone has any solutions to this I’d welcome them), I am throwing in a few leaves and a few of the thin stems. I will quickly throw them in with the chicken for no more than the last minute or so. This changes according to what is available, which tonight isn’t all that much!

I had baked an onion and rosemary loaf of bread on the weekend so used a bit of that to make some crunchy croutons. Cut bread  into whatever size you like, put into pan with smallest amount of olive oil and keep turning until they are nice and golden and very dry and crunchy. Put aside.

Spuds – Wash, peel and cut into small enough bits that they will mix through salad well. I just bunged them into the microwave (covered) for about 5 minutes, waited till steam had evaporated and put them into pan with a ‘plop’ of olive oil. Turn and stir until they have reached the colour you want. There is no reason why both the croutons and the spuds could not just go in the oven and do their thing in there while you prepare other items.

Toss the halved cherry tomatoes into pan that is still hot and cook until they just start to soften, don’t overdo it! Put them aside.

Add chicken to pan and start cooking it off, not too hot, not too cool. Stir occasionally. While cooking tear lettuce into pieces the size you like, slice up some beetroot, finely chop some herbs (tonight mint and oregano), crumble some feta or goat cheese, slice some cucumber  and green capsicum and put with the croutons and spuds. I actually like to put everything into a bowl or plastic bag and swirl everything around to make sure flavours have combined well. When chicken is cooked add this and turn through the mix.

Looks a bit ordinary at this point!

Turn everything out onto serving platter, top with some more cheese, herbs and maybe some spring onion. Really does taste quite tasty!

Weekend of both taking and making stock.

We have been well and truly under the hammer for time recently with trying to sell two houses, (so we can make improvements to the new one) moving my mother-in-law who is down-sizing and trying to move forward with getting our new property fit for human habitation. That along with the ‘doldrumish’ style weather we are having I just felt I needed to try to take stock. I dutifully made a list of jobs that needed to be done and started ploughing through them, first up was to make the stock for the Vietnamese Pho I planned to ho into once the tasks had been completed. I knew at the end of the day I wouldn’t feel much like cooking so this would be a welcome sight to come home to.

I am trying a method I found on the The Steaming Kitchen Blog where a slow cooker is used to slowly simmer the stock. Makes sense to me!

       

Added some fish sauce and sugar. I also added a stick of celery because there was some in the fridge that needed to be used. Left simmering all day, happy in the knowledge I wouldn’t have to stress when dinner time came. Now to knock off those jobs on my list!

Note:Wasn’t as thrilled with this version as previous ones I’ve made. I don’t think the stock reduces enough in the slow cooker to concentrate the flavours. Was still a pleasant result though.

Tomato Seedlings-time to pot up.

The seeds I planted a few weeks ago have done really well and need to go into a more substantial growing medium. I have been requesting donations from people at work for used milk cartons, wine cask boxes and any other suitable container for planting the seedlings into. So far have I have achieved about a 95% success seed germination rate which is great.

Interestingly, germination has been 100% from my saved seed and the 95% comes from the newly purchased stock. Maybe the different variety has something to do with this.

Next on the list……………..

I’ve been driving around for a week with my car chock-a-block full of ‘stuff’ that we culled from my M.I.L’s house that needed to go to the Op-Shop. Boxes gripped tight, head down, eyes not veering away from the loading stage, I deposited all the treasures. Kept my eyes straight ahead and did not dare look around on my way out as I didn’t want it to just be an exchange trip where I left with my car full of different ‘stuff! Tick that one off the list!

Next…..

Time to check on how the things I have planted at the ‘new’ house are settling in. Spring is starting to show its cheeky grin and I am bursting with the hope that things will do well.

The Update on plantings there.

Raspberries:

Yep, they are doing nicely.

Asparagus:

     Tick to that too!

Spuds (Potatoes):

The potatoes are looking a little bit ‘leggy’ but I am not surprised with the lack of sun we have had.

Garlic and Broad Beans:

            

Going well, broad beans flowering and garlic on track. Fed the bed with some blood and bone and a couple of handfulls of ‘Rooster booster’ pelletised organic  fertiliser. Can’t wait to have a few of those beans with some butter, olive oil, garlic  and a grinding of black pepper !

Back to the list…………….

I have removed a wisteria from the house we are selling and replanted it near where the future greenhouse will go. I am hoping to train it over the old woodshed frame to give a lovely backdrop at the rear of the vegie patch. Just hope it goes OK. Make note to quickly replace asparagus bed border edge with permanent one, not likely to happen once growth is established.

Rhubarb:

Plant me, plant me! I dug up some of the rhubarb for relocation and forgot about it. Seems pretty good so that has just been ‘plonked’ into the general garden space and can be divided later if need be.

See the little shoot starting at the bottom of the basket?

The rewards!

I actually achieved everything I set out to do, plus some. Quite happy with that really, taken stock and made stock at the same time.

Weekly Tip

How often do you use your phone book these days? I must admit I haven’t opened one for about 3 years and get some amazed looks when I say just ‘Google it’ or go to http://www.whitepages.com.au or http://www.yellowpages.com.au to find contact info for a person or business.

You can actually cancel having your phone book delivered in hardcopy form which should mean cutting down energy use in both production, delivery and recycling, reducing paper production and eliminating waste. Opt out of phone book delivery in Australia by calling 1800 810 211 or visit http://www.directoryselect.com.au

Orange Soup

Named not because of its citrus content but because nearly every ingredient used is an orangy colour! This is a family favourite and can be in the pot cooking in 10 minutes and ready to serve in about an hour.

Ingredients:

Butternut pumpkin as we call it in Australia, butternut squash for other countries. I am using some grown last summer as they are starting to soften and I don’t want to see them wasted.

Brown onions or leek if you have some available,

Sweet potato (Kumara) X 1,

Carrots X 2 medium,

Ginger-knob of about 2.5cm (1″) grated, more or less to taste.

Stock-I usually use chicken or vegetable but beef is fine too. Tonight it will be a bit of vegie and a bit of chicken. See notes below about stock – Trimmings from tonight’s vegies will go back into the bag for making the next batch. 

Curry Powder-Usually about a generous teaspoon, increase or reduce according to taste and brand of powder.

Peel and chop all ingredients, very small if you are in a hurry or larger if you are happy to let it simmer for longer.

Place all the vegies, ginger and curry powder into pot, add enough stock to just cover the veg. Bring to the boil, turn down and simmer until all the vegies are thoroughly cooked. Blitz mixture with a stick blender and you are done!

To serve you can create many different variations depending on the garnish you choose. Tonight I am using ricotta and fried onion flakes but we really enjoy sour cream or greek yoghurt with cracked black peppercorns or chives sprinkled over.  Just use your own blend. Serve with some bread to dip and you have a hearty, healthy meal. Enjoy!

STOCK:

Thanks to Slow Living Essentials for posting this wonderful way of making stock. Bought stock is expensive, energy intensive to make and doesn’t really have much flavour. Following this method results in a wonderfully rich brew and can be frozen in various sizes to suit any need. Once cooked the waste can be composted or fed to the chooks. Just love it! Go and have a go.

Cling wrap doesn’t just wrap your lunch!

With Nude Food Day getting closer, (17th October) why don’t you start now.  Go to http://www.nudefoodday.com.au/resources/healthy-nude-food-recipes.php for some great lunch ideas. We will soon be introducing some major changes to the way waste is managed so it would be wise to start practicing the ‘Reduce, Reuse Recycle approach to what is brought to school. Challenge for the week, If you wrap a sandwich in a piece of cling wrap measuring approx. 300 X 300, how many lunches would it take to cover the floor of your classroom with cling wrap? May be do some maths calculations to see! Remember all this plastic just sits in landfill and does not decompose. You will end up wrapping the world in cling wrap! Choose a better alternative.

Pickled Onions

I absolutely love pickled onions! For me they must have a crunch, not be too sweet and have a little bit of a spicy kick to them (not with chile though). I can remember mum and dad using plastic rubbish bins to brine their onions and I can remember the best pickled onion and tasty cheese sandwiches made from the end result. Unfortunately I don’t have the recipe they used and I still keep searching for the perfect one. Unfortunately, each season I seem to have trouble remembering which were my favourites and continue the search. Now, I must remember to post what the result of this batch was like…..

I basically follow the recipe Grandmas Pickled Onions but add a few extra spices and don’t measure the sugar but add to suit my taste. I also just soak the onions in the brine solution once. It will be interesting to see how this batch goes as we have been getting our current house ready to sell and I have been under the hammer for time as the agent is in tomorrow to take photos for the listing. I usually only brine the onions for 6-8 hours but left these in for 24. Mmmm, hope I don’t lose the crunch factor!

I include ginger, bay leaf, black and red peppercorns, cloves, all spice (pimento), a dash of curry powder and mustard seed to the vinegar. I don’t get bogged down with measuring these. Sugar adjusted when mixture is hot.

The brew cooking, adjust sugar to taste and bring to the boil. Allow to cool right down. While waiting to cool, rinse brine from onions and pack them into sterilised jars. Don’t forget to sterilise the lids as well.

Onions, brined, rinsed and waiting for their pickling juices to be added.

Pickling vinegar strained, jars filled, I usually put a few bits and pieces of the spices in with the onions too. Now sit back and wait in the hope that this batch will be the perfect one!

Weekly Tip 8th August 2012

It is reported that Australians put over 30 million plastic toothbrushes into landfill every year. The plastic they are made of will not break down in your  lifetime nor in the lifetime of your children. Consider buying toothbrushes with replaceable heads or even better ones made from bamboo. Bamboo is an amazing product that is grown without the need of pesticides and fertilisers and products made from bamboo are now popping up everywhere. Do some ‘googling’  and see what is available, you may be pleasantly surprised!

Salabat!

Salabat or Ginger Tea Powder.

When we were in Vietnam we had the pleasure of tasting some ginger tea made by one of the locals. It was absolutely delicious, refreshing and zingy, just what we needed to give relief from the heat and humidity. I have been keen to try to make some since our return and the notion that it may assist in relieving nausea spurred me on. With a bit of luck it might give a friend of mine some relief! If not I have no doubt we will enjoy it either as a tea or in some lemonade on a hot day. The description ‘Han’ gave on how to make the tea was that it was very fiddly and time consuming-she was right! I am kicking myself I didn’t take photos while I was cooking but mostly I followed the Salabat making video I found on YouTube and the food recap network . Broken down the method was basically

  • Wash and scrub ginger clean
  • Grate into clean bowl
  • Put grated ginger into food processor and ‘blast’ it
  • Squeeze out as much juice as possible (put processed ginger into cheesecloth and squeeze/wring until no more comes out.)
  • Put juice into wok with equal amounts of brown sugar (must be brown)

The cooking process is pretty much exactly the same as making toffee. While stirring continually  until  boiling, cook until mix reaches cracking stage. Remove from heat, and stir the mix until it turn into powder. This is basically grinding the ginger toffee and I found this part the hardest as it sets like cement really fast. Final result is excellent, very happy and I dried all of the ginger residue left after juicing, zapped it in the spice blender and I now have a great supply of powdered ginger for use in cooking and baking.

Let The Sun Shine In!

For the first time in quite a long time, here in Gippsland  we had a Saturday where the sun managed to shine for most of the day. This was delightful, it always makes you feel a little bit better in winter to have some warmth on your back when you are working outside. I actually ended up in short sleeves for a short time!

The area that is currently an old wood and briquette shed is where a greenhouse is eventually going and  I have been waiting patiently for our plumber son to remove the old tin from the framework. We hope to keep the frame and use it as a growing support for a Japanese wisteria (I much prefer the softer look about these than the chinese variety) which will run across the top front of the greenhouse and give a nice visual appearance from the drive. There has been a jasmine and a wisteria growing here for decades and they are so out of control I will replace them. With some work I could get them to hang beautifully but there has been some major torture committed to their trunks over the years and I really want them to be esthetically pleasing even at ground level. Luckily climbers are quick to establish! Grapevines have been planted on the north facing side and if the greenhouse gets too hot in summer we can run some shade cloth over the top of the frame to protect plants from sweltering inside.

If anyone has any ideas about how to disguise the brick wall behind I would love to hear them!

See the Mulberry tree on the left?