Synchronicity and ‘Rusticating’ Wholewheat pastry.

I’ve been finding it hard to get back into things since being away, so I decided to spend the day (even though it was glorious outside) just treating myself to a gentle time of doing things I like in the kitchen. I subscribe to Gillian Bellcake’s & Annabelle Hickson’s podcast Dispatch to a Friend  and find their light-hearted, loving exchanges about their loves, lives, hardships, friendships, experiences, travels, gardens and everything in between (even home-made coffins) comforting and entertaining. I find myself chuckling away, nodding my head in agreement, tut tutting when they talk about neighbours cutting down trees, feeling sympathetic and even reply out loud to their  exchanges.  The ideal company to have chatting in the background while I potter around.

To kick-start the day of being gentle on myself, I picked some beautiful spring flowers and set them on the dresser in the kitchen. I’m so glad there are still daffodils performing upon my return, I thought I might have missed them this season. I also picked some rhubarb and set a goal to make a rhubarb and  fruit galette using freshly milled flour in the pastry. I had picked rhubarb and I knew there was fruit in the fridge that had been sitting there for a couple of months just macerating away in orange juice. Syrupy, sweet, delicious. Ideal  to marry with some rhubarb. So, rhubarb and boozy fruit in a galette was what it was destined to be. I did know that I wanted to have a go at making pastry using freshly milled, organic whole-wheat flour. I recently purchased a Mockmill flour mill and I’m loving getting used to all the different things I can mill with it. The Mockmill is a compact, affordable, stoneground mill that does an astounding job of milling all different grains and spices. Here I’m doing malted wheat flakes to add to a bread dough.

 I had no idea of which may be a good whole-wheat pastry recipe, so out came the Google assistant. Experience has taught me that whole-wheat pastry is going to be less light and delicate than white flour pastry but that’s ok. The nutty flavour and the extra nutritional value whole-wheat offers is a bonus. I’m also looking for the rustic feel with this dish. I want to include more whole-grains and organic food into my diet whenever possible. This is where it gets a bit spooky! The first Google hit returned a site called ‘Local Is Lovely‘ and it took me straight to a post about Gillian Bellcake’s Rhubarb & Crab Apple Tart, it’s not a whole-wheat pastry and nothing like what I was looking for, but how could I not give it a go seeing as I was listening to Gillian chatting in the background. Sceptics would say this is the cyber tracking spies at work, but I think it’s magic!

I made the pastry as per the recipe but used 350g organic white flour and 150g freshly milled whole-wheat flour. I also added an extra egg yolk (I only had small eggs) and a splash of water to assist the dough coming together. The pastry has rosemary in it, so off to the bushes that are currently covered in fresh, soft growth and delicate little blue flowers that act as bee bait, to gather a handful of flavour. Blitzed the flour, butter, rosemary, egg yolks and a splash of water until it just came together then turned it out and worked it on my bench to form a dough. Wrapped in a bee’s wax wrap and popped into the fridge for half an hour.

I have been anti ‘cling wrap’ for a very long time. Cling wrap is one of those particularly insidious single use plastics and there has been a huge amount of evidence as to the nasties it can impart back into your food that I just don’t touch it. Can you imagine how many times the world could be wrapped in cling wrap just by what kids take to school on their lunches that don’t even get eaten, but just thrown out.  I usually put pastry in a container for its resting time but lately I’ve been using bees-wax wraps and I love them.  After resting dough for about half an hour I took the pastry out, rolled it and plonked the fruit and chopped rhubarb into the centre. I kept the surplus trimmings and popped them into a container in the freezer to use on  another day. A quick turning the dough edges to the centre, a bit of what I refer to as ‘rusticating’, a couple of patches and the galette was ready to bake.I baked this in my little Wood fired Nectre Bakers Oven that we installed as part of our kitchen exteno, what a great little unit this is. We don’t have any hydronic heating at the moment, so the Nectre has been put through its paces this week keeping the back part of the house warm.Seems to have turned out well, I tasted a couple of crumbles from the pastry and it is delicious. This is for dessert tomorrow night when the kids come, so I’ll let you know how it goes. Definitely will be adding some extra thick dollops of cream to it when serving, I may even whip up some of the condensed milk ice-cream I heard the girls talking about. That brought back memories from my childhood, condensed milk ice-cream, made (without an ice cream churn Annabelle) and set into aluminium ice-block moulds in the fridge. Better get out the Google assistant again to find a recipe for that. Who nows where I’ll end up! I may even make some rhubarb syrup to pour the fruit in the centre too.

Pop across to the Local Is Lovely site to get the real recipe which is for

GILLIAN’S RHUBARB AND CRAB APPLE TART WITH A ROSEMARY CRUST

and see the beautiful ‘unrusticated’ creation that was made by Gillian. Poles apart from what I’ve done with my creation, but that’s the joy of baking, make it work to suit you!

To subscribe to Dispatch to a Friend podcasts, go to this link or iTunes.

The Mixing Bowl, pizza and seed saving all wrapped up.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a demo for making French afternoon tea scrumptiousnesses (I know that’s not a word) with the lovely Anne at The Mixing Bowl Hallam. I deliberately went to the class as it was the last session Anne was running before the imminent closure of this business, which I have been dealing with for nigh on 27 years. The first class I went to with Anne, was when they first changed their business to ‘The Mixing Bowl’ and she ran a class making Hot Cross Buns at the old Buln Buln Shire Offices. Been lots of Hot Cross Buns under the bridge since then and all of them delicious!

A business doesn’t stick around for this long by chance, Anne and Geoff have always offered premium goods at extremely reasonable prices, have a great range of flours, every baking gadget, tin, and accessory you could imagine and have given out more information than you’d find in an Encyclopaedia Britannica when it comes to baking. On top of that, they have always been on top of the ladder with customer service, although my kids will never forgiven them for not stocking the same mint leaves we used to always stop and buy on the way to Melbourne, they still whinge about losing those! I will be extremely sad to see this wonderful business go and where on earth can I recommend to my students to go to for bread making supplies?

I wish Anne & Geoff a very happy retirement, they deserve to put their feet up and enjoy their family, have holidays and be free of flour dust. All the best Anne & Geoff, its been a delight.

Anyway, this tart is the result of the demo Anne did, an apple, Frangipane tart which was absolutely delicious.

I made it as a little treat to myself for mother’s day, and of course you must have double cream on the side. It was lovely having all the gang (apart from one son-in law who was saving us all from the bad guys in the world), to lunch. We set up a pizza making station outside my little bakehouse and then baked them in my Rofco microbakery oven. The pizza dough was not sourdough as I find yeasted better for pizza, but I am working on perfecting a good sourdough one!

When we planned the microbakery we had envisioned the space would double as a kitchen for using when entertaining outside too. This was put to the test today and it worked really well. Pic on the left is looking out onto the courtyard and the one on right is peeking in to the Rofco as the pizzas bake.

 The pizzas baked up beautifully, they went in on trays for first few minutes than were placed directly onto the oven sole for finishing off. Delicious. Where were the olives Em?

I can see that painting and cleaning up the outside of the microbakery is now on my short list of jobs!

   My daughter in law gave me some bees wax wraps as my Kris Kringle gift for Christmas and I love them. I have been using them for all sorts of things since Christmas and they have proved to be extremely versatile. Little Bumble Wraps is a local business and also run workshops on making wraps so support local and check them out. They also offer on-line shopping. I used them yesterday for wrapping croissant dough in between folds and also for the tart pastry while chilling.

The little tacker and I spent a few quiet moments saving bean seed from this years crop to have for planting next year. I treasure these moments dearly.

Chinese Scallion Pancakes

Someone in my Facebook Group (Sourdough Baking Australia & New Zealand) reminded me the other day about Chinese scallion pancakes. I hadn’t made these for such a long time and she had tweaked her recipe to include sourdough discard, so I thought this worth trying. My usual go to source for Asian recipes, is to the fabulous Dumpling Sisters, I was introduced to them by Celia over at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial quite a few years ago and I haven’t bought a dumpling wrapper since! I had some spring onions (scallions) that needed to be picked, so this was a perfect opportunity for them to be put to use. I also had a fairly large amount of starter left over from yesterdays bake so all the more reason to try these pancakes using sourdough starter.

I adjusted the recipe , actually I pretty much threw it out, but this is what the Dumpling Sisters recipe turned into using sourdough starter (100% hydration). This would make enough for an army, so the recipe could be halved with out any problem, I also think rolling the dough out for its first roll using a pasta machine would work well.

  • 460g plain flour
  • 200g unfed sourdough starter (use up discard if you have any)
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 18g Sunflower oil (any neutral flavoured oil would work)
  • 150g warm water

Mix everything together until well combined then turn out onto lightly floured board and knead until smooth. This pic is before the kneading! Cover and let rest for at least 20 minutes.

Once rested, break off ‘golf ball’ sized pieces. I rolled the dough into a log first then just cut bits off.

Shape the pieces into balls and roll into a squarish thin piece.

I did a pre roll first which gave the pieces time to relax a bit before I did the big flattening roll out. Brush the surface of the dough with oil and sprinkle sparingly with salt and scatter scallions over. I was warned that they may need quite a good dose of salt but I obviously went a bit too far with it!Roll the dough into a log,

Then depending on which way to final shape you choose (see Dumpling Sisters link), roll the log into a snail. Tuck the tail underneath, let sit to relax the dough for about 10 minutes.

Squash the snail with your hand then roll into a flat disc, the Dumpling Sisters suggest for crispy, roll thinly, for thicker to use as wraps or for a more chewy texture, roll a bit thicker. I wanted thin so they were rolled out to about 3 ml.Cook the pancakes on a lightly oiled griddle or in a pan, keep heat low so they do cook right though.  Cut into pieces and dip into sauce of your choice, I just went for simple old sweet  chilli sauce.These were good but I was a bit too heavy-handed with the salt, I actually think they would be nice with sour cream as well as the sweet chilli sauce. We enjoyed ours with a platter of goodies and some bubbles while we put up our Christmas Tree.

 I can’t really remember how they compare to ones made the normal way, but it was a great way to use up some things that would have been wasted otherwise.

I am also really pleased to say that I have a new computer, I had been struggling with my poor old Mac for several months which is part of the reason I haven’t posted much. I couldn’t upload pictures! Well, now I’m back up and running, I might get to actually post one of the several draft posts I’ve got sitting in the dashboard but couldn’t use.

End of Summer season in the patch

I take my hat off to all our dedicated food growers, especially those who are committed to growing organically. It’s when we have seasons like this I can’t help but wonder how this nation ever got off the ground at all!

As the summer season comes to a close I’ve been trying to sort out the veggie garden to have it ready for some serious, more dedicated growing throughout the year.

I started by moving the 2 compost bins that were in the area where we have just moved a small outbuilding from. This area will become a courtyard and I don’t really want to look out the kitchen window to the bins. The bin made from wire and lined with weed mat contains last seasons leaf mulch and it’s not quite ready to use. I need to work out where this years leaf bin will go. This area does become a natural collection point for the english oak leaves so it can’t be too far away. I will have to move the little blood orange that you can see in the front. This was being espaliered on the wall of the building we moved, so it may end up against the fence.I have previously mentioned how when you clear the compost you discover insidious bits of plastic that you didn’t know you had. Here you can see the remains of a spinach box. I bought it in a box thinking it was plastic free, but as with so many packaged items the plastic is hidden. GRRRR!You can also see here that the paper vacuum cleaner bag still has a bit of decomposing to do. I will just put that into the relocated bin. I am cutting back needing to use bags in the vacuum as I now have a barrel unit that can be emptied directly into the compost (unless it has bits of glass etc in it). The big vac with bags will be used much less frequently.From these 2 compost bins I got enough compost to top dress the big 6 meter long wicking bed and the 3 smaller wicking beds as well as give the orange tree a really good top-dressing.As  always, our last chook Rene was on hand as oversee to the works!

Last men standing.

I removed all of the tomato plants that were passed it and their remains have been put on the bed that will be where corn will be grown next summer. I really should remake this box as it was put together as a temporary bed when we first moved in, but it still has another season in it I think.The remaining tomato plants in this big bed, have had exclusion bags put on the last fruit and I will be planting a green manure crop of mustard seed and assorted seeds that are well beyond their prime and that I am unlikely to plant here. I keep  saying I will rest this bed for a season, but space is just too precious. I guarantee I will still end up using half of the bed for something!I have had marginally more success with pumpkins this season, but they are still not what I would have a hurrah over. The plants that were not going to give any return have also been pulled and put on the pile with the spent tomato plants and I’ve let the ones still performing in, hoping that they will develop and mature some more.There are quite a few small ones still developing but I don’t think they will develop enough  before the cool weather hits. They are pretty though!Remember my experiment of trained versus free range tomatoes? This is a couple of pics of the issues I had with free ranging tomatoes. I don’t think I’ll try that again!

The big success this season is our grapevine, this is performing really well and these grapes are delicious! Although it is a slip grape, supposedly for winemaking, it tastes like passionfruit and we use them just for nibbling on. They do have a few pips but I don’t  mind that.

There are still a few jobs to do but I really enjoyed getting back out into the garden and claiming some thinking time as I worked.

Sourdough

This is a pic of my rye dough that decided it wanted to take over the world. I thought the overnight temperature was going to be quite a bit cooler than it turned out to be, so I gambled on leaving it out on the bench overnight. The lid was nearly at right angles before I removed it! Fortunately I saved it in time and managed to produce some lovely loaves of 50% rye and 50% organic Laucke T55 white flour. The tang in these is amazing!So now I have to decide on what my next ‘get back in control’ jobs will be in the garden. Well, everywhere I think!

In My Kitchen-March

I really should try to get my blogging mojo back I think! I miss the time focussing about what to write, planning ahead for what needs to happen and putting the ideas together to string some form of ‘story’ together. I’m finding that I’ve fallen a little into the trap of using Instagram (IG) or as I am now renaming it “Instant Gratification”. This is OK but it doesn’t really give me the same satisfaction as writing a post. Thank goodness for ‘In My Kitchen’, a forum where bloggers put up some snippets of what is in their kitchens each month. All of these blogs are linked to a common point by the wonderful Liz over at Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things. Go and have a look at some of the great things going on.

Not a lot this month In My Kitchen as we went camping for nearly 2 weeks. I did manage to still bake bread while we were away but this time I cheated somewhat and used the oven in the camp kitchen. I baked in a pasta pot we have in the camping kitchen and it was a great success.

img_2012We brought some great bacon back from the butcher at Merimbula. This bacon is beautiful, they also had some nitrate free bacon which really appeals to me so I got some of that too. Down side is that it is packed in cryovac plastic packaging. This is a shame, but sometimes when weighing up the options an outcome that is not ideal is the result. My delight in getting good quality over what is available at home that would still be in plastic won over.img_2117Also In My Kitchen is some sourdough starter I am dehydrating. I have shared quite a bit so needed to replenish my stock. This is my original ‘Vesuvius’ starter that I began about 10 years ago.img_2112 I have been making some potholders. I am using an old woollen blanket that is beyond its useful life as the thermal filling in these. I am also using up scrap cotton I had in my cupboard for the covering but I have bought a couple of extra pieces. Next week I’ll scout the op shops for suitable garments I can re-purpose.img_2113 This years glut! NOT! Nowhere near any previous seasons harvests, very disappointing. I’ll be buying a couple of boxes for making passata I think. Not a lot, but the flavour is really good this year. My experiment of having half the tomatoes staked and laterals pruned and the other half just doing their thing without attention has bombed. I have not had one tomato that hasn’t been eaten even when very green in the free range plants. img_2118 Finally In My Kitchen this month is a pic of todays wholemeal bread I made and tested out a couple of different baking methods. The top 2 loaves were cooked in the cast iron dutch oven, the pumpkin seed shaped loaf was baked in a clay cloche and the bottom one was baked in my Falcon enamel roasting pan. All work well but I prefer the cast iron.img_2136So that’s the little peek into my kitchen this month. Are we going to get a peek in yours?

New FB Sourdough Support Page.

Just putting it out there that I have started a Facebook Closed Group for anyone wanting to learn, share and chat about sourdough bread and other sourdough baked goods. I find that the big overseas groups are brilliant but it is difficult when ingredients and equipment they discuss are not available locally. Seasons and use of fahrenheit too is also a challenge, we are always arse about (or they are).

So anyway, I plan to try to post some weekly tips for anyone starting out, put some links for really good reliable information and have people share their baking results and ask questions. Although target audience is Australia and New Zealand, others are welcome to request to join. So, if you know of anyone who may be interested in learning more or sharing knowledge please pass on my link.

 

Facebook group is Sourdough Baking Australia and New Zealand, link is https://www.facebook.com/groups/SDaustralia/

bestThanks, Maree.

Trifle. Or is it just a cake in a glass bowl?

It all started a few weeks ago when I was clearing out cupboards and posted on Instagram and Facebook a call for ways to use some old crystal bowls I have and am never likely to use for a number of reasons.

CrystalThat horrible dilemma when you really don’t like something, you can’t imagine ever using them again but they do have sentimental value and aren’t worth anything to sell. Some have been wedding or engagement presents and  have emotional ties.  If I gave them away I would prefer they go to someone I know or who is part of the family. I don’t usually have any issues discarding things I cannot see value in keeping, but these have worked their way into and under my skin. I think it stems from being brought up thinking these things were ‘the good’ stuff only to be used for special times and they demonstrated we weren’t poor when people came to dine.

I had many interesting responses on what to do with them or how to repurpose them, ideas such as creating some garden ornaments similar to these,

crystal-garden-ornaments

or a bird feeder like this,

crystal-bird-feeder

or even as pretty vessels for burning tea light candles in.

crystal-tea-light-holder

There was even a suggestion some could be used as the missile for the annual smashing  of our Christmas gingerbread house (cheers Stuart). That, I wasn’t going to entertain! Glass in the grass is not good when you don’t wear shoes.

Then came the trifle ideas, many voted that the larger bowl was definitely a candidate for trifle to be served in. My niece is a really good cook and sent me a couple of links for some nice sounding recipes, one was a limoncello one that looked pretty good. Celia reminded me she had a recipe on her blog that was easy as well as delicious and Francesca said she had a whole book dedicated to trifle and would like to send it to me. The selection in this book has to been seen to be believed, I will revisit this in the future I think.

img_0678I’m not convinced about trifle, childhood memories still make me gag at the thought. I hate custard, not the good stuff like creme pat, but the packet or store-bought goo labelled as custard. I also have memories of soggy peaches stuck into horrible, grainy  cake that tasted like sawdust. I do remember though that I liked the jelly and cream, especially if it was a nice dark jelly like port wine etc. Convinced by my cheer squad that a good trifle is great and I should go for it, I decided that my quest was to create a trifle to share with guests at our Australia Day BBQ. The research began and I must have looked at 100’s of recipes but could not decide on a finalist. I started to see the pattern of ingredients emerge so I winged it, convinced we would end up with yet another soggy, grainy mess.

Basically I was making a black forest cake in glass bowl.

This was my concept,

  • Layers of chocolate cake which had been sprinkled with booze which is traditionally kirsch in a BFC.
  • Thin Layer of  chocolate mousse
  • Layer of cherry jelly made using the juice from canned cherries and a splash of booze
  • Layer of black cherries
  • layer of whipped cream

Pretty simple  really. So this is how I did it, I made a jelly using the juice from the 2 cans of black cherries thickening it with corn flour and throwing in a splash of rum.

I made a simple chocolate mousse but thinned it down slightly so it wasn’t too thick. This was the alternative to custard part of the creation.

Annabelle Langbein’s Ultimate Chocolate Cake was baked  in 2 small round tins rather than one big springform tin.

Cream whipped, what can go wrong?

My cake was cut and ready to start assembling the layers in the bowl  but not unexpectedly, I had not been able to get Kirsch at any of the bottle shops. My next option was Cherry Brandy but no, not available either. I considered making cherry juice but gave that a miss. I took a leap of faith and decided to use some white rum as we had a supply of it in the cupboard. So here we have my Black Forest Rum Chocolate Trifle.

But look at the bowl………………..please ignore the creamy smudge. I know you wouldn’t notice it if I’d used the cut crystal but that’s karma I guess.

Chocolate Black forest Trifle After all of that I just couldn’t bring myself to use the crystal. I just don’t like it but I do think it might make a nice bird feeder! This was a winner with all of our guests, people could take a small spoonful portion or dig in and take as much as wanted. The rum was an absolute winner and I think that will be repeated if I make this again. There was no graininess, just boozey, chocolatey, creamy, rich yumminess. Now, a couple of days later the flavour and texture has improved even more. Verdict by Mr ATMT is that it was a cake in a glass bowl, a delicious cake in a glass bowl, but not a trifle. My internal psyche must have overruled I think.

Here are a few of our Australia Day BBQ snaps. Beautiful afternoon, great people and some great food for sharing. As well as my Black Forest Chocolate Trifle I made a Pavlova and peeking in the background is a lammington roll that a friend brought along.DessertsI baked a selection of sourdough breads. From L to R, baguette, baguette, sesame loaf, tomato paste, thyme and feta, baguette, caramelised onion and parmesan loaf (DELICIOUS) and a roast tomato focaccia. I believe the focaccia was great but the vultures devoured it too quickly to sample.img_2247 I was going to say we are so lucky to have such a beautiful area to share these events with family and friends, but it is mostly due to some very hard work on our part to create this space. Australia Day 2017

All worthwhile and we are lucky, very lucky.

 

 

 

 

 

In My Kitchen November-

Might need a cuppa for this, I’ve rambled on a bit!

It is really Spring, but we keep going back to winter and then back to Spring repeatedly. I was going to start this post saying I think Spring is well and truly here but it’s currently 11 degrees with 30km per hour wind and it feels like it could snow up on the hills. I have deferred planting my tomatoes for a week or two, hoping to see some improvement. The tomatoes in the greenhouse are doing well, but everything else in the veggie patch is way behind its normal schedule so I don’t have the space for tomatoes free quite  yet.

In My Kitchen  is all I have left from last years garlic harvest.

Garlic sproutingIt has lasted really well but there are signs of sprouting so I went through the remaining bulbs and discarded any that were soft and had sprouts showing. The remainder I have placed in the fridge to delay shooting (theoretically) hoping that this years harvest will soon be ready.

In My Kitchen this month are a few goodies I bought while in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago. Last year I bought some smaller clay dishes after Celia wrote about them and I love them but they are a little too small for a whole serving per person. I bought these at Chef’s Hat in Melbourne. I love this store, they have an amazing array of cooking gear for both commercial and domestic purposes.

img_9966 I grabbed a bottle of this gorgeous smelling Turkish Rosewater from Sonsa Foods in Collingwood. It is a freshener and smells just like when you used to make rose-water from pulling the precious heads from your mums best roses and mixing them with water in a jar. The description vaguely translates as “A Turkish toilet waters (Kolonya), as it should be. Pleasantly refreshing, not too pushy and a fragrance that makes happy. the EST Kolonya “Hatiralar” smells fine and gently green leaves, rose, water flowers, Indian grass, sandalwood and some sweet fragrances. The refreshments for the start of the day and also in between for the face, neck or hands”.  I broke the rule of not buying plastic but I just couldn’t resist it.img_9968 I love this little find I had at the Turkish Suppliers in Campbellfield. This is a Guvec, a Turkish clay pot that is glazed inside and is used for cooking stews and casseroles. It can be used in the oven and on the stove top. I just love its simplicity and rustic look.img_9970 Then there is the Sucuk. This is a spicy beef cured sausage and will be going into gozleme, on top of pizza and just for nibbling on. It is often served in Turkey as part of the breakfast dishes. img_9974 and I couldn’t resist a couple of bottles of Sulcer Biba, or pepper paste. I find I am using this more and more as you would tomato paste. It really adds a delicious depth and zing to dishes. This one is a mild version but I also got a hotter one.img_9976I stocked up on chicken feet and chicken pieces at the Footscray market. I bag these up, freeze them and make fresh stock when needed. Our older son was suffering with a good dose of tonsillitis so I made up a care kit package for him. I made chicken stock, turned this into some chicken soup loaded with vegies, made some sourdough bread and a couple of rolls. This along with some freshly squeezed orange juice and I felt like a ‘real mum’ again.

Chicken Soup Care KitI had a few things that needed to be used up in the fridge so we ended up with a roast capsicum, broccoli, broad bean, bacon and greek yogurt quiche. I made the shortcrust pastry using a recipe Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella had  posted and it is beautiful. I did cook this a little too hot, still tweaking with the oven.Red pepper quicheThis was accompanied with a salad I made using coarse bulgur rather than the smaller variety. It is basically a tabouleh but using red capsicum instead of tomato (no decent tomatoes around yet). Soak 1/2 cup of burgul  into hot water until fluffy, add a good splash of olive oil, juice of a lemon plus another half (maybe) S&P, fry off a red capsicum and an onion until slightly soft. Chop a very generous handful of mint, parsley and mix all together. Adjust tang to your liking by adding either more lemon or oil. Top 10 list for us!Capsicum TaboulehI finally got the chance to use my ‘Big Bertha’ (almost 3 wine bottles long) rolling-pin when making the pastry.  It is impressive I must say and did a great job in a flash.img_9946 I got to add a few treasures to the sideboard, still have to do the door and drawer knobs, they are on the list…..img_9934 Nearly finished, hang in there!

In my kitchen is some Oolong tea or as we have now named it, Rabbit Poo Tea. We drink a lot of tea and this is a good way of going through the ceremony without consuming the added sugar we have with our strong black tea.  This is a sample pack and I have arranged for Tea Leaves to now fill my BYO container at the store. Tea Leaves  is an incredible tea shop that really needs to be seen to be believed.img_9952There are a couple of loaves of sourdough, these are sesame seed loaves. I simply toasted a cup of sesame seed and added to the dough and rolled a few on the surface before baking, it smells wonderful. Sesame Seed sourdoughI have been crocheting some shopping bags. I bought some 8 ply cotton from Bendigo Woollen Mills and am really thrilled with how they have turned out. These, along with some dish cloths, might make up some Christmas gifts I think. The pattern for the red one can be found here. The pattern for the green one, here.

Market bags crochetedFinally, In My Kitchen this month is this gorgeous little fella! Now 10 months old and discovering that pasta is not only tasty but fun!CharlieThanks to Liz over at BizzyLizzyGoodThings for being the “In My Kitchen” link up host. It is a great way to see what people are up to and get some great ideas along the way. What’s happening in your kitchen this month?

OMG – Shiitake and Asparagus Carbonara Gnocchi

All weekend, as I was showing people our shiitake mushroom growing area, I was keen to pick the 2 big fat mushrooms that were well and truly ready, but thought better of it as they do look pretty impressive sitting there growing out of the oak logs. These 2 pics aren’t of the current logs, I forgot to  take a photo of them, but these are of the ones I had at our last house.

Shiitake sneaky!
Shiitake sneaky!

Shiitake 5The two mushrooms had grown so much we were concerned they may have hit the ‘too far’ point but we went ahead anyway. Tonight’s dinner was going to be potato gnocchi with a shiitake and asparagus Carbonara style sauce. Along with the shiitake I picked some asparagus, a big spring onion,  some parsley, found a couple of eggs, and I bought some light cream and bacon to add to the sauce. While the potatoes were baking in the oven at 180c, I prepared the Carbonara style sauce.

Shiitake mushroomsThese mushrooms were very big, slicing them was like slicing steak!Shiitake MushroomsCarbonara style sauce

This is for half if using 1kg potatoes as as I froze half of the uncooked gnocchi

  • About 500g of mushrooms sliced. Our 2 shiitake weight about 350g and I added about 8 normal mushrooms to the mix.
  • 3 rashers of good bacon or similar sliced
  • 1 onion or a couple of spring onions whites chopped.
  • Couple of asparagus spears cut into 3cm sections
  • S&P
  • 4 garlic cloves (more or less as you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 300ml container light cream (can’t bring myself to write ‘Lite’)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • handful of Parmigiano Reggiano (I bought some excellent parmesan while in Melbourne)

Method
Into a pan drizzle some olive oil and when hot add the bacon and onion, fry until transparent.

Add the minced garlic and sliced mushrooms and allow to cook until softened.

Add the white wine and cook off for a few minutes

Add half the cream and simmer, don’t allow to boil.

In another small bowl mix the egg yolk, rest of cream and the handful of parmesan. Rinse the cream container out with a little water and add to the sauce.

Let sit until just about ready to serve. Make your gnocchi.

Make your gnocchi.

1kg is of hot baked potatoes (I used Gippy gold but desiree would work well)

4 egg yolks

200g plain flour

pinch of nutmeg

S&P

  • While potatoes are still hot remove skins and put potato through a potato ricer or food mill. If none of the above, mash or even grate but don’t add any liquid.
  • Turn onto floured board and very gently mix in the flour, egg yolks, nutmeg, salt & pepper.
  • Gently bring the dough together but DO NOT overwork it. If it is extremely sticky, back of with the mixing but gently incorporate some flour. Err on the side of caution, too much flour = golf ball gnocchi!
  • Divide dough into about 6 pieces and roll each pice into a long piece as you would if you were rolling out play dough and cut each long pice into little pieces about 2.5cm (1″) in size. If you don’t have gnocchi paddles you can skip this bit but if you do it is a nice finishing touch to run the pieces over the paddles to create indentations that collect the sauce better.

Shaping GnocchiI picked up my paddles when in Melbourne. Place the shaped gnocchi on a tray or cloth that has semolina sprinkled over it until ready to cook. Have a big pot of salted boiling water ready!GnocchiI only cooked half of this mix tonight, I have frozen the ‘ready to cook’ gnocchi for next time I get the urge. For cooking, divide into smaller batches of about half or a quarter and add to the boiling water. When the gnocchi rises to the top of the water it is ready.

Turn the heat back on your sauce, set to low. Add the asparagus and remaining cream, cheese, egg and nutmeg mix, stir through. Very gently heat while gnocchi are cooking. DO NOT BOIL!

As the gnocchi pieces come to the surface of your pot, scoop them out, drain lightly and add to the sauce mix. Repeat until all gnocchi is cooked.

Serve with chopped parsley, I was a little too over zealous tonight (you could stir this through the sauce) and some extra parmesan if desired.

GnocchiThis was undoubtedly the nicest gnocchi and sauce we’ve had in a very long time. The shiitake mushrooms have a delicate flavour but they add such a great meatiness to the dish. By blending both varieties you create both flavour and texture. Very enjoyable!

Weekend Wrap-Garden, Sustainable Living, Sourdough

I always feel as though I’ve taken the easy way out when I use ‘Weekend Wrap’ as a post title, but it really does sum up everything quite accurately for this post. I’ve touched on a little bit of everything this weekend, in the garden, sustainable living, sourdough bread and cooking.

Garden Wrap

We have several compost bins strategically placed around the yard, so that when they are full the contents can be spread easily. This, in theory is good, but because the wicking beds in the veggie patch needed a good topdressing, I had to use compost from the bin in the veggie patch as well as raid some from the bin in our Easterly garden bed.Compost-Geddye binThis compost bin sits  hidden (almost) and I used most of its contents topping up the wicking beds in the veggie patch and then spread the rest over this bed. We have relocated the bin a little further up the bed for the process to start over and will do the same again next year.Compost readyNeed a little something to quickly fill this fence space! I love the way the compost just oozes new life into the soil.Compost spreadThis is a barrow full of compost from the bin within the veggie patch. Sorry, the light is a bit harsh! The 4 barrows from this bin went to the rhubarb, potatoes, asparagus bed and garlic bed which will house the tomatoes in a few weeks. img_9353The potato bath filled up.img_9371Rhubarb that looks like it could take over the world!Make a caption!And the very obvious evidence as to why we should avoid single use plastic rears its head. This shows just how plastic stays intact in the process of composting. I try to avoid single use plastic, but it still sneaks into my life, sometimes invisibly. Interestingly, a fair chunk of this comes from ‘eco’ coffee cups.img_9380After shovelling all that compost I needed a little ergonomic break, so the hammock had its first workout for the season. It was a stunning day yesterday and everything was glowing in the garden.img_9384 img_9391 My brother-in-law gave me some native orchids last year and I was thrilled to see how this Dendrobium is settling in. I love these orchids and do a little ‘happy dance’ every time I look at the beautiful flowers stemming from it.img_9393

A bit of sustainable living.

I try to avoid single use plastic as much as possible and as hard as I try, I find it quite difficult getting local retailers to fill a BYO container or bag. I was thrilled when visiting the Yarragon market yesterday that the lovely people at “The Nut Bloke” were more than happy to accommodate me and put my purchases into my bags that have now been going for about 6 years with no signs of failing yet.Plastic free shoppingWhen we first started planting the garden out four years ago I put in a blood orange tree. Well this tree has struggled and struggled and I’ve kept up the vigil with TLC and lots of chook poo as a bonus. Well, this year we had a harvest, yes, a harvest. Might only be 1 orange but it is juicy, well-shaped and it has some ‘specks’ of blood in it. img_9410 Unfortunately, I think the tree will have to be moved due to a change of plans with the garden bed its in, so I celebrate this harvest in a completely appropriate manner. img_9417I can highly recommend blood orange in a glass of bubbly!

Sourdough Bread and Baking

For a long time I have read about using sourdough discard from feeding starter to make sourdough crackers (dry biscuits to me). I finally gave it a crack using the recipe from the King Arthur Flour Website. I collected discard for a couple of weeks (Kept in fridge), and as simple as mixing 1 cup flour, 1 cup sourdough discard, 1/4 cup butter, pinch salt and 2 tablespoons herbs we had wonderful crackers/dry biscuits.

img_9400I added finely chopped rosemary and would HIGHLY recommend giving this a try. I can see so many variations popping up in my mind for flavour variations of these.sourdough crackersMy bread bakes today was a high hydration/low inoculation (%starter) white loaf. Had to rush a bit to get into the oven but it was great. Light crumb, great crust (forget I dropped it from the oven at the halfway mark!). The loaf on the left is a little under-proofed due to the rush, the loaf on the right is a little over-proofed (and dented) because I had to go out.img_9404Crumb shot of the slightly under-proofed loaf. Still good enough to go with the plate of ‘nibbles’ we put togetherRainy Day Loafcrumb The weather had turned from Spring Glory back to Winter, so for the first time during the day this year, we lit the fire, sipped the bubbly with the blood orange fruit added, and feasted on the sourdough crackers (dry biscuits), soft sourdough bread, some King Island Brie, some French Blue, cheese, home-made pickled onions, some delicious prosciutto from Stellas Pantry in Warragul (they also fill BYO containers), a leftover grilled chorizo sausage sliced up and some Mersey Valley Tasty cheese. CompostAnd I didn’t even nod off after this indulgence! How was your weekend?