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,

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or a bird feeder like this,

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

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Panmarino, Chilli baguettes & Macaroons.

There’s nothing quite so frustrating as when you have a new toy and you don’t feel flash enough to play with it! This weekend has been a bit like that. I bought myself a new mixer, one that I have been ogling for years and due to the dropping value of our dollar, I decided to bite the bullet and buy, rather than wait until our kitchen was finished and I had somewhere to keep it. (well, that’s my justification!). I have bought an Ankarsrum assistant, made in Sweden and it is built like a workhorse. More about that in a separate post, when I feel a bit better. Even though I felt awful I wanted to run it through a few paces and get the feel for using it, as it is quite a different approach compared to traditional mixers. This is what she looks like.

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I’m really looking forward to putting this machine to work over the next few months so I can get to understand it fully. My first play session was to make some hazelnut & date macaroons. I am not a fan of the brightly coloured, perfectly shaped macaroons you see everywhere these days. The ones I have tried don’t seem to have a great depth of flavour and are just a bit too perfectly formed for my liking. This Hazelnut and Date Macaroons recipe makes a chewy macaroon that tastes great. This is the macaroon mix on the ‘toy oven‘ tray. I had to bake in a couple of batches due to size limitations.

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There was a bit of trouble communicating with my pizza oven yesterday. I think I just wasn’t up to it and kept taking shortcuts, consequently the chilli and feta baguettes I made (even though they tasted nice and had a good texture) looked like a train wreck and were burnt in spots. This is the best of the 3 I made and also a picture of the finished macaroons cooling.
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This weeks “The Italian Baker” test bake.

My bake this week from the highly acclaimed Carol Field  book, The Italian Baker, is Panmarino, or Italian Rosemary bread from the Ferrara region of northern Italy. One of the very first breads I made about 30 years ago was a complete failure and its only saving grace was that it was full of rosemary and made excellent toast. I smile and remember that bread every time I smell rosemary! I’m pleased to say that this attempt has been a far greater success. The story of how this bread came to be is that a moustached baker named Luciano Pancalde (meaning hot bread) recreated a bread he read had been served during the times of the d’Este family ruled Ferrara. ” The rosemary bread was served with a crust like sparkling diamonds……” . These diamonds are the result of sea salt being sprinkled over the star cut on the surface of the dough before baking. I baked one loaf in the ‘toy oven’ in a dutch oven, and another loaf in my ‘La Cloche‘ in the gas pizza oven. The pizza oven and I were on much better terms today!

Panmarino Bread
Loaf on left in pizza oven using La Cloche. Loaf on right in dutch oven in my Sunbeam Pizza Bake N Grill.

 

 

I guess if you imagine hard enough and maybe have a couple of vinos, the salt could resemble diamonds!

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None the less, this bread smelled magnificent as it baked and it does look impressive. I’m very happy with the recipes from this book turning out well with no unwanted surprises and quantites have all been spot on apart from some minor tweaking of water, which all bread bakers are used to.  I have also found a few sites that assist with converting using dried yeast to using sourdough starter in these recipes. I have really noticed a difference using dried yeast again, nowhere near the depth of flavour as when using natural leavening.

 

 

 

IMK September! ……

Ah, the Winter freeze is thawing somewhat and Spring is technically here, but it’s still cool enough to enjoy comfort food from the slow cooker. With the state we are in with this house, I just don’t know what I’d do without this trusty appliance. I had a pork shoulder going begging and was a little tired of the asian or mexican style pulled pork, so I went random and threw in to the pot, the pork, some celery, carrot, onion, juniper berries, apple, ginger, cloves, a little apricot jam and a stubby of beer. Before serving I added some peas and reduced the sauce on the stove till it was rich and sleek. Served with some mash, topped with chopped spring onion and some toasted baguette. One if those ugly but really tasty meals!
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The sourdough baguettes served with it  were a short, chubby version due to my oven size limitations. Autolyse of about 10 hours (accidental) and overnight bulk ferment in the fridge. These were cooked in the gas pizza oven and even though I dropped the tray as they went in I was happy with the result. Beautiful crust and crumb and tasted really good.

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I recently attended a cooking class at Relish Mama in Cheltenham. The theme was Middle Eastern Vegetarian and although I didn’t learn a great deal about the food, I was really impressed with the format and structure of the day. There were several assorted dishes cooked which we all tasted, I certainly didn’t have to cook dinner that night! A beautiful set up and I got some wonderful kitchen design tips and had lots of laughs. One of the dishes made was a beautiful Freekah salad, not being able to source Freekah locally it was on my list for when I next visited Dandenong. That was Saturday (becoming more frequent), so along with the freekah,

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I picked up some glutinous rice flour to make stuffed Indonesian Pancake (Dadar Gulung). Green batter, coloured with pandan and filled with a sweet, coconut filling it makes a lovely tasty and visual dessert.  I am wanting to have a go at making some Turkish style ice cream but need 2 ingredients I can’t find locally. One is mastic and the other is Salep or Sahlab. I found the mastic in Dandy but not the Salep, doesn’t appear to be too much online either. Happy for someone to steer me in the right direction or even advise if it is necessary to have a success with ice cream or if it can be left out.

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For those who get my regular posts, you are most likely aware of my demolition Monday’s in removing the old kitchen. We have 12 foot ceilings and I’ve been up the ladder with my trusty wrecking bar, sledge-hammer and renovator tool removing the old cupboards. Finally the last of them are gone. Wish I could say I was sorry and how much I’d miss them!
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We can now start marking out some of the new kitchen’s concepts to get a feel as to if it will work or not. The brown wall on the right will be going and the room extended about another 5 metres creating a kitchen/eating/living space.

IMG_2295 I’ve also started sprouting some sweet potatoes. Simply just cut in half and sitting in water that gets changed regularly. I keep the container over one of the hydronic heating vents and should have sprouts appear in a few weeks. The soil in the greenhouse will be quite a bit warmer warm by then so I will be able to plant these out. WARNING, the photo is a bit loud!

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That’s my lot for this months IMK. Thanks Celia from Fig Jam & Lime Cordial for linking us all up. Oh, if anyone has some tips or recommendations for a trip we are planning to Turkey & Italy next year I’d love to hear them. So much to choose from, so ideas from like minded people are always invaluable. 🙂

#RelishMama

 

Mushroom risotto and Lights!

Last week Mr ATMT came home and said he had heard chef Shannon Bennett being interviewed on the ABC and he was talking about his mushroom risotto. I’m not a risotto fan unless I make it or unless I know that the person in the kitchen takes its making seriously. Gnocchi is another menu selection I have this issue with. I’m not into eating golf balls and don’t believe it when wait staff say it’s “homemade” that it actually is. I’ve seen those little cryo vac bags some restaurants purchase from suppliers labelled “homemade” that bounce if you happen to drop them. I downloaded this mushroom risotto recipe from the ABC website intending to make it last weekend. Didn’t happen then, but I did manage to make the mushroom stock for the recipe. I was a bit emotional  as I cooked this dish tonight as  our niece is engaged to a chef who previously worked with Shannon and we are anxiously awaiting news about her dad who today suffered a stroke.  Her dad, mine and Mr ATMT’s brother in law and the reason we met. Every stir was done with love and positive thoughts for them. I just hate seeing people I love going through pain knowing you can’t really do anything to ease it.  Happy birthday AH!

One good thing about having a cruddy kitchen is that is good being able to just stick recipes onto the wall and not worry about messing up paint work etc. Mushroom risotto here!

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Some adaptations were made to the recipe due to inability to source neither champagne vinegar nor carnaroli rice  locally (I did check with Coles and they suggested I try Uncle Ben’s Express rice – I didn’t).

I’m not going to go through step by step my making of this dish, that is clearly spelt out in the recipe. But I can say it was delicious! If you like risotto and have a surplus of mushrooms, give it a go!

mushroom risotto

 

Lights! Yay!

Today we had light fittings fitted into the rooms that are pretty much under control as far as renovating are concerned. Once again I called on the ever reliable Amador from Safety First Electrical to carry out this job. There is nothing more frustrating than trades people who don’t deliver when they say they will. No problem with Amador, if there is an unexpected delay you can count on great communication and alternative suitable arrangements are made.  Amador is also an expert in providing energy solutions for homes and businesses, something so important to all of us! We purchased light fittings from Geoff Mills at the Morwell Lighthouse and would highly recommend  anyone who needs to buy light fittings, get advice or to convert existing fittings to be more energy efficient that you check out this business. Service standards and knowledge are exceptional, why would you pay as much, if not more to buy from a store that deals in everything from compost to concrete when you can have experts like the staff at Morwell Lighthouse who point you in the right direction?

Here are our lights, I’m thrilled!

Passageway:

Lighting passageway

Photo below is taken in similar position 18 months ago. I think we are getting there!

Passage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the snug light fitting.

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The ballroom/lounge room. I love this fitting but because of the pattern on the heritage Wunderlich  pressed steel ceiling we will have to get a larger finishing cap.

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Finally, my folly. I am so not  a chandelier type person, but I saw this ages ago, fell in love with it and finally we succumbed and bought it. I absolutely love it! If not only to look at, but it is a great discussion point having a bit of Louis 15th french bling in the bedroom!  Or as Mr ATMT says, the FOTT (see how you go working that out!)

Louis 15th 5 light

 

It is nice to go back and see the old photos as we so often feel we are not getting anywhere. I just looked back on my timeline on Facebook and found my post after we had, on a whim bought this place, my words were, “Holy shit, we just bought a house! Should have gone to cello”.
http://www.realestate.com.au/property-house-vic-trafalgar-1…

There is a certain amount of pride knowing we are giving this lovely old home a rebirthing. Many more ticks to check off the list yet!

Paneer Jalfrezi-With Raab! Yum.

Dinner last night was a take on Rick Stein’s paneer jalfrezi a recipe from his “getting better with every recipe I try“, ‘India’ cook book. This recipe is basically an indian curry stir fry of peppers and tomatoes but as there was a shortfall of peppers in our kitchen I added extra green capsicum and some broccoli raab. Funny, I hadn’t heard of ‘raab’ until I read Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial‘s post today and she mentioned broccoli raab in her post. It looked  suspiciously like what I was growing and had picked to use in this dish. I had planted and grown seed labelled as Broccoli ‘Sessantina grossa’, guess what? Yep, broccoli raab. I’m much more excited about it now, just thought it was a scrungy variety of broccoli until I researched it more closely.

As well as adding the ‘raab’ I also had some pre soaked yellow split peas that were prepared for another dish, I ran out of puff for that, so they went into the pan too. I cut back the chilli powder in the recipe by half and the curry flavour was beautiful, just right. Served with steamed rice, but I would love to have tried it with some fresh naan or flatbread.  That can wait until next time when I make it with more peppers and tomatoes when they are at the peak of their season. I love any dish with indian  paneer cheese (similar to a heavy cottage cheese) in it and the split peas added a nice textural change. Worked out well and tasted delicious.

Paneer jalfrezi

Countdown to Kitchen Lift off is imminent – IMK June.

Woo hoo! Very excited here at ATMT. After 3 long years of trying to sell our property at Fish Creek (Fishy), which is a quirky and delightful town close to our fabulous Wilsons Promontory (The Prom) on the southern tip of Victoria.  We have just had settlement, money is in the bank and we can now proceed in ernest with the reno at this ‘New Old House’. Very sad to be losing the association with the property that I ran as a self contained accommodation facility for about 12 years, but I want to put some energy into this project now. This photo is of the iconic ‘Fishy Pub’, famous for the fish on the roof!

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So, what is in my kitchen this month?

PLANS, PLANS, PLANS! Although we have been preparing for this time for a while, we didn’t want to get to bogged down with the detail until we knew how many $$$$ we had to play with. Massive price reduction to sell meant that what we could do here was affected.  Since we moved in (2 years) and while the Fishy property was on the market this place  has been listed as a Heritage Protected Property, so have had to go through planning approval for any changes. That’s all done, now we need to get final plans drawn up and the building permit issued. When that’s done, we are aiming to start in Spring, couldn’t handle no back half of the house in winter! If I was really optimistic, I would be saying things like I hope to have a kitchen by Christmas, but I doubt it. So consequently in my kitchen are plans and wish lists. I’ve been collecting pictures and ideas that will all be used for tips and ideas in the final mix. If you look closely, you can see a little  spot on the plans marked ‘Kitchen’!

PlansBecause I’m so excited, I got a bit carried away thinking about how I will be able to bake things like croissants, puff pastry, more than 6 sausage rolls and maybe even 2 loaves of bread at a time. My bench top Sunbeam Pizza Bake N Grill has done well, but gee, I’m over it! So, to assist in making all the lovely pastries I plan to make, I decided I needed a good heavy-duty rolling-pin. Probably should have checked the measurements first! The one I ordered online from Amazon is what I will label as my “2 & 1/2 wine bottle pin”. Love it even though it is a monster!

IMG_0966We are still on the quest to find some tea that was as delicious as the assam tea we bought while in India. Not having much luck but when in Melbourne last weekend we bought home a few to try. There are also a few  tomatoes that are trickling in from the greenhouse.

IMG_0969We went Melbourne to celebrate Mr ATMT’s 60th birthday last weekend (Post coming later) and I did the clean out the fridge “what can I use up to take as nibbles routine”. Quite amazing what you can throw together when you have to. These were the most beautiful marinated mushrooms I’ve ever had. Quartered the mushies, cooked in microwave for about a minute and a half. Meanwhile into a pan went some olive oil, about 6 garlic cloves and a chopped up chilli. Heated just enough to slightly cook off the garlic and bring out the chilli oil. This was then poured over the mushrooms, seasoning generously with salt and pepper, the lemon zest of  1 lemon and about 1/2 a tsp of the leftover Spicy Tibetan Sauce I made to go with the Rick Stein Curry I made earlier in the week. Into a container until we used them and they were beautiful. Shame the photo is fuzzy!

IMG_0940I also found some leftover lamb mince, so I threw this in with some chopped rosemary, onion, garlic S&P and an egg to make little meatballs. Served with my tomato relish they were lovely.

IMG_0944Some brownies packed to go with our cuppa, these were made using Annabel Langbein’s brownie recipe. Once again a never fail!

IMG_0951I’ve recently been reading a few different bread making books and currently have Ken Forkish’s Flour, Water and Salt  on loan from the library. Good read so far.  I’ve split ‘Phoenicia’ in half to make a rye starter as well as a basic white. She’s happy with the separation.

IMG_0973Well, I didn’t think I had much to report this month and yet now I feel like I’ve been waffling on for ages. Because we are heading into the wintry blues I thought I’d close with a shot of some of the vibrant colour we experienced in India.

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Thanks Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for your hospitality and generosity with the IMK community.

Chick Peas, Pulled Pork, Tortillas, Bread and Garden.

Yep, it’s been a busy weekend! I love it when you get to achieve everything you set out to, it is incredibly satisfying. It certainly helped that the weather was absolutely beautiful. After 10 days of non stop rain and misery the sky was blue, no wind and the temperature got to about 19 today.  This is my son’s dog enjoying the warmth as did we!

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I’d been feeling a bit under the weather Thursday and Friday so it was great that I felt energised and raring to go for the weekend. First up I chooffed off to the Warragul Farmers Market to stock up on some goodies. This market has developed well and even though we are entering winter, there is still a great range of produce and a really strong sense of community from every one who attends or sells there. I love it! I bought some beautiful organically grown carrots (see recipe later) and leeks from Thorpdale Organics  (forgot to take a pickie), organic milk and paneer from Miranda Dale Dairy, chicken from Mirboo Pastured Poultry, Eggs from WillowZen, who claim their pullet eggs are sensational poached. I’ll report back on that later! Apples (I always forget the business name but they are very friendly),  Mushrooms from Gippsland Mushrooms, Saffron grown in Mirboo, just up the road, chorizo sausages and surely something else! No need to go into those awful big ‘not so super’ markets at all!

With the shopping stowed away I spent a couple of hours in the veggie patch trying to bring a bit of control back into it. I hadn’t done much over the last few weeks and found it very therapeutic getting out there and getting stuck into it. I tweaked the area where last season I had put a bath to grow some potatoes. It is now a better use of space and gives me a spot to put a chair so I can just sit and contemplate. It also means the worm farm and compost bin are easier to access.

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Some gravel fill in between the pavers and some bee attracting flowers planted, it should come up quite well. I also gave the greenhouse a good clean up. I noticed there was quite a big build up of muck on the panels which would be reducing the mount of sun coming in. With the cold season I need to capture as much warmth as possible,  so some hot water, truck wash, broom and a good high pressure blast of water and it is back to looking loved.

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Belated Mothers Day Lunch.

We were in Sydney for mothers day, so the kids came home today for lunch. I was really happy with today’s  meal. I often don’t enjoy eating what I cook but thoroughly enjoyed these dishes. Eating while sitting out in the lovely sunshine consisted of:

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Spicy Pulled Pork– Pulled pork is such an easy and cheap way to feed a group. I put a pork shoulder in the marinade/rub  in the slow cooker pot Friday morning before I went to work, put in fridge until Sat night then turned the slow cooker on low and it was beautifully cooked by Sunday morning. I do cover the meat with some baking paper to keep it moist while its cooking. It just falls apart and is so juicy and tender.

Spicy Pulled Pork

The recipe had ‘Cebolla en escabeche’ (picked onion) as an accompaniment. The pickling being achieved by soaking onions in lime and orange juices. I didn’t have limes so substituted green lemon juice and it was fine. Love the colour!

Cebolla en escabeche

Last week when I was at Herbies Spices in Sydney we sampled a lentil and kidney bean dhal using his ready made blend. I bought some of the blend and used it to make a chick pea dish to go with lunch today. So easy, add some oil/ghee to a pan, add 1 finely chopped onion and soften, add 2 tablespoons of the spice blend and cook out for a minute or so. Add drained chick peas (2 X 400g cans), tomato passata (I bottle mine in beer stubbies so that would be 375ml), 1/2 the juice from the drained peas and cook until required thickness. I also threw in a couple of the last cherry tomatoes. If too thick, add a little water to thin. You can also add some yoghurt but I didn’t and it was still lovely. Served with coriander on the top. Beautiful.

Chick Pea Dahl

An interesting side dish  I made was a carrot and radish (turnip) salad only I couldn’t get radishes at the farmers markets so I used young turnips which have a similar spicy element to them. Put the carrot and turnip through the V-Slicer, took about 2 minutes to make. Winner-It was really nice!

radish and carrot salad

Home made tortillas, Annabel Langbein’s recipe of course!

Tortlllaswhich were used as a wrap for the pork, chick peas and side salads. Some greek yoghurt, bean sprouts and tomato relish as well and it went down really well.

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Lastly are a couple of photos of the pretty spider webs I saw when I ventured out early Sunday morning. Hope your weekend was as fulfilling as mine!

Gate cobwebs
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Goat Curry, Pulled Pork, ganache and….

I haven’t ever cooked goat before, so when we were at the Dandenong Market last week I could not pass up buying some ‘goat curry’ cuts when I saw it. I knew I wanted to try it either as an Indian curry or as a middle eastern tasting dish so onto the internet. The first recipe I found when I googled was Rick Stein’s Goat Curry so that was that settled. I love Rick Stein, haven’t made many of his dishes but he just seems like a delightful man.

We weren’t disappointed at all. I thought the flavour might be a little light on because there is minimal spicing in the recipe but no, it was delightful. Served with rice, greek yoghurt and some of the leftover flour tortillas from Fridays Lunch.

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Friday’s Lunch

Let’s just say one of my better lunches! Pulled shoulder of pork made with a rub of salt, cumin and Garam masala, . Before I went to bed Thursday I chucked it into the slow cooker on low with a cup of stock, some onions, garlic and star anise. Removed from slow cooker about an hour before serving. I served this with a simple tomato salsa made of tomatoes, capsicum, black pepper and spring onions and an asian flavoured slaw salad that was really nice. Some Annabel Langbein flour Tortillas that were used as wraps, some plum sauce and tomato pickles on the side as well. Was really lovely, tasty and light.

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Dessert was not so light! Brandy snap ‘shells’ with chocolate ganache, quince that had been slow roasted for about 7 hours with sugar, cinnamon and star anise. A plop of double cream on top, yummo.

Quince brandy snaps

I resisted having another serve of this for breakfast so I compromised,

Banana, ganache sourdough

Sourdough toast spread with ganache and mashed banana. That is better for me isn’t it?

Dumpling week.

Seems my inner self has been in need of dumplings recently. Is it because the seasons are changing and dumplings are a halfway dish between summer and winter food? Is it because I haven’t travelled for a while and dumplings represent in one form or another every nationality and culture possible. I may be hankering to experience some new ways to have dumplings. Can’t think of any country that doesn’t have a dumpling dish of some sort. Even us Aussies have the great ‘GSD’, Golden Syrup Dumplings, if cooked well are a lovely dessert treat.

My humble attempts this week were pretty PP really. Didn’t make my own wrappers just grabbed a pack from the Supermarket. Having said that, it is a massive step forward that they were actually stocked at the Moe major. Won’t hold my breath for the local supermarket stocking such basics, they seem to be reducing their range of products rather than offering more.

Anyway, Sunday night was pork, ginger and zucchini wonton style dumplings served with a traditional asian dipping sauce. This style of dish is one of my favourites. Easy, reasonably healthy and can be tweaked so you can use whatever is at hand in the filling.

Pork Dumplings

For the filling I used 500g minced pork, 1 grated zucchini (juice squeezed out), 2 crushed cloves garlic, 3 spring onions chopped finely, generous teaspoon of sesame oil, pinch of salt and about a tablespoon of finely grated ginger. All into a bowl and really mix it well. Squeeze it through your fingers and make sure it is really well mixed.

Place a spoonful onto each wrapper, (packet had about 30) then moisten edged and bring sides together to seal. I usually use round wrappers but it was nice for a change to see a different shape.

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Popped them into the steamer on the what I now believe to be the perilous gas cooker.

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While dumplings were steaming I mixed up the dipping sauce using:

  •  1 small finely chopped red chilli with seeds removed,
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 5 tablespoons (100ml) light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine (shaohsing)*
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 crushed garlic clove

When dumplings seem cooked, (about 10 minutes) place onto platter, scatter with chopped spring onions and drizzle some of the sauce over. I found these wrappers not as nice as usual, bit glassy but they tasted ok. Tended to stick more than I’m used to. Filling and dipping sauce was lovely!

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Potato Gnocchi

My next dumpling fix was potato gnocchi. Hadn’t made gnocchi for a long time and it is one of those dishes that should never be purchased in packets and only ordered out if you know it is light and fluffy as it should be and not like marbles that are chewy and tough. I microwaved a couple of potatoes (600 ish grams), mashed them lightly and then let to cool. Mix the egg through the mash first to make it smoother and easier to add flour.

Potato gnocchi

I added about 100g flour, a pinch of pepper and salt and gently mixed it all together. Don’t overwork it, just enough to hold together. Turn out onto a floured board and rolled into play dough type snakes. Have a large pot of boiling salted water ready. Cut bite sized pieces off the snakes, if it is for a more formal occasion you can shape them with little marks but for our casual meal I didn’t bother. Toss the cut gnocchi pieces into the boiling water and when they float they are ready.

Potato gnocchi

I must admit I let the side down with the sauce for this dish. Just some tomato passata, onion, zucchini and eggplant which should have shone but I didn’t do too well with developing the flavour. Nice but lacking oomph! Didn’t take a photo, didn’t think it worthy!

Phoenicia-Fantastic and Flying!

The sourdough starter I got from the lovely Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial has developed beautifully. Phoeny is extremely resilient and has a bit more tang to the taste than my Vessie. I made 2 loaves of basic white at the weekend and they were both tremendous. Thanks Celia!

Sourdough bread

20150315_194522A batch of tomato sauce and that will probably see the major crop of tomatoes done. Can’t believe it’s still only March and they seem to have stopped. Hopefully a few stragglers will continue, enough to keep us in tomatoes on sourdough breakfasts for a while.