Post Christmas Musings

Considering I didn’t really give Christmas much thought this year, I seem to be doing a really great job of needing to recover from it. Yes, I did party way too hard on Christmas Eve, yes, I did eat too much and yes, I had an awful lot of dishes, tables, glasses, bottles and paraphernalia to cleanup, but nothing like we usually deal with. I like to think it is because its been a big year and we now have the opportunity to slow down, so I have. Yesterday was a day of getting up, having a shower and then getting straight back onto the couch. Justification was that I could do some research on kitchen cabinets, tiles, window coverings and all sorts of things for the exteno. I also managed to read a really good book!

Christmas came and went. We had about 25 family and friends gather here on Christmas Eve sharing food, laughing, singing and generally letting loose. I do recall at some time one of the kids made a comment that the tables had turned and they were now watching the oldies do what we used to criticise them for doing. Fun times! This was taken very early in the evening, before everyone had arrived and the fun began. Goodness, I wonder whose rude children they are giving the camera the finger?

Back Yard Xmas EveSome of the food we shared included a platter of assorted roast veg with marinated mushrooms, roasted red capsicum and almond dip, tomatoes baked with sumac, olives and assorted crudite.IMG_3479 Smoked trout served with assorted sourdough crispsIMG_3477 Indian Vegetable Pakora. This is always a standout favourite and is requested at most family get-togethers, I use a lot of cauliflower in these and the batter is made using besan (chickpea) flour and beer. Served with mint yoghurt sauce.IMG_3496 I made some vegetarian ricotta, feta, kale and chilli rolls, wrapped in filo pastry and served with sweet chilli sauce.

IMG_3497A surprising hit of the night was a chick pea dip I made at the last minute. Purely a can of drained chick peas, lemon juice, parsley, olive oil zapped together in the food processor. Served with some olive oil drizzled over it and some turkish bread. This got lot’s of yummy!

Chick pea dip Dukkah served with sesame and rye ciabatta. I cooked this bread on the barbecue and was really pleased with the result. I added black and white sesame seed to the dough which worked really well with the dukkah.IMG_3474 Some mini chicken tikka kebabs served with a vietnamese style dipping sauce.IMG_3489 There were only four of us here for Christmas Lunch (which turned into tea due to our Christmas Eve shenanigans!). We went to our sons for breakfast and after that decided it might be best to do tea rather than lunch. I am a bit of a sucker for traditional Christmas fare, didn’t take any photos but we had pork, turkey that I had brined before roasting (that went well), ham, roast veg with all the trimmings, pudding and it was all lovely. All cooked on the barbecue to perfection. Who needs a kitchen?

Garden catch up

Today I was back up and rearing to go so I got stuck into the vegetable garden. It’s the first time I’ve focussed on it since our open garden weekend and it was in dire need of some TLC. With more hot weather forecast, I put up extra shade protection around the tomatoes. The late afternoon sun is ferocious and I noticed there has already been considerable damage to some flowers which will reduce the yield dramatically.

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Shade cloth overhead

I also hung some netting on the north facing side of the bed to reduce the impact of the afternoon sun.

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Light netting along north facing side of wicking bed.

The winds have been awful and the wicking beds have been struggling to keep up. I think mostly due to evaporation from the surface of the beds so I have placed a really thick layer of mulch on the surface. Hopefully these measures will assist in the tomatoes coping with more extreme heat. I trimmed off the growing tip on a few to allow the side shoots to take off. These will have many more new flowers which will hopefully set fruit and not get burned off.

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To assist in pollinating the tomatoes, I have for a few years now used an electric toothbrush. You just start-up the toothbrush and touch the stem of the flowers, the vibration shakes the pollen onto the stamens. Much easier than going around with a paint brush or shaking the trusses that can be too rough on the flowers. If you look closely you can see the pollen. A bit like fairy dust to me!

Pollinating tomatoesThere are still a few raspberries to be found if you look hard.

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The grapes are going really well, looking forward to those.

IMG_3529Tonight we had the first bruscetta of the season. The tomatoes in the greenhouse have been producing well and we have been picking these since mid November. Tomatoes, basil, feta, olive oil on top of grilled wholewheat sourdough that had garlic and olive oil rubbed into it. Heaven!

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Tomorrow it’s back into the reno I think!

 

 

 

Stuffed vine leaves-using the garden castoffs.

It’s not often these days I get the chance to ‘wing it’ with creating food dishes. I have fallen into the trap of mostly using (usually tweaking) other people’s recipes. Don’t get me wrong, we have discovered some brilliant food this way but I do miss just playing and seeing what evolves.

I spent a few hours in the veggie patch today and one of the jobs was to trim the grapevine in the berry house. It was overtaking everything and reaching for the stars. I also had to trim the lemon grass in the greenhouse, so thought I’d have a go at using the trimmings somehow in tonights dinner. First thought was to make dolmades but I couldn’t find my trusty greek cook book. So here’s how it went.

Selected about 20 vine leaves,

Grape vine leavesRinsed them. then blanched for about 4 minutes in boiling water. Lay on tea towel and rolled the towel up until filling was ready.

Blanched vine leavesI’d decided on a filling of chicken, pork, rice and spices:

The following were all mixed together

  • 250g minces pork
  • 1 finely chopped chicken fillet
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 1 tspn fennel seed
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 and a half cups of almost cooked rice. I used carnaroli that I had cooked with stock and a small bunch of thyme then let cool.
  • 1 small handful (in total) of chopped parsley and chopped mint

I placed a dollop of filling onto vine leaf. Note, the positioning is important and the veins should be facing up.

Stuffed Vine Leavesthe bottom of the leaf  folded up and over the filling,

how to fold stuffed vine leavessides folded in

how to roll stuffed vine leavesThen roll them up as you would a spring roll. Place into pot with seam down.

The lemon grass trimmings were put in the bottom of a cast iron pot and a little of the sauce I made spread over it.

Stuffed grapevine leavesThe sauce was made by sweating a chopped onion in a pan, adding the same spices as in the filling but at quarter strength, 1 litre of tomato passata (puree) was stirred through. A  little was spread over the lemon grass and the rest spread over the stuffed leaves.

IMG_3336Lid on and onto the gas on low for about 20 minutes. I set the lid ajar after 10 minutes to avoid too much liquid building up.

Served with greek yoghurt and chopped mint and parsley.Stuffed vine leaves

Verdict, the flavour very nice and the spice mix was great but the leaves were quite tough. Maybe they should be cooked longer or have some acid added to break them down a little more. Maybe I should have selected much younger leaves! I have only ever used preserved vine leaves before and I find the taste of them a bit heavy.  I was really pleased with the subtle lemon flavour that came from using the lemon grass in the bottom of the pot. Quite often we only use the thick bottom bits but there is quite a lot of flavour in the grassy tops.

 

 

Celia’s Pork Meatballs

Now that we are in the final countdown for the open garden weekend, I thought it would be good to have a couple of things at the ready to offer our helpers. I had taken a shoulder of pork out of the freezer on Wednesday with a plan to make some sausages for a BBQ but just ran out of time. As chance would have it I was reading through my blogging friend Celia’s blog and found she had a recipe posted that was taken from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book ‘River Cottage Everyday. The recipe was titled ‘Tupperware Chorizo and I thought if I made some meatballs, cooked them up and packed them into the freezer in meal sized serves they could be a handy standby meal. Sausages can wait for another day.  This was a delicious dish! I’m not sure if I followed the seasoning correctly as my hay fever was so bad I could barely read Celia’s recipe. They were quite spicy but not too much so. I sautéed  an onion in a little olive oil, added the meatballs and a stubby of my tomato passata, served topped with a little greek yogurt, some coriander and served with rice. Very nice. I just hope if I got the seasoning wrong I can redo it wrong again next time!

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The small shoulder of pork was a little over double the  recipe and it gave me the chance to test drive my new Ankarsrum mixer’s meat mincer. Oh my, compared to my old one this is heavenly. Whipped through the meat so quickly I was amazed. Didn’t have to cut the meat up into tiny little bits and I went straight to the small mincing disc first up. On my old one you had to start with big sized hole and progressively reduce the size of the disc.

Ankarsrum meat mincer or grinder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flipped the machine back up and all the mince along with the rest of the recipe (plus I added an egg) went into the mixing bowl to mix it all together. Next time I’ll get smart and mince the meat straight into the bowl. Loving this machine!

Ankarsrum mixer meatballs

I made some Annabel Langbein brownies for a friends birthday, so I made a double batch and have them stored away too. The recipe called for all dates and I only had a handful so substituted prunes and added the zest of an orange. Gave them a nice jaffa flavour. Didn’t get a photo but they were beautiful! It will be lovely when I can cook in MY NEW OVEN. Yes, decision made, deposit paid and I will stop stressing. Now I just need a kitchen to put it in! I won’t have to do this anymore. Yep, do what you have to to make it fit!

Baking tray bent to fit I’ll even be able to put in 2, 3, 4 or even more. Wee bit excited! Thank you to Dave at Warragul’s sensational foodie shop String & Salt. We went to a Falcon Oven demo there and were blown away.

I think my well worn toy oven (Sunbeam pizza Bake N Grill) is experiencing some oven dementia. Maybe it senses it is about to be replaced. Is there such a thing as oven karma? Does it know we’ve paid a deposit on a new one.

I made another nut loaf in the search to find a recipe that matches what I remember as a kid. Glenda at Passionfruit Garden gave me a few leads but I’m still searching. I used this recipe Date & Nut loaf and after 40 minutes it was still raw, went another 30 minutes, still wet so went another 30 minutes and it was close to cooked. I am amazed it looks as good as it does and I had to taste test it of course, quite good. Into the freezer for this too!

Nut loaf

I can honestly say when I invested the $90 or so on the toy oven 2 1/2 years ago I had no idea it would be so good or that it would cope with me churning out a couple of hefty loaves of sourdough every week.

Sunbeam pizza bake and grill oven

 

On a completely random note, while the pork shoulder was defrosting in the fridge, it somehow was dislodged from its thawing container and as I cleaned out the fridge, I couldn’t help but remember the horrible scene from the Movie Carrie. Does anyone else remember that? Still gives me the heebie jeebies!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRWHDmCJ5mo

In My Kitchen-October 2015

I have been playing with my new Ankarsrum mixer and can happily say, I love it! This machine is very different from ‘normal’ mixers but it is amazing. Every timer I turn it on I learn something new and enjoy it more.

Thanks to Celia at Fig Jam & Lime Cordial for linking fellow IMK’ers together. I always love seeing and getting ideas from other food lovers from all around the world.

So this month, In My kitchen I’ve,

Ankarsrum juicer

been juicing oranges. We are getting to the last on the tree, they are so juicy and tasty and I am so happy that we seem to have converted the performance of the tree since we have moved in. The juice press on this machine is great, saves my dodgy hands from a lot of pain!

duram semolina pasta

There is also lots of fresh pasta. With an abundance of eggs from the girls, pasta noodles are a great way to use them. It has been a bit of a learning curve getting the dough consistency right, but I’m happy with the latest results. These noodles are made using 85% plain flour and 15% durum semolina wheat flour and eggs. Nice! I used these noodles to make a creamy mushroom, roast fennel and asparagus pasta dish.

Mushroom, asparagus pasta

I also made some ‘real’ chicken schnitzels. The crumb is made from sourdough bread crumbs with fresh herbs, lemon zest and pepper. How can anyone think the things sold in delis that resemble love hearts understand what a good schnitzel is really like? I did read somewhere to use one hand when doing the flour, egg, crumb process. Good idea!

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I have also been making sourdough baguettes, trying to conquer managing the temperature control for baking in the gas pizza oven.

Sourdough baguettes

I have also played with using sourdough discard for making pizza dough. This is a container with discard of both white and rye starter that I mixed with flour, olive oil, a little salt, flour and water to get the right consistency. Not the greatest pizza dough but still tasty and better than going into the compost!

Sourdough discard

The pizza was had a basic topping of tomato passata, onion, mushroom, capsicum, olives and a little cheese. One has salami as well.

Sourdough pizza

We are hoping to commence our reno within the next 6 weeks, I’m a little nervous about that, who am I kidding? I’m really nervous about that. I can’t wait to share the results in future In My Kitchen posts. Thanks Celia and other In My Kitchen Story contributors.

 

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

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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