Thursday, 27 July 2017

Using up a Surplus of Vegetables with "Pumpkin and Coconut Soup" and "Zucchini and Bacon Slice"


























This could be the last of the Winter cold snaps in the Queensland subtropics, and so the days where I enjoy cooking soups are coming to a close. The weather has been absolutely  magical here so whilst there is always  a lot to be done inside the house, I have been enjoying venturing out into the sunshine during the day to spend time in our garden. Nevertheless, it has been a busy week in my kitchen, where I have been working on using up our surplus of vegetables, rather than waste them.  I have made a double quantity of pumpkin and coconut soup, most of which is now in the freezer for later. This is a delicious recipe, very fast to make and is a family favourite.

Some of the soup will travel to Cairns when we drive up there next to visit our daughter, the rest will be reheated at home and will  be a very welcome and simple Sunday night fare when I decide to have a night off from cooking. We all need to do that sometimes, don't you agree? Pumpkin soup is always a winner, and this quick and easy recipe with the subtle flavours of curry powder and turmeric, is a perennial favourite in our house. Pumpkins are cheap right now and using them in soups can help to stretch the budget and provide a delicious and nutritious meal for little cost. Using the simplest ingredients, and cooked in the microwave oven,  my pumpkin soup recipe can be prepared and ready to eat in under an hour. The most difficult and time consuming part is chopping and peeling the pumpkin.

Here is my Pumpkin and Coconut Soup recipe for my friends who are still enjoying cold weather.

Ingredients:

1 kg Kent or Jap pumpkin (peeled and chopped into 3 cm pieces)
3/4 cup water and 1 chicken stock cube or 1 teaspoon of chicken stock powder
(The water and stock cube can be substituted with homemade chicken stock)
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 heaped teaspoon curry powder
1 heaped teaspoon turmeric
Salt & pepper to taste
2/3 cup organic coconut milk or organic coconut cream (Extra for thinning out your soup if necessary)

Method:

Place the first six ingredients into a 2 litre  casserole dish. Cook on High for 12-15 minutes in the microwave oven with the lid on. Allow to cool slightly.

Carefully puree the cooked pumpkin with a stick blender. Stir in salt and pepper to taste and add the coconut milk. I also used a hand whisk at this stage to really fold in the milk well, as depending on the pumpkin and the coconut cream or milk the consistency of the soup can still be quite thick. If it is too thick for your taste, keep adding more coconut milk and warm boiled water, and whisk it lightly until you achieve the desired consistency. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Cook on high in the casserole dish with lid on for another 4 minutes in the microwave.

Garnish with fresh garlic chives, finely chopped, and a flourish of some more coconut milk.

This soup also freezes beautifully.
                                                        ----------------------------------

I bought some zucchinis for only $2.00 a kilo last week, as they are obviously in season, and I used some of those to make zucchini pickles (recipe here),  and at the same time our home grown zucchini plants decided to have a growth spurt so I have  also been using those up. I needed to make a quick and easy lunch dish today, so I revisited an old zucchini slice recipe which is always delicious, added a couple of extra ingredients and used up some more of our zucchinis. I hope you enjoy it as well if you decide to cook it for your family. However, it is probably a good idea to leave out the chillies if children will be eating it.



Recipe for Zucchini and Bacon Slice

Ingredients:

375 grams zucchini (approx. 2 large or  4 small)
1 large very fresh onion, finely chopped
3 rashers bacon, finely chopped, fat removed
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 chopped large red chillies
1 cup very tasty grated cheese
1 cup SR flour
1/2 cup oil
5 eggs

Let's Cook:

Grate zucchini in a food processor and finely chop onion and bacon. Combine zucchini, onion, bacon, cheese, turmeric and sifted flour, chillies, oil and lightly beaten eggs.

Season to your taste with ground black pepper and a pinch of salt

Pour into a greased baking tray or a large pie dish or a quiche dish. Top with sliced tomatoes or sliced zucchinis and a pinch of paprika if you wish.

Bake in a moderate oven for 30 to 40 minutes until it has risen and looks golden on top.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best wishes

Pauline

Friday, 21 July 2017

My Sourdough Bread from scratch



 I love baking bread,  and I like the idea of using wild yeasts to do it.  I also like the idea of using my sourdough starter, which I have had for a couple of years now, and looking after it so that I will still have it over a number of years into the future.  I have taken it with me on our road trip to Perth last year where I made sourdough bread for our family over there, and then brought it back again, and it survived beautifully. It now even has two offspring as well, just in case the Mother has a problem. Mother is the name that Artisan bakers give to their sourdough starter, ha, ha. It also means that I have extra to give to friends if they would like to start baking bread.

My sourdough Mother, has now been sitting in the fridge for 6 months or so since I last used her to bake bread,  however I have kept feeding her regularly with some plain flour and water. The most important thing with baking sourdough bread,   is to have a vigorous starter.  The starter needs to be fed frequently, until it starts to froth and bubble at the surface and is able to rise and grow itself. I needed to ensure that my starter would be vigorous enough to build my bread dough. The subtle distinctive aromas of the sourdough starter  as it starts to grow, the tactile element of kneading it gently, the satisfaction of the rising of the dough, and then the smell of the freshly baked bread filling everyone with anticipation, is very rewarding and quite addictive. If you think you would like to make some sourdough bread, but don't have a sourdough starter, there is plenty written about it and it is easy to make your own with a little time and patience. However you might have a friend who is already making their own sourdough bread and will happily give you some of their Mother to get started. Or if you live near an Artisan Baker who is making sourdough bread for sale, they might be happy to give you some of their Mother starter if they have some warning in advance. I have found that Artisan Bakers are very proud of their craft and are usually happy to share.



I try to keep at least 500g of Sourdough Starter or "Desem" in Baker's recipe language in the frig at all times.Very occasionally if I am in a hurry and my sourdough starter is active, I will scoop the amount of starter that I need for a loaf from under the surface of the dough and use that to start  a loaf of bread for that day. That method will work, however the resulting loaf is never as good as if I take a small amount and then feed it and grow it over a couple of days.

Activating your Sourdough Starter (the most essential process to ensure a successful loaf of sourdough bread)

For my usual Multigrain Sourdough Bread recipe I use 160g of Desem or starter, so I need to grow my starter from 60g to 160g.  This will take 2-3 days. I take 60g from my Mother dough in the frig, and place it in a dessert size bowl with a lid. Plastic, glass or china doesn't matter. Then in another small bowl, I add 40g of flour and 20 grams of distilled or boiled water and mix that to a paste. The flour and water paste is then mixed into the dough in small batches. A little bit more water may need to be added so that it is a nice consistency, but not runny. The rule of thumb is that I use 2/3 flour and 1/3 water to the weight of flour to add to my sourdough each time to grow it. So for 60 g of sourdough, I use 40 g of flour and 20g of water mixed together and add it to the starter. This is left in a warm spot, covered overnight, and then next day it should have doubled  to about 120g when you weigh it.

You now have 120g of starter. Scoop off 30 grams, bringing your starter back to 90 grams, and start again. I find it hard to throw out that discarded 30 grams so often I keep it in the frig for later. (See my Sourdough Pancake post.) To my 90 grams of starter in the bowl , I do the maths and add  60 grams of flour (2/3) and 30 grams of water (1/3)  mix it together and let it double overnight as well to 180g.  In the morning you will see a change in consistency of the dough, and evidence that it has started fermenting and has grown and it will smell beautifully sour. There will be a few bubbles in there as well. It is starting to work and ferment and it is alive.  So now you have 180 grams of vigorous starter . I scoop off 20 grams so that I have 160 grams as required for my recipe and I am  ready to start making bread. That discarded 20 grams can be added to the 30 grams you have in your frig, add a little more to it to make 60 and you can get that started as well to make more bread or use it for something else.  Now you have a potent starter full of wild yeasts and bacteria. This will rise your bread dough beautifully.

It might seem like a lot of work, but in terms of flavour, crumb, nutrient value, and storage potential, your sourdough bread should be far superior to bread made from a standard packet of yeast.

Sourdough Bread Recipe

This is my basic Sourdough bread recipe that I use most of the time.

350 g of Bakers Flour (1/2 Multigrain and 1/2 Plain)
110g of Other Normal Flour (Normal Plain flour or 1/2 and 1/2 Plain and Wholemeal)
12g or about 1 tablespoon salt (I now sometimes use Himalayan Salt flakes, not iodised salt)
160 g of Sourdough starter or Desem which  I have been fermenting for a couple of days
270g water (1 1/4cups approx.) (Best results obtained with warm boiled or distilled water)
30g good local honey
30g Macadamia Oil (any oil can be used but I have found Macadamia is lighter with a nicer flavour)

Method:

Mix the Desem with the lukewarm water to which you add in the oil and the honey making a kind of slurry
Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl and combine well.
Add the Desem, water, oil and honey  mix to the flour and combine well with a large spoon. Rest this dough for 10 minutes in the bowl.
Turn the dough mixture onto an oiled or floured bench and kneed gently for ten seconds folding the dough over itself rather than pounding it.
Knead again gently and place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl  and cover with a moist tea towel or a fitted shower cap.
Place in a warm spot and allow to make a 50% rise. This will take up to 4 hours probably.
When this happens, take it from the bowl, knead it again gently and place your dough in a lightly oiled bread tin.




Allow it to rise again in a warm spot to near the top of your bread tin, this should only take about an hour. Take a very sharp knife and cut a few surface incisions across the top of the dough, and then add a sprinkling of flour or some oatmeal flakes or seeds for that rustic appeal.



Cook in a hot oven at 220 deg for 10 minutes, and then reduce the temperature to 200 degrees for 20 minutes.

I then take the bread out of the tin, and put it back in the hot oven on the oven rack for 5 minutes to crisp up the sides of the loaf. Just watch it though so that the top doesn't burn.

Take out the bread, and although it is tempting to eat it straight away because it smells and looks so good, allow it to cool off to just warm as it will keep cooking in the middle.

Your delicious sourdough loaf is now ready to eat.

I often double the quantities of this recipe, and then freeze a sliced loaf for later. Some small fruit buns can also be made with extra dough if you double the quantity.

Best wishes and happy bread making.

Pauline















Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Sourdough Vegetable Pancakes for a light nutritious lunch



When I make Sourdough bread which I absolutely love doing, there is always some activated sourdough left over and as I can't bear to just toss it out, I decided to make some very tasty vegetable pancakes out of it. Sandor Katz who wrote The Art of Fermentation and is somewhat of a fermentation guru gave me the idea. As a result I came up with this versatile recipe. You can make it your own by adding whatever vegetables and herbs you have on hand. If you really like the sourdough taste,  you can leave the sourdough batter, after only the flour and water has been added to it, to ferment overnight out of the frig. Add the vegetables, herbs and egg the next day. The sourdough mixture will also probably ferment and grow overnight, so put it in a large bowl. However if you like a more neutral tasting sourdough, I wouldn't leave it to develop overnight and just add a teaspoon of baking powder to the mixture at about 5 ml/1 teaspoon  of baking powder per 500 ml/2 cups of batter. This neutralises the lactic acid of the sourdough and makes them slightly sweeter and fluffier. This is a great idea if you choose to make your Sourdough pancakes sweet. Now there is an idea for next time.

If you use sourdough to bake bread, do you have any other ideas for using your leftover sourdough? I would love to hear your ideas in the Comments section at the bottom of this blog.

Recipe for Sourdough Vegetable Pancakes

Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 cup of sourdough which has been activated and is vigorous and bubbling
1 cup of plain flour (or substitute some leftover grains in place of some of the flour)
1 cup of lukewarm water
1 onion
1 clove garlic
1/2 chopped capsicum
1 finely diced large flat mushroom
1 small grated sweet potato
Mature grated cheese, about a handful
Chopped parsley
Pinch of dried mixed herbs
Flavoured sea salt flakes
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 beaten egg

Method:

Add the water and flour to the sourdough in a medium sized bowl and beat it well. Leave it to rest while you prepare the vegetables. You will soon see the sourdough start to activate again and start bubbling.

Fry an onion, a clove of garlic, and some other vegetables such as a small red capsicum together together in a pan. Use the same pan you intend to fry the pancakes in. I  added a chopped mushroom after the onions started to soften. You could also add a diced zucchini or okra.

While the vegetables are frying, add an egg to the batter then some flavoured sea salt, ground black pepper, and a handful of tasty grated cheese.

I then added a small grated sweet potato and the fresh parsley and mixed herbs. (you could also add grated radishes, turnips, or potatoes if you have access to nice ones.)

Add the fried vegetables to the batter and mix them in.

If the batter seems too thick add a little water, if it is too thin, keep adding flour gradually until it seems the right pancake consistency and can be dropped from a spoon into a hot pan.

Fry the batter in an oiled, well-seasoned pan, flipping it over when bubbles appear on the surface of the pancake.

These pancakes are delicious for lunch eaten with condiments such as sauerkraut, tomato relish, yoghurt or sour cream, and some sliced cucumber.

Bon appetit!

Thanks for dropping by.

Best wishes

Pauline




Saturday, 15 July 2017

Chicken Traybake with Fennel, Orange and Lemon




This Chicken Traybake recipe has been so quick and easy to prepare, and Fennel is a great vegetable to work with and enjoy, so crisp,tasty and aromatic. Fennel also maintains its integrity when it is cooked, retaining it's shape and texture, and not becoming mushy. I think I might have said once or twice before how much I like traybakes as a style of cooking. On a wet and cold day, this has been a comforting dish to have cooking in the oven, with the aroma in the kitchen promising a delicious and fulfilling meal to come.  It is also an easy and quite inexpensive way to entertain 6 people at the same time, particularly during Fennel and Citrus season,  or just enjoy it over a couple of nights at home which is what Mr. HRK and I will do. Or just halve the ingredients of the recipe, that's easy. I hope you can try it and also enjoy it.

When I saw some fabulous Fennel at the supermarket for a very cheap price, this recipe from Nigella's recipe book "Simply Nigella" jumped into my mind. It was kind of meant to be as well, as that morning just before shopping I rejoined at our impressive local Public Library to check if any books on Fermenting were in on the shelves, my latest passion in the kitchen, and I also saw at the same time this beautiful book of Nigella Lawsons. I own a sizeable recipe book collection, however not this one, although I did gift a copy to my daughter a couple of years ago as she is quite a Nigella Lawson fan, and I think I have seen Nigella cook this recipe on one of her cooking programs.

I was surprised that only one book on Fermentation was available at the Pubic Library, despite Fermented foods now becoming quite well publicized in our country as a source of health and happiness. Perhaps it is an indication though that a lot of people do their research on line, and as a blogger I am very happy about that, however when I am researching a topic I really like to get a broad based opinion and sit down in a comfy chair and absorb extra information from of a book, and a well respected author. The Fermenting book I came home with is by Sandor Katz, called The Art of Fermentation and is very comprehensive, covering a wide variety of Fermentation practices. It was a New York Times bestseller so I am looking forward to some reading over the weekend. I have also requested another couple of books on inter-library loan, so hopefully they can be found somewhere in Queensland. I know I am referring back to my ex-librarian life here, but some things never leave us. My latest batch of Sauerkraut continues to ferment on the shelf, and future bottles should  benefit from my reading.

This recipe is based on Nigella Lawson's recipe, however I have halved the amount of olive oil from 100 to 50 ml., and I have also used the zest of the lemon for some extra zing.I don't have access to Seville oranges as they readily do in England, and as our oranges are sweeter the extra tart balance of the lemon works a treat.

Ingredients:

Serves 6

12 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in, preferably organic however that is your choice
2 large bulbs of fennel (approx. 1 kg in total, no need to be that specific though)
50 ml extra-virgin olive oil plus a 15 ml tablespoon to drizzle over the chicken when cooking
Zest and juice of 1 Valencia or Seville Orange
Zest and juice  of a lemon
2 teaspoons sea salt flakes
4 teaspoons fennel seeds
4 teaspoons good quality French Dijon mustard

Method:

This dish will be more flavoursome if you can start the preparation the day before and leave it to marinate overnight. It then only needs to be put in the oven an hour or so before your guests arrive or before your family plans to eat. Cut the bulbs of Fennel into quarters and then cut each quarter, length ways, into 3. Wash and drain in a colander and leave on the chopping board while you prepare the marinade. Reserve the feathery fennel fronds as a garnish for later.



Place a large freezer bag inside a wide-necked glass measuring jug, pour in the oil, then the orange and lemon zest and juice, and spoon in the salt, fennel seeds, and mustard. Stir it all briefly to mix.

Remove the bag from the jug and, holding it up, add a quarter of the chicken pieces, then a quarter of the fennel pieces, and then continue in this fashion until it is all used up.




Seal the bag tightly at the top, and then lay it in something like a lasagna dish and squelch all of the contents of the bag so that the chicken and the fennel pieces are covered in marinade.

When  it is time to start cooking, remove the marinating chicken and fennel from the fridge and tip the contents of the bag, marinade and all into a large shallow roasting tin.  46 x 34cm is the recommended size. Use tongs to position the chicken skin side up on top of the fennel. Leave it for 30 minutes to come to room temperature and preheat the oven to 200 deg. C., or Gas Mark 6.

Drizzle some oil onto the surface of the chicken pieces and cook in the oven for 1 hour, or until the fennel is soft and the chicken cooked through and browned on top,

Put the chicken and fennel onto a warmed serving plate and place in warm oven, and put the cooking pan over a medium heat and boil the juices. You might need to use a saucepan if your baking tray isn't stove friendly. Next time I will cook down the juices in a saucepan anyway as it took quite a while in my large roasting pan, for this amount of chicken.

Boil the juices, stirring as you watch it turn syrupy.

Pour the reduced sauce over the chicken and fennel and then garnish with reserved fennel fronds. Finish with some ground black pepper.

Bon appetit!

Have a lovely weekend everyone and thanks for taking the time to read my blog.

Best wishes

Pauline




Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Simply Sauerkraut using White Cabbage, Fermenting Phase 2





Fermenting Sauerkraut

If you followed my Fermenting story a couple of weeks ago where I used  Red Cabbage, you might be interested to know that we are now eating my Purple Sauerkraut and we are really enjoying it with salads, soups and anything that I remember to add it to. You can find that story and the recipe here. We have enjoyed the second batch I made more than the first one,  which I found too salty because I added more brine thinking it had gone dry. I've since learnt that whilst fermenting, the cabbage will absorb the juices and expand to the top of the jar, and adding more brine can just make the ferment too wet and salty. So I won't be doing that anymore. The two purple bottles in the photo above are the third batch of Purple Sauerkraut using less carrot just because I didn't have as much as I thought I did. It won't make any difference. The third bottle is my first batch of White Cabbage Sauerkraut that this story is about. These are  my Top Shelf batches of Sauerkraut.

I am calling my next Fermenting session, Phase 2, as I am venturing into using White Cabbage, the more traditional version of Sauerkraut. However I have taken a leaf out of Sarah Wilson's book and used a couple of shortcuts. Instead  of all that slicing and grating by hand, I have used the food processor to grate the cabbage, and this becomes much less time consuming, particularly when preparing large batches of all that cabbage.

This is the simplest and easiest way to make traditional sauerkraut that I know at present, and I hope if you are reading this you can give it a try. The health benefits contained in this beautiful bottle of goodness are enormous.

White Cabbage Sauerkraut recipe

Ingredients:

1 small white or red cabbage, rinsed, cored and cut into small wedges which will fit in the chute of your food processor
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
Sprinkle of Mustard seeds
2 tablespoons Himalayan Salt Flakes
(You can also substitute the caraway seeds  or add to the caraway seeds with mustard seeds, cumin seeds, dill seeds, celery seeds or white peppercorns if you prefer those flavours or just happen to have those  spices on hand. They will be fermented in the process.) Besides adding  amazing  flavour  to your  ferment, the spices act as mould inhibitors or at least slow it down.

I was just reading in Katz's book on Fermentation  that Nasturtium leaves can also be used  as a mould inhibitor.  My nasturtiums  in the garden are taking off so I will try them in a subsequent  batch.

Method:

I shredded the cabbage in my food processor which saves so much time, or if you want to replicate the way sauerkraut has been made during previous European generations, you can either slice it finely or grate it by hand.

Place the cabbage in a large glass bowl and add the caraway seeds and the salt and toss the seeds and the salt through the cabbage with clean hands. I also added a sprinkle of mustard seeds as they are full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories such as selenium and magnesium.

 Let this powerful brew sit for 30 minutes to activate the juices.

Green cabbage, caraway seeds, mustard seeds and salt and a sprinkling of mustard seeds.

Spoon the vegetable mixture into jars, allowing at least an inch or 3cm at the top of each mixture for juices and expansion because I assure you it will rise  to  the  top of the jar. It's alive.

Press down gently on the cabbage in the glass jar with a wooden implement similar to a mortar which will fit through the mouth of the jar, forcing the juices to the top of the cabbage. I very gently used my granite mortar as Mr. HRK is making me a wooden one, and the juices from the cabbage rose to the top as expected.



The cabbage then needs to be weighed down so that the juices stay at the top and the fermenting process can begin. I used the trimmed core of the cabbage to weigh down the shredded cabbage and help the juices rise above it. A thick cabbage leaf can also be placed on top and pressed down leaving space above it for the juices to rise, and they do as you can see in the photos below.







Seal your bottle loosely and keep at room temperature for 3 days. I open mine each morning to check that it is fermenting and to release the carbon dioxide, and you will see the bubbles moving.  I also push the cabbage down forcing more juices to the top and ensuring the vegetables stay submerged.The longer you leave it to ferment, the more sour and distinctive the flavour will be.

If you feel that your ferment really is drying out, it is important to only use filtered water to top it up as the chlorine will kill the bacteria needed for fermentation.

Your jar of sauerkraut can then be moved to the frig after 3 days where it will keep for several months, and the flavour will develop during this period however it can be eaten within a week, or even earlier if you are desperate to try it.





This is the same jar as the one in the top photo and as you can see  in the top photo the level of the cabbage has moved up to the top of the jar as the cabbage ferments.

 This week I have  cooked a piece of corned silverside in the slow cooker to have as a delicious standby for meals and sandwiches. The weather is warming up here with maximum temperatures of 26 deg., so salads are now on the menu for lunch and corned silverside, and my purple sauerkraut with a salad is tasty and great for our gut. After all aiming for a healthy gut is really why I am persisting with  making sauerkraut, although it is also very tasty.



After all of that shredding and massaging of the cabbage, it is lovely to sit down with a cup of delicious coffee made by Mr. HRK and relax whilst my sauerkraut starts to bubble away on the top shelf.

This is the latest batch of coffee that he has roasted himself, and then freshly ground before making this coffee in our Rancilio machine. It is as good as if not better than any coffee we can buy here. His Coffee Art is impressive as well. I feel a bit spoiled really when it comes to coffee that we enjoy at home.




Thanks for visiting and I would like to know if you have found this interesting or helpful. Making sauerkraut has been firmly embedded in European and American cultures for centuries because of the food preservation advantages and the health benefits, however it is interesting that we are only just starting to really embrace it in our own kitchens in Australia. I am learning  as I go with  this and do more reading  so it  is a work  in progress. I'd like to  hear of your experiences.

It's State of Origin tonight, so go Queensland and Pizza is on the menu.

Cheerio for now and have a good week.

Pauline.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

I'm Dehydrating my Home Grown Parsley



Parsley is an indispensable herb in my kitchen and I pick some of it most days from the garden to use in my cooking. However I know that once the humid and wet weather arrives in our sub-tropical Summer, my Parsley plants will start to struggle and if a real wet season arrives this year I will lose them as they don't like wet feet.  At the moment the parsley plants are thriving so to prepare for the time ahead when I know that mine will die off,  I have cut back the parsley plants, and dried a large bunch of the leaves in the dehydrator. I only grow Italian Parsley now as it is more resilient and easier to manage than the curlier variety.



When I started writing this, I was reminded of just how healthy Parsley is in our diet. It is full of Vitamin K, C, and A, lots of antioxidants and Folate and Iron. So besides using dried parsley as often as we can, we are doing ourselves a huge favour by using both fresh and dried as much as we can in tabbouleh, pesto, tomato sauces and all of those other Middle Eastern and European dishes that we enjoy so much. If you are reading this and you are responsible for most of the cooking in your home as you probably are, then you are doing a great thing for yourself and your family by frequently including fresh and dried parsley in your cooking. However you won't need to use as much of the dried as you would of the fresh stuff.

It took 24 hours to dry this batch of parsley as the dehydrator runs on a low heat but it worked beautifully and now I have a pint Mason jar full of dried parsley which will crumble beautifully into stews, soups, frittatas, braises and most dishes where it will add value to the final taste and nutritional appeal of the meal. Fresh parsley is still the best to use as a garnish but otherwise the dried parsley will serve me well and save me spending money at the supermarket or the Farmer's Market on fresh Parsley. I am really hoping though that I won't lose my parsley plants for quite a while.

I waited until mid-morning to collect the parsley as there is a heavy dew and early morning fog at the moment and I wanted it to be fairly dry before I cut it. The parsley should be washed well to remove any bugs or dirt and swirled around in a sink of clean water, and then left to drain in a colander.  I did that and then dried the stalks between kitchen wrap paper and clean towels.



Then I sat down with a cuppa, tuned into Richard Fidler's Conversations on ABC radio at 11.00 am which is always interesting and started removing the leaves from the stalks, which didn't take very long. I don't think you need to remove the tiny stalks close to the leaves as they will crumble down after dehydrating as well. Of course this could also be done late in the afternoon while you enjoy a glass of red wine, also full of nutritional benefits.

The fresh, healthy, and thick parsley stalks can be kept in the freezer in a bag and added to chicken stocks with the carrot and celery, as they have flavour and nutritional value embedded in them. It seems such a waste to relegate them to the compost heap.



It was then simply a matter of placing the parsley leaves  on the dehydrator trays to dry for 24 hours. The time it takes will depend on your dehydrator, but this one operators on a constant very low heat which works well.




The leaves are then transferred from the dehydrator to a sterilised Mason Jar or any bottle you may have on hand, for storage. I found it easier to use a funnel as the dry parsley tends to be difficult to transfer by hand and can fly around the bottle in the process.




I have a few jars of dried herbs and spices and once they are dried sometimes it can be difficult to tell what the contents of the bottle are, so I label each bottle with the date that the contents were bottled.

If you don't own a dehydrator, the leaves can also be dried on a very low heat in your oven. This can take 12 hours in your oven. If you don't grow your own parsley, why not go to the Farmer's Market and buy a couple of large bunches cheaply whilst it is in season and dry it yourself. I don't think you will regret it.

I am on the verge of buying my own dehydrator. My good friend Julie lent my hers to try and I am sold on it now and so is Mr. HRK.

To all my readers, thanks for dropping by and I hope you found this interesting and helpful.

Best wishes

Pauline

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Human Communication should bring a Smile to our Faces, as our Postwoman did today




I have a story to tell you, but perhaps you would like to sit down with a nice cuppa whilst you read it. I really recommend this delicious Turmeric and Ginger Latte, which is much cheaper and more nutritious to make at home than it is  to buy. I have used our home grown and home ground turmeric and ginger which has much more depth of flavour than the product you buy, and so easy to do yourself in our own kitchen.

Turmeric and Ginger Latte, delicious with some home made Chocolate

Ingredients:

1 cm root ginger (or 1/2 tsp. ground ginger)
1 tsp ground turmeric or fresh if you are game (a 2cm root grated)
300ml almond or coconut milk (from a carton not a tin)
The seeds of 2 cardamon pods
1 tsp of local honey (There is a belief that using local honey provides better antihistamine benefits)
2 tsp coconut oil
1 pinch of ground cinnamon

Method:

Peel and grate the fresh ginger if using. Heat the nut or coconut milk gently in a small pan, then add the cardamon seeds, honey and coconut oil, whisking constantly so that the milk heats through and is foamy. Pour the mixture into a cup and sprinkle over the cinnamon. Relax and enjoy your drink. This drink can also be made in the microwave if you are in a hurry. I'd like one now.
(This recipe is based on one I found in The Clever Guts Diet by Dr. Mosley.)

Something really nice just happened here at home which made me think about the importance of human communication in our lives. I was "talking" to my tropical orchids this morning and feeding them chopped up banana skins which they love for the nitrogen, potassium and magnesium content they provide, and Neil was working in his shed doing some carpentry, when I heard the postie coming up the street. Some days there is a succession of supposed posties on bikes on our street, however all but one, the real postie, as it  turns out are delivering junk mail to unsuspecting post boxes which can sit there for days. We have a sticker on our post box advising that we don't want any junk mail, thank you very much. So much paper and time and effort is wasted creating all of those brochures encouraging us to buy more than we actually need. Anyway that is another issue to address on another day.

It was  a very pleasant surprise this morning when the postie turned into our driveway and delivered our mail to us by hand, with a beautiful smile on "her" face. She asked who the envelope with a window in it should be given to, Neil or me, and I decided it should be Neil, LOL. As it turned out it wasn't an expensive windowed envelope with a bill inside, so that added to the positive experience. So this lovely lady had a quick chat, and then rode off up our street on her bike. Neil works out in his workshop, at the entrance to our garage most mornings and the postie has obviously noticed this as well. Being a postwoman is probably a solitary job at times, but in any occupation or activity there is potential to value add to the job and she is doing just that, and enjoying human contact at the same time. I'm sending out a big cheerio to the posties today. We don't receive much hard copy mail anymore, as most transactions are performed electronically, however even if she has nothing to deliver tomorrow, I'm sure she will give us a wave if we are outside, which will happily be reciprocated.

Our postwoman may also be very thankful that we have removed the large, spiky Bromeliad that was growing near our Post Box, ha, ha. Whilst it was nice and colourful, it was also quite invasive requiring constant pruning back. Something nice and flowering and butterfly attracting will suit that spot much better. That small encounter with a postie would no doubt mean a lot to people who are living on their own at home and do more for the reputation of the Post Office than many formal types of advertising would.

Neil and I have also discovered that we really like to enjoy a hot cup of Turmeric Latte, later in the afternoon when the weather is cooling down. It is nutritious and very warming from the heat of the ginger and the spice of the turmeric. Here is the recipe if you would like to try it. The almond milk provides a nice, subtle nutty flavour as a base to the drink.

Do you recycle your egg cartons, my friends? We don't have our own chickens unfortunately,  and as we eat a lot of eggs, the cartons add up. I return some to friends of ours who sometimes give us fresh eggs, however we are still left with quite a few so I have started cutting them up and putting them in the compost heap. Diversity of materials that break down in the compost is essential so rather than fill up the recycling bin with something else this seems like a good idea. Our compost heat is breaking down really well helped along by a variety of bugs and worms.




Have a nice week everyone  and I hope you can take time out to have a chat with someone that brings a smile to your face.

Best wishes

Pauline