Sunday, 13 September 2020

Showcasing In My Kitchen, September 2020



Sunday morning foraging has become part of our routine whilst the local farms still have beautiful produce before the heat of Summer takes it's toll. Most Sunday mornings we visit the farm truck of a local Mackay farm called Sweet As Fresh As, and indeed it is just that. This is what I bought yesterday, golden sweet corn, heritage cherry tomatoes (not in the photo), zucchinis, and strawberries. The pineapple is from a local pineapple farm and I purchased it from the corner shop near us. Pineapples are in season here at the moment and are very sweet. The strawberries are sweet and delicious and the corn hardly needs any cooking at all. It's nice and so easy here to bring home some fresh produce from local suppliers. It lasts much longer than what I buy at the supermarket,which travels a long way to get here. Buying what is locally in season and cooking with that is what I try to do.



The previous weekend, I purchased these, and at a very reasonable price.


Our daughter arrived home as a big Father's Day surprise for Mr. HRK, which was on the 6th September here in Australia this year, although I knew she was driving down from Cairns. Mr. HRK didn't, so its been a lovely week with her home, and lots of home cooking and stories and laughter. It's so good when you can pull off a surprise isn't it? Delicious Spring Lamb is in the butcher shops  now at a very reasonable price, and when I baked a Leg of Lamb one night during the week flavoured with rosemary and garlic, I made this Cauliflower Cheese as one of the vegetable dishes to accompany the lamb. I always have lots of haloumi cheese in the refrigerator as Mr. HRK loves it and so I added haloumi slices around the circumference of the cauliflower cheese dish as I was a bit low on parmesan. It was really delicious, and the cheesier the better I reckon. By the way the cauliflower was also grown locally, and was so delicious I could also eat it raw.


A celebratory glass of champagne on Father's Day with our daughter was very nice. I made my
Tuna and Cannellini Bean Dip again as a snack to go with it and Shannon loved it. 


Of course there had to be a cake for Father's Day and Shannon's arrival. I've been wanting to make this one for ages, and my friends we just loved it. The flavour of apricot in cakes is one of my favourites, as we can very rarely buy nice apricots this far North. So here is Nigella Lawson's fragrant and delicious Apricot cake. If you can't quite come at using Rosewater in this, just leave it out.

Nigella's Apricot Almond Cake with Rosewater and Cardamon






Ingredients:


Serves 8-10

150 grams dried apricots
250 millilitres cold water
2 cardamon pods (cracked)
200 grams ground almonds
50 grams fine polenta (not instant)
1 teaspoon baking powder
150 grams caster sugar
6 large eggs
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon rosewater
nonstick spray or sunflower oil for greasing

For Decorating

2 teaspoons apricot jam
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 1/2 teaspoons very finely chopped pistachios

METHOD:

Grease and line a 1 x 20 cm/8-inch round spring form cake tin
  1. Put the dried apricots into a small saucepan, cover them with cold water and drop in the cracked cardamon pods, still containing the fragrant cardamon seeds. Bring to the boil, and keep it bubbling on the stove for 10 minutes. Keep an eye on it as at the end of 10 minutes  the saucepan will be just about out of water but mustn't boil dry. The apricots will absorb more water as they cool. 
  2. Take the saucepan off the heat and allow the apricots to cool.
  3. Preheat your oven to 180 deg. C./160 deg. C. Fan, or Gas mark 4/350 deg. F.
  4. Remove 5 of the dried apricots and tear each in half, and set them aside on a plate for a while. Discard the cardamon husks, leaving the seeds in the pan.
  5. Pour and scrape out the sticky contents of the saucepan into the bowl of a food processor. Add the ground almonds, polenta, baking powder, caster sugar and eggs, and give a good long blitz to combine.
  6. Open up the top of the food processor, scrape down the batter, and add 2 teaspoons of lemon juice and the rosewater, and blitz again, then scrape into the prepared cake tin and smooth the surface with a spatula. Arrange the apricot halves around the circumference of the tin.
  7. Bake for 40 minutes, however if the cake is browning  too early, cover it loosely with foil at the 30 minute mark. I didn't need to do this. When it's ready, the cake will be coming away from the edges of the tin, the top will feel firm, and a cake tester will come out with just one or two damp crumbs on it.
  8. Remove the cake to a wire rack. If you are using apricot jam to decorate and this gives a beautiful gloss and flavour to the cake, warm it up a little first to make it easier to spread. Stir a teaspoon of lemon juice into the jam and brush over the top of the cake. Then sprinkle with the pistachios and leave the cake to cool in its tin before releasing from the cake tin and removing to a serving plate.

With all of those very fresh zucchinis I bought, I just had to make Zucchini. Corn and Bacon Slice, a delicious family favourite. It was the week for our favourite foods.


Now I know I am cheating a little bit here, as this is supposed to be about My Kitchen, but I couldn't let the opportunity of my daughter visiting without us taking advantage of enjoying a High Tea  at the Fifth Floor Restaurant during the week. It is actually a hospitality training restaurant for Central Queensland University which merged with TAFE a few years ago and now teaches hospitality which was always the domain of TAFE. I used to work for CQU so I still keep my ear close to the ground about what happens there, and this High Tea was reasonably priced, delicious and located on the 5th floor of the inner city CQU building with nice surrounding views. The hospitality students waited on the tables and did a good job. They also cook and serve very nice lunches throughout the month.


The High Tea Menu. 


Spring is as much about gardening as cooking for us and we have been spending a lot of time gardening in the mornings. I collected a few bits and pieces form the garden to fill a vase to put on the bench in my kitchen, and the pretty pink leaves are from a Cordyline, which will strike shoots in a vase of water and can then easily be replanted. Cordylines bring very  nice colour to the tropical garden. We have a couple of garden projects going on at the moment, but I will write more about that later.


I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event, that was started by Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial,  If you would like to join in, send your post to Sherry by 13th of the month. I'm a bit late with this, but it is still the 13th somewhere in the world:)  Or just head over to her blog and visit more kitchens.

Warm wishes everyone and have a lovely week wherever you are,

Pauline xx



Monday, 31 August 2020

White Cannellini Bean and Tuna Dip with Homemade Sourdough Cob Bread

 

I am loving Spring already, what a gorgeous day it is here today in North Queensland for the first day of Spring. I hope it is wherever you are as well,  and that in the Northern Hemisphere the start of Fall brings lots of hope for a better year ahead. This was the last weekend for Winter, and by Saturday my sourdough starter was happily bubbling away, so I made the most of it and  mixed up three loaves of sourdough in bowls ready to rise all night in my warm laundry. While I was sleeping, the sourdough was doing its work, the perfect arrangement. On Sunday morning I found my mojo and prepared two loaves for proofing, and then excitedly thought that I would try my hand at an artisan style cob loaf for a change. So my friends, my story is as much about this delicious White Bean dip that I saw on John's blog at Kitchen Riffs, as about my artisan style cob sourdough loaf.

I saw the Bean dip recipe on KR's blog early in the morning and had been hankering after it ever since as it looked like a great alternative to carbs. All those beans are very healthy for our gut, and then when my bread came out of the oven, this went with that and we had a delicious lunch of  Cannelini Bean Tuna Dip with freshly baked Sourdough Cob Loaf and salad. Not something we generally do for lunch but my friends it was tasty and light and the dip only took 15 minutes in the food processor to prepare. I added some extra tuna, lemon juice and seasoning to the original recipe but that's just me wanting a really tasty topping for the sourdough. For afternoon snacks, dips, and drinks, I might go lighter on the lemon juice and the tuna and just use the 141 g. as per the recipe, but it depends on your taste buds at the time. I always like to taste my food as I cook. Thanks for the inspiration KitchenRiffs. Here are the ingredients for the Dip and then I will tell you about my best sourdough cob loaf to date. I'm still excited at the result.

Ingredients:
  • 1 x 400 g (15 oz.) can of white beans (I used cannellini beans)
  • 1 garlic clove, the bigger the better
  • 3 chopped shallots or substitute chopped chives 
  • 141 grams (5 oz.)  from a large can of tuna in olive oil, and add more according to taste if you like it stronger 
  • 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice (or more to taste)
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste, about 12 grinds
  • finely chopped shallots, parsley or chives to garnish, just the green part
Method:

Drain the can of beans in a colander, rinse them and set aside to drain.

Peel the garlic clove, roughly chop, and add to your food processor bowl.

Wash and prepare the shallots, roughly chop, and add to the food processor. Save some green  bits from the shallots for a garnish, chopped chives work well too.

Add the can of tuna and the olive oil it's packed in to the food processor. Add the cannellini beans. 
Process the lot  until well mixed.

Add your lemon zest and lemon juice. While the motor is whirring, slowly add the olive oil, 2-3 tablespoons. (If you have made hummus or pesto in your food processor you will know to add a little extra olive oil to achieve the right consistency and some more lemon juice if it needs a little extra kick for your taste.)

Now add salt and pepper to taste.



Scrape the dip mixture from your food processor bowl using a rubber spatula or whatever bowl scraper you use.

For individual servings, spoon into individual bowls, or just use one large serving bowl. Garnish attractively with finely chopped shallots, chives or parsley. I was in a hurry to  put this on our table,  so some chopped shallots was what I used. 

I used my freshly baked sourdough cob bread slices  for dipping, but you can use pita bread, crackers, cucumber slices and other chopped vegetables such as carrots and celery. I was in a hurry so I just used whole cherry tomatoes and cucumber. Delicious and fresh.

Whilst I was preparing my cob loaf, my rectangular bread loaf was baking so the oven was nice and hot for the cob.


 I bake sourdough bread most weeks now, and as long as I remember to have my starter dough (Mother) fermented and ready and bubbling after a couple of days of feeding we have fresh sourdough bread baking by Thursday. Last weekend it happened to be Sunday, which was a free day, so I decided that was the day I wanted to try a different bread making technique and make a cob loaf. I've been inspired for quite a while by posts written on sourdough by Celia@FigJamandLimeCordial, who produces beautiful artisan style cobs of bread using covered enamel baking dishes, and has been very kindly making bread for her neighbours during the Covid crisis. She is also a very clever lady with handicraft. Anyway, I couldn't help myself, and I also invested in a book recommended by Celia written by Emilie Raffa, called "Artisan Sourdough Made Simple". In her book she refers to Celia's technique and breaks down the process of how to bake a loaf which resembles one baked by an artisan bakery. Well my friends to be honest, I didn't quite achieve that, but following Emilie's technique for a simple rye sourdough cob I was pleased with the result for my first attempt. I used my red enamel CHASSEUR pot with a lid to bake the loaf in and it worked. I was really excited with the result. My friend Lulu just happened to call in and visit whilst I was taking loaves in and out of the oven and found herself caught up in the excitement. The loaf had a beautifully browned crust, with a pattern, sounded hollow on the base when tapped, and most importantly was absolutely delicious.


I used my standard recipe that I generally use for making sourdough loaves, and if you would like my recipe you can find it here on my blog. Save me from typing it out again.

Whilst baking a loaf using this method takes more time, the result is worth it. So here is the method I used for the actual baking of the cob loaf after I had proofed it in a proofing basket lined with a flour dusted tea towel, however you could use a bowl. After the initial proofing of the dough overnight, and a gentle kneading, with floured hands cup the dough and pull it toward you in a circular motion to tighten its shape. It is very malleable at this point. Place the dough into your proofing basket, seam side up.

For the second rise, cover the dough and let it rest until it is puffy but not fully risen, which took about an hour in the warm sun.

Now for the baking, I was getting excited.  Preheat your oven to 230 deg. C., 450 deg. F Yes it needs a hot oven. Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit the size of your baking pot.

Place your sheet of parchment over the dough and invert the proofing basket to release. Dust the dough with plain flour,  gently coating the whole surface of the dough. Then, decide what design you would like on your dough when it comes out of the oven, and make 8 cm cuts around the dough using either the tip of a razor blade or a small serrated knife. This is what I use. In her book, Emilie give lots of ideas about designs for her bread as does Celia on her blog. I just did four simple slits this time because I was pushed for time, next time I will be more creative.



Use the parchment to lift the dough into the baking pot. This is very important as it is still soft to handle.

BAKE the dough on the centre rack of your oven for 20 minutes, covered with the lid of your pot.. Remove the lid, and continue to bake for 30 minutes. Lift or tip the bread out of the pot, and finish baking the bread back in the oven directly on the rack for the last 10 minutes. Transfer your loaf to a wire cooling rack and cool for 1 hour before slicing, if you can keep the hungry hoards away from it that is.

Your work is done and your bread will be delicious using that technique.

Enjoy Spring or the Fall my friends, I am feel quite optimistic that things can only improve from here on in.

Oops we have visitor, must go. Sorry about any typos:)

Warm wishes

Pauline













Monday, 24 August 2020

Pear, Pistachio, and Rose Cake


This is Nigella Lawson's recipe which lives up to every expectation of what a cake should be. The flavours are perfectly balanced, fresh, and with just a hint of rosewater. The topping of apricot jam, lemon juice and rosewater is delicious. I haven't made a cake apart from those in my normal repertoire for a little while, so it was nice to try something new. I'm never sure how successful a cake with just ground almonds and no flour ingredients will be, but the additional ground pistachios provide the perfect consistency. This cake is a cinch to make, the only challenge is to choose pears which are at the edible stage but not too ripe. I used day old pears from the supermarket and they were perfect, and they don't need to be peeled. How sensible is that. With the start of Spring surprising us very soon, this seemed the perfect cake to make.

I thought I would add some edible rose petals to decorate the cake, and on my morning walks with our dog Locky, I walk past a lovely rose garden in the front yard of a duplex property. I often stop to smell the roses. They are always in flower. I took the plunge one morning, knocked on the occupant's front door and asked her if I could buy one of her roses to decorate a cake She wouldn't hear of my buying it from her and said when I was walking past on the day I was decorating the cake to just take one of the roses. So I did, but I took one which had been in bloom for while. I still felt a little guilty about it but the rose was about to be put to very good use. However I have learned from this, that rose petals need to be a bit smaller to look good on a cake. Anyway I had fun with it, and the Mahjong Ladies loved the idea, and the cake. It is nice to decorate a special cake with nuts and edible flower petals for a special occasion, don't you think? This is the pink rose bush in the front that the petals came from. One day I will take the plunge and plant some roses, even though growing them in the tropics requires careful selection and care.


INGREDIENTS

Makes 8-12 slices

FOR THE CAKE
  • vegetable oil (for greasing) 
  • 200 grams caster sugar
  • 100g/ 3/4 cup pistachios
  • 450 grams (approx. 3) pears - not too ripe (cored and cut into chunks, skin still on)
  • 200 grams ground almonds
  • 1 1//2 teaspoons baking powder (gluten free if required)
  • 6 large eggs (at room temperature)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons rosewater
FOR THE TOPPING
  • 2 teaspoons apricot jam
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon rosewater
TO DECORATE
  • chopped pistachios
  • edible rose petals


LET'S COOK:

Use a 1 x 20 cm / 9 inch springform cake tin

  1.  Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C/160 deg. C Fan/350 deg. F. Grease the sides and line the base of your springform cake tin with baking paper.
  2. Put the sugar and 100g/ 3/4 cup of pistachios into a food processor and blitz until the pistachios are finely ground, with a few nubbly bits, too.
  3. Add the remaining cake ingredients and blitz until everything is smoothly combined and the pears have been pureed into the batter. Remove the blade, scrape down the mixture and use the spatula to help ease every bit of batter into the prepared tin.
  4. Bake for 40-50 minutes, though take a look at 35 and if the cake looks like it's browning too fast, loosely cover with foil. When the cake is ready, it will be brown on top, beginning to come away at the edges and a cake tester will come out with just a few damp crumbs sticking to it.
  5. Sit the cake on a wire rack and leave to cool completely in the tin; like all flourless cakes, it will sink a little (not too much though). When the cake is completely cold, unclip, remove the base and transfer to a cake stand or plate.
  6. Mix the jam, lemon juice and rosewater together in a cup, then brush this glaze over the surface of the cake, removing any small blobs of apricot if there are any. I didn't really worry about this too much though. Scatter with finely chopped pistachios and strew with rose petals, then sprinkle a few more pistachio crumbs on top.
I think it's time for cake. 

 Best wishes

Pauline




Thursday, 20 August 2020

SHOWCASING IN MY KITCHEN : August 2020

Where has this month gone or in fact the year? I am way behind with In My Kitchen this month, partly because I was thinking about what I could write, have I done anything exciting enough to warrant a post, and now because of the procrastination I hope I'm not too late? I've just spent the morning in the garden with Mr. HRK which is the routine for us this week if retail therapy isn't enticing me out of the house, and it's warming up so we definitely need to back inside by 11 am for a cuppa. However there's been lots of cooking with fresh fruit and vegetables, sourdough bread making, lots of gardening, and a visit to a strawberry farm nearby to pick some strawberries.



I went shopping yesterday and bought myself a new spoon, and not just any spoon. I've had my eye on these for a while, and it's actually a very large spoon rest. This will sit mainly beside the stove, keeping me company, with my stirring spoon sitting comfortably in it whilst I cook. At $9.95 I thought it was a good buy. I also thought these would make nice gifts, with Christmas coming up. Occasionally we need a little extravagance and retail therapy don't you think, and we are being encouraged to shop to help the economy.  My Mum's old cooking tablespoon fits in this spoon rest beautifully. There's just something about spoons that I love. I feel very fortunate though that I can go shopping and not feel that I have to wear a mask here in North Queensland.
I love old cookbooks and this one is a 1986 edition of a New Zealand cookbook published by Edmonds, a New Zealand company, titled "Sure to Rise", and originally published in 1955 when 120,00 copies were printed. Amazing. My friend Lulu lent it to me when I made my Afghan biscuits recently, and the original recipe is in this Edmonds cook book. Lulu bought it in New Zealand when she was living there, and she now has two sisters living over there so she has a real New Zealand connection over the ditch. I was pretty excited by this, and there is also a cheats recipe for Afghan biscuits in it which I have added to my recipe post for Afghan biscuits.


 This is the photo of Afghan biscuits on the top left from the book, and others from the recipe book. I haven't made the cheat's version yet, but there are times when we need a cheats recipe based on a packaged cake mix to speed things up, don't you think? Take a look at all the products that Edmonds produce, similar to Betty Crocker, White Wings and the other packaged cake mix companies, however perhaps their claim to fame is their Sure to Rise Baking Powder. There are some great original recipes in it though. Lulu is in no hurry for its return so I am having fun with it in the meantime.





Here are a few photos I took this morning whilst wandering through our garden. This beautiful lush flower is from our Fraser Island Creeper which is also starting to creep up into our Golden Penda Tree which is fine.




This Phalaenopsis orchid is a beauty and spends much of its flowering life in my kitchen, not today though.


My Medinilla continues to flower well. I originally bought this from the Garden friends at the Cairns Botanical Gardens and it seems to like growing in a pot. It needs light but not hot sunshine so today we moved it to hang under the lychee tree.


Mr. HRK loves mulberries, and we are so happy that this potted mulberry is now bearing fruit, alas not that sweet so far and not enough to make a pie. However it is progress as last year it didn't bear fruit at all.


Our raised garden of Silverbeet continues to provide us with valuable greens at mealtimes. I tried some companion planting and the yellow marigolds seem to have successfully repelled the grubs. Each time I harvest the leaves, new ones grow, and this is the third flush of leaves ready for harvest again. I enjoy eating it steamed and served with butter and freshly grated nutmeg. Delicious.


An Ivy Bouganvillea below, always a source of vibrant colour in the Tropics.


My potted leafy Dancing Lady Orchids (oncidiums) are just starting to dance, which means they are sending out flower spikes. I always find this really exciting with a hint of Spring, and now it could take a couple of months before these spikes transform into beautiful sprays of yellow flowers.

Last week Mr. HRK and I drove up to Ballantyne's Strawberry Farm at Cameron's Pocket, just North of Mackay, which is where the Wintermoon Folk Festival is held each year, but not this year sadly because of the pandemic. There were lots of people filling punnets with hand picked strawberries, a few made their way home to my kitchen, but not many.


Morning tea was delicious. We chose strawberry crepes with homemade strawberry ice cream, made with fresh strawberries. I was tempted to try the Eton Mess, but crepes win me over every time.




Lots of happy strawberry pickers also soaking up the sunshine, not much social distancing in evidence though unfortunately.




This is my August submission to the #IMK series, hosted by Sherry from Sherry's Pickings. I hope you enjoyed reading it.Each month bloggers from around the world gather to share what is new in their kitchens. With local shopping being a challenge for many, and for me too, I am not purchasing much new stuff for my home or kitchen, however there is always plenty happening in my kitchen. Travel over to Sherry's blog to take a look at what everyone is doing.

Best wishes,

  Pauline

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Cheesy Green Broccoli Coconut Soup



 I couldn't live without soup, particularly during our Winter, which sadly is almost over, here in the North of Queensland.  Using Coconut oil to saute the vegetables brings a very subtle coconut flavour to the pot. It can consist of whatever left over or frozen vegetables you have in your refrigerator, as long as they are green. I am not generally pedantic about these things, but green it is. Just 6 cups of chopped green vegetables and you almost have a soup. Broccoli and zucchini are generally the star ingredients, and at the moment in our supermarkets broccoli  is under $3.00 a kilo, so I went for it and bought heaps of broccoli before the price goes up again. Now we also have a good stock of this in my freezer for those cold or rainy nights, or just those nights when cooking isn't on the agenda. Did I also mention that not only is it extremely healthy, it is also extremely delicious, particularly served with a slice of toasted rye sourdough bread.



Broccoli and zucchini are now recognised as being key vegetables for people suffering from high blood sugar and Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. Without going into too much detail about it, broccoli is a rich source of Chromium, a mineral which helps to improve insulin action in pre-diabetes and control blood glucose, an important factor for everyone these days I think. Never has it been more important to keep healthy and boost our immune system. Green vegetable soup is also quite creamy when pureed, thanks to the texture and structure of the versatile zucchini. This soup makes it so easy to include broccoli in your family's diet in a very appetising way, and control weight as well. However, for some variety and to be economical, use up green leftovers and bits and pieces in your crisper by adding celery, beans, chives, eschallots, peas, spinach or silverbeet, a mix of herbs, or anything green and edible.

You can also add some tasty cheese to your bowl, and if that happens to be a blue cheese well so be it, it will take the whole experience to a new level.

Ingredients

1 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons coconut oil, ghee or butter
6 cups roughly chopped green vegetables , zucchini, broccoli, celery or whatever you have. (However, it works best with zucchini and broccoli.)
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock (homemade is best if you have it)
1 cup rocket or watercress (optional)
1 cup roughly chopped herbs, such as coriander, basil or flat-leaf parsley leaves
Pinch of salt
Juice of ½ to 1 lemon (Test the taste after adding juice from ½ a lemon and add more if required.)
½ cup crumbled sharp cheddar

Method:

Sauté the onion and garlic in the coconut oil in a large saucepan for a superior flavour. (if you are really in a hurry omit this step and just add to the rest of the vegetables, it will still taste great). Add the green vegetables to the onion and garlic and stir for a minute, then pour in the stock and bring to the boil.



Reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Stir in the rocket, herbs and salt. (I have used basil, oregano and coriander and they are great in this soup.) The only disappointment with this soup is that it doesn't retain the colour of the beautiful green broccoli when it is cooked, but just becomes a very soupy colour. Never mind, all of the goodness is there.

Changing colour
Turn off the heat and puree until smooth using a stick blender, or pulse in a normal upright blender when it has cooled slightly.

Whisk in the lemon juice and stir through the cheese, or omit the cheese and top with a dollop of yoghurt or basil pesto. I like to garnish with lot of fresh and green herbs such as parsley.

Soup for a freezer stockpile
Serve it up hot my foodie friends and enjoy.

Thanks to Sarah Wilson for this recipe.

Best wishes,

Pauline


Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Bulgur Wheat with Tomato, Eggplant, and Lemon Yoghurt




The beauty of this Middle Eastern vegetarian recipe is that all of it's elements can be prepared in advance, kept refrigerated separately, and then just warmed through and assembled when you are ready to serve it. My friends, I assure you that the bulgur and tomato is delicious enough to eat on its own if you wish. I have a tub of it in the freezer which was leftover, and it will be perfect when I need an easy side dish to eat. However it is meant to be served with the aubergine and yoghurt as a main dish or as part of a selection of dishes. If you are happy to eat this as a vegetarian dish on its own, it will feed four people, otherwise it will serve at least 8 as a side dish. So easy to make, and I love that this dish can be prepared totally in advance and that it so creatively and deliciously uses up the aubergines which I always seem to have in abundance.
I am always so pleased that I have fresh mint growing in a large pot which is the perfect garnish for this. Middle Eastern dishes and mint are the perfect marriage. This one could also be served as a side with a curry. It is a variation of another recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi's book, aptly named Simple.

This week I have been doing a lot of cooking with vegetables, which I seem to have accumulated. How do I end up with so many? I'm not a vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination, I adore meat. However Winter is a wonderful time to cook with veggies, don't you think? I'll be sharing my Green Broccoli and Coconut soup with you shortly, it is so good and provides our bodies with a blast of nutrients, is great for the gut, and at the moment I have another batch of Green Cabbage sauerkraut on my kitchen bench waiting to be bottled for processing over the next few days. We are enjoying another cold snap here, well I call a minimum temperature of 7 deg. F. a cold snap, and with Spring just over the horizon, there won't be many more opportunities to make cool weather sauerkraut. This is my recipe for sauerkraut if you are interested in making a batch in the cooler climates.

If you feel challenged at the thought of cooking with bulgur please don't be. It can be used interchangeably with cooked rice, couscous or quinoa and is often used to make tabbouleh. It
doesn't require cooking though, only soaking, as it is a whole wheat grain that has been cracked and partially precooked for your convenience. It is a staple in the Mediterranean region and Middle Eastern countries, often used in grain salads, side dishes, soups, even green salads after it has been soaked. If you can't find it in your supermarket, try a health food shop or an Asian or Indian supermarket. It is nutty and delicious and makes a nice change to the usual grains we cook with.

Let's cook:


Ingredients:

2 eggplants (aubergines) cut into 3 cm chunks (about 500 g)
105 ml. olive oil
2 onions, finely sliced (320 g)
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp. ground baharat or allspice
400 g very ripe cherry tomatoes or 1 can of drained cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp. tomato paste
250 g bulgur wheat (preferably fine grind)
200 g Greek-style yoghurt
1 small preserved lemon (25 g) skin and flesh chopped finely
10 g mint leaves
salt and black pepper
Pomegranate Molasses (optional)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200 deg. C fan forced.

Roasting the Eggplant

Firstly we need to roast the chopped eggplants. Place them into a large bowl with 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a good grinding of pepper. Mix well together with your washed hands, then spread them out onto a large baking tray lined with baking paper. Roast for 35-40 minutes turning over halfway through, until the eggplants are caramelised and soft. Remove from your oven and set aside.

Cooking the Bulgur, Onions and Tomato
Add  the remaining oil to a large frypan with a lid, and set to a medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the onion and fry for 8 minutes, stirring a few times. It will become soft and caramelised. Add the garlic and baharat and fry for another minute, stirring until the garlic becomes aromatic.

Add the ripe cherry tomatoes, and mash them with a potato masher to break them up. You might need to warm up the tomatoes first so that they break up easily. If your tomatoes aren't ripe enough to be mashable, use a drained can of cherry tomatoes instead.

Stir in the tomato paste, 400 ml of water and 1 teaspoon of salt.

Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to medium low, cover and cook for 12 minutes.  Add the bulgur, stir so that it is completely coated in the tomato mixture and and remove the pan from the heat. Set aside on your bench for 20 minutes, and the bulgur will absorb all of the liquid.


Lemon Yoghurt

In a medium bowl, mix together the yoghurt with the preserved lemon, half the mint and 1/8 teaspoon of salt.

Divide the bulgur between four plates. Plate up with the yoghurt and a serving of aubergine on top, and garnish with a sprinkle of the remaining mint. If you have any pomegranate molasses on hand, I know that a splash of that on top would be the finishing touch, but that is optional.

Serve with a Curry or a Tagine for a perfect dinner.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best wishes

Pauline









Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Afghan Biscuits, a delicious New Zealand confection



Afghan biscuits have no connection to the Afghan people or their country of origin, which seems very strange. Surprisingly they originate from New Zealand, from over the ditch, and are their counterpart to our Anzac biscuit, according to the locals. However this is a delicious biscuit, and shouldn't just be enjoyed on Anzac Day. They are really a chocolate, butter and corn flake confection, although weetbix makes a very suitable substitute for cornflakes in this recipe. I had never heard of Afghan biscuits until last April, when  our good friend Christine invited us for coffee on the 26th April, the day after Anzac Day. She had made Afghan biscuits with weetbix which were absolutely delicious. Some New Zealand friends of her daughters make them every year and this is the recipe that she gave me. I have been wanting to make them ever since.
I don't really buy Corn Flakes just to eat as a cereal, as I can't see many nutritional benefits, however Mr. HRK is happy to eat a bowl of them whenever he is feeling like cereal. I bought these a couple of weeks ago to make these biscuits and here they are finally. I love the crinkly texture of these biscuits when I eat them. I made them with weetbix a month or so ago, and a young friend who was visiting said it was just like eating chocolate crackles, remember those? Great children's party food. Those ones weren't iced though. So I had to make another batch and ice them, and add the walnut, so that they look pretty for a photo. 

ICING TIP:
I loved working with the icing for these biscuits. It came together beautifully and I adore chocolate icing, such a guilty pleasure. Here's just a small tip with icing these biscuits. I made the icing quite firm, whilst I was baking the biscuits and left it in the bowl until the biscuits cooled. I then added just a few drops of warm water which was enough to make the icing more spreadable. Then using an old tip from my Mum, I placed a bread and butter knife in a cup of hot water, and used the warm blade of the knife to carefully spread the icing on the biscuits. A hot knife makes icing much more spreadable and it doesn't drizzle off the biscuit. You don't want that. The trick is not to have runny icing for biscuits. This amount was perfect for 18 biscuits. 

These are the fastest biscuits to make. This batch took me 30 minutes from beginning to end, not including the icing. That's the beauty of baking biscuits.

Ingredients:

Preheat oven to 180 deg. C. (350 deg. F)

Makes 18 biscuits

200 g (7 oz.) butter, softened or melted

1/2 cup or (75 g, 3 oz) sugar
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1/4 cup cocoa
2 cups cornflakes ( 50g or 2 ozs) or crushed weetbix
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Chocolate icing:

1 1/2 cups sifted icing sugar
1 heaped tablespoon sifted cocoa (sift with the icing sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon melted butter
1-2 tablespoons water
18 walnut halves

Cornflakes added to mixture

Method:

Preheat oven to 180 deg. C. (350 deg. F.)

Prepare a large oven tray by greasing or spraying lightly with cooking spray, and covering with baking paper. I used a large one and a smaller one.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4-5 minutes.
Sift flour and cocoa. Stir into creamed mixture, and add vanilla essence.
Fold in cornflakes or weetbix. It will form into a ball.


Take tablespoon sized amounts and roll into balls and spread evenly on the tray. Flatten balls lightly with a fork or your finger.


Bake at 180 deg. for about15 minutes or until set. They will be a little soft when they come out of the oven but will crisp up. Allow to stand for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


To Prepare the Icing:

In a medium bowl combine the sifted icing sugar and cocoa, vanilla and melted butter and mix.

Slowly add the water a little at a time until a firm consistency is reached. If you add too much water, just add some more icing sugar until the desired consistency/.

When cold, ice the biscuits and decorate with a walnut half.
Store in an airtight container for 3-4 days.


It's time for afternoon tea, so I am having a cuppa and one of these biscuits. Please take care during these difficult times.

Thanks for dropping by,

Pauline

p.s I just found this after I posted my first recipe. My friends, if you are running short of time and need to make an even faster batch of biscuits, this recipe for Afghans is taken from the Edmonds Cookery Book, New Zealand's no. 1 cookbook, first printed 1955.

Easy Afghans

1 packet Edmonds Chocolate cake mix
50 g (2ozs) Butter, melted
2 cups cornflakes
2 tablespoons water

Combine all ingredients to form a stiff dough. Drop teaspoons of mixture onto a greased oven tray. Bake at 180 deg. C (350 deg F.) for 15 minutes in a preheated oven. When cold, ice with chocolate icing if desired.