Sunday, 31 August 2014

Lentil and Bulgur Salad




Bulgur, also known as burghul and bulgar, is commonly found in Middle Eastern, Turkish, and Mediterranean dishes and  is perhaps more commonly known as a significant ingredient in the preparation of tabbouleh. However, with the addition of lentils, and the other herbs, and nuts, olives and vegetables, it reaches new heights in this dish. It is also a fibre and protein filled healthy alternative to other grains, such as rice and couscous.

Whilst it is commonly found in Health Food stores, I bought mine at a Middle Eastern shop in Townsville, North Queensland, called Sweet N Sour Middle Eastern Flavour, owned by a very helpful Palestinian gentleman, and worthy of a visit if you are passing through Townsville. Everything in the shop is so reasonably priced, with the Bulgar only $3.80 for 1 kg, and the Helva and Turkish Delight is as authentic and delicious as it gets. The very modest looking shop in Illuka Street, Townsville, makes a visit very worthville.

Ingredients:

200g (1 cup) brown lentils, rinsed and drained
160g (1 cup) fine Bulgur (cracked wheat)
60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
60ml (1/4 cup) lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped mint
1/4 cup chopped dill
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1/2 small green capsicum, finely chopped
1/2 small red capsicum, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
25g (1/4 cup) walnuts, toasted, and chopped
40 g (1/4 cup) pitted Kalamata olives, chopped
100g feta, crumbled
1 tomato chopped

Method:

  1. Cover lentils with 500ml water and bring to a simmer in a partially covered saucepan. Cook for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain them well and place to the side in a large bowl.
  2. Place bulgur in a separate bowl, cover with 500ml of boiling water and set aside for 20 minutes. Whilst it is soaking, start preparing the other ingredients. Drain well and add to lentils and mix through.
  3. Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook gently for 1 minute until fragrant.
  4. Add garlic, and remaining ingredients to the lentil mixture. Season with salt and pepper, mix to combine and serve.

Tell me dear Reader, do you enjoy visiting more out of the way shops so that you can purchase ingredients such as Bulgur in an authentic setting, and enjoy a very different shopping experience?

Thursday, 28 August 2014

AUSSIE BANANA CAKE WITH MAPLE SYRUP AND OATS


This banana cake with it's rustic finish of a rolled oats topping and it's unique Maple syrup flavour is a refreshing change to the usual banana cake with icing, and a lot healthier. I still have over a litre of whey in my frig following my mozarella cheese making, so I decided to substitute whey for the usual yoghurt in this recipe. It has produced a lightness of texture and the cake rose beautifully. Whey is becoming an essential addition to my baking and I am on a quest to find a multitude of uses for this humble byproduct of cheese making.

Ingredients:

2 cups (300g) self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
150g butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2/3 cup (150g) castor sugar
2 eggs
3 medium overripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup whey, or natural yoghurt (95g)
2 tablespoons traditional rolled oats
1/4 cup (60ml) maple syrup

Let's cook:
  1. Preheat oven to 200deg C., (180deg. C fan-forced).
  2. Grease a 16cm x 20cm, or 20cm x 20cm ovenproof baking dish; line the base with baking paper, and extend the paper by 5 cm over the sides.
  3. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl.
  4. Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla paste in a bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time before adding the mashed banana. Fold in the flour mixture and yoghurt in two batches. Spread the batter into the prepared pan, then sprinkle with the rolled oats.
  5. Bake cake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and brush the maple syrup over the top of the cake, then return to the oven for a further 10 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan.
Suitable to freeze. Serves 12.


So dear reader, have you discovered any other uses for whey in your cooking or household activities?

The original recipe for this cake comes from the AWW.

Best wishes

Pauline

Friday, 22 August 2014

Mozzarella cheese, how to make your own in 30 minutes


Click here for how to make your own mozarella cheese

Make Mozzarella cheese in your own kitchen, it is easier than you think it would be. Shannon and I were fortunate to attend a cheese making course at Green Living Australia in Brisbane, thanks to a birthday gift from Matthew and Myrtille, and what fun it was. Based on the excellent instruction given by Angie, and the recipe and guidance from the GLA Cheesemaking Kit, two months later my first attempt at making mozzarella is successful. My recipe instructions will cover a couple of tips I discovered along the way which I incorporated into my second mozzarella cheese making session the following day.

Click here for how to make your own mozzarella cheese



I highly recommend the course, as Angie's scientific knowledge and emphasis on cleanliness applied to cheese making is delivered in an entertaining and inspiring style, and aimed at the amateur, which I was. However, if you can't attend the course, the kit, the cold pack and the instructions can be purchased directly from GLA. If I can do it, so can you.The very approachable staff at Green Living Australia are only a phone call away to answer those little questions that arise when you start on the lifelong adventure of cheese making. We made Ricotta, Feta and Mozzarella cheese and ate our accomplishments at the end of the day, great fun.


Angie, our lovely teacher, and I are at the GLA Cheese making course.

Angie in the impressive GLA kitchen, talking on cheese making. http://www.greenlivingaustralia.com.au/



Sunday, 17 August 2014

Passionfruit Butter or Passionfruit Curd



Passionfruit  are in season, and it is wonderful to have the time now to convert the surplus into preserves and special treats.  The bittersweet flavour and fragrance of the common purple passionfruit is without peer.

Ingredients:

10 large passionfruit
3 eggs
200g castor sugar
30 g unsalted butter
1/3 cup (80ml) lemon juice



Cut the passionfruit in half with a sharp, serrated knife and take out the pulp.
Beat the eggs well.Tip the eggs into a stainless steel saucepan, and add the passionfruit pulp, sugar, chopped butter and lemon juice.



Stir ingredients over a low heat until mixture comes to the boil, then keep at a simmer for 15 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to ensure it doesn't burn or reduce down too much.

The  mixture will thicken by the end of this cooking time, but will set properly and reach the required consistency when it cools.

Ladle the hot passionfruit butter into into clean, warm sterilised jars and seal.

When opened, store the jars in the refrigerator.



Thursday, 14 August 2014

CHICKEN TAGINE WITH DATES AND HONEY

Couscous, Chicken Tagine and Sweet Carrot Dip
A Tagine is a Middle Eastern or Moroccan cooking pot mainly used to slow-cook savoury stews, meats and vegetable dishes. If you have just purchased a tagine, ensure that you have seasoned it before using it or it may crack.

The dates, honey and nuts when added to the slow cooked organic chicken stew  become a magical Middle Eastern culinary experience. It is important to use organic chicken if possible for the best flavour and texture.This dish can also be cooked in a large casserole dish in the oven.

Ingredients:

1 kg or (9) organic chicken thigh fillets
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium (300g) onions,  finely sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) homemade chicken stock
1 cup (250ml) water
1/2 cup (85g) seedless dates, halved
1/4 cup (60ml) honey
1/2 cup (80g) blanched almonds, toasted
1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander leaves
  1. Cut chicken into 3cm strips. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in pan, add chicken in batches, cook, stirring, until browned; drain on absorbent paper.
  2. Heat remaining oil in same pan, add onions, garlic and spices, cook, stirring, until onions are soft.
  3. Return chicken to pan with stock and water. Transfer to tagine and simmer on a low heat in oven or over a flame, covered, for 1 hour.
  4. Remove the lid, simmer about 30 minutes or until mixture is thickened slightly and chicken is tender.
  5. Stir in dates, honey and nuts; sprinkle with fresh coriander
Served 4-6.

Chicken tagine can be made 3 hours ahead and stored in the  refrigerator.

It can be frozen without the nuts and coriander.







Wednesday, 13 August 2014

French Pear Cake




Pears are in season and lend themselves to so many wonderful cake and dessert varieties. Thank you to the AWW for the original version of this recipe. It is perfect for afternoon tea served just on its own, or serve with fresh thickened cream or ice cream for dessert. Serves 10.
Cooking time: 1 hour 25 minutes



Ingredients:

40g unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (60g) ground almonds or ground hazelnuts
3 eggs
1 3/4 cups (385g) Castor sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (125ml) milk
2 cups (300g) self-raising flour, sifted
4 (800g) slightly under ripe pears, cored, sliced thickly
2 tablespoons coffee sugar crystals or demarara sugar
20g unsalted butter,  chopped, extra required

Method:


  1. Preheat oven to 180 deg. C (160 deg.C fan-forced). Generously grease a 23cm spring form cake pan with the softened butter.Sprinkle in half of the ground almonds, shake them around the pan so they coat the sides and base. Place pan on a baking paper or alfoil lined oven tray.
  2. Combine the eggs  and sugar in a food processor; process until combined. Add the vanilla, milk and flour, and process until it forms a thick smooth batter.
  3. Transfer the cake mixture to a large mixing bowl; stir in the sliced pears; pour the mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle top with remaining ground almonds and sugar crystals. Dot with the extra butter.




  1. Bake cake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until golden brown and cooked when tested.Cover with foil if it starts to over-brown during baking. Cool in pan for 10 minutes.
Serve the cake warm with double cream or ice cream.

Best wishes

Pauline






Monday, 11 August 2014

Vintage Tomato Soup


Mr. DIY, often talks fondly about his Mum's homemade tomato soup he used to enjoy as a child on cold Winter's nights in Toowoomba. We were given some beautiful Roma tomatoes from Bowen on the weekend, by our Frequent Traveller and good friend Paul, and I found this recipe for tomato soup in my Maggie Beer's Harvest book., one of my favourites. Apparently the Toowoomba version had milk added, which I couldn't quite come at this time, and had more tomato chunks throughout, however the flavour with the addition of white pepper is apparently just like his Mother Jessie used to make. What a success and such comfort food on a cold night with sourdough toast!

Ingredients:

6 medium tomatoes, very ripe yet firm (Bowen Roma tomatoes work very well)
1 kg onions, thinly sliced (preferably brown onions)
1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin oil, plus extra to serve
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
sea salt flakes
white pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional), or to taste
1/2 cup (125ml) Maggie Beer verjuice or dry white wine
1 litre boiling water
4 slices  good bread, slightly stale

Process: 

Cut the core out of the tomatoes. This soup is meant to be on the rustic side so there is no need to peel or seed them.Cut each tomato into halves, quarters then eighths.Cook the onions over a low heat in a heavy-based saucepan for about 10 minutes using a wooden spoon until they are nice and golden and very soft. Add the garlic and salt to the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the sugar, which will enhance the flavour of the tomatoes and give a boost if they are not in perfect condition.

Cook for 10 minutes and then add the verjuice and water. I only added half the water so that it would be nice and thick, and the water can be eliminated  completely for a superior soup which won't go as far. This can then also be used as a pasta topping.

Add plenty of white pepper to taste. (This is the secret ingredient.) Simmer, covered for 45 minutes before serving. Drizzle a little olive oil over each slice of bread and place a slice in each serving bowl. (This is optional depending on the occasion.)

Ladle the soup over the bread and enjoy. Add fresh herbs if you would like them, however the soup is delicious without them.



Sunday, 10 August 2014

Semi sundried tomatoes infused with rosemary





In March I wrote a post about growing Amish Paste tomatoes. I was expecting to harvest from our bushes within 80 days, and only about a month later than expected,  the harvest has started. Because of their low moisture content, lack of seeds, meaty like flesh, and extraordinary flavour, semi dried tomatoes are the first "cooked" product I am attempting with these. I know that sun-dried tomatoes were thrown into every conceivable dish during the early 1990's, however I think that semi dried tomatoes are still a force to be reckoned with because of their unique flavour.

 The Amish Paste tomato bushes have never been spectacular to look at and had a very understated start as young plants. Like the Amish who first grew them on a large scale, the species isn't about external appearances, it is about the bountiful yield and the end product as the tomatoes are plentiful, perfectly formed, and  larger than the roma or egg  tomato.

I have cooked two batches of the Amish semi dried tomatoes, and Mr. DIY, my Man of the House, was so taken with the flavour of the first batch cooked slowly in the kitchen oven, that he decided to help and factor in some improvements with the cooking process of the second batch. These were cooked slowly in the BBQ which must have a hood, and which I thought was probably a good idea as it frees up the kitchen oven for other projects and takes the heat out of the kitchen in the summer months. However, still a little bit nervous about venturing out of my kitchen on such an important mission, the preparation began.

I experimented with the first batch, cooking one tray with the addition of fresh herbs and one without to see if this makes any difference to the quality of their preservation. I will  store some in the frig, some in my dark pantry cupboard, and some in the freezer for quality control as I also live in a hot, humid part of the world in summer. Maggie Beer says they will last in the frig for weeks. I am hoping that the couple of bottles stored in my pantry will last longer. Dipping them in Maggie Beer's Verjuice or Red Cider Vinegar before bottling increases the acidification process slightly and will increase their shelf life. However, tomatoes are very acidic anyway.


Ingredients:
2 kilos Amish Paste or Roma ripened tomatoes (these must be good quality without blemishes)
Fresh rosemary stalks or fresh thyme
Verjuice or Red Cider Vinegar (Verjuice isn't as strong in flavour as Red Cider Vinegar)
Salt
Sterilised bottles
Extra Virgin Oil
Lots of time whilst they cook (2 hours at least)

Method:
1.Wash tomatoes, dry, and cut in halves.

2.Scrape out the seeds and discard if you wish. (However, I have dried the seeds between sheets of recycled serviettes in a warm area of the house, which can then be used for future planting as they are such good tomatoes, and it saves buying seedlings next time.)

3.Salt the cut tomatoes, with only as much salt as you would normally use for eating, and press them for 30 minutes between layers of  absorbent kitchen wrap, with a  heavy layer of books and pans on top to squeeze out excess moisture. My second batch of tomatoes destined for the BBQ were pressed by Mr. DYI between large pieces of board and kitchen wrap clamped together, in his shed, with quality cleanliness controls in place of course. Much more moisture was removed this way. His inventions are priceless.

4.Sprinkle the tomatoes lightly with chopped rosemary or thyme. The second batch cooked in the BBQ oven was sprinkled with chopped rosemary and the rosemary stalks placed on the trays to further infuse the tomatoes with the smell of rosemary.

5.Place the pressed tomatoes in the oven or in the BBQ on racks so that the air can circulate freely around them and cook slowly at 150 deg. C for 2 hours or until all of the moisture has disappeared, the tomatoes are reduced in size, and the edges are firm and wrinkled. Some tomatoes will cook faster than others, so after an hour keep an eye on them. It helps to open the door slightly in the kitchen oven for the last hour to allow the moisture to escape. If you would like to eat the tomatoes straight away or within the next few days cooking them at 180 deg. C for a shorter time will caramelise them beautifully.

The smell of the tomatoes cooking in the BBQ, combined with the heady aroma of the rosemary was sensational reminding me of cold wintry nights spent in log cabins with the wood fires burning. That was a bonus. The subtle smell of rosemary is still perceptible in the house a day later.



Halved tomatoes cooking at 150 deg. in the outdoor BBQ infusing with rosemary.


Semi dried tomatoes straight out of the BBQ oven

Remove the tomatoes from the oven, leave on racks to cool and dry, before bottling.

Dip the semi dried tomatoes quickly in Verjuice or Red Cider Vinegar to increase the acidification process, and bottle in clean sterilised jars, covered in Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Pack the tomatoes down tightly, and ensure the top layer of tomatoes is completely covered with oil and that the oil doesn't touch the lid of the bottle.

Enjoy with fresh goats cheese and some good crusty homemade bread or bruschetta.

If you have had success with cooking semi dried tomatoes I would love to hear from you and have you tried any interesting variations with cooking them?



Monday, 4 August 2014

Lantaka and Caring for your Moroccan Tagine


 This is where I have just bought my first tagine, at Lantaka,  a specialty shop in Cairns, Far North Queensland, stocking an exotic variety of useful and decorative Moroccan tagines, rugs, homewares, and leather goods, sourced personally by the owners in Morocco and imported directly to the shop. It is an Aladdin's Cave full of surprises for those that venture off the footpaths of Stratford Parade through it's front doors, being lured in by the impressive and colourful window displays.






 A tagine is a Moroccan cooking pot mainly used to slow-cook savoury stews, meats and vegetable dishes. Traditionally they are made entirely from heavy clay, which may be painted or glazed. Tagine dishes are cooked slowly at low temperatures, resulting in tender fall-off-the-bone meats and aromatic vegetables and sauces.





My spice journey began when we visited Istanbul in Turkey a few years ago, and recently I started cooking more Middle Eastern and Moroccan dishes, a favourite being Baked Yoghurt Rice with Chicken (Tahcheen-e-morgh).  However, now that I have my first earthenware tagine,  I am eager to use it and experience the tastes of slow-cooked Moroccan spicy dishes, tagine style,  prepared in my own kitchen. However, at Lantaka the owner stressed that  it must be seasoned before use to prevent cracking and deterioration.

To season your tagine, soak it in water for 24 hours, allow it to air dry, wipe it with a thin layer of olive oil when it is dry, and then put it in the oven on a low heat for 1 hour. It requires only hot water and a scourer to clean  after soaking.

Your tagine must then be used within 2 months, or the whole curing process needs to be repeated. For cooking, cook over a low flame on a gas stove or in the electric or gas oven on a low to medium heat. 150 deg. C. is suitable.

To clean after cooking, you will need to hand wash with a mild detergent, very simple. It is not dishwasher proof. 



My first experience of cooking a Lamb tagine in my new pot has been successful. I would love to hear from anyone who has had an interesting experience or an amazing meal using their own tagine.

www.lantaka.com.au