Thursday, 28 September 2017

Slow cooker Tomato Sauce, Rustic Tomato Soup, and a loaf of Sourdough Bread, perfect.


Rustic Tomato Soup
 At the beginning of the week I had tomatoes galore, needing to be cooked. So this week the theme in my kitchen has been mainly about the beautiful, ripe red  tomato, and lots of them. I became quite excited at last Saturday's Farmer's Market when there were quite a few different varieties of tomatoes for $2.00 or less a kilo in excellent condition, everyone was selling them,  so of course I ended up coming home with about 6 kilos of them, perhaps more. Very easy to do when they are bundled up in 2 kilo bags. Oops! Then I had to think of ways to use them up. In such a situation I  use my tried and true recipes and now have enough tomato sauces, soups and relishes to see us through for a few months. I'd like to share with you my Rustic Tomato Soup recipe  with White Pepper, which Mr. HRK really likes as his Mum used to make for the family. So I have tried to replicate that one. Also I filled my slow cooker pot with chopped tomatoes, sauteed onions and char grilled capsicum and left it cooking for 24 hours and am packaging it today into freezer bags..

I've been really surprised at how bountiful and inexpensive the vegetables and some fruit varieties such as bananas are at present. I rarely shop for fruit and vegetables at the supermarket if I can help it, preferring to support the local Farmer's Market, however even at the Supermarket this week I have noticed the broccoli and some varieties of tomatoes are around $2.00 a kilo, with other veges also markedly cheaper. The oversupply and low cost of Vegetables was a segment on the local news during the week, blaming the warmer Winter this year for an early supply of excess produce which in some areas is literally falling on the ground with not enough people available to pick or harvest it. This is devastating for the farmers, so whilst it is plentiful it is a golden opportunity to buy in bulk and cook or preserve it for later when the prices will certainly soar, and to also  support our local farmers. I'm not looking forward to paying $7.00 a kilo for tomatoes when the season finishes. We're having a break from growing them as our last lot of plants didn't do well because of nematodes, but at these prices it's easier to buy them for now.



The photos are of the chopped tomatoes in my slow cooker pot ready for long, slow cooking. When I was thinking of doing this I called my good friend Julia in Bowen, the tomato growing capital of Queensland, although Bundaberg is starting to challenge that reputation. My method here is based on what Julia does with the copious amounts of tomatoes and capsicums grown in Bowen that she ends up with.



I finely chopped three brown onions and sauteed these until soft and golden and starting to caramelise. Meanwhile I char grilled one red capsicum, placed it in a freezer bag when the skin was blackened until it was cooled and then removed the blackened skin. I would normally use about 3 capsicum though if I had them for extra flavour. I added the cooked onion and chopped cooked capsicum to the pot full of chopped tomato, gave it a stir and allowed it to slow cook for 24 hours. The end result had darkened in colour with the tomatoes broken down, and with some of the juices removed, and how long it takes really depends on your slow cooker. Overnight might be all that is needed so I would check it after 12 hours. The slow setting on my slow cooker is very slow, but I also have a Slow High setting so next time I think I will use that.

Allow the tomato sauce to cool, and then add two cups, equivalent to a can of tomatoes to freezer bags and store flat in your freezer ready for lasagna, bolognaise etc.

Rustic Tomato Soup with White Pepper (photo above)

Here is my Rustic Tomato Soup Recipe, which Mr. HRK's Mum used to cook a lot for their family apparently and I've tried to replicate it. She added milk to hers so that is optional in place of the wine or verjuice, particularly if children will be eating this. That is still how Mr. HRK prefers his.

Ingredients:

6 large tomatoes, very ripe yet firm (Roma tomatoes work very well)
1 kg brown onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin oil, plus extra to serve
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped (optional)
Ground Himalayan Rock Salt to taste
White pepper
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional), or to taste
1/2 cup (125ml) dry white wine or verjuice
1 litre boiling water

Method: 

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 wine 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 with some fresh basil or oregano added. Tomatoes are so versatile.

 Simmer, covered for 45 minutes before serving. Add plenty of white pepper to taste. (This is the secret ingredient.)  Ladle the soup into the bowl,  drizzle a little olive oil and enjoy. I add fresh chopped herbs and some grated Parmesan cheese as well to serve and a slice of my sourdough bread toasted.

 I also remembered yesterday that I still had a whole green cabbage from the markets in our second refrigerator as well, which was still really fresh and crunchy, so a quick sauerkraut ferment, and that is taken care of.

Naked Kraut:



By this stage after dealing with so many tomatoes I was ready to take a few shortcuts. So I grated the whole cabbage except for the outer leaves and the stalk  in the food processor, added 2 tablespoons of Himalayan Rock Salt  and allowed it to juice in a large bowl for 45 minutes. This made about 1800 grams of  grated cabbage which fitted nicely into a very large Moccona coffee bottle, the largest available I think, and found at the Incredible Tip Shop in Mackay. We don't drink instant coffee, although obviously some people do as there were quite a few there for sale for about 1 dollar each. There was a slight overflow of juices so I quickly sterilised another smaller bottle and filled that one up too.

Fermenting and bubbling away
That is definitely the END of fermenting for me for a while. I am calling this my Naked Kraut range, I saw that name somewhere and borrowed it, as this is just cabbage and brine and a few seeds thrown in. Nothing fancy but I like the taste. I think I have enough now to last us for 12 months unless I become inspired again early next Winter.




Sourdough Bread:

I try to keep to the routine of baking my Sourdough bread on Monday each week however for some reason that didn't happen this week. So while the tomatoes were cooking and I had sometime I made a loaf  yesterday. The sourdough yeast for the bread was ready for use last Monday so I put it in the refrigerator and just took it out early in the morning to bring it back to room temperature and it was ready to use. I think this is one of my best attempts to date. Like everything it helps to keep in practice, and every time I bake a loaf I learn something new. A slice of sourdough toast with a bowl of Rustic Tomato Soup was delicious for a light tea last night.

In the bread tin after the first rise on the patio in a glass bowl.



Ready for the oven after rising outside in the tin on the warm patio.

A nice large loaf of Sourdough bread, and smelling delicious. It needs to completely cool before slicing. 



So it's been quite a busy week and I am looking forward to a restful weekend. However Sunday will be packed with excitement as the Cowboys play the Melbourne Storm in Sydney in the NRL Grand Final, just in case you haven't heard, and as we are North Queenslanders, Go the Cowboys. Steak will be on Sunday's menu, in theme with the Cowboys, and we are looking forward to that. It should be a great day, particularly when we win!! LOL.

Have a wonderful and relaxing weekend and thanks for visiting.

Best wishes

Pauline

Monday, 25 September 2017

Chopped Vegetable Ferment in Lovely Layers - Fermenting Phase 4


 

I had some excess vegetables which were still fresh last week, so rather than let them go to waste, I decided to ferment them or you could call this pickling I suppose but there is no sugar or vinegar involved and it is employing lacto-fermentation using salt which preserves the vegetables. I layered the vegetables in jars with coriander, fennel and mustard seeds, added brine and hey presto another ferment starts to process. I have learned to leave the lids loose when using smaller jars  as in this case, to prevent an explosion, and I think I will be storing these jars in the refrigerator after 5 days or so as the weather is warming up during the day. Ferments are a very flavoursome condiment, adding kick to your salad, your leftovers, and anything else you think of to add it to. Vegetables are in such incredible abundance at the moment, so I wasn't afraid to experiment with this layered approach. I was also gifted some amazing, organic, golden zucchinis from his garden by our friend Paul, so a couple of those went in to adding the colour of Summer to the mix.



If you look carefully at this photo you can see the small bubbles at the top of the brine. This is a sign that the fermenting has begun.

As I watch it fermenting each day, the sliced radish in the jar is turning the brine a nice coloured pink, and the fresh dill leaves add a green feathery dimension, so besides the good bacteria doing its stuff, the contents are also starting to look quite attractive. I bottled these jars on the 21st September, and they are ready for tasting after a couple of days. I have just tasted a vege sample from each bottle and they taste tangy, whilst still quite crisp,  and the liquid has been a bit fizzy so I am refrigerating them to eat at a later date. The ferment is really active for the first 3 days and this type of fermenting with more liquid and a variety of vegetables seems to work much faster than the standard sauerkraut does, particularly in the warmer weather.

Method:

This recipe makes a 1 Litre Jar

Wash and prepare 3 cups of chopped or sliced seasonal vegetables (radishes, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, beans, capsicum), and beetroot can be used but be prepared for a red ferment with a stronger and more earthy flavour. Green spring onions and red onion will add some tang. As you can see from the photo, this time I used Cauliflower, Broccoli, Gold Zucchini, Radishes, and firm cabbage leaves as the weight to keep the vegetables covered with brine.

 Select a mixed teaspoon of  herbs and spices that you like, such as dill seeds, fennel seeds,  coriander  or caraway seeds and add those to the base of your sterilised jar. If you like some heat, add some chilli flakes and black or white peppercorns. I also added some fresh Dill fronds as I have Dill  growing but it won't last long in our garden once Summer strikes.



Add the chopped and sliced vegetables to your jar in attractive layers, and leave a 4 cm gap at the top of the jar.

The Brine:

I then added the brine so that the vegetables will ferment. To fill a 1 Litre jar, mix 2 cups of distilled water with 1 tablespoon of Himalayan rock salt and pour into your 1 litre jar, leaving 3 cm clear of the rim of your jar for any bubbling and effervescing that will occur.

As I have done in previous fermenting sessions, I add a couple of firm cabbage leaves to the top of the vegetables which fits snugly into the jar and weighs down the vegetables keeping them submerged which is essential for the success of the ferment. You can also use some kind of weight such as a cabbage stalk cut to size, or a small bottle, or a clean smooth stone, which fits inside the bottle rim. The vegetables must remain submerged below the brine. The vegetables need to be pushed down firmly in the bottle as they will also release some liquid and reduce in size creating more space in the bottle.



Leave the lid on the jar loose, stand it in a breakfast bowl and cover with a cloth, and wait for the magic to happen. I also use a tamper each morning to submerge the vegetables just to ensure they remain covered. If you can find a small Moccona jar they work really well for fermenting. Thanks to Chel from Going Grey and Slightly Green for that tip. I also found some large Moccona jars at the Mackay City Council Recycling Depot when I went there with Mr. HRK  on one of his "treasure hunts", which have been useful for fermenting Sauerkraut. Cover the jar with a tea towel and leave at room temperature for 2-7 days, depending on the temperature where you live.The colder it is, the longer it will take.

Sarah Wilson in her interesting book Simplicious where I first saw the layered ferment idea, suggests using fermented vegetables as you would a gherkin, diced and added to mayonnaise to make a tartare, or to a salsa for an extra tang and vegetable. Sounds delicious to me.

Are you are a fermentista? If so I would love to hear about what you are doing in the comments section at the end of the story?

Best wishes and thanks for visiting.

Pauline





Saturday, 23 September 2017

Rhubarb, Meringue and Almond Cake

Sweet talking about Rhubarb.




My Rhubarb, Meringue and Almond cake straight out of the oven

Rhubarb, a very inconsequential yet colourful stalk before it is cooked, almost a red celery look alike,  comes into its own in desserts, and when this cake is served by the slice, the rhubarb provides colour and its very own wonderful unique flavour. It comes in three layers comprising a light and delicious butter cake base, a tangy rhubarb layer, topped with a textured, sweet, and nutty layer of meringue.

This is a really delicious cake, and I urge you to try it. Your guests will love it, served with fresh cream or yoghurt. If you can grow rhubarb or buy it at a reasonable price from the Farmer's market you are very fortunate. Most people have eaten rhubarb and apple pies, crumble or tarts at some stage, and know how delicious this ordinary looking vegetable, yes it is really a vegetable, becomes when cooked into a dessert.

 I generally like to bake in the morning when it is cooler and I am more of a morning person anyway, so I leave the butter and the eggs out of the refrigerator overnight, the night before, and then I am all set to start baking first thing in the morning. That is a matter of personal preference though and depends on time restrictions for some people. If you can find an apprentice chef lurking somewhere in your home, give them the job of chopping the rhubarb, that will shorten the preparation time for you when making this cake. It is well worth the effort.

Anyway let's Cook:

Prepare the rhubarb: Remove the leaves from your rhubarb and relegate them straight to your compost heap, they are not edible. Trim off the dry ends of the stalks. Wash and chop your rhubarb into 0.5-1 cm pieces and set aside in a bowl.
Preheat oven to 180 deg.C.
Grease a 23 cm round spring form cake tin and line just the base with baking paper.
Separate the yolks and egg whites of two eggs into two small bowls and set both aside.

Cake Base Ingredients:

125 g softened butter
150 g caster sugar
Pinch of salt
1 egg at room temperature
2 egg yolks, at room temperature
150 g self-raising flour
50 g cornflour
2 bunches rhubarb, trimmed and leaves removed, or approx. 1 kg rhubarb (cut into 0.5-1 cm pieces)

Cake Method:

Sift the flour and cornflour together into a bowl.
Mix the butter, sugar, salt and egg and egg yolks with an electric mixer until creamy. Then slowly add spoonfuls of the sifted flour and the sifted cornflour and continue mixing until you have a thick cake batter.



Place the cake batter in a greased 23 cm spring form cake tin and place the chopped rhubarb evenly on top of the cake mixture. Place the baking dish in the middle of your pre-heated oven. It takes at least 35 minutes at 180 degrees C. to bake. However, allow 45-60 minutes depending on your oven. The cake batter needs to rise up through all of that rhubarb and be nice and browned on the top, to indicate it is cooked.

(15 minutes before the cake is due to be finished cooking, or after 30 minutes of baking, start preparing the Meringue Topping. Instructions below.)

The surface of the cake should be visible through the rhubarb layer and will appear set. Test that the the cake layer is cooked by inserting a skewer and if it comes out clean the cake is cooked. Remove the cake from oven and readjust oven temperature to 160 deg. C.

Now pour the Meringue Topping evenly on the Rhubarb layer and cake, and place back in the oven again for about 15 minutes at 160 degrees C.

Meringue Topping:
2 egg whites
100 g sugar
50 g ground almonds or hazelnuts

Beat the egg whites and sugar until firm. Add the ground nuts and continue stirring. After a baking time of 30-45 minutes pour the topping over the cake and bake for another 15 minutes at 160 degrees, as detailed above.

To Serve:

 After baking the cake, allow to completely cool before removing from the cake tin. I sifted fine icing sugar for decoration over each cake slice,  just before serving, and then  placed a dollop of thickened cream over the top of the slice. I think it looked and tasted really nice.

I intended to take a photo "shoot" of the cake sliced and presented on the plates, however I am not Nigella Lawson (LOL), and I was talking to Lou in the kitchen whilst I did this. Then before I knew it the cake plates were being whisked out the door by Mr. HRK to our 8 hungry tennis playing friends. Yes it was Friday night, and our turn to have them all over for dinner. So I will just have to bake this cake again and take some photos worthy of this post. It's a tough job but someone has to do it!

Best wishes

Pauline

For more information on Rhubarb click here

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Celebrating Spring at the Annual Mackay Orchid Extravaganza, in Queensland, Australia

A magnificent soft cane Dendrobium
The annual Orchid Extravaganza located at Queens's Park in Mackay last weekend was a showcase of Tropical Orchids, Bromeliads, and all manner of tropical and native plants. I'd like to share with you  photos of some of the beautiful blooms which local growers have been nurturing for the display. 
We might not have the climate or population to produce spectacles such as the Canberra Floriade or the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers, however from small things big things grow. People who grow orchids, and I humbly fit into that category on a small scale, are passionate about what they do.




I took many of these photos in the Orchid House in Queen's Park which is staffed and maintained by the Mackay City Council with help from a small group of dedicated volunteers. The Orchid House is also open to the public during the week, but it is a good idea to check the MCC website for opening hours. This is a very popular tourist attraction in Mackay and a nice place to take visitors



The local Orchid Societies, and a few of the Growers who sell to the Public set up stunning displays in the Orchid House for this event and many of the orchids on display were also available for sale at the booths outside.



What impressed me was how all of the orchid growers who were also selling their stock were so generous with information in answer to the myriad of questions from the public. Each orchid variety has particular growing requirements even though over all they are fairly easy to grow in our subtropical climate as long as they are watered during the dry hot months. The seasons have been all of our kilter this year though and that has been stressful for some of the growers trying to produce flowering plants for this event. Information sessions about various aspects of growing orchids and bromeliads were held at the park during the weekend and were well attended as was the live auction of plants.

Splendid speckled white Phalaenopsis and bright orange Cattleyas
The following three photos from different angles are of the rich pink Phalaenopsis orchid, Phal. Younghome New York,  displayed by MnS orchids, and yes I bought one of these after seeing it on display. I should be able to enjoy it in flower for a few weeks now.




A golden Dendrobium


The beautiful Swamp Orchid.


This is a stunning Cattleya, heavily perfumed.

No show with out punch. Even Elton John was there drumming up business for his concert this weekend.




Isn't Spring a beautiful time of year? I love being surrounded by plants in flower.

Best wishes

Pauline

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Chinese Chicken and Corn Soup




Fresh sweetcorn is in season and so cheap to buy, and after a trip to the Farmer's market I decided to use some of it in a soup, as it is still cool enough at night to enjoy soup. I found this wonderful recipe by Lorraine@Not Quite Nigella, which is originally her Mother's recipe and who is also a great cook of Chinese food. I was pleasantly surprised at how quick and simple this is to make, the secret being to have all of the ingredients prepared prior to starting to cook.

It also reminded me of the first time my son, Matthew brought home a cooked dish from school when he had to study a semester of home economics, and it was the most delicious Chinese Chicken and Corn Soup. I remember I made a huge fuss of the soup, hoping to encourage future cooking activities and we ate it for dinner that evening.  I'm not sure where that recipe is now, but this one is delicious. Thanks Lorraine.

I like to add a couple of extra drops of sesame oil to my bowl and another sprinkling of white pepper and garnish the bowls with finely chopped spring onions.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

6 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade from scratch if you have time)
4 tablespoons cornflour mixed with 4 tablespoons of cold water
180g/6oz. raw chicken breast, very thinly sliced or extra for a more substantial dinner
1 teaspoon cornflour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
210g/7 oz. tin of creamed corn
210g fresh corn kernels off the cob, or 210g/7 oz can of corn kernels, drained
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon sugar (or to taste)
A few drops of sesame oil and ground white pepper to season




Method:


  1.  Mix the sliced chicken with 1 teaspoon of cornflour, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon sugar and set aside. Heat the chicken stock and bring it to the boil, and then turn down to a simmer.
  2. When the stock is simmering, add the cornflour and water mixture and mix it in. The cornflour mixture will need to be mixed again before adding as cornflour settles and thickens at the bottom. Stir the stock and then add the creamed corn, the fresh corn kernels and the chicken mixture in small portions so that it doesn't clump up. Stir for a minute or two and the chicken should just about be cooked. It doesn't take long.
  3. Add the beaten egg to the stock in a thin trickle while stirring. Season with equal proportions of salt and sugar. I added 1 teaspoon of each but taste it and add more if needed. 
  4. Drizzle with sesame oil and white pepper just before serving.
  5. Garnish with finely sliced spring onions
I also realised after making this and serving up and trying to take a good photo that I need to buy some proper Chinese serving bowls and spoons. Added to the list for next time!


Best wishes

Pauline


Thursday, 14 September 2017

Australian Women supporting the War on Waste Movement



It's been a slow but steady week, with us approaching gardening activities early in the morning and late in the afternoon as we prepare the garden for the Summer heat, and also working through all of the numerous and enjoyable things that we do to make our home function as we like it to. Some of my thoughts filtering through all of this though have been about an article I read this week on the War on Waste called Waste not want not, in the October edition of the Australian Women's Weekly. I don't buy many magazines anymore, however I still like to buy this one and read about all of the inspiring things that women, and often younger women are doing in the community. It is still one reliable way of keeping informed about a variety of issues from a woman's perspective.

The AWW article quotes some disturbing statistics which I trust are correct and well researched:-

"In a little more than 60 years, humans have managed to fill the planet with 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic, most of which won't breakdown"
"If we keep up at the current rate, the world will be awash with 12 billion tonnes of plastic by 2050"
"On average, each of us throws away 200 kg of packaging a year".
"We waste 1 in 5 shopping bags of food."
The Australian Women's Weekly, October 2017, p.76-79.

 The  article describes how some warrior like Business women and young Mothers some of whom are also Bloggers are striving for change on a larger scale by empowering women to wage war on waste by changing the way we live.  I also know that many of the brilliant blogs I read by women more of my generation are addressing these very issues as well, and  younger women are proving they can also play a huge and effective  role in this campaign with their young peers. Erin Rhoades, a new mother and online blogger at "The Rogue Ginger" plots her journey online. She raises a couple of interesting and achievable ideas. Erin suggests that we simplify our bathroom routines. Instead of using face wash, body wash and hand wash all in separate plastic containers, she uses one bar of soap. I am working on this idea, which in theory sounds great, however my older skin now requires a much more emollient rich cleanser than it used to so I probably need to research that and make my own enriching soap, something I have been thinking about for a while.

We need to look after our fragile skin in this climate, so a good quality, chemical free and moisturising soap is very important. This is a call to my soap making friends, Ladies, I need a recipe for a good soap, that ticks all the boxes, which I can try. Nanna Chel on her informative blog,
Going Grey and Slightly Green, features a lot of soap making so she may have some ideas. I know there are some good ones that can be purchased as well for those who are more time poor. I feel like rising to the challenge to make my own. Natalie Isaacs was the CEO of a cosmetics company, and launched the 1 Million Women movement, empowering women to change the way we live and rethink our waste expenditure. Leeyong Soo is a sewing and vintage clothing blogger inspiring people to "repurpose clothes". All of these young women have attracted media attention in their quest to change the global waste epidemic.

Just below is a reusable shopping or market bag, again with the Pickling theme, and purchased in California by our friends on holiday. I love it. It's off to the Farmer's Market with this one.



The recycling and disposal of used clothing is now recognised as being a global problem and has become a recurrent theme in any discussion about Global Waste. According to the environmental movement, Greenpeace, and I quote, "the average person buys 60 percent more items of clothing and keeps them for about half as long as they did 15 years ago". I don't think I am average anymore, as I now sew some of my own clothes, and also mend them when needed and use accessories to update them for different occasions when needed. However when I was working it was a different story. I could justify spending much more on clothes.

Mending clothing isn't difficult however it is a skill which unfortunately seems to be disappearing, and is a way of looking after and keeping what we already own. We all have favourite items of clothing and these can be easily mended if the hem comes down, a seam comes apart, or a button falls off. I would happily do this for a friend who doesn't feel able to do it themselves, and help them to learn how to do it at the same time. Many women that I know are now op shopping more for their clothes and are consciously sourcing more ethical brands of clothing. Some real gems can be found in op shops, however you still need to sort through lots of stuff and select carefully, and wash it well when you take it home. I am very careful with synthetics though and during Summer here in the hot subtropics I just don't wear them anyway. Poor quality synthetics have flooded the clothing market, and the discarded items are often shipped to developing countries to presumably solve their problems. We make our problem their problem. These items will eventually become waste. If I buy an item of clothing, I try to buy quality, something I really like, and whilst it might cost a little more, I will wear and cherish it for many years,and mend it when necessary. My paternal Grandmother was a tailoress, my Mum was also a good seamstress and made most of my Dad's shirts, and also sewed a lot of her own clothes and also mine when I was younger. This love of good quality clothing must be in my genes,

 Mr. HRK and I married 40 years ago before recycling, the War on Waste and Climate Change were part of our everyday vocabulary. Now people are calling my type of wedding a zero-waste wedding, ha, ha. I wore my Mother's beautiful full length, embossed ivory satin, 50's style Wedding gown, with a sweetheart neckline. It had to be taken in by a friend who was a tailoress, as I was a Size 8 in those days and I still have the dress packed away  in an acid free box and wrapped in acid free tissue paper. What do I do with it though? I doubt anyone in my family will wear it now, perhaps a museum would like it, or should I sell it on ebay? Orchids were always going to be in my Wedding bouquet so some came from my Mum's plants.

Entering the Church on my Wedding Day in Mum's Wedding Gown which was taken in to fit me 

My concession to having something of my own to wear was buying my own lace edged wedding veil and pearl studded Juliet headpiece which I still adore. The cost of weddings has become exorbitant for young people, so it seems sensible to do a complete turnabout and opt for a zero-waste wedding, like the Rogue Ginger did. There might have been a little waste, but zero-waste was the goal for Erin. However everyone wants their wedding to be beautiful, so it's about compromise.

 Reusable bowl covers with a theme





Anyone who watched the War on waste series on TV recently  couldn't help but be inspired to incorporate more recycling and the removal of plastic into their daily activities. I am working towards achieving a a plastic-free life on a daily basis or at least recycling the plastic I use. I was recently given some great little reusable elasticised plate covers in different sizes , which I now use all the time to cover leftovers in the refrigerator and basically replace Cling Wrap. After washing them in hot soapy water for reuse, I leave them in the drawer next to my remaining roll of Cling Wrap to remind me to use them. Old habits can die hard sometimes. Other things I am doing are asking my butcher to put my meat into a reusable container, the hardest thing being to remember to take it with me, just like the reusable shopping bags. They are left in my car so that I remember them.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and have a great weekend my friends.

Pauline

Friday, 8 September 2017

Summertime Grapefruit Shrub, and Drinking Vinegars



With Winter firmly in our Rear Vision Mirror now in the Queensland sub-tropics, and still enjoying the cool nights of Spring, it's time to start stocking up on fruit based and homemade non-alcoholic mixer drinks for summer. A Shrub for drinking that is, is a way of preserving excess fruit and their juices using Apple Cider Vinegar as the preservative, and sugar. These are also called Drinking Vinegars, where the Acetic Acid in the vinegar acts as the preservative. The best Apple Cider Vinegar to use is Organic, Raw, and Unpasteurised with a "mother', such as Bragg  Apple Cider Vinegar, available from most Health Food shops. The mother are strands of friendly bacteria and proteins that give the vinegar a cloudy appearance and provide the nutrients. Apple Cider Vinegar is a Fermented food, and there is a lot of evidence to support that it is very good for us. However there are a whole variety of other tantalising vinegars available, not to mention fruits, which can be used to create your own interesting shrub recipes. I am sticking with Apple Cider Vinegar for now because of the health benefits and I have stacks of it in my pantry.

Go straight to recipe here:

When I find an interesting recipe steeped in history, half the fun is also researching it's origins and meaning and often these foods and drinks have come and gone in popularity over the centuries, as has the "Shrub". The word shrub is derived from the Arabic word "sarab" for drink or syrup, however "sharab" according to some dictionaries can be used for alcoholic drinks, and to drink is to "sirib" or "surb". Is this also where slurp came from perhaps?  Anyway all of these old words are fairly similar, and it is easy to see how other languages evolved them into the "shrub".

Various historical accounts tell us that early Sailors from colonial America  and England carried drinkable shrub on board their vessels to prevent scurvy. Consequently, the "shrub" was one of America's first drinks, as it was shelf stable without requiring chilling, water was mostly unsafe and the drink was healthy. It also probably gained popularity during the Temperance Movement in the U.S. The invention of refrigeration meant it no longer needed to be used as a preservative without refrigeration. Shrubs have become very popular recently in Cocktail Bars, so I'm told, particularly in the U.S.A. for mixing in cocktails. It also makes a zingy refreshing drink, with just a tablespoon or two  mixed with cold Soda or sparkling Mineral water or just plain cold water on a warm day and the syrup will keep in the refrigerator tightly sealed for about 6 months. Grapefruit Shrub is what I am enjoying right now as I write this. You can be as elegant or as simple as you wish when concocting a shrub, and there are plenty of recipes available.

It is the end of citrus season here at the moment, so the ordinary grapefruit is my choice to include in this drink, however the Ruby Grapefruit when plentiful provides a a beautiful red colour and a unique flavour. When I have enough grapefruit, I juice them , freeze the juice in ice cube trays, which can then be added to cold drinks as required. They add extra flavour to the shrub. Pineapple, mango and other tropical fruits when in season, or berries and ginger also lend themselves beautifully to exotic creations, and combined with a variety of vinegars, you will have a refreshingly cold drink during the hot, summer months. Mix it up and enjoy. Add some alcohol for the Christmas cocktail celebrations and you'll have a winner, not that we want to talk about Christmas just yet.

Ingredients:

2 cups Grapefruit, chopped into 8ths
2 cups Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar
2 cups White granulated Sugar

Method:

Peel your grapefruit and remove the white pith.

 Chop each piece of fruit into 8th's, remove any seeds, and then gradually add to the blender, piece by piece until you have a liquid.

Measure the number of cups of liquid you have and then follow a similar procedure to making jam, however with shrub you add the wonderfully healthy Apple Cider Vinegar as well.

So in a large saucepan, to each cup of fruit add 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of good quality Apple Cider Vinegar. Turn the fruit, sugar and vinegar together.

Place the saucepan on the stove, and bring the fruit mixture to the boil.

Strain through a fine meshed colander  into a large jug. You will then need to pour your shrub from the jug into other sterilised containers.

Bash the remainder of the fruit pulp in the strainer with a wooden spoon to remove all the liquid and strain extra liquid as well.

The fruit pulp left at the end  is also very tasty, but also very sweet. However at home you could enjoy some of it over ice cream or through yoghurt, in moderation. Waste not, want not.

 I am calling this Shrub and non-alcoholic cocktail, Summer Breeze, after one of my favourite songs with that title by Seals and Crofts.

See the curtains hangin' in the window, in the evenin' on a Friday night
A little light a-shinin' through the window, lets me know everything is alright
Summer breeze, makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind
Summer breeze, makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind
For the complete words to Summer Breeze click here

Have you ever tried a Shrub and if you haven't do you think you would like to try it?
Have a relaxing and safe weekend everyone.

Best wishes

Pauline


Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Spicy Kraut with Green Cabbage, Carrot and Chilli, full of flavour and not too hot - Fermentation phase 3




These three jars are how much spicy kraut I made from the ingredients below. I allowed a lot of room at the top for juices to rise as the last batch had fermented and risen to the top of the jar. I needed to briefly remove the lids each day for the carbon dioxide to escape as I didn't want to risk the lids popping off or the juices flowing from the jar. This didn't happen, as every fermentation seems to process slightly differently. I was aiming at a spicier kraut this time, and thought the three fresh chillies would provide enough heat to the mixture. Whilst the paprika, garlic and chillies I added transformed the vegetables into a spicy and delicious condiment, dried chilli gives it the extra heat required so that it really does become a chilli kraut. The amount of chilli spice used is a matter of personal taste, and can easily be experimented with. Fermenting the ingredients seems to neutralise the spiciness of the fresh chillies and the fresh garlic. Some garlic may turn blue during the fermentation process and is nothing to be concerned about. However thankfully mine didn't being beautiful fresh garlic from the Eungella region near Mackay in North Queensland, otherwise it would have been technicolour kraut, and I see nothing wrong with that.

I would appreciate any comments that you have to send me about your fermenting experiences and I enjoy reading them.

Rule of thumb for ratio of cabbage to salt that I use:
Use 1 tablespoon of salt to 800g of CABBAGE
1 tablespoon of Caraway Seeds (if using for standard sauerkraut)

Ingredients:

1 small whole green cabbage, with  outer leaves and core  removed
3 carrots
3-4 finely chopped  red chillies (not the Birds Eye variety)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh coriander
1 teaspoon smoky paprika
1 small apple peeled, cored and finely chopped
2 tablespoons non-iodised salt (or according to weight of cabbage, see above)
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
4 sliced crisp and fresh radishes
1 teaspoon chilli powder (optional for a spicier kraut)
Allow one tablespoon of salt to 800 grams of cabbage

Method:

I shredded the cabbage and carrots 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, apple and other vegetables and chillies in a large glass bowl and add the spices and the salt and toss the salt through the cabbage with clean hands. .

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

Spoon the cabbage mixture and juices into jars allowing at least an inch from the rim and press down the vegetables until the juices rise to the top. Use the outer leaves and cabbage  core to keep the shredded  vegetables  below  the  juices.

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 in the  jar.  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, spicy and distinctive the flavours 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.

I'm about to board a plane so I'm  sending  this  from  blogger on my phone.  There's surely plenty  of time  with  needing to  be at airports two hours prior  to  catching  even  domestic  flights. 

Best  wishes 
Pauline

Monday, 4 September 2017

A Rustic and very Fruity Blueberry and Coconut Scone




Sometimes a wholesome, fruity and delicious scone is just what is required to have with a cuppa, a comforting reminder of a bygone era, except that blueberries weren't as readily available back then. Most people I know have a favourite scone recipe which they can create at a moment's notice when time is at a premium. Mine is my reliable Damper Scone recipe. However when I saw the photo of this scone in the latest Donna Hay Fresh & Light magazine, I had to try it and now it is securely part of my recipe repertoire. We all know the health benefits of blueberries, and this scone is loaded with them, including dried blueberries which I generally don't buy but they combined very well here with their frozen counterparts. Donna also used Coconut Sugar in her recipe, but as I didn't have it I used Raw Sugar instead and it was fine.

Buttermilk is the secret ingredient, resulting in a light and fluffy textured scone, and a delicious flavour. You can save money by making your own with vinegar and milk, it is so quick and easy. Whenever I have bought a carton of Buttermilk previously, I never seem to finish the whole carton which is a waste of money. See my tip below for making your own. I was surprised at how light and fluffy these turned out, given that they are made with wholemeal flour, another healthy addition. I cooked this for Neil on Father's Day and he loved it.




If you try this one and think the mixture is too moist before pouring it onto the tray, don't be tempted to add more flour. I'm glad I didn't although I very nearly did. You will just need well floured hands to mould it into the circular shape. Scones always go down well, don't you think?

Ingredients:

2 cups (320g) wholemeal self-raising flour,  with extra for dusting
20g of cold unsalted butter, chopped into small pieces
1/3 cup (45g) raw sugar (Use coconut sugar if you wish)
1/3 cup (65g) dried blueberries or 1x70g packet (or nibble the extra 5 grams)
1/4 cup (20g) shredded coconut
*1 1/3 cups (330ml) buttermilk (make your own by using 1 tablespoon plain vinegar to 1 cup of milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 cup (160g) frozen blueberries

*TIP: It is so easy to make your own buttermilk and save money as well. Pour 1 1/3 cups full cream milk into a small jug or bowl, and add 1 1/3 cups of plain vinegar to the milk. After 5 minutes you will see the milk starting to curdle.

Let's cook:

Preheat oven to 200 deg. C. or 400 deg. F.

Place the flour and the sugar in a large bowl and mix to combine.

Add the butter and using your fingertips mix the butter into the flour until you have what resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add the dried blueberries, and shredded coconut and stir it all lightly together to combine.

Scoop out a well in the centre of the dry mixture, add the buttermilk and vanilla, and using a butter knife, mix the dough together until nearly combined.

Add the frozen blueberries and mix to just combine. Over mixing will toughen the scone dough.

Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper and lightly dust with flour. Mark out a 20 cm circle on the tray. I used a large bread and butter plate to do this by laying it on the paper and drawing around it.

Turn the dough out onto the tray. Lightly dust your hands with flour and bring the dough together into the round circle and flatten it out to fill the 20cm round.



Use a sharp knife, and cut the dough into 8 even pieces.

Cook for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.

This scone is sweet enough for me, laden with fruit,  without the need for extra Jam and Cream, however Neil was all for the jam and cream. I enjoyed mine with some mature cheddar cheese which was delicious. Would you have yours with Jam and Cream or prefer something savoury like cheese with it. Either way this recipe is delicious and very easy to make.

Serve with butter and jam and cream,  or yoghurt if you wish, or cheese as I like, however it is also delicious to eat warm just on its own.

This was meant to be posted much earlier today but a friend dropped in for a cuppa, which is really nice. That's life.

Thank you for dropping by and enjoy your day,

Best wishes

Pauline













Saturday, 2 September 2017

Cooking with my little Grandson, Grandmothering and Discovering the Rhythm and Music of the Kitchen

Happy Father's Day tomorrow to all the great Dads in the world. We are home and almost recovered from what I am calling the Western Australian Super Virus which I came down with in the second week after I arrived in Perth four weeks ago, and which Mr. HRK succumbed to after he arrived, a week later than me. The house was already infected with the nasty bug when I arrived and Myrtille was struggling with it by that stage. However there wasn't much time to rest as they were just settling into a new townhouse in Perth, unpacking needed to be done, and I was to be helping to look after little Hugo, our adorable 13 month old Grandson over the next three weeks. Of course his Mum and Dad did the parenting through the night.




Grandma to the rescue. The first week was great as I felt really well and so was Hugo, and then after that we all just coped as we could as Hugo also was below par at times. When he slept during the day, I rested as well. It didn't help though that most days were really cold for me, and often wet at times. However I have some wonderful memories to sustain me until I see him again. We laughed together, we walked the streets of Victoria Park together  (he was in his pram), we napped during the day sometimes together, we shopped together, we played together, we explored together, and we cooked and chatted together.


 
A truck is always great entertainment for children, and there were plenty of them out working on this particular day in Temple Street cleaning the streets.
 Temple Street in Victoria Park is lined with beautiful, red flowering trees. I haven't been able to find out the name of them so if you know their name, can you please let me know. It was my favourite street to explore.



Temple Street





I tried to include Hugo in one cooking session most days when I was preparing for dinner that night and tried to coincide it with his morning or afternoon tea time, generally after a nap, when he was happy to sit in his high chair beside me whilst I chopped and  grated vegetables and chatted to him about what I was doing. Of course he nibbled on little bits of cheese and vegetables or fruit at the same time but what absolutely delighted me was how he made some of the activities into a game and found the rhythm and music in the simplest of tasks. At 13 1/2 months, he loves to move and dance to music as a lot of little ones do. When I was grating zucchini one day by hand to make
Zucchini and Bacon Slice a family favourite, Hugo started to move his shoulders and bob his head in time to the sound of the vegetables being grated on the metal grater. We both started laughing, it was fabulous. Such a spontaneous and musical response to such a simple activity. He also ate two  pieces of the Zucchini Slice that night for his dinner so it was a winner all round.

Then a couple of  times I was stirring a sauce or a mince dish  in a pot on the stove with Hugo on my hip and telling him what I was doing step by step and he loved it, and was totally engaged and rapt in the activity, saying Yes in his toddler way at the end of each sentence. I kid you not, we were having a very important conversation about cooking and ingredients. They were very memorable moments for me and reminded me how young children love to be involved in everything you  are doing if it is safe, clean, interesting and fun.

The whole experience reminded me again though how time consuming and tiring good parenting can be and how young parents need support, understanding and encouragement.

At home I try to cook most meals from scratch, however in a busy working family with a small child to be looked after, I think that some shortcuts need to be made with cooking. I found a good Australian Women's Weekly recipe book in a newsagent over there called the Clever Kids cookbook.

It's never too early to start cooking with kids

I bought it not only because the recipes looked delicious but they included taking some sensible shortcuts as well. Matthew does all of the cooking at home, I taught him well (ha, ha), although realistically I think I taught him more about the love of food and when he went away to University he really needed to start cooking to survive.  I thought this book could be useful for him as well. And who knows, maybe in eight years or so Hugo might enjoy cooking with his Daddy. I made a few dishes from this book, and the Broccoli Chicken Pasta Bake, and a self saucing Banana and Butterscotch Pudding were particularly delicious. I left the copy over there for Matthew,  and for next time I visit, however I will try and buy another copy here although it seems to be out of print now.  Perhaps the recipes are available on line somewhere. Of course I also cooked a lot of my favourite recipes from my blog.




Having fun with Granddad in the courtyard
A week before we left, Hugo decided to take off and walk on his own from the lounge room to the kitchen, with no warning. This is always exciting for parents, and we were thrilled that this important milestone happened while we were still there. He was so cute and excited about it as well and after that he was pushing chairs around and walking everywhere with a lot of encouragement from the adults.

It's great to be back home now to enjoy the warmth and beauty of Spring in the Queensland subtropics, and to hopefully completely recover from the highly infectious and debilitating W.A. virus. We flew back from Perth last Saturday, stayed a few days in beautiful Cairns with our daughter for some much needed R&R and then drove home last Wednesday.

Enjoy your weekend everyone and try to do something nice for someone.

Best wishes

Pauline

xxx