Wednesday, 27 March 2019

How to make Tropical Stem Ginger in Syrup, it's Sweet and Spicy



It's time to harvest Ginger in the Tropics whilst it is at the  peak of freshness in the ground. It is very easy to grow here and last week Mr. HRK dug up enough fresh ginger to fill two buckets. We have a raised garden where just ginger, turmeric and my vanilla orchid are growing, and our Pomegranate tree has also been surrounded by ginger. That has all been harvested now, however I still have small clumps of fresh ginger growing throughout the garden beds ready for when I need to dig up a fresh piece for cooking. We set to work drying it, freezing it, and cooking it up into Stem Ginger in Syrup which ensures that we will have soft and delicious cooked ginger and a sweet ginger flavoured syrup to use in cakes and slices, with other fruits, and in desserts and on ice cream.

 Ginger can be used in all types of cooking, I couldn't live without it, and also has great medicinal value. It helps nausea and seasickness, is an anti-inflammatory and is said to lower high blood sugar and cholesterol. A few years ago, when we were out on a boat at beautiful Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, on a swimming with whale sharks tour, I felt quite queasy after a while.  They were serving crystallised ginger and ginger tea to help with the seasickness and I think it helped, or maybe it was the ginger nuts:)


I made two batches of Stem Ginger last week, which used 1200 g of fresh ginger, and we also dehydrated two batches and now have plenty of  powdered ginger for the next 12 months. Homemade dried ginger is so much more aromatic and full of flavour than the powdered ginger available in the supermarkets. Mr. HRK decided to slice a lot of the ginger for dehydrating using my mandolin.  Unfortunately he cut his finger in the process, despite my warnings. I came home from grocery shopping to an injury. It's not often I see him needing a band aid but this cut needed attention. Thankfully it wasn't more serious. He uses all kinds of tools and heavy equipment for his metalworking and woodworking, and home repairs,  and has quite an impressive collection now, and has done for years as he was a High school Manual Arts teacher. However trust a mandolin in the kitchen to cause a problem. It is a serious piece of kitchen equipment with warnings attached, and I always use the protective guard if I use it . But then I find a hand held grater challenging ha, ha.

Let's cook:

Ingredients:

600 g very fresh ginger, preferably home grown, or from the Farmer's market
600 g sugar
600 ml water

Method:

Freeze the ginger overnight in a freezer bag so that it is tender the next day for cooking.

The Next Day:
  • Take the bag of ginger from the freezer, and allow the pieces to thaw slightly for about 5-10 minutes. 
  • Peel the ginger. Some of the skin will just slip off if they are very fresh pieces. Very fresh ginger will have a delicate pink blush in the flesh.
  • Slice into pieces or knobs very carefully. You should now have about 450 g of ginger after all of the trimming.
  • Cook the ginger in a large saucepan with the lid on for 2 1/2 hours, in 1.4 litres of water until the ginger is tender. I test mine with a skewer and cook the ginger until the skewer is easily inserted.
  • Drain the ginger but reserve the water.

  • I weigh the water and bring the volume up to 600 ml.
  • Pour the water back into the saucepan and add the sugar.
  • Bring the water and sugar to the boil.
  • Add the ginger back into the syrup and bring back to the boil. Simmer gently for 5-15  minutes until the liquid has the consistency of a light syrup.

  • Turn off the heat and your work is done. You now have a beautiful pot of stem ginger in syrup. It wasn't that hard was it?
  • Retrieve your warm sterilised jars and lids from the dishwasher or the oven. Pack the ginger into the jars with small tongs. Top up with the syrup, ensuring the ginger is covered.
  • Store in the refrigerator when the jars are cool.



I gifted a bottle of the stem ginger to my Mahjong friend Jill, who regularly gives us eggs from her free roaming chickens. What amazing and delicious eggs they are. She thanked me for the jar the following week and said that they are loving it finely chopped with some syrup on ice cream each night.

Other suggestions for using it would be to add it to roasted rhubarb.
Here's the recipe I used last night and it was delicious:

Roasted Rhubarb with Ginger:

Serves 2. Only 50 calories per serve, add an extra 90 if served with creme fraiche, and 30 with Greek yoghurt. Easy peasy. However, when served with ice cream it is delicious.

Ingredients:

200g rhubarb, cut at an angle into 3cm pieces
1tbsp. coconut oil or melted butter
A knob of fresh Stem Ginger in Syrup, drained




Preheat the oven to 180 deg.C

Spread the rhubarb on a baking tray and pour the coconut oil over it. Slice the ginger into fine matchsticks and scatter it over the rhubarb. Bake the rhubarb for 20-30 minutes and serve it with 1 tblsp. creme fraiche or Greek yoghurt and the ginger syrup drizzled all over.





Fancy a cup of ginger tea, it's just what the doctor ordered if you feel a head cold coming on. Just slice a small piece of peeled fresh ginger and steep it in boiling water. Delicious and warming. Add honey if desired. Oh I forgot to add a slice of lemon. Next time.


Last week was very hot and humid and we are so pleased we completed the ginger harvest as this week is showery and nice and cool. I hope the week is treating you well. It's time for a cuppa.

If you would like to try some stem ginger but don't have access to any homegrown fresh ginger locally to make it yourself, most delis sell it now. I don't think it will taste as good as the homemade product though, and last time I looked it was quite expensive.

My recipe is based on one adapted From The Larder, who is a British blogger. I'd be interested to know where her ginger is grown.

Thanks for stopping by,

Best wishes,

Pauline


Saturday, 16 March 2019

Salmon Fillet with a Finger Lime Caviar, Almond, Dill and Caper Sauce




Native Finger limes are in season and when I was given some from our local Farmers market by a very generous friend, they needed to be used. The citrus flavoured caviar like pulp squeezed from this fruit is a taste sensation. Once picked, these Australian indigenous rainforest fruits are quite perishable, and the tree doesn't yield fruit for very long either, so they are a very precious commodity. However the fruit can be frozen whole if necessary, to prevent wastage.  I was thinking of seafood and lime caviar, and how to create a simple yet delicious meal. Was it to be oysters, prawns or fish fillets, all fantastic options. Eventually, I based my dish on this simple but  inspiring recipe by Matt Moran, and decided to cook a zingy sauce to go with salmon fillets, which are always a favourite. However the sauce could be served with any grilled fish fillets, prawns, bugs or whatever seafood you are fortunate enough to be eating.

Finger limes
Here is Mr. HRK removing the lime caviar pulp from the fruit. Surprisingly they had quite a few seeds, so they were very carefully removed.



A close up of the delicious lime caviar

What wasn't needed for the dish, was enjoyed from a spoon.

We have a finger lime tree which is a couple of years old growing in a pot, however we are still waiting for it to produce fruit. Last year it flowered, and one small finger lime developed, which eventually fell off. We had placed it in between our Golden Penda trees, in an attempt to recreate rainforest conditions, and being aware that they don't tolerate full sun very well. However I don't think it has been getting enough sun, so we are moving it this week to a sunnier position to see if that makes any difference. Fingers crossed it will flower again this year, and that the bees will pollinate the flowers for us, and that it will fruit. Citrus can be difficult to grow.

Mr. HRK is always appreciative of what I cook and whilst sometimes we might eat simply, we eat very well. So whilst he mostly compliments me when I cook, sometimes he is so busy eating he forgets. However when he really enjoys something I cook, he is over the moon and very expressive with his praise and then I know it is a real hit. This was one of those dishes. It is one of the most delicious seafood meals I have cooked in a while, and it is so very simple. The key is the fresh ingredients, and only the fish needed to be cooked.

If you happen to find some finger limes when you are out and about at a Farmers Market or even the supermarket, I urge you to give this a try, it is an amazing combination of flavours. Thankfully I still have a couple of these little darlings in the freezer.

INGREDIENTS:

4 x 160g salmon fillets, with the skin on
2 tbs baby bottled capers, in brine or vinegar, rinsed and chopped if the large ones
2 tsp finger lime caviar (or you can use 1/2 lime, skin removed and finely chopped)
2 tbs slivered almonds, toasted
1/3 cup olive oil
1 spring onion, finely sliced
3 sprigs dill, roughly chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
400g - 500g green beans, blanched, or steamed to serve or another green vegetable
Mixed green leaves to serve

METHOD:

To make the sauce

Combine in a bowl the capers , spring onion, finger lime caviar, almonds, 1/4 cup olive oil, dill and lemon juice. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Heat the remaining 1 tbs oil in a large non-stick pan over high heat. Cook salmon skin side down for 2-3 minutes until the skin is golden and crispy.  Turn and cook for another 2 minutes until just cooked through.

Place the cooked fish fillets on the serving dishes and spoon over the lime caviar and caper dressing. I served this simply with green beans and mixed green leaves, however use whatever you have on hand.

Thanks for dropping by, I'm off to enjoy Sunday. I hope you are too.

Best wishes,

Pauline


Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Pickled Roasted Fennel


Fennel is  a very aromatic and versatile vegetable, with a slight aniseed or licorice flavour, lending itself to steaming, grilling, braising, baking, roasting, eating raw, and pickling, just to mention a plethora of culinary uses. In other words it is extremely versatile and also very healthy, a key ingredient to Mediterranean cuisine. The fronds of the fennel are similar to dill, and make a great garnish.

However if you enjoy pickles, chutneys and relishes I know that you will love this recipe for Pickled Roasted Fennel. The flavours are magic, enhanced by roasting the fennel,  and the pickle can be served as an accompaniment to most meals. Believe me, it will be a wonderful standby to have in your refrigerator to add some excitement to any meal you serve, regardless of how simple it may be.  It is surprisingly easy to prepare as well. I use the whole fennel bulb, and although the stalks are a bit tough after roasting, they can be chopped up after baking and put into other dishes such as soups, stews and mince dishes for extra flavour. Just the crunchy bulb and a few of the fronds are best for the pickling process.

After the pickling is finished, I patiently leave mine in the refrigerator for a week or two  before opening to let the flavours really develop.

Unfortunately fennel is a vegetable that is difficult to grow here in the Tropics as just like dill, it develops a kind of white powdery mildew during the warmer weather. However the Baby Fennels are abundant in the supermarkets at present so I am taking advantage of it. I envy you if you live in cooler climates and can grow this amazing vegetable throughout the year. If I can grow some dill and fennel in our garden and harvest it before the warm weather in September begins, I am very happy.

Ingredients:

2 small fennel bulbs, about 500g (1lb 2oz) in total (stalks removed)
1 onion
80 ml (1/2 cup) olive oil
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon salt
300 ml (10 1/2 fl oz) white wine vinegar
150 ml (5 fl oz) water
110 g (3 3/4 oz) or 1/2 cup caster sugar
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 bay leaves

Let's Pickle:

Preheat the oven to 160 deg C. fan forced or 180 deg. C normal (350 deg.F).
Slice the fennel.  Slice the onion thinly.
Put the vegetables into a baking dish large enough for an even layer of your vegetables.
Drizzle the oil over the vegetables, sprinkle with the fennel seeds and salt, and mix all together with clean hands.
Roast for 30-45 minutes, or until the fennel is soft and just starting to brown around the edges. You will need to keep an eye on it depending on the heat of your oven.



Making the brine:

(Next time I will be doubling the recipe as more is best, and this also makes a great gift)
The recipe makes two large sized bottles of pickle.

Make your brine by combining the vinegar, water and sugar in a medium-sized saucepan. Place over a low heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Increase the heat and bring the solution to the boil. Remove from the stove.

When the jars are cool enough to handle, put 1 garlic clove, a few peppercorns and 1 bay leaf into the bottom of each jar. Select a pair of small clean tongs to carefully pack the roasted vegetables into the jars.

Cover with the hot brine, making sure the vegetables are completely submerged.

Gently tap each jar to remove any air bubbles on your work surface. Also slide a clean butter knife or even a chopstick around the inside to release any hidden air pockets. When the jars are filled with the vegetables and brine, clean the rims of the jars with paper towelling. and seal immediately.

Leave the jars to cool on the bench top on a cutting board.  Leaving the jars for a week in the refrigerator before opening will improve the flavour.

Once opened, refrigerate and use within 3 months. I keep mine in the refrigerator to be on the safe side.

The Bees live on


Buzzzz. By the way, our bees remain very happy and contented in their temporary bird box residence and are working hard. Mr. HRK moved them again on Sunday at dusk. The "bird box hive" is sitting on the new hive which will be their permanent home. They are now facing the same direction as the new hives. When it comes to the actual relocation into their new hive, they will endure some upheaval, so it is important that they are as settled as possible until then. When there is a clear weather forecast for Mackay, a bee expert will come here to help us move the bees, find the Queen bee and make an assessment of what else needs to be done. More about that story in a later post.
p.s. I am also collecting honey recipes as hopefully there will be lots of honey.

Thanks for dropping by,

Pauline







Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Spiced Carrot Hummingbird Cake with Labneh Icing






























This is my take on the traditional Hummingbird cake, the main difference being that I have used grated carrot instead of mashed banana. For a start, the Hummingbird cake is made with oil rather than butter, and should contain more fruit than flour. The mixture doesn't need to be beaten just stirred, generally contains spices and nuts, and is delicious with a cream cheese icing. However I have chosen and love Labneh icing for a healthy and delicious alternative. It is my favourite icing at the moment. So dear reader, I hope I haven't committed a huge food mistake by calling this a Hummingbird cake, as I thought just a Spiced Carrot cake didn't do it justice at all. It is a cinch to make and moist and delicious. Living in a hot, humid climate can present challenges with storing softly iced cakes. This one keeps beautifully in the refrigerator in a covered container, and can be baked the day before serving if necessary. If using the Labneh icing, though, and I suggest you do, that will need to be prepared a day before the cake is to be eaten.

 I love a recipe with a good story, so here goes. The Hummingbird's origin is thought to be Jamaica in the late 1960's, hence the bananas and pineapple, and was originally called the "Doctor Bird Cake", which was a nickname for the Jamaican indigenous hummingbird called the Red-billed Streamertail. Not only does this bird have a long beak that probes into flowers, "like a doctor inspecting a patient", but some food historians also said the cake was named after the bird because it was sweet enough to attract hummingbirds, although most cakes probably are.

A Red-billed Streamertail, the national bird of Jamaica
 Back in the 1970's, there are countless references to the cake being judged in baking competitions across Southern America. I read that this cake has stood the test of time, and is still very popular in the United States.  I would love to hear from any American readers if this is still the case.I know it is still a very popular cake here in Australia, as we also love pineapples and bananas and nuts.



Ingredients:

500g Greek yoghurt
1/2 cup (60g) pure icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups (300g) plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp each mixed spice and ground ginger
440g can crushed pineapple, drained
3 eggs at room temperature
3 peeled carrots, finely grated
1 1/2 cups (330g) caster sugar
1 1/2 cups (375ml) sunflower oil
1/2 cup (90g) chopped pistachios, and extra to serve
1/2 cup (110g) sultanas

Preparation:

As  part of the preparation for baking the cake, I would do the following things before mixing any ingredients:-

1. Strain the juice from the can of pineapple through a fine colander into a bowl, and leave it until ready to mix the ingredients.
2. Grate the carrot in your food processor, and leave it in a bowl until ready.
3. Chop the pistachios in your food processor, and leave them in a bowl until ready to mix in the ingredients. By using the food processor, but not for long, you will have a nice mix of roughly and finely chopped pistachios. Grating carrots by hand, and chopping pistachios by hand is too laborious for me, especially on a busy day. Also, I don't have a good safety record with graters. 😅 It makes this cake a cinch to make, as it is all mixed by hand.
4. Crack the eggs into a bowl, or take them out of the refrigerator the night before, as early as possible so that they are at room temperature to use. I realise though that if you live in a cool climate you probably don't need to keep your eggs in the frig at all.

Labneh Icing:

One day ahead of serving: Combine the yoghurt and 1/2 tsp. salt flakes in a bowl. Line a fine sieve with muslin or a clean Chux cloth and set over a bowl. Transfer the yoghurt mixture to the prepared cloth and fold up the edges to cover the yoghurt. Press down the yoghurt mixture with a plate and chill overnight to drain. The next day, place the labneh in a bowl with icing sugar and vanilla. Stir until smooth.

Labneh before adding the icing sugar and vanilla. At this stage it can be eaten as a cheese.
Making the cake:
Preheat the oven to 160 deg. C. Grease the base and sides of a 20 cm round cake pan and line with baking paper.

Sift the flour, bicarb soda, baking powder and spices into a bowl. Into a separate bowl, combine the drained pineapple, eggs, grated carrot, caster sugar, and oil. Add this mix to the sifted flour mixture and stir to combine.



Stir through the pistachios and the sultanas. Pour into the prepared cake tin.

Bake the mixture uncovered, for 1 hour, then loosely cover with foil and bake until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. My cake only took 70 minutes to cook in a fan forced oven. Yours might take longer. Remove from the oven and cool in pan for 20 minutes.

Remove the cake from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool completely.


Spread icing over the cooled cake, then sprinkle with extra pistachios. If you have edible dried rose petals, you could also use those or any edible fresh flowers. This cake lends itself to lots of floral decoration.

As I write this it is teeming with rain outside, the thunder and lightning has relented, so I have just turned on my computer.  Some modern weather forecasters would call it a rain event, but here we just call it a storm.

Thanks for dropping by, it's time for a cuppa and some left over cake.

Best wishes,

Pauline

(This recipe is based on one from 100 best Delicious recipes.)

Saturday, 2 March 2019

A Vietnamese Prawn Salad with Queensland Crystal Bay Prawns



Crystal Bay Prawns are farmed near Cardwell in Far North Queensland, and they are what I used in this salad as they looked so fresh and delicious when I was shopping at the supermarket. I know that wild caught prawns are preferable, however farmed prawns ensures a constant and reliable supply for retail outlets. I was in the mood for seafood, as I often am, and with the hot and muggy weather we've been experiencing the idea of not needing to cook was also very appealing. I also didn't feel like rushing around and driving over to the local seafood supplier we often buy from.

Thankfully autumn has now arrived, with frequent rain showers keeping the temperatures cool. 29 degrees today which is perfect. I hope it lasts. Mr. HRK and I ate all of this salad in one sitting. It could be served as an entree for four people, however if serving it as a main for 4 people I would double the quantity of prawns. To my way of thinking, 22 prawns (500g) with salad is not enough for four people to eat for a main course. What do you think?


Fresh Coral Bay Prawns
Ingredients:

2 tbs fish sauce
2 tbs white sugar
2 limes, finely grated rind and juiced (1/2 cup)
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 long red chilli, finely sliced (2 if you like it really spicy)
2 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
500g cooked king or tiger prawns, deveined and peeled (approx. 22 prawns depending on size)
1 Lebanese cucumber
60 baby rocket
250g grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 to 1 French shallot, peeled and thinly sliced (optional)
1/4 cup finely shredded coriander leaves
2 tbs chopped roasted peanuts or cashews

Method:

Combine the fish sauce and sugar in a shallow bowl and stir to dissolve sugar.Add the lime juice, grated lime rind, garlic, chilli and shredded kaffir lime leaves. At this point taste the dressing to see if it is to your taste. You can always add a little more sugar or lime juice if needed.

Add the prawns and toss well. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile halve the cucumber length ways and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Slice on an angle.



Combine the rocket, cucumber, tomato, shallot, and coriander on a platter. Add the prawns and drizzle over the marinade. Top with peanuts.

Serve and enjoy.



It's been a really busy couple of weeks. Mr. HRK has moved our bees in their bird box twice now, a metre at a time, so that they don't become stressed and lost. One more move, and we should be able to move them into their new beehives, custom made by Mr. HRK. I'll be writing more about that later with photos.

This is a photo of the bees in their current hive, a bird box which they adopted, after we moved them again last weekend. You can see that the hive is tied to the palm tree now and quite close to the base of the tree. The bees seem very happy and when it rains, they completely cover the honey comb on the outside to protect it. Otherwise they are out foraging all day, and fly in at night.

I was excited this week to discover that my Tillandsia Air Plant is flowering for the first time in 3 years. It is related to the Bromeliaceae family of plants which also flower,  however this purple fragrant flower is beautiful and very hardy.


Over the last couple of weeks, I have been mostly writing. It's been busy and I have been loving it. It hasn't left much time for creative cooking though unfortunately. I've been mainly cooking recipes from my HRK blog, tried and true. I promised myself (a New Year's resolution) that this year I would finish the book we are writing about my Great Great Grandfather, a Scottish landscape artist, named Thomas Dudgeon Esq., and his daughter Ellen Stella (Granny), that I started over 5 years ago.  Mr. HRK has been researching my ancestors for 30 years or so now, so I have been organising the mountains of paperwork and writing his story in blog form as a starting point. So my friends, if you have Scottish blood running through your veins, and an artistic bent, or just enjoy Scottish, British or Irish 19th century history you are welcome to take a look at the latest chapter.  Click here for the link.

Thanks for visiting and I hope the week treats you all kindly.

Now  it's back to writing on my other blog.

Pauline.