Thursday, 29 October 2020

Spanish Vegetable Stew with Chorizo


I had an abundance of vegetables in my refrigerator crisper needing to be used during the week, and rather than do a traybake of them, or donate them eventually to the compost bin, I decided to make a rich vegetable stew with a Spanish theme and Mediterranean flavours. By adding a  spicy, paprika enriched chorizo the vegetables were transformed into a delicious dish reminding me of our holidays in Spain, 5 years ago.  Once again, I feel very fortunate that we travelled there when we did. Strangely though amongst this  medley of vegetables there was no eggplant, so I used up the zucchini instead, but eggplant would also be perfect. We eat fresh vegetables and salad every day, however sometimes I still manage to accumulate them, because I can't resist them when they are selling for a good price or look especially fresh and delicious at the market. 

I almost feel guilty putting up a recipe like this one on my blog as it is so easy, but my friends it is so tasty and authentically Spanish as well. Spanish food isn't complicated food, it's pretty simple really, with lots of fresh ingredients and sometimes incorporating bottled pimentos, olives and peppers etc for authentic flavouring. Whilst writing this up, it inspired me to take a look at some of our old photos of when we were driving around Spain and the cooking class in San Sebastian that Shannon and I went to. It was truly the best experience and it was just us in the class. So much food and wine, because after a cooking class, you get to eat the results. Amazing! As this is mainly a food blog after all, I thought you might enjoy a few of the Spanish photos we took, as we can't travel to Spain anytime soon. First the recipe, and then the photos.

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 onion, diced

1 bunch fresh asparagus (in season right now)

340g zucchini or eggplant or both, diced

120 g large mushrooms, sliced

1/2 red capsicum

1 tsp. mixed herbs, or combination of fresh if you have them

100g chorizo, diced

3 garlic cloves. sliced

400g tin chopped tomatoes

2 handfuls diced pumpkin (I used Kent, but you can use butternut if you wish) or leave it out

Salt and ground Pepper for extra seasoning


Method:

  1. Saute the onion in the olive oil in a casserole dish over a medium-low heat until softened and sweetened for 4-5 minutes, then add the zucchini or eggplant, capsicum, mushrooms, herbs and chorizo.
  2. Cook this mixture for 5 minutes, and as it starts to brown, stirring regularly, and add the garlic at almost the end of the cooking time.
  3. Pour in the chopped tomatoes, asparagus, and the pumpkin and half a cup of water, just enough to loosen up the mixture, and then simmer for about 40 minutes, with the lid on, stirring occasionally to prevent the mixture from sticking, until all of the vegetables are cooked to your liking.
  4. Have a taste to check if it needs any extra seasoning, I added a little extra salt and ground black pepper.
  5. Serve it with brown rice or quinoa, and some steamed greens and a sprinkling of parsley to garnish.


Now for my Spanish photos:-
The Spanish cooking class kitchen in San Sebastian and one of our chefs. She was delightful.


Here's Shannon hard at work in the kitchen with our other chef. The fresh white asparagus was delightful, and can you spot the chorizo?


Of course every Spanish market has beautiful flowers, and San Sebastian was no exception.


Oh to have fresh artichokes (alcachofa) like these ones below.


Lots of fresh produce to choose from at the San Sebastian market which we shopped at for our cooking class. Yes there were tubs of wattle, that was a surprise.


There are always lots of different varieties of olives, and legumes to buy for every Spanish dish and their delicious tapas.


The salads in Spain were simple and delicious. We drove around all of Spain, and this was the most common salad we encountered at most cafes and roadside restaurants. When we are travelling, fresh salad and vegetables are always welcome and not always easy to come by, but they are in Spain.. They love their boiled eggs, iceberg lettuce and tinned fish. Also note the green olives, the grated carrot, tomato, corn and radish. Just like what we eat at home during the Australian Summer, don't you think?


If you would like a Spanish dessert to finish your meal with a Spanish theme, I wrote a little more about our Spanish adventures when I baked the Basque Burnt Cheesecake. Here is the cheesecake recipe.

Warmest wishes from sunny North Queensland.


Pauline

Saturday, 24 October 2020

Thai Style Vegetable Green Curry, a Meat Free Monday recipe

I often cook a green chicken curry with some vegetables included especially if I have eggplant needing to be used, but this time, using the Five Tastes Green Curry Paste in a vegetarian version I was so thrilled with the amazing flavour of this curry, minus the chicken. Thai food is a very popular cuisine in Australia, partly due to our proximity to South East Asia, our climate, and the ease with which we can grow many fresh Asian herbs and vegetables. It just tastes so very good. There are probably as many Thai restaurants as Chinese ones in Australia now, well where I live there are anyhow. Back in the day before Covid, when restaurants were operating at full capacity, dining out at a Thai Restaurant was one of our favourite options. So dear reader, do you prefer Chinese, Thai or Indian food? I don't remember Thai food being as popular in the United Kingdom or Europe when we were travelling, but Indian food certainly was. Let's dine vicariously in Thailand. 

 Meat Free Monday seems to be catching on as a lifestyle choice now, for the future of the planet and our health, and we certainly don't  miss eating meat a couple of nights a week. Meat Free Mondays was officially launched in Australia back in 2012, by Chris Riedy, Professor of Sustainability Governance at the Institute of Sustainable Futures, UTS (University of Technology, Sydney), or so I just read. For those of us who want to make a difference but who aren't vegetarians, this seems like a good compromise There are all kinds of food traditions in families these days, which gives the kids and the parents something to look forward to I guess. How about Meat Free Monday, Taco Tuesday, Pasta Wednesday or Wacky Wednesday (fun stuff for the kids),  Pizza Thursday, Pie Day Friday (used to be Fish and Chips), and anything goes on the weekend using up leftovers, although I still love the idea of the Sunday roast. Sunday night used to be Scotch pancakes when I was living at home. What a treat.

If you decide to try this recipe and I really hope you do, I urge you not to leave out the kaffir lime leaves, the lime juice, the fish sauce, or the basil leaves, they pack a punch of flavour.  I am lucky to be able to grow a kaffir lime tree here, I use my kaffir lime leaves so often, it's worthwhile having a tree just for those fragrant leaves. The sweet basil is growing beautifully now that it is warming up as well.

Do you try to eat a meat free meal at least once a week? I might just make this one again this Monday, we love it so much and it's so easy to prepare. Make the sauce ahead of time, and add the veg and reheat when you are ready to eat.

Let's Cook:

Ingredients:

1 medium eggplant

200g pumpkin, peeled ( used Jap pumpkin but butternut would be fine)

1 zucchini

1/2 small cauliflower

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

2 eshallots, thinly sliced

4 tablespoons Thai green curry paste ( I prefer the Five Tastes brand)

400 ml coconut milk

1 cup (250ml) vegetable stock

2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded, with extra to garnish

200g green beans, trimmed

Juice of 1 lime

Thai fish sauce

Coriander leaves and Thai basil leaves, to garnish


Here I go again. I've already typed this up once, but obviously the automatic save isn't working, grrr!

Method:

  • Cut eggplant, pumpkin and zucchini into 2cm pieces.
  • Separate cauliflower florets into small pieces
  • Heat oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat (I use a scanpan).
  • Add eschallots and cook for about 7-9 minutes, or until soft.
  • Add curry paste and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes
  • Pour in coconut milk and vegetable stock
  • Add kaffir lime leaves and simmer for 5 minutes
  • Add pumpkin and eggplant, cover and simmer on a low heat for 5 minutes
  • Add beans, zucchini and cauliflower, cover and simmer for a further 5 minutes
  • When vegetables are tender, add lime juice and a dash of fish sauce
  • Season to taste and sprinkle with coriander and Thai basil.
Serve with steamed rice. I like it with some of my Sweet Chilli Jam as well. This recipe is based on the David Herbert suite of recipes published in the Weekend Australian recently. I try to see what he's up to.

The Aussie Backyard Bird Count is on. This is our checklist of birds today, although we submitted two bird counts. Didn't get them all the first time.


Tomorrow is the last day of the Aussie Backyard Bird Count. Mr. HRK and I have been enjoying devoting 20 minutes late each afternoon for the the past week recording the birds visiting our backyard. He makes an excellent bird spotter whilst I enter the data on the app., although I do spot some as well. Today he saw 6 Yellow-bill spoonbills flying over, I've never seen them before. So far this time, 4,110,699 birds have been counted, from 129,473 submitted checklists, a great effort for the twitchers. 

Are you doing the bird count as well? It's fun isn't it and it's free.
 
Warm wishes,

Pauline

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Bulgur Wheat Risotto with Chicken and Artichokes


It's easy to treat yourself to a fast, tasty and nutritious meal at the end of a busy day from food in your pantry. This is a quick post, to share with you a deceptively easy and delicious midweek meal. At the end of a busy day, if you have some left over chicken in the frig, a bottle of  preserved artichokes in your pantry, some bulgur wheat, and some white wine for the dish and the cook, voila you have the makings of a tasty and nutritious meal only 45 minutes max away.  

Even retirees have busy weeks, believe it or not,  and this is one of them for us, with a variety of appointments seeming to occur this week alongside our regular weekly commitments. Mr. HRK and I have also been writing the 14th post on my blog about my Great Great Grandfather's Artistic Adventures in Glasgow, Scotland. We have really enjoyed it but it takes a lot of time, and there is still a lot of work to do before it reaches the publishing stage if we take it to that level.

One afternoon, I was prepping the ingredients for this dish, when Mr. HRK came into the kitchen and asked what we were having. I knew he had no expectations and would probably have been happy with a poached egg on toast given the busy day, so the expression on his face when I told him we were having Bulgur Wheat Risotto with Chicken and Artichokes was quite priceless , and he charmingly said "How many men would be having a meal like that tonight? I am so lucky." Bless his heart. Yes the name of this dish does sound quite impressive, but it is so easy, just don't tell anyone. It is also a versatile dish. Haloumi cheese can be substituted for the chicken, another pickled vegetable such as eggplant or fennel could be substituted for the artichoke, and well  I suppose you could use arborio rice, but I like the taste and texture of bulgur and it is certainly a nice change from rice. You could also add some dry white wine to replace half the liquid, to really make it special.

 I try to use bulgur or buckwheat in preference to rice when I can as it contains more than twice the fibre and four times as much folate to keep up our energy levels. We have been bombarded with information recently about the value of ancient grains such as quinoa, buckwheat, and bulgar, but bulgar is my favourite and easier to cook with. When we travelled through Chile and Peru in March 2020, quinoa was used in so many foods, along with corn, but I still prefer bulgur.

Ingredients:

1 onion

1 tablespoon Extra Virgin olive oil

1 large garlic clove, diced or squeezed

60g bulgur wheat

1/2-1 red fresh chilli or 1/2 tsp chilli flakes

1 bay leaf

1 red capsicum, deseeded and sliced

300ml chicken or vegetable stock

140 g cooked leftover chicken, chopped (about 1 medium chicken breast) or 60 g fried sliced haloumi

2 heaped tablespoons artichokes (from a jar or tin)

Large handful of coriander or parsley, roughly chopped

Method:

Sweat the onions and garlic in the olive oil in a saucepan. Meanwhile Rinse the bulgur wheat. 

Add the bulgur wheat, chilli, bay leaf and capsicum and cover with the stock. Put the lid on and let it simmer for 20-25 minutes or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the bulgur wheat is al dente and ready to eat. It pays to check this after 10 minutes and then every 5 minutes as you may need to add extra stock if it is looking dry. Mine didn't.


Then stir the chicken into the pan, along with the artichokes, for the last 5-10 minutes of cooking.


Season and stir in half the coriander or parsley, reserving the rest for a garnish.

60g fried sliced Haloumi works really well with this dish instead of chicken if you prefer a meat free dish. 

Here are some other bulgur recipes you might like to try: 

Bulgur Wheat with Tomato Eggplant and Lemon Yoghurt

A very healthy Cypriot Grain Salad

Lentil and Bulgur Salad

This recipe is based on one published by Dr. Michael Mosley, so be assured it is healthy and great for your gut.

Best wishes,

Pauline















Monday, 5 October 2020

Showcasing In My Kitchen, October 2020

 

I've been going to make Golden Syrup Dumplings  for MR. HRK for a while now, definitely one of his faves, and when I saw Maggie Beer make a guest appearance on journalist Annabel Crabb's  recent TV show, "Back in Time for Dinner", broadcast on the ABC here in Australia over four Tuesday nights,  I couldn't put it off any longer. I've made Golden Syrup dumplings a  few times in the past, always delicious, but I thought I would try Maggie's recipe this time. Yes I'm quite a fan of Maggie Beer, show me someone that isn't.

Watching this series was quite nostalgic in a way for our age group as we found ourselves reminiscing over  the various pieces of kitchen and garden equipment that we remember from our childhood days. Not during the wartime era I hasten to add, we definitely weren't around then or even thought of, however by the 1950's and the 1960's some of those old Aussie things, now vintage, were still around in some homes.

Something I found interesting during the 1920's episode of "Back in Time for Dinner"  was the revolutionary appearance of canned food in the kitchen pantry in the 1920s and the excitement that caused for the woman of the house. Offal was still a readily available and popular choice for meals, and we even ate our fair share of it, but suddenly the housewives were creating a plethora of meals out of canned meat, canned fish, and canned fruit and vegetables. There was no disgrace in serving a meal out of a tin, and it's still ok if it's baked beans, sardines, tuna, salmon, or spaghetti. Now it seems there is no disgrace in serving a meal out of a bottle, although as you know if you read my posts regularly, I like to mainly cook from scratch now that I have the time. However pantry staples such as tinned food are still important as an economical and  time saving resource. As well as all of the homemade jams, chutneys and pickles in my pantry, I keep a good stock of tinned tomatoes, chick peas, corn, pulses, sliced beetroot, sardines, tuna, sliced apples, pineapple pieces, and condensed milk as a minimum. Does that sound like your pantry these days?


No bully beef or Spam in sight though, as were the staples in the wartime era. After the First World War, attention turned to manufacturing food for the population, instead of the soldiers. Post War in the 1920's, the Ad man arrived, and gas ovens, couches, lino floors, new household appliances, and tinned food, sparked up everyone's lives. Let's not forget the glamourous Flappers either, it was party time.

Along with the tinned food innovation,  came the humble can opener, and some subsequent kitchen accidents, as these weren't easy appliances to use. The old can opener was really sharp, and a warning to watch your fingers came with it. I would have hated that can opener, and I can remember it still being around in kitchens in the 60s. This a photo of the one in the show. 


Then along came this one, a slight improvement. I remember trying to wrestle with this one in my Mum's kitchen. They seemed to go blunt quite quickly.

When the electric can opener appeared, in the 70s I think, it was revolutionary and everyone had to have one to make life easier. We still laugh when remembering that Mr. HRK and I received four  electric can openers for wedding presents in 1977, that's how popular they were. They were all the same, and yellow if I remember correctly,  and we know where in Rockhampton our young friends went to purchase them. It was at Millroys, a much smaller version  of Myer today, no clothing though that I remember. The electric can opener looked something like this, I don't have fond memories of that one either.


Thankfully now, most of the cans are ring top making life a lot easier. However I wish cans of condensed milk still needed to be opened with a can opener as boiling a can with a ring top to make caramel always worries me, even though I have had no disasters as yet. Touch wood! Which raises the question my friends, do you still have a can opener in your kitchen, or do you prefer an electric one or do you use one at all? I like my hand operated can opener, an easy one to use and occasionally I still need to use it.


Enough reminiscing, let's cook some dumplings, requiring no can openers. When I have cooked dumplings in the past, I have placed them in the frying pan to cook with the simmering sauce just as we sat down to eat the main meal, and they were ready when we finished eating. Although I always checked them after 20 minutes. However if you like a long interval between the main course and dessert, just slide them into the sauce as soon as you finish your main course. How you do it,  could depend on whether you are eating with your family, or entertaining guests. Golden syrup has been around in kitchen pantries for a long time, definitely since the 1940s anyway, and these dumplings have been a very economical and popular dessert through the decades.



Golden Syrup Dumplings, this recipe originally by Australian cook and chef, Maggie Beer

Ingredients for dumplings:

1 cup self raising flour

Salt to taste

20g  butter

1 egg

50 ml milk

Ingredients for Golden Syrup Sauce:

1/2 cup golden syrup

3/4 cup brown sugar firmly packed

30g  butter

2 cups water


METHOD:

  • Sift the self raising flour into a bowl and add a pinch of salt.
  • Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs, and then add the whisked egg and stir to combine.
  • Slowly add the milk and mix gently until the dough just comes together and resembles a scone mix (do not over work the dough or it will be tough instead of light and fluffy.) Set aside.
  • Combine all sauce ingredients into a large frypan. Bring to the boil to amalgamate before reducing heat to a gentle simmer.
  • Flour your hands and roll the dough into the size of a twenty cent piece. Smaller dumplings will absorb more sauce.
  • Slip the balls off the baking paper all together into the syrup. Cover the frypan with foil to form a tight seal and cover with the lid. Cook for about 10 minutes before turning them over to cool for another 10 minutes on the other side. (Turning them over is optional.)
  • Remove with a slotted spoon and serve with the remaining sauce and a jug of runny cream or ice-cream or even custard. Whatever you prefer. The dumplings will steal the show anyway.






Where would we be without this Golden elixir called Golden Syrup

There is reference to a version of Golden Syrup being produced at the Spiller's Sugar Plantation here in Mackay, North Queensland, in 1868. Outback shearers and station hands bought their golden syrup in 70lb. (30 kg.) tins, naming it "Cocky's Joy". Small farmers in Australia were also called a cocky in the first half of the 20th century. Cattle farmers were called cow cockys. Golden syrup was much easier to transport in tins than jam and often used as a substitute for butter on their damper. Who doesn't love Aussie damper with Golden Syrup, especially over a campfire? This  Golden Syrup story reinforces what a culinary icon it still is in our kitchens. Mine is in a plastic bottle here but I generally buy it in a decorative tin. 

What is the most valued appliance in your kitchen my friends? I would have to say mine are my Kitchen Aid, and our Rancilio Coffee machine and coffee grinder. The slow cooker and pressure cooker are great as well, we are lucky aren't we?

I like to collect  pretty milk and water jugs, which I use so I thought I would share a few of these with you.  I also love these beaded jug covers which are very useful. I inherited these, and still use them although I wish I could crochet as a couple are in need of a little repair. 




This past 12 months of living with the pandemic, has meant that some of the survival skills needed during the 1900's to 1950's as discussed in the show have been needed in our own homes. Simple home cooking, growing our own food, making our own coffee, avoiding supermarkets when we can, and just general resourcefulness have become a saviour during difficult times. Resourcefulness and resilience is surely in our DNA if we tap into it.

I've written this post as part of the In My Kitchen series hosted by Sherrys Pickings. It is worthwhile dropping over to her posts if you haven't already.
 

Warmest wishes

Pauline