Monday, 30 August 2021

Homemade Pasta Bolognese sauce, it's Italian, it's gut friendly and it's delicious

 

 I've made many versions of pasta sauce over the years, but this is now my favourite. When I have the time and I want a really rich sauce full of Italian flavours, and also minus the acid that some tomato based sauces contain this is the sauce I cook. If you can't tolerate rich tomato based sauces, yet love the rich flavours of Italian herbs, red wine, and pancetta, then this is the dish for you. Bolognese or Bolognaise, how to spell it? Bolognese is an Italian word, and here in Australia we commonly spell it Bolognaise, or call it spagbol or pasta sauce which circumvents the spelling issue. Either way we all love it.

I really enjoy the unique taste that the pancetta, red wine, herbs and milk bring to this dish. I've never used milk in pasta sauce before, and I'd love to know if anyone else has, or is it a trade secret of the Italian chef?  Ok, I know,  this is another pasta sauce when there are so many versions out there and I have been cooking them for a long time. This classic Italian meat sauce is now my new favourite though, and  is a speciality of Bologna in Italy. It is minus the concentrated tomato paste which is a standard ingredient in so many recipes and which I think can play havoc with our gut if eaten in combination with lots of extra garlic and onion. So if you feel a little bit unwell the day following a very rich tomato based pasta dish, blame it on the concentrated tomato paste, combined with the onion and garlic, and this recipe is the one for you. Don't blame the red wine, that couldn't be the cause of the discomfort, ha, ha. Of course it doesn't  look as red as a lot of the pasta sauces I have made, which Mr. HRK noticed and which worried me a bit, however the "proof is in the pudding" or in the taste as they say. It is delicious.  It is a great sauce also to choose for lasagna, and delivers beautifully with any homemade pasta or  tagliatelle, fettucine or short pasta such as penne. 

The other traditional pasta sauce that I have always made is thicker and and has a heavier tomato base, good for the colder weather perhaps but not as friendly for the sensitive gut. However if you are interested in taking a peek at that recipe, click on this link. and you will notice the difference in the ingredients. It still tastes delicious, but is very rich and tomato based with the secret ingredient being a can of tomato soup which helps to cut the amount of  acid in the tomatoes. 

Let's Cook:

Serves 6.

Ingredients:

2 tbs. butter
60 ml/4 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
25 g/1 oz/2 tbsp. pancetta or unsmoked bacon, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely sliced or chopped
1 celery stick, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
350 g/12 oz lean minced beef
150 ml/1/4 pint/ or 2/3 cup red wine
120 ml/4 fl. oz or 1/2 cup milk
400 g/14 oz can plum tomatoes chopped, with juice
1 bay leaf
1.5 ml/1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or use 1 tablespoon fresh basil), or both
salt and ground black pepper

Method:

Heat the butter and oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the onion and cook gently for 3-4 minutes. Add the pancetta or bacon and cook until the onion is translucent.


 Stir in the carrot, celery and garlic. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the vegetables are softened.


Add the minced beef and crumble it into the vegetables with a fork. Stir until the meat loses its red colour. Season with salt and pepper. 


Pour in the wine, raise the heat slightly and cook for 3-4 minutes until the liquid evaporates. Add the milk and cook until it evaporates. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice and the herbs. 


Bring the sauce to the boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered for 1 1/2-2 hours, stirring occasionally. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary, before serving.


This pasta sauce is sitting on a bed of Mr. HRK's homemade pasta, which he enjoys making. Here is the link to how he makes pasta if you are interested. It's delicious and soft and never fails. Combined with this sauce it is the perfect meal.

It's been raining cats and dogs here for the last 24 hours, 50 millimeters last night, or 2 inches, and just raining softly right now. It's not windy thank goodness, just lovely steady rain and cool. It's quite an unusual weather event for this time of year as we lead into Spring, and with all the essential ingredients on hand, on a wet cosy day,  this seems the perfect meal to make. The heat of Summer is just around the corner.

Music I am listening to as I write this, is the dramatic and beautiful Skyfall sung by the amazing Adele. It's the theme song from the 2016 James Bond film of the same name in case you missed it, is it really that long ago? Seems appropriate somehow right now. 

Serve this dish with some grated fresh parmesan cheese, some fresh basil that can be added to the plate, and lots of freshly ground pepper and enjoy. 

Warm wishes,

Pauline



Thursday, 26 August 2021

Lemon Crispies or Lemon Crispy Slice

 

The weekend is a chance to relax at home with a nice cuppa and something sweet and delicious to eat with it. This recipe is a trip down memory lane for me, and I make no apologies for this.  I've been eating this slice for as long as I can remember really as it is a family favourite, which started with my Mother making it for us, and then as our children grew up and loved it, I started making it. Most of the ingredients will already be in your pantry, however the secret ingredient is lightly crushed Corn Flakes. Yes my friends, Corn Flakes might not be on your breakfast list anymore but they are still on the supermarket shelves, and they give this slice a delightfully crisp biscuit base, which combined with the tangy lemon icing on top brings this slice to the party.

When our children were still living at home, our family would always love travelling to visit my Mum in Rockhampton, Central Queensland, knowing that there would be home baked cakes, biscuits and slices waiting for us on arrival. She was a great sweets cook, and a good cook in general really. She used to make this Lemon Crispy slice much earlier on and then for some reason it dropped off her baking repertoire. Mr. HRK and the children would continue to request it, however as she aged, her favourite few slices and cakes, which were all very nice, would still reappear. Perhaps she lost the recipe or perhaps her arthritic hands found it difficult to cut crisp slices in baking tins. Unfortunately, I never thought to ask Mum why she no longer baked it, because I didn't really know what it was called, except that I knew it was delicious, lemony, and contained corn flakes, which I think is the secret ingredient.



I found Mum's recipe recently when I was reading her old recipe books, which are amongst some of my most treasured possessions, and went out and bought Corn Flakes specifically so that I could make this slice. I was pretty excited I can tell you. The corn flakes give the biscuit base a crispness and slightly nutty flavour, complimented beautifully by the slightly tart lemon icing sprinkled with coconut sprinkled on top. It turned out perfectly, and Mr. HRK has given it the seal of approval. I urge you to make this, it can be ready for the oven inside 20 minutes, and only takes 20 minutes to bake as well. If you are reading this now, you could have it made in time for morning tea this morning. You will be amazed how easy it is to make, and how delicious it tastes. It's now at the top of my baking repertoire list.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups lightly crushed cornflakes
185 g butter, melted
1 1/2 cup SR flour
3/4 cup coconut
2 tablespoons coconut, extra



Lemon icing:

2 cups icing sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice (approx.)
15 g. butter, softened

To make the icing:


Combine sifted icing sugar with softened butter and enough lemon juice to mix to a thick spreading consistency. Keep beating the icing until very smooth and spreadable. It will spread beautifully over the hot biscuit base when cooked.

Let's cook:


1. Combine sugar, sifted flour, lightly crushed cornflakes and coconut in a bowl, and stir in the butter.
2. Press evenly with your hands or a small bottle into a greased and lined Swiss roll tin (25cmx30cm).
3. Bake in a moderate oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
4. When still hot, spread with Lemon Icing, sprinkle with extra coconut.
5. Cool slice in the tin, and cut into desired sized squares when still slightly warm as it is easier to cut.



Cut into small dainty pieces, this would also be perfect served as part of a High Tea.






The secret ingredient


Warm wishes

Pauline

Thursday, 19 August 2021

Microwave Shakshuka Eggs Recipe


Shakshuka, also spelled Shakshouka or chakchouka, cooked  in the microwave oven is a real game changer. One morning, when we were in a hurry for brunch, and I had all the ingredients on hand including some very fresh free range eggs, I decided to experiment with cooking Shakshuka in the microwave.  Whilst this is delicious cooked on the stove top or in the oven it can take at least 30 minutes to cook after the initial preparation, but in the microwave it took inside 3 minutes, with the egg whites set beautifully, and the yolks just how I like them. However even better, the eggs can be cooked to everyone's individual taste, very easily this way in individual serving dishes.

Shakshuka  is a popular dish in Israel, although it is supposed to have originated from Tunisia in North Africa. If you are into having fun with words and pronunciations, Shakshuka is pronounced "shahk-SHOO-kah". This recipe is a riff on my original  Shaksuka with Eggs for a Weekend Breakfast or Brunch, which is cooked in the oven or on the stovetop. You will also find  the complete backstory on this dish at this link. If you've never eaten Shakshuka my friends, I hope you give this a try, as it is a delicious way to eat eggs in a very healthy way as well, and it will transport you to exotic locations beyond our reach at present. Treat yourself to this on the weekend when you can enjoy the preparation and the food at your leisure. Think Shakshuka, and think Middle Eastern. Go as simple as you like with this dish, or add extra ingredients to really rev it up.

Cooks tips:
  • Cook up a large amount of the tomato and vegetable sauce, separate it into portions and freeze it to make life easier for when you want to make your shakshuka. Then you will just need to add your eggs and fresh herbs.
  •  Substitute cannellini beans drained and rinsed for the tomatoes for a more hearty meal if you don't like tomatoes, or just add some beans to the tomatoes.
  • Chickpeas are a great addition as well.
  • For a more wholesome dinner dish, and to add more "hidden" vegetables, also add 1/2 a small grated zucchini and 1/2 a grated carrot or 1 finely chopped small eggplant and cook with the capsicum, chilli and garlic for about 5 minutes before adding to the tomato mixture. Increase the width of your microwave bowl if you do this. If the zucchini, carrot and capsicum are grated or chopped very finely, they can be cooked all together at the same time in the microwave with the eggs.
  • Add some chopped green olives for even more flavour if you have them on hand, not essential though.
  • I hope you realise now just how versatile shakshuka is to make, depending on what supplies are in your pantry. Eggs are generally a staple for most people aren't they?
Ingredients:

This recipe is for one serve, so just double or triple the ingredients for extra serves. This is where it's useful to have a large quantity of sauce already cooked and ready to use if you are cooking for a family.

You will need 2 medium sized microwave safe breakfast or dessert bowls to cook these in the microwave for two people.

 1 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil
1/4  red capsicum, deseeded and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 mild long red chilli, sliced finely or a dash of tabasco sauce if you like a bit of heat
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 can diced tomatoes, or organic cherry tomatoes (delicious), or use tomato passata (about 200 ml)
2 large eggs per person
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground coriander (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Tasty grated cheese
( I like lots of flavour, so if you are a bit timid about using spices reduce the amount to 1/4 teaspoon each of sweet paprika and cumin.) 
Freshly chopped mint and coriander

Method:

Coat a microwave safe breakfast or dessert bowl with olive oil using a pastry brush.

Add the tomatoes, capsicum, garlic, chilli or tabasco sauce. Using a small sifter, sift the cumin, paprika, and salt over the tomatoes for even distribution. Add the ground coriander. Season with the black pepper.

Place 2 large evenly spaced indents into the mixture with the back of large spoon, and crack an egg into each indent. Pierce the yolk of the egg with a skewer  or the end of sharp knife. (This is very important so that the egg doesn't explode in the microwave)
(This dish can  also be baked in the oven in individual ramekins if you have them, by adding some of the tomato mixture to each ramekin and then adding the eggs. )

Sprinkle tasty mature grated cheese and 1 tablespoon chopped mint over the mixture but not the egg yolks. I love grated cheese over my shakshuka.

Cover the bowl with cling film or a plate or microwave lid, and then microwave for 1 minute.

Microwave twice more for 20 seconds each, and then check if the whites are setting. Keep microwaving for 20 second bursts until the whites are set, and the egg is cooked to your individual taste. This could take about 2 minutes all up to cook. My eggs were perfect after 2 minutes.
Two small breakfast bowls should fit into your microwave for cooking at the same time.
To serve sprinkle with freshly chopped mint and coriander, and hot buttered sourdough toast, or to keep to the Middle Eastern theme, serve with Toasted Turkish bread.


Shakshuka is delicious for breakfast, but my preference is to serve it for brunch on the weekend. I also plan to make it for Sunday night dinner next week and I think I will also add a small chopped eggplant to the tomato sauce for extra flavour and texture. Eggplant  will need to be cooked prior to microwaving, it can be steamed very quickly.

This dish is healthy, full of flavour and not expensive to make. I have made a quantity of the tomato mixture to freeze so that next time I want to make it for brunch I can just defrost the tomato base, and add the eggs and make it very quickly. 

Have a wonderful weekend and thanks for dropping by,

Warm wishes
Pauline



Sunday, 15 August 2021

Chickpea and Vegetable Korma Curry

There are some days when I just crave a curry. My Korma curry recipe is much the same formula as a lot of the curries I make. A little chicken or other kind of meat, a good quality curry paste, organic coconut milk, and lots of vegetables to make it more nutritious and flavoursome. 

If you like tofu, then this is the perfect dish to eat it in as well. It is also very tasty and healthy even without meat, so it's a  perfect Meat Free Monday meal for the family, and it's low in calories. Happy and healthy Monday dear readers. I hope you have a few nice things planned this week, even if you are working or in lockdown, though I realise that is challenging. 

I make most things from scratch when I cook, but not curry pastes. I'm happy to buy a good quality one from the supermarket when I need it. However there are plenty of good curry paste recipes available if you wish to. For many people now in lock down, eating out is not possible unfortunately, and whilst this recipe might not be fully authentic, it is really delicious and a cinch to make for an easy week night curry, and it doesn't cost much compared to buying take away. Curry doesn't have to be hot or spicy or expensive, just full of flavour and nutrition. We were happy to eat this a couple of nights running, it was that good.

Cooks Tips:

Buy a packet of dried chickpeas, soak them overnight in a bowl of water, then cook them the following day with a few herbs until soft but not shedding their skin, and they will be delicious in your curry. There will also be plenty left over for hummus, to eat with salads, or to add to grain salads, the skies the limit really and they are full of protein and fibre as well. However tinned chickpeas will be great for this recipe if you are short on time.

If after the first meal of this curry you have a lot of extra sauce, just add more cooked vegetables the following day to stretch it further.

The curry flavour keeps improving over a few days so it can be cooked a day ahead.

Add a handful of curry leaves to the mixture if you have them. I've mentioned before that I have a curry tree growing in our backyard, and it is a very healthy tree.

If you have some fresh turmeric, grate a little of that in too, remember though it has a strong flavour.

I've tried not to overload this curry recipe with ingredients, as simple is also delicious, however adding extra ingredients such as curry leaves, turmeric, and home cooked chickpeas will make it even more authentic.

Ingredients:

Serves 4-6 people

300 g chicken thigh fillet or lamb, diced into 2 cm pieces
2 x 400 g cans organic coconut milk
4 cups (or enough to fill a 2 litre pyrex bowl) of chopped raw vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, green beans, snow peas, zucchini, mushrooms, baby eggplant, cherry tomatoes
1 handful of curry leaves (optional)
1 cup (185 g) basmati or brown rice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced
145 g korma paste ( or half a jar), choose mild, medium or hot according to your taste
1 x 400 g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or cook your own chickpeas from dried chickpeas after soaking them overnight)


Method:

Add the olive oil to a large saucepan, (I used a scanpan,) and place on a medium heat. Add the onion, korma paste, and chicken or other meat, if using. Saute until the onion is softened and translucent.


Add the coconut milk to the pan and stir all of the ingredients together.

Then add the chickpeas, curry leaves and the vegetables and mix into the liquid. It should just cover the vegetables.

Meanwhile place the rice on to cook.

Bring the meat, chickpeas and vegetables to the boil, and then lower the heat of the saucepan to a simmer. Cover loosely with the lid, and allow to cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the vegetables are quite soft. Stir it occasionally to prevent the mixture from sticking.


To serve, divide the rice among the bowls, then top with the curry, a sprinkle of toasted almonds for some crunch, and coriander leaves. 

I also like to serve my curry with my homemade Mango chutney and a dollop of yoghurt. However sliced cucumber and sliced banana coated in coconut are also nice healthy sambals to serve. Frozen roti are available from the Indian supermarkets, which make a curry meal even more authentic. However it is also easy to make your own flatbreads. Find my delicious flatbread recipe at this link.

We have our second AstraZenaca jab tomorrow, it's been a long time coming, and then I will be so relieved that in a couple of weeks we will be fully vaccinated, until next year anyway. Hoping where you live that you can be fully vaccinated and starting to have confidence that travel is on the not so distant horizon.

Warmest wishes,

Pauline


















Thursday, 12 August 2021

Aussie-style Rustic Date Scones

Scones, freshly cooked and served still warm from the oven, with lashings of butter, jam and cream, are one of my favourite treats. Scones shouldn't be fussy to make. They need to be mixed quickly, baked quickly and then enjoyed. These scones only need to be eaten with a good quality butter to be enjoyed, however if jam is your jam and you have a sweet tooth then by all means eat them with jam and cream. They are at their best straight out of the oven, and are crispy on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside and full of dates. As I took these out of the oven, I had visions of them being baked on an Australian sheep property for the shearer's smoko, or on a cattle property out west, and then seeing them devoured in one sitting by everyone. I cooked these in time for brunch this morning, I ate one, MR. HRK ate ??, well let's just say he ate more than me. Delicious with a cuppa.

Those of us living in the Anglo-Saxon world love to cook with semi-dried dates, and I tend to cook mainly date slices, date loaves, sticky date puddings, and scones, as I just don't have access to the wonderful selection of fresh dates available in the Middle Eastern World although they can be found at some  fruit and vegetable shops and IGAs. It is so easy to grab a packet of dates from the supermarket shelves as we whizz past with our trolleys,  the best quality dates available at our supermarkets being the Medjool dates. However to be economical which is important at times when making puddings or scones for a family, most semi-dried dates with stones removed will do. Date palms are still treated reverently in the Middle East, as dates have been an essential food for thousands of years for the Arab people. Dates have a high sugar content, and are often used in recipes to replace sugar, however in this recipe I use both, with a minimal amount of sugar. Certainly for those people now in lockdown who enjoy cooking, semi-dried dates are wonderful to have on hand for a variety of dishes, and will last for months stored in an air-tight container. Unfortunately they are not that great to snack on.

This recipe is my contribution to International Scone Week, hosted by Tandy of Lavender and Lime. #ISW2021 was started in 2011 by the lovely Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, and is now maintained by Tandy.

This recipe is based on one from Katherine de Pury at Yeringberg vineyard at Coldstream in Victoria's Yarra Valley.

Ingredients:

(Makes 10 scones)

 250 g self-raising flour

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

pinch of salt

20 g chilled butter

2 tablespoons caster sugar

250 g dates, stones and chopped

3 tablespoons buttermilk (Add a little more if you need to.)

3 tablespoons water

Freshly grated nutmeg, so very aromatic

Method:

Preheat your oven to 210 deg. C. and grease a baking tray. Dust with flour.

Sift the SR flour, grated nutmeg and salt together, then rub in the butter.

Add the sugar and the dates.

Combine the buttermilk and the water and add into the flour with a knife which will create a a soft but firm dough.

Knead this mixture together quickly, then press out onto a floured bench and cut into squares. Mine will be cut into squares next time, instead of rectangles, however they still taste the same regardless.

Bake for 7 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180 deg. C and leave them to cook a further 8 minutes until golden.

Happy International Scone Week.

Check out my other Aussie Damper scones which are also delicious, and without the fruit.

Warm wishes,

Pauline






Saturday, 7 August 2021

In My Kitchen, August 2021

It's been a very good Winter for citrus this year, and we've been given bush lemons, limes and cumquats by friends which I've really appreciated, and which I've loved being able to cook with in various ways.


Lemon Delicious Pudding is a very popular self saucing pudding here, and I used a couple of the Bush Lemons I was given to make this during the week, however any lemons will be suitable. This recipe produces a luscious and creamy lemon sauce topped with a soft lemon flavoured sponge which is an absolute joy to eat. It is also a cinch to make. The recipe is straight out of the iconic Stephanie Alexander's cookbook, The Cook's Companion. Some Lemon Delicious Puddings don't create enough sauce for my taste, but this one does. It is also very easy to prepare quickly, and can be placed in the oven when the main course is resting. I love puddings that can be cooking while we are eating our main course, they are so easy to coordinate.

The Best Lemon Delicious Pudding recipe:

Ingredients:

Juice of 2 lemons and the zest of one
60 g butter
1 1/2 cups castor sugar
3 eggs, separated
3 tablespoons self-raising flour
1 1/2 cups milk
Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C. and butter a 1 litre ovenproof basin or serving dish. 
Zest 1 lemon and juice both.
In a food processor, cream the butter with the zest and the sugar, then add the egg yolks.
Add the flour and milk alternately to make a smooth batter.
Scrape the mixture from the side of the processor bowl and blend in the lemon juice.
Tip all of this mixture into a bowl.
In a separate dry bowl whisk the egg whites until firm and creamy and fold them into the prepared basin.
Stand the basin in a baking dish and pour in hot water so that it comes halfway up the sides of the basin.
Transfer the basin and dish carefully to the oven and bake for 1 hour. Check it however after 45 minutes, and when the sponge is browned and firm to the touch, it is cooked.
Serve when it has cooled slightly.
It is delicious served with ice cream or pouring cream.


I posted the recipe for my microwave lemon curd recently and here is the link to that if you missed it. I've frozen a couple of bottles which should last 12 months in the freezer, and I made these lemon curd tartlets using some bought sweet pastry shells for convenience, and decorated  them with dehydrated slices of cumquat. They were fun to make and delicious to eat. Lime juice makes delicious curd as well.


Speaking of citrus, I also made some delicious cumquat marmalade last week and here's the link to the recipe if you missed it.  That's the end of my story about citrus.

Cumquat Marmalade

 We've been spending a lot of time in the garden, as its been a perfect month for gardening with lots of Winter sunshine, and this orchid flowered a few weeks ago which was a real surprise for me. It's still in flower which is the nice thing about orchids, they stay in flower for a long time. I bring it inside to the kitchen for a couple of days and then take it outside again for some extra light.


 
We have a nice selection of herbs growing in sunny spots in the garden. Parsley and basil are growing close to our back door in large pots. This basil plant is nearly finished but I have a few more sweet basil plants growing in the courtyard. Shallots are also growing well here.


Sweet basil, parsley, lemon thyme, oregano, and sage are growing in pots in our sunny courtyard. I use a selection of these most days in my cooking. They are very easy to grow in full sun as long as they are watered every couple of days.




Some cheery marigolds provide a burst of colour near the herbs.


My two Phaius tankervilleae or Swamp Orchid plants, have long spikes on them, the best yet, so I am hopeful they will flower beautifully this year. The bugs eating them have been a problem in the past.

Small pies are an economical way to use up leftovers and make great comfort food. I had made a batch of chill con carne mince, very tasty and not very spicy, and it made a delicious pie filling for some Sunday night pies. We bought a pie maker when we were on holidays in Cairns a few weeks ago, just a reasonably priced one from K Mart, and made 30 small beef stew pies the first time we used it up there. There were 6 people for dinner and they all disappeared, the pies that is. I don't feel guilty at all using this occasionally as the pies are delicious and I feel as if I am having a night off when I use it.  Pies always seem to be a treat.


Fill the pastry base, top it with a circle of pastry, wait about 8 minutes and these delicious pies are the result.


The Pie Maker

Given what is happening in the southern states at the moment with lockdown, and the virus showing no signs of slowing down there, I feel as if I have a lot to be thankful for. With almost 300 new covid cases a day in New South Wales, the lockdown will continue there for a while longer, and could continue into the regional areas. Melbourne is into their sixth lockdown, which has been so disruptive, and very difficult for school children with their end of year exams looming. Hopefully the lockdown in Brisbane finishes this weekend. We are well here, we can move around freely without wearing masks, we have our own lovely home to relax in, and a garden which we enjoy, and lovely friends to spend time with, and Locky, our Border Collie dog who brings a lot of joy to our lives. When we have our second Covid injection in a week's time,  I will feel a lot happier though, and more confident about taking a holiday within Queensland when lockdown finishes. If only it were easier to travel overseas to visit our son and grandchildren who we adore. Hopefully that will be achievable in 12 months time, however there are many other grandparents in the same situation. I just have to be strong. Meanwhile, we are enjoying a simple life, and also hope to start another beehive in a couple of weeks, which we are looking forward to. We finished our last bottle of our own honey last week, so now we are buying it from a local beekeeper, who was very supportive when we had our own bees and lost them to disease.

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event.  If you would like to join in, send your post to Sherry by 13th of the month.  Or just head over to her blog to visit more kitchens

Sending love and hugs to you wherever you are,

Stay safe,
Pauline

































Tuesday, 3 August 2021

My Homemade Cumquat Marmalade

"Cumquat marmalade is the best of all breakfast preserves, with a scented sharpness and a golden glow all of its own. " Stephanie Alexander, 1996. 

This is a lovely marmalade, and I don't know why I have resisted making it for so long. Possibly because my Mum made perfect Cumquat (Kumquat) marmalade and I wasn't sure that I could match hers. Never mind, I've made a batch now and I couldn't be happier with it, albeit a small batch though which often works best. The recipe I have used is very well researched, oh yes, after all in my previous life I worked in libraries.  Piles of my old recipe books were scattered around my desk, and I really think Mum was looking over my shoulder when I made this batch. I narrowed it down to 6 books and went from there.

I didn't do any online research, I went totally old school, and used old recipe books gathered from a variety of sources like the W.M.U. Cookery Book undated (1960s?) and the 17th edition, everyone a tried recipe in aid of the Queensland Presbyterian Missions, and the Schauer Fruit Preserving Book (1963) which my old friend Tess gave me many years ago. And of course, the Rockhampton State High School Golden Jubilee Cookery Book, 1919-1960, which is where I went to High School. This was definitely Mum's book though, I certainly wasn't at High School that early. There wasn't an index in that book, so I eagerly looked through all of them.

After all, home cooks have been making Cumquat (Kumquat) Marmalade for donkey's years haven't they, so the basics are the same. However there are still lots of different ideas on how to make the best batch. There are some gems in these old books and I enjoyed just looking through them during the process of coming up with this recipe. This recipe is the one I will be using from now on, and I hope you try it as well. If you are given some cumquats, give this a go, the marmalade is lovely, and scented and golden and delicious on toast for brekkie or tea.

I suggest you don't wash the fruit more than an hour before processing them. Select fruit that is ripe but firm. Mine were given to me, many thanks to my generous friends, P & J, a few were a little bit soft, but they still cooked up well. (Sorry there's no photo of the fruit.)These cumquats were an oval shape, which is generally called F. Margarita. When they are picked, store the cumquats in a single layer in a cool place for no more than 24 hours if possible. My Mum always had a cumquat tree growing at home, and in our very large Central Queensland backyard it looked tiny, but she made copious quantities of marmalade every year from the bounty of fruit it produced. These were a small round cumquat, which was really tart, definitely too tart to consider eating fresh, although some of the varieties now are more palatable. I think she called it cumquat jam back then though. It's all semantics really I think, and I love the word marmalade. The interesting thing though is that I didn't eat much of it when Mum was making it, but now I love it.

 The flavour of the cumquat fruit is quite complex, bitter, but sweet and scented all at once, however they aren't suitable for eating uncooked. I suggest you don't wash the fruit more than an hour before processing it. They need little preparation, just a good wash and don't need to be peeled before use which is a bonus. If you're buying cumquats from the markets, the best place, or even the supermarket, inspect them carefully before you buy, as they begin to deteriorate as soon as they are picked and should be ripe. It's awful to be disappointed with the fruit when you arrive home with it.

 I just need to find a nice sunny spot now, so that I can plant a tree. They are widely grown here in Australia as ornamental trees, although they are a native of China. We often grow them in tubs on the verandah, however if grown in the backyard, the trees flourish, and the fruit and the blossom are highly perfumed. They are beautiful trees, full of blossom. Even though they resemble a perfect miniature orange, they are not a true citrus fruit. They only have 3-6 sections, whereas the real citrus fruits have 8-15 sections. 

 A healthy cumquat tree produces fruit from Autumn through to Spring in Australia, so they should still be available if you want to make some marmalade. However it feels like Spring here already.

Let's make some lovely Marmalade:

This quantity made 4 smallish jars.

 Ingredients:

700 g cumquats

3 cups water

750 g warm granulated sugar (to warm the sugar, place in an ovenproof bowl, and heat in an oven pre-heated to 150 C for 6 minutes) 

20 g Fowlers jamsetta (optional) and ensures your jam will set (Available from the supermarket). Instructions for use are on the back of the packet. I used it this time because I have a couple of packets I was given, however lemon juice is also good.

Lemon juice can be used instead of Jamsetta. Use the equivalent of 2 tablespoons lemon juice to 1 kg (2 pounds) of cumquats. Add the lemon juice to the cumquats and water and stand overnight.

Method:

Discard any stems and wash your fruit. Weigh the cumquats whole.

As a general guide, allow 2 cups of water and 750 g sugar (1 1/2 lbs) to each 500 g (pound) of fruit. I reduced the amount of sugar slightly to an almost equal ratio of fruit and sugar, as I removed a few cumquats along the way when I discovered they weren't suitable, and I didn't want my marmalade too sweet, and it turned out perfectly. A couple of my friends reduce the sugar by almost half, but that results in quite a tart jam. It's a matter of personal preference, as to how you like your marmalade, sweet or not so sweet.

Cut cumquats into quarters, (I prefer to cut mine into quarters, rather than slice them finely, as the extra skin becomes beautifully translucent and attractive when cooked.)

Flick out and reserve the pips (seeds) in a separate small bowl. 

Cover the cumquats in a separate bowl with the rest of the water and the lemon juice if you are using it.

Cover the bowls, and leave seeds and fruit to soak overnight.

The following day, drain the pectin liquid from the pips and set aside, and discard the pips. Some of these pips are very small, so I suggest straining the liquid through some muslin to catch all of them.

Place the fruit pulp, and all of the water including strained water from seeds  in a large thick aluminium saucepan .

Cook the pulp and strained water gently until the peel is soft. 

Meanwhile, warm up the sugar in the oven in an oven proof dish before adding to the pulp. Warm sugar dissolves more quickly and perfectly.

Add the warm sugar and jamsetta to the saucepan of pulp, and boil rapidly, stirring for 20 to 30 minutes. Try not to be distracted and take your eye off the stove. Mr. HRK took over the stirring for me and did a great job. The marmalade took 25 minutes to gel beautifully. Test it by placing a small amount on a small saucer which has been in the freezer. Run your finger through the middle and it will leave a nice clean line if it is ready, it then often goes crinkly on the surface. Don't be tempted to boil it for too long though, or it will go too dark. After 20 minutes, it's important to start testing it every few minutes as it starts to gel very quickly.

Allow to slightly cool in the saucepan until a skin starts to form, then stir gently to distribute the fruit throughout. 

Use a jam funnel, when filling bottles with the marmalade for safety reasons and to save any mess from occurring. Bottle in hot sterilised jars, sealing while still hot.

If you are reading this and you are a jam maker, I would love to hear your thoughts on this recipe. It's always nice to exchange ideas, as cooking is a constant learning process.

Pectin if you use it

Thanks for dropping by.

Warm wishes

Pauline x