spiced dried chocolate oranges

June 25, 2011 § 8 Comments

Beware, these chocolate oranges are deliciously addictive. This is the third time I have made them in the last week and finally I have had a chance to photograph them before they are gobbled up. I got the idea for dried chocolate oranges the other day when I visited a little florist in Thornbury. On a shelf in the middle of the shop, hard to miss, there were little bundles of all different dried fruit. I was admiring the apples, glistening with a drizzle of toffee, when I spied the dried orange segments each lovingly dipped in chocolate. I was just about to take a beautifully wrapped package up to the counter when I saw the price… $13! Needless to say that was enough to put the stingy student in me off, I went out and bought some green and blacks chocolate, picked some oranges off our very own tree, sliced them up, dried them in the oven, melted the chocolate, ‘lovingly dipped’ each orange segment, waited impatiently for them to set, and then sat down and nibbled and nibbled and nibbled until… I thought, I better make some more.

Recipe for spiced dried chocolate oranges
(Note, it may be a good idea to make double)

2 oranges
3 Tbsp raw organic sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch cloves
150 g very good quality dark chocolate

Pre-heat oven to 110°C/250°F. Cut the oranges in half lengthways and then slice thinly (about 3 mm thick) as bellow.

Toss the oranges in a bowl along with the sugar and spices until evenly covered. Carefully place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and pop in the pre-heated oven until the rind becomes brittle and dry. About 2 hours, however this will vary considerably depending on your oven.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over boiling water. Dip each orange segment into the chocolate. Allow to set on a tray lined with baking paper before devouring.


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planting garlic winter solstice

June 22, 2011 § 2 Comments

It is the darkest day of the year today, the winter solstice. I’m so happy that from here on in things are only going to get brighter.

A wonderful thing to do on the shortest day of the year is plant garlic. So much to look forward to as each clove is pushed an inch deep into the ground. By the summer solstice they will be ready to harvest and you will have fresh garlic all of your own.

How to grow garlic

You can take any old garlic that you have bought from the shop, especially those that have begun to sprout, however, I prefer to use organic and the lovely fragrant purple varieties.

Choose a sunny, well-drained position with good fertile soil. I like to plant garlic around the borders of the vegie garden as they are great at keeping away pests and disease.

Separate all the cloves, leave the skins on, and plant about 15 cm apart, an inch deep, or so the top/pointy part of the clove is 2 cm bellow the surface. Cover with soil and wait patiently, they will take quite a few months before they are ready.

Each clove will grow into a plant that will contain a single bulb that can itself have up to 20 cloves.

You will know your garlic is ripe to harvest when the tops of the plant begin to dry off and die. If you harvest them to early your bulbs will be small, too late and they will split. A general rule is, plant them on the shortest day of the year and harvest them on the longest.

Your garlic will then need to be hung to dry in a cool dark place for 1-2 weeks. You can then brush the dirt off. It is best not to wash them.

Here is one I snuck in about 2 weeks ago, they don’t take long to sprout.

Preserving Olives

June 13, 2011 § 11 Comments

We live in one of the old Greek and Italian neighbourhoods of Melbourne. One of those suburbs that every now and again sport concrete lawns dotted with olive and lemon trees. A very particular aesthetic that I myself am not particularly partial to but nevertheless, I appreciate the mini suburban farms even though embedded in a cement landscape of which I can only imagine is a good way of keeping out the weeds.  I am lucky enough to enjoy the advice of an old greek man who sometimes happens by when I’m in the front yard. He leans over the fence, a subtle aroma of cigarettes, commenting on the progress of our orange tree and the vegies in the garden. I enjoy the aged and wisened advice, it is the stuff I cherish most.

So it is at this time of year that trees are heavy with black fruit and the markets and grocers are brimming with plump and round olives.

I have never pickled olives before, and from a little research, have learned there is more than one way of going about it. Jim Massoto gives a wonderful step by step set of instructions and advice which you can find here. However his process takes 20 days in which you soak the olives in briny water that you change every day.

We decided, to go for a rather simpler option that a friend let us in on after he was given the advice from an olive seller at Preston Markets. With this method you may end up with olives that are slightly more bitter, but after tasting our friends and considering this process was much nicer on the environment as less salt would be poured down the drains, we were convinced. Also, it’s no where near as much hassle.

How to preserve olives

First, you want to make sure you pickle your olives when they are as fresh as you can get them as they are quick to spoil. Pick out any bruised or spoiled olives as they have an off flavour.

Sterilize a bunch of big jars. Wash the olives thoroughly and place in the jars. Cover with briny water (100 g salt dissolved per 1 litre water). Then pour a layer of olive oil on the top of the water and seal tightly. The fuller the better, as the less air inside the jar, the less likely they will contaminate. Leave in a dark cool place for about 3 – 4 months or until they develop a rich olive flavour. A layer of scum will develop at the top of the jar, however this is said to be helpful in taking away the bitterness of the olives.


And we wait, fingers crossed.

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