there’s time

October 24, 2012 § 7 Comments

Hello…

Well, I made it. I am on the other side of something quite big, something that has kept me rather distracted from myself and all the other things I have wanted to do for the past two years. I have finished my masters! And there is a very peaceful knowledge that time is now on my side. It belongs to me again. This is nice. Well very nice actually. Overwhelmingly fantastic!

So here I am with some space, to do something for myself, slowly and how ever I want to. Thats a lovely feeling.

The garden is caught between winter and summer and remains positively neglected and wild. But, this is not so bad, because I know that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Its wonderful to know I can now spend more time taming broad beans, if thats what I want to do. But perhaps more importantly, more time nourishing my wicked taste for very fine delicious things.

Thanks to a very delicious breakfast eaten here and to Jamie Oliver for the idea for this recipe.

Smashed Broad Beans and Peas

2 cups fresh podded broad beans
1 cup fresh podded peas
a decent handful of fresh mint
a decent couple of splashes of olive oil
juice of one lemon
about 1/4 of a garlic clove crushed
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the peas and beans in boiling water for no more than two minutes, drain and rinse in cold water immediately. Pull the outer skin of each podded broad bean – and puree all ingredients together.

Its that easy

Serve on toast with a poached egg and a smattering of finely grated pecorino.

Oma’s cabbage

May 18, 2012 § 6 Comments

I grew up with this recipe but never learnt to like it until recently.  Passed down from my flemish heritage its great on premature winter days like this one. Served by my Oma and mother the traditional way with sausages and potatoes makes a warming dinner. A more recent discovery of mine is having the leftovers on toast with a poached egg and chutney.

Recipe for Red Cabbage with Apples

1/4 cup water
1/2 red cabbage sliced
1 Tbsp brown sugar (optional)
Salt to taste
A handful of pitted prunes
2 apples sliced and cored
A good few splashes of apple cider vinegar (about 1/6 cup)

Place the water, cabbage, sugar and salt in heavy-based (and if you have it oven proof) saucepan. Cook very gently using a simmer mat for about 1 hour. Add the prunes, apple and vinegar. Either place in a pre-heated oven or continue on the stove top until the apples are soft but not completely mush.

Stay warm

strawberries and basil

March 7, 2012 § 6 Comments

This recipe is really very special, so much so that I was almost tempted not to share it. I used to make it when I worked at Friendly Beaches Lodge – indeed I even served it to the Prime Minister of Australia, but thats another story.

Recipe for strawberries and grapes with macerated basil sauce (serves around 6)

500g fresh strawberries
300 – 500g green grapes
3 tsp raw sugar
I cup fresh basil leaves loosely packed
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves loosely packed
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup raw sugar

Cut strawberries into quarters and grapes into halves. Place in a bowl and sprinkle 3 teaspoons sugar over the top (for an extra tangy end result drizzle 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar over the fruit as well). Cover with a plate and leave to marinate for a couple of hours.

In the meantime combine the basil, mint and additional sugar in a mortar and pestle. Grind and pumice into a paste. Alternatively, use a food processor or coffee grinder.

Add the lemon juice to make a moist smooth mixture. Allow to sit until sugar dissolves.

Divide the marinated fruit into serving bowls and top with basil mixture.

Serve with pouring cream and be glad I shared it. xx

harissa

February 26, 2012 § 5 Comments

Im a little tired of late, and pulling my thoughts into words seems to get stuck somewhere far back in my brain, unable to reach the nerve endings of my fingers to type anything audable  or useful. So I am keeping this simple… just the recipe and a few photos. I know it has been a bit of a trend of late – perhaps some quite moments when life slows down will solve this problem and my thoughts will be inspired to carry themselves to my limbs. Until then, here is a recipe for Harissa. I was dreaming of this all winter, waiting for capsicums to come into season, it is a delicious spicy sauce great on curries, fried tofu, burgers, lamb cutlets….


Recipe for Harissa

2 red capsicums
2 tsp cumin seeds roasted
2 tsp coriander seeds roasted
5 small bullet chillies de seeded and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic crushed
1 tsp salt
100 ml oil

Roast the red capsicum in a hot oven until black. Place in a bowl with a plate on top in the fridge until it cools. Once cool, peel off the skin, remove seeds and finely dice.

In a hot saucepan toast the cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant. Roughly crush the seeds in a mortar and pestle before adding roasted capsicum, chillies, garlic and salt. Grind and pumice until smooth. Stir in the oil.

This will keep under a thin layer of oil in the fridge for up to a week.

not your average poached pear

November 10, 2011 § 3 Comments

Not your average poached pear – well, average in that everyone does them, but not so average in that this one is particularly good. Coming from a friends mother, you can tell this recipe is from a gourmet trend passed not quite long enough ago to be trendy in a retro way. But over done and ‘so last decade’ is half the charm. Its sweet and intense, simple but very good. These pears come poached in a thick and syrupy red wine sauce with a gentle taste of star anise. This is also a recipe I served at friendly beaches lodge.

Recipe for Red Wine Poached Pears with Star Anise

6 firm pears
40 g butter
2 cups red wine
1 cup brown sugar or honey
4-6 star anise

Peel the pears and cut their bottom flat so they will stand upright when served. Heat the butter in a medium sized saucepan (you want a saucepan that the pears will sit in snug), and lightly brown the pears in the butter. Add the red wine, sugar and star anise and bring to the boil. Simmer with the lid on for abut 45 minutes or until the pears are soft and cooked through. During this time you should turn the pears and spoon over the sauce to keep them moist on all sides. Finally, remove the lid and simmer until the sauce reduces and turns syrupy. Serve with cream.

And there you have it, not so average red wine poached pears with star anise.

wild sourdough bread

November 3, 2011 § 3 Comments

I had a sourdough starter given to me from a friend who had been given it from someone else who had inherited it from his mother. The original was rumored to be 30 years old or so the story goes, and no wonder it made such lovely bread. It wasn’t my first, I had inherited others and made some myself but I was never devoted enough to go the distance as travels would take me here and there and houses were often new. Needless to say, a lot of them got lost or perished along the way. But during their various lives spent with me, they all became well-loved members of the family.

Even though my descendent of the 30 year old starter had not been in my life more than four months it was no exception, it had worn a comfortable place in my heart. But one day it mysteriously disappeared, the little jar where it sat dormant in the fridge was gone without a trace. My reaction was one of somewhat panic. The mysteriousness made it all the more tormenting. I felt I had lost a wise old friend.

After some lonely days left yearning for some dough to stir and knead and bake and smell, I pulled myself together to start again, from scratch, to see what kind of a beast this spring Melbourne air would bring to a culture. Also, I have been wanting to post a recipe on sourdough for sometime now but never knew quite where to start… I guess at the very beginning is best.

Sourdough is pretty much a way of making bread without conventional yeast, instead you use natural yeasts harnessed from the air. And thats what is so very wonderful about it, every culture is unique taking the native variety that comes with the location.

How to make sourdough bread

The starter

Place 1 cup flour (I like using spelt or rye, but any wholemeal flour will do) and 1 cup water in a large wide-mouthed jar, stir well and let it sit, covered with a muslin cloth, for about 4-6 days or until it starts to bubble. During this time you must stir it at least once a day, twice is better – once in the morning and once in the evening. When it bubbles and starts to rise in the jar you should notice it has a nice sour smell. You can now add 1 tablespoon of flour every day for 3 or 4 days and continue stirring as before. It should get more bubbly and be doubling in size between feeds. Now you know it is ready and you can either feed it one last time and store in the fridge with a muslin cloth covering the jar or begin making your bread.

When storing the starter in the fridge it is best to feed it about 2 – 3 Tbsp of flour and a dash of water twice a week, it should remain the consistency of a thick paste or very wet dough. It will last in the fridge for about 3 weeks without being fed but might need a bit of extra feeding and stirring to get it happily bubbly again. You will get a feel for it as you go along.

The bread
The foundation for this recipe comes from another old friend Jenny, who gave me my very first sourdough culture about 5 years ago.

First you will need to empty the sourdough starter into a large bowl. Here its best to use a porcelain non reactive bowl. Stir in 1 cup water and 1 cup flour (again I like to use spelt or rye, but you can use any flour, or any combination of flours). Return half the mixture back into your jar, cover with your muslin cloth and return to the fridge for next time. Let what is left in the bowl sit for 6 – 12 hours. I usually cover it with a plate to prevent anything falling in.

When it is active and bubbly again, add another cup flour and water, mixing well. Allow to rest for another 6 – 12 hours (the colder the weather the longer it will need). Once active for a final time, its ready to make your bread!! (note if you used a starter that had been left in the fridge unfed  for more than a week it might need one more feed at this stage to get it really bubbly and happy again). You should now have roughly 2 cups of mixture.

The final stage
To your mixture add, 1 cup water, ~ 3 – 3  1/2 cups flour and 1 tsp salt. Stir until combined. Then knead for 10 minutes adding more flour as needed.

Richard Bertinet has a wonderful technique for kneading, really just the French way, but he is where I discovered it. I found a rather unglamorous you-tube demonstration here. You will need a slightly wetter dough than my recipe, so add less flour. Also, I have never had success with this kneading method when I have used rye. A combination of spelt and wheat or all wheat seems to work best. I think high gluten is important here. You will end up with a more chewy result with this technique but its a bit more tricky so it might be best to master the basic sourdough before moving into complicating ways of kneading.

Once kneaded into a smooth dough, place into a greased and lightly floured bread tin and allow to rise covered with a damp cloth or plastic bag, until it doubles in size. This is usually between 6 and 12 hours depending on the temperature. Hot weather will make it rise a lot faster. You also have to be careful you don’t let it over rise as you will notice it starts sinking again.

Finally, bake in a pre-heated oven at 200°C/390°F for about 45 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped.

For example
Fri AM – Feed and split
Fri PM – Feed
Sat AM – Knead and put in tin
Sat PM – Bake 

For further reading on sourdough see Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions and Sandor Ellix Katz Wild Fermentation 

Rob’s chickpea pumpkin and date salad

October 14, 2011 § 8 Comments

As summer is on its way and the days get warmer, lighter fresh meals are entering the kitchen. Yet those vegies we typically associate with summer are not quite here. I love the winter flavours with a summer feel that this salad, served for dinner tonight by my friend Rob, embodies. Memories of winter somehow all the more pleasurable because they can be enjoyed from the warmth of spring.

Rob is not your typical looking cook, red-haired, you will often find him saw on grain woodworking some design at the back of the house in a cloud of fine dust that settles in his beard and hair, or gazing into space with one of his many instruments saddled in his lap. But Rob keeps surprising me with his kitchen skills and kindly agreed when I asked him to post his recipe… admitting he got it from somewhere else but long enough ago to have forgotten where and changed along the way. You can find his music here where he plays with the lovely Jess Ribeiro and the Bone Collectors. And here is his salad, Chickpea, Pumpkin and Date.

How to Make Chickpea Pumpkin and Date Salad

Roughly Chop about 1/2 a pumpkin and sprinkle it with 1 tsp ground cumin and 1 tsp ground coriander, drizzle with olive oil and bake in an oven at 180 degrees Celsius for about 1/2 to 3/4 of an hour.

In the meantime take 2 cups dried chickpeas and cook in boiling water until soft (if your feeling lazy, or you want to, you can just use 2 cans chickpeas)

Combine in a large bowl with the pumpkin, a cup of roughly chopped dried dates, a handful of chives finely chopped, 2 bunches coriander roughly chopped, juice and rind of one lemon and a good dashing of olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste and voilà!

sauerkraut

July 29, 2011 § 1 Comment

The fermentation of cabbage is a very ancient chinese tradition that is believed to have come to Europe with the nomadic Tartars. So whilst we usually associate Sauerkraut with Germany, it is really only the name that bares its origin there. The French on the other hand call it ‘choukrout’.

Interestingly the fermentation of sauerkraut takes place with 3 different microorganisms in different successional stages of the process determined by increasing acidity. However when making sauerkraut you don’t have to worry about this, the microorganisms will take care of themselves wonderfully. What you will have to do is very very simple.

I find it so satisfying and a little bit magical harnessing the bacteria from the air to transform food. As you will probably come to know, fermentation is one of my most favourite things.  On this matter, sauerkraut is a very good place to start, as it is really very very easy.

This recipe comes from Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions.

1 medium organic cabbage, cored and shredded (use half red and half green and end up with a beautiful pink sauerkraut)
1 Tbsp sea salt
4 Tbsp whey (alternatively use an additional 1 Tbsp salt)

Shred the cabbage and combine in a bowl with the salt and whey.

Pound with a wooden pounder, or anything similar you can get your hands on. I usually use  a metal potato masher. Keep this up for about ten minutes to release the juices.

Place in a large wide mouthed and steralised glass jar. Press down firmly with pounder  or potato masher until the juices rise above the cabbage. The top of the cabbage should be at least 1 inch bellow the jars mouth. Cover tightly and leave at room temperature for approximately 3 days before transferring to the fridge. It is then ready to but will improve with age.

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.

Autumn and Chutney Red and Green

March 18, 2011 § 2 Comments

The days are whirling on by. Why is there such a fine balance between being too busy and not busy enough. I have hit too busy hard and have resorted to that all to familiar feeling that any tiny spare moment in the day must be made productive. At the same time I am trying preciously to hold onto stolen moments alone in the garden, or a walk down a quite evening street, or a good stare at the ceiling whilst lying in bed. A life without time to smell winter on its way, or missing the precise day autumn turns the leaves on the trees, or  not noticing the loveliness of a miserable cold day,  isn’t worth living to me.

So Autumn has snuck up and run me over. It comes with cold toes and dewy grass, turmeric days, darkening evenings, soup cravings and way too many tomatoes in the garden.

This Tomato Chutney recipe originated from a friends brother. Its evolved a bit along the way but was so damn good to start with that it would be a shame to change it too much. The recipe calls for green tomatoes but because ours are still ripening I  have used red ones instead and just used a bit less salt. If you are using red ones you also don’t need to let the tomatoes sit over night in the salt as the recipe suggests.

Recipe for Tomato Chutney

2 kg tomatoes roughly chopped
700 g onion finely diced
700 g grated apple
1/3 of a cup salt (if using red tomatoes 1/4 cup will do)
2 cups dark brown sugar
400 g sultanas or raisins
400 g dates roughly chopped
2 and 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp turmeric
1/2 Tbsp curry powder
1 Tbsp whole cummin seeds
1 Tbsp whole coriander seeds
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp mustard seeds
/2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp chilli powder
1 Tbsp whole cloves
1 Tbsp whole pepper corns

Put the tomatoes, onion and salt together in a bowl and leave to rest overnight (this is only necessary if you are using green tomatoes).

Place all ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil for a couple of minutes. Simmer and stir regularly for 45 minutes.

In the meantime pre heat the oven to 140°C.  Clean about 10 jars in hot water. Place the jars on their sides in the oven until they have dried. Boil the lids in a saucepan of hot water.

Pour the mixture, it must be still boiling hot,  into the hot jars and tighten the lids immediately.

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