19 December, 2011

I grew garlic! I'm over the moon!!

Now this is a weird post but I seriously had to share it anyway! I had a clove of garlic many months ago that started sprouting so I pushed it in to some dirt next to my chilli plant in a pot and watched it grow. Now you would think I wouldn't be so damn amazed that I GREW GARLIC but you see here's the kicker...........a few months ago, after forgetting to tend, water, love or do anything to said chilli plant (and hence the garlic) I wandered past the pot to sadly find that my unloved garlic had died. The top leaves came off in my hands. I threw that in the bin and didn't give the poor baby any more thought. My garlic growing career was over, or so I thought!

Yesterday Ryan watered the chilli (plus the dirt next to it of course!) with the dog bowl water. Today I walked out the front and lo and behold there was an entire garlic bulb sticking up out of the dirt! Comment from son "wow I thought I had uncovered some weird eggs but I didn't think to tell you".

So today we have an entire organic homegrown bulb of garlic and my garlic growing career has been resurrected!

21 November, 2011

Life gets in the way of blogging

If anyone has been sitting with their breath held for more from Jenny's kitchen I am really really really (well you get the point) sorry that I have been absent for so long!

There are times when life gets in the way of blogging and the last few months have been a lot like that for this household BUT life is sort of getting back to normal here, though I am not sure what normal really means except maybe something I read once about "normal being a setting on a clothes drier".................so stay tuned for more from my kitchen real soon.................and STOP holding your breath, it can have very very bad consequences!!!

17 July, 2011

Sunday OR "Using up Leftovers" Day!

Every second Sunday (the one after The Entrance Markets) seems to have become "using up leftovers" day.

Any fruit and vegetables that are leftover from FIG on a Tuesday or the markets the fortnight before have to be used to make way for all the fresh produce.

Sunday nights in winter seem to have become "soup and crumble" night and biscuits and cakes once again fill their respective containers as well as the freezer. Also the boys now have their weekly yoghurt supply to keep them going!

Sunday is also baking day and today I made enough biscuit dough to make 150 biscuits. I baked 1/5 of it, divided the rest of the dough in 4, added extra flavouring, rolled them in gladwrapped logs and popped them in the freezer. When I need them a log comes out of the freezer and is sliced in to rounds and baked from frozen. The ones I baked today were jam drops and the ones I froze were chocolate chip, white chocolate and cocoa, ginger and peanut butter/peanut! But with these types of biscuits you are really only limited by your imagination. So now we have biscuits for a while.

Tonight's soup is "white soup" which would be called potato and leek soup if I hadn't chucked in the leftover hunk of cauliflower that was hanging around in the fridge! Plus the leftover cream from Little Creek Cheese will go in to the soup.

Also on the menu for dinner is a rhubarb and apple crumble. Even the juice from the left over lemon wedges we didn't use with our fish during the week and the juice of a couple of wrinkled oranges that the kids kept bypassing went in to the fruit for the crumble!

So it's been a busy day in the kitchen but one that feels worthwhile.

"Waste not want not" is a saying I try to live by. EVERTHING you don't throw away, but find a use for, is money you don't have to earn. I think in Australia we waste way too much food these days. We've become such a disposable society. It is all too easy to chuck it in the bin when it's looking a bit tired rather than finding inventive ways to use it up.

I also made an apple cake to get rid of some of the leftover apples.

This recipe comes from one of my favourite old books "Family Circle: Fabulous Fast Cakes" published in 1994. I have added some water to the recipe as it was way too dry, added extra spice and reduced the cooking time.........so here is my version that I have been using for years now.

Apple and Fruit Cake Recipe
2 medium apples (any variety)
1 cup sugar
1 cup sultanas (or mixed fruit)....running out of sultanas, with not quite a cup, today I added chopped dates
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 and 1/2 cups self raising flour
2 eggs, beaten
60 melted butter
1/4 cup water

Preheat over to 180 degC
Grease a 20cm square or round cake tin
Peel, core and slice the apples finely (I also chop the slices in half)
Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix with a wooden spoon
Spoon mixture into the prepared pan
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes
When a wooden skewer comes out clean it is ready
Cool on a wire rack

So easy and so yummy! AND it means that at least 2 apples will no longer become landfill!! Also it is freezable so I often make more than one though today butter was becoming an issue!

15 July, 2011

Homemade Pasta (school holiday amusement)

A few months ago I bought an Atlas pasta maker and it has sat in it's box in the cupboard ever since! Expensive piece of rubbish maybe? NO!!!! Not any more anyway. I think I was just scared by the thought of making my own pasta? You CAN get pasta makers a lot cheaper but they are just that..............cheap!! From the stories I have been told anyway. I ventured there once, bought a cheap one, took it out of it's box and took it straight back to the store (after putting it back in it's box of course) for a refund. It had the bubble wrap moulded in to the body of the machine and you couldn't change cutting mechanisms. Nasty little waste of money.

Anyway, I decided today was the right time to use my investment. School holidays (well if you can call them that when you homeschool) and a bored 12yo boy on my hands made it the right time. Playdough is now a bit juvenile for him, pasta is similar to playdough AND you get to eat the result plus one of his favourite hobbies is eating.

I haven't made pasta by hand since I was married to my first husband (gee that would be about 30 years ago maybe?) and then it was SERIOUSLY by hand...no machines, no gizmos, no gadgets. Today I used a food processor for the dough and the pasta machine to roll and shape the dough. I would at least recommend the food processor to anyone reading this though to be honest the whole lot CAN be done by hand.

The result was delicious and hence the reason why the pasta maker is going to get a lot more airing from now on.......even by the said 12 year old who has vowed HE loves fresh pasta enough to make it himself! He did enjoy it but we'll see how long it takes him to realise that it could take away from his computer time!

I also made a bolognese sauce like I've never made before, with milk and cream, trying to stick to the authentic recipe from Bologna. Seeing so much love went in to the pasta the sauce all of a sudden became very important as well.

So here is the pasta recipe for those who feel like getting back to nature or becoming an Italian Mamma! Gosh I envy anyone who grew up in Italy with a mum who made everything from scratch! One of the photos is me looking very much like a big mamma!!!!

Basic Pasta Recipe
4 generous servings
(if you don't want to make it for 4 the ratio is 1 egg to 3/4 cup plain flour)

3 cups plain flour
4 eggs
2 large pinches of salt

In a Food Processor:
Put the flour and salt in the food processor, add the eggs one by one down the chute till the mixture forms a ball
Take dough out of the processor and knead for 2 to 3 minutes
Wrap in a teatowel to prevent a skin forming and rest for 15 minutes

By Hand:
In a large bowl (or on the bench) mound the flour and make a well in the middle
Add the eggs and salt
Use a fork or your fingers and slowly start blending from the middle, working more and more of the flour in to the egg mixture (you may need to add some water to make the dough the right consistency for kneading)
When it is all combined knead for about 5 minutes
Wrap the dough in a teatowel and rest for 15 minutes

For the pasta machine:
Cut the dough in to 5 or 6 even amounts, roll each in to a ball and squash it a bit
Run each ball through on the widest setting (on my machine it is 1) 3 times, then fold the pasta in thirds (see photo) and run it through on 1 again. Repeat the folding and running through another 5 or 6 times (on 1), till the dough feels silky
Put the machine on 2, run the dough through
Put the machine on 3, repeat
Keep going till the dough is as thin as you want it, right down to 9. I stopped at 5
When the dough is as thing as you desire use the cutters
Tonight I made tagliatelle

IF you are doing it by hand the same "silky feel" applies, keep rolling and folding and rolling and folding till it feels right and you have it as thin as you desire
To cut hand rolled pasta in to strips (ie tagliatelle) leave it to rest for a little bit till it's a bit drier or it might stick then roll each sheet up like a jam roll and slice along the length (this is how I did it 30 years and 3 marriages ago!)

Hang the finished pasta over a broom handle between 2 chairs or lay it out on a teatowel to dry a little bit before cooking.

Fresh pasta takes a lot less time than dried pasta to cook.

Bring a very large pot of well salted water to the boil, add the pasta and cook for about 5 minutes, checking by tasting it, till cooked. It won;t go as "mushy" as supermarket dry pasta and you will really all of a sudden understand the meaning of "al dente"!!

09 July, 2011

Poached pears in a spicy red wine syrup

Winter calls for seasonal fruit of a warming variety and red wine........and this recipe incorporates both things!

At FIG this week we got pears again (Food Integrity Group, an organic food coop on the Central Coast, NSW)........and they were a bit hard, with not a great chance of ripening any time soon, so I reckoned that with the cold weather the way it is, red wine and a bit of simmering they should be perfect in no time at all!

I'm not sure what order the photos will upload but they show the cooking process, the finished product with a quenelle of cream (Caitie was in a "quenelling mood") and another one of how we actually ate it with a big blob of cream.

So here's the way I did it and I decided that taste testing had to come before blogging. So here I sit with a replete belly typing.

Pears In a Spicy Red Wine Syrup

serves 4 to 6 (depending on how many pears you use and how big they are)

300ml red wine
300ml water
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves
zest and juice of 1 orange
4-6 pears

Heat everything except the pears in a medium sized saucepan
Bring to the boil and boil till the sugar dissolves
Peel the pears and chop off a bit of their bottoms so they sit flat, if you're in the mood core them as well (though I don't bother)
Pop them in the pot (and a lot of people say sit them upright but it seriously doesn't matter, mine do just fine lying down)
Bring back to the boil, reduce heat then simmer for 30 to 40 minutes or until pears are soft when tested with the point of a sharp knife
Remove the cinnamon and cloves
Put in the fridge to cool (overnight is good but not essential)
Serve with icecream, cream or creme anglaise
(tonight I used whipped cream with a half a vanilla bean and a dash of sugar, I think it's called something fancy like "creme chantilly", but to me it's just the way mum used to do cream!)

29 June, 2011

Mandarin Madness......the tree that should be dead

I'm not sure what these scrummy winter fruits are called in America....I think it could be mandarin oranges but google in this case was NOT my best friend! Anyway, in Australia they are called "mandarins" and I have one lonely tree growing in my backyard and it is now winter which is when the fruit ripens. The tree has been there now for about 18 years and for the last 8 years it has been in about 1 foot square of soil and hemmed in by a pool fence, a small wall and the pool pump plus assorted pool toys that hide there when it gets windy which it was last week!

When we originally put the pool in and had it landscaped the landscaper was going to rip it out because he reckoned there was no way in the world it would survive but amazingly the tenacious little thing is still going (I wouldn't say strong, but still going) and we harvest multitudes of sweet, juicy, good sized mandarins every year. It never gets watered or sprayed or fed or cared for in any way EVER! Maybe I SHOULD love it more seeing I seriously love it's fruit but I get scared that if I actually did anything to it there is always the chance it might curl up and die on me.

Anyway, it is that time of year again and DH went out yesterday afternoon, in the rain, and decided it was time for the first picking. What to do with heaps of mandarins before they turn in to compost in the house and start attracting fruit flies I hear you ask??

Marmalade is a quite usual thing to do with mandarins and cakes and desserts of different varieties are also fairly usual but one thing I did last year (and plan to do again this year) is mandarin jelly because it is so easy and the kids love it!

BUT don't do what I did with my first batch last year and wait till the mandarins have annoyed you so much, and everyone has eaten their fill, that you have to do SOMETHING with them and accidentally add the juice of an off, putrid, sour, stinky mandarin.....your jelly will taste disgusting!

So here is the recipe using fresh, sweet smelling, yummy mandarins!

Mandarin Jelly
500ml mandarin juice
2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
1 tablespoon powdered gelatine

heat the mandarin juice and sugar on the stove till the sugar has dissolved
dissolve the gelatine in the hot liquid
whack it in the fridge to set (after you put it in a bowl of course!)

How easy is that??? If you want "adult" jelly try substituting some of the mandarin juice (about 75ml or to taste) with an orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier.

27 June, 2011

2 basic biscuit recipes....this is for you Sarah!

DD Sarah (25) is the one who has abandoned ship and moved out on her own with her baby. This morning on MSN came an urgent request for my 2 favourite biscuit recipes that I have been making for years. I am really sorry but I can't give the credit to anyone because I have had the recipes for so long that I have no idea where they originally came from!

So these are for you Sarah! And of course anyone else who wants to give them a try!! My kids will tell you they are REALLY good!

Chocolate Chip Biscuits/Cookies
makes approx 45

250g softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C
Cream butter and sugar, add eggs and vanilla and mix well
Sift in flour, baking powder and salt, stir in and mix thoroughly
Add chocolate chips, mix and place mixture in spoonfuls on baking tray
Bake in oven approx 15-20 minutes until light golden
Cool on a wire rack

Peanut Butter Biscuits/Cookies
makes approx 30

90g butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup peanut butter (peanut paste)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C
Cream butter and sugar
Stir in the beaten egg, mixing well to blend
Stir in the peanut butter and vanilla extract
Sift in the dry ingredients and then mix well
Knead the mixture slightly to form a stiff, smooth dough, then roll small pieces of the dough in to balls
Place the balls on a greased baking tray and flatten them with a fork
Bake in the oven at 180 degrees C until firm, about 15 minutes
Cool on a wire rack


Morning Musings

To me this is EARLY! It's 7.22am. I know to many people that would be late but our house runs in a different time zone I think.........well it did until DH Dave got himself a second job. Circumstances changed recently, DD(25) and her baby moved out and there was a financial shortfall that needed covering so he started working for a temp nursing company. His "normal" job means he finishes at 11pm and our family for years has based their sleeping patterns on his work hours but now, with the temp work, he can also start early some mornings.......so here I am blogging at just after 7am which, like I said, to me is EARLY!

Back tracking a bit here, last night, after dinner clean up and before going to bed I realised the bread was frozen. Now it would have been easy to thaw some in the microwave but, being a good wife, I figured that it would be nice if I got up with said DH (who has toddled off to work now) and make his breakfast, make his lunch and generally keep him company while he got ready for work. BAD MISTAKE!! Well not REALLY bad just a little bit bad because I know what I'll be like tonight. DH will get home at 2pm and have a nanny nap, whereas I have real trouble sleeping during the day.

So setting this morning's scene........alarm goes off at 6am. Pull quilt back over head and try and pretend I can't hear it...........oh damn he turned the light on (in the back room but hey it's still LIGHT). So I'm lying in bed thinking "why did I not make his lunch last night again? This is winter....who wants to get out of bed on a winter's morning?" After about 10 minutes of half awake, half asleep debate in my head I finally surrender and decide I'd better do the good wife thing.

Stumble out of bed, slippers on, coffee plunger ready, jug boiled, cereal out, bowl, spoon, milk, yoghurt, bread, butter, cheese, pickles, lunch box and insulated bag........going well so far.even though my eyes are still tiny slits!

DH sitting at table expectantly...............silly me pours his cereal in to the ashtray..........woops I would have SWORN that was the bowl!!! Hey at least I didn't put the milk in as well.

Now, sitting here, I'm on to my second (and final) morning coffee, bright eyed and bushy tailed and I've already sorted the washing that was in the drier, opened all the blinds, put the next load of washing on, tidied the kitchen and got the barramundi out to thaw for dinner.

Reckon I could go back to bed for a bit? Not on your life!!!

Maybe I need to go make the bed so that I really don't crawl back in to it???

24 June, 2011

Fennel and orange salad with a verjuice dressing

I bought some fennel at the markets last time I was there and figured I had better use it somehow! I've watched a few TV shows that have used fennel in a fennel and orange salad so I figured I could do it as well.............and here is the result!

Fennel and Orange Salad with Verjuice Dressing
For the dressing:
1tbs honey
1tbs verjuice (or anything acidic like lemon juice)
salt and pepper to taste
abt 1/4 cup olive oil

Mix the honey, verjuice and salt and pepper then add the oil in a thin stream while whisking

For the salad:
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 oranges, peeled and segmented
4 cups mixed salad leaves (or just plain rocket if you want it more peppery)

After you have segmented the oranges add them to the other salad ingredients and then squeeze the juice over as well before adding the dressing, toss and serve............easy!

Serves 4

We had it tonight with some seared lamb rump. Even the "fussy one" (17yo DD) ate it all.....she did say fennel wasn't her favourite thing but if I liked it then she could tolerate it so that I could have it again! What a darling.

20 June, 2011

Little Creek Cheese

Little Creek Cheese

Just up the road from my house! This great cheese factory (I think it was April that the doors officially opened) is run by couple Sue and Russell who are totally dedicated to experimenting with new cheeses! Every time I go there they have something new to try and they have only been open such a short time..........I had a preview of their soon to be released cheddar last week and it is great......and time will make it even better I would say. They use milk from Udder Farm near Maitland and they now sell Udder Farm milk as well which is the milk I had been buying at The Entrance markets so now I don't have to go quite so far for my milk and I don't have to wait till market day to get it either. I have also been using their yoghurt as the starter for my own and it is great!

I would totally recommend their washed rind............beautifully stinky and soft!

If you love cheese, live anywhere near Wyong and want to buy food that is as local as possible I would seriously suggest a visit to Little Creek to try their cheese!

Slowly I am converting as much of our food as I can to Aussie owned and made and as local as possible. Little Creek ticks that box for me!

12 June, 2011

Raining in the kitchen

My kitchen can be a nice warm cosy place to sit, eat, gossip, share a drink or 3 and do whatever but there are days like today when it buckets down with rain and you just have to get the towels and bowls out.

It might look aesthetically pleasing but there are definitely some disadvantages to having your stove underneath the chimney!

11 June, 2011

What to do with egg whites.....instead of putting them in the fridge only to be thrown out a few days later!

Well, it's been almost a year since I actually blogged! Naughty, naughty me! But today was a really busy day in my kitchen so I had the urge to record it.

It all started with looking at the menu and realising we were having chicken thighs for dinner. Thai green curry seemed like a good idea so the thighs were gotten out of the freezer to thaw. Then it was morning coffee time.....in to the fridge for the coffee.....OH NO the boys needed some yoghurt. Guess I'd better make some more.

Coffee brewing, I figured I'd better get down to some serious yoghurt making. I make yoghurt always once, but sometimes twice a week, plus yoghurt for no 1 daughter, so it's not a real biggie. Milk to 85 degrees Celsius, off the stove, cool to 44 degrees, then add a tablespoon of plain yoghurt starter, put in 1 litre glass jar and place that in it's thermos type insulator thing. I wish decor still made them because I know at least one of my daughters who would buy one! But that would then mean I didn't get to make her yoghurt and enjoy her company at the same time. Anyway, after the yoghurt is in it's little thermal pot it takes four hours to set...............BUT while I was doing the yoghurt I realised we had a fair bit of milk and cream and there was icecream and mayonnaise on the shopping list for this week.................."ah I know let's MAKE them instead of buying them"................famous last words!

I've been buying fresh milk and cream from a local dairy and eggs from a guy out in the valley.....I love the "localness" of it all and figured that you really can't beat (no pun intended) homemade vanilla bean icecream and homemade mayonnaise.

Now for the "what do I do with the egg whites" dilemma................4 yolks were used in the icecream and after a total mayonnaise disaster, because I actually decided to read a recipe (silly me) that said to put the flavourings in with the yolk before you added the oil drop by drop and use electric beaters then trying to rescue it after it separated with first a tablespoon of boiling water and then another beaten egg yolk added drop by drop, I went back to what I know best, threw it out, started again and used a whisk, beat the egg yolk, added the oil drop by drop (ably assisted by Ryan the 12yo, who now will value his mayonnaise a lot more than he ever has before in his life). Voila! Homemade mayonnaise with the addition of a few flavourings.

My Mayonnaise Recipe
1 egg yolk
half to one cup of oil (canola is good, nothing too flavoured like olive oil)
beat the egg yolk with a whisk then add the oil drop by drop, though once it gets a bit thick you can add it a bit faster and stop with the oil when you have the consistency you want
1 tablespoon either lemon juice, verjuice or a decent white wine vinegar (today I used half lemon, half white wine vinegar)
salt, sugar and dijon mustard to taste
couple of shakes of cayenne pepper if you feel like a small kick
Will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Anyway, after all that palaver (icecream and mayo) I ended up with 8 spare egg whites!

Now in the past I have very diligently put them in an airtight container in the fridge like the "waste not want not" type of person I would really like to be only to discover them a few weeks later and throw them in the bin!

Today was going to be different but I really didn't want to age them for French Macarons (as delicious as they are) so I decided that the old American version of Coconut Macaroons and a pavlova would be just right for the number of egg whites I had. Besides, what else goes so well as dessert after a Thai green curry than a true Aussie pav??? ROFL

So here are my recipes for "What do I do with leftover egg whites?"

Coconut Macaroons
4 egg whites
1.5 cups icing sugar
3 cups dessicated coconut
12 drops vanilla essence
(and I added some pandan colouring to make it a pretty green, just because I could!)

Heat oven to 160 Celsius
Beat egg whites till stiff, add sugar gradually and continue beating till thick
Stir in coconut and vanilla (and pandan colouring!)
Pile in heaped teaspoons on a baking tray and cook for about 10 minutes till just slightly coloured
Cool on a rack
makes about 48

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 teaspoons white vinegar

Heat oven to 110 Celsius
Beat the egg whites till stiff
Add the sugar gradually and continue beating till mixture is stiff and glossy (and the sugar is no longer grainy, though don't go too nuts, it is still OK with a bit of graininess)
Fold in cornflour, vanilla and vinegar
Put on an oven tray that has baking paper lightly sprayed with oil and then dusted with cornflour.........whatever shape you want! Round is normal but hey freeform it however you like! Just try and keep some sides so that the topping doesn't fall off
Bake for about an hour to an hour and a half, trying not to let it go dark (well mine usually end up a pale brown but in theory it should be still white)
Cool on tray
Top with whipped cream and whatever fruit you have handy. Berries are good but so is banana, passionfruit, mango, kiwi fruit and at a pinch I've used canned sliced peaches! Use your imagination anyway.

So after ALL that kitchen time I seriously didn't want to be standing any more.........but hungry kids don't let you get away with not making dinner so I still had to do the green curry......oh and by the way, for green curry I reckon the absolute BEST chicken to use is thigh as breast tends to dry out whereas thigh stays beautifully tender!

Now to go back and get myself a small piece of leftover pav..............