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..............