Thursday, 5 July 2012
Aurora @ Island Dreaming
Flax is a wonderful plant. It is the plant that gives us linen fibre and flax seeds, which have a multitude of uses. I saw a field of the stuff in flower last year and didn't have my camera, but it was glorious - tall willowy single stemmed plants, packed in tightly together, with beautiful bright blue flowers at the tops. The seeds are highly nutritious, a good source of Omega 3 oils, protein and vitamins, according to the Wikipedia page. 100g of seed contains a whopping 27g of fibre, hence the warnings on flax seed packets to drink extra water when including them in your diet. I have been known to sprinkle the seeds on porridge when I am feeling particularly worthy and we sometimes add them to bread.
My main interest in it however is as an egg replacement in baking. They are one option if you are catering for vegans or egg allergies and helpful to have in the freezer if you have ever found yourself out of eggs and in need of cake. High temperature baking, I imagine, will destroy many of the good fats in the seed, however the protein, fibre and minerals will remain intact.
I had thought that I would be saving serious money if I bought whole seed to grind at home as ground flax was extortionate when I purchased it a few years ago. A quick Google search suggests that I saved pennies this time around, not pounds, as its super-food status has made it more widely available. I did however save a long walk to the health food shop, I bought these seeds in my local greengrocer.When I opened the pack, I wasn't particularly convinced, having only ever bought them in ground form. They look and smell soapy, bitter and nutty - not nice. Ground they are transformed, they are sweet and nutty. I set to work with the stick blender. It took a little longer than I thought, about 5 minutes of pulsing and stirring. The image above is about two thirds of the way through the grinding process. The finer the resulting powder, the more effective 'eggs' they will make. It is recommended that the ground product is stored in the freezer as it oxidizes quickly.
To make a single flax 'egg', mix 1 rounded tablespoon of flax with three tablespoons of cold water and set aside. If they can be made half an hour in advance and chilled, the consistency will be even thicker and will bind and support the rise of your baking. Flax 'eggs' cannot be substituted into just any recipe, however most recipes can be adapted. Anything that requires over 2-3 eggs will not work, nor will whipped egg sponges. They have a sweet nutty taste and I have substituted them successfully into numerous muffin recipes and cookie recipes without any trouble. They also make quite wholesome tasting pancakes. I have seen warnings not to put them with chocolate, however I made a chocolate sponge that rose well with no hint of flax taste. The rule seems to be that they can be used in anything as long as they form a small proportion of the overall mix and the mix is richly flavored, or their flavour can be used to advantage in 'healthy' style muffins ad baked goods. Oh - and don't try to make omlettes with them!
Tuesday, 5 June 2012
In today's society of instant gratification, seldom do the people take the time to make food for themselves. Here is my argument. When I worked in South Yarra a few years ago, the first thing some of my co-workers did before they got to work was go to a local Cafe and buy a coffee (in a disposable cup) and a muffin for breakfast. Then, at morning tea the regulars headed for the snack trolley for more cakes or a meat pie. Then at 1 pm it was off to lunch.
All of this prepared food must cost them a small fortune. Here is the maths as I see it. Coffee + Muffin = A$6.00, Meat pie + Cake or doughnuts = A$5.50, and lunch at a local Cafe = A$12 to 20. So this lifestyle, if continued each working day, costs between $117 to $157 a week, and oh, those calories! I am not saying that some of the people I used to work with are a bunch of fatties, I am simply stating that from my point of view, it looked like normal practice and probably is the norm in most city office environments. For all I knew they could have exercised every day to keep fit, so the high calorie intake may have been cancelled out. The point that I am making is that the money they could save could have been used for better things.
For example, compare this weekly spend to the cost of buying a few basic groceries, like cereal, milk, coffee, bread, sandwich fillings etc, all of which will last for a week with only one person consuming. This would save them at least $100 a week (I am being generous). Better still, if you still crave for that muffin in the morning, buy a box of muffin mix for $3 and make 6 muffins to a box, and put them in the freezer for breakfast. Oh, so very simple. Think of what one could do with all of these savings. One could pay down some of their credit card debt, or make an extra mortgage payment, or if renting one could save for a house deposit (if so inclined).
I regularly go that little bit further, by baking bread regularly, and Kim baked cakes, scones and biscuits for lunch boxes. I take my lunch to work at least four times a week (a man has to have a treat once in a while), whilst Ben has never bought his lunch from the school canteen when he was at school. It all adds up when you have a family of five mouths to feed, which includes the dogs! Now that I think of it, we eat very cost effectively and eat healthy food most of the time. I suppose with such a large vegetable patch, it is hard not to do!
Kim has watched the entire series of "Little House on the Prairie" that she bought off of eBay, and she loves the characters and the simple life it portrays. Now, because of the show, and all that baking Caroline does, Kim has a baking bee in her bonnet. She is a great baking cook. A while back, she made a Streusal cake (tastes great) and a batch of scones. The recipes were taken from an old 1992 book, first published in 1963, called "The Dairy Book of Home Cooking" that she bought from the milk man when she lived in the UK (remember when we had milkmen?). To show how simple it is to make scones, here is the recipe;
225g Self raising flour
half tsp salt
50g Butter or Margarine
Sift flour and salt into a bowl, rub butter into flour until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add all of milk, and mix to a soft, but not sticky dough with a knife (?). Turn on to a lightly floured work surface. Knead quickly until smooth. Roll out to about 1 cm thick. Then cut into 7 or 8 rounds with a 6.5cm biscuit cutter (cookie cutter for Americans reading). Transfer to a greased baking tray. Bake at 230 degrees C (450F) for 7-10 minutes or until well risen and golden. Cool on a wire cooling rack. Then spread with home made jam and scoff the lot (I added this bit in).
The scones were so yummy, that my daughter Megan and I had to have one each for morning tea, smothered in Gav's strawberry jam. I believe that it is the simple foods in life that are, and taste the best, and that simple, sustainable living is much more gratifying than the instant type I mentioned at the beginning of the post.
Who is up for a scone and jam?
Friday, 27 April 2012
Two Christmases ago we were given a stoneware pizza stone; and it has proved one of the most useful presents we have ever been given. Our oven has a bottom heating element that creates a column of heat that turns the base of anything you are trying to cook black before the rest is even warmed through. This especially spells disaster for anything going in at a high temperature - bread for example. If you consistently fail at baking, it may not be your technique, but your tools. Glass, metal and Teflon (which we avoid anyway) just don't compare if you have an oven like mine.
Our pizza stone has changed all of that. It distributes heat evenly, but insulates the edges of the food from very high heat, giving the bread the best chance at rising and cooking evenly. It also 'seasons' to a smooth, genuinely non-stick surface that requires very little oiling or lining. As well as loaves, we have also made pizza at least once a fortnight - quick, healthy (if you are frugal with the cheese) and easy to eat on the go if need be. We have since invested in a stoneware brownie tray, not that we eat a lot of brownies (though that might change!), but because it is the perfect size for baking and roasting small quantities of vegetables. I also envision a lot more trays bakes coming from our kitchen in the near future.
New stoneware is a fairly pale, unglazed variant of stone coloured. If it is to perform its non-stick duties well, it will need to be seasoned. An initial seasoning can be achieved by either brushing the new pan with oil and baking it empty at a high heat for an hour or so, or by making sure that the first few times it is used to cook actual food, that that food is quite oily. The latter method is the route we took, the initial result is not as even, but it soon evens out with repeated use and this method also saves energy. The stoneware will initially turn golden, becoming a deeper shade of brown with every use:
Once well seasoned, stoneware can be cleaned with soap if absolutely necessary, although by this time it will be so non-stick that a wipe with a warm damp cloth or short soak in hot water should suffice. Burnt on residue can be scraped off with an old debit card. You can cut food on stoneware, but be warned it will likely blunt your knife, not damage the stoneware itself. The only thing that will truly damage your stoneware is extreme changes in temperature - therefore it should not go from the fridge to a hot oven or vice versa, or be exposed to direct heat. Care should be taken to ensure that stoneware pieces are not dropped or knocked. They may remain intact, but will be weakened and may instead break whilst in use at a later date, when you least expect it.
If you want to invest in stoneware, as always, buy the best you can afford and buy the unglazed variety. You can buy everything from casserole dishes to muffin trays and we are gradually adding pieces to our collection as funds allow. Be prepared to show it a little TLC in the beginning and it will serve you well.
Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Our winter squash supply serves as our pumpkin supply for pies and other desserts too. Instead of thinking of recipes and going from there, with a staple like winter squash, I like to keep some cooked on hand. Like canned pumpkin only I don't can it, I just keep a stash of cooked squash on hand in the refrigerator during the dark days. The squash keeps well in storage until the following summer, so I just constantly monitor the squash and cook about one or two a week.
Sweet Meat winter squash
We like these cake-like cookies because they are soft and not too sweet, and they are a good way to use up extra squash leftover from dinner or just an excuse to cook up another squash and make cookies.
PUMPKIN COOKIES 4 dozen
4 c flour
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
4 t pumpkin pie spice or a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger etc., to taste
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 T vanilla
2 cups cooked squash or pumpkin
1 1/2 c raisins
Preheat oven to 375 F. Measure dry ingredients into sifter and set aside. Cream butter and sugar together, add vanilla, mix well. Add pumpkin, mix well. Add dry ingredients gradually and mix until well blended. Stir in raisins and mix until well distributed.
Drop teaspoonsful of dough on parchment lined baking pans. Bake 10 -12 minutes. Cool.
Wednesday, 30 November 2011
I discovered a great recipe for scones last week and they were a huge hit with the kids. Simple, inexpensive and tasty, they've been added to my regular list of snacks for the kids.
This recipe is adapted from a CWA Classics recipe book.
80gm butter chopped
110gm S/R flour
170gm Wholemeal S/R flour
pinch of salt
1 egg beaten
1 420gm tin of spaghetti in tomato sauce
1 tb Worcestershire sauce
Add the flour and salt to a mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the flours until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the beaten egg, spaghetti and sauce to the mixture. Mix until just combined. Turn out the dough onto a well floured surface. Knead the dough until smooth for around 30 seconds and then cut using a drinking glass or a scone cutter. Makes around 10.
Place onto a greased or baking paper lined tray and bake at 200 degrees Celsius for approx 15 minutes. Bake until cooked through. Place into a tea towel lined bowl and once cooled store them in an airtight container. These scones will keep relatively well until the following day or freeze any leftover for school and kinder snacks. Big kids and adults like these too!
I usually add grated cheese, fresh herbs and bacon pieces to make savoury scones, but the spaghetti is a great change. Enjoy!
Tuesday, 8 November 2011
As I wrote at this post titled "Clay Oven Community", I have been making a clay cob oven in my back yard. After five layers of cob, it is now finished except for a little render on the base, but other than that we have been cooking in the oven on weekends. You can read about how I made the oven on my personal blog under the label "Cob Oven"
Before we used it for the first time I spent some time making a door for the cob oven, cut it to size and popped on some handles. I used the two bits of ply that I cut for the door arch template, trimmed off about 1cm from the bottom, screwed them together and added some handles. The handles are just some shelving brackets that I screwed into the front of the door.
We also added a coat of render and my lovely wife Kim decorated it with mosaic tiles.
Kim worked diligently on the oven to make it all beautiful. All of the tiles were pushed into the render or stuck on and the grout has been applied. The grout colour is terracotta.
I think that the finish is wonderful and it really is an outdoor feature, as well as a practical oven.
Here is the other side with the grout still wet.
So my first attempt of cooking in the oven was a bit of experimentation. I lit the fire at about 5pm and kept it going until about 6.30pm. There were lots of hot coals that I pushed to the sides of the oven, and then put the door on for about 10 minutes to let the heat build up. It only got to about 180C (356.0F). Kim was busy in the kitchen making the pizzas and brought the first one out, which was a garlic pizza. Just a base drizzled with olive oil, crushed garlic, some Italian herbs and a little rock salt. It took just over 10 minutes to cook.
|A big smile for the first pizza!|
This quick and easy pizza was brown on top and bottom, and was scoffed down in about 2 seconds flat. Luckily it was time for the main meal, so in went all the other pizzas.
These took a little longer, about 20 minutes and the door was on during the cooking time. They were still a bit soggy on the bottom because we used trays. We also found that the temperature dropped considerably and had to throw a few more sticks on the coals to raise the heat to finish off the cooking. In essence it cooled down way too quickly.
Since that first attempt, we have added a layer of render to the oven, and the mosaics as you have seen. After all of that dried solid I tried to cook in it again. I started the fire small, and built it up and kept the burn going for 3 hours which was twice as long as the first attempt. I pushed the coals all over the floor and let it sit for 10 minutes to heat it up. Then I moved the coals aside and mopped the oven floor with a wet rag on a stick to get rid of the ash. I checked the temperature and it had reached 350C (662.0F)! I was pleased with that so got ready to cook. This time I made simple garlic and herbed bread in a thick pizza shape. I floured the peel and placed each pizza in the oven directly on the floor. This time the pizza cooked in 4 minutes flat, with the dough cooking all the way through. I cooked 4 of these flat breads in a row in the space of 8 minutes which tasted fantastic!
Just after we finished the pizzas, I put the door in place and found that the temp went up to 400C (752.0) and the door began to blacken, so I removed it quickly. Talk about being hot! If I soak the door in water before I cook, it should stop this from happening.
This time we found that the oven kept its heat for more than 4 hours, with the temp dropping down to about 180C at about midnight. If I had have planned ahead, I would have cooked a roast dinner next, then bread, and maybe even more bread or pastries or even jacket potatoes in foil on the coals.
I have so much more to learn, and have even bought a cook book specifically for cob ovens which should help a lot. I know that there will be many more wonderful meals to come out of this oven in the very near future.
Does anyone have any suggestions of dishes to cook, or had experience with cooking in a clay cob oven? I would love feedback via comments.
Sunday, 11 September 2011
Nice to meet you all at the Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op! I'm Jemma, I live in New Zealand, and I love to cook and bake. I look forward to sharing some local, seasonal, healthy and inexpensive recipes with you.
For my first post, I thought I'd share this dessert recipe with you. I spotted some NZ raspberries and strawberries at our local community market yesterday and couldn't resist. I served them with these spiced meringues for dessert here at home last night, and it felt like our first taste of the warmer weather to come.
I love healthy food, so using cream is bending rules for me! But if you like the look of these, and want a healthier option, you could make the topping by mixing the fruit with low-fat vanilla yoghurt, or reduced fat fromage frais. You can also alter the fruit depending on what's in season near you, or what you have in your garden. Berries work beautifully, and frozen are just as good as fresh. Or how about some rhubarb lightly stewed with a little brown sugar?
Spiced Meringues with Strawberry & Raspberry Cream
1 egg white
50g caster sugar
1/4 tsp mixed spice
1-2 tsp icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence (or use extract or paste)
2-3 Tbsp plain yoghurt
about 100g strawberries or raspberries, or a mixture of both
Preheat the oven to 150 (c). Line a baking tray with baking paper.
To make the meringue, whisk the egg white until soft peaks form, and then whisk in the caster sugar, one teaspoon at a time. Once all the sugar has been whisked in, you should have a beautiful stiff, glossy meringue mixture. Whisk in the mixed spice.
Spoon the meringue mixture into mounds on the baking tray. I used this mixture to make two large meringues, but you could easily make three, or even four if you would like to make smaller sweets to serve with coffee. Use the back of the spoon to smooth the mounds into discs (see the photos to get an idea of the shape).
Place the tray in the oven and turn the heat down to 120 (c). Bake the meringues for 50 minutes, then turn the heat off. Leave the discs to cool in the oven. You can do this step in advance - the cooled meringues should keep in an airtight container for at least a day or two.
To make the cream topping, hull the strawberries and/or raspberries. Set aside 2-3 berries per meringue to use as a garnish, and hull the rest. Place them in a food processor and whiz to a puree. I don't mind the seeds in my topping, but if you prefer, you can pass the puree through a sieve.
In a large bowl or jug, whip the cream with the icing sugar and vanilla (use more icing sugar for tarter fruit). Fold the fruit into the cream, and spoon on top of the cooled meringues. Garnish with reserved berries and sprigs of mint.
Saturday, 19 March 2011
Saint Patrick's Day this week meant good some prices on corned beef. I was working yesterday, so put carrots, potatoes, and a chunk of corned top round in the crockpot before I left. When I got home, I added a few cabbage wedges on top and put the lid back on. While the cabbage cooked, I mixed up a batch of soda bread and got that into the oven. Dinner was ready in 30 minutes.
Soda bread is a wonderful quick bread, and not just for Saint Patrick's Day. It's easy to mix up with staples in most everyone's kitchen, ready in a little over half an hour. Aries always cuts into it as soon as it comes out of the oven, eating it with butter melting into the slice. I think it tastes even better the next day - adding the optional sugar and raisins makes for some great breakfast toast.
Soda Bread (makes 1 10" round loaf)
2½ cups flour (+ a bit more for shaping)
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
½ cup raisins (optional)
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar)
1 egg (optional*)
2 tablespoons oil (optional*)
Preheat your oven to 350F (175C) and grease a cookie sheet. Mix dry ingredients together, and stir in the raisins if using. Mix wet ingredients together in a separate cup, then stir into dry ingredients only until all is moistened. Dump onto a floured board and shape lightly into a flattened 8-10" round loaf. Place on cookie sheet, and cut an "x", an inch deep, into the top. Bake 30 minutes, or until top is lightly browned.
The reaction of the baking soda with the acidity of the buttermilk or vinegar in the milk acts as the leavening. Over-stirring or kneading the dough vigorously will make the bread tough - mix gently only until it holds together. Cutting the cross in the top allows the heat into the center of the loaf, allowing for a more even rising. I like to use 1½ cups whole wheat + 1 cup unbleached white flour most of the time.
**Edit** One of the really great things about this internationally written blog is the international input we all get. I loved the comments from Jo, at Smallholder Wannabe so much, I wanted to add them into the body of this post. She grew up in Ireland, and gives some insight into "real" soda bread:
"Having grown up in Ireland, I was brought up on soda bread. This recipe is the rich people's soda bread - ordinary people's soda bread would not have the egg in but just use 2 cups of flour to one of buttermilk and the bicarb and cream of tartar. When I was a child living in the town, the milkman delivered bottles of buttermilk to your doorstep along with the milk. Now buttermilk costs a bomb so we always go the route of a drop of vinegar in the milk to sour it.
"I use the same recipe as the soda bread to make scones but just rub in a little bit of fat. Egg never went in scones but country folk who had hens might have put an egg in the soda bread for Sunday tea or for visitors. Even in spring, country folk would rarely use eggs in soda bread if there was half a chance that they might be able to sell them. Nobody we knew classed as wealthy farmers but just ordinary farmers/smallholders trying to earn a living off the land."
So I've marked the egg and oil "optional" too. Thanks, Jo!
I bought some swiss cheese this week, and still have some fresh sauerkraut in the cellar. I'm thinking reuben sandwiches should be on the menu tomorrow night. I'll just whip up a rye version (replace half the whole wheat flour with rye, leave out the sugar and raisins, and add some caraway seeds) of this soda bread.
Monday, 10 January 2011
With winter full-on in our location, comfort food and warm fires come to mind. However, a few years ago my husband's life long digestive problems required a more in-depth look. He was diagnosed with many food allergies, and foods he liked started dropping off the menu like flies. The items that gave him the worst fits were potatoes and corn or dishes with those vegetables added. Low on the allergy tests were things like yeast, sugar and egg whites. All pretty easy to avoid, unless you really, really like baked goods like breads and desserts. As foods dropped away and he was still having occasional bouts of digestive problems, his doctor suggested maybe a gluten intolerance could be still bothering him.
Everywhere you look there are gluten free recipes for everything. For us though, that approach didn't really fit. Too many additives and things we didn't want to buy or eat just to have that brownie or bread. We - he the eater, and me the cook- decided that just cutting back would be a better approach. Since he wasn't really that gluten sensitive, maybe going back to a simpler time when desserts were actually a treat, not everyday fare, would be the way to go. Besides, cutting out sugar and refined carbs would benefit all of us.
Expanding on the treat idea, we decided we would just have one or two items a week that contained gluten. Maybe pizza, or pie. And I pretty much quit making two crust pies, whether savory or sweet. We found we didn't miss the extra crust, and in small amounts the weekly gluten or a little yeast in a pizza crust did not cause any digestive upsets. I think if I was trying the gluten free recipes for everything we would still be eating too much sugar and other things like high calorie nut flours we don't really need and are very expensive.
We all feel better, and realized that we were all a little sluggish with the baked goods and cereals in our diet. I realize that this won't help if you have a serious problem with gluten like celiac disease, but just a few changes in our kitchen yielded great results.
Have you made similar changes in your cooking and eating in regards to food sensitivities and allergies?
Monday, 6 December 2010
When I wrote about Batch Baking, I mentioned making pretzels, and a few of you asked how I make them. I make soft pretzels, which are traditionally made from a simple dough of flour, yeast, water and (usually) some butter, which is cut and rolled into strips that are looped in the distinctive pretzel shape, then boiled, sprinkled with salt, and baked. They are very easy to make, but a little time-consuming, because there are several steps involved. Pretzels make tasty snacks, and when stored in an air-tight container, they keep well for several days.
There are a number of excellent pretzel recipes online. I particularly like this traditional Bavarian Pretzel recipe, which has measurements both in metrics and cups, and also explains how you can have pretzels with a tall beer and white sausage slathered with sweet mustard as a mid-morning breakfast - I must remember to try that tomorrow morning!
However, I've made some changes to the original Bavarian Pretzel recipe. The flour I use is a mix of ⅔ whole wheat and ⅓ all-purpose flour, and I use a little extra-virgin olive oil to make the dough more elastic (though most pretzel recipes call for butter, this particular one has no butter or fat at all). Also, in line with our family's effort to reduce salt consumption, I don't sprinkle them with pure salt, but include sea salt, sesame seeds and fresh thyme in an egg glaze, and I spoon it over the pretzels before baking.
So, here's the recipe for my modified Bavarian Pretzels:
150 grams all purpose flour
350 grams whole wheat flour (total flour approx 4½ cups)
1 ½ cups warm water (approx)
1 package active dry yeast
3 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp brown sugar
½ tsp sea salt
saucepan half-full of water
baking soda (2 tbs per 1 cup of water)
4 tbs sesame seeds
½ tsp fresh thyme
4 tbs coarse sea salt
1 egg white
Stir the brown sugar and yeast into the warm water, letting the yeast dissolve. Add the all-purpose and whole wheat flours and the oil, and knead until the dough feels smooth. It should be firm and elastic, but not sticky. Put the dough in a bowl, cover with a dish-cloth, let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in size.
Line 2 or 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Add baking soda to water, bring the water to a boil. Pre-heat oven to 220C/450F.
Make the egg glaze: in a small electric mixer, combine seeds, thyme and salt, pulse a couple of times, add to the egg white, and beat well with a fork. (NOTE: the thyme may turn intense green during baking, probably as a reaction to the traces of baking soda on the pretzel's surface).
Divide the dough into 8 parts, roll out with your hands or on a work surface, and shape as a pretzel. To do this, you make a U shape, then take the ends, cross them over each other, and press them on the bottom of the U.
Place the pretzels in the boiling water one at a time, and leave for about 30 seconds each. They will puff up nicely as they boil. Scoop out each pretzel and place on a cookie sheet.
Spoon the egg glaze over the pretzels. Bake until golden brown (about 10 minutes).
PS Because in my family we are preparing to celebrate Christmas, I also modified the traditional looped pretzel shape slightly, to make a batch of holiday-shaped pretzels (here)!
Friday, 12 November 2010
From Spiral Garden
Summer is fast approaching here in Australia. For us, how we eat really marks the seasons. Here are some warm-weather favourites!
1 medium avocado
3/4 cup water
1/2 tblspn olive oil
juice of half a lemon
3 tsp fresh herbs (1/3 tsp dried herbs)
sprinkle of salt to taste
In blender or with stick blender process avocado & water. Add oil, herbs, salt, lemon juice. Process until creamy.
Sweet Corn & Bean Enchiladas
6 sheets Mountain Bread
1 tbspn olive oil
1 red onion, diced
1 red capsicum, diced
2 zucchini, grated
pinch chili powder
400g tin diced tomatoes
400g tin corn kernels, drained
400g tin red kidney beans, rinsed & drained
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup grated tasty cheese
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Heat oil in frypan, saute onion, capsicum & zucchini. Cook for 3 minutes. Add chilli powder and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add tomato, corn, beans, salt & pepper. Stir & simmer briefly then remove from heat.
Greast a large baking dish. Place 1/4 cup filling on a piece of mountain bread. Roll up and place in dish (seam side down). Repeat with remaining bread and filling.
Spoon salsa over enchiladas and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 15 minutes and serve. immediately with side salad.Frozen Mango Slice
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups water
3 cups mango pulp
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
300ml thickened cream
Combine water and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until dissolved into a syrup. Boil for about 5 minutes. Let cool. Process mangoes in a blender, add syrup and lemon/lime juice.
Divide mango mix into two. Pour one half into a tray (plastic square biscuit container or similar). Freeze.
Keep the other half of the mix in the fridge until the first lot is frozen. When it’s set, add the cream to the second half and pour this mix over the frozen half. Freeze until set, then cut into squares as you want it. Store in freezer.
Macadamia & Date Bars
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup macadamia halves/pieces
1/2 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1/2 cup raw sugar
2 tbspn honey
Mix the dry ingredients. Melt butter and mix in honey. Add that to dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Spread into greased shallow tin and cook at 190 degrees C for 20 minutes. Cut into squares or bars while hot (carefully, it crumbles at lot at this stage). Then let cool completely before lifting out to store in airtight container. Can freeze.
Monday, 8 November 2010
On baking day, my small kitchen looks like a mess, but there's a method behind the apparent madness. Cool baking sheets sit on chairs, awaiting their turn to go into the oven, while piping hot ones are cooling on the table or the stove-top. The countertop, where all the kneading and mixing takes place, is dusted in flour and cluttered with baking ingredients and implements. And my sink? On baking days, you can't even see it for all the dirty pots and pans and mixers piled up there!
The method is: batch baking. On the day when I need to make bread, every 5 days or so, I also bake one or two pizzas, a main dinner dish (like the lasagne verdi shown above), and often a cake or some cookies, too. I slip in odds and ends, too, like the stray potatoes that I keep finding in the garden after we harvested the main crop, or the hot peppers that I'm drying out before grinding them to make chili powder.
I bake in a batch to conserve electricity - I save on pre-heating, which takes up to 15 minutes with my oven, and do most of my weekly baking in the two hours or so that my oven is on. But I also like this system because grouping all my baking in a batch is a more economical use of my time.
In all the years I've baked in a batch, I've only had one mishap, when I tried to bake pretzels and bread at the same time. That day, I learned that some baked goods, like pretzels, need a hot and dry oven, while the bread I tried to bake with them was filling the oven with humidity. Since then, I've baked pretzels first, on their own, and everything else right afterwards.
Baking in a batch has also stood the test of time: it's how most baking was done until not too many years ago, when a frugal lifestyle wasn't a choice, but a necessity (here).
Tuesday, 6 April 2010
.. no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation ... will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.
--M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating
I love making bread. It's one of the first things I started making from scratch and it's so worth it. I was pretty young when I started my baking career. I remember making bagels and other delicious bread with my mom when I was in jr high. I've been baking ever since. I mostly focus on breads since I don't have much of a sweet tooth. There's just something about homemade bread, it tastes so much better than store bought, it saves money, and it provides a connection with the past.
When I first started making bread I make traditional recipes made with fresh yeast. After mastering those recipes I decided to tackle artisan breads using the delayed fermentation method from The Bread Baker's Apprentice. When I'd learned to make delicious artisan bread, I started learning more about grains and starting grinding my own grain for baking. I then turned my attention to learning to make sourdough breads. The thought of using wild yeast was fascinating to me. Not only are sourdough breads tasty and delicious, but they're much healthier as well.
I find making bread enjoyable and deeply satisfying on a basic level. Perhaps it's being able to make something delicious for my family. Or the wonder of mixing flour with yeast and water and kneading it into a delicious loaf. Maybe our emotions are nourished as well as our bodies when we form a hands on connection with what we eat. I'm not quite sure what it is, but I know that it's something I'll be doing for the rest of my life.
Do you have an activity you do that is deeply satisfying to your soul?
Friday, 26 March 2010
Living The Frugal Life
I couldn't resist this. I've been working my way through online videos of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's various shows. I'm a bona fide sucker for traditional British foods, especially those with evocative or unusual names. So when he mentioned lardy cake, it hardly mattered what was in it or how it tasted. The name alone was sufficient to lure me. It turned out vaguely like an American sticky bun, but much more interesting, and less sweet overall. Really, I only say that it's like a sticky bun because that's the closest thing Americans would know, but resemblances fall apart pretty quickly.
Although "cake" usually denotes something that includes egg and is leavened chemically, this concoction has no egg and is made with yeasted bread dough. The first time I made lardy cakes, I had no lard on hand. So I substituted non-hydrogenated palm oil shortening, which actually turned the lardy cakes into a vegan preparation. (I know! I won't tell anyone if you won't.) The second time I took a stab at actually rendering my own lard, which quickly convinced me that purchased lard is one of the best deals going. Rendering lard is an extremely stinky process. I started it indoors, but quickly decided to move the process outside. Fortunately at least two of my purveyors of local, ethically raised pork also offer lard for sale. I'm buying it from now on.
This will seem a rather involved recipe if you're not a bread baker. Just remember that "involved" doesn't signify "difficult." The recipe calls for a pre-ferment, which means it'll need to be started at least one day before you'd like to bake and serve these treats. There's plenty of room for creativity and personal preferences in terms of spicing and which dried fruits you choose to use. You can play around with it, but I listed the spices I used in this recipe. The fruit is also flexible, but I used 1 1/2 cups diced apricot, 1 1/2 cups dried currants and 1 cup dried cranberries. I thought this combination of flavors turned out really well.
1½ cups (35 cl) warm water (110-115 degrees F/43-45 C)
½ tsp. active dry yeast
3½ cups (83 cl) all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil, for bowl
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the warm water and the yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
2. Add the flour and mix on low speed for about 2 minutes; the pre-ferment should feel like a very wet dough.
3. Place the pre-ferment in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours. If you wish, store the pre-ferment, refrigerated, up to 1 week, or freeze in plastic for up to 3 months. Bring the pre-ferment to room temperature before using.
1½ (35 cl) cups warm water (110-115 degrees F/43-45 C)
5 tsps. active dry yeast
Pre-fermented dough, about 3½ cups
4 cups (95 cl or 610 g) bread flour
1 tbsp. salt
All-purpose flour, for dusting
Vegetable oil, for bowl
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the warm water and the yeast. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Add the pre-fermented dough, separated into small pieces. Mix on low speed until combined, about 2 minutes.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour and salt. Add to yeast mixture, and mix on low speed, 1 minute. Change attachment to dough hook, and mix on medium-low speed until dough is smooth and just sticks to your fingers when squeezed, about 8 minutes.
3. Lightly flour a work surface. Turn out dough, and knead 4 or 5 turns into a ball. Place the dough, smooth side up, in a lightly oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until dough has doubled in bulk and is slightly blistered and satiny, about 1 hour.
4. Punch dough down, and fold over 4 or 5 times. Place folded side facedown in bowl. Cover, and let rise again in a warm place until doubled in bulk and satiny, about 50 minutes. Divide dough in half, and wrap in plastic until ready to use.
Shaping and seasoning
All-purpose flour, for dusting
4 tsp. ground allspice
1 tbsp. ground cardamom
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ freshly ground whole nutmeg
1 1/3 cups (31 cl) cane sugar or lightly packed brown sugar
8 ounces (225 g) lard or non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
4 cups (95 cl) mixed dried fruit, such as diced apricots, cranberries, and currants
1. Combine the spices with the sugar and blend until an even mixture is achieved. In another bowl, combine the dried fruit.
2. Work with one half of the dough at a time. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out half of the dough into an oblong rectangle, measuring about 20” by 10” (50x 25 cm). Arrange the dough so that one short end is nearest you, and the dough stretches away from you. Make two light impressions horizontally in the dough, demarcating equal thirds of the rolled out dough.
3. Spread 4 ounces of lard over the two-thirds of dough farthest away from you, leaving a 1/2-inch border around perimeter. Sprinkle one quarter of the sugar and spice mixture over the lard. Sprinkle half of the combined dried fruits over the sugar. Using the palms of your hands, gently press the fruit into dough.
4. Fold the nearest (bare) third of the dough over the middle third of the dough. Pull the dough gently towards you and fold over again to cover the last third of the dough. Gently press down on the outer edges of the dough with your fingers to create a seal.
5. Dust the work surface with more flour and let the dough stand for 20 minutes, covered with plastic wrap or a very slightly damp clean towel.
6. Roll the dough very gently with a rolling pin, elongating and widening the existing rectangle to about 15” by 7” (38x18 cm). Arrange the dough again so that the short end of the rectangle is towards you, and demarcate three equal sections. Scatter one quarter of the sugar mixture over the two sections of the dough farthest from you. Fold it over in thirds like a letter, and sealing the side edges, as you did in step 2. Let the dough rest on a well floured surface for 20 minutes, covered with plastic wrap or a very slightly damp clean towel.
7. Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C. Repeat step 2 one more time, but without adding any more of the sugar mixture, and let the dough rest for 20 minutes. Cut the rectangle lengthwise into 2 equal pieces, then cut each long piece into 6 equal slices. (Alternately, you may cut the dough into larger pieces of any number you desire.) Arrange each piece on a baking sheet lined with parchment, or place each piece in its own aluminum baking tin. Let these pieces rise for 25 minutes.
8. Bake cakes until golden and puffed, about 22-25 minutes. If baking larger pieces, they may take 35 minutes or more to bake. Let cool slightly before serving.
Repeat these steps with the second half of the dough. Each half portion of the dough makes 12 individual servings of lardy cake, 24 total portions from this recipe. Lardy cakes will keep for a few days, wrapped in aluminum foil, but are best eaten fresh the day they are baked. You can reheat the cake before serving in a low oven, wrapped in aluminum foil.
Friday, 12 February 2010
Living the Frugal Life
If you regularly read frugality blogs you'll find plenty of good suggestions on economical ways to enjoy a romantic day with your sweetie. Whatever you do, don't plan on dining out on V-day itself. It's one of the busiest restaurant days of the year, and you're pretty much assured a limited menu, prepared in haste, and served by overworked waiters in a room that has been crammed full of two tops. You don't have to take my word for it. Check out the Waiter's description of the day's horrors.
As you might expect from someone who watches their pennies, I would suggest a romantic evening at home. Get a sitter for the kids, at another location if need be. Maybe plan a bubble bath followed by trading massages for both of you. Then candles or dimmed lights, sultry music, a special dinner with a nice bottle of wine, and a nice dessert.
Oh, you want specifics? Well, dinner is up to you and your tastes of course. But this cherry tart is a dessert that I like to make for Valentine's Day. I adapted it from two of James Patterson's recipes. The filling and crust can be prepped a day ahead for fast assembly. Ideally of course, you'll have cherries frozen or canned from your own trees, but I sure don't have those yet. Frozen cherries work pretty well, and I have often added blueberries to bulk up the filling.
Valentine's Day Cherry Tart
For the dough:
10 tbsp. cold butter
½ cup sugar
¼ tsp. almond extract
2 cups flour
½ tsp. salt
For the filling:
1½ lbs. pitted cherries, fresh or frozen
¼-2/3 cup sugar
¼ tsp. almond extract
3 tbsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. water, room temperature
Slice the butter and place it with the sugar in a food processor with the cutting blade. Pulse until the butter and sugar are creamed and the texture becomes smooth. A ball should form, but you may need to scrape down the sides of the processor. Separate one of the eggs, reserving the white. Add the whole egg, the egg yolk, and the almond extract to the food processor, and process for about 30 seconds, until the mixture resembles cottage cheese. Add the flour and salt and process for another 30 seconds. The dough should now resemble lumpy mashed potatoes. If it looks too dry, add the reserved egg white and process until the correct texture is achieved. Take the dough out of the food processor and form it into a disk on a sheet of wax paper. Wrap it up tightly and chill for at least 20 minutes and up to 24 hours.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Put the cherries in a saucepan and warm over medium heat. As they begin to release their juices, add sugar to taste. If you have sour cherries, you will likely need at least ½ cup of sugar. If you have sweet cherries, start with ¼ cup. In either case, adjust to taste when the juices have been released and some sugar has been added. Add the almond extract and bring the pot to a medium simmer. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Add the slurry in a thin stream, stirring constantly. The juice will first lighten, but then return to its previous color when the cornstarch thickens the juice. Set the pan aside to cool. The filling may be kept tightly sealed in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
Roll the dough out on a floured board to a thickness of about ¼” and place it in an 8” or 9” tart pan, pressing down on the edges to remove the excess dough. Cover the tart pan loosely with wax paper and chill it in the freezer for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Shape the excess dough into a ball and roll it out again to a small circle. (If the dough has become too soft, chill it again until it is manageable.) Cut out one or two heart-shaped pieces of dough with a paring knife or a cookie cutter.
Line a baking sheet with baker’s parchment and place the chilled tart crust on the sheet, with the cut out heart alongside it. Cover the tart with another sheet of parchment and weight it down with rice or beans to cover well. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the crust loses its wet sheen. The cut out heart should be set but not browned. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Place the cut out heart on a cooling rack and carefully remove the weighted parchment from the tart crust. Return the tart crust to the oven for another 5 minutes. Take it out and let it cool for at least 30 minutes.
When the tart crust has cooled, set the oven to 375 degrees. Fill the tart crust with the cherry filling and place it in the oven again on the lined baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the crust develops a lovely golden color. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for 10 minutes. Place the cut out heart in the center of the tart and serve warm or at room temperature.
Finally, to all you romantics out there, remember Amy Dacyczyn's axiom: Candlelight is not frugal if the results are twins.
Saturday, 19 December 2009
Instead of peanuts, I substituted filberts because they are locally grown, and I love them. Any nut will work. Or leave them out. I chopped mine coarsely.
Add nuts to unseasoned popped corn. Mix. You will need 6 quarts of popped corn. To make the mixing easy, I divided it between two large bowls. Have this part ready before making the candy part.
In a deep, heavy bottomed saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, honey, salt, cream of tartar and espresso powder.
Bring to a boil, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring to prevent scorching. If you like to use a candy thermometer cook the mixture to 260 degrees F or to hard ball stage.
Remove from heat and add baking soda. The mixture will foam up.
Divide the mixture between the two bowls of popcorn, and stir quickly to distribute the candy on the popcorn.
Bake at 200 degrees F, in 2 well oiled jelly roll pans, or lipped baking sheets for 1 hour. Stirring 2 - 3 times during the baking.
Cool, and break into small clusters and store in an airtight container.
CAFFEINATED JACK 6 quarts
6 quarts unseasoned popped popcorn
2 cups chopped nuts (optional)
1 - 2 Tablespoons espresso powder (optional)
1/2 cup honey
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Divide popcorn and nuts between two large bowls. Oil baking pans and set aside.
In a deep, heavy bottomed saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, honey, espresso powder, cream of tartar and salt. Bring mixture to a boil and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat. If using a candy thermometer cook until thermometer reads 260 degrees F. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda. The mixture will foam up with the addition of the baking soda.
Pour the syrup mixture over the popped corn, half in each bowl. Stir the popcorn and caramel together quickly to mix. Spread the coated popcorn evenly on the baking pans and bake for 1 hour, stirring about 3 times and swapping pans if you need to, to ensure even baking. Remove from oven, cool and break up large pieces if necessary. Store in airtight container.
Warning: It's hard to make just one batch - Happy Holidays!