Monday, 31 December 2012

Natural meat tenderiser

I can't remember who told me this great natural way to tenderise cheap cuts of meat. I think I was too busy being sceptical.
Anyway I did decide to try it and the results were amazing.
Vitamise some peeled kiwi fruit to a liquid state and marinate the meat (not cut up, left as steaks)for 30 minutes. Make sure the meat is well coated. Make sure you don't leave it in the kiwi fruit liquid for any longer than 30 minutes.
I am not one for following instructions and I cut up some meat for a stir fry and put it in the kiwi liquid and forgot about it. Came back an hour later and it resembled soup.
Rinse the kiwi fruit liquid off the meat. Pat it dry and then use your favorite marinade or rub. It is now ready to barbecue.
I was using cuts that I would normally slow cook as curries and I could not believe how tender it was.
It is an enzyme in the kiwi fruit that breaks down the tough component in the meat.
I think the person that told me said they barbecued shin cuts using this process. It sounded amazing and a great way to save money!

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Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Kangaroos in the garden

Went to put the rubbish out. Not sure who got the bigger surprise!

What a magic way to begin the day. When he stood up he was taller than me. I backed off and he was happy to stay.
About an hour later he ambled off!

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Monday, 17 December 2012

Healthy biscuits not for the faint hearted

My daughter wanted a biscuit to take the place of breakfast when she is racing out the door for uni. The criteria was reasonably healthy, very filling and easy to eat in the car and travels well, for example doesn't break up in a bag.
This is what I came up with, using organic where possible and trying to use some of the "ancient" grains. You can also use your favorite grains.

100gm of kibbled rye
100gm of quinoa
50 grams of black or red chia seeds
In a bowl and cover with boiling water.

Give it a good stir and if still dry in parts add some
more boiling water. Wait until all the water is absorbed.(about 10 minutes)
In another bowl put 1/2 cup of olive oil and add 1 cup of sugar and a capful of vanilla essence. Beat well. Add the seed mixture and
1/2 cup of almond meal or ground hazelnuts
1/2 cup of LSA
1/2 cup of psyllium husks
1/2 cup of oat bran
1/2 cup of plain flour
Mix well. I find it is best to do this by hand, gradually adding 1/2 cup of milk. If it is too wet add some more flour. It should look like this...

Grease your trays well. Take a piece of mixture about the size of a walnut, roll it into a ball and then flatten between your hands and place on the tray.

Oven at 200 degrees Celsius. After 10 minutes take the biscuits out and with a fork press them all as flat as possible. Return them to the oven for a further 15 minutes then take them out again and turn all the biscuits over and return to the oven again. Leave for a further 20 minutes then take them out and place on a cake cooler. Place in an airtight jar once they are completely cold.
(Depending how hot your oven is the biscuits can start to crisp up. So keep an eye on them towards the end of the cooking time)
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Thursday, 13 December 2012

Moroccan beet root dip

I had never realized how easy beet root is to grow. It adds a lovely earthy taste grated into salads, but I love beet root dip.

Remove the tops and the roots but not the skin. Wash them thoroughly then cut up and place in baking tray.

Toss them in oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake in a slow oven till cooked. To save on electricity I usually bake something else at the same time.
When cool I put the beet root in a food processor, add about 100 gm of cream cheese, just a splash of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of runny honey, juice of 1/2 a lemon, 1/4 teaspoon of chili powder and 1/2 teaspoon of cumin. Adjust the spices to your taste. Process till smooth.

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Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Zucchini Madness

Freezing raw, grated zucchini. Is this something else that everyone knew except me?

When I am overwhelmed with zucchinis I freeze them. It's so easy.
Just grate them and pack them into freezer bags in the amounts to suit recipes for zucchini slices and cakes. Great in winter, handy for soups too!
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Monday, 10 December 2012

Cream cheese stuffed apricots

I was just given some apricots and couldn't wait to make my favorite fresh apricot recipe!

It is so easy and if you take a plate of these to a party or barbecue then stand back to avoid being trampled.
Wash the apricots then cut them in half and remove the stone.
Because I keep my honey in the fridge to beat the ants I have to soften it in the microwave. To 80gm of cream cheese( I use the light one pretending to be virtuous) I add 1 tablespoon of runny honey, a capful of natural vanilla essence and a handful of slivered almonds. You can adjust this to suit your own taste preferences.

Mix it up then spoon it onto the apricots.
It is the sort of thing you can pretend is healthy, well the fruit is!

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Sunday, 9 December 2012

Spiced apple and zucchini cake with maple syrup icing

It's that time of year when the zucchini crop begins to overwhelm you. In the beginning you anxiously watch the tiny ones begin, then suddenly they reach a point where over night they appear to have been injected with steroids!

In order to use up zucchini I decided to use it for the birthday cake. So not wanting to make the same boring recipe that I feel like I have made forever, I decided to invent a new one!
This is so easy because it all goes in one bowl. Saves washing up time. Into a big bowl tip three cups of SR flour, two cups of sugar, 3 eggs, 400 gram of grated zucchini, 200 grams of grated apple, 1 heaped teaspoon of baking powder, 2 heaped teaspoons of ground ginger, 2 heaped teaspoons of cinnamon, 2 heaped teaspoons of mixed spice, 2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda, pinch of salt, 1 cup of good quality light vegetable oil and approximately 1/4 cup of milk. Mix this all together very well. It is a quite heavy mixture to mix, so possibly a good arm exercise as well.
It makes a big cake, my tin was 26cm. I always take the time to grease and line the tin now because it's better than finishing up with half a cake on the cake cooler!
You could always make it in two smaller tins. Freeze one without icing and ice it when you need it.

The mixture is quite wet but if it looks too wet add a little more flour. Here it is in the tin. Bang the tin down on the countertop to get rid of any airspaces.

All ovens are different mine is fan forced electric and I put the cake in the middle shelf at 180 degrees Celsius. It took about 45 minutes. But just test it and as long as the cake is firm in the middle and is coming away from the sides of the tin and when tested with a skewer, the skewer is free of any sticky residue it is cooked. If in doubt leave it in longer. Better to make sure it is cooked and it won't hurt the cake.
Leave it to cool in the tin for bout 30 minutes then tip it out onto a cake cooler. Let it get completely cold before icing it. Icing was really simple. I melted 60 gms of butter and about 1/2 cup of maple syrup in a saucepan. You will really need to watch this as it will burn and you only want the butter to melt. I never measure icing mixture just go by consistency but put about 2 cups of the powdered icing mixture into a bowl and add the butter maple syrup liquid. Stir this, I find using a knife the easiest. Then add thickened cream till the icing is the correct consistency. Firm enough to spread but not runny enough that it finishes up on the serving plate and not the cake. The beauty of making icing is you can't go wrong. If it is too thick add more cream. Too runny add more icing mix. If you make too much there will always be a candidate to lick the bowl. At least there is at our place.

I served it with cream it was so good!

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Mexican nibbles

This was another invention to serve with drinks. So easy too!
I put a can of drained red kidney beans in the food processor and made it it into a mash. Heated some oil in a non stick pan and then fried the bean mash, added some more oil as needed. Then I just added a sachet of the Old Peso taco spice mix and continued to fry it to release all the flavours. Mix it all in well. I kept that mixture warm and made guacamole, just the usual sour cream garlic, lemon juice and avocado.
Take a bag of plain Doritos, now this was the challenging bit. if you are like me and always manage to buy the bag that someone appears to have stood on, then finding unbroken ones will be a time consuming exercise. Once I had done this, I spread the whole Doritos on a large plate, and put a small amount of the beans topped with guacamole on each one. They were delicious. The trick was to get them to the table before the person carrying them ate them. Enjoy, we did!

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Friday, 7 December 2012

Vegetarian " sausage" rolls

As part of my long lunch I have made my version of sausage rolls. Here is a confession. I love Lion pastry mix. Whilst I do like to make my own pastry this is really quick and easy. I follow their directions but I add juice of a lemon as part of the liquid ingredients. It makes all the difference!
So here goes:
Drain 1 can of chick peas and 1 can of kidney beans put in the food processor with 1 large onion and a tablespoon of dried mixed herbs. Add 2 eggs and fresh herbs. To prepare the herbs I strip them from the woody or thick stems and roughly chop them before adding to the processor. I have used sage leaves, parsley, marjoram, rosemary and oregano.

Now I don't use a lot of salt so this is up to you but I have added a pinch of rock salt. I also add 1 dessert spoon of vegetable stock. Process it all and then tip into a bowl with I cup of fresh breadcrumbs. Mix thoroughly.
Roll out the pastry.

I make a line of the filling on the pastry.

Then I moisten one side of the pastry before folding the other side over to join up.

I gently press along the join with a fork.
Then cut into pieces and place on a greased oven tray.

I bake at 180 degrees in a fan forced oven for about 30 minutes.

You will notice that the tray is not quite as full as when it went into the oven. I tested one and could not stop. So much for the diet!

With my home made tomato sauce from last season. Yum if I say so myself.
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Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Self saucing chocolate pudding

This has been a family favorite forever!
When it is baked it is a chocolate pudding with a thick chocolate sauce under it.

Cream 60 grams of butter with 1/2 cup of sugar. Add one egg and a teaspoon of vanilla and mix well. Add 1 cup of self raising flour and 2 level tablespoons of cocoa. I like it really chocolatey so I add a tablespoon of drinking chocolate as well. Add 1/2 cup of milk. Mix well. Put the mixture in a well greased oven proof dish.

Now make a topping by combining 1/2 cup of sugar 2 level tablespoons of cocoa
( once again I also add some drinking chocolate too) mix this well and then sprinkle it over the top of your pudding.

Finally carefully spoon 1 1/2 cups of hot water very gently over it. Bake in a moderate oven for 35 to 40 minutes.
Serve with cream and a few fresh strawberries. This also works well in individual ramekins.

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Saturday, 1 December 2012

Pudding update

I just tipped my pudding out onto a plate and managed to leave some behind in the dish. But just got it out with the egg slice and put it back on. You can't even see the problem. This is why you have to grease the dish very well. And even then sometimes it can stick a bit. Perhaps I should put baking paper in the bottom. I will do that next Christmas.

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Best ever easy traditional Christmas pudding Part Two

See part one here:

Now that the dried fruit has soaked up all the alcohol it's time to make the pudding.
To the fruit add 1 cup of fresh breadcrumbs. I prefer to make my own using a nice grainy bread. I remove the crusts and put it through the food processor. Because the crumbs are so light push them down in the measuring cup. Not too much though! I add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of ground ginger,1 teaspoon of mixed spice, 1 cup of raw sugar, 2 eggs,1/2 cup of blanched slivered almonds, 100 grams of melted, softened butter, 2 tablespoons of brandy and a cup of plain flour.

The secret to how moist this pudding is comes from the next ingredient. Take two granny smith apples, peel them and grate them into the mixture. I find the easiest way to do this is to peel the apples,and then using them whole, just grate them down to the core, which I discard.

Mix the ingredients together well. If it seems too wet just add a little flour, but it is a very wet looking mixture.

I use a Corning ware dish to cook it in. One that has a lid,but any microwave proof glass or ceramic container is suitable.
Grease the container very well with butter.

Put the mixture in the container and press it down firmly with a spatula. Gently bang the container on the bench top to knock out any air spaces.

Now the easy part, put it in the microwave for ten minutes. Take it out, cover it and let it stand for about 5 minutes.

As you can see it still looks wet in the middle. It goes back in the microwave for another 10 minutes.

I took mine out at the end of this and it still looked a little wet in the middle so I put it back in microwave for another 3 minutes with the top on. If you don't have a container with a lid I would just use microwave film or just put a plate on top of your container.

It smells wonderful!
I will just let it cool and then cover it tightly with food wrap. Normally I would have made my pudding months ago so I would have frozen it. But because Christmas is so close I will keep this in the fridge till Christmas eve. Then I will take it out and let it come to room temperature before I reheat it on Christmas day.
To reheat it I will sprinkle a little water and brandy over it and then put it in microwave for 10 minutes then let it stand covered for 5 minutes and then put it back in for another five minutes. Serve it with fresh cream and brandy sauce. Some of our family even add ice cream.
Your guests will be sure that this has been made the traditional way. They will tell you they can always tell the difference. So just smile and accept the praise.
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Sunday, 25 November 2012

Best ever easy Christmas pudding Part One

My mother and grandmother used to make wonderful Christmas puddings. The real old fashioned ones in pudding cloths that were cooked in the laundry coppers. They were made about 6 weeks before Christmas and hung in airing cupboards. My dad used to refer to them as " the shrunken heads".
No wonder, as a child, I had nightmares.
This pudding is just as good and everyone thinks I make them in the old fashioned way. I must admit I have not been altogether truthful. However people have even told me that they know that they are made this way because they can taste the difference. Well I cheat, big confession, I make them in the microwave.
If I am organized I make them months in advance and freeze them but it doesn't matter if you don't. In fact I am starting mine today.
So first I put 450grams of mixed dried fruit in a glass or stainless steel bowl.

This 450grams is made up of whatever you prefer. Mine is made up of 250grams of mixed fruit, 80 grams of currants, 70grams of minced or finely chopped dried apricots and 50 grams of candied lemon peel. Then I pour over 1/2 cup of brandy and 1/2 cup of Port. Give it a good stir.

I cover the top tightly with plastic food wrap and leave in a cool place. Each day I will give it a good stir. If it has soaked up all the alcohol, I add a little more.
( my mother told me that every time my Dad passed the bowl he added more alcohol.). Her puddings were lethal! She ended up hiding them for this stage of this recipe.
Now I leave this for a week. The day I make the pudding I arrange for the family to be around and each person gives the mixture a stir and makes their Christmas wish. Those that cannot be here have been known to telephone and have me stir on their behalf whilst they make their wish. It's fun!

There is another tradition that I began when the children were small. As a child I remember finding silver threepence and sixpence coins in the pudding. It was very exciting but with the advent of decimal currency the coins could not be used. So I began putting a silver charm in my two daughters' slices just before I served them. The charm was always something to do with their interest or milestones that year. A silver music note when one learnt music, a silver tennis racquet when one took up tennis and so on. It has been a wonderful family tradition and the girls loved tracing their history of interests, hobbies and milestones on their bracelets.
See part two here:

Growing and storing garlic

I love garlic and use lots in cooking. It is also an excellent plant as a companion plant for many other plants. The idea behind companion planting is that some plants can give off a smell or perfume that can deter pests or is attractive to natural predators. For instance planting onions with cabbages helps control cabbage moth. Garlic is credited with keeping aphids away from roses. I grow garlic with roses and so far have not had aphid attacks.
Garlic is also good to grow under fruit trees. It also excellent for making natural garden pest sprays.
A family friend who has the most amazing garlic crops, doesn't use garlic. She gives it to me. So this is what do, as I hate to waste it.

This is a photo of the top of a garlic plant when it forms the seed head and once it dries off it is time to harvest. I have pulled this one up to show even though it has not dried off. The tiny yellow pods you can see on the side of the bulb can be planted.

I clean the garlic by first removing the roots and as much dirt as I can, peeling off the outside layer of skin and then wiping it off under running water. Don't get it too wet. Allow it to dry completely on kitchen paper( usually overnight) If it is left wet it will go mouldy. Lots of bought garlic is treated to prevent this. If you are buying garlic and it is bright white and has a very distant use by date it would be worth asking if it has been bleached and treated with chemicals.

I keep my garlic in a bowl so that is always in the air not sealed up in plastic.
I hate washing garlic presses processing it reduces that problem. I break the garlic into cloves and peel off the dry outer skin. Make sure the bulbs are scrupulously clean if in doubt rinse them again, dry them off with some paper towel. Put them in a mini food processor and just cover with oil. I use the light vegetable oil that I would normally use for stir fries etc.

Process it till it is finely chopped. Sterilise a small clean jar that has a tight fitting lid. I do this by putting a little water in the jar, and of course minus the lid, I put the jar in the microwave on high for one minute. The jar will be very hot so be careful. Using you oven glove remove the jar, tip out the water. Don't dry it with a teatowel as it is now sterile. Put your processed garlic in the jar. Put a film of oil over the top and screw lid on tightly and store in fridge.

Always use a clean spoon to take garlic out, provided you keep your jar in the fridge this will keep for about four weeks.I keep doing small batches as I run out. The dry, clean garlic will keep for several months. Then, when making a stir fry or any other dish you are cooking just add the ready prepared garlic. This is not suitable for pestos as I prefer fresh garlic for all uncooked recipes.
Great time saver!
P.s. You can also do this with ginger but I have several ways to store ginger so that will be new post.
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Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Easy sweet pastry recipe for an apple pie

I never used to have a lot of success with sweet pastry.
The pastry was either so crumbly that when I tried to roll it out it just refused to cooperate. If I did manage to roll it out, when I tried to lift it to put it in the pie dish it tore. So my pies became something of a crazy patchwork with all the pieces pasted together. Not really a good look or experience. I usually wished I'd never started. All that mess and a poor result to show for it.
I found a very old recipe for " quick sweet pastry" in a book that my mother had kept. The book had disintegrated and had no cover but it was easy to see which recipes were the favorites because of the stains on the most well used pages.
I like to get all my ingredients ready before I start. Then I am not trying to open cupboards and containers with messy hands. I also get the rolling pin out and grease the pie dish.

Sweet pastry
1 tablespoon of butter
1 egg yolk ( beaten)add a half teaspoon of vanilla to this.
2 heaped tablespoons of raw sugar ( you can use white I just prefer to not used over refined products)
1/2 cup of milk
1 1/2 cups of SR flour ( I prefer organic white flour, I don't use whole meal because I find it makes the pastry too heavy). Extra to use when kneading and rolling pastry.

Put the butter, sugar and milk in a small saucepan or use the microwave.
All you want to do is melt the butter and dissolve the sugar. I prefer to use the stove so that I can stir it continuously to ensure it does not boil over or catch.
Once the sugar is dissolved ( and you can't feel it scratching on the bottom of the saucepan when you stir) and the butter is melted, remove it from the heat and allow to cool.
I am usually impatient and I just stand the saucepan on the sink for about 5 minutes. The recipe says add the egg to this but I have found if I have not been patient and tried to add the egg when the mixture is too hot it will begin to cook. And you don't want bits of cooked egg in your pastry !
So now I beat the egg and then add a little of the milk mixture at a time to the egg beating with a fork as I do it. That works really well.
Next I add the flour.
Stir this all together. Just get it mixed don't overwork the mixture or it will go tough. It looks like this in the bowl before I turn it out.

Turn the mixture out onto a floured board. I have a scoop ready in the flour so that I can get more to add. Otherwise you get pastry mixture all over everything.

Now I knead the pastry lightly for only about 40 seconds till it looks
Ike this. Add flour to the board as you knead it. Till it looks like this.

Now to make my pie I cut the pastry into two pieces. Obviously I need more for the bottom as I have to come up the sides of the dish.

Roll it out don't be heavy handed just medium pressure.
The easiest way to lift your rolled out pastry is to use the rolling pin itself.

Place the pastry in the pie dish,don't worry about the overhanging bits yet.
Gently press it into the pie dish.

Put in your preferred filling. I am using stewed Granny Smith apples. I have cooked them with sugar and cloves. I put the cloves in a tea infuser ball because whilst I don't care, some people object to finding whole cloves in the pie. I have not cooked the apple too much as they are going to cook more when I bake the pie. You don't want apple mush as a filling. I use a strainer spoon to lift the apples out of the liquid they have cooked in as I don't want any excess liquid in the pie otherwise the base will be soggy.
Next trim the edges of the pastry where this hangs over the edge of your pie plate. Add this pastry to the pastry you have reserved for the top.
Now dip your finger in water and gently moisten the edge of the pastry. When you put the top on this will make it stick together.

Now with the filling in and the edges moistened put the lid on the pie.

Now press around the edges with a fork. Looks very professional!

And with your fork make some ventilation holes, for the steam to escape, in the top of your pie. Lightly sprinkle some sugar on the top. Trim off any overhanging pastry.
You are ready to bake it now.
The great thing is, you can make this in advance in the morning and then bake it for the meal. However if you have put too much liquid in the base can go soggy.
Moderate oven for about 30-40 minutes on the middle shelf of your oven. All ovens are different so check your instruction book if in doubt.
A jug of cream and serve at they able. You will be a star!

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