Sunday, 28 December 2014

Spanish Style Casserole

NAME: _Spanish Style Casserole

For the sausages:
500g lamb mnce
100g diced pork belly or kidney fat
15mm - 23mm collagen casings (around 2-3mtrs) if making sausages. (recommended)
Group A spices
1tsp each coriander seeds, peppercorns, chilli flakes
2tsp cumin seeds
1tsp raw sugar
Group B spices
1tsp each dried mint flakes, turmeric powder
2tsp sharp paprika powder
1tsp cooking salt
1 dozen green stuffed olives
2-3tbsp olive oil

For the casserole:
1.5cups basmati rice
3cups water
1 tsp cooking salt
0.5cup frozen peas
0.5cup frozen green beans
0.25tsp turmeric
several saffron strands

2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp smoky paprika
1/2tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup chicken stock

several eggs (2 - 4)
fine cubed sharp cheese (vintage cheddar etc)

To make sausages
Toast the Group A seeds (each separately) in a hot dry frypan, as each starts to roast and becomes fragrant, place in a herb blender or pestle & mortar and grind to a powder, then mix these and the Group B with the mince and finely diced fat for around five to ten minutes, keeping as cool as possible. Refrigerate in between if necessary, use a heavy wooden spoon rather than warm hands, and mix only until some stickiness forms in the mixture.

Fill casings slightly loosely to around 50cm lengths, spiraling each length as for boerewors. Use a wooden skewer to keep flat if necessary.

If not using skins, form into long cylinders around the same diameter and length and coil those, this will definitely need two skewers to keep their shape.

To make casserole
Put rice in a suitable saucepan with the teaspoon of salt, put on stove until saucepan is hot, then add 3 cups of water, stir once, cover the pot, and once boiling reduce heat to a simmer. When almost all the water is absorbed, add the turmeric and saffron and stir well to incorporate, then add the frozen greens and once again stir well. Leave covered on low heat until all water is absorbed, then turn off heat and allow to steam until partly cool.

Meanwhile, fry as many sausage spirals as will cover most of the casserole dish in the olive oil, on medium heat until each spiral is nicely browned. Remove sausages from the pan and set aside.

Warm the oil from frying the sausages to sizzling, add the cayenne, smoky paprika, tomato paste and golden syrup, stir several times, and then add as much of the chicken stock as will make a sauce.

Line a casserole dish with baking paper, then fill with rice to within 2-3cm of the top. Push about a quarter of the cheese cubes into the rice, then lay the cooked sausages over the rice, push olives all around the outside of the sausage sprials, evenly spread the rest of the cheese over, drizzle the tomato sauce over evenly. Break an egg over each sausage spiral, then place in a medium oven and bake until the top is well browned.

If desired, sprinkle with chopped parsley and coriander leaves, serve immediately. Can be eaten cold but better hot. Each person should take a whole section.

The sausage is loosely based on mergue sausages, but the amount of spiciness is turned down a bit.

I used collagen casings but I also give the recipe for chevup style skinless sausage style.

The spiral coil in both styles of making the sausages needs to be tight so that the egg doesn't run through.

If you like, you can beat a few eggs and drizzle them over the rice before putting the sausages etc on top.

Size your casserole dish for the number of people who will be dining - each spiral and the rice under it forms a full meal portion.


Saturday, 29 November 2014

Lasagne Coniglio

NAME: _Lasagne Coniglio

300g minced rabbit meat
150g diced bacon
1 large brown onion chopped
1 clove garlic crushed
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried "nane" (mint)
salt to taste
1 tin diced tomato (250g approx)
1 stick celery, finely diced
1 cups stock
2 tbsp olive oil

Enough lasagne sheets for four - five layers
salted water to cook

Cheese Sauce and Topping
3 tbsp plain flour
around 50g butter
2 cups stock
1/2 cup sour cream
water to adjust
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fine ground black pepper
1 clove garlic minced
100g sharp cheddar diced small or grated
1 raw egg, beaten.

Fry the onion, garlic, diced bacon, and minced rabbit over medium heat for 10 - 20 minutes, stirring and turning often. Add the basil and mint, diced celery, and salt, then add the diced tomato and stock. Allow to simmer for around half an hour, then set aside to cool.

Make the cheese sauce by melting the butter and dissolving the flour in it, then adding the stock, salt, pepper, garlic, dijon mustard, and sour cream. Bring the temperature up and add the cheese, Wait for it to begin thickening but not fully thickened yet, and the cheese is melted and dissolved. (Do this on low heat so you have plenty of time. Stir continuously.) Set aside and allow to cool.

Bring the salted water to a rolling boil and add the lasagne sheets. Simmer until the sheets are just soft enough to bend without cracking. Drain the sheets and lay out separately to avoid sticking together. Oil pyrex baking dish and lay the most cracked and broken lasagne sheets in a layer on the bottom, then follow up with thin layers of meat sauce, more sheets and so forth until the dish is full to within about 1cm of the top. Finish on a layer of pasta sheets.

Pour about 1/2 to 2/3 of the cheese sauce over the lasagne and work it down the sides and between the layers as much as possible. Now stir the beaten egg into the remaining sauce and mix in well, then top the lasagne with as much of this as will fit.

Bake in a moderate oven (160C or so) for 45 minutes. Keep an eye on the lasagne, if it looks like it may start browning too much on top, turn the oven down. At 45 minutes, turn the temperature up to 210C and leave for another 5 - 10 minutes to brown the top in spots.

Serve immediately, with polenta biscuits if you have them.

The more linguistically-inclined will have realised that coniglio is rabbit. Don't let this put you off, this dish is delicious! Oh all right, substitute chicken if you're squeamish...  I generally make a lot of extra cheese sauce, add instant polenta, and bake this in the oven in a shallow baking tray alongside the lasagne.


Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Green Bean Fasolia a la Ted

NAME: _Green Bean Fasolia a la Ted

A large brown onion
2 - 3 cloves garlic
1 kg green beans
3 - 4 ripe tomatoes
2 - 3 tbsp tomato paste
2 - 3 tbsp dried mint (see NOTES)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar (see NOTES)
2 - 3 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 - 2 cups water
3 tbsp olive oil

Slice the onion into 5mm thick rings, then dice the rings, put in a heavy base saucepan or pot over rapid heat with the olive oil, peel and roughly chop the garlic and put that in as well, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat slightly and cut the green beans into the pot, stirring as you go. Add the teaspoonful of salt, keep stirring occasionally.

Roughly chop the tomatoes and add to the pot, then add the mint, sugar, tomato paste, lemon juice, and about quarter of the water. Simmer for around an hour or so until beans are tender and keep adjusting water so the sauce is as thick as you want it.

Serve with bread or rice or polenta strips. I like a fair bit of sauce so I use more rather than less water, but some people prefer this almost dry. Suit yourself.

If you can get to a Continental food store they generally have Greek or Turkish dried mint, it seems to impart the best flavour. Use raw sugar, also for best flavour. And shop around for te ripest redest tomatoes and the brightest green beans you can find.


Friday, 24 October 2014

Very Rough Guide To Olives

NAME: _Very Rough Guide To Olives

Salt (rock salt or other NON IODISED NON ANTI-CAKING AGENT salt.)
Herbs and spices if desired for bottling.
Crocks, tubs, vessels, jars, bottles, etc.

Olives are easy enough to deal with. You pick them, clean them of leaves and stems, wash them (sometimes) and pickle them in brine or pack them in salt. Different olives are better for different processing. And it doesn't get any simpler than that.

Olives are ready to process when they're plump but still green. Leaving them on the tree until they're black is recommended for making oil, but green gives the best flavour to pickled/preserved olives. Small black olives are best salt pickled. I won't go into the varieties, because what you do will depend on what olives you have to hand, and what you want to do with them.

The best fancy brine preserved / pickled olives are picked a very young very bright green, and processed as quickly as possible. The trade-off is that they aren't full grown so the harvest makes a smaller amount.

Green but far more ripe olives (just before beginning to show a turn of colour to red/black patches) are the most usually brined and bottled, and black ripe olives can both be brined or crushed for olive oil.

Black olives are generally softer to begin with and don't process very crisp, but then again some varieties are grown specifically to be firm and crunchy when black. Knowing what to do with each variety is part of the fun... %)

Green (And Black) Fancy Olives

Make a brine that will just barely float an older egg. Let it cool. Meanwhile, sort your olives. I use an old wire rack out of a refrigerator angled over a tub. Small olives fall through, larger ones roll into the next tub. The large ones are your fancy olives and make the best. Also, large fancy take a little longer to process than brining the smaller ones because the polyphenols leach out at a fixed sort of rate, and the thicker a layer of fruit they have to leach out of, the longer it'll take.

So - have a clean tub, bucket, or crock that'll hold all the olives of the size you're doing, wash the olives, and in the case of large fancy green, make two slits on opposite sides. You don't have to slit them, but I've tasted them both ways and I prefer the slit version, salt seems to penetrate faster and deeper this way, and doesn't affect texture.

I've also heard and seen to crack the olives with a bottle or rolling pin, but it seems a waste to me to save the fruit from bruising from the tree to the processing bench, and then bruise them... I can slit 10kg of olives in about the same time as it takes to smack them around with the bottle, and results seem to me to be better when a bit of care is taken.

Also, note that there's a difference between washing the olives or just rinsing them - the former removes a lot of beneficial yeasts and organisms but may be necessary if the crop has been exposed to dirt and contaminants, the latter is good for a crop that you've picked yourself and kept clean in transit. Just a quick rinse is probably better.

(If I can pick my own olives I'm a happy bloke, by the way. I've used step ladders and apple picking baskets, and also reusable shopping bags, as long as you have the receptacle right in front of your chest when picking so that the olives don't have far to fall, they'll stay un-bruised and beautiful. I know that commercial processing and small farm bulk processing generally shakes them onto nets on the ground or direct into trailers, but why should I do that, when I can afford to be choosy about my olives?)

Add enough cooled brine to totally cover the olives, then put a clean board (or ceramic crock or rock or whatever you have that won't taint the brine) over the olives to hold them down, and cover the top of the crock / tub with a towel or cloth or loose fitting lid to keep insects and other rubbish out. Also, keep light out. Light is the enemy, it'll fade their colour rather quickly.

After a few days, the brine will have acquired a bitter taste, that's the bitter polyphenol compounds leaching out of the olives. Drain the brine, make a new batch, allow to cool, and repeat the process. After a few changes of water, the olives themselves won't taste so bitter any more.

To be honest, there are a load of formulas that people will give you regarding changing the brine daily or every "x" number of days, and putting the olives through "z" number of changes of brine and then they'll "be done." I do mine every few days (and up to a week) when I remember them, and after a few weeks I start taking out an olive before I change the brine and tasting it. If it's still very bitter, I do a change of brine. If it's just slightly bitter, that's when I stop brining and bottle them off.

That point is generally between four and six weeks for me depending on ambient temperature, because I like a bit of the strong flavour. You may want to process them longer. Shorter processing leaves a hint of the bite, and a crisp and tart olive. Longer processing mellows out the flavour but leaves a mushier fruit. Your call. Younger olives have that crisp bright taste, and stay crunchier after processing, older olives get a more mellow taste and texture.

(An Interesting Thing About Black Preserved Olives: Some operators buy olives that are grown specifically to be table olives when black, because these will retain their texture and flavour through the processing. Others buy green olives and dye them black... Add lye processing and you end up with a dull, rubbery, and bland tasting product. Caveat emptor.)

Washing: I only wash my olives off with clean water just before bottling them, because my brine is generally light and I like the saltiness anyway. Because almost all batches of olives will have white mold (see below) the rinse is a good idea just to remove the white granules. Some people leave the olives to soak for a day or two in fresh water, this does change the flavour slightly of course.

In general, I prefer a slight bitter edge to my olives at this stage, and to rinse / leach them as little as possible. Every leaching, be it with brine or fresh water, removes some of the flavour, and why should I turn my olives into a bland product? Also, bottling will mellow out the flavour over the ensuing months, so I may as well start with as strong a product as possible. Again, use your judgement for this. You may prefer a more delicate flavour to a robust one.

Bottling involves a brine around an eighth the strength, sterile clean jars, a few shreds of garlic or basil or lemon or some combination thereof, and using the brine as hot as possible.

The olives go in the jars and pack as tight as you prefer, but need to be held under the surface of the brine. I generally cut a circle of white plastic out of an old milk bottle and wash it, then use it to hold the olives under in the "shoulder" of the jar, then pour boiling hot brine over until it covers the olives and the plastic disk. Shake the jar to get the bubbles out, add more brine if necessary to cover, then add a thin layer of olive oil over that before closing the jars while everything's still as hot as possible.

I've never tried hot water or pressure canning, not even sure if it can be done with olives - because my olives never have to last more than a year, and I know they'll actually keep at least two years just done like this.

Brining Tips: I tend to change the brine only once or barely twice every week, because I'm basically lazy. Changing the water two, three, or four times a week will leach the bitter compounds out of the olives faster and give a slightly crisper crunchier product, but changing every week is okay too.

I tend to not tightly fill my vats with olives so there's a lot more brine in relation to the olives. In a high density situation where the olives are tight packed and barely covered with brine, you'd need to change the brine more often. The trade-off is that the longer the brining process takes, the softer the fruit will become at the end of the process. But softness also depends on the leaching of the fruit, so more frequent changes of brine also tend to soften the olives a bit more than leaving them in brine longer.

Making a stronger brine leaches the olives faster, but more salt also tends to change the texture of the olives faster, and then when rinsing and bottling, more salt will leach back out of the olives, meaning a lighter brine should be used for the bottling, or a longer soak in clean water may be needed.

Also. Worth noting that running water alone has been used, tidal sea water, and pretty much every strength brine from clear water to solid rock salt. You're sure to find a method that you prefer, and that works for you.

Brining Secrets Of The Lye Brotherhood: Using lye (caustic soda or in other words, drain cleaner) to leach the polyphenols out of olives is a quick process, it can take as little as 24 hours. But it wrecks the texture of the olives, and you then have to leach the lye out before you can bottle them off, and yeah - yuck!

I know, I know - wood ash lye has been used for at least hundreds of years to process olives, but the olives end up dull and listless. Shoot me, but I don't like lye processed olives.

Guilty Admission: Once, I changed the brine only twice in four months with a 30 litre tub of olives. Life got busy, the olives got forgotten, then forgotten again. Some months later, I realised that I'd probably just wasted a lot of olives. I opened the lid, and there was a thick rubbery white substance over the surface of the vat. It seemed to be part solidified olive oil, partly composed of the white mold that always accompanies olive brining. (More on this mold in a moment.)

I lifted that rubbery cap off, threw it in the compost. I was preparing to do the same thing with the olives, but first... You know, I had to check that they were really dead. There was no horrible mouldy smell, no ghastly dead yeast smell, in fact, they smelled perfectly like normal olives. Rinsed one off and ever so reluctantly tasted it - it was perfectly good! Maybe a bit softer than I like to process mine, but still good. I bottled them and used them for cooking for the next six months. Perfect!

White Mold: When you open your olives in brine if you leave the brine for more than a few days between changes, you may notice a few grains of a white mold growing on top of the water. I get it on every batch I make, I tend not to wash the olives before processing, and I think the organism responsible lives on the olives. I've heard it said by a friend who has been doing olives every year since boyhood that it's part of what gives olives the proper flavour, and should just be rinsed off the fruit before bottling.

If the olives smell like ass, then a wild yeast has gotten in there and I'd ditch that batch and sterilise the vat. But a slight sour smell (like vinegar or sauerkraut) is okay. The "ass" smell is because many wild yeasts excrete some pretty yucky substances.

Pink (Or Other Colour) Mold: is a no-no. That is all.

The crumbly "cottage cheese" type white mold is normal with olives and according to people with more experience than me, actually forms part of the process and flavour. Any other colour mold is likely to be anywhere from mildly to wildly toxic.

Salted Black Olives

To make salted black olives, you just do that - medium fine rock salt, unwashed but cleaned small black olives, put in layers into a tub and covered with more salt, then a cloth. Every day, put a board over and tip off the salty black liquid, add more salt if necessary. These are done after a week to six weeks, and can just be left in the salt but loosened up from time to time, once the liquid stops running out. Or you can let them sun dry and pack them that way. Traditionally these are done in wooden crates so the liquid runs out, and are turned over once a day until ready, then freed of salt and dried.

Salted black olives are great to take on picnics and as part of ploughman's lunches etc. They're also used a lot in cooking. They stop absorbing salt at a certain level of saturation, and are actually quite mild considering how they're processed.

You can also make the small black olives in a fermented style that I haven't tried yet, but I imagine if I was was to, I'd completely submerge them in about a 3% by weight brine (3g salt per litre of water) so that the yeasts and bacteria on the olives could cause a form of lactofermentation, and then dry them and perhaps pack with a sprinkle of salt once they're done enough. Apparently this process can also be done with large fancy green olives, but they're bottled in their own brine once fermentation stops. I can't offer much on this process yet but I'm definitely up for trying once our trees produce a decent crop or two.

Olive Oil

I've watched the process and assisted but never had the gear to do it myself. The olives are crushed and pressed. The pits (stones) are just wood, they neither contribute to the final product nor do they seem to detract from it. I honestly can't remember if the olives were taken off the stones before crushing or if the stones went along for the ride. The stuff that came out of the grinding / pressing process was pretty much pulp, in any case.

What's left after crushing and pressing is a liquid pulp, and that then went into a "malaxator" which is a bath to allow the oil to separate out and form droplets suspended in the pulp. Some gentle agitation is involved from memory. Then it goes the oil extractor which is a set of rotating plates that the oil droplets stick to, leaving the water and fruit pulp behind, and then the plates are scraped of oil, and go back to collect a new film of oil, until the oil's been all extracted. In the friend's setup, the malaxator also had the plates and scrapers in it, from memory.

Last thing is filtering, and my friend's filtering was pretty basic with layers of some fine material that the last remnants of fruit and stones in the oil was squeegee'd through and the oil forced out. Apparently there are good commercial filters but they're expensive.

Also, green olives give a superior green oil but of course being less ripe, there's less oil to be had. Black olives give a less green oil, but occasionally leaves may be crushed and pressed to put some green colour back into the oil. And lastly, there are always dishonest operators out there who'll use green dyes, admix other cheaper vegetable oils, and so forth. All I can say is buyer beware!

There is a "lye" processing method for olives, which reduces the saltiness a bit and apparently works a lot faster. You proceed as for salt brining but use a solution of lye instead. After a soaking in lye, you soak the olives in plain water or very weak brine for a few times to remove the lye, then proceed to bottling.

I generally use a 30litre brewing vessel for brining, it's easy to use, easy to drain the brine when it's spent, and the little airlock thing allows gases to escape but keeps yeasts and bacteria out. I generally wrap it in a few towels too, keeps light out and stabilises temperature a bit.

Almost everything about olives is a bit of a "suck it and see" approach. Taste a green olive direct from the tree, taste a black olive. A tiny shred is all it'll take, and it will not kill you. Taste as you go with processing, again, you'll learn how the flavours develop, and it isn't harmful.

Friend's olive oil processing was very similar to this machinery. I have to say I thought he had more money than sense, because he didn't (at that stage anyway) process olives for anyone else.

I also worked for part of a few seasons on a farm that had several thousand olive trees in about four groves, and helped hand pick olives for the fancy pickle market. As my reward for that, I was given the pickings of one particular tree that, apparently, none of the farmer's customers "wanted." I got around thirty kilos out of that tree in perfectly beautiful fat green fruit, and they processed better than anything I'd had before.

This relates to the last remembrance (of my friend's olive oil equipment) because they were less than fifty miles apart, and this farmer sent his olives to a commercial miller to be pressed, and thus he lost control over a very important part of the process. Also, he was looking for a variety of ways to value-add the olives he had rather than just sending them to be turned into oil, but never got past the stage of experimenting.

And lastly here's an article that delves briefly into the whole olive business. It's just a rehash of what I've alluded to above, but gives a few extra tidbits of info.

Very lastly - I am not any kind of expert on olive processing. But then again, neither were the people who originally processed olives to form part of their diet. Doing things is the best way to learn.


Sunday, 19 October 2014

Chicken Garlic Pies

NAME: _Chicken Garlic Pies

250g chicken mince
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp dried ground sage
1/2 tsp ground fenugreek
1 small brown onion
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup water, more or less

qty herb and garlic butter
hot water pastry made with 500g flour
1 egg
12 small squares (8mm or so, 2mm thck) cheddar cheese.

Finely dice the onion, fry in a saucepan with the olive oil, once glassy, add the chicken and spices, continue to fry for around five minutes more then add the flour, breadcrumbs, and trickle in water until mixture is barely moistened. Set aside.

Roll out pastry to 2mm thick, cut to size and form cups in a muffin tin. Place a spoonful more or less of the chicken mixture into each case (should fill to the top) and then put a dollop of herb / garlic butter in each, place a square of cheese over to stop top crust falling into the garlic butter. Top each pie with a round of pastry, seal in place with beaten egg, and glaze the tops with egg.

Bake in a hot oven for 30 minutes. (Until pastry tops are browned.)

Serve as a main course with vegetables, mashed potatoes, or what have you.

I wanted to make chicken garlic balls but wasn't happy with the idea of deep fried stuff, besides, where's the fun in making one's own fast food? Isn't that what one pays the fast food place to do? So these pies were born, and they filled the chicken / garlic craving nicely....


Hot Water Crust

NAME: _Hot Water Crust

500g plain flour
200g (200ml) water
125g butter
125g lard
1 tsp salt

Put all ingredients except flour and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to combine the fats. Sprinkle in the salt, remove from heat. Place flour in a bowl, add the just-boiled liquid, stir to combine and form a dough. Set aside covered with a tea towel to cool, then use as needed.


Pastry cases made with this dough can be baked blind or filled and baked, this is an easy easy easy pastry - even I can make it!


Herb N Garlic Butter

NAME: _Herb N Garlic Butter

100g butter
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh celery, leaves and stalk
1 cup water

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan and gently bring to boil. Simmer until all water is evaporated, remove from heat.

Used as a dressing or spread.

Just included the recipe for completeness' sake. Vary quantities to suit yourself.


Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Excited To Find Fair Dinkum Seeds

It's not often that I actually do a post for a consideration, but having been round all the usual seed catalogues online and the local nurseries and garden centres, it's rare to find a stockist that's new to me, and has some varieties that have taken my interest.

It's spring here, we're busting to plant the summer / autumn crops. Every year, we have some seeds left over from the last year, some collected self-grown seeds, and a bunch of new seeds to try out. One of the fun things is to find new suppliers, stretch our pension dollars further, and get a variety going. Earlier this year, I came across Fair Dinkum Seeds ( and decided that the quantities and prices and varieties were just too intriguing and interesting to pass up. While I was assembling my order and waiting for the next pension so I could place it, I found out that Fair Dinkum Seeds ( are wanting exposure in return for discount on seeds. 

So there's no recipe this time, just a few of the interesting varieties I'd ordered. First up, a plant with the name Black Mint aka "Stinky Roger." ( As FDS explains in the quite informative article about Black Mint, it's THE marigold that all companion planting schemes refer to, whether they know it or not. Our decorative marigolds aren't even in the game as far as insect repellent qualities go. We'd been planting decorative marigolds for years to deter flies and mosquitoes and insect pests and finally decided that some claims may have been over-stated, but now we've hope that by planting a bunch of these we'll end up with several quite useful products. I'm happy that it's an edible as well as a good insect repellent, and this year should see flies avoid our place in droves. Once I have a few of these growing, I'll post Black Mint recipes. 

The other things I'd been looking at were virginia peanuts, hardy basils, and curly sorrel dock. ( That latter is going by each tap, by each rabbit watering point, and in my aquaponics because it's as lemony as regular wild sorrel and the big leaves make it a natural for wrapping up the fish from the aquaponics... 

I'm pretty sure I'll have to grow the peanuts in an old kiddy pool because the soil here is generally too much clay, and I'm not about amending the local soil much more than by adding compost, rabbit poo, and mulch. I'll keep everyone posted on results here and on my TEdALOG blog. 

Fair Dinkum Seeds have an impressive range of the more unusual and native seeds as well as good old garden standbys. Well worth a look if you're looking for alternative and easy care varieties. 

Disclosure: I get several packets of free seeds for this post, it is a sponsored post. However, you can think of this sponsored post as demonstrating how much I really love Fair Dinkum Seeds ( that I'd be bothered to write up a series of posts just to get a hand on some of their product. %) 


Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Cultured Butter

NAME: _Cultured Butter

400ml - 500ml sour cream (see Notes)
1 tsp cooking salt

1 food processor or stand mixer
1 bowl (preferably glass or ceramic type, or use the mixer bowl)
jug for holding buttermilk
Spatula or butter pats

Place the sour cream in the bowl and process on low speed. I used a food processor with plastic mixing blade, but anything that will agitate the cream will do. Processing goes in stages.

First, the cream retains its consistency for around three to five minutes, then it will start to stiffen as whipped cream does. If you're going to salt your butter, this is a good time to sprinkle in the salt. Now the stiffened cream will go round and round for what seems like ages, but stay with the machine. All of a sudden, it'll all "break" into butter and buttermilk. Huge splashings of buttermilk and much hilarity will ensue if you didn't have a bit of a lid over the food processor or left the pusher out of the feed tube... %)

Once you have the split cream, that's pretty much it - no need to process further, it really does all break at once. Using a spatula, press the butter up against the side of the bowl, collecting as many flecks of butter as you can into one large clump. Empty the buttermilk into the jug, and proceed to squeeze the pockets and bubbles of buttermilk out of the butter.

This much buttermilk left over after processing.

What the butter looks like right after the cream splits.

Using pats to squeeze buttermilk out of the butter.

Once squeezed out, the buttermilk won't recombine with the butter too easily, so that makes the process relatively easy, just process the butter in small portions, roll and squeeze (either with the butter pats or with the spatula against the side of the bowl) until no more buttermilk droplets weep out, then lay each batch portion on waxed paper or a plate.

Form as desired, refrigerate. (We used tiny 2" loaf tins lined with waxed paper, then put the wrapped portions in the fridge. You can use a butter form, a dish, or anything else you come up with to hold the butter.


"Cultured" butter is made with sour cream and has a tangy taste, ideal for buttering hors d'oeuvre etc. Do the same thing with normal cream or thickened cream for normal butter, and of course, the less processed the cream (i.e. the less thickeners congeners etc it has) the healthier will be your butter and buttermilk.)

Use the buttermilk for cooking, drink it, or perhaps add it to the milk before making cheese - I'm not sure the latter will work, but perhaps someone's done it or knows what would happen, please leave a comment...


Monday, 6 October 2014

Kottsbulla Recipe

NAME: _Kottsbulla Recipe

500g beef mince
500g pork mince
2 cups breadcrumbs
250mL thickened cream
1 small nutmeg
1 medium onion
2 tbsp flour
100g butter
3 cups chicken stock or 3 cups water and three chicken stock cubes

Pretty standard - mix the breadcrumbs with about 1/5th of the cream so that the cream moistens the breadcrumbs, set aside while you grate as much of the nutmeg as will fill a teaspoon. (Should make about a slightly heaped teaspoon or a smidgen more.) Peel the onion and chop to almost minced consistency. Add the two meats, the nutmeg, the minced onion, and around a teaspoon of salt to the breadcrumbs and spoon mix or hand mix until the mixture coheres properly, around five minutes. Try not to let the mixture warm too much as you do it. At this stage you can refrigerate the meat for half an hour or more.

Divide the mixture into four balls, and each ball into about sixteen portions, which you then form into balls roughly the size of a walnut. You should get around 64 meatballs.

Start with around half the butter in a frying pan, and do the meatballs in batches of sixteen, frying until they just get to dark brown. Keep the temperature medium to prevent burning the butter black, and work the batches, adding the remaining butter as needed.

When the meatballs are done, reduce the temperature a bit more, stir in the flour and let it brown a bit, then slowly add the chicken stock, (or water and crumbled chicken stock cubes) stirring as you go to loosen pan dark bits, keep adding the water until desired consistency is reached. Remember the sauce will thicken until all the flour has been cooked. Add the remaining cream, then put the meatballs back in to warm through again.

This serves four to six people. Serve with mashed potatoes, a fruit sauce and pickles if desired.

I generally remove 2/3 of the sauce, and put 2/3 of the meatballs aside at this stage, because there's just too many for two people. The extras will freeze quite well in a ziploc bag or a container, with the sauce included in a separate ziploc bag, and makes two more meals.

Fruit sauce - traditionally lingonberry but I make a sauce with plum jam, pinch of salt, half a lemon's juice, extra water and a smidgen of flour when I forget to go to Ikea to get a jar of the lingonberry...

Free thought of the day:
I thought "kottsbulla" may have derived from the word "bulla" that has to mean balls, right? and "kott" which sounded suspiciously close to the Austrian word for cat. But in actual fact "kott" means meat and "bullar" is a word for buns... Oy, am I ever embarrassed!


Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Mild Mannered Mex Chicken Casserole

NAME: _Mild Mannered Mex Chicken Casserole

Around half a chicken
2 cobs fresh corn (or one tin corn kernels)
1 medium brown onion
2 cloves garlic
1 red capsicum or sweet pepper
1 medium sweet potato
2 tbsp lard (or duck fat)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp olive oil additional
1 tin tomato diced
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp cumin ground
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp coriander seed powder
half a bunch of fresh coriander
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp honey, molasses, or golden syrup
salt to taste
1 chicken stock cube

Boil corn cobs for ten minutes, strip kernels. (Or drain the tin of corn kernels.) Peel onion and cut into corn kernel sized dice. Peel garlic cloves and rough chop into rice grain sized chunks. Peel sweet potato and slice about 3mm thin. Remove bones and cut chicken into 1cm cubes. Slice red pepper / capsicum into 3mm thick rings, remove inner pith and seeds. Roughly chop the fresh coriander leaves and stems. Set each item aside in bowls as you prepare it.

Heat the additional 2 tbsp olive oil in frypan, add cumin and fennel seeds, fry for around a minute to start the fragrance, then add the corn, onion, garlic, and chicken meat. Continue to stir and fry until some corn kernels begin to show brown spots, then add the cumin and coriander powder, honey (or other sweetener) and stir and fry for another three minutes. Add the tin of diced tomato, crumbled chicken stock cube, chopped coriander, and salt to taste. Stir and allow to simmer until almost all the tomato liquid is absorbed or evaporated.

Turn out into a casserole dish and level out into a smooth layer, top with sliced capsicum / pepper. Add the remaining fats (olive oil, butter, pork or duck fat) into the frypan, batch fry the sweet potato so that each slice is coated and beginning to show brown spots. Lift each batch from the frypan and arrange in a layer over the casserole dish. Cover the casserole dish and place in the middle zone of a medium oven, check every 20 - 30 minutes for browning of the sweet potato. Once the potato starts to show extra browning, remove casserole from oven. This should take about an hour to an hour and a half.

Top with thin sliced spring onion greens and plate up.

It's always a pleasure when I make up a recipe and it comes up tops. Even more so when my wife asks me to "write the recipe down so you don't forget it - this one's a 'have again' recipe!" It's meant to be sweet - pick as ripe a capsicum or pepper as you can, add more chilli flakes if you like it spicier - but the sweet / coriander / cumin favour is what makes this, and the slight acid of the tomato rounds out the flavour.


Friday, 26 September 2014

Chicken and Leek Casserole Gratin

NAME: _Chicken and Leek Casserole Gratin

1 dbl chicken breast or two marylands
6 medium potatoes
1 leek
1 large brown onion
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp lard
100g streaky bacon
1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
1/2 tsp ground fenugreek seed
600ml buttermilk
1 tbsp plain flour
1 chicken stock cube
150g cheddar cheese

Wash the potatoes, place in a steamer with the chicken pieces and steam for 40 - 60 minutes, until the potatoes are soft enough to pierce with a skewer, remove from heat and set aside to cool. Grate all the cheese, divide into three portions. Pull the chicken off the bone and tear into chunks. Cut to about 1/2 inch cubes.

Peel and slice the onion into half inch thick slices, fry in the fat in a hot frypan until browned, then lift out of the fat and place in a layer on the bottom of a casserole dish. Use the same fat to fry the bacon, diced to about half inch squares, lift from the fat, and set aside.

Slice the leek into half inch rings, wash well and dry with a tea towel or paper towel, place in the frypan and fry until beginning to brown. Peel and slice the garlic thinly and add to the leek, then add the bacon back again, and the spices. Fry a further three to five minutes then add about a quarter of the buttermilk and let simmer for around five to ten minutes. Add one third of the cheese, he cubed chicken pieces, stir to mix, and remove from heat.

Slide the skin off the potatoes and slice three of them into 1/4 inch slices, lay over the onions, then lift the leek / chicken mixture out of the buttermilk and layer that on top of the potato. Slice the last three potatoes and lay those over the top of the casserole.

Put the frypan back on the heat, stir the flour in and keep stirring, add the remaining buttermilk, the crumbled chicken stock cube, and one third of the cheese, heating gently until the cheese dissolves. Pour the mixture over the contents of the casserole, working it down among the contents, then crumble the remaining cheese over the top.

Bake in a moderately hot oven for 30 - 50 minutes until the cheese browns.

Serve after allowing to rest for ten minutes or so.

Nothing. Just enjoy.


Saturday, 20 September 2014

Beer and Barley Bunny Ballyhoo

NAME: _Beer and Barley Bunny Ballyhoo

1 rabbit
2 medium onions
3 medium potatoes
3 medium carrots
4 - 6 kale leaves
1/4 cup barley
1 cup dried swiss brown mushrooms
1/4 cup dry faba beans (or pinto or navy - faba just seem nicer)
370ml (one small bottle) of beer.
beef or rabbit dripping
chicken stock cube

Soak the beans overnight in plenty of clean water, change it and soak some more, depending on the beans you've decided to go with. About an hour before beginning the cooking, open the beer and let stand while doing everything else so it has a chance to go flat. 

Cut the rabbit into fryable sized portions, salt lightly and fry them off until golden in the dripping, then put them in an appropriately sized pot, Slice the onions into really thick slices, fry them and the barley off unti the barley begins to show browning and put in the pot, also the drained faba beans. Deglaze the frypan with 500ml of water and add that to the pot. Add a further 1.5L water and the stock cube, and bring to a boil then simmer for around an hour, remove the rabbit pieces and continue to simmer for another hour until the barley is tender. 

Cut the potatoes and carrots into big (3cm approx) slices and add those, add the dried mushrooms, shred the kale and add that too, let it simmer until the carrots are just tender. By now the liquid should be well reduced so add around half the beer (more or less according to taste, make up the balance with water if necessary) and allow to come to a simmer again. Gradually add a paste of about 4 tsp flour and water and stir in, checking for desired consistency as you go. Don't feel you need to add all the flour, nor that you should only use four teaspoonsful or less. Don't forget it will continue to thicken for a few more minutes. 

Debone the rabbit meat and add it back into the stew, then remove from heat and allow to sit for 20 minutes or so before serving.

Serve as is with crusty bead and butter, perhaps a dollop of sour cream. This sized serving could feed four average appetites or two hungry ones.

I like faba beans, but there's no reason you couldn't use cannelini beans or something similar. Or different mushrooms, come to think of it.


Sunday, 14 September 2014

"Meat" Meat Pies

NAME: _"Meat" Meat Pies
Shown served with buttered riced potato topped with grated cheese.

500g lean minced beef
2 tbsp besan flour
juice of half a small lemon

2 tsp rock salt
2 tsp raw sugar
3 tsp granulated garlic
1 (or 2, to taste) tsp dried chilli flakes
2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 cup coarse burghul

200g (approx) frozen mixed vegetables
1 tsp cooking salt
1 tsp coarse ground black pepper
juice half a small lemon
1 tbsp olive oil

8 eggs
1 cup and a bit grated cheese

Put minced beef, besan flour, and lemon juice into food processor with steel blades. Put ingredients from rock salt to cumin seeds into a spice grinder and grind to a fine powder, add to food processor and process to fine consistency. Be careful to make sure everything stays cold, and process in short bursts so as not to make greasy. (Warm fat "breaks" and smears through the meat mixture. It alters the texture and the flavour.) Add the burghul and process until barely mixed through. Scrape into a small bowl and set aside for 30 minutes. This gives the cracked wheat time to absorb some moisture out of the meat mixture.

Place the frozen vegetables, salt, pepper, lemon, and olive oil into the food processor and process in bursts until the vegetables are in coarse crumbles. Set aside.

Divide the meat mixture into as many portions as you intend to make pies. In my case, I used eight micro loaf tins, so formed eight portions. Place a portion in each dish, and use either another dish or something similar to force the meat to adopt a pastry shell shape.
Note the toothpick dispenser wrapped in plastic and used as the stamp.
In my case, a toothpick cylinder made the ideal pressing block. I wrapped it in plastic wrap for hygiene's sake, and for ease of cleaning up. Add a spoonful or two of the vegetables to each pie and smooth out, then break an egg into it, top with grated cheese. Bake at 190C for around 40 minutes, until the cheese begins to brown.

May be served hot or cold. If hot, rice or mashed potato is a good choice of accompaniment, along with a vegetable cooked in tomato based sauce, I used okra garlic and onion in tomato sauce. Serves four when served with sides.

The only reason lean mince was specified is because if it is not kept almost frozen, the fat will "smear" during the processing, and that affects the texture and flavour of the shells. Smeared fat also affects how the burghul absorbs moisture out of the meat mixture.

The idea came about because I like meat kibbeh and wanted to try a Turkish / Arabian based dish but of my own recipe. It is even GPG (my wife, aka "Guinea Pig Goddess") approved. Thank you Kerry for testing my food experiment ideas with me. You're a brave woman. %)

This style of "meat pie" can be the basis for a whole lot of different recipes. As they can be served cold as mezzes, you could make up different batches and serve as party food. Or adjust the sides to suit each different style. The secret to the pastry casing is the food processor developing the meat glutens, and then the starch (burghul, polenta, chickpea flour, etc) being given time to absorb and bind.

Six variations I can think of right away:
-Minced lean pork, fine polenta, cayenne pepper and cumin for the shell, refried beans and chilli con carne for filling, nacho cheese for the topping, would be Mexican style,
-Or substitute chorizo and olive based filing topped with sliced tomato and herb crusting  to make Spanish style. Both served with white rice, tomatoes, chillies, and side salad type things.
-Minced lamb, burghul, curry spice for the shell, chicken / tomato / raisin / cardamom based filling, and goat cheese topping for a Middle Eastern version...
-For the ultimate meat lovers, make a beef shell as above with a minced lamb, burghul, and toasted pine nut filling, and close the top with more beef shell. This would be a "kibbeh meat pie." Serve both Middle Eastern versions with lentil and raisin rice or pilaf style.
-Minced beef, basil, polenta, with a filling of bolognese style sauce with small pasta stars and topped with slices of tasty cheese for Italian style. Serve with garden salad dressed with olives, cheese, pickled capers.
-Minced goat or lamb with mint and burghul, filling of chopped eggplant moussaka and topped with goat feta for Greek style. Greek salad goes without saying.


Friday, 22 August 2014

Chicken Lasagna alla Ted

NAME: _Chicken Lasagna alla Ted

1 chicken breast half
1 small brown onion
2 cloves garlic
1/4 medium turnip
1/4 medium swede
1 medium carrot
several leaves kale
2 red european capsicums
1 tsp crushed chilli
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp fish sauce (or one anchovy shredded)
1 tsp light soya sauce
2 tsp capsicum powder (paprika)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp plum jam
sufficient lasagne sheets.

Bechamel topping
100g butter
1/2 cup plain flour
150g cheese
1 cup cream
1 egg
2 tsp hot english mustard

water, salt, pepper, etc as per instructions

Dice onion and garlic finely, add to saucepan. Remove skin (if any) from chicken breast and knife chop into very small dice, (more coarse than mince - barely) and add to saucepan. Pare skin from, and then julienne, the turnip and swede, add those to the saucepan. Finely dice one red capsicum and add to saucepan. Peel and cube the carrot, add to saucepan. Add the olive oil, and place on high heat.

Fry until browning begins, stirring often, then add the plum jam, capsicum powder, thyme, fish oil and soya sauce, continue frying until all liquid is absorbed and browning begins again, then add tomato, and about one tin of water. (1.25 cups) Reduce to a fast simmer. Season with ground black pepper and salt to taste.

Remove stems from kale leaves, finely shred, and add to saucepan, also cut remaining capsicum to rings, quarter the rings, add to saucepan. Leave simmering for half an hour to an hour.

Bechamel topping
Dice or grate the cheese. Warm the butter in a saucepan, add a half teaspoon of salt, dissolve the English mustard, and then add the flour, stirring contantly. Keep stirring and add the cream, enough water to form a paste, and the cheese. Set aside once partially thickened.

Layer as a normal lasagne, spread a *thin* layer of filling on the bottom of dish, then layer lasagne sheets and fillng, then top with bechamel topping.

Bake in medium low oven for an hour or until a skewer meets no resistance from the pasta, and the top is golden brown.

Serve immediately.

Chicken mince might work, but I think it would be too fine. The plum jam is important.


Thursday, 24 July 2014

Austrian Style Potato fry

NAME: _Austrian Style Potato fry

3 tbsp pork lard
2 tbsp butter
5 - 6 medium potatoes
1 cup water
1 tsp salt

Peel potatoes, slice into around 7mm (3/8") thick slices. Just barely melt the lard and butter in a large frying pan, arrange the potato slices and sprinkle with the salt, pour the water over, and increase heat. Allow the water to boil away, reduce heat slightly, and leave until underside of potato begins to crisp and brown. Turn sections over using a spatula, allow the potato to break up as you do so. Again, leave until it crisps and turns light brown, keep doing so until about a quarter of the potato is crispy, more or less according to taste.

Serve hot.

This is the most basic version, what they all have in common is that the water is used at the beginning to steam the potato, and then as the water evaporates the fats take over and brown the by then slightly fluffy potatoes.

Other things to try are a sprinkle of cayenne or white pepper at some stage in cooking, or (my favourite!) sprinkle a handful of grated cheese over on the second to last turn-over, and a couple of eggs beaten with salt and cayenne before the last turnover.

If done in the last way, this is a meal in its own right...


Ted Style Chevups

NAME: _Ted Style Chevups

150g minced beef
2 tsp raw sugar
2 tsp sweet paprika powder
1/2 tsp cayenne
2 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup breadcrumbs
2 tsp psyllum husk
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp beef dripping

Well mix everything but the dripping by hand in a bowl, form into a log about 7cm (3") diameter, flatten to about 1cm (1/2") thickness and 9cm - 10cm wide, and square up the ends with the edge of a knife, then refrigerate for at least an hour. Then cut the log across into 1cm strips. You should get around ten 1cm x 1cm x 9cm chevups. Multiply quantities if you want to make more.

Heat the dripping in a frying pan to medium heat, and fry the chevups until brown and slightly crisped on each side.

Serve hot.

My father spent time in Hungary and liked the chevups (spelled "cevapcici" which is prnounced "chevup-chi-chi") so he and I started varying recipes and spices. I like powdered red chilli in them, too. Cevapcici are skinless sausages, so follow sausage-making basics - keep everything cold as possible while mixing, mix well so that the mixture begins to cohere but don't allow the fat to smear, and allow setting time in the refrigerator (at least an hour, preferably a day) before cutting into slices.

I feel that dried garlic granules gives the best flavour, but I've also finely chopped fresh garlic and onions, sprinkled those with salt, mixed and let stand for an hour beforehand and that tasted not too bad either. Experiment. I think making these with lamb mince would be delicious, especially if you add fine-chopped fresh mint leaves and a few teaspoons of lemon juice and some cumin powder.


Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Bacon And Egs Al Forno TEdAMENU Style

NAME: _Bacon And Egs Al Forno TEdAMENU Style
Cooked, this lot is maybe a little bit too lightly browned.

6 eggs
12 rashers of bacon, medium short cut
1 cup tomato passata or blended tomatoes
2 tbsp fresh chopped basil
1 tbsp chopped capers
2 tbsp chopped chives or spring onion greens
6 anchovy fillets
1/2 cup grated parmesan
olive oil as required

Just have to sprinkle parmesan over
Brush a 12 muffin tin lightly with olive oil, lay one rasher of bacon in each section so as to form a cup. Place half an anchovy fillet in each cup.

Break eggs into a suitable bowl, add 1 tbsp each of basil and spring onion, beat until mixed. Place passata in another bowl, add remaining tbsp each of basil, spring onion, and capers, combine until well mixed.

Spoon about 2tbsp of each mixture into each cup, side by side if desired, or in layers. If dong layers, make sure the egg is the top layer. Adjust the quantity so that each cup has about equal amounts of the filling and all filling has been used.

Sprinkle the parmesan equally over the top of the cups, bake on the top rack of a hot oven for 20 minutes, until bacon is sizzling and cheese browned.

Allow to cool for a few minutes, lift cups out and serve 2 - 3 per serving with toasted bread and extra parmesan.

Hot oven is 210C or hotter, and the time may need to be adjusted, but for preference leave for slightly longer rather than taking out earlier. Anchovies and capers aren't optional, they are what makes the dish salty and delicious. If you don't think anchoves and capers are delicious then I'm sorry but we can't be friends any more... %)


Saturday, 28 June 2014

Porky Pinwheel Loaf

NAME: _Porky Pinwheel Loaf

350g plain flour
210m water
1 tsp instant yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar

100g - 150g pulled pork
1 small onion
1 cup gravy
1 tbsp leaf lard
1 tbsp plain flour
salt and pepper to taste

around 50g - 100 cheddar cheese

Make up a bread dough. (To tell the truth, I use my bread maker and let it mix and knead the dough for 25 minutes. Far easier than breaking out the mixer and dough hooks.) Knead the dough and shape into a ball, brush with olive oil, place in a bowl that has also been brushed with olive oil, cover with a tea towel and allow to sit until it's doubled in size.

While the dough is rising, dice the onion small, fry in lard until glassy. Add the shredded pork, allow to fry until it slightly colours, then sprinkle with the flour, allow to fry for another minute or so, then add the gravy and enough water to cover the meat mixture. Allow to thicken to a quite solid consistency, and set aside.

Dice the cheddar 3mm - 5mm cubes.

Take the dough and roll out in a rectanguar sheet about as wide as a loaf tin and 1.5 - 2 times as long. Spread the pork filling almost to the edges, then sprinkle the cheese cubes on, and roll from short side so you finish up with a roll as long as your loaf tin. Wet fingers and seal the seam, place in loaf tin seam side down. Brush top with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, slash top with five or so diagonal cuts.

I'm honestly not sure what temperature I baked this at, because the oven I used had a faulty thermostat and I was adjusting the temperature by guesswork. I'd say 40 minutes at about 180C - 190C if I had to hazard a guess. The loaf should start colouring on top around the 25 minute mark and should be a good shade of brown by 40 minutes, with crust forming along the sides of the loaf inside the tin as well.

Allow to cool a bit, slice and serve. We served ours with home made baked beans, which was pretty much the perfect accompaniment to the porky deliciousness.

I suppose you could do the same with a savoury mince mixture or any kind of reasonably dry pie filling. I just had some pulled pork from a slow roast a few nights earlier, and I wanted that bread / pork flavour, and I'd never made a savoury rolled loaf like this before, and the moment was ripe. Honestly, one of my happiest moments.

The pulled pork was a rolled roast with skin on, I untied it, and rubbed it with a pulled pork style powder, rolled it back up, and let it marinate in plastic in the fridge for 24 hours before roasting it over the course of about six hours. The powder was made by blitzing a tablespoon each of salt, raw sugar, and dried garlic flakes, half a tablespoon of coriander seeds, and half a teaspoon each of ground nutmeg and dred chilli flakes, al together in one of those whizzy spice benders that they sell on the pretext that they're actually coffee grinders. (Blergh, don't even go there, they make shithouse coffee for brewing because they always grind about half the coffee into dust and the other half stays as hug chunks.)

The pork gravy was made of all the trimmings and pan juices of the pork, and was left to set in the fridge once it was cooled, so I could lift all the lard off and just use the gelatinous sauce. The pork for this recipe was a handful of the leftover pulled pork shreds, chopped shorter.

Normally I'd have mead bread dough with baker's flour but I wanted the crumb to be a bit less cohesive and short, so it was more like yeast-risen scone dough. As it turns out, that was just about the perfect texture. Sometimes, you just get lucky...

What would have made this better? Beer. Flat beer instead of water in the dough mix, I reckon that would have carried off prizes at the local cookery club... And a sharper flavoured cheese.


Sunday, 25 May 2014

Big-Ass Stuffed Mushrooms

NAME: _Big-Ass Stuffed Mushrooms

Seriously delicious!

(Given 'per person' i.e. multiply up for multiple servings. As it is, the quantity is for one.)
1 flat mushroom
1 tbsp finely shredded ham
1 tbsp finely shredded cooked chicken
1 tbsp finely cubed eggplant
1 tbsp finely cubed onion
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp concentrated chicken stock
2 tbsp shredded tasty cheese
1 tsp butter

Piquant Cheesy Sauce
1.5 cups water (adjust as per Method)
2 level tbsp all purpose flour
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp sugar (I use raw sugar for preference)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp grated cheese

Put olive oil, eggplant, ham, and onion in pan, fry until onions are browning, add the shredded chicken, fry for around the same length of time again. Remove from heat, stir through the concentrated chicken stock, set aside in a suitable bowl.

Remove the stem from the mushroom (I find it helps if I quarter the stem with a knife first and remove it in sections) then turn it over and lightly score a criss cross hatching across the skin. Rub the butter in. Heat the frypan and place the mushroom buttered side down, fry quickly until browning takes place. Light pressure applied with a spatula or egg slice can help here.

Place the mushroom on the griller (broiler) tray and fill with filling, top with the shredded cheese, press down smooth with the spatula or egg slice. Grill until the cheese is browned.

Piquant Cheesy Sauce
Warm the butter in a small saucepan, add the flour, cayenne, and sugar. Mix together well, increase heat and add the vinegar and fish sauce, stirring continually, then simmer and add water until the consistency is right, add the shredded cheese and stir to dissolve, then remove from heat. If you allow the sauce to cool before adding the cheese, it may split, so do this all in one go. I used the same cheese for both, so that some continuity of flavours occurs.

Serve immediately. I served mine with mash, a piquant cheese sauce, and a salad. It rocked!

I made a layer type salad with leafy greens, quartered tomato, celery cut to almost julienne sticks, the same shredded ham and the same cheese (also cut into thin sticks) as the main meal, lightly sprinkled with salt and allowed to draw for about ten minutes before service.


Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Green Fig Chutney Relish

NAME: _Green Fig Chutney Relish

1/2 to 1 kg unripe figs (but see NOTES first)
1 medium eggplant
2 brown onions
2 cloves garlic
6 - 10 whole cloves (the spice, not more garlic)
1 level tbsp salt
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp grated cinnamon bark
1 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 nutmeg, grated
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp pomegranate syrup (see NOTES)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper powder
1/2 tsp turmeric or anatto  (see NOTES)
1 tsp hing (assafoetida) powder
1/2 a salt preserved lemon
2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 - 4 very ripe tomatoes
water if and as needed
1/4 cup olive oil

Dice the onion, cut the skin off the eggplant and dice that to similar size, finely dice the garlic. Place them in a heavy saucepan with the oil, cloves, salt, cumin seeds, cinnamon bark, chilli flakes, and nutmeg. Fry gently until the onions begin to soften and turn golden, then add the sugar and allow that to melt into the mixture.

Add the cayenne pepper, turmeric or anatto, hing, and finely chopped preserved lemon peels, and fish sauce, keep frying for another few minutes, then add the vinegar and finely chopped tomatoes. Allow to simmer for 10 - 15 minutes to combine flavours and soften all the ingredients.

Add the prepared figs, as per NOTES below. Add minimal water required to prevent clumping, preferably none at all. Simmer for another 10 or so minutes to make sure the figs are softened, then spoon into sterilised jars while hot, and seal the jars. During the last few minutes, adjust seasonings to suit yourself - this should be pungent with fish sauce, with loads of sweet, sour, and spicy hot flavours. Allow the jars to cool, then store in a cool place. May be kept for a few months, if it lasts that long. %)

As an accompaniment to fish, meats, cheeses, and as part of the condiments with curries and similar dishes. Also good with cold cuts and sandwiches.

First, WHY would you do this? Well, our tree must have stressed and dropped most of the fruit while it was unripe. Not wanting to waste the fruit that could be salvaged, I picked the biggest, softest, the ones with a pink tinge or better, and used those. There is another recipe for dealing with the ones that are still white inside and hard as rocks, but I threw mine in the compost.

Preparing Really Unripe Figs: Cut the stems and end nubbin of fruit off the figs. Bring enough water to the boil to cover the figs, drop in the figs when it's boiling, allow to boil for a few minutes, drain the water, rinse the figs and set aside, boil a second lot of water and repeat.

If using the figs for the recipe above, halve the figs once each way so you end up with eight bits.

If preparing very unripe figs, you'd now halve the figs lengthways, estimate how many cupfuls you have, and add one cup of water, one cup of sugar, and two to six whole cloves per cupful, and bring this to the boil again without burning the sugar but bring it to the syrup stage, then allow to cool, add the juice of about 1/4 lemon per cupful of figs, and bottle.

Sugar / Pomegranate Syrup / Etc: The relish has to be strongly flavoured in each favour. I used some home made plum jam in addition to the sweeteners mentioned in the ingredients, to get a fruitier flavour.

Flavouring: I also adjust (extra salt, cayenne, salt preserved lemon, etc) until the flavours are quite strongly developed. It's a relish, after all, and needs to be punchy.


Thrifty Specials Stuff

NAME: _Stretched Chicken And Steamed Asparagus

I've enjoyed getting things on special, and either processing them right away, or else freezing them and processing when needed. It's one of the best things about living here and now - despite Big Food trying to inject "convenience" into our food chain and making us their customer for life, it's also easy to get hold of good local whole foods and fresh foods.

An example was a local meat processor letting slightly undersized chickens go, two to a tray, for less than the price of one normal bird. Apparently these are that small because they are pretty much organic, but the idea didn't take off. Into the freezer they went, for dealing with another day...

Living where we do, we're under an hour away from the biggest asparagus growing region in the state. I always have two bunches or more frozen fresh, the equivalent of two bunches chopped steamed and pureed in a ziplock baggie frozen, and sometimes a few bunches just steamed and frozen in plastic wrap.

Herbed light gnocchi are easy to make with a bit of butter, flour, and eggs, but when they go on sale special, easy to keep a few packs in the freezer against lazy days.

And so on - I never miss a chance to put aside stuff. The coming few weeks, I'll try and write up the recipes that I concocted to make use of all the bounty that's available.

Recipes include Chicken Stock Broth, Chicken Veg Gnocchi, Green White Fig Chutney Relish, Chicken Rice Parcels, and whatever else I remember.

The nice thing about many of these ways of dealing with food, are good for meals at times when there may be no refrigeration or electricity. Pretty much "prepper" meals.


Chicken Veg Gnocchi

NAME: _Chicken Veg Gnocchi

200g chicken meat (see NOTES)
2 brown onions
2 cloves garlic
1 stem celery
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp all purpose flour
2 yellow button squash
1/4 small cauliflower
500g potato gnocch
chicken stock and fat (see NOTES)
2 tbsp oil
1/2 litre water
2 litres salted water for gnocchi

Dice the onions, finely dice the garlic, slice the celery thinly. Fry these in the oil, adding the salt to draw moisture out. Add fennel seeds at this time.

Using fingers or a fork, shred the chicken meat coarsely.  Once the onions take on a slight golden hue, add the shredded chicken, fry for around five minutes then sprinkle the flour over, and stir in to coat the pieces as you keep frying. (See NOTES for why)

Dice the squash and pull apart the cauliflower, both into about gnocchi-sized pieces. Add these to the pan, then add the chicken stock and fat, stir through, then immediately add the water and reduce heat to simmer while preparing gnocchi in boiling salted water.

When they float to the surface, boil for a further few minutes to ten minutes, (depends on your particular gnocchi, they should be light and fluffy but not dissolving) then drain gnocchi and allow to dry slightly (toss often to prevent sticking at this stage) and then add to the chicken veg.

Serve immediately with crusty bread.

Chicken Meat: I'd roasted some undersized birds together in a pan for making stock and having some meat for other meals, this is a good way to process several birds at once. Don't crowd the baking dish, and make sure there's a few cups of water under the chickens, and baste them with it often during a slow roast. This is also a good way to use odd chicken parts, actually. I set the meat aside for other dishes, and put the bines and roast skin into water with vegetables to make a stock. (Separate article on stock coming soon.)
Chicken Stock and Fat: I set the roasting dish on top of a burner and reduce the water that's left after the chickens have been roasting, quite often I'll have rubbed the chickens with salt and crushed garlic so there's a lot of flavour in this stock base. About two tablespoons of the concentrated stock and a dollop of the fat is generally enough to impart HUGE flavour to the dish above.
Why Use The Flour: The chicken shreds would dry out pretty quickly in the hot oil and fat. Adding the flour and coating the chicken pieces retains some moisture (don't ask me how, it just does) and then thickens the gravy.
What This Dish Isn't: It's not quite a soup with gnocchi dumplings, not quite a dry braised chicken meal. But it's delish, and warming.


Thursday, 15 May 2014

Improving A Stew

Bestest way to get F-L-A-V-O-U-R into your stew:

(I've had a few good stews at cafes and restaurants, they've always had a flavour that I couldn't quite reproduce. Until now.)

The secret is to fry the onions first, in beef dripping or lard. Then add your barley, and drizzle a few tablespoons of water in to help the barley expand a bit, and fry until most of the barley has a slight tan, then add beef dredged in flour, and then build your stew on that.

Roasting / frying the barley makes all the difference. Who knew?


Saturday, 3 May 2014

Beef Barley and Vegies Broth

NAME: _Beef Barley and Vegies Broth

1 -2 kg beef spare ribs
1/3 cup wheat
1/3 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup dried peas
1/2 cup red kidney beans
1/2 cup faba beans or black eye beans
1 swede
1 carrot
several stalks celery
2 tsp salt
2 tsp peppercorns
2 tsp cumin seeds

Put 4 litres of water in a large pot, add the salt, pepper, cumin seeds, and the beef, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for around two hours, until the meat is soft. Meanwhile, soak the dried grains and pulses in a few litres of water.

After two hours, remove the meat from the broth and set it aside, strain the broth and discard the solids. Skim the fat, and return to the stove. Drain the grins and pulses and add to the broth, along with enough water to make up 4 litres again. (Generally around 1.5 - 2 litres will have evaporated.) Bring back to the boil, and simmer, covered, for another two hours, then check.

When the beans and other ingredients are soft, peel and dice the carrot and swede to about 1.5cm cubes, cut the celery stalks to about 2cm slices, add to the pot. Strip the majority of the meat from the ribs, cube to around 3cm, also return that to the pot, bring it back to the boil again, and simmer until the vegetables are soft.

It's soup. Put it in a bowl and eat it. Maybe with crusty bread.

Beef spare rib meat wins, hands down.


Sunday, 9 March 2014

Seaweed Salad

NAME: _Seaweed Salad

Sheets of thin seaweed. (See Notes)
2 tbsp rice wine
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp light soya
1 tsp rock or sea salt
1 shallot

Cut the seaweed sheet into 2mm strips with scissors, place in a saucepan with plenty of water and bring to a boil, then immediately remove from heat, strain, and rinse. Set aside. (This step removes the sand and salt dust adhering to the seaweed and softens it preparatory to the next step.)

Meanwhile, in the saucepan, combine the liquid ingredients, salt, and a few thin slices of shallot, place over medium heat, add the seaweed back once the liquid has warmed through, stir several times, and allow to simmer gently until the seaweed is at the required degree of doneness. (I tend to leave a lot of texture in it.)

Turn out into a bowl and allow to cool in refrigerator.

As a side with many Asian dishes, or just over steamed rice, an excellent flavour and

I've used a few kinds of seaweed, the really crispy kinds that are used for nori and sushi rolls are NOT suitable, neither are the dyed green ones. You want naturally-dried seaweed and kelp for this dish. Or if you can pick it up fresh, that's even better. Remember that most kinds of seaweed are edible, but do consult a foraging website or manual first.


Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Roast Potatoes and Paprika Cream Vegetables

NAME: _Roast Potatoes and Paprika Cream Vegetables

8 small potatoes
1 zucchini
6 yellow button squash
1 green capsicum
1 medium carrot
1 tin crushed tomatoes
sprig rosemary
1 tbsp paprika powder
4 cloves garlic
1 litre chicken stock)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup yoghurt
100g sharp cheddar
small qty dripping or butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Scrub and then boil potatoes in salted water. Place sprig of rosemary in water for five minutes then remove and set aside. Keep boiling until potatoes are soft, then set aside to cool. Meanwhile, boil stock to reduce to about half, then add the tinned tomatoes, garlic cloves, paprika, and the sliced carrot.

While this is simmering place the potatoes into a suitable baking dish, and crush crush the top of each potato, then add a pat of butter or dripping, several rosemary needles, some flaked salt, and enough crumbled cheddar cheese to top. Use a spoon or ladle to drizzle some of the stock and tomato over the potatoes, place in the oven at 210C.

Quarter the zucchini lengthways and chop roughly into cubes, similarly dice the button squash and capsicum. Add to the sauce, as well as a few needles of rosemary. Once the vegetables have softened but are not yet mushy, stir in the sour cream and turn the heat off.

Potatoes are done when the cheese and sauce topping browns slightly.

Serve two potatoes pressed flat so they open up, top with vegetables, and spoon a dollop of yoghurt over. Serve at once.

Something about yoghurt/sour cream and a salty paprika/tomato sauce is irresistible. If you use vegetable stock and olive oil, this is a vegetarian meal.


Monday, 3 March 2014

Fennel and Turmeric Rabbit Stew

NAME: _Fennel and Turmeric Rabbit Stew

1 kg rabbit
3 tbsp fat (I used half rabbit dripping, half olive oil)
3 - 4 cm of turmeric root
1 large or two mall fennel bulbs plus some stems and leaves
1 large brown onion
3 cloves garlic
2 carrots
1 parsnip
3 potatoes
3 tbsp mustard (American or Dijon)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp flour

Joint the rabbit, salt very lightly, and fry the pieces slowly, reducing the heat to braise for about 10 further minutes once it has slightly browned. Remove pieces from pan and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, peel and rough chop the onion, garlic, and fennel and a few sections of fennel stem and leaves if you have them, add to the pan on low heat, allow to braise slowly. After ten minutes grate the turmeric onto the onions, add the mustard and stir through, then remove the meat from the bones and cube to about 3cm, add to the pan, cover and allow to cook slowly for around 20 minutes, adding splashes of water if necessary to keep it moist.

Peel and dice the carrots, parsnip, and potatoes, dice, and add to the pot along with a few glasses of water, season to taste. Keep simmering until the vegetables are at the desired softness, mix the flour with a few tablespoons of water and add just enough to thicken. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Can be reheated but doesn't really gain anything, and besides, it's going to get eaten up anyway...

You can add a sprinkle of nutmeg. And as to the rabbit dripping, you can use lard or beef or all olive oil or any combination - I just like that my rabbits have enough body fat to make dripping from. %) The mustard needs to have some bite but not overpower. I used Mild English in fact, but Dijon or American would have been better.


Thursday, 27 February 2014

Paprika Potatoes

NAME: _Paprika Potatoes

2 - 3 potatoes
50 g butter
3 tbsp water
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sweet paprika
3 tbsp sour cream
1 tbsp mayonnaise

Peel the potatoes and cube around 2cm in size. Place in a saucepan with the butter and water, add half of the half teaspoon of salt and about a quarter of the paprika. Bring to a gentle simmer and allow to simmer until all the water has evaporated.

Fold together the sour cream, mayonnaise, remaining salt and paprika in a bowl. When the butter in the saucepan begins to brown and the paprika becomes fragrant, turn off the heat, allow to cool slightly, and add the cream mixture.

Use as a side carb to tomato chilli based meals. Serve immediately. Sprinkle with chopped parsley if desired.



Sunday, 12 January 2014

Moroccan Chicken Wrapchiladas

NAME: _Moroccan Chicken "Wrapchiladas"

1 side of a chicken breast
1 brown onion
1 cup basmati rice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tin brown lentils
1 tbsp besan flour
1-2 tbsp ras al hanout
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup water
100g goat feta
1 cup rough cut parsley

coriander and cumin seed wraps.
6 lebanese flatbreads around 20cm diameter
3 tbsp coriander seeds
3 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp olive oil

tomato basting sauce
1/2 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp ras al hanout
1 tsp salt

Ras Al Hanout
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Make the Ras al Hanout by thoroughly mixing the spices in the ingredients list, set aside. Either make the flatbread wraps, or buy them ready-made. The ready made ones are a trifle thin, but they are useable. To make, brush lebanese flat breads with olive oil, sprinkle with the mixed spice seeds, and roll with a bottle or rolling pin to embed the seeds.

Simmer the rice in 2 cups of water and about a teaspoon of salt until water is absorbed, set aside, and fluff up once or twice while making other ingredients.

Skin the chicken breast and cut into 1cm or slightly smaller sticks, cutting with the grain of the meat. Peel the onion and slice into around 12 - 16 segments lengthways. Fry in the 2 tbsp olive oil until the onios begin to brown slightly, then add the ras al hanout and fry for about two minutes more, until the spices are fragrant, then add the tomato paste and water, allow to thicken to almost dry consistency again, take off heat and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, mix the tomato paste, water, spice, and salt to make the basting sauce. Cut about half the goat feta into small 5mm - 1cm cubes, keep the rest chilled until needed. Drain and rinse the lentils.

Hand mix the rice, lentils, chicken, and parsley in a large bowl, then heap 1/6th of the mixture onto each wrap, add some cubed feta cheese into each portion, roll into a tube, and place into baking dish with the seam side down. Brush with the basting sauce, crumble the remaining feta cheese over, and bake in a medium oven (185C) for 25 minutes.

May be served immediately hot, or cold. Serve with a green salad.

Ras al Hanout (there will be heaps left over) keeps in a sealed jar for months. It's not as hard as it looks so take it step by step, and -



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