discovering a simpiler life

discovering a simpiler life

Thursday, 27 February 2014

A little kitchen gossip and some exciting news.....

Go and pop the kettle on and come back with a cuppa, I've got some news.  You can see we have a gorgeous steady stream of summer goodies coming in from the garden that our season has been so slow, the major benefit is it's all been manageable.  Not one zucchini has grown to mammoth proportions nor has a tomato gone uneaten, but I must say I'm so pleased the tomatoes are coming on thick and fast at the moment as I'm dying to make chutney and passatta for the stockpile.  Here's some of what I've been making....
Our eggplants are the best they have ever been and will be turned into eggplant parmigiana and crumbed and fried into fritters sprinkled with sea salt and served with a garlicky aioli....I can hardly wait for lunchtime and I haven't eaten breakfast yet!
These tomatoes are a sight for sore eyes! They have been green for so long it's just so wonderful to see them coming in.  We had homemade garlic, tomato, parmesan and basil pizzas for dinner one night, such a wonderful way to use them, but they are destined to my slow cooker for my sauce.

I was kindly given a bag of this weird pale looking zucchini's pictured above that I put thinly sliced into this frittata with 6 eggs, a glug of milk of your choice which I popped the zucchini in and mixed well, added some tomato, fresh basil and feta~simple but delicious I must say.  Does anyone know or have these type of zucchini's? It's the first time I've seen them but I'd be keen to grow some next year.
Beetroots abound and I love to make pickled beetroots which was where these babies ended up.  I'll share the recipe in a little while.

I was also very kindly given a rye sourdough starter, another mother to look after!! So watch out for that adventure coming soon!

Ok, so the exciting news....I was very lucky to have an article published in Mia Freemans online Magazine ~ Mamamia this week.  It is on the illness I have, Vestibular Migraine, and I'm excited to share it with you all.  Here is the link.  If I can raise awareness of this silent illness or help one person than I'll be so thrilled, it has been a lovely experience.

So that's a wrap, will see you all on Monday.  I hope you take the time to rest up and recharge on the weekend, your mind, body and soul will thank you.

Ciao, Jan x

Monday, 24 February 2014

panzanella bread salad with a twist and Week 9 of the Money Challenge

I don't know about you but our garden is brimming with the summer glut of basil and tomatoes.  Even if you aren't growing them, they should be a great price at your green grocers.
Panzanella bread salad is a favourite of mine as it is packed with flavour and is a perfect way to use up stale sour dough.  It dates back to the 16th century in Italy, where traditionally it is made by soaking the bread in water for a few minutes then wringing it out.  Not too long though, as you don't want a soggy mess.
I make mine a little different but the result is still delicious.
 My love affair with sour dough is continuing and I made this delicious salad using some of the stale slices that were lucky enough to survive.  

Take a garlic clove, cut in half, and rub the inside of a porcelain bowl that will be big enough to make salad for 2 hungry people.   Doing this gives a slight garlic flavour without having pieces of raw garlic in your salad.
Cut your stale sour dough into chunks and add to the bowl along with a good handful of fresh basil and mint.  You could easily use ciabatta or pana di casa also, as long as it's not just white sandwich loaf, or you will have slop on your hands. 
You need a very generous glug of your best extra virgin olive oil, some white wine vinegar or you can use balsamic, chopped up summer tomatoes, a good grinding of black pepper and sprinkling of sea salt.  
Give this all a good toss around and let stand for at least 30 minutes.  
I paired this panzanella with some crisp cos lettuce torn up, a few slices of left over roast chicken breast, an anchovy or 2 if you like and a good shaving of parmesan and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.  Mwah!  Leftovers never tasted so good!
If you have been playing along, you'll know what to do with week 9 of the money challenge.  I hope no-one has broken in to the stash!! Keep your fingers out!!

Ciao, Jan.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Cheeseymite scrolls

When you are cooking from scratch and trying to 1, watch your pennies and 2, create delicious meals, I'm always on the look out for ways to make us feel less on a budget and more like we are eating like kings.  But sometimes, the little people in our lives, that have been hit by the glitz and glamour of consumerism, buck the system!  Enter cheeseymite scrolls.  I shudder at the price per half dozen at the local bakers as I seriously can make dozens for the same price.  Gosh I'm a tight arse, smarty pants aren't I.  I love recipes that also masquerade as a lunchbox grab and pack or a quick breakfast on those mornings we all have when not even bribery is getting the kids dressed, nothing is going right and time is against you.

A dear kiwi friend gave me this recipe, but were for ham and cheese scrolls.  I'm not sure if they like or eat our black spreadable national icon over there in New Zealand.  For any of you who love and were brought up on Vegemite as a child like me, these little beauties will surely get you into the kids good books again.

Cheeseymite Scrolls
2 cups SR flour
1 tbspn caster sugar (I left it out :))
30gm soft butter
3/4 cup, or there abouts, of milk
few smears of Vegemite
1 cup of grated cheese of your choice, I used a mixture of cheddar & parmesan
  1. Preheat your oven to 180c.
  2. Rub the butter into the flour and sugar.
  3. Gradually add 3/4 cup of milk to make the dough.  I did need around a cup.
  4. Once you have kneaded the dough for a minute or so, roll it out to approximately 30x40cm rectangle.
  5. Now is when you can smear on the Vegemite as thick or as thin as you like it.  Then sprinkle over the cheese, leaving a little to add to the scroll tops before putting in the oven.
  6. Working from the bottom, roll up the dough into a semi tight log, seal edge by brushing with milk to keep the scroll from unravelling.
  7. Cut into even pieces, approcimately 2cm thick.
  8. Place them on a baking tray, cut side up, and sprinkle with a little extra cheese.
  9. Bake for around 20-30 minutes or until browned lightly.
This basic dough recipe can be created with so many ingredient combinations, you could go wild.  I've made them with pesto, cheese and salami; tomato passata, ham and cheese, or as a sweet scroll, stewed fruit like apples or plums sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, baked then iced once they have cooked down.  I have been freezing them in ziplock bags with 2 in each for the easiest lunchbox filler going!

Do you have a firm go to for your lunchbox dazzlers that get you out of trouble on busy mornings?

Ciao, Jan.

Monday, 17 February 2014

A kneady sour dough update and week 8 of the money challenge

I had a play around with the sour dough recipe on the weekend and had such exciting results, I just had to share.  So instead of baking in my oven I baked it in my camp oven like I do for my no knead bread but still following the 4 step process, with such amazing success,  I'm as happy as a mother with a new born....I may have even nursed it like a baby I was so chuffed!  Here are some pictures :D

Now I've shared my baby photos, just a reminder it's week 8 of the  52 week money challenge :D

I also had a wonderful experience of being interviewed by a fabulous, positive Southwest Victorian online mag ~ Bluestone Magazine with an article on me :D  They are 2 ladies showcasing our immensely diverse community of food producers, artists, local hero's and opinion pieces that are well researched and heart felt.    It was a very humbling and heart warming experience.  You can read the article here.  Watch this space for when I turn the tables and find out the whole Bluestone story in coming weeks.  I'd like to also take this time to thank all of my readers and supporters for turning up and reading my ramblings that have kept me sane.  Mwah!

Ciao, Jan.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

A kneady sour dough

It all started with two kind offering of organic flour and a 14 year old sour dough starter that got me on the journey of making my first sour dough loaf.  
I met the ladies from Bluestone Magazine at one of the local Made by me markets and a gesture from me in the spirit of giving at Christmas landed me with a gift from them of my very own sour dough starter and organic flour, one of the kindest things I think anyone has ever done for me.  
I was also tickled pink as I have wanted to try making sour dough since starting my bread making last year.
The offering came with instructions but as my regular readers will testify, I am one for not following a recipe to the letter and creating my own spin on things.  I was told in no uncertain terms, this was where that kind of philosophy would be my undoing if I were to succeed....ok, I'm going to follow this to a T!
Lets talk about "The Mother".  A mother sour dough starter is a cherished kitchen commodity that if treated kindly can potentially stay in your family for decades.  This one I was given is over 14 years pressure Jan, no pressure!!
          Caring for a sour dough mother/starter is quite simple once you get your head around it.  
It's consistency and loving vibes that keep Mum happy, bit like myself really!
When she arrived I tucked her up into the fridge as she had just kindly been fed by Louise, so I had around a week or more or less before I had to do a thing.  
I will admit, every time I reached into the fridge, I looked at her and silently whispered these words "Please don't die, Please don't die, I'm sending you lots of healthy sour doughy vibes oh beautiful one" crazy, I know, but I'm sure it helped.

To keep Mum fed, she needs to be taken out of the fridge for an hour to get to room temperature.  You then need to weigh out just 50gms worth of her, torn into little pieces as it helps the mixing process.  Into that carefully goes a weighed 50gms of plain flour and 25gms of weighed filtered water.  Don't be tempted to use water from the tap, Mum won't be happy and there will be tears and blood on your sour dough-less hands.

This is then kneaded for a minute or so until a stiff smooth dough is formed.
This is done around once a week, but you can best tell when she needs a good binge as during the week she will be bloated and lively, by the end of the week she has deflated some and it's time to revive her spirits.
Above is a picture of the new starter just fed.  As the days pass, more pockets of air develop and the starter rises, then falls when ready for a feed.
Pop her back into the washed out and dried air-tight container and get ready to start the nurturing game all over again.
Seeing as you throw away any starter that is over the 50gm's, you can easily make a gift and share the Motherly love to a friend who wants to also join the bake club.  
But be warned, I've been told of appointments cancelled, dinners with friends rescheduled and holidays avoided just to keep the Mother going!
Now comes the time when you actually want to use the starter and go forth and make bread...the exciting part!  
There are 4 steps that span around 26 hours (I know....). I've been making my no knead bread for over 6 months now with resoundingly easy success, so this seems like an epic adventure!  My instructions are for starting the bread on Friday morning to bake on Saturday night but you can start it whenever suits your schedule...are you ready for the ride?
Step 1  allow 6-8 hours proving time                                    (Friday morning)
  • Tear off 25gms of your mother starter and break into pieces into a bowl.  Place remaining starter back into the fridge to start the feeding process again as discussed above.
  • Into the 25gm starter mix in 50gm of flour (I used Kialla organic plain flour) and 25gm filtered water.  Mix until all the flour is absorbed.  Knead for 3 minutes.  I did this all in the bowl.  The picture above is the dough just before covering.
  • Lightly brush with oil (I used flaxseed oil) and cover with cling wrap and leave in a warm place to rise 6-8 hours (Ideally 25 degrees c)
Step 2  allow 6-8 hours proving time                                        (Friday night)
  • Measure out 100gm of dough and add 200gm flour and 100gm water.  Mix and knead as for step 1.   
  • Lightly brush with oil, cover with cling wrap and leave in a warm place to rise for 6-8 hours.
Note: You can leave this for over 20 hours before you continue to step 3.  Just pop it in the fridge to prove and bring out of fridge an hour before you start step 3. 

This was after step 3 before leaving to prove for 4-5 hours
Step 3  allow 3-4 hours proving time                     (Saturday morning ~ early)
  • Tear off 300g of your dough/starter.  Discard any over that amount.  
  • Break into pieces and then add 300g of tepid filtered water.
  • Add 400g flour and 12gm salt
  • Mix and knead for 5 minutes ~ the dough will be very sticky, you may need to add a little extra flour, try not to add too much though.  (I did some looking on youtube and found a wonderful tip to help with this. Into a jug or bowl, pour some filtered water and dampen your hand before you touch the dough. Not too wet though as you don't want to add too much more moisture to the dough. I left the dough in the bowl and kneaded it with one hand, turning and kneading away.  Wet won't stick to wet, so you don't need to use any extra flour.  Try it, put your dry hand onto the wet dough and see where you end up :D)
  • you can add 150gm of dried fruit, nuts etc at this stage if you want.
  • Rest for 20 minutes than knead again for 5-10 minutes.
  • Lightly cover with oil and cover with cling wrap and let prove in a warm spot for 1 hour.
  • Knock the air out/deflate the dough and give 2 business letter turns although it is quite a wet dough so just do your best at folding it for this kind of turn.  Let rise, covered, for another hour.
  • Knock the air out/deflate the dough and give 2 business letter turns.  Let rise, covered, for 4-5 hours.
Step 4  allow 3-4 hours proving time and 30 minutes cooking time 
                                                                                (Saturday afternoon)
  • Shape and let rise in the tin or if doing free form on a tray, leave to rise again in bowl for 3-4 hours.
  • Pre-heated a fan forced oven at 220c for approximately 30 minutes before you are ready, placing a baking dish into the bottom of the oven for the last 10 minutes of pre-heating.  This is to drop a good big handful of ice into to create steam.
  • Cut slits into the top of the dough with a pair of scissors or a sharp blade and bake for approximately 30 minutes and finally you should have something that resembles sour dough!!

This loaf was really wonderful, and best toasted.  I'm looking forward to my next loaf, although my no knead bread has alot to answer for, it is so easy!!

Have you ever made sour dough or cared for 'The Mother'?

Ciao, Jan

* read here for an update on the baking of the sour dough :)

Monday, 10 February 2014

Almond & chia sticky chicken and Week 7 of the money challenge

I've found the yummiest substitute for peanut butter and it happens to be 2 of my favourite foods combined ~ almond and chia spread.  I haven't been able to source it locally, it's only available so far in the big smoke so I've stocked up!  I've been having it spread on rice cakes,wraps and toast, dipping apples and banana's into it as an afternoon pick me up and smuggling it into my smoothies and muffins ~ banana with almond and chia muffins are definately rating high on the tried and tested list.  
I had a brainwave the other night and made this easy but not so traditional gorgeous sticky satay chicken using my scrummy spread that is definately worth trying.

I used free-range skin free chicken drummies for this recipe but you could use any cuts of meat you like, beef kebabs would be killer.  
I started by peeling and mincing a good amount of garlic with some sea salt, around 7 cloves.  We are still working our way through our home grown purple garlic which is super sweet.
In a bowl, mix together the garlic paste, 2 tablespoons of almond & chia spread (or peanut butter but make it crunchy), a good dollop of sweet chilli sauce, soy sauce, a teaspoon of brown sugar, a few dashes of fish sauce, a squeeze of half a lemon or lime and give it a good mix up before coat your drummies with it.  I put it in a container that can be easily flipped over in the fridge and tuck them up over night or at least 3 hours before you need them, turning them over as often as you remember.
Line a baking tray with foil and place chicken on a rack, giving them a scattering of sesame seeds.  The foil just makes cleaning up a sinch as it collects all that gooey, sticky sauce that can go straight into the bin.  Place chicken into a hot oven, around 200c for around 35 minutes, turning once or twice.
Serve with plain basmati rice and steamed greens and tuck in for lip smacking deliciousness. 

Can you believe it's already week 7 of the 52 week money challenge too, so get that money into your jar :)

Ciao, Jan

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Rhubarb and Lavendar coulis

Well before Christmas I swindled some lavender from a friends garden with the intention of making cupcakes using lavendar sugar.  Lavendar is one of those scents most people love, but in a cupcake? I wasn't sold.  I went about making the sugar anyway.  It's dead easy.  All you need to do is find yourself a clean jar, 3/4 fill with caster sugar and drop in 6 or so washed and dried lavendar stems.  Give it a toss around and leave for 3-4 days, giving it a shake every once in a while.

You can sieve the lavendar out, or just pick it out and give it a shake off.  Leave in your cupboard for weeks or until you are ready to use it.
I've got one beautiful crown of Rhubarb that keeps on giving.  It needed a good harvest so had around 2 kg's of cleaned stalks.  I was looking around the kitchen and thinking of ways to use it up and came up with this gorgeous Rhubarb and Lavendar coulis.  It was meant to be jam, but, well it didn't quite work out :) I'm a quick learner, and Rhubarb has so much water in it, i'd have to use a mountain of pectin to get it to set, coulis it is!

To the chopped rhubarb I added one orange and one lemon.  I peeled the skin off as I wanted to leave it in the coulis.
To around 14 cups of Rhubarb, I added 2 cups of Lavendar sugar and 2 cups of normal sugar, 1 pkt of jam setting pectin and the citrus fruit.
As it's bubbling away nicely, skim off any skum that rises, these are impurities that are best removed gently with a spoon.  Try not to remove too much of the good stuff.  Gently boil for around 30 minutes and let sit for 5-10 minutes and then add to hot, sterilised jars from the oven.  You can read how to do that here.
This haul made around 6 small jars and was made for a few dollars.  It is just scrummy on yoghurt, icecream, a few tablespoons folded through some banana muffins before they hit the oven or even folded through an apple crumble.

It really is so rewarding, making use of all that's coming in from the garden in new ways.  I can see a new love affair with jam's and preserves unfolding!
Do you make your own jam or preserves? What are you bottling up at the moment?

Ciao, Jan.
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