discovering a simpiler life

discovering a simpiler life

Monday, 23 March 2015

Coconut, chia and strawberry bread

When I was growing up, my mum (bless her) wasn't a great cook nor did I come home to cookies or cakes straight from the oven with a glass of milk.  I instead usually was home alone until Mum came home from work or I was with my mama (our maternal grandmothers name for us grandies thanks to the first cousin in a long line that couldn't wrap his lips around 'nana') along with a gazillion cousins.  Mama raised 11 children on her own in the 40's, 50's and 60's.  Could you even imagine?  Yep, on...her...own...11 under 11 ~ a set of twins came late down the line just to throw a spanner in the works!  She is a modern day saint that woman.  She has also had a wonderful hand at helping raise all of their offspring.  So you can understand when I say my cousins and I after school at Mama's place was like feeding time at the zoo.  She had a way of whipping up something out of nothing for us all - either her family famous scones, pancakes, spaghetti and potato soup (I must share that frugal recipe), grated potato cakes or she would just put out a loaf of white bread, butter, jam and let us devour the whole loaf before we went outside and left a trail of destruction for her to clean up.

Now that I'm a Mum, and a stay at home Mum, I do make most things from scratch for her lunchbox and a cooked evening meal yes I nearly always have on at the ready, but I don't always have sweet treats just out of the oven for my girl when she arrives home from school,  but I try and do it at least once a week as the pleasure it brings her is worth it :)  

I do try and be a bit sneaky and get in as much fruit or healthy items as possible so when I found this recipe here for coconut bread that also contains no egg, I thought I'd give it a try.   I thought I'd give it a whirl, with my own twists of course. I couldn't not use some of my home clucked chook eggs though so I just added one.  I'm thinking I will have this toasted for breakfast this week too with some slices of banana....ok probably not as I don't think it will last that long.

Coconut, chia and strawberry bread
1 cup self raising flour
1 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup agave syrup or sugar
1/3 cup chia seeds 
1 cup frozen or fresh strawberries (you could use any berries or banana even)
1/cup frozen or fresh strawberries to decorate the top
into your 1 cup measure, crack 1 egg-whisk well- then top up with soy milk or a milk of your choice - coconut milk would be sublime

1.  Pre-heat oven to 170c and line a loaf/bread tin with baking paper.

2.  Sift flour and add all ingredients and mix thoroughly just with a spoon will do, but don't over work it.

3.  Pour batter into the tin and smooth the top - use a spatula to get all of the batter out of your bowl.  Top with 1/2 cup of remaining berries.

4.  Bake for approx. 35 minutes.  Leave to cool slightly in the tin before turning out onto a baking tray.

5.  Devour with hot cups of tea and conversation.

Truth be known, I'd happily bake something every day for after school but unfortunately between me and my darling heart we would devour it as we both love food so that is why I show some restraint!  Another bonus about this recipe as it seriously took me 2 minutes to whip it together and was ready by the time I'd walked up to the school gate....and there really is nothing like cups of tea or hot chocolate, a warm slice of somethin' somethi'nto get your kids to talking about their day - bribery all the way!!  Although we did fight over another slice...

What do you like to bake that's in the oven in minutes?

Ciao, Jan x

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Happy Flower Blanket -Ta-dah

My happy flower blanket that I started back in January has  finally, finally been finished.  What a labour of love it was with exactly 150 granny flower squares then the joining of them all and a boarder...I'd hate to even guess at how many hours it took, it was around 2 months and I did more some days than others but I did it!

I got the original idea here but I did change my squares to 5 rounds then a round of joining.  This was mainly due to Sharron using cotton and a 3.5mm hook where as I was using a variety of mostly 8 ply wool and/or acrylic on a 4.25mm hook so it would have ended up too big.  I also didn't have the choice of the gorgeous colour combinations but I did put a big dint in the yarn I had hoarded on hand.  I think I only needed to purchase 8 or so balls which made this a pretty cheap blanket.
Although the placement looks random, some thought has to go into it as you don't want to double up on the same colours in the same rows.  I layed them all out then bundled them into row piles and got to hooking them together.
I love the joining together stage, something wonderful happens when you can see your creative imaginings  coming together in a real project in the form of a warm snuggly blanket.  My husband must be a saint cause if it was his stuff piled all over the lounge room day after day, week after week, we would be divorced!! Funny how us woman can cope with our crap all over the house, my hubby says even his car keys get moved within minutes of him popping them on the kitchen bench...Me? Territorial? Perfect? Never!!
Excuse me while I bombard you with the stages and photos!!
It kept my legs nice and warm as I was joining it and as it grew and the colours came together it just made me happy.
here he is without a boarder

I was going to do a colourful boarder but it just looked wrong - too much going on so I went with the pink doing a granny stitch all the way around twice and ended with a round of dc.  I used this granny boarder technique to avoid the corners curling here, but I must admit it is curling up a little but it's hardly a problem.  The boarder and joining is in 4 Seasons pure wool entwine 8ply 100% Australian wool made for spotlight.
On my daughters bed - it's a present for her 8th birthday that I'm hoping will be well loved and used.

this gives you an idea on my queen size bed how big it is...and I think maybe it looks good on my bed too

So there we have it! It's my 4th blanket in less than a year but this is by far the largest.  My aunt has already put her hand up to make her one which I've been itching to start, but I just couldn't start it before this one was finished.  It's going to be a different one altogether, not a granny square or stitch insight so I might be doing some super fast learning!  Thank goodness for youtube.....

Ciao, Jan x

Sunday, 15 March 2015

The family tomato chutney...I could be killed for giving out this recipe

I originally posted this recipe on 17/11/13 but thought with so much tomato action going on it might be worth re-posting it for you :D

If I go missing over the next few days, you might want to send a search party out as what I'm about to do might ruffle some family feathers!  But, I have the permission of the grand master, Mama herself, so it with her blessing that I give you our treasured tomato chutney recipe.
I don't think she realises the potential consequences but I'm a giver so I'm rolling with it.  Mama is hanging up her apron for making this chutney, well so she said.  She did say that last year and the year before that but she still gets tempted late summer as the last of the tomatoes are needing using up.  I've been making it with her for about 5 years now, and this time I did it all flying solo.  So here is the recipe, but be warned there are many notes and tips!! Like when I shared mama's scones last month.  This recipe is really best when the tomatoes are lovely and ripe, full of juice.  We don't normally make it this early as the season isn't in full swing, but I got my hands on some tomatoes that fit the bill and I also wanted to give some for christmas gifts to friends and family.

Tomato Chutney
4kgs ripe tomatoes
1 1/2kgs onions, peeled and chopped roughly
4 granny smith apples, peeled, quartered and cored
4 cloves of garlic
1.25kgs of sugar (I know....)
180ml ezy-sauce*
3 tbspn salt
1 dspn dry mustard powder, we use keens
1 dspn dry curry powder, we use keens
3 tbspn cornflour
optional extra: when making this in the middle of summer, I have added a zucchini and capsicum or two if I have them in abundance.  You just blitz them with the onions and apples.

There are two schools of thought, the first is Mamas, and that is that the quantities for the tomatoes, onions and apples above are brought and peeled, skinned, cored and the like and then made.  I actually took the time to weigh what was taken off, like the onion peels, and the difference in weight was nearly 700g of skin.  So, I brough 5kgs of tomatoes, 5 granny smith apples and 2kgs of onions and used 20ml more ezy sauce and a bit more of the powders, say 1/2 a tspn more of each. You also will need to taste it at the end for salt and pepper.  It is better to taste it when cold, so put a spoon or two into the fridge and then taste it.
Now lets get in to it.  I work methodically when making this chutney, doing one thing at a time.  Now my way isn't the only way, I'm just telling you how I do it with the greatest of speed and  keeping things clean as we go.  I find it very important to have a clean kitchen, an empty sink as you need room.  I also have a small kitchen so it has to be this way otherwise I'm doomed from the get go.
  I start with the tomatoes first as they take the longest.  You need to peel them and the easiest way I find to do this at home is to empty out the vegie crisper from your fridge and use this.  You need to start by coring and scoring your tomatoes.  This helps the skin to come off easily once they have been covered with boiling water.
The tomato with the core out.  Use a paring knife.
Scoring the tomato, use a paring knife.  
A sharp one will even be better!
As you are scoring and coring, cut out any imperfections in the tomatoes too.  
As you go along scoring and coring add the tomatoes to your vegie crisper
Make sure to cover your toms with boiling water.  
 just fill and boil the kettle a few times
Cover them with a tea towel
This is what the tomato looks like after around 5-10 minutes in the water
While you are waiting for the tomatoes and water to do their thing, get to peeling all the onions, then the garlic and apples.  Blitz them finely in a food processor and put into a large stock pot.  My pot would have to hold around 20 litres.  
Peel all the tomatoes the start dicing them up.  Make sure to scoop up and of the juice that come out on the board, use your knife to get those juices into the saucepan.

Sprinkle the tomato and onion mix with the salt and give it a good stir.  Here's a little tip we do but I don't quite know why it works. So, get 2 20c pieces and put in a cup and pour over boiling water to sterilise them.  Add them to the pot.  So the family wives tale is that the coins stop the chutney from sticking.  I've never had it stick, nor has Mama so I'm keeping the tradition.  When they come out they are black(I'm not thinking about where the shine has gone!!), make sure you get them out and don't put them in someones chutney!

Back to the sprinkling of the salt, ok now you have added the salt and the coins bring it up to a boil, on medium heat.  Once it reaches the boil, add the saugar and ezy sauce and mix well.  I use a rubber spatuala to get the sides of the pot clean after each stir, but you don't have to be as anal as me.  Use a wooden spoon or a large stainless kitchen spoon (in picture above on left balancing on the pot handle) as it needs to get down to the bottom of the chutney each time you stir.  I don't 100% trust the coin theory, you still need to stir every 5-10 minutes, just to make sure.  While you are waiting, get all your glass jars ready.  Giving them a good wash and rinse.  I used 17 of various sizes but more were on the smaller size.  The ones I use are 400g or under, some even 250g.  I personally prefer using smaller jars over large ones like 700g jars, as then I can share it with more people and the chutney stays fresher rather than a huge amount to get through once the jar is opened.

*Ezy-sauce is found in the supermarket in the isle with the condiments like tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce.  It is a sauce and condiment recipe mix and the ingredients listed are water, food acid, ground black pepper, clove oil and chilli.  When measuring out, make sure you give the stubbie a good tip upside down and up again to mix well.
Simmer/boil rapidly for approx 2 hours.  It should be reduced by around a 1/3 and be not too watery.  
Mix the powders and cornflour together with a few tbspns of water, making sure to get any lumps out.  Also turn the oven on to 150c to get hot for the glass jars to get sterilised.  Add the cornflour/curry mix to the chutney and stir in well.  It is helping to thicken and flavour the chutney.  Let it bubble away for 5 minutes then put a few teaspoons worth in the fridge and taste.  You may need more salt, or some pepper or more curry.  Last year I made a spicer batch, adding a few birdseye chilli's and only 1kg of sugar and it was lovely.
Place jars in hot oven for 5 minutes, you need to put hot sauce into hot jars.  I use a ladle and a measuring jug with a spout to get the chutney into the jars. Beware it is very hot!
This chutney is great teamed up with so many things but a few of my favourite uses are with cold meat, tasty cheese, frittatas, on toast on its own, any sort of pastry dish like sausage rolls or pies.  

So, there you have it.  Secret is out.  I'm going to keep making this a few times a season, at least.  I love the many requests I get for a jar, so don't feel like you have to put me out of a job!!  Do you have a family recipe that will be taken to the grave?  I'm so glad I have the opportunity to get these gems documented.  And to my family, please don't be cross!

Ciao, Jan

Sunday, 8 March 2015

oven roasted tomato passata in a flash

I'm of good anglo convict stock brought up on meat and 3 veg but I swear sometimes I am Italian.  My Nan, in her teens, had an Italian friend, Carlo from Leece in Italy.  He was a migrant worker in her sleepy home town and their friendship was apparently not of the romantic kind but I think he held a torch for her.
They have exchanged Christmas cards and calendars for almost 70 years and I always delighted at seeing his broken English/Italian writing.  Sadly, we haven't heard from Carlo in a few years so I'm thinking maybe he passed away.
In my fantasy they had an affair and my mum was the offspring so it's true I have Italian blood running through my veins!! Hehehe this is really not the case by the way....but I can dream....

So it's with pleasure that Mr. GW and I live the lives of an old Nonna and Nonno - me in the kitchen and he in the garden.  (But for the record we aren't that old!!) We didn't plan our lives to be like this but it has been a natural transition which has evolved after almost 20 years together and I just love it.

It's days like making this passata that I wish I had a large Italian family and we all did it together then sitting down to a big table of gluttonous delights ~ eating from the garden crops and drinking homemade red wine from small glasses.....yet I'm an only child!
But lucky for me this recipe is so simple I can do it all myself.
We have grown lots of different varieties of tomatoes this year - heirloom to cherry tomatoes, romas, grosse lisse and a few self seeded unknown varieties.  Down here in South-west Victoria, we have had a very mild summer with only a handful of days over 30c, which suits me nicely but is not great for the tomatoes nor the other crops like our eggplants, corn, capsicums and strawberries.  It's been slow and steady which has been great as sometimes it can be overwhelming trying to deal with kilos and kilos of produce all at once.

This sauce is super quick, the longest time is the cooking time of the tomatoes in the oven and then the time you need them in the water bath.  It probably only takes minutes to get them ready for the oven, mouli them, pour into jars and then that's it. 
I made 3 types of sauce, the first a  mixture of cherry tomatoes and a few baby capsicums - pictured above - with some garlic cloves, with the skin left on.  Second was tomatoes with red onions and garlic, skins all on - pictured below - and thirdly just straight tomato.
All you need do is to pre heat your oven to 180-200c and put the tomatoes onto a baking tray with some salt and I used cracked white pepper.  You could obviously add chillis to this for a spicier sauce.  For the large tomatoes I sliced them in half.  They take around 20 minutes or so to blister and brown ever so slightly.  While they are cooking, wash your jars and lids, making sure to get rid of any soap suds.

Once they have blistered and the juices are running out you will need to put them through a mouli with the finest attachment to take out the skins and seeds.  My mouli fits perfectly over a medium saucepan I have which collects all the scarlet juices.  If you don't have a mouli, you could use a sieve and push the tomatoes through with a wooden spoon
I ladle the tomato sauce into a jug and fill the jars.  I have a enough basil around to feed a large Italian family, so I added a few fresh sprigs to each jar.  
Put the jars with the lids on into a large pot of cold water.  Bring to the boil and allow to bubble away for 40 minutes (not vigorously boiling but more than simmering) and turn the heat off.  You can pour the water off or leave the jars to cool in the water, both work fine .  I find this water bath cooking method is great for getting those stubborn jar labels off too!  
So there you have it, my oven roasted tomato passata.
Do you like to make passata? Or do you find it too hard? Or do you have your own Italian family that makes it for you?   
Either way, I promise this is super easy with minimum mess and fuss.

Ciao, Jan x

Thursday, 5 March 2015

In my kitchen ~ March 2015

Gosh these monthly in my kitchen series roll around quickly!
There has been lots of preserving happening here in my kitchen, and with a new addition of a dehydrator, we are building up our store cupboard nicely.
I've been inundated with tomatoes, like more than half the country I have a guess - but isn't it just lovely.  There is just so much you can do with them, if you are stuck for ideas here's some of my favourite recipes here.  We have also had a bumper chilli crop which we have been making Mr. GW's chilli sauce and pickled hot whole chillis that he is addicted to. 
The chillis we grow are a mixture of birds eye, fire cracker, cayenne, pepper chilli and a heap of self seeded unknown varieties.

I've been making my tomato passata with a new oven roasted recipe I'll post in the coming days if you are after a quick and easy one.  

I dehydrated some of the bounty and then popped them into a jar with some extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil.  So thrilled to be able to do this as it just adds some variety to our preserving.
I used up the end of my peaches but these didn't last very long.
I was totally excited to be gifted these cute and delicious biscuits from Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella as a valentines day give away. I'm going to admit I lived up to my name sake and ate them both while no-one was home with a cup of tea and they were heavenly.  Why do things taste better when they are given to us with 'love' and when you are sneaking them? :)  I actually didn't feel guilty, I savoured every bite.  Glutton, yep!

I received a beautiful but cheeky card in the mail from a dear friend, it's on my kitchen mantal and I chuckle and feel heart warmed every time I read it.

We have been loving the La Nova anchovies in the big jar.  I did a little kitchen experiment  adding them to a potato bake.  It was sliced potatoes, a scattering of anchovies between each layer (there was 3 layers) and then cover with chicken stock and bake at 180c for 30 minutes.  Take out and then micro-plane or grate over some parmesan cheese and pop back into the oven for another 15 minutes or until nice and golden.  What a hit - Delicious!

This is a great chook book but it should be called "The spoilt chook".  Our girls have settled in so well, you can read about their arrival here.
And look what we found yesterday!!! I'm just thrilled to bits :)

So thats me for this month.  If you would like me to pop over to see  your kitchen adventures, leave me a comment :)

Ciao, Jan x
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