Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Food Adventures in Nepal Part 1

I haven't written a new post for my blog for almost 2 months now. Christmas is always a busy time but my big excuse is that I have been in Nepal for the past month. What a beautiful country. My daughter Jennie and I went together, first trekking on 2 four days treks in Annapurna and then the Helambu regions. We then spent almost 10 days volunteering in a school just outside Kathmandu and feeling very much part of the school community. It was a great way to experience the real Nepal rather than just the tourist version....more on that in another post though. 
As I expected, the treks were hard work, either uphill or downhill for long stints but all my pre-trip exercising paid off in that I had no problems with my knees. I just got blisters from sweaty socks on particularly long days of walking and especially trying to keep up to Jennie's speedy pace. I really enjoyed the quiet of the treks, getting a glimpse of the self sufficient life that the villagers live and of course the fantastic views. You really learnt to appreciate good energy giving carbohydrate rich foods and plenty of fluids on route. Chai masala was our favourite tea and we would order a big pot to rehydrate when we arrived at our tea or guest house. Another little tip that Jennie learnt from her previous visit to Nepal was to take a mini bottle of Khukuri rum with us to add a dash in the tea. Very warming on cold winters night! The pots came in various sizes but this one was the best. 

A little guest house (not often patronised if the kid staring at us eating breakfast was an indication of how many Westerners actually stayed there) at Chipling in the Helambu region served us up this thermos which by my reckoning held about 2 litres of tea.

 My favourite food on the treks was Gurung or Tibetan bread .
 Apologies that this is not my photo but I was usually so hungry or exhausted and this always tasted so good that I didn't think about taking photos, only eating it! It is a fried bread that had a doughnut like texture and maybe there might have even been a hint of cinnamon in there as well. Main meal menus were pretty much the same wherever we trekked – a choice of dhal bhat (the dish of rice, curry and dhal that many Nepalis eat for lunch and dinner) or various versions of more exotic foods such as pizza, macaroni, chop suey or chow mein.
And how about this for a restaurant with a view.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Midwifery and more planting in the Patch

While I was working in the vege patch this morning, I noticed one of the cows in the next paddock seemed to be having a bit of trouble giving birth. I climbed over the fence and after a bit of a tug on the legs of the calf that was half out, I helped this little calf into the world. Then I discovered he was a twin. I guess the mum was getting a bit too weary to push anymore so was probably grateful for a helping hand.
The little calf I helped deliver and his mummy

Then I got back to planting all my tomatoes, pumpkins, zucchini, cucumbers, melons, squash, and basil. If any more chilly nights or mornings are predicted by the weatherman, I will just have to make sure I cover them all up before bedtime.  The last week or so has been pretty warm though so I am hoping we have had the last of the frosts for the year.  And as it is 2 days off  November, I feel I can chance it.

In the patch this morning

First of the tomatoes go in

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ice Cream Christmas Pudding and Fondue

As the Silly Season approaches, it is time to start thinking about putting things in the freezer for end of year get togethers. The good thing about an ice cream Christmas pudding is that it can sit in the freezer for months (as long as we don't eat it in the meantime) ready for entertaining in the summer.

This is a simple recipe that my mum used to make and we have every Christmas. Soak one and a half cups of dried fruit in one cup of creme de cacao or Kahlua overnight. Next day chop up some marshmallows and mix everything together in some vanilla and chocolate icecream.The recipe says to use 1 litre of each flavour but I always double it as it is so delicious I want Christmas food to last on and on!
Tonight we are having a fondue made with some of our homemade Gruyere cheese. Haven't had a fondue for a long time but it is such a lovely way to enjoy cheese occasionally. We might try dipping in some raw carrot, broad beans and fennel from the garden to see what they are like.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Gruyere or Gremmental?

Here's a test for you. Which of the two photos below is my Gruyere/Emmental (see my blog post in April when I made it and mixed up the pressing regime) and which is the photo from the Artisan Cheese Making book? Can't tell the difference?. Imagine my surprise when I cut open my 6 month old block of Gremmental the other day and it had the right kind of holes in the middle. Not only that, it even tasted like a Swiss cheese. I also gave a piece to Max to taste, not telling him what it was, and he identified a Swiss cheese flavour. Amazing. I was fully expecting a failure as I have heard that Swiss cheese is notoriously difficult to make. It had cracked badly during the early maturing process and a bit of mould had grown in the cracks under the wax which was why I was cutting it open the other day.

Glad all that hard work paid off!
Over the past couple of weekends, I have been madly preparing the vegetable garden for the spring summer plantings. So far I have planted carrots, parsnip, spinach,corn, kale, bok choy, silver beet, beetroot, lettuce, broccoli, fennel, snow peas and climbing beans. All my frost tender plants are still growing under cover to protect them from the sometimes still chilly mornings (like the frost today). Have to wait another 3 weeks before it is safe to plant them here.....but the ground is already dug over and ready to go.
And just for the record, the first photo is my cheese.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Perry- pear cider

No time to do anything this weekend as we have been away but last week I made a small bottle of Perry using frozen pear juice I made earlier this year. Add some yeast, an OzTop to the bottle and then let it brew in a warm place for a few days. Delicious.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Alpine Style Tomme

Tried a new cheese over the weekend - this recipe is from my new cheese book Artisan Cheese Making at Home. Alpine style is a pressed cow's milk cheese made in the French, Swiss, Italian or Austrian alps under various names. Tomme is meant to refer to a cheese aged with a textured rind however I decided to wax it anyway so that I don't have to spend the next few months keeping the rind clean of mould.

The process is much the same as many of the pressed cheeses I have made before. Warm the milk, add starter culture ( this cheese had both mesophilic and thermophilic starter as the curd gets cooked a bit), add rennet and the cut the curd. After resting the cut curd for a short while, it is then heated first to 95. degrees F then to 100 degrees F (my American book is all in Fahrenheit so lucky my thermometer does both C and F!) . The curd is then drained for a while before going into the mould for pressing. The cheese then gets pressed over about 3 hours with gradually increasing weights.
After air drying overnight, the cheese can either be dry salted for a few days or floated in an almost saturated brine solution for 8 hours. After drying off, it is then ready for putting in the cave, except this is where I cheated and waxed it as well.

And just to keep me on my toes, I made a batch of fetta at the same time.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Spring in the Vege Garden and Sourdough Ciabatta Bread

This time of year there are always lots of things to do in the garden. Digging when the weather has allowed the soil to dry out a bit, sowing seeds in readiness for the warmer weather, planting or sowing direct to the garden for those crops which will tolerate the cold soils, cleaning up the winter veges going to seed, and the list goes on.

Now that my snow peas are starting to grow, I find it is easiest to train them to grow up the mesh by attaching some light cotton to the top of the plant and the mesh. This just holds them upright and they don’t get knocked over by the strong winds that are blowing today. I also need to protect them from the greedy birds that are looking for an easy feed at this time of the year.

My potato crop is starting to pop out of the ground so I have spread mulch around them to try to minimize the weed growth.  Hopefully this summer won’t be quite so wet so that we get a decent crop.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Yoghurt is so easy

I have been making my own yoghurt for a while now and have it down to a fine art. I can do it while I am making my lunch before I go to work. First thing to do is to put some hot water in the wide necked thermos I set it in. This preheats the thermos so that it stays warm for several hours.
Next put two and a half cups of milk in a microwave jug on High for two and a half minutes. Add half a cup of milk powder and a teaspoon of honey.
The honey takes the acidic edge off the flavour.

The temperature at which you add your culture is crucial - too hot and it kills the culture bacteria , too cold and it won't multiply. I always know the temperature is right when I can just keep my little finger in the milk for 10 seconds.

Add a tablespoon of starter - this is just some shop bought yoghurt which has a live culture.Tthe amount is not crucial .A smaller the amount of culture probably just means it takes longer for the culture to grow enough in this amount of milk.Tip the hot water out of thermos and pour in the milk.

Then by the end of the day, the yoghurt is ready. Put it in the fridge overnight and by morning it is just the right consistency. You can use this yoghurt as your starter culture a few times but it becomes more and more acidic. Thats when you need to buy a new one to start again. Oh and don't forget to actually add the culture - once I wondered why my yoghurt hadn't set by the end of the day and then realised I hadn't actually added the vital ingredient! That's what can happen when you are trying to do several chores at once!

Lots of Lemons

At this time of year when I have lots of lemons I am always on the lookout for new ways to use them. When a friend offered me a recipe for a Lemon and Mustard Seed Chutney, I jumped at the chance to try something new. Chopped lemons are salted overnight.

 This morning  I heated the mustard seeds until they popped and then added cider vinegar, sugar,chopped raisins and onions, mixed spice,and the lemons. Boil it all up for 45 minutes and then it is ready to bottle. Tastes pretty good 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tomato Relish on a Rainy Day

What to do when it's raining and it's too muddy to do anything in the garden??......make tomato relish with those frozen tomatoes in the freezer  from last summer. This is a really easy recipe made from tomatoes, apples, onions, vinegar, mustard powder, curry powder, salt and sugar. I think that's all. Just boil for an hour and a half, then thicken with a bit of cornflour mixed with extra vinegar then bottle. Voila - enough tomato relish to keep us going for the rest of the year probably.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

There's a hint of spring in the air!

 There is feeling of spring in the air around here. Suddenly the grass has started to grow again and the daffodils are flowering.  Today I have been collecting about 20 bags of seaweed from the beach at East Wynyard to mulch my raspberry patch. It is a great free resource and I wasn't the only one with the same idea today but there was plenty to go around. Max has also been cleaning out one of the calf sheds and spreading the very fertile but rather stinky bedding around the fruit trees. Just need a bit of rain to wash away the smell now.
Also today I have got around to putting in an order with The Lost Seed company for some more vege seeds. So many heritage varieties to choose from! This summer I am going to try out some new things like a French melon which tolerates cooler climates and a variety of cool climate watermelons as well. Last summer was nonexistent, wet and never quite warm enough, so there was no way I could replicate the previous summer's inaugural crop of watermelons.
Roma tomato, broccoli, kale and fennel seedlings
I have already got a few punnets of seeds growing in a nice warm spot upstairs and soon I will start putting in lots more of my summer vege seeds to have ready for planting when all the frosts are over in a couple of months.
Not a lot new happening in the Kitchen this weekend - I made sourdough bread last night and have a block of Sage Wensleydale cheese in the press tonight. It was a bit tricky timing the cheesemaking steps with the trip to the beach so I hope it turns out ok. The last one I made and wrote about in November or December was really good so I have meaning to try it again for a while.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

More Cheese updates and time to put the spuds in.

 The Caerphilly that I made last week has only just dried out enough to wax this morning. Now it can join all the other cheeses in the cheese fridge.

Like this Parmesan which is now just about a year old. It looks a bit mouldy on the outside but it has a hard rind so I think it will be fine inside. Might try it out soon.

The Brie from February is not looking so good.......no white mould on the outside as it should have, and rather than soft and creamy inside, it is still hard. I think this might be one for the chooks.

Outside in the garden, where we pulled out the dead grevillea last weekend, the seed potatoes are laid out ready for planting. Three types this year - Bismark, King Edward and Dutch creams. Let's hope the summer is a bit better this year so that we have don't have the same problems with rot as last summer.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Caerphilly Cheese

It was back to the Preserving Patch kitchen to make some cheese yesterday for the first time in a while. As well as a batch of Fetta and the inevitable ricotta (using the leftover whey), I thought I would have a go at making Caerphilly for the first time. The initial steps were the same as most cheeses - add starter, add rennet, cut the curd, warm the curd slightly. The main difference in the process was cutting the curd into 2.5cm thick slices and stacking these one on top of the other and flipping every few minutes over a 10-15 minute period.
 This is similar to the cheddaring process used for ..cheddar. The stack of slices then gets milled into small bits and salted before a pressing regime.
Now the wheel is sitting on the kitchen table ready to dry out over the next few days. It then goes into the cheese cave but should be ready for eating in only a few weeks. 
It is also almost a year since I made the 2 wheels of parmesan which are sitting in the cheese fridge......can't wait to try them.
Meanwhile out in the garden, I can hear the chainsaw going. Yesterday we cut out a huge Grevillea that had curled up its toes and died suddenly. This left quite a big area of bare ground. I have been looking for somewhere to plant some potatoes soon so guess what.......Max has started digging it over with a fork, ready for the seed potatoes. Last weekend I bought some Dutch Cream and Bismark seed potatoes and they have been hardening off, suspended in baskets in the cold woodshed, out of reach of hungry vermin. Now that I have a spot to plant them, I am thinking that I might go for a third variety to fill up the space.....King Edwards perhaps. That way I will have potatoes suitable for all sorts of cooking - mash, salad, roast, bake and fry.
 I am going to start sowing in punnets the first of the spring plantings this weekend too. Kale is top on the list of things to sow. Kale is such a great vegetable to grow all year round and even though it is cold I can rely on it to germinate if I put the punnet on a north facing window sill. On these cold winter days, a Portuguese chourico and kale soup makes a hearty lunch. It was -10 degrees in the Tasmanian highlands this morning and it is still only 3.6 degrees on my back porch at the moment.... pretty chilly.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Checking out the food of New Caledonia

For the past couple of weeks I have been exploring New Caledonia, a stone's throw (2 hours flight) from Brisbane yet so unknown as a holiday destination for Australians. It is a real little piece of France out in the Pacific with very little English spoken once you are outside of Noumea. I was really interested to see what people were growing and eating on this tropical island. There were heaps of coconuts everywhere yet we didn't get to eat any of it......seemed like a wasted resource to me. I kept hoping some entrepreneurial local would have a little roadside stall selling green coconut milk but I was sadly disappointed. If only I had been carrying a screw driver with me so that I could get the husk off like I used to do when I lived in Mackay.
Also surprisingly, a lot of food is imported from France. The only cheese we could find anywhere (except for the tiny farm we passed which was closed) was all from France. All the milk we had tasted like UHT milk, so I guess this cow we saw tethered near a beach in the deep south east, must have just been for local use.
Seafood was certainly in abundance and a trip to the Noumea seafood market was mouth watering. So much to choose from : mussels, prawns, crayfish, and a huge variety of reef fish. Check out the huge chunks of fresh tuna on display!


       The other interesting crop we saw was some vanilla growing in a private garden. It was nice to try some proper vanilla ice cream in a nearby restaurant that night. There were lots of roadside stalls all over the main island but choice was pretty limited-  yams, passionfruit, oranges and occasional bananas.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

MMM..More Marmalade and jam

The jam cupboard has been looking a bit empty recently so thought I had better do some restocking. With lots of frozen berries from summer in the freezer and citrus ripening in the orchard, jam and marmalade was on the agenda.
The loganberry jam went on the stove first while I chopped and peeled my way through various citrus fruit. I am still experimenting with marmalade with several recipes all with different methods of preparing the fruit. In the end I did a bit of everything, sliced, zested, juiced, strained out the pulp, guessed how much sugar and water to add by using two differing proportions from recipes. In the end I think I ended up with 1kg of fruit slices and juice, 1kg of sugar and 1 litre of water. I used lemon, orange, grapefruit and tangelo in the mix so am calling it 4 Fruit Marmalade (one up on last years 3 fruit version). It turned out a beautiful colour and having just had some on a slice of sourdough toast for breakfast, I can vouch it has a beautiful flavour as well. And not ever having been a great fan of marmalade, that is saying something!
When I was driving back from Hobart a few weeks ago, I called into the town of Oatlands where they make delicious sourdough bread from flour milled at the restored Oatlands mill. The bread shop also sells reed banettons imported from Germany, to rise your sourdough bread in before you tip it onto a heated stone in the oven. So I tested it out on this weekend and was quite pleased with the result.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ripened Camembert and more preserved Lemons

At last some more success with Camembert. I had a couple of failures with this cheese earlier in the year but this batch seems to be just right - coming to a stage of ripeness where the inside just oozes out. Tastes pretty good too. I was a bit concerned that it wasn't going to ripen as the initial mould formation sort of petered out when I turned them over. However, it must have been doing its job properly after all.

Of course this is the time of year when citrus comes to the fore so I just had to make another batch of preserved lemons. When you open the lid of the jar, it is one of my favourite smells! I just wish I remembered to use them more often in my cooking.
I have been out in the garden doing a lot of pruning this long weekend. It is very satisfying to complete my list  of fruit trees and bushes to prune. The vege garden has been cleaned up too - finally the very last of the tomato plants have been pulled out. I still have a few fresh ones to eat although they are not the best quality.