Sunday, December 23, 2012

Garlic + egg yolks + olive oil = Aoili


The garlic is dug dried and plaited.
What better way to use up the egg of which I accidentally broke a little bit of the shell than turning into Aoili for a special Christmas extra.   First the cloves of garlic are pounded in a mortar and pestle. The egg yolks are separated.
Then bit by bit the olive oil is added into the mix, a dash of lemon juice until it all magically thickens up and becomes Aoili.
What to do with the leftover eggwhites? Whip them up into a meringue, smash that up and mix with cream and all those excess strawberries and raspberries we have at the moment. And what do you have? Eton Mess for dessert.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Herbs for all seasons, December 11, 2012

My new herb garden is growing like crazy.  This afternoon I harvested a few pieces of tarragon, coriander and dill and chopped them up finely. They keep really well in small ziplock bags in the freezer to have on hand whenever there isn't enough of the fresh variety in the garden. Now I am looking for some recipes to use the tarragon in as it is the first time I have ever grown it.
Updated Dec 12. Oh no - I was just reading Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion and she recommends growing French Tarragon as it is much more flavoured than Russian. I just checked my seed packet and......yes, mine is Russian.  :(   Better luck next time.

Monday, December 3, 2012

My 100th post.......simple salads for summer Monday December 3rd 2012

Everything is planted in the garden and now we just have to wait for it to grow. There are tiny zucchinis and squash forming. The climbing beans have commenced their climb. The lettuces are flourishing. Even the snow peas are podding up. Those pesky birds can't get to the strawberries and blueberries any more.
With warmer days and even sometimes warm evenings, it is time for barbecues. There is nothing simpler than putting a salad together to accompany whatever is on the barbecue so it's nice to have some snazzy dressing on hand to go on the salad of freshly picked lettuce and mustard greens. Add a few dried tomatoes and marinated artichokes from last season's stock and it is ready.
Supplies were running a bit low the other day so it was time to whip up a new batch. This dressing is really simple but super tasty. Olive oil, white wine vinegar, mustard, garlic, thyme, oregano, basil and curry powder. Toss everything in the blender, mix it together on smoothie setting and voila.....a dressing to have on hand for any occasion. Tastes great!
And as for that is wrapped in foil in the fridge but I dare not look at it. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday November 25th 2012 Birdproof cover for the Blueberries and the first strawberries of the season

This weekend my project was to make a bird proof cage for the blueberries to replace the wire tubes that they had outgrown. The problem with my old tubes was that when you tried to pick the blueberries which required pulling the cage off to reach them, you ended up pulling off the blueberries, ripe and unripe. I thought I would just make something a bit bigger but when Max decided to help me, it became a lot LOT BIGGER . By sliding old polypipe over the top of star droppers, the framework went up really quickly. We used some fine wire bird mesh and  white plastic bird netting which we already had in the shed, but it was quite slow and tedious sewing them together with baling twine.  This should last for years now, and also provides room for strawberries tubs to be kept out of the way of greedy birds. It is almost finished now - I just have to sew some shade cloth onto a mesh door and then it will be bird proof.

When I went to move one of the strawberry tubs, I discovered that the strawberries had already started to ripen so that was dessert sorted for last night.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Delicious Elderflower drinks and a Wensleydale Monday November 19th 2012

At this time of the year, elderflowers are out. A friend of mine gave me some  homemade syrup for Christmas last year and I always thought that  you needed a lot of elder flowers to make it. As  I haven’t got a tree in my garden I have never tried to make my own. On Saturday, on the radio, I heard a recipe for the syrup and also a recipe for a sparkling elderflower drink neither of which used many flowers. See the link to Sally Wise's website for the recipes. I also discovered that there was an elder tree in the garden of one of the other houses on the farm. So this afternoon, I went and picked a few heads and then quickly made up a batch of syrup.
 It consists of sugar and boiling water, tartaric acid and about 14 elderflowers. The elderflowers just steep  in the hot water to impart their flavour....that’s all. Now it is all bottled, one in the fridge and 2 in the freezer for a later date.
The sparkling elder is also brewing – half a dozen flower heads, water, sugar, a chopped lemon and  a little vinegar. They sit for 48 hours and then I will bottle and wait another couple of weeks until they are ready. Looking forward to them already.

At the same time I was experimenting with cheese. I couldn’t decide whether to make a Pyrenees Pepper or a Wensleydale so I decided to combine them and make a Wensleydale Pepper. The advantage that the Wensleydale has over the Pyrenees is that it will be ready in about a month or so as opposed to 3 months or more.  The disadvantage is that the recipe is somewhat more fiddly so I didn’t exactly follow it.....we’ll see in a few weeks. I have just taken it out of the press this morning – hope there are not too many peppercorns in it either.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pad Thai in the snow and a Stilton update October 21, 2012

A couple of weekends ago I went hiking in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park in the central highlands of Tasmania. I am always looking for new flavours for hiking food as I get rather sick of the same old combinations every time I go.  One of the friends I went hiking with recently did a 2 week hike in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia and has done a lot of other extended walks. She was a wealth of ideas for new flavours and one thing she suggested was Pad Thai. So when I last made a batch of Pad Thai, I saved half back to dry.
Pad Thai ready to dry...

 The weather we had on the hike was not exactly the hot sunny weather I had the last time I went to the Walls and meant I ended up cooking as it just started to snow. But with a down jacket on under my waterproof jacket, it actually wasn't as much of a challenge as it might look. My hands got a bit cold though.
 By the time we ate it, we were huddled in our sleeping bags in the tent though. And the result was excellent. Served on a bed of mashed parsnip, mixed with a bit of dried kale and topped with some peanuts.... a very tasty combination.
 So much so, I have a new batch in the dehydrator right now, ready for my next hike.

Meanwhile back in the Preserving Patch kitchen, I have not been idle....I just haven't posted anything as the things I have been making are one I have posted about before....Fetta and halloumi cheese, marmalade etc.
But in the cheese fridge, the Stilton is starting to look kind of blueish and the Camembert in the fridge is ready for eating.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sampling Stilton - in a few months I hope October 2nd 2012

Last weekend I plucked up enough courage to try another blue cheese after the absolute disaster of the last one. It has only taken me 18 months to have another go.
This time I followed the Blue Stilton cheese recipe in Tim Smith’s book  Making Artisan Cheese and also followed a video of the same recipe on The Greening of Gavin blog.  I have followed some other recipes on Gavin’s blog in the past and been successful so I have my fingers crossed. I am a bit wary of following Tim’s recipes to the letter as have found that sometimes he omits ingredients such as salt in the Cotswold (cheese without salt tastes really really odd!)
Stilton follows quite a different technique in the making so I am hoping I end up with the right result in a few months time. Penicillium roqueforti is added with the starter at the beginning of the process. After 40 minutes, in goes the rennet. The milk then sits for 90 minutes which is probably the longest I have ever left milk to coagulate.

 Then instead of cutting the curd, the curds are gently ladled out into a cheesecloth lined colander over a bowl. The whey drains into the bowl but then the curd sits in the whey for another 90 minutes. I then drained the bundle of curds for another 30 minutes.
Draining the whey

Soft pressing overnight
 Stilton is not really pressed but after draining the cloth bag is placed between 2 cheese boards and a 3litre bottle of water sits on top over night to help more whey to drain. Next morning, I broke the curds into pieces and put them back into a hoop. Since then I flipped the hoop every 15 minutes for the first 2 hours and then 4 times a day for the next 4 days. So that means tomorrow is the day it comes out of the hoop and I pierce the cheese several times to create holes for the blue mould to grow into.  We’ll see what happens then.

Next morning, the semi pressed cheese

Flipping in the hoop

Meanwhile I also decided to have a go at Bra Cheese the same day. Bra is a small town in northern Italy where they have a big cheese festival each year. I have never heard of Bra cheese but there is a recipe in Tim Smith’s book. It is made from low fat milk so I skimmed the cream off the previous evening’s milk. (The cream went into the Stilton) All was going well with lots of pressing steps until I got to the last stage. After a 20 hour pressing, the curd had to be broken up for the final time before pressing another 24 hours. The curd by now was quite firm and dry and even after the final press, it didn’t really press back together. This has left me with a cheese that is just a bundle of curds bits only just sticking together.
 Even after 24 hours in a brine bath, it is still the same. Now what do I do? I can’t mature it like that as mould is going to grow in every little crack and I can’t wax it as the wax is going to fall into every little crack and be difficult to remove. I have stuck it into the cheese fridge while I think about it. I think I might have to just grate it unmatured and stick it on the top of pizza or something.  I was so annoyed with the result after all the time I spent making it on Friday!!! If only I had left it in one piece after the penultimate pressing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

When it's too wet to dig September 12, 2012

This winter has been such a wet one! The water table is really high so that each time it rains, the water just sits on the top of the ground even in paddocks on a slope. Of course this means that the vege garden is too wet to be able to dig over for planting new spring seeds. Usually in September I am planting carrots, parsnips, beetroot and a few other things that will survive the bit of cold weather that is still to come. But this year there is no way of having a fine tilth to sow into. So what do I do?
Well one thing is to sow as many varieties of seeds as I can into punnets so that at least they are doing a bit of growing while I wait. I bought this little plastic greenhouse for only $20 from the local $2 type shop - a bargain. It has a zip up door which I undo during the day and close each night to keep out a bit of the winter chills (or in the case of last weekend - gale force winds and hail). I can't sow everything in punnets - carrots and parsnips really need to go straight into the ground- but I have lots of other things underway. Broccoli, spinach, beetroot, pak choy, lettuce, tomato, zucchini, cucumber, pumpkin, fennel, squash and I will buy a few punnets of more difficult things to grow like eggplant to re-pot into little tubes. Some of these don't go into the ground until early November so they should be well under way by then. With tomatoes, it is always a good idea to get them a bit pot bound before you plant them out as this stimulates early flowering which leads to early fruiting.
Meanwhile I just keep doing some inside painting jobs and hope for the rains to stop soon!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cantal cheese and Raspberry Ricotta cheesecake September 4th 2012

This weekend in the Preserving Patch kitchen, it was cheese making time again. I am trying to make several wheels of cheese that need to mature for several months at the moment. To make cheese I have to set aside pretty much a whole day to do the numerous steps involved. In winter when the weather is cold and often wet, I don't mind spending the day inside. But when the sun comes out and spring and summer are in the air, I can't bear to be inside. I would much rather be out in the garden digging or planting or pruning or doing all those other outside jobs.
So it was that this weekend, it was time to try a new cheese. This one is called Cantal which, according to Tim Smith's Making Artisan Cheese book, is named after the Cantal mountains in the Auvergne region of France. It is also sometimes called the French Cheddar as it shares similar qualities to Cheddar. Let's see in a few months time.
The cheese making process was similar at the beginning to lots of hard cheeses. Add starter culture at 32C, sit 45 minutes, add rennet, sit 45 minutes, cut the curd. The curd was then stirred for 20 minutes and then drained in a colander for 20 minutes. After breaking up and then mixing the curds with a bit of salt, the curds then went into a mould and were pressed for 10kg for 30 minutes. Then came the step which I haven't come across in any other recipe. The pressed cheese then had to sit for 8 hours at room temperature for the lactic acid to build up.

The cheese sits out for 8 hours to build up lactic acid
The cheese then went back into the press for 2 hours at 20 kg and then 24 hours at 30kg. Since then it has been sitting out on my bench top to slowly dry. It is almost there so it will go into the cheese fridge cave tonight for the next 3 to 6 months. I haven't decided yet whether to wax it to save myself the trouble of having to wash it daily with a salt solution for the next 6 months......but I am very tempted.
Meanwhile back in the kitchen, the leftover whey was used for the inevitable ricotta.
Scooping the ricotta out of the pan, ready to drain

 I found a really nice ricotta/ light cream-cheese cheesecake recipe by googling "ricotta" which also makes use of some the frozen raspberries I have left over from last summer. I like to tell myself that the very low fat ricotta plus extra light cream cheese means that this cheesecake is really healthy and non fattening! It looks and tastes great anyway.
and yes......I decided to wax them. Saves on having to wash the mould off all the time.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Saffron Infused Manchego

It has been a while since I tried a new and untested (by me) cheese recipe. Almost a year ago I bought a book called Artisan Cheese Making at Home but have only made one of the recipes from it. Time to venture into uncharted territory. After much thumbing through pages I decided on the Saffron infused Manchego. I have made a Manchego about 2 years ago and wasn't overly impressed by it but this was a new recipe with the saffron being an added twist. The recipe in this book also called for cow's milk rather than the traditional sheep's milk so I thought I would give it a go.
The saffron threads are introduced to the milk right from the start as the milk is being warmed to the right temperature for adding the culture. There was some colour bleeding from them but not a lot so I am not sure they will make much difference to the final product.

                           After adding both mesophilic and thermoduric starters, the milk sits for 45 minutes before rennet is added. I also added some lipase to intensify the ultimate flavour of the cheese. Once the curd shows a clean break, it is then cut first into half inch cubes and then into rice size pieces using a whisk. The recipe then calls for a considerable time of stirring, firstly 30 minutes at the cutting temperature of 86 degrees F and then another 30 minutes as the temperature is gradually increased to 104 degrees F. An hour of stirring and doing nothing else didn't really appeal to me so what does one do in this technological age but set up the laptop next to the stove and watch a movie as I stirred. That way the time went really quickly!
After draining the curd, it went into a mould and the press for several sessions of 15 minutes at 7.5 kg and then finally for 15 kg overnight.
Next morning it was into a medium brine for the day. You can still see one little thread of saffron sitting there!
Then into the cheese cave to ripen for the next 3 months. It will need to be flipped every day and wiped down with vinegar if any  mould spots appear. Better go and do the daily flip now.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Romanesco Broccoli and more greens

What a beautiful colour this Romanesco broccoli is in the sunlight.

We seem to have plenty of green vegetables to choose from at the moment. This year I have grown Romanesco broccoli . I t develops a beautiful big head with a vibrant yellow green colour but once cut doesn’t develop any new shoots like the variety of broccoli I have grown in the past.  I seem to have several heads maturing at once but they seem to last quite well on the plant and don’t suddenly develop into flower heads.  With fennel, some chinese cabbage leaves and artichokes as well, there is more than enough choice for the next few meals.
not so colourful in this corner of the kitchen

This weekend I sowed a few seeds into punnets for early spring seedlings – beetroot, rocket, pak choy, snow peas, fennel.  They should be ready to plant out once the ground dries out enough to dig over. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Asparagus - from seed to spear

Last summer I bought some asparagus seed to give it a go in the garden. The seed germinated and we repotted it several times over the following months.  Over the summer I kept it outside in the sunshine but put it under shade cloth as the cooler weather set it. The plants sent up fern like fronds in summer which yellowed during the autumn. Looking at them  last weekend, I realised that a couple of the plants thought that spring was just around the corner and were starting to send up new spears. 
Time to plant out. The problem is that it has taken me this long to decide where to put them where they can stay for the long term. As I usually rotate things around the vege garden, I had decided that it was not the place to put them.  The spot where we put potatoes in last season seemed like a good option but we have had some persistent little rabbits who somehow survived the myxomatosis spread of last spring. Solution, build a little fence around the asparagus section. It is not exactly the most aesthetic looking addition to the garden so perhaps it will need to be replaced with something more permanent and pleasing to the eye one day. For now it serves it purpose. So in went the 16 plants I had grown.
Now we sit and wait and somehow resist the temptation to harvest any spears at all this season.  We will have to wait until next spring for a 50% harvest of the crop to allow the crowns to develop. Meanwhile if you see me drooling while looking over the fence, you’ll know why.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Preserving Kiwi Fruit - Can you bottle them? Yes ...and ...No

My previous blog about Kiwi fruit has been by far the most visited of my blog posts. The other day I even had a visitor from the North Pole Alaska looking at that page! Didn't know you could grow kiwi fruit at the North Pole...
So last weekend I thought I had better come up with some other ways of dealing with a kiwi fruit glut. It is that time again when I have lots ready to harvest and any time soon they will start getting really soft. I thought I would have a go at bottling /canning them to see how they turned out.
I didn't much enjoy the peeling process, having knicked 2 knuckles in the process but they looked a very pretty green when packed into the bottles. The fruit I chose was quite firm and acidic almost sour taste. This photo doesn't do them justice.
So into the preserving pan they went and came out an hour later, a paler shade of green but still holding their shape. I let them cool overnight before I removed the clips and as one bottle didn't seal properly, we got to have taste.

The verdict:   They lost a lot of flavour and colour in the bottling process. The texture was like a bottled plum. They tasted ok ...just , better mixed with some other fruit I think rather than served on their own. But still, if you have a glut, it is one way of putting some aside for a later date. I think I prefer frozen slices as they keep both their colour and flavour. It is just the texture that is different from the fresh version. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Taste of Portugal Part 2

Restaurant with a view

Another day trip we had was to Serra da Arrabida  . First stop a visit to the village of Azeitao...home of the Queijo Azeitao and some special Tortas de Azeitao. Of course we needed to wash it all down with something so 2 sorts of muscatel were on offer,   a young one followed by a more mature version.  Last time I had muscatel was some homemade stuff on a Greek island camped in someone’s vege patch about 30 years – it was pretty terrible. The Azeitao versions were much more palatable.

Queijo de Azeitao
Tortas de Azeitao
Later in the day we stopped for lunch at a restaurant perched high above a beach where a few surfers were trying their luck. On the menu for starters was mussels and the area speciality choco frito – fried cuttlefish.....delicious. Then came another speciality Cataplana, cooked in a special dish, it was a lovely stew of fish, mussels and other shellfish.

Luis serving the Cataplana
Choco frito

And finally, no trip to Lisboa is complete without a visit to Pasteis de Belem for some Portuguese custard tarts. These are the very special ones from the shop in Belem where they have been making them since  1837. Usually there is a long queue of tourists outside the shop to buy them over the counter, but it is nicer to enjoy them sitting at a table inside the cafe. Someone told me that they invented these tarts to use up all the egg yolks they had left over after using the egg whites to starch nun's habits. That is just one theory though.   Bon Appetit!
Pasteis de Belem