Monday, December 30, 2013

Dried strawberries and raspberries. December 30 2013

Almost every evening at the moment I am out picking raspberries, strawberries,blueberries and loganberries. The blueberries we are eating as there aren't many, the loganberries are being frozen for jam making later in the year.  I thought I would do a little experiment and try drying some of the strawberries and raspberries. The strawberries I sliced in 1/2 cm slices and the raspberries I tried whole.
A beautiful smell filled the room where they were drying over the next several hours. The strawberries dried relatively quickly but the raspberries took considerably longer and in fact I had to finish off the next day. They kept their shape and feel almost aerated. The taste of both is very intense and delicious.
I am keeping them in jars at the moment as I read somewhere to do this to even out the moisture content. Not sure if I might freeze them or vacuum seal them for long term keeping if they don't get eaten in the meantime.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Kiwi fruit chocolates. December 26th 2013

This year for Chirstmas gifts I made some delicious kiwi fruit chocolate by chopping up kiwi fruit I dried in the winter and then adding it to melted couverture or cooking chocolate. I bought some little silicon moulds to try to make some nice shapes although with the amount of kiwi fruit I was trying to add, they didn't exactly turn out perfectly smooth. Still, they taste pretty good! They even made it safely across to the other side of the world in time for a Portuguese Christmas. Thanks for the photo Niko and Teresa!

We also ate the last of the chocolate coated raspberries that have been in the freezer since last Christmas so of course I had to replenish the supply now that it is raspberry season again.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Marvellous Mustard. December 14th 2013

My mustard has almost run out so time to make some more. I have been doing a bit of experimenting with my mustard recipe this time. First of all I made my favourite Rosemary Mustard. For a bit of variety I am also trying a Tarragon and Honey Mustard and a Lemon Mustard. They will need to mature for a few weeks until we try them out. They will have to be good to beat the Rosemary version though!

It is such as easy recipe.
1/2 cup of yellow mustard seeds
1/4 cup black mustard seeds
1 Tablespoon mustard powder
Grind to coarse meal in a spice grinder.
Add 1/2 cup cider vinegar and and 1-2 teaspoons of chopped rosemary
Sit overnight.
Add 1/2 cup oil
2 teaspoons black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons flour
Mix all together. Blend if you want a smooth mustard but I prefer a grainy mustard so just mix by hand.

The Tarragon version has 1 teaspoon chopped Tarragon a 2 tablespoons of honey.
The Lemon version has zest and juice of one lemon

While I had the spine grinder out of the cupboard, I decided to make some of Moroccan spice called Ras Hanout which can be used in tagines or sprinkled on meats before barbecuing. I think there a million and one ways to make it but basically it is a mix of things like cinnamon, cumin,cloves,fenugreek, fennel seeds and mustard all about in equal proportions.
I also made a fragrant curry powder. Not sure you can actually call it that as it has no chilli in it but it smells lovely. Coriander, cumin, mustard, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, turmeric and of course cinnamon too. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas = Biscotti (amongst other things) December 9th 2013

I love to have some biscotti in the cupboard around Christmas when you can get unexpected visitors. It is so easy to make and although the end product may not be a neat and perfect as manufactured, it still tastes sensational, perfect for a morning coffee accompaniment. My favourite is to use hazelnuts or walnuts rather than almonds as they are a bit easier to cut into slices. Enjoy!

Chocolate  hazelnut biscotti
2 cups flour
1/2 c cocoa
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup  hazelnuts ( or walnuts or blanched almonds)
3 eggs
1/2 cup butter - melted
Sift flour, cocoa and bicarb soda into a large bowl
Make a well in the centre and add sugar, nuts, mutter and eggs and mix to a soft dough.
Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth.
Divide dough into 2 equal portions and shape into log.
Place on greased baking try and bake at 180 degrees C for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.
Cool ( this is very important to enable clean slicing in the next step)
Cut into strips up to 1 cm thick.
Return to tray and bake a further 10 minutes.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

No-Effort New Potatoes December 3 2013

In August when I was planting seed potatoes, I got Max to pile mulch around the edge of the potato patch so that I should spread it around the potatoes once they were up and growing well. I had previously thrown all the green potatoes from last summer around the edge as well.
 I was finally getting around to weeding the bed and spreading some of the mulch around the other weekend, when I discovered under the plants which had sprung up, a bonanza of beautiful clean blemish free new spuds in the mulch. I now have at least 3 bucketful of new potatoes stored in paper bags in the cupboard! And I haven't even started on digging the planted potatoes yet. Has set us thinking about setting aside another part of the garden and piling it up with a few green potatoes then a pile of calf bedding mulch and letting them do their own thing! It's certainly easier than digging over the dirt and with such excellent results.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

It's elderflower time! November 16th 2013

suddenly realised last week that the elder flowers might already be flowering. It has been such a wet winter and spring that I thought everything might have been a bit behind but when I started looking in my secret places along an old railway line discovered that the elder flowers were in full bloom. So after work one day last week, I set off with secateurs and shopping bag to collect as many as I could. 
Some of the flowers were to go into making a sparkling elderflower drink for hot summer days and the rest were for making cordial syrup. I wrote a blog about this last year and mentioned that recipes for these were on Sally Wise's website but when I went to look for them, I could only find the sparkling drink recipe! After hunting all over the web, I didn't find one that had the elements of Sally's quick and easy version. I was very frustrated as I wanted to make the cordial while the flowers were fresh. I was sure I had written the recipe down but couldn't find it in all my folders of loose pieces of paper. I looked in her book A Year in a Bottle but only found the sparkling recipe in the index then had the thought to look inside the front cover....of course that is where I had put it! So, in case I look here on the blog next year when I want the recipe I thought I would publish it for my own reference as well as any blog visitors.
Elderflower Syrup
1.5kg sugar ( this can probably be reduced a bit if you intend to freeze the syrup in PET bottles as I do)
4 cups boiling water
Add 1 tablespoon tartaric acid
Juice and rind of 1 lemon
14 elder flowers
Dissolve the sugar in the water then add the remaining ingredients. Leave until cool then strain and bottle.

Sparkling Elderfower.   Make it in a food safe bucket or container
3 cups sugar
4 cups of boiling water
Dissolve the sugar in the water
Add 14 cups cold water
4-6 elderflower heads
1 chopped lemon
2 Tablespoons vinegar
Cover and sit for 48 hours. Strain and bottle. Ready to drink in 2 weeks

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What's the difference between Cotswold and Double Gloucester? November 12 2013

Not much is the answer. I discovered the other day when looking for a new cheese to make that the only difference between the two is just a sprinkling of dried onion and chives. This made it possible to make both at the same time since they required exactly the same steps right through the process including pressing. So there I was one very windy wet Sunday literally going stir crazy with a spoon in each hand. 
A few days later when they were dry enough I decided, instead of waxing, I would vacuum seal and put in the cheese cave to mature for a couple of months at least. Maybe we might open them up at Christmas just to try a little.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Testing out my new toy...... 27 October 2013

After much deliberation and some recent issues with waxed cheeses I decided to treat myself to a new toy- a vacuum sealing machine! I noticed recently a cheddar cheese I had been carefully ageing for more than 12 months had some mould under the wax.  I have had the problem from time to time but persisted with wax, removing the wax, scraping off the mould and rewaxing. However this time, for some reason half of the cheese felt spongy and so I decided to throw it out. Also when cutting open a new wheel, I have to rewax all the bits we are not likely to eat in the near future. Sometimes the cut surface of a cheese is not so smooth so waxing takes many dips to get all the little holes covered again. So after researching a bit online and finding a Sunbeam Foodsaver at Target for almost half the price of the same at Harvey Norman, I was convinced.
First job.....time to cut open the Caerphilly and Wensleydale with Mustard seeds which I had made in recent months. After a little tasting session, it was into the purpose made bags, out with the air and sealed up.
I had also read on a bushwalking forum site that vacuum sealing was great for hiking food too so that made it doubly appealing. Of course I had to try it out so did a test run with some of my kiwi fruit leather and dehydrated hummus. The machine could come in very handy when preparing meals in advance of a multi day hike.

Monday, October 21, 2013

"Cleaning out the freezer" Jam. October 21 2013

Two days of lovely sunshine after all this incessant we have had in the past few months and suddenly the garden has burst into life. The raspberries have all sprouted leaves ready for another productive season. Time to check what is left in the freezer from last summer and do something with it.
Yesterday out came a couple of bags of frozen raspberries and into the pot they went with some sugar. A little while later, 9 pots of jam. Ideal for Christmas presents!
Unfortunately with the gale force winds we have had recently, one on my Japanese plum trees, a Santa Rosa was blown over. We staked it up the first time with 5 plastic cables holding it in place and it looked like it might survive at least one summer. It was laden with tiny fruit so worth a try. Unfortunately while we were away last weekend, we had even stronger winds which blew it over again, snapping 4 of the plastic cables! This time there was no hope of survival.   I will have to get another next winter as it is a cross pollinator for my favourite Satsuma Japanese blood plum but at least this years crop for that tree is already fertilised!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Artichoke time. September 30, 2013

Despite all the rain saturating the soil making it impossible to dig, at least the artichokes are starting to produce beautiful tender artichokes in increasing numbers. On the weekend I marinated my first jar for the season using my tried and true recipe. I think I have posted about this before but no harm in repeating it. 
Prepare the artichokes by stripping off the outer leaves, cutting about 1/3 of the top, cutting in half and removing the choke if there is any. Quickly put the prepared artichoke into  some water acidulated with a bit of lemonjuice. This will stop it browning while you prepare the rest. Mix white wine and white wine vinegar in a half half mix with a few peppercorns and a couple of bay leaves.
Bring to the boil then throw in the artichokes. Bring back to the boil and cook for a few minutes until the artichokes are tender but not overlooked.
Place in a sterilised jar and cover with olive oil. That's it. Ready to eat immediately or else you can store in a cupboard successfully for many months or even a couple of years judging by some in my cupboard.
Another nice recipe for using artichokes is an artichoke risotto recipe in Jamie Oliver Does Spain, Italy, Morocco, Sweden, France. Simply make a basic Risotto Bianco and then add a mix of sautéed artichokes, garlic, thyme and lemon juice. Top with some freshly grated Parmesan to make a delicious meal.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

And now for 15 minutes of fame - a podcast interview with Little Green Cheese September 17th 2013

Last night I did a Skype interview with Gavin Webber of Greening of Gavin fame. He also has a great cheesemaking blog called Little Green Cheese to which there is a link on this page. I have been a student of Little Green Cheese from time to time and have used some of his recipes in my own cheesemaking. Especially if you are a beginner cheesemaker, his video tutorials are great at demystifying the process and showing how simple it is to do in your own kitchen.  The Wensleydale recipe is a real winner and I think I am currently up to about my 5th or 6th batch of it. Here is the link to the podcast. Enjoy my 15 minutes of fame!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Caerphilly cheese and preserving fruit juice in the microwave. Friday September 1 2013

Last weekend I got busy on restocking the cheese cave. For the first time I am attempting Caerphilly cheese, harking back to my Welsh heritage perhaps, or just because it wasn't too complicated. I wanted to make some Camembert at the same time so I needed a recipe that wasn't to complicated prior to pressing. Caerphilly fitted the bill as after cutting the curds it just needed some slow heating up to 104 degrees F.( Most recipes come out of American books so handy to have a thermometer which shows both Celcius and Fahrenheit). After that some stirring for 20 minutes or so then into the press it went. It has been drying on a board in the kitchen since then and should be ready to wax by the weekend. Too soon and whey continues to seep out and you end up with liquid sloshing around inside the wax. This cheese should only take a few weeks to mature.

Another thing I experimented with last weekend was using the microwave to bottle some apple juice. I recently borrowed a book from the library about bottling fruit in the microwave using recycled jars with metal lids. I was always under the impression that metal and microwaves don't mix and I was feeling a bit precious about my microwave which is only a few months old. So it was with some trepidation that I put a jar in and hit the start button but thankfully there were no sparks or alarming noises. Apparently it all depends on the ratio of metal to what is in the jar. It took a bit of experimenting to get the right temperature without the liquid starting to boil and to get a lid that sealed properly.In the end I got 3 jars of fresh apple juice to seal with the lids making that lovely sound of a vacuum sucking in the lid .

And finally for Fathers Day, we decided to cut open the Wensleydale with cranberries....and the verdict? Not bad at all. No fermenting of the cranberries. So after cutting a wedge to eat this week, the rest was re-waxed to mature a bit longer.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Roasted Garlic Oil and Kiwifruit Cider August 16th, 2013

As the winter draws to an end, the garlic which I so carefully braided last summer is starting to sprout little shoots inside each clove. Looking for ways to preserve it, I found a recipe for roasted garlic oil in a recipe book a couple of weeks ago. If you try to store fresh garlic in oil, you run the risk of botulism so I am hoping that this roasted version is a safe way of using it. It was quite simple to make. First roast whole heads of garlic in foil in the oven until the garlic is soft and purée like. Squeeze each clove and collect the purée in a bowl.
Wizz the purée up with olive oil....I think I used a ratio of 3 heads of garlic to 200 ml of oil which makes it more oil than paste.
Then store in a jar in the fridge. I think it might be a good way of making garlic bread rather than using a butter crushed garlic mix so now I had better make some bread to try it with!
Also in my never ending quest to find kiwi fruit recipes, I tried a new idea. Instead of making my quick version of cider which I have written about in a previous post, I tried an apple kiwi version. Make some juice, add some brewing yeast, put in a PET bottle with an Oztop and leave in a warm spot for a few days to ferment.
This is the result....a sparkling, possibly slightly alcoholic kiwi cider. Quite delicious!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Life is too short to glacé kiwi fruit. August 10th 2013

Yet another wet weekend. Too wet to get outside in the garden again! So what can I get up to in the Preserving Patch kitchen? Last week I borrowed a book from the library called Five Minute Microwave Bottling which was not only about the obvious microwave bottling but also included a "quick" way of glazing fruit. Having looked at another book's recipe for making glacé fruit and comparing it with this method, I decided that yes it did look quicker......but everything is relative of course.
It still took me several steps over several hours with one mix of syrup ending up in the chook bucket before I had made a tasty but quite small batch of glacé kiwi fruit.

Not sure it was a particularly efficient use of my time but I guess I can add that to the list of things tried once. So if anyone ever gives you a homemade piece of glacé fruit - treasure every morsel!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Sausage making on a Sunday August 4th 2013

A friend of mine has been promising for ages to organise a sausage making session with someone she knows who has the right equipment and last weekend came good with the idea. Several helpers gathered to be shown how to make plain pork sausages and a fresh chorizo sausage. After a bit (well quite a bit really) of practice and fiddling around with casings that were a little small for the nozzle of the sausage attachment, we finally got the hang of producing reasonable sausages.
Needs more practice  to get the right amount in each sausage I think as when we tried to twist them off to make several small sausages rather than one long one, they had a tendency to split their skins.
Still, they tasted delicious when grilled on the barbeque and then when I tried a pasta dish with sliced sausage, sour cream, paprika, parsley, eggs and home made parmesan for dinner the next night.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Vancouver and the Granville Island Public Market. July 2013

Sorting through my photos from my travels to Canada, I have found a few food related photos that I took with the intention of writing blog posts about but never got a chance to do while on the road. WiFi in campgrounds I discovered is not always the most reliable so that is my excuse.
We only spent a couple of separate days in Vancouver but on our first day there, after walking over a very very long bridge in a downpour, we discovered the Granville Island Public Market......foodie heaven.
There it is, down there on the left....... This photo was taken on our second trip to the market in much better weather,on our return to Vancouver a week later.
All sorts of food was on offer from fresh seafoods, to handmade ravioli, from olive oil to cheeses from all over the world, from artisan breads to fresh fruits of all descriptions piled carefully into arty displays and the most exquisite looking hand made and decorated chocolates which unfortunately at about $4 per tiny piece were beyond my budget of my last remaining Canadian dollars.

Naturally it was the place to have a late lunch/ early dinner (twice) as it closed up at 7 pm. There was of course the long hike back over the bridge to our hostel to work off all those extra calories.....not for us those cute little boats that ferried people back and forth across False Creek, so named because itwasn't  really a creek at all but an inlet. We didn't really care if we didn't see any of the other sights of Vancouver after that!!!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Wensleydale with a twist 26th July 2013

Last weekend I made the first hard cheeses I have made for months. I make feta regularly but to make a hard cheese involves quite a process which needs a whole day free. Even though the process itself is not that difficult, there are lots of little steps which leaves little time to do much else in between.
Since I was going to make one cheese I though, why not make two?  I should have answered that by saying, because you don't have the equipment to do two at once. Once I realised that I would need 2 cheese moulds and a press that pressed twice the weight I have needed before, it was too late, the milk was heating up in the 2 pots!
So in between all the little steps, I was busy making a new mould out of pipe and getting Max to invent a way of adding additional weight to the press which involved safety ropes and bars suspended from the laundry ceiling.
Meanwhile back in the kitchen the cheeses were progressing to curd stage.
One curd had mustard seed mixed into it before pressing and the other dried cranberries.
 I had tasted some Wensleydale with cranberry in Carstairs near Calgary when I was recently in Canada, sitting around the dinner table with my daughter Jennie's Workaway host who kindly hosted me as well on my first night in the country. It was so delicious, I had to have a go a producing it myself.
By the next morning, both rounds were pressed nicely and just needed a couple of days drying before being waxed. The cranberry version needs to be eaten in a month or so as I read on someone else's blog that they might ferment if left longer. The mustard one I will age for much longer. We have recently been eating one I made in March 2012 and it has a fantastic bite to it, like a vintage Cheddar.
Add some nice new red wax and voila, there you have it.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Wild Salmon in the wilds of Canada

At the moment I am on a road trip with my vegetarian daughter through British Columbia. Mostly I have been eating vegetarian dishes with her, cooked on the camping stove but yesterday when we went to a farmers market in Vernon in the Okanagan valley, I couldn't resist the opportunity to buy some wild salmon to have for dinner. We also bought some fresh asparagus and spinach so with a sweet potato mash, it made for a delicious meal. We stayed in a motel last night due to an unseasonal deluge so made the most of the opportunity of having a kitchen. This area is also the fruit bowl of British Columbia so dessert was made up of fresh cherries and strawberries!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Red Cabbage in Winter and Jams galore 18/5/13

At this time of year there is nothing better for dinner than some braised Red Cabbage and Apple. I made a big batch of this last night. With a little bacon and fennel seeds to start things off, add some sliced onion and apple and chunks of red cabbage. Pour in some balsamic vinegar, put the lid on and slowly cook for an hour.  How good it tastes. This is a great side dish or good enough for a meal in itself.

The jam cupboard is looking a bit bare at the moment and the freezer is full so what better way to spend the day than making an assortment of jams from the summer's harvest.
First a mixture of raspberry, loganberry, blueberry, strawberry and black currant to make a Summer berry jam.

Next on the list was a Blueberry and Passionfruit Jam. Not a combination I would have thought of but I found it in one of my recipe books.

Last on the list was to do something with the feijoa crop. There have been a few sitting in a bowl in the kitchen for the past week or so but then today I found some more under the tree today. Enough to make into a couple of pots of jam. As the feijoa tastes a bit like pineapple, I thought it would team nicely with passionfruit as well.

So at the end of the day, there were 10 new pots to put in the cupboard. That should last us for a while.