Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Using the autumn bounty

I am slightly overwhelmed with all the fruit and vegetables that need attention at the moment.

There are loads of quinces on the tree.  They are not quite ready, but will be perfect for making jelly next week.  I couldn't resist using a couple of the riper ones to make pot-roasted quinces though.  I roughly used Nigella Lawson's recipe, which she says she got from Maggie Beer.

Before you start, wash the down off the quinces.
Put 1/2 a kilo of castor sugar and 750ml of water in a large saucepan and add one chopped up quince (skin, pips and all).

Bring to the boil and simmer until you have a thick syrup.  This can take up to an hour, but I was impatient and only gave it 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200c.
Cut each of the remaining quinces in half (I had three) and place cut side down in a roasting tin.  Pour over enough syrup to come up to about 1cm deep and put the quinces in the oven for an hour.

Turn the heat down to 160 and cook for another 2-3 hours, basting from time to time and adding more syrup if they're drying out.  Turn occasionally to caramelise on both sides.  Mine looked a bit disastrous at this point, but seemed to look okay at the end.  These will be amazing in the AGA.
Serve with cream.

The other tree that is groaning is the crab apple:

I always make enough crab apple jelly to last a year, it is heaven with roast lamb.  Actually I have given up making gravy altogether and use crab apple or quince jelly instead.  I have to make extra this year for the school fete, which is in October.

This is my mother's recipe. Pick a big basket full:

Rinse them and put in a big pot (leave the stalks on and it doesn't seem to matter if a few leaves get in as well) and cover with water.
Bring to the boil and cook gently until tender.  This won't take long.
Strain the liquid through a fine sieve, then if you have one, put the fruit in a jelly bag (which I do, thanks Matt) and allow the juices to drain into a bowl.

Measure the liquid, and Mum's recipe says for each pint (600ml) of liquid allow 1 lb (500g) sugar.  I find this a bit sweet, so I use 400g sugar per 500ml.
Put the liquid and sugar in a large saucepan and add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per 600ml and put a few cloves in a gauze bag (a clean square of chux will do, tied with string).
Bring the the boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.  

Boil until it reaches setting point (put a saucer in the freezer for 5 minutes, take it out and put a tablespoon of jelly on the saucer and return to the freezer for a couple of minutes.  If the jelly runs it is not ready, if you run your finger through it and it wrinkles it is ready).  This can take up to 45 minutes if you have a big pot, it depends on the ripeness of the fruit.

Bottle into hot jars ( I do this in the oven, about 100c for 10 minutes).

And there you have it, beautiful ruby red jelly.  Now I must address the apples, pears, quinces, rhubarb, tomatoes, late raspberries and last of the zucchini...

Friday, March 25, 2011

A festival!

Look at this wonderful haemanthus or blood lily that popped up this week..

But that is by the way.  On the long weekend, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, which this year focused on women in the kitchen.  My friend Emma organised the tickets to a day of Masterclasses and you choose which of the chefs/cooks you would like to see in action.

The first chef was Zakary Pelaccio (don't worry I'd never heard of him either) who runs a restaurant in New York called The Fatty Crab.  He was a bit of a dude, and I love that he puts a lamb on a spit in a laneway behind his restaurant illegally.  He has a flair for mixing east and west with brow-raising combinations that work every time.

The pictorial interlude above is because I'm not allowed to pinch any photos of the day, but you can have a look here.

Next was George Calombaris and his delightful mother, Mary.  Emma's husband Matt was the MC and it was entertaining to see George and Matt ribbing each other with genuine affection and respect.  Mrs C cooked up some homestyle Greek/Cypriot dishes and George did a completely out-there cheffy show off dish which looked impossibly difficult.

These are my rather lovely new chooks.  Look at the Jack Russell thinking they look mighty tasty.

After lunch we saw Anna Gare, who you may remember was one of the judges on Junior Masterchef.  She was a hoot and we suspect may have had a glass or two of wine at lunch.  She has been a caterer in Perth and cooked some lovely dishes that were easy and very accessible.  One of her amusing observations was that when it comes to food every family has its PITA (pain in the ...) who is a fussy eater.  How true. 

The last star of the day was the luminous Nigella Lawson.  She really is quite stunning in the flesh and I would say that amazing porcelain skin has never seen a ray of sunshine.  I am a fan of hers, mostly because she cooks like I do and has a faithful love of butter (she called it "moisturiser from within").  She was charming, funny and intelligent, and I loved that she said that food had been taken over by chefs and too much fuss was made of technique.  Just cook...

The food she cooked was very basic, pasta with vegemite (!), chicken in a pot and a coffee walnut cake.  Her comment on the vegemite pasta was something along the lines of "there are people who wouldn't like this, but would you want to feed them?"!

Of course I bought her book:

which has lots of simple homely recipes and some that are positively weird, for example Grasshopper (as in 80's cocktail) Pie.  It looks as bad as it sounds.  There are good tips for freezing and using leftovers (her chooks would starve like mine, if she had any) and lots of quick and easy recipes.

All in all a great day and a credit to the organisers.  There were lots of other presenters who I would have  liked to have seen, so will get in early next year.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

More goodies from the garden

Look at this basket of fruit and veg that I picked from the garden after having been away for the long weekend:

There are so many apples on the trees I'm not quite sure what to do with them all.  I wish I could send them to Japan.  And the little princess says she prefers the bought ones.  It's narrowing down the lunch box fruit with bananas off the air.

At least the cherry tomatoes have got going and there is still plenty of basil left.  The zucchinis had tripled in size.  I've done the zucchini slice/frittata thing so now I am sloshing sliced zucchini with olive oil and roasting in the oven or cooking on the barbeque.  They have a beautiful buttery texture.  Soup will be next.

But back to the pears we picked the other day.  They were lovely beurre bosc pears from a totally neglected tree at a cottage on the farm.  So this is what I made:

It is unadorned, as it was headed for the freezer in anticipation of a steady stream of visitors we are expecting over the upcoming holidays and Easter.  It nearly made it except it was the dearly beloved's birthday and he felt entitled to a slice due to being "neglected" by his wife and family.  This is a divine cake.  Not even sure why I'm sharing the recipe, in fact not really sure where I got it from, scribbled as it is on a sheet of butter splattered paper.  


Set oven to 180, line a 24cm springform pan with baking paper
Fry 2-3 pears, peeled, cored and sliced into eighths, in 1 tblsp each of butter and brown sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla extract until partially cooked.
In a saucepan combine 1 cup of golden syrup and 125g butter and melt gently.
Add 1 cup brown sugar and mix well.
In a bowl mix 1 1/2 cups plain flour
                       1 teasp bicarb soda
                       2 beaten eggs
                       3/4 cup buttermilk
Add the melted syrup, butter and sugar and mix well
Pour into cake tin.  Drop in the pears and push down.
Cook 30-40 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean (make sure it is cooked properly.  If it is getting too dark on the top reduce the heat slightly and cover with foil).

With the rest I did some roasted pears based on a recipe I saw in delicious magazine:

Again, they are in this dish to go into the freezer (we are attempting to reduce our sugar intake at the moment).  

Heat the oven to 180.
I peeled the pears and cut them in half, leaving on the stems.

Melt 80g butter in a frying pan that can go in the oven (any stove/ovenproof pot would do) and add 1/4 cup caster sugar and 1/4 cup dark brown sugar.  Swirl around as it dissolves and add the pears, cut side down basting with the butter.  Put in the oven and roast for about 20 minutes, basting occasionally, then turn them over and cook for a further 10 minutes until tender and golden.  The cooking time will depend on how ripe the pears are, you don't want them to lose their shape.

Remove the pears to a shallow dish.  Put the frying pan back on the heat and bring to the boil.  Whisk in 2 tblsp maple syrup or honey, 1/3 cup cream, 1 teasp vanilla essence and a pinch of salt.  Mix well.

You could serve the pears and pour over the sauce, but I added all the sauce to the pears and put them in the freezer.  I will let you know how they come out.              

Thursday, March 17, 2011

It is on the way..

I am very excited.  I have just placed an order for one of these:

My husband cannot understand why we would buy an oven that costs as much as a recent model small car and it has taken me twelve months of gentle persuasion to convince him that we really do need an AGA.   When we did our kitchen up five years ago I decided that I wanted a big efficient modern oven, and a little one on the side rather than an AGA, the cost of which did seem a huge extra expense at the time. 

The epiphany came to me about this time last year, when filling in time before a dinner in Melbourne I passed the AGA shop, where a cooking demonstration was underway within.  Having cooked on many ancient AGAs in England and Scotland years ago, I was impressed at how much more efficient they were now and less likely to lose heat.  And heat was the thing that won me over.  It will be a pleasure indeed to have one room of the house that is always warm, and rather nice to have one less fire to set and light in the darkened hours of a winter morning.

They come in a dizzying array of colours:

but eventually I decided on this colour:

which is pewter and not unlike the stainless steel of the current oven.  Which I might add, I have managed to sell (thanks Di).  What do you think would be good in my mostly cream country kitchen?

I have to wait for 12 weeks for it to arrive from the UK and there may be a little joinery required, probably more than I'd hoped, and I may get yelled at, but he'll love it in the end.  Can't wait to chuck out the microwave, toaster and slow cooker and learn how to cook with this remarkable stove. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Autumnal activity

There has been a flurry of activity in the Lambchops kitchen of late.  The start of autumn brings so much fresh produce from the garden I feel duty bound to deal with it all.

Because my tomatoes look like this:

I bought a box of these:

and we picked a hat full of these:

And a neighbour gave me a bag of these:

 I just cannot let beautiful, fresh, organic  (can't vouch for the box of tomatoes though) produce pass me by and I loathe waste, (believe me, our chooks practically starve), so I got cracking.  I will let you know how I got on with everything, but I'll start with the tomatoes.

I always make enough tomato sauce to last a year.  The bought stuff is revolting and surely a last resort, although my philistine children prefer it.  It is the perfect accompaniment to chops and sausages an cold roast lamb.  I usually triple this recipe.


3 kgs tomatoes
500g brown onions
30g garlic
1 tblsp cloves
1 tblsp ground ginger
1/4 cup of salt (start with a little less and add more if you need it)
1 tblsp black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup white vinegar
3 cups sugar

Cut tomatoes, onions and garlic into chunks.
Place all ingredients except vinegar and sugar into a large saucepan and boil slowly for two hours.

Put all the mix through the medium disc of a food mill or mouli (you really need one of these to get the right texture), or enlist the help of a child roaming the kitchen in search of food...

Return the mix to the cleaned out saucepan , add the vinegar and sugar and boil until it reaches sauce consistency, stirring from time to time so it doesn't stick to the bottom.  This will take about 30 minutes.
Put into hot sterilised bottles (old gin and whisky bottles are good) and allow to cool before you put the lids on.