Sunday, November 27, 2011

Rhubarb, rhubarb

The rhubarb that I moved from our old vegetable garden to the new one seems overwhelmingly happy with its new location..
to the point that I'm not really sure what to do with it all.  I give a bunch to everyone who walks in the door (along with some eggs).  There is only so much rhubarb crumble and its variations that the family is prepared to eat (even though we have an eighteen year old English jackaroo in residence, who is, by his own admission, always hungry), and I have never found a rhubarb jam or chutney recipe that really took my fancy.

The world of Google is however, a wonderful place.  I found a recipe for roasted rhubarb and buttermilk ice cream here.
Buttermilk was originally the liquid left behind after cream is churned into butter.  Now it is basically skim milk with culture added to it, which results in a  lovely acidic flavour, not unlike yoghurt.  So good news, it is low in fat.  It is wonderful for baking and in pancakes.

The ice cream is so easy.  Roast the rhubarb till soft, mix in buttermilk and vanilla, then churn in an ice cream maker.  The flavour of the ice cream is good, but when it freezes it is so rock solid it takes an hour to thaw out and would be best on the day you make it.  I think it needs cream in the mixture.  So when I've perfected the recipe, I'll pass it on.  I roasted the rhubarb in a hot oven so it was browned on the edges and beautifully caramelised, reminding me of Maggie Beer's Burnt Fig and Honeycomb ice cream.

I had some buttermilk left over so I thought I should make a cake.  I ended up with a cross between a tarte tatin and an upside down cake, all cooked in the same pan, and yes, we do anything to save on dishes.  This came from Rachel Allen.


50g butter
150g brown sugar
400g rhubarb, cut into 2cm pieces
200g plain flour
1 teasp baking powder
pinch salt
2 eggs
200ml buttermilk
70ml vegetable oil
1 teaspoon grated ginger (optional)

Preheat oven to 180c.

Melt the butter in an ovenproof frying pan (mine is 26cm in diameter).  Add half the sugar and stir to dissolve.  Add the rhubarb and mix gently.  Set aside.

Put the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk lightly.  In a separate bowl or jug whisk the eggs, add rest of sugar, buttermilk and oil.  Add to the dry ingredients and mix well.  Pour over the rhubarb and place in the oven.  Cook for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Cool for 5 - 10 minutes then turn it out.  I put a large plate face down over the pan and flipped it over.  Lovely with cream.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The sugar thing

Have I mentioned how beautiful the roses have been this Spring?

I have been reading with interest Sarah Wilson's e-book I quit sugar.  Sugar, it seems, is evil, and this book explains why and how to kick your sugar habit.  I thoroughly recommend it.

This is probably not the ideal time of year to attempt the 8 week challenge, and I am not even sure that I could completely go without sugar, but it certainly has sharpened my awareness of the dangers of over-doing it.  What I have learned that fat tells you when you're full, sugar doesn't.

Fruit must go if you want to completely eliminate sugar.  Tough one. No fruit is a big call, and before you give it up forever or take fruit out of your kid's lunch boxes, read this article about the benefits of eating fruit.

The hardest thing for me to give up would be all the jams, marmalades, relishes, jellies, sauces and pickles that I put so much energy into making, often after having grown the fruit or vegetables myself.  They are, I have to admit, full of sugar.

I have never been a big sugar junkie, but I do eat fruit, and I do have a square or two of dark chocolate after dinner, make cakes and biscuits for the lunch boxes and I always make a pudding if we have guests.  So I think it would be good for me and my family to be aware of how much we are eating and slowly wean ourselves off it.  Be conscious, read labels. Who would have thought balsamic vinegar had so much sugar?  Make the sugar substitute snacks that Sarah recommends.

Read it and learn.  The good news is that you can have wine!
Sweet peas are still going mad
In an effort to do the right thing I have made mayonnaise as I'm sure commercial varieties have sugar in them.
If you have stick blender this literally takes 20 seconds.  You can do it in a food processor (mix the ingredients then drizzle the oil in slowly) or you can do it by hand which I always think requires some dexterity and a strong arm.


1 egg (room temp)
1 teaspoon mustard (you can use dried or dijon)
1/2 teaspoon salt
a sprinkle of paprika, to taste
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 1/4 cups peanut oil

Place all ingredients into a jug or tall container and using the blade with holes in it whizz for 20 seconds.  Done.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


The garden is looking so pretty this spring....
the irises are having their finest moment and there are lots of foxgloves...

even the chives are looking lovely..
There is, though, not much on offer in the veggie garden.  Rhubarb, some lovely spinach, herbs and rainbow chard (sliverbeet) just about sums it up.  It is full of promise (broad beans, potatoes, celery, strawberries, raspberries) and lots of goodies that are just sprouting seedlings (sweetcorn, peas, beans, beetroot, zucchini).  I have been using up the leeks to make way for the tomatoes.
I LOVE leeks.  One of my favourite vegetables.  And like any other vegetable that enters the kitchen lately I have been roasting them, on their own cut up into pieces with a lick of olive oil  or alongside chicken, and with the cooler weather this week I even made some soup:
I just chopped up a few leeks, sauteed them in butter and added a couple of rashers of chopped bacon, cooked for five minutes before adding a chopped potato and enough chicken stock to cover.  Simmer for 15 minutes and puree with a stick blender.  Finish with some chives.

I made some wholemeal pikelets on the Aga.  You don't even need a frying pan, you just cook them directly on the hotplate using a special silicon mat.

125g wholemeal flour
2 teasp baking powder
1 tblsp castor sugar
1 egg
170ml milk or buttermilk

Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl, add sugar.  Stir in egg and milk and blend until smooth.
Heat a non-stick frying pan and add a teaspoon of butter.  Swirl it around and spoon tablespoons of the mixture onto the pan.
Cook until bubbles appear, then flip them over and give them 30 seconds more.
A great after school snack.