Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chef crush

I have a new chef crush.  Yes, move over Jamie, Bill, Hugh and Nigel.  Dan Barber is my new man and I have no idea what his cooking is like.  You need to get to know him.  With any luck this man will have a huge influence on the future of food, agriculture and sustainability.
Read this article
Watch this video
It will make you think twice about which fish you buy.

Organic farming is tough, we have seen many farmers come and go: on a large scale the farms are mostly too expensive to run.  We all so want it to succeed.  Tim always says that to be green you need to be in the black.  That is sadly why our food is grown the way it is today: it's cheaper and measurable to farm in monocultures but the cost is the depletion of resources, particularly the soil.  I'm not quite sure how Dan Barber intends to feed the world, but there is no doubt he is on the right track and you've got to love his vision.
In our own small way, we are trying to do the right thing.  We are regenerating the soil by using a specially developed calcium rich, molasses based liquid fertilizer.  The improved quality of the pasture has significantly reduced the use of herbicides or pesticides, the sheep are happier, fatten well and cut more wool.  And it is brilliant on the vegetable garden, I'm growing mega veg, even in my slightly clay soils, and the soil is improving all the time.  So we can at least be self sufficient to a point.
On the menu in the past week....
which has also been going in the lunch box:
I saw some lovely sardines at the local fish shop on Monday and just had to get them for lunch.  They were topped with a mix of breadcrumbs, lemon zest and juice and parsley, then flashed in the hot oven of the Aga (220c) for about 10 minutes.
Brain food in a good way..
There was also a ripping fish pie:
FISH PIE  Serves 4

2 nice sized pieces of fish of your choice.  I used some lovely boar fish.
8 green prawns
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 bay leaf
2 slices of lemon
40g/ about a tablespoon butter
1 leek, rinsed and chopped into rings
150 ml white wine
1 tblsp flour
chopped spinach or sliverbeet, lightly steamed
Puff pastry

Put the milk, water, bay leaf and lemon slices in a saucepan and bring gently to the boil.  Chop the fish into chunks and add to the simmering milk with the prawns.  Cook for 2 minutes, then remove the fish with a slotted spoon and put on a plate.  Set aside the liquid in the saucepan, leaving the bay leaf and lemon to infuse.

In a sturdy pan melt the butter and cook the leek for about 5 minutes until it is soft.  Add the white wine and let it sizzle and cook down for a few minutes.  Add the flour and stir for a minute.  Strain the milk onto the leek mix and stir in with a whisk until smooth.  Stir until the sauce thickens and comes to the boil.  Simmer gently for a minute or two.  Add the fish, spinach or silverbeet and parsley and season to taste.  Put it into a pie dish and either cover with a sheet of puff pastry or do what Sophie did and make some pastry shapes instead.  Just brush the pastry with some beaten egg and put it in a hot oven till it is puffed and golden.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Keeping warm

It is school holidays and the kids have a few friends over today.  The weather is miserable so they are entertaining themselves indoors (I'm too scared to look) and have been making pizza, home made dough and all: 
I am waiting for it to stop raining so I can go outside and do some jobs in the garden.  The jonquils are looking so pretty...
We had a lovely week away in Queensland so it is a bit of a shock to be back in the cold.
Everyone must have been in Bali because there was no-one there..
I asked the kids to fill the wood baskets.  They over-delivered somewhat..
I saw this cartoon on The World According to Lady Aga  blog during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations. 

I wonder if mine will last that long.
Did I show you my lovely pumpkins?  Time for more pumpkin soup.
Haven't been doing much cooking this week, but had some lovely walks.

Monday, July 9, 2012

We had a cracking frost the other day..
the kale doesn't seem to mind,
nor does the broccoli.
The Aga has come into its own in this chilly weather.  It is keeping our kitchen toasty warm and is churning out some hearty winter fare, especially casseroles cooked long and slow and spectacular roasts.  The only snag is that it the busy housewife occasionally forgets what went in and this happens....
It took quite a while, but at last my medlars have finished "bletting"
It was only a small haul, so I decided to try medlar jelly.  I washed them and boiled them with a quarter of a lemon for about an hour until they were soft.  Fished out the lemon and strained them through my jelly bag (muslin or a big chux, clean, folded in two would do the job).  I measured the resulting liquid and for every cup of liquid I added 3/4 cups of sugar.  Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar then boil rapidly until setting point is reached.  Bottle in sterilized jars.
It is quite sweet, but would be good with lamb, chicken or venison, maybe added to gravy or with cold meats or a sharp cheddar.
This unremarkable-looking pasta dish was suprisingly good and gobbled up in seconds by the starving troops.  It was born from laziness....I cooked the pasta in the sauce to save on dishes.

Cook a chopped onion in olive oil and add some chopped bacon and cook for about five minutes.  Add batch of roasted tomato sauce and bring to the boil.   Add pasta (a big handful of curly pasta per person, plus a bit extra), return the the boil and cook until the pasta is al dente.  This could be done in the simmer oven of the Aga.   I kept it simple and just finished it with parmesan, but you could go to town and add olives, capers or anchovies, like a puttenesca, if the mood takes you.  The pasta seems to absorb the sauce, giving a great flavour.  Good one for the holidays.