Saturday, June 22, 2013

Autumn needs to become Autumn

We gazed longingly at the radar yesterday, watching a rain front crossing South Australia and held our breath in hope.  7mm.  It's a start.  2 inches would be nice.  I am still dragging hoses around the parched garden which just seems wrong when it is cold enough to light the fires.

There has been plenty going on in the kitchen, as it always does in Autumn, with quince and crab apple jelly underway, pesto being made with the remaining basil and roasted tomato sauce with the last of the tomatoes, which just seem to keep on coming.  I made this beetroot dip a while ago, using some beetroot from a friend's garden:
It is very simple and makes a good healthy homemade dip:
Wash 3 big or about 5-6 small beetroot and top and tail them.  Put them into a roasting tin with about 3 cloves of garlic, unpeeled, cover with foil and bake at 180c for about half an hour until the beetroot is tender.  Allow to cool, then peel off the skins (your fingers may become purple so use gloves if you prefer).  Squeeze the pulp out of the garlic.  Put into the food processor and add about a cup of natural yoghurt, a handful of chopped mint and salt and pepper to taste.
Yesterday I slow roasted some quinces, froze some and made a cake with the rest.  This cake would work with any suitable fruit: apples, pears, plums etc. You could also make this as an upside down cake and put the fruit in the tin first.


2 roasted or poached quinces
125g butter
3/4 cup castor sugar
3 eggs
Zest of one lemon
1 teasp vanilla essence
1 cup SR flour
1/3 cup ground almonds
100g sour cream or natural yoghurt 

Preheat the oven to 180c.  Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.

Slice the quinces and set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar until light.  Add eggs, zest and vanilla and combine.
Fold in flour, almonds and sour cream/yoghurt.
Pour into tin and arrange the quince slices on the top.
Bake for about 40 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  It took quite a while for the centre to be fully cooked, so make sure you check.
Allow the cake to cool, then turn out on a wire rack.  Serve with cream.  Or ice cream.

Friday, June 21, 2013

My new "role..."

Cold winter morning
It's been quiet my end and there is a reason.  Tim has chosen to lose his licence for three months in order to get back all his points and I am therefore responsible for driving him from A to B.  This is tedious beyond belief, but this is what one does for one's beloved in the spirit of matrimonial harmony.  We are spending an unnatural amount of time together, although conversation is limited due to Tim being mostly on the phone except when he needs to apply some back seat driving ("do you have to drive through every ...pothole on the road?" - insert swear words where you see fit, generally before or after the noun.  And the verb....).  Thank god only a week or so to go.
We had quite a frost this morning, a far cry from sunny Italy, which is increasingly becoming a distant memory.
Scoglitti, Sicily.  Photo - Gina Milicia
Since most of our trip has been recorded in minute detail, whether you like it or not, on facebook there is probably no need to elaborate too much, but I would really like to talk about the food.  I am even more obsessed with Italian food than I was before.  This is a crushingly simplistic observation, but Italians only eat Italian food.  Never do you see a sushi bar, or  Mexican/Greek/Tunisian/whatever the latest food trend is in multicultural Melbourne.  It is just. Italian.  Often incredibly simple.  In Sicily, after a visit to a tomato farm (nearly all tomatoes eaten in Italy are grown in Sicily) we had the most incredibly delicious BBQ lunch in the tomato packing shed: pork sausages, bread rolls and sliced tomatoes drizzled in olive oil, and it was one of the most memorable meals of the trip, just as memorable as dinner at the 3 star Michelin restaurant, Il Duomo in Ragusa Ibla.
Rubbing lemon over the BBQ before cooking - good idea!
The other thing that Sicilians do so well is seafood.  How on earth they are still hooking such a variety of seafood out of the Mediterranean sea after 2000-odd years of fishing does amaze me.  On our first night in Scoglitti we were treated to a showcase of Sicilian seafood in a degustation dinner at Il Sakalleo..
Photo - Gina Milicia....aka Gina from Messina
 I have also become slightly obsessed with pasta with seafood, and feel fairly confident that I couldn't recreate the magic myself, keen as I am to try.  We certainly can't get scampi and vongole at our local fish shop.  This one was right up there...
Ristorante Max in Positano 
Another Sicilian obsession is ricotta.  They use it for both sweet and savoury dishes.  We visited a small dairy and watched as they made ricotta with the fresh milk..
I had my first attempt the other day.  I found a recipe from Ina Garten on the internet, it really is incredibly easy.

HOMEMADE RICOTTA- this is quite a big batch.  You can halve it if you like.
 4 cups milk (must be full cream)
2 cups cream
1 teasp salt
3 tblsp white wine vinegar
I used a local organic milk
Line a sieve with a double layer of damp muslin (or you can use chux) and set over a bowl.
Put the milk and cream into a saucepan and add the salt.  Heat until just boiling.  Turn off the heat and add the vinegar.  Leave for one minute or so to allow the mix to curdle (it will start to separate).
Pour into the sieve and leave at room temperature for approximately 20-25 minutes. 
The longer you leave it the thicker it will be.  When it is at the desired consistency transfer the ricotta to a bowl/glass container.  It should keep for 4-5 days.  The remaining whey can be kept in the fridge and used in a variety of ways (check out this site) or frozen.   
And the best way to use it?  I liked the look of this recipe on Smitten Kitchen or try this one:  ricotta on toast with thyme and the truffle honey I bought in Positano...