Thursday, April 28, 2016

Autumn Activities

Well the last few weeks have been a whirl of activity, with a weirdly early Easter, followed by school holidays and it has taken me a while to get back into the groove.  Autumn has given us some beautiful days and a few drops of rain but not enough to constitute a proper break.
It has been a bit of an Indian summer.  I am still watering the garden (seven months now with no decent rain) and my patience is waning.   I saw a snake over near the shed a few days ago and there was a severe fire warning for the south east of SA yesterday.  
Still, its's not all doom and gloom, it's good living weather as they say, and at least my tomatoes will all ripen this year.  And there have been sundowners to be had
yabbies to be caught
puppies to be cuddled
mountains to be climbed
long walks to be taken
and candles to be blown out.
There is always an abundance of riches in autumn and this year is no exception.  The garden has been giving and giving...tomatoes, zucchini, capsicum, eggplants, potatoes, basil, quinces, apples. I was lucky to have been given some beautiful figs from a friend's garden.  They were perfect as they were
and heaven with cheese
but I couldn't resist taking them a bit further.  First thing I tried was this:
Irrewarra fruit toast, homemade ricotta, Mary's figs, a drizzle of my own honey and a sprinkling of toasted hazelnuts.  Utterly delicious and perfect for brunch (or lunch.  Or dinner.  Afternoon smoko. Anytime really).  It was an idea I poached from a friend, who did it with ricotta, bacon and figs.

Then I delved into an Ottolenghi book and the remaining figs became this:

ROASTED FIGS Serves 4  (From Plenty More)

about 8 ripe figs ( I had more but they were small)
3 tblsp pomegranate molasses
1 tblsp lemon juice 
2 tblsp dark brown sugar
3 cardamom pods crushed and seeds removed
4 spigs thyme (2 whole and 2 with leaves picked)
1 orange, half the zest peeled, half finely grated and juiced

Put pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, 1 tblsp brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds, 2 thyme sprigs, 1/4 cup water, orange rind strips, orange juice and a pinch of salt in a bowl.  Cut the figs in half and add to the bowl.  Set aside to marinate (half an hour will do).

Heat the oven to 200c, or alternately you can use your griller if you have one.
Remove figs (keep the marinade) and arrange them cut side up in a shallow ovenproof dish.  Sprinkle with remaining sugar and place in oven or under grill.  Cook for 15 minutes (or grill for 10).

Put the marinade in a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer 2-4 minutes until reduced by half.

Serve the figs on a platter with the syrup drizzled over and top with the thyme leaves.
I was also fortunate last week to be given some fresh tuna and albacore, caught out on  the continental shelf off Port Fairy.  Such a treat, but such a dilemma because Tim was away and I didn't want to freeze it, which seemed such a waste for such beautiful fresh fish.
So I took the fresh tuna to some friends and it was devoured in seconds, needing nothing more than being thinly sliced and served with wasabi and soy sauce...really there is no better way:
I cooked a bit of albacore to try it and decided that it might be better to preserve it.  After some earnest googling I came up with this, which was a combination of several different methods and a bit of guess work.

Put some bay leaves on the bottom of a heavy ovenproof pot.
Cut the fish into chunks and put it on the bay leaves
Now you need to cover it with salty water.  Some recipes recommend 80-120 grams of salt per litre of water which just seemed way too much, another said 35g, which didn't seem like enough.  So I compromised and added 65g salt per litre.  Pour this over the fish
I put some more bay leaves on for good measure.
Bring to the boil and cook for about 20-30 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces.  I did this in the simmer oven of the Aga for three hours, which is a very gentle heat.  Take off the heat and allow to cool.
When it's cool enough to handle flake off chunks of the fish and put into sterilized jars along with a bay leaf and some black peppercorns (and chilli if you like).  I did a bit of an experiment and filled one jar with straight olive oil, one with a mixture of olive and safflower oil and one with water.
The jars then need to be sterilized again so they will be preserved.
Put the jars in a saucepan and fill with boiling water to just below the lids.  Boil for 30 minutes and let them cool in the water.  Make sure the jars cool completely and keep them in the fridge and wonder why you would ever buy tinned tuna again..
Now if you will excuse me I need to get back to Natasha and Andrei  (BBC adaptation of War and loving).

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