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Friday, 17 October 2014

very grateful

minestrone was a favourite when i was doing my nursing training at the royal melbourne hospital in the late 60's and early 70's...exhausted and hungry after gruelling shift work my friends and i'd often walk to carlton for a bowl of minestrone (or bolognaise)..it was always served with plenty of crusty bread and butter..i started making it myself when i was living in the north of greece..it was a wonderful all in one nutritious, cheap, warming and hearty meal for me and my soldier husband..the recipe i used then was from elizabeth david's italian food..it was one of four books i had at the time..the others were elizabeth david's french country cooking, the green and gold and a book on greek cooking

i'd forgotten about minestrone soup until this morning when i was thinking about how i'd use some stock i'd made earlier in the week..lots of options whirled through my head but when i thought about some of the other ingredients i had minestrone suddenly just popped into my head..




versatile minestrone
tea with hazel
serves about 6 people

ingredients

2 litres stock (i used homemade)*
100 mls red wine
3 medium onions cut into medium dice
2 fresh garlic heads cut into quarters*
1/4 cabbage cut into large chunks
6 celery stalks cut medium (i used homegrown which have smaller stalks than most commercial celery)*
1 large carrot cut into medium dice
2 medium potatoes cut into medium dice
1/2 cup arborio rice
3-4 thin slices of double smoked bacon cut large (i used skara)
1 teaspoon (tsp) chilli*
2-3 tablespoons (tbs) organic tomato paste
8-10 dried tomatoes cut into medium pieces
parmesan rind cut into chunks
6 ruby chard leaves and stalks with stalks cut into medium pieces and leaves cut large*
large handful of rocket leaves*
1 cup fresh broad beans*
1-2 bay leaves
olive oil
salt and pepper

to serve

chopped parsley (i add it as a garnish because i find parsley goes an unpleasant dull colour when cooked) *
freshly grated parmesan
extra olive oil

method

~ saute bacon, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, cabbage, potato, chilli and bay leaves in olive oil until the onions are translucent
~ increase heat, add wine, and cook for a minute or so to burn off the alcohol
~ add stock, tomatoes, tomato paste, parmesan rind and rice and simmer for 20-25 minutes
~ just before serving add chard stalks and leaves, rocket and broad beans and cook until just tender
~ adjust seasoning

to serve

~ garnish with plenty of parsley, some parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil

notes

* home grown or home produced ingredients

suggested alternative ingredients

~ replace the stock with water
~ use other leafy greens such as spinach, kale, mustard greens, nettles and dandelion
~ replace the tomato paste and dried tomatoes with passata or fresh tomatoes
~ replace the fresh broad beans with cooked dried beans such as haricot, lima or kidney beans
~ replace the rice with pasta or use both
~ omit the bacon
~ saute the vegetables in good quality bacon or pork fat




one of life's pleasures for me is turning my home grown produce into a wholesome meal..it's not about money per se..sure this soup cost very little..for me it's more about being in touch with the ebb and flow of seasonal produce..and growing my own keeps me firmly in touch with the hard graft of those 'on the land' who provide us with sustenance..i'm grateful..yeah that's it..very grateful.. 


Tuesday, 23 September 2014

chair love

loved
abandoned
loved
discarded
loved 
dumped
loved
neglected
loved
battered
loved

kitchen stool
retro/vintage shop purchase
rubber feet stoppers replaced
small stool
op shop purchase for $2
child's metal + vinyl chair
op shop purchase for $5
found abandoned on a footpath
stained and painted 
child's chair
op shop purchase for $5
op shop purchase for $2
painted
op shop purchase for $2
kitchen stool
vintage/retro shop purchase
rubber feet stoppers replaced
gifted by a neighbour
stripped to reveal previously
hidden embossed australiana
sanded + painted
child's chair
made in melbourne by
 a j parker + co
op shop purchase for $10
metal chair
found in a hard rubbish collection
stripped, rust protection given +
the seat painted
kitchen stool
vintage/retro shop purchase
rubber feet stoppers replaced 
four more 
painted 
new seating needed
loved


happy spring equinox


Thursday, 18 September 2014

the benefit of hindsight

persistence can be a good thing..but it can also be counter productive..sometimes you don't know if you should persist with something or not..if the thing you're persisting with has a positive outcome you think your persistence was a good thing and you might give yourself a little pat on the back for not being one to give up easily..on the other hand you might persist and persist and then realise that you've just wasted a lot of resources (like time, money, emotional energy) on something that didn't work and you then might blame yourself for not realising earlier that it would have been better to ditch the whole thing in the first place..

my thinking here is all about my sourdough starter which developed a case of black mould while i was overseas in may this year for two weeks..at the time i wondered if i should throw it away but i removed the mould, fed the starter, and it sprang back to life..great..life moved on..loaves were baked and i forgot about the mould..but one day i made my usual baguettes and they were dense..tried again a few days later..same thing..and once more..same..i thought i'd lost my mojo..a while later i thought my starter might be the problem so razzed up the feeding and gave it some intensive care..

i tried every regime possible..all rye..some white and some rye..filtered water..boiled, cooled filtered water..tepid filtered water..warmer environment..cooler environment..but all rye flour is all it likes..even introducing tiny increments of white flour sends it into a funk..i can't tell you how much discarded starter i've had to deal with in the process..couldn't waste it..some of you know what i'm like about waste..i've chucked it in yeasted bread..made too many pancakes for one person..but after all the persistence it's time to take it off life support and arrange the funeral..i now realise that it was on its way out all those months ago..hindsight's funny like that!

although i've started another starter it will be a while before i can bake
sourdough again..so it's yeasted bread in the meantime 

see you..it's time for me to desist..x

Thursday, 4 September 2014

spelt and oat digestives

i haven't bought a dried biscuit in years..they're so many reasons why..food miles, excess packaging, trans fats, high salt content, unsustainable oil (palm oil) and ingredients that require mata hari code breaking skills for recognition purposes..and they're relatively expensive..see i've been known to gobble up a packet of vita wheats generously adorned with butter and vegemite in no time..when i'm peckish one or two little crackers just don't cut the mustard..it's a slice of home made and whole meal bread that does the trick for me..but..there are the occasional moments when a savoury biscuit is just the thing..for instance before a meal with some really good cheese and a little glass of red wine..nothing finer in my mind..

i came across this recipe yesterday and i made it pronto..it came well recommended so i had great faith in it..i think it's just about perfect for what i want and i can't tell you how pleased i am to now have a go to recipe for life's biscuits and cheese moments..




spelt and oat digestives
recipe from here
makes 7 dozen thin digestives

ingredients

1 3/4 cup oats
1 3/4 cups whole meal spelt flour
1/3 cup muscovardo sugar well pressed down
155 gms butter cut into small cubes
1/2 teaspoon (tsp) baking soda 
2 tsp salt (i used murray river salt)
milk

method

~ place the oats and flour in the bowl of a food processor and process until the oats are fine
~ add sugar, soda and salt and process until the sugar is well distributed
~ add butter and process until the mixture looks like bread crumbs
~ add a few tablespoons of milk at a time while pulsing the mixture and until it forms a ball
~ remove from the bowl and knead briefly to form a ball, flatten into a disk, wrap in cling film, and refrigerate for an hour or so
~ lightly dust the work surface with spelt flour, roll the dough thinly, and cut into desired shape
~ cook for 12-14 minutes at 180 deg c

notes: i've included the recipe because the original butter measurement was given in cups and spoons..what's with that? imagine trying to cram butter into a cup especially when it's cold..which it needs to be for these..it also needed more milk..and i've changed the method too to represent my experience of the recipe..it's a great dough to work with because it re rolls well..it doesn't suffer from lots of handling..and it doesn't spread at all when cooked so lots can be baked at once which was good for me because i rolled mine quite thin

Sunday, 24 August 2014

rosemary and lavender cold processed soap

i had to climb over a car to make this soap..and i'm not speaking figuratively..i literally had to scale a celica..it's a mixed blessing letting my son store his vintage car in my garage while he's away for six months..for one thing i had to do a bit of long overdue clearing and cleaning first..it was a case of three days work, nature strip donations and some excited hoarders..one of whom brought a trailer..and i loved being able to help my boy out..the downside is that it's now a mission to get to stuff like my soap making paraphernalia..i did get my boy nick to check that i could access the narrow passage between the car and the stuff stored along the sides of the garage..he did a quick shimmy..i was satisfied it was possible..but later when i tried myself it was a different story..i hadn't accounted for our differences in agility and circumference!


rosemary and lavender cold processed soap recipe
tea with hazel

ingredients

1000 gms olive oil 
500 gms copha
25 gms beeswax
215 gms sodium hydroxide
400 mls filtered water
a cup or so of rosemary leaves*
lavender*

method

~ process 200 gms of the olive oil and the rosemary and leave to infuse for a couple of weeks
~ strain through muslin
~ follow the instructions here for making the soap except after pouring the soap into the container sprinkle with lavender before covering and insulating the container

notes

* i picked the herbs from my garden..i used the rosemary fresh but the lavender i picked and dried last summer..it's a french lavender that doesn't look anything much in the garden and it doesn't smell particularly lavendery when fresh but once it's dried it has the nicest lavender scent of any i've grown..
~ each bar cost approximately $0.65..the beeswax i found at an op shop for $0.50!

 it doesn't show up but the soap is a lovely soft green colour with some pretty shading on top caused
 (i'm guessing) by the lavender

i'm looking forward to using it in a few weeks time

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

herbs de provence and rose olive oil cake

do you remember in the seventies when carrot cakes were all the rage? no..weren't even born then! well..believe me when i say they were de rigueur and cutting edge gastronomy back then..what? a vegetable in a cake? oil instead of butter? wow!

i got on the carrot cake bandwagon with great enthusiasm..come on..i'd just returned to australia after having lived in a small town in the mountains of northern greece for a few years..i was easily excited.. 

one day i thought i was being clever when, instead of using a flavourless oil, i used extra virgin olive oil to make my usual carrot cake..no surprise then that it tasted strongly of olive oil but my taste buds just weren't up to the flavour in a cake even though they were olive oil inured so i reverted to the flavourless stuff..now fast forward to yesterday when i put all of my decades old extra virgin olive oil in cake prejudices aside to make this recipe..the cake has herbs de provence in it too..what? herb de provence in a cake? wow!






i found the recipe for this herbs de provence and rose olive oil cake here when i was looking for ways to use all the grapefruit my girl kat gave me..the flavours in this cake intrigued me but i wasn't sure how i would like them but i think they're wonderful..i thought the rose water* would dominate but it's quite subtle and goes really well with the grapefruit..and the herbs de provence* add intriguing and delightful notes that complement the delicious fruity flavours of the olive oil..not being one to waste much i made candied peel from the juiced grapefruit skins..that was the only thing i did differently..oh..hang on..i did cut down on the sugar a bit..

note: * i used a french rose water concentrate imported by the essential ingredient purchased from here and herbs de provence, brought back from france by my dear friend robyn, that included rosemary, thyme, basil, marjoram and summer savoury..

have you come across any flavours that have intrigued and surprised you lately?

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

broccoli and stilton soup


broccoli is a vegetable that grows easily in melbourne's winter
 just net the seedlings in autumn when the cabbage moth larvae are still active
or maintain a constant vigil
and two months later you'll be picking 
green bouquets





broccoli and stilton soup
tea with hazel

ingredients 

vegetable stock

2 onions cut medium
2 large carrots cut into medium rounds
2-3 celery stalks cut medium and celery leaves
3-4 parsley stalks including leaves
4 garlic cloves
1 tbs pepper corns
olive oil
filtered water

soup

1 medium onion cut into large dice
6-8 spring onions, including green, sliced
2 medium potatoes cut medium
1 celery stalk sliced
1 green chilli, seeds removed, sliced
2 litres vegetable stock
1/2 medium cauliflower, stalks removed and retained, and florets cut medium
1 large broccoli head, leaves retained, stalks removed and retained, and florets cut medium
olive oil
salt and pepper
50 gms stilton

extras per serve

1-2 tablespoons (tbs) lemon juice
2 tbs fresh sourdough breadcrumbs crisped in bacon fat (or olive oil for a vegetarian option)
1-2 tbs crumbled stilton

method

vegetable stock

~ saute onion, carrot, celery stalks and garlic in olive oil until the vegetables are transparent and browning on edges
~ cover with water and add parsley and pepper corns
~ bring to the boil, reduce to simmer, and cook for 45 minutes, and then strain

broccoli soup  

~ saute onion, spring onions, potato, celery and chilli in olive oil until vegetables are transparent and browning on edges
~ add cauliflower and broccoli stalks, broccoli leaves and stock and bring to the boil, lower heat to simmer ad cook until the vegetables are soft
~ add cauliflower florets, cook until al dente, and then add broccoli florets and cook until just soft
~ adjust seasoning
~ remove a few of the broccoli florets, roughly break them up and set aside, and puree the soup using a blender or stick blender
~ stir through stilton

to serve

~ divide broccoli florets between soup bowls, add soup, drizzle with lemon juice, and garnish with stilton and bread crumbs



polenta, corn flour, biodynamic wholemeal flour and organic white flour sourdough



soup and bread is one of my favourite meals