Cement, dirt and chocolate

The weekend was a hard one for clothes. Assorted clothes were rolled around in dirt, smothered in concrete and smeared with chocolate. I did get a veggie garden, a pole for a privacy screen and beautiful filled chocolate out of it.

My garden obsession is growing. I want to grow every single vegetable that I like (as well as peas and beans because they are pretty). So far I have seeds, seedling and plants for:

  • Capsicum
  • Tomato
  • Eggplant
  • Cucumber
  • Pumpkin
  • Strawberries
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Lemon thyme
  • Garlic
  • Basil
  • Lettuce
  • Chives
  • Nasturtiums
  • Lemons

I really want to add:

  • Potato
  • Corn
  • Zucchini
  • Raspberries
  • Gooseberries
  • Blueberries
  • Grapes
  • Asparagus
  • Rhubarb
  • Artichoke

I’m trying to be an organic gardener and work with companion planting and non toxic sprays.  My mint has a fungi infection which apparently shouldn’t stop you eating it but does hurt the plant in the long run. After chatting to the garden centre lady and using the Google I have found that the best way to tackle the problem is with a spray of one part trim milk to nine parts water. I’m deeply suspicious of remedies that don’t have research behind them so was reassured after reading a research paper on the use on trim milk/water spray on commercial melon growing operations in NZ. We’ll see how my lovely Mojito producing Mint survives.

Here is a picture of my pumpkin seedlings. I love the way the seeds sit on top like hats.

Sprouting pumpkins

  • I’ve keeping an eye out on Trademe for a nice old window to turn into a seedling glasshouse on our front deck.
  • I’ve been watching "At Home with Jamie Oliver". He has a most amazing garden (also a gardener) and I quite enjoy watching/listening to him cook as well. He even cooks at least one or two vegetarian items per show.
  • I’ve also been watching "An edible garden" which is also British and is extremely entertaining. 

I think my worms are happier now. The instructions for my worm garden hadn’t mentioned requiring wet paper or carpet over the food which may be why my worms looked a little sad. I’ve added carpet with a little handle to make food applying easier so hopefully they will breed like crazy soon so they can take most of our kitchen scraps.

Russian Fudge


We had a fudge making session. What an awesome idea! The fudge that really stood out was the Russian Fudge made by Michelle and Catherine.

Image by dragonflyblue

Russian Fudge

3 1/2 cups White Sugar
125 g butter
3 tablespoons Golden Syrup
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
200 g sweetened condensed milk (half a standard tin)
2 teaspoons vanilla essence

Method

Place all the ingredients except the vanilla, into a medium-heavy saucepan. Warm over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for about 15 — 20 minutes, until it reaches the soft ball stage (120°C).

Remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Beat (you can use an electric mixer) until the fudge is creamy and thick and has lost its gloss. Pour into a greased 20 cm cake pan. Score the top and break into pieces when cold.

*I’ve had trouble with the edmonds recipe but this one almost never fails. I find the trick to it is to keep the element at the same temperature, or on the same setting (low seems to be best on our gas hob), gently melting the ingredients together, stirring constantly, making sure the sugar dissolves. This makes for smoother, creamier fudge! YUM. It will come to boil on its own, in its own time, no need to turn the element up. Once it boils, try to stir it as little as possible, only to prevent it catching & burning. I put a drop into a glass of cold water to test for the soft ball stage.

Be sure to beat it well until quite thick & it will begin to set around the edges of the pot. Then you know it is ready :)

And never double the recipe!! This equals sure failure :P believe me!

(Recipe and comments from Jenna via Catherine)

Stained Glass Biscuits

I made these Stained Glass Biscuits for a pot luck dinner we hosted last night.

They’re a little bit gimmicky but very fun to make. The recipe below is from OHbaby.

Lollies smashed up

Pots of Colour

See through biscuits!

Stained Glass Biscuits

My hints:

1. To smash lollies put them inside a plastic bag and hit them with a rolling pin. Otherwise you will be finding lollies bits all over your kitchen for weeks to come.

2. The larger holes seemed to work better.

3. Fill the holes completely with the lollies.

Ingredients:

  • 125g Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1/3 Cup Golden Syrup
  • 1 Egg
  • 2 1/2 Cups Plain Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon ground Ginger
  • 1 Teaspoon Mixed Spice
  • 1 Teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 2 bags of Coloured Boiled Lollies

Method:
Beat butter, Brown Sugar and Golden Syrup until light and creamy. Add egg, beat well.

Stir flour, spices and bicarbonate of soda into creamed mixture, mix until just combined.

Turn onto floured surface, knead 1 minute, adding a little extra flour if dough is sticky. Wrap dough in plastic wrap
and refrigerate 30 minutes or until firm.

Preheat oven to moderate 180C.

Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 4mm thick. Cut into large shapes as desired. Cut out a smaller shape in
centre of each. Place on baking tray lined with paper.

Finely chop or crush coloured boiled lollies. Spoon chopped lollies in heaped mounds into cut-out centre of dough
shapes.

Bake 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool before moving.

Recipe sent in by Gemma Cartwright of Taranaki

Peach Sorbet

It seems crazy to post about sorbet on one of the coldest days we’ve had in a while. Oh well, save this great recipe from the Mediterranean Food Warehouse for a nice sunny day!

The peach flavour is amazingly intense. The man at the Food Warehouse swears it’s because of the quality of the Spanish canned peaches that they supply. I’m sold.

Ingredients:
• Caster sugar 250g
• Water 125m1
• Spanish peaches 1 large tin drained reserving the syrup
• Lemon juice 2 tablespoons

Method:
Gently heat the caster sugar the water and the syrup until the sugar has dissolved.

Set aside to cool. This will make more syrup than you will require, but it can be used for other purposes.

Purée the peach halves with the lemon juice until smooth. Pass through a sieve to remove any lumps and hard bits. The ripeness of the fruit will dictate how much syrup to add. Start with 1/4 cup measures, then taste. Add a little more syrup when the required taste is achieved because the frozen sorbet is so cold, you need a little more syrup to bring out the fruit flavour.

Remember to let the sweetness work in contrast with tartness, which is achieved by adding a little more lemon juice. But don’t add so much that you overpower the fruit. If using an ice cream machine, churn the purée to the manufacturer’s instructions. Otherwise place the purée in a large dish and freeze.

Check it every 20 minutes and break up the crystals with a fork. When it has reached the desired consistency, place in an airtight container, smooth down and freeze until ready to use.

Sorbets should eaten immediately they are ready but at least within 2—3 days as they begin to lose their fresh flavour.

Serves 4 – 6

Pastry cream

I made Berry Tarts from the Nov 2008 Taste magazine. The Tarts were nice but not nice enough to bother making again. The pastry cream that the tarts used was very, very good. I made another batch of it the next day and Thomas and I ate it without the Tarts.

tart with pastry cream

Pastry Cream

– 250 ml milk
– 1 cinnamon quill
– 3 egg yolks
– 60g caster sugar
– 2 Tbsp cornflour

Heat milk with cinnamon quill in a saucepan. Bring to boiling point.

Beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and fluffy. Whisk the hot milk into the egg mix.

Return the mixture to the saucepan, and whisk in the cornflour. Return to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes (or until thickens), whisking constantly. The pastry cream will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.

Spiced Apple and Almond Cake (Vegan)

For Bex, it’s always nice when a dinner guest asks for the recipe.

Makes 12 Servings

4 cups peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped Golden Delicious apples (about 4 medium).
1 ¾ cups sugar
½ teaspoon chopped dried lemon peel
½ cup canola or other mild vegetable oil
½ cup cup red currant jam, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped blanched almonds
Icing sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 175C (350F). Grease a 13 by 9 inch baking pan. In a large bowl, combine the apples, sugar, and lemon peel; let stand for 15 minutes.

Add the oil, jam, vanilla extract, and almond extract to the apple mixture; stir until the jam is well dissolved.

In another large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Gradually stir into the apple mixture. Add the almonds, stirring well to combine. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.

Let the cake cool n the pan on a wire rack. When completely cooled, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar, if desired. Cut into squares and serve.

Advance Preparation

The completely cooled cake can be covered with foil and stored at room temperature for up to two days.


From The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen by Donna Klein

Chocolate Walnut Fudge

fudge.jpg

Chocolate Walnut Fudge

  • 250g (1 cup) sugar
  • 400g can of condensed milk
  • 50g of butter
  • 5ml (1 tsp) vanilla
  • 115g plain chocolate, grated
  • 75g (3/4 cup) walnuts
  • Non Stick Baking Paper

Grease an 18cm square cake tin and line with baking paper.

Mix the sugar, condensed milk and butter in a heavy-based saucepan and heat gently, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved completely.

Bring the mixture to the boil (stir continuously) and cook until it reaches 119 degrees Celsius*. Remove the pan from the heat and beat in the vanilla essence, grated chocolate and nuts. Beat until mixture is smooth and creamy.

Pour mixture into the cake tin, spread evenly. Leave to set in the fridge (a few hours).

fudgecloseup.jpg

*Or perform the famous fudge soft ball test (drop a few drops of the boiling fudge mixture into cold water. If it forms a ball it is ready).

Crema Catalana Baked Apples

I was reading the Indulgence section of The Dominion Post when a recipe for Crema Catalana Baked Apples caught my eye. I’d just been wondering what to do with the Granny Smith Apples sitting in our fruit bowl!

apple-custard.jpg

The baked apples were nice, pretty much what you’d expect from baked apples but the Cream Catalana (Spanish Custard) made me roll back my eyes in delight.

I think next time I’ll make twice as much custard and skip the apples altogether : -)

Crema Catalana Baked Apples




Serves Four.

Ingredients

  • 10g (2 tsp) butter (softened)
  • 4 medium-sized Granny Smith apples
  • 250ml (1 cup) of water
  • 100g (1/2 cup) of sugar
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Cinnamon quill
  • Recipe Crema Catalana (below)
  • 4 tsp sugar (for sprinkling)

Method

Preheat oven to 180C.

Grease ovenproof gratin dish generously with butter.

Preparing the Apples

Core apples, being careful not to cut through the bottoms. You could use an apple corer, or a small paring knife to carve out a cavity in the centre of the apples about 1cm – 2cm in diameter, and as close to the bottom as you can without piercing it. If necessary cut a tiny sliver of apple from the base to ensure the apple will sit flat.

Place apples in gratin, bottom down.

Preparing the Cooking Liquid

cinnamon-lemon1.jpg
In a small pot set over a low heat, place water, sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon quill and stir to dissolve. Increase heat and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and pour in and over apples. Leave cinnamon quill and zest in the gratin with the apples.

Baking the Apples

Place gratin in the oven and bake uncovered, basting occasionally, for 25-35 minutes till apples are tender and the skin just begins to break. Baking time will depend on the size and ripeness of the apples.

Prepare Crema Catalana (below) while waiting for the apples to cook.

Remove from oven and leave to sit for about 10 minutes. Tip apples to pour off syrup from the apple cavities into the gratin.

To Serve

Fill cavity with Crema Catalana (below). Sprinkle with second measure of sugar and, using a chefs torch, brulee till dark brown, or place gratin under a very hot grill till sugar has turned dark brown.

Place an apple in each serving plate, drizzle with syrup and accompany with any remaining Crema Catalana.

And this is what a slightly overcooked apple looks like. Ooops.

flop-apple.jpg

Cream Catalana




Ingredients

  • 150ml (1/2 cup + 1tbsp + 2 tsp) cream
  • 150ml (1/2 cup + 1tbsp + 2tsp) milk
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 66g (1/3 cup) sugar


  • Method

    In a medium, heavy-based saucepan set over a medium heat, place the cream, milk, cinnamon quill and lemon zest and heat to just below boiling point. Remove from the heat and cool.

    Place egg yolk in a bowl and lightly whisk till just combined, but not frothy or foamy. Add sugar and combine. Pour cooled cream mixture into the egg mixture and stir to combine, aiming, once again, not to create froth or foam.

    Wash the cream saucepan and pour the cream/egg mixture into the saucepan and place over low heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon till custard thickens and evenly coats the back of the spoon. Strain through a fine sieve to remove the cinnamon quill, zest and remaining particles of egg white.

    Allow to cool slightly before pouring into the apples.

Orange Mousse

This Orange Mousse recipe is one of my favourites. Thomas however took this dessert one step further by serving the mousse in brandy snap baskets and topping them with cream and grapes. I am a fan, Mmmmmmm, yes I am.

mousse-brandy.jpg

  • 125g Sweet Dark Chocolate
  • 4 Eggs – Separated
  • Finely grated Zest of 1 orange (optional)
  1. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering water (Don’t get any water in the chocolate!). Leave to cool a little.
  2. Beat the egg yolks into the chocolate one at a time. Fold in the orange zest.
  3. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, fold them into the chocolate.
  4. Put the chocolate mix into little pots/bowls, place in fridge and let them set, should take an hour or two.

Nice serving size for two people.*

Best of all it’s very easy to make.

*Maybe I was feeling a bit greedy/hungry the first time I made this. As Thomas suggests in his comment it works for 4 or 5 in the brandy baskets.