Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Recess TIme

When I first moved out of home, my sister bought me a gift that has followed me just about each time we have moved.

This C.W.A. cookbook has been a great source of information and entertainment over the years. It is filled with great basic recipes and handy hints that I’m sure have been handed down from one rural housewife to another over a cup of tea and a scone.

The front section of the book is all about catering and this is where the fun begins. Being brought up in the city, my sister and I always thought this was fabulous. There are several catering scenarios including Catering for a Public Stock Sale, Pea Soup for 120 people and Curry for 50 people. It is amazing how often tongue is used as an ingredient. I love also in the Wedding Breakfast for 100 Guest that they suggest 4 gobblers, but you must remember that 1 gobbler equals 4 fowls.

There have been so many editions of this book and recipes are added and deleted. This version has the most wonderful Banana Cake recipe that I have used many time, so many in fact that the book just about falls open at that page. With school starting tomorrow I felt the need to bring the book out again and get baking.

Banana Cake adapted from C.W.A. cookbook (42nd edition)

125 butter
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
3 medium bananas
1½ cups self raising flour
½ teaspoon bi-carb
¼ cup milk (I used yoghurt)

Cream butter and sugar
Add eggs one at a time.
Add mashed bananas.
Fold in flour, bi-carb and milk a bit at a time.
Pour into loaf tin and cook in a moderate over for about half an hour. (Mine always takes longer)

It’s time to track down the last of the school requirements. There is no way I am buying another recorder. I know there is one around here somewhere..

What are you putting in lunch-boxes this week?

Take care

Sunday, January 29, 2012

In My Kitchen

A trip to the Farmers' Market can be a great source of inspiration for the rest of the day.

There was no way I could walk past the beautiful bags of basil leaves being sold from the back of the truck without adding a bag to my basket. Basil just makes me think of pesto, and pesto is such a versatile ingredient to keep in the fridge. A spoonful through some pasta, smeared over a pizza base or added to a piece of barbecued chicken, it just seems to add a bit of yumminess.

While the outside temperature soared towards 42 degrees (107 F) I locked myself away in the kitchen.

With leaves rinsed, I was ready to get started on the Basil Pesto.

A huge thank you to Stupendous Joy for my gorgeous tea towel. It's too beautiful to use for dishes.

A quick whizz in the food processor and my work was done.

I wasn't able to find any pine nut, only pine nuts mixed with almonds but these worked wonderfully. There is now one container in the fridge and one in the freezer.

With a fresh batch of yoghurt in the fridge, a little more inspiration struck. A bunch of chives was picked from the garden and garlic clove of two crushed into the mix before it was poured into some muslin and suspended, all in the name of labna.

After a quick recipe search, I was ready for another dip: tzatziki. The combination of tanginess from the yoghurt, cucumber and lemon is so refreshing at the moment.

As the afternoon cooled down, there was a need to make something to dip into these.

I found a lovely looking recipe in the Veg Everyday book and thought that flatbreads would work well. Rather than throw out the whey from the labna, this was added to the bread dough as the water component. Some water still needed to be added as there wasn't enough whey.

I'm now off to make some more yoghurt as the jars are looking a little low.

What's happening in your kitchen?

Take care

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Australian Made?

I came across this Choice quiz about food labeling in Australia and thought you might like to have a go.

You don't need to fill out any forms or submit your email address like on some quizzes.

I am embarrassed to say that I scored a big fat zero. I think I was a little naive (or hopeful) with some of my answers.

I hope you do better than me.

Take care.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rehydrating Chickpeas

One of my favourite summer afternoon snacks is a bowl of hommus with vegetable sticks. It is so light and a great way to get so many nutrients into hungry children. I don’t mind if they fill up on a snack like this.

When I was sprouting chickpeas last year I often wondered about cooking these little legumes, so I have decided to give it a go.

There are issues to do with eating tinned vegetables, especially with regard to Bisphenol A (BPA). It just feels really difficult to know what is the right thing to do nowadays.

After a bit of reading I got started.

Using 1 cup (200g) of dried chickpeas, I covered these with water and left to soak for 12 hours. I had forgotten how much water these suckers absorb so needed to add quite a bit more during the day. They more than doubled in size.

At the beginning

10 hours later (with water added)

I thought it would be worth doing a few financial calculations to see how the prices compare. These prices are just from one shop but I thought it would be a good guide.

Dried chickpeas $1.82/375g (49c/100g)
Homebrand chickpeas $1.00/400g (25c/100g)
Organic chickpeas $1.59/ 400g (40c/100g)

The initial purchase of the dried chickpeas turns out to be more expensive per 100g than the tinned version, but the part to remember here is that when these are rehydrated the legumes swell. For 200g of dried chichpeas I ended up with 444g of the cooked version. My initial 1 cup became 3 cups of cooked chickpeas. This amount is roughly what is in a tin.

So by my rather rusty calculations it costs about half price to buy the dried version and cook them.

A few factors you may wish to consider:
  •  Time: you need to be prepared as it takes about 12 hours to do it this way.
  •  Electricity: these need to be cooked for about an hour on the stove top.

I have split my three cups into 1-cup portions, with two of these being placed in the freezer and one in the fridge. These add great flavour and texture to a salad, having a bit more of a crunch than the tinned version.

I would certainly do it again, but I would make sure to cook more at once and then freeze them in 400g (tin equivalent) portions ready for making hommus.

Take care

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Passionate About Passionfruit

A few years ago, before I was truly interested in growing my own food, I planted a passionfruit vine with the sole purpose being to cover over a fence.

The thought of passionfruit from my childhood always brings memories of a sponge cake covered in a crunchy passionfruit icing. I was always a little unsure about those little seeds. They seemed to look a little too much like insects that had found their way onto the cake.

This summer had been the first time my fence-covering vine has started to bare fruit, and it's got me excited.

Just for starters, to really savour the taste, I decided to go for the simple dish of passionfruit over homemade yoghurt. Such a simple and satisfying breakfast.

There are so many recipes for passonfruit that I am sure some of these will be made over the next few weeks.

As the weather at the moment does not really get me excited about baking (35 -39 all week), the flesh from the fruit is being scooped out and frozen in ice-cube trays ready to be popped out when needed.

It is great to know that these purple fruit are brimming with so many nutrients.

Do you have a favourite passonfruit recipe?

Take care

Friday, January 20, 2012

And for my next trick...

I'm absolutely sure that most of you are going to say, "Really, you didn't know how to do this? I thought everyone knew that."

I have always loved little cupcakes with a delicious jam filled centre. The first bite through the spongy cake into the strawberry goodness takes all my trouble away. These were not the types of cakes I would normally make. It must be way too hard having to put cake mixture, then jam, then more cake mixture.

I was so wrong.

I picked up a copy of Cupcake Heaven while in transit last week. With a morning tea planned today I opened the magazine up to the Jammie Cupcakes and jumped right in.

Now for those of you that thought this gooey centre was too tricky, it's not. Make the cupcake mixture as normal and then put a little dob of jam on the top. There's no need to push it down into the mixture, in fact the recipes advises against it.

Pop these into a 190 degree oven and bake until golden.

The result is a gorgeous little cake with a surprise inside.

Jammie Cupcakes
adapted from Cupcake Heaven volume 1

175g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp custard powder (I didn't bother)
175g softened butter.
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 190 degrees C
Cream all ingredients together except the jam and icing sugar.
Spoon mix into muffin cases.
Spoon some jam onto the top of the cakes.
Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes.
When cool, dust with icing sugar.

I just love that these look really posh but are super simple.

Take care

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Friends, Food and Fun

I have never really been one for formality. In fact, formal events make me feel incredibly uncomfortable and I spend much of the time wondering if I am using the correct fork or wine glass. I figure, if it holds liquid, drink from it! It could be an old jam jar for all I care.

Getting together with friends needs to be relaxing. Spending hours stressing over menu selections can turn what should be a fun experience into something completely different.

Tonight we are hosting a Trivial Pursuit evening with some wonderful friends. The menu is simple, but hopefully super tasty. Dips, bruschetta and fritatta are ideal to be nibbled at as we move our little pieces of pie around the board. Most can be prepared beforehand and the rest need only a little time, long enough for kiddoes to have a quick dip in the pool.

Roasted carrot and garlic with cumin and coriander ready to be turned into dip.

Carrot Hummus

These are the types of get-togethers I love. Very relaxed with guests kicking their shoes off as they walk through the door and helping themselves to drinks in the fridge.

Dessert is ready to go and just waiting for a bit of fruit to be added before serving. In the spirit of the evening, can you answer this question correctly?

What will be served for dessert in the Mouse House this evening?
a. ice cream and fruit salad.
b. pavlova
c. lemon cheesecake
d. custard tarts with berries

How do you like to spend time with friends?

Take care

After a little reading about recipe copyright, here is the one for the dip.

Carrot Hummus

Adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg Everyday

1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
6 tbsp oil
1 tsp honey
500g carrots
3 large garlic cloves
juice of half a lemon
juice of an orange
3 tbsp tahini (or smooth peanut butter)
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°.
Dry fry the cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant. Remove from the heat and grind to form a powder. Add 4 tbsp of oil and honey (I think maple syrup may also work well). This will form a marinade for the carrots.
Cut the carrots into small pieces and place in a roasting dish. Add the squashed (notvcrushed) garlic.
Coat the carrots and garlic in the marinade.
Season with salt and pepper.
Roast until the carrots are soft and a browning on the edges. This may take about half an hour.
When slightly cool, transfer to a food processor making sure to take the skins off the garlic.
Add the juices, tahini and oil and process. (I have also managed to do this with a stick blender).
Add more salt and pepper if needed.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Keeping it Simple

Tonight was one of those evening when something really easy was needed for dinner. Sometimes I love to take the whole day to prepare a meal, doing bit by bit, tweaking it here and there: today was not one of those days.

Fritters is always something I remember from my own childhood as a great summer meal, served with a lovely salad. These were the type of dinner that seemed to magically appear from nowhere.

There are so many flavour combinations for fritters. Two of my seasonal favourite vegetables at the moment are zucchini and corn which are ideal ingredients for these.

It always amazes me how much can be squeezed from grated zucchini.

With the help of some flour, egg, milk and seasoning, an easy (and fairly frugal) dinner was on the table. Served with some homemade yoghurt and mint dressing, I was pretty happy with the result.

Now if only the other, smaller members of the household didn't think I was trying to poison them. Perhaps next time I'll add some grated potato and pass these off as giant chips.

What are your favourite fritter flavours?

Take care

Monday, January 16, 2012

Starting Over

The last few days have gone by in a bit of a blur with catching up on sleep, unpacking cases and going through storage boxes. A 7am trip to the beach for surfing lessons (not me) was a great way to clear those last few cobwebs away.

Getting the vege gardens back up and running is high on my list of things to do. This is a job that will take a while and I feel I really need to tackle it a bit at a time. Two of the garden beds need a lot of manure and TLC before they are healthy enough to be producing delicious veges, but one smaller bed is ready to go. With a little bit of sheep manure added, the plants my Mum had given me were ready to find a new home.

Although these are only small steps, they are steps. I have so many plans for gardening this year but must be patient to get the soil prepared properly. Perth is well known for sandy soil so this is one instance where I really must take time.

How is your garden growing?

Take care

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Slow Down and Bake Bread

A delicious little film making me want to do the test of my packing in slow motion, interspersed with cups of tea.

Take care

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Emptying Out the Pantry

The pantry is becoming more and more like Mrs Hubbard's as we prepare to leave the apartment. There are a variety of flours, dried fruits and spices that I have accumulated over the last five months and although the landlord will hopefully be happy to add these to her own supplies, I feel the need to bake.

A few months ago I came across a lovely recipe by Bill Granger for a Apple, Dried Cherry and Almond Loaf. I thought it would be a great breakfast alternative to cereal or toast on a chilly morning. I made a version using dried apricots rather than cherries for guests and it was all gone by the end of morning tea.

Using this recipe as a base, another loaf is ready for the table. Many more substitutions have been made to use up ingredients I already have: dried figs instead of cherries, coconut instead of dried apple, walnuts instead of almonds, as well as combinations of different flours and sugars.

One of the aspects of this recipe that I find very appealing is that there is no butter or oil added.

I think that a batch of Anzacs might also be coming out of the oven at some stage today.

Take care

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Last Visit to Türkischer Markt am Maybachufer

We wandered today for the last time through the stalls of Türkischer Markt am Maybachufer. This has become a bit of a Tuesday and Friday ritual with us heading down there to grab some lunch. We have taken visitors there and they have all loved the experience.

(Click to enlarge)

Take care

The mosaic was made using this site.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Saying goodbye

This Berlin adventure is very quickly drawing to a close. With last minute sightseeing during the days and packing and cleaning in the evenings, I know that this time next week I will be back in Australia.

We have all learnt so much and have mixed feeling about next week. There is still so much we would love to see and do, but we also look forward to returning to family and friends who we have missed. We have found six months is a great amount of time to be away. It is long enough to feel like more than a holiday but I think once you head towards a year, it all seems a little daunting.

So it is time to say some goodbyes. My youngest has been going to a great school that happens to be right across the road from our apartment: straight out the front door, across the street, and up the stairs to school. I have been able to stand at the window and wave goodbye without getting out of my pjs!

I had grand plans a pavlova but having to supply plates and spoons for 20 or so children wasn't too appealing. For ease I decided to make some little meringue swirls which was a lot of fun. I also figured that most children probably really only want the crunchy sugary bit on a pav, not really the cream and fruit.

A batch of cupcakes is always a great backup too. This is a recipe that my Mum used to use when I was growing up. I love the simplicity of it.

Nanna's Cupcakes

125g melted butter
2 eggs
½ cup milk
¾ cup sugar
teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups of self raising flour

Beat eggs, milk, sugar vanilla and flour together and then mix in the melted butter.

Put heaped teaspoons if mixture in small paper patty cases or in a well greased metal patty/small muffin cake tin.  Bake in a moderate oven till golden, about 12 – 15 mins.

Well, off we go to say goodbye.

Take care

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Footloose and Car-free

There are so many advantages to being car-free, especially living in a city with a great infrastructure. By walking and using public transport we have all managed to get to know our way around Berlin very well. I often think if we were driving around the city there would be added stresses of one navigating while the other drives, learning new road rules (so many I still don't understand), and finding street parking out and at home. At it is, using the U-bahn is an added part of any day out. Working out which line we need and how that will get us to our destination becomes second nature. And I must say I love the incidental exercise.

It concerns me how easy it is to just jump in the car and zip to the shops for that bottle of milk. When everything is so hectic and time is so precious, it seems that those few extras minutes needed to walk the journey just can't be found. When you don't have a car, there is no option.

During a walk back from the supermarket yesterday, we were talking about how relaxing this journey is, and how we really need to be more conscious of our car use back in Perth. We had the idea of a no-car-zone: any trip under two kilometres should not involve the car.

I found this great piece of online software that draws a given radius around a point on a map. My plan is to make a copy and stick it to the fridge for the whole family to use. It is amazing how many places we visit fit inside the ring.

Why not have a go and see how many places fit inside a one or two kilometre radius of where you live.

Take care

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Sense of Community for 2012

This month marks a year since I started blogging.

It has been such a wonderful experience learning and sharing with so many wonderful people. For a long time I had been a bit of a lurker, watching from the sidelines, but thought it was time that I should get involved. What a great decision it has been. It has been so much fun to share things that have worked for me in my attempt to live a little greener, but the advise and inspiration from others encourages me to try new things. There is an amazing group of like-minded people out there wanting to connect with others; wanting to be part of community. It is such a thrill to be part of it.

With 2012 now here, and our Berlin journey very quickly coming to an end, I have been thinking about the year ahead. Returning to one of the most isolated capital cities in the world really makes me think about how important community is to me. The need to support and be supported by local groups is something I will certainly be making more of an effort to do this this year.

Just before the end of a year, I usually have a look to see what the upcoming International Year will be. This one got me quite excited at the possibilities. The International Year of the Co-operatives seems like it could be a great way to bring the idea of supporting the local community to the attention of many people. I suppose one of my concerns is that people who are already trying to follow this ideal will be the ones to find out about it, but the information will not reach the unintentional supporters of multi-national corporations.

There is some great information about what is happening in Australia and internationally, as well as inspiring stories from communities all over the world.

I think it is all about planting a little seed to get people thinking.

Take care
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