Slow Cooker Class tomorrow

(Some of) my slow cookers lined up in readiness for the Slow Cooking class here tomorrow. Should have pretty much a feast to share by the time we’re finished at lunch time.

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Chilly Day

Lots, lots, lots of paperwork to do, but meanwhile I’m at last, and at the same time, finishing off the green tomato chutney. Only trouble is that I’ve lost concentration and caught it twice. I wonder if the apricot jam’s 6 fork trick would work. I find this chutney is inclined to catch at the best of times.

IMG_1772It’s also time to bring out the slow cookers in force. Here are lovely quinces turned red after several hours in the slow cooker. All I did was place them in there with half a cup of water mixed with 1 cup of sugar. I did add a few pieces of crystallised ginger too, just for a change and because Robert likes ginger so much.

IMG_1771IMG_1773For good measure, and also for dinner – a pumpkin curry, just the thing for a chilly night. Couldn’t resist making and baking a lovely nutty wholemeal and spelt bread either, to go along with it.

IMG_1774If nothing else, the house smells jolly good – I just hope the aromas haven’t gone through to the bedroom wardrobes. It’s not nice to walk around town with clothes smelling like a pot of pickle.

And so back to the paperwork …..

Misty Day at Molesworth

Lovely misty morning here – how good is it to see everything turning green again? Can but hope that the rain will continue.

Here are a couple of photos from the front deck this morning – old Tom in the dog’s bed surveying his domain, and the chooks and ducks contentedly foraging their way around the paddocks.IMG_1742IMG_1744IMG_1745

And for a little early morning baking, a breakfast “focaccia” topped with homemade soft curd cheese, roasted red capsicum, tomatoes plus roasted pumpkin and sweet potato.

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Just the thing to provide the energy for preserving the last of the tomato crop today, and make Ajvar, and raspberry jam and just for the fun of it, develop a recipe (hopefully) for buckwheat and millet bread.

Mother and Daughter class

Fun in the (Mother and Daughter) cooking class this morning. From rustic apple tarts to pretty stars and fun Kiss biscuits, through to beautiful hearts and butterflies.

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IMG_1731IMG_1733IMG_1734In the theme of pink, there were savouries of salmon sausage rolls, salmon pate with buckwheat blinis and plenty of smoked salmon of course. Oh yes, and ham and corn mini quiches in case anyone should still be hungry.

Baked lemon tarts and a strawberry shortcake finished off the morning’s baking, cooking and eating. Don’t think there’s any room for dinner tonight!

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Rainy day play – leftovers

Meanwhile,as the pets peacefully slept, it seemed like a good idea to use up leftovers in the fridge.

I had thought it was a good idea to freeze labna. It seemed fine, and it would save having to use all that olive oil to cover them. Defrosted a container, went to ball it up and oh dear, the texture had changed so that it proved impossible. It wasn’t bad, just crumbly and the balls del apart as fast as I rolled them.

I could have made raita, if I’d only had a cucumber. So instead decided to use some leftover lime pastry, a half jar of lemon/lime curd I made the other day, the juice and zest of slightly sad, ageing limes and lemons and the last of my eggs to make a version of lemon/lime tart.

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Thank goodness for food processors, because it smoothed the mixture out perfectly. That tart is now baking in the oven and looking promising.

I’d seen Robert heading back from the veggie patch with a bucketful of tomatoes, the last of the season I expect. He didn’t bring them inside, but shortly after when I went in search of a tart plate, I found him in the cooking school kitchen in the throes of preserving them, while at the same time making a brew of beer.

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I have to say he’s made a neater job of things than I have. The kitchen in the house after making a salmon and corn loaf, two pumpkin cakes, pumpkin soup and now the lemon/lime tart, looks like a cyclone has hit with a vengeance. It would surely never grace the cover of “Home Beautiful”.

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Oh well, I’ll just poach some lime slices to accompany the tart and then I’ll get to cleaning I expect.

Now all I need is someone to eat everything I’ve cooked or else they will just be leftovers of a different kind!

When rain is on the way

Best indicators of rainy weather on the way are twofold. Firstly, and not at all pleasantly, are Huntsman spiders, one of which shared, uninvited, my shower this morning.

The other is old Tom the ex-feral. Most days he loves to sleep in the dog’s bed on the front verandah surveying the paddocks in front of him. However, when rain is in the offing we always know as he comes indoors, demands the alpaca rug, and settles down to sleep on the couch for the entire day.

The only time he stirs himself is to ask for food, or milk, or best of all an egg nog, his special favourite.

No photo of the spider here! (I dare say he was no more pleased than I was about being in the shower with me).

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The morning after the (pizza) night before

Yesterday, a blissful day of rain, at last.  It was not enough of course, but we are happy with every single drop.

Truffles, my lovely little kitten, spent the day happily curled up in her basket.

IMG_1696 Last night there was to be a meeting here, followed by the baking of many pizzas in “Herman”, the outdoor oven Robert built.

The oven cooked amazingly as always, but then there are always the leftovers to deal with.

As usual I prepared too much dough. Once upon a time I used to just send it to the compost heap or cook it up in the chooks’ mash next day.

However, I’ve now discovered a much better use. If you should end up in the same situation, with unused balls of dough sitting on the bench top, risen but with nowhere to go, you might want to try this.

Knock the air out of them and just scrunch them up a bit (you can re-roll into balls if you want). Grease a loaf tin to about the size you think you might need. Throw the balls of dough into this (the tin should be about half full).

Let this combined dough rise almost to the top of the tin and bake for about 40 minutes at 200 degrees C, until it is browned and sounds hollow when tapped with the fingertips. There you have it – a nice fresh loaf of bread for the next day.

It can be prepared and cooked like this while you are cleaning up the kitchen after guests have gone home.IMG_1705This morning when we opened the Herman’s door, there was still a good bed of coals and a lot of residual heat inside the oven. It felt perfect for slow cooking a casserole.

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By way of leftover toppings, there were a large bowl of sliced onions and capsicums, and a lovely bowl of chopped fresh tomatoes. I’d already sautéed them in some oil, so into a casserole dish they went, along with some osso bucco pieces. That’s dinner sorted.

IMG_1707The leftover pizza sauce topping will be pressure canned later today. I am anticipating that this new piece of equipment is going to be a real asset in the kitchen for safely preserving low acid foods.

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Recipes – Oat Bread and Old Fashioned Boiled Fruit Cake

I’ve had lots of requests for the recipes, so here they are.  I haven’t tasted the fruit cake but the bread is delicious, very tasty and well worth making.  It has a good texture and is quite moist, so I’m sure it won’t go stale in a hurry.

Oat Loaf

(Inspired by Alton Brown)

On tv I saw Alton Brown on “Good Eats” make this loaf. Mind you, I made so many changes to the recipe, some by accident some intentional, that it barely resembles the original.

You are supposed to knead the loaf once it’s mixed, but I didn’t. For one thing I don’t want to break the habit of a lifetime by starting to knead any bread I make, plus it’s a very wet dough, too wet to knead for sure. I compromised by giving it a hundred enthusiastic stirs with a spoon.

350g plain flour

2 tablespoons rolled oats, toasted

375g cooked porridge (warm)

1 ½ teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons instant dried yeast

2 teaspoons molasses

1 egg yolk, lightly whisked

60ml warm water

For glazing

1 egg yolk mixed with one tablespoon water

1 tablespoon rolled oats, toasted

In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients together and then mix in the cooked porridge, mixed with the molasses, egg yolk and warm water. (This is where I gave it the hundred strokes of mixing).

Cover the bowl with cling wrap or plastic bag and leave to rise in a warmish place for about an hour until doubled.

Stir the dough vigorously again, and then pour into a greased 12cm x 23cm (approximately) loaf tin.

Cover the tin with cling wrap and place in the fridge until risen to the top of the tin.

Brush gently with the egg yolk/water glaze mix and sprinkle with the toasted oats.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes in a moderately hot oven (180 degrees C in my stove).

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Old fashioned Boiled Fruit Cake

 600g dried fruit (I used a combination of dates, currants and sultanas)

1 large apple, cored and grated

200g butter, chopped

1 scant cup sugar

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon mixed spice

2½ cups liquid – I used 1 cup of fruit wine with 1½ cups water

3 eggs, lightly whisked

1 cup wholemeal flour

1 ½ cups plain flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

Grease a 23cm tin and line the base with baking paper, grease again.

Place the fruit, apple, butter, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, spice and liquid in a saucepan and bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer 3 minutes.

Cool to lukewarm. Mix in the beaten eggs and then the combined flours and baking powder.

Pour into the tin and bake in a moderately slow oven (150 degrees C in my oven) for approximately one and a half hours or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack to dry out. Store in an airtight container.

Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

The fruit cake and oat bread continues…

OK, so here they are straight from the oven.

IMG_1692As you can see, the fruit cake has a couple of small cracks on top, the reason being that I had the oven too high for a few minutes, toasting the oats for the bread dough at the same time.

The bread didn’t need 8 hours to rise in the fridge by the way, it was ready in three. Maybe I could have let it rise just a little more, but then it can tend to spoil the texture if it rises too much. Besides, I was sick of waiting.

The proof of the pudding (and bread) is in the eating of course, but so far so good.

Speaking of which, the fruit cake could always be used, slices or wedges of it, as a dessert with lovely creamy custard and ice cream.

That’s pudding for tonight sorted then, as well as a little something sweet to enjoy occasionally with a cup of tea or coffee.

I can provide the recipes if anyone wants them, just let me know.

Oats and Fruit Cake

We had lots of visitors on Saturday, friends and family, which was just wonderful with lots of cooking, experimenting with new dishes, and I was especially happy with some gluten and dairy free recipes.

However now, a day and a half later without cooking since then (there were lots of leftovers)  and I’m climbing the walls. I have a great deal else to do but I can’t get motivated without a little kick start of baking.

I saw a recipe a few days ago for oat bread. It looked quite impressive, oats are supposed to be really good for you, lower cholesterol and all that, so thought I’d give it a try.

First cook your porridge. I noticed then that the recipe called for 2 tablespoons of agave syrup – for just one loaf it seemed a bit excessive, so used 3 teaspoons of molasses instead. I hope I haven’t ruined it.

It’s mixed up now and on the rise for the requisite hour, then it has to be placed (more like poured, it’s a very wet dough) into a loaf tin and left to prove for 8 hours or more in the fridge before baking.

Yesterday I could finally no longer stand the state of the pantry in the house and had a serious culling of ancient ingredients lurking inside. I couldn’t bear to waste the dried fruit though. Then I remembered the boiled fruit cake I used to make decades ago.

A friend of ours back then, an older man, had a great fondness for a good, really moist, preferably sunken in the middle fruit cake. I used to make it very often for him and each time he would critique it – it became a bit of a game in the end.

I added extra liquid, usually by way of alcohol, and once the mixture was poured in the tin, I would pick it up and slam it onto the bench really hard several times, hoping that it would then have the sink factor.

Robert was pretty fond of it too, and so have just made an updated version this morning, as coincidentally there was some older butter in the fridge, also in serious need of being used.

How it will all turn out in the end I don’t know, but all least I’ve had my baking ‘fix’ for the day.

Incidentally, the fruit cake, if made into a loaf, was really, really good sliced and served with a cheese almost as strong as a Stilton. Strange but true.

Here are photos of the initial stages of baking in progress – if they turn out ok, I’ll post the finished product. If they don’t appear, you’ll know I should never have messed with the recipes in the first place.IMG_1688IMG_1689