Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tomato goodness

I moved house on 1 April this year, and we've been lucky enough to inherit a garden, with several different varieties of tomatoes, all of which are producing copious crops.

Thus far we have cooked
  • Meditteranean tomato and rice soup,
  • Oven semi-dried tomatoes
  • tomato sauce with onion and garlick
  • tomato, tuna, mushroom and spinach sauce,
  • Pizza with rich tomato, red onion and redwine sauce
  • Bruschetta (on home-made bread)
  • Vegetable Lasagne (in the freezer)
  • and of course Greek Salad - both Sakturian and Horiatki variant.
I now have a home-office (adjacent to the kitchen). I popped out into the garden mid-morning and discovered that we needed to harvest a few more tomatoes. So today I've done my accounts to the smell of slow roasting tomato sauce, with home-grown thyme, olive oil, and white onion, inspired by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe for roasted tomato sauce here. I haven't decided whether to go the whole hog and sieve it or not, or just freeze it skins and all.

We have a few more red tomatoes to come, I think, and then it is on to the green tomato chutney recipe. Luckily this month's Cuisine magazine, and last week's Press Zest section both have recipes. I have bought green apples, raisins and ginger, so we are now ready to cook!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Cake 2007

One of the delights of being an auntie and a godmother is cooking with my nephew and niece.

Two weeks ago we made the Christmas Cake, yesterday the Marzipan (there was none left pre-made in the stores!) and today I iced the cake with Royal icing.

Ella, Finn and I had great fun making the cake. Ella (22 months) concentrated intently on cutting the butter, sifting the flour, measuring the sugar and mixing the flour and the dried fruits, and spooning the mixture in to the tin. Finn (nearly 5) was in charge of keeping an eye on the mixer as the butter and sugar creamed, and then the eggs were added one by one.

The recipe was based on the Cordon Bleu cookery course my mother subscribed to in weekly installments when I was a baby. Week 20 had the Christmas cake in it. Its the same recipe we used when I was a child, and I recall making it on my own for the first time when I was 8 or 9.

A warning though, if you plan on letting your 9 year old loose in the kitchen. I did a lot of cooking from a very young age, and was mostly fine on my own. But then there was the day I put half a pound of butter on to melt for icing for a banana cake (way too much butter!) Being inclined to rush things I put it on high. And then went and watched some TV and forgot about it..until the smell of smoke reached my parents who were wallpapering at the other end of the house, and came to the kitchen to find the wall on fire. Luckily, Mum had been reading a book on fire safety to my brother the night before, and remembered the best way to put out an oil fire was to soak a towel in water and put it on the pan. This did most of the work, the extinguisher the rest, and I was very much persona non grata a for a while....

Anyway, on to happier things, here is the recipe as we made it two weeks ago. I've adapted to metrics from the original to use the premix dried fruit rather than individual measures, and indicated where a 2 or 5 year old helper can join in.

Family Christmas Cake
Line a 20cm cake tin (round or square) with a double thickness of greaseproof paper.

Heat the oven to 180 degrees.

Dice 200g butter (if using from the fridge). Your 2 year old can be kept happy by cutting the butter into smaller bits using a toddler's knife (Bob the Builder worked well for us!) then puttin gthe butter into the mixing bowl. Cutting it helps it soften prior to creaming it with sugar.

Have your 5 year old measure 1 cup of flour (about 8 oz/225 g), 1/2 t cinnamon and 1/2 t into a bowl. The 2 year old can add a pinch of salt.

Set a sieve over another bowl and have the 2 year old empty the flour into the sieve, bit by bit, shaking and stirring the sieve until it all goes through.

Mix half the flour with a 500g packet of mixed dried fruit (sultanas, raisins, mixed peel, cherries, currants are in the mix we used) and 100-150 g shredded almonds. At this stage your two year old can use her hands to mix the flour until all the fruit is covered. There's quite a lot of fruit so it may be worth splitting it into 2 smaller dishes or a roasting dish to make it easier on your toddler.

While she or he is doing this, beat the butter in a mixer until soft, then add the rind of half a lemon or orange, and 180 g soft brown sugar and cream until light and fluffy.

Have a child break 4 eggs into a cup, one at a time, beat each with a fork (the Bob the Builder fork worked here :-) abefore adding them to the sugar/butter mixture, beating well between each one.

Use a metal spoon to fold in half the flour. Then add the dried fruit and 1 T of orange juice or 2 T of sherry or brandy.

Get everyone in the family to give a stir, before spooning into the tin.

With wet hands, gently pat the top so there is a fine film of warm water to keep the cake moist.

Put the cake in the middle of the oven set at 180 degrees. After 1 hour, reduce the temperature to 165 degrees. Test again after a further 45 minutes, using a skewer (5 year olds can weild the skewer if an adult holds the hot cake. It's done when the skewer comes out clean.

Once cooked, take out, and cool in the tin, before wrapping in greaseproof paper and storing in an airtight container for a couple of weeks before icing. You can pour over a spoonful or two of brandy while it matures, or just eat it as it is.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday the 13th - Greek Salad and Pasta Sauce

It's been a cold and blustery day here in Christchurch. Clear skies and sunshine at times, but the wind chill was brrrrrrr. We even had a patch of hail around 2pm. I broke out my ski jacket for the first time this autumn, so was nice and toastie when I did venture out to meet a fellow coach for coffee around 4.

I'm on a bread-making kick at the moment, which started on Easter Thursday. My mother had decided that this year we would make our Hot Cross Buns, rather than buy them, so I had a trawl through her cook-books for a recipe. The one I found made enough for a loaf of bread, a dozen or more buns and a tray of bread rolls. I enjoyed the process so much, that I made another batch, this time wholemeal, on Sunday. Come lunchtime today, there was just the heel of the loaf left.

When I was cooking in Crete, at least twice a week it was my job to make the Greek Salad for Lunch. We usually chopped up Tomato and Cucumber, added green olives and feta and sprinkled over oregano. You can find a similar Greek Salad on the menu of any restaurant in Crete. Another dish: Dakos is also common. It uses hard baked barley rusks, topped by tomato and feta. I ate a third variant at Dimitri's Raki Making party in Sakturia where the traditional Greek salad ingredients were put in a bowl on top of bread. The juice of the tomato and cucumber and oil seeps through the bread - delicious! There may have been eggs in the Sakturia salad also - but my memory is hazy. Drinking fresh hot raki will do that for you!

Anyway, today I had a bit of a sore throat, a need for vitamin C, and some good, very ripe, tomatoes along with the remnants of the bread from Sunday. With the Sakturian salad as my inspiration, I went to work. The heel of the loaf, cut into cubes was the base, followed by tomato, cucumber, a few black olives, oregano, and some finely diced red onion. I discovered some mandarin-infused olive oil in the back of the cupboard. Tossed together, left for half an hour for the bread to soften, it was divine!

Tonight, as darkness fell, and still needing Vitamin C, it was time for more tomatoes. I turned to an old favourite, and made my classic pasta sauce. This one had 3 large carrots, 2 onions, a half a yellow chili and about a pound (450g) of Topside Mince, along with 2 tins of tomatoes and a mini tin of tomato paste. I cooked it in the large Non-Stick wok for an hour(with a lid), and there was enough for 6 servings. Served on mini lasagne pasta, with cauliflower and beans it was the perfect food for a cold day. And, as a bonus, there are another 4 servings of sauce chilling in the fridge before being frozen to provide instant food in the weeks ahead. Mmmm.... Autumn has much to look forward to.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Lemon Cabbage Salad

Here's a recipe post from my early days in Crete - Lemon Cabbage Salad - simple but yummy. Great as a dish to take to a barbeques.

Cabbage salad with lemon vinaigrette

Cut a medium to large white cabbage in half then quarters, and cut the stem out by cutting a wedge at an angle down the middle of the cabbage. Cut the remaining quarter of a cabbage into 3 wedges. Then, slice the wedges across-wise, into strips about 3 mm thick. You end up with strips similar in length to matchsticks (but a lot wider) than, matchsticks.

Place the cabbage in a bowl and mix through the lemon vinaigrette.

Lemon vinaigrette: Juice and zest one lemon, mix in a heaped teaspoonful of mustard (English or Dijon) a tablespoonful of honey, quarter teaspoon of salt and 60ml of a cup of olive or oil.

Ideally, this should stand overnight in the fridge to allow the flavours to mix.

It’s simple, but the fresh lemon (and zest) really gives the cabbage zing.

This will easily serve 12 as a side dish at a barbeque, so that's 1 teaspoonful of oil per person which is within bounds of a healthy diet, provided you're not loading other food down with oil. You could use 30-45 mls of oil if you prefer.

Happy Summer Eating!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

New Year's Theme - healthy eating

It seems that New Year's Resolutions are out, and New Year's Themes are in (as seen at Sciencewoman, among others).

A key New Year's theme for me is "Healthy Eating".

Since New Year's Day I've been making an effort to watch my portion sizes, say no to cakes and puddings most of the time, and have limited myself to drinking only on weekends or special occasions (like my niece and goddaughter's christening).

It's oh so easy to fall into the habit of enjoying some of the marvellous cakes, slices and muffins on offer in Christchurch great cafe's. (New Zealand has some of the best cafes in the world - it's hard to avoid great coffee and yummy treats.) But thus far I'm sticking to my skinny cappucino.

I'll post a few recipes that are low fat or otherwise healthy over the next few months.

Happy New Year!


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

More science in food

I've discovered another science/food blog via Blogs of Note, this week.

Harold McGee writes "about the science of food and cooking: where our foods come from, what they are and what they're made of, and how cooking transforms them"

He's just started writing for the NY Times. The first article is how garlic and onion can turn blue. Check it out here

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Science of Food : Shirley O Corriher

One of the bonuses of being in New Zealand is listening to Kim Hill on National Radio on a Saturday Morning.

Last week she interviewed Shirley O Corriher, a food scientist who has been the " Go To Gal" for a number of chefs and food writers (the famous Julia Child among them).

Catch the pod-cast on National Radio's Website. I haven't found out how to link to it directly, but you can get there by clicking on the link to the show on Saturday December 9th , then scrolling down to the podcast.

It covered basics such as the science behind the reason why you can't make mayonnaise from extra virgin olive oil (Now I know what I was doing wrong!)

Highly recommended!

New Zealand food

After a month's travelling in Greece, Italy, Germany and England I'm now back in New Zealand, for a few months at least.

It's been a bit of a culinary journey - through Pasta with Pesto Genovese in Genoa, Red cabbage in Germany, and the good old Bangers and Mash in England.

Now that I'm back here, I'm back making one of my favourite foods - pumpkin soup.

It's simple, healthy and delicious! You can use any kind of pumpkin or squash. At the moment, I'm using pumpkins with a thin, easily sliceable skin in greyish green in colour, with bright orange flesh.

Pumpkin Soup

Slice pumpkin and remove seeds. If the skin is thin and easy to slice, remove with as sharp knife (be careful!). If it is hard, and you don't fancy hours spent hacking at it you can cook it first.

Cut into pieces about one inch square (or small enough to fit into a large saucepan if you are dealing with a particularly recalcitrant pumpkin and are leaving the skin on)

Allow about a fist-size quantity of pumpkin per person for a hearty soup.

Cover with water, and a teaspoonful or cube of vegetable or other stock powder. B ring to the boil, and simmer until pumpkin is tender.

If you have left the skin on, lift them out of the pumpkin stock onto a chopping board, and carefully remove the skin with a small sharp knife, before returning the skinless pumpkin to the pot.

Use a hand-blender to puree the soup, thin with water, or milk if you prefer. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

For extra flavour you can do any of the following
- boil a slice or two of bacon along with the pumpkin (no need to chop it if you are going to puree it with a hand blender later).
- saute an onion or leek in a spoonful of olive oil before adding water and boiling the pumpkin
- add ground or white pepper to season
- add a little fresh orange juice, or chopped parsley or coriander at the end.
- boil the pumpkin along with the bigger bones from a smoked or roasted chicken - remove the bones before pureeing (for this reason it's best to use the bigger bones - e.g. thigh bones rather than the whole carcass as removing the small bones from the soup can be a bit fiddly)

This is great on its own, or served with Jo Seagar's beer bread or other fresh bread.

If you use minimal amounts of water, and produce a very thick soup it also doubles as a pasta sauce - especially good when combined with diced smoked chicken on ravioli, spiral or bow pasta.