Sunday, 25 July 2010

Easy fruit loaf

This is the tag end of a date, ginger and walnut loaf that I made a few weeks ago, to a dead simple recipe. I've made it three times now. The first time I encountered it was as a dessert, when our Easter visitor AB served it hot with a scoop of icecream. Mostly I've had it as a breakfast or snack loaf, either with butter or just plain. OK, once with Nutella. It takes five minutes to prepare, then a little over half a hour to bake.

The funniest thing about the recipe that A left me is the handwritten corrections: cook for 35-40 minutes, crossed out, no, 33 mins? 35-36 mins! Now this is not foolish - AB is one sharp cookie. I have also had problems working out the time in my own oven. The loaf seems cooked and I poke a skewer in it and nothing clings. Yet when I cut it, there is a little unbaked patch in the middle. I must be missing the exact spot. So, yeah, I think it must be 38 minutes. Perhaps I'll get it right next time.

Recipe: Yoghurt Fruit Loaf

1 cup self raising flour
1 cup Greek yoghurt
1/2 cup soft brown sugar
1 cup dried fruit, chopped if large
1/2 cup nuts, chopped roughly
1/4 cup dessicated coconut

* Preheat oven to 170C
* Grease or line or otherwise prepare a 22x8cm loaf tin
* Mix all ingredients together
* Dollop out into the loaf tin
* Bake for 33 mins? 35-38 mins or until a skewer inserted dead centre (and not a little bit off-centre) comes out clean.
* Cool in tin for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.
* Serve warm, or later on, toasted.

AB likes dried cranberries, and I do too. Especially with some glace orange peel. Raisins and currants and chopped dried apricot works well, too. Date and walnut and glace ginger is another good option, but don't leave out the dessicated coconut like I did this time. The texture isn't as good without it. Full fat Greek yoghurt is best, but low fat is OK too.

And in other news, the freezer-emptying project continues. I've made a quick pasta arrabiata with a tub of frozen roast tomatoes, and random muffins with frozen blackberries and raspberries this morning. I'm finding that adding yoghurt to the random mix helps to keep them moister when cold.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Drawing Down the Freezer

Next week there's going to be electricity pole maintenance, and we're scheduled for an all day power outage. Yikes! In this weather, the ordinary fridge stuff will be fine in an esky, or just with a bag of ice in the fridge. But I have a stuffed freezer.

And in an added stroke of bad timing, I had just decided to cook up a huge batch of chilli con skippy. What I do with this is make a generic mix of the meat with onion, garlic, veggies and tomatoes, then freeze a batch to convert to Spag Bog later. Mix the rest with your chosen spices and kidney beans, and some more veggies, make an inauthentic but yummy chilli, eat it for 2-3 meals and freeze half for later. This is very efficient. But not so great, actually, if you are going to be without power to your freezer.

So I've started drawing it down. It's time to do a chuck out anyway, and there were definitely quite a few things to be tossed. Gone is that pack of frozen prawns that didn't taste so great, but I thought would be OK for a curry. The kittens can eat the frozen chicken mince that I bought to tempt Shadow, and then could not bear to eat later. The pack of kidneys can go out, too. I turned a bit against them when suddenly we had cats with kidney disease, and my doc was making me have a kidney function test of my own. (No problem, a false alarm.) I'm over it now and would cheerfully make devilled kidneys, but now they are old and freezer burned. And that chocolate cake is at least 2 years old. Out with it!

But most of it is for eating, or for finding a safe stash for the day. I started by making pea soup on Monday, which used up a couple of things. And then I discovered to my shock that MasterChef has stolen my recipe!

I bought the magazine to check it out, and there it was, my pea soup! Oh, they'd disguised it by making it vegetarian, and leaving out the butter and cream and leek, so mine is actually better. But still, it's close. The colour is the same very bright green as in their picture in the magazine, not yellowy-green like an old fashioned pea and ham soup with dried peas.

Recipe: Green Pea Soup
1 leek
1 tablespoon butter
600g frozen peas
2 cups chicken stock
100ml cream
2 tsp mint in a tube
150g chunk ham

* Wash and chop the leek and fry gently in the butter.
* Add the stock and frozen peas, and bring to a simmer.
* Simmer for 15-20 minutes, then add cream and mint.
* Whiz up in the saucepan with a stick blender.
* Thin with water to desired texture.
* Add diced ham.
* Serve with buttered rye toast.

Adjust the taste at the end - a pinch of salt, perhaps if you're not adding ham. A pinch of sugar if they're cheap overgrown peas with too much starch, but not if they're baby peas or sugar snaps. I did use a mixed bag which had some sugar snaps in it. Obviously fresh mint would be better, but that Garden Gourmet tube mint is OK in a pinch. Vegetarians can use veggie stock and use the MasterChef idea of Persian Fetta sprinkled on top instead of the ham.

So there we go. A frozen tub of chicken stock and a pack of peas gone from the freezer. And I had Maggie Beer lemon icecream for dessert - leftover from Easter, but still good. I took a frozen pasta leftover thing in for lunch at work today, and tonight we're eating sausages, oven chips and more frozen peas.

There's still far too much to eat before next Friday, though I will do my best. I still have roast tomatoes, several packs of rhubarb, some more icecream, some soy-cooked chicken, more chicken stock and turkey stock, and quite a variety of meat and berries. Oh, and some chilli and the makings of a spag bog.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Making the most of a truffle

Yep, scrambled eggs.

So, as is becoming customary, I apologise for not posting much these days. I have been thinking of taking up tweeting, because that way I could have said stuff like "Hi all, truffles at EPIC market this week!" and "Hey, 40% discount on cookbooks at Borders this weekend" at a time when it was actually relevant. Like two weeks ago. Too late now. I intend to get a fancy new iphone sometime soonish, but meanwhile I am such a late adopter that I still haven't got round to net connecting my old Nokia.

So, sorry if you almost missed truffle season. There are still some remnants around - the Truffle Festival runs for the whole month of July, and there's truffle dinners still happening at Flint, Pulp Kitchen and Locanda.

My way to make the most of truffles is pretty much what I did last year. Buy a small piece, pop it in a box of risotto rice and fresh eggs, and let it infuse for a week. I only had about 15g, and by the end of the week it was a bit less. It dehydrates somewhat during the infusion process.

I used a third to add to about 300g of mushrooms, panfried in butter. Two thirds of these went into a simple mushroom and leek risotto, made with the infused rice and another third of the truffle. The final third went into the scrambled eggs, which were made with the infused eggs. And voila: truffled scrambled eggs, served with truffled mushrooms, sourdough toast and a fried tomato.

At that Borders sale I bought the new Jamie Oliver book - I'm not crazy about his TV personality, but I do like his cooking style and his recipes. This one is "Jamie Does...", based on a TV series that I haven't seen and probably won't. He goes to Fance, Italy, Morocco and more, and this is the recipe collection. He has a truffled omelet recipe in the French section, where he uses 5g black truffle for 3 eggs. I had more eggs, but they were infused.

And remember those lentils? They were from the same Jamie book. And just to make sure I didn't miss out on any truffled goodness, when I saved the mushrooms for risotto, I deglazed the pan with some Fino sherry and chucked that into the lentils. I didn't mention that last time, because it's not reproducible.

PS: No, I do not like Master Chef either.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

The Best Lentils Ever

According to Jamie Oliver, that is. And since I futzed around with them, probably not exactly, but they were damn fine. Unphotogenic, though.

I've just finished Sunday dinner in front of Dr Who, with a plate of slow cooked lamb on a bed of lentils, with home made mint sauce and roast potato, pumpkin, onion and fennel, and steamed broccoli. With a 1999 cab sav, Harper's Range by Seppelt. I went on line to look for it, and found it's still only $25 a bottle, so we didn't score very much by keeping it in the cupboard for almost a decade. Oh well. It's very yummy anyway, and at least it didn't go off.

I was very pleased with this. If you've ever made one of those lentil dishes with some fatty meat, you know you're supposed to add some vinegar to finish it. Balsamic, almost certainly. And if you are a roast lamb traditionalist, you will be thinking mint sauce. And if you are old enough, then you will remember fresh mint from the garden, chopped with sugar and doused in excessively potent malt vinegar.

Sooo... Balsamic or Malt? Hmmm... I've solved this: neither. Mint sauce old-style - but made with Homeleigh Grove Apple citrus vinegar. It's much more delicate, but still assertive enough to add the required sharpness to the lentils.

Recipe: Not Quite Jamie Oliver's French Lentils with Lamb
2 cups Puy lentils
2 carrots
2 onions
3 cloves garlic
1 small leek (2cm diameter)
1 medium potato
splash olive oil
splash brandy or cognac
1 litre beef stock
Bouquet garni
A small lamb roast
2 tablespoons mint leaves
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon caster sugar

* Chop the carrot and onion small, and fry gently in a good glug of olive oil until onion is translucent.
* Add chopped leek and finely chopped or crushed garlic and fry another minute or so.
* Deglaze with a splash of brandy, then add in stock.
* Add lentils, chopped potato and bouquet garni.
* Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
* Add lamb to the top of the lentils.
* Cover and bake at 150C for 2 hours.
* Uncover and give lentils a good stir, crushing the potato in to make a creamy base.
* Squidge the lamb down into the lentils, so it's mostly covered; skin side up and uncovered.
* Bake for another half hour uncovered.
* Remove from oven and let rest for half an hour.
* Chop mint leaves with the sugar sprinkled over (this helps to bruise them). Put in a small jug and stir in the vinegar.

To serve, remove lamb and carve up. Put a mound of lentils on the plate, top with sliced lamb and pour over a generous serve of mint sauce.

Notes: My bouquet garni was a generous sprig of rosemary and thyme, tied up in string with 3 fresh bay leaves. I used Australian Puy-style lentils, available from most gourmet delis. My lamb roast was a small leg - just 1.3kg. I can't remember who raised the lamb, but it was from one of the stall-holders at EPIC.

The half hour rest gives you time to turn up the oven and crisp up a tray of baked veggies - they can be started for an hour in the slow oven.

We have lots of leftovers from this meal, and I only made enough mint sauce for one go. I'll have to do more sauce for the re-heat.

Jamie's recipe uses parsley instead of rosemary, and duck fat instead of olive oil; and veggie stock instead of beef. For meat, he has confit duck added right at the end, instead of the lamb cooked in the lentils, and he adds a swirl of creme fraiche at the end. No mint sauce, of course - Jamie uses balsamic vinegar. His lentils only take 45 minutes, with no baking, so his is the quicker option unless you confit your own duck. But they won't be as richly meaty as mine!