June 27, 2010
Littlej wanted some money.
Oh, she already gets pocket money for various jobs around the house, but she wanted more. I don't believe in giving something for nothing, so we reached an agreement. She could have the vegetable garden.
I would provide the seeds, etc, but she had to plant, cultivate, weed, water and harvest all on her own with minimum nagging from me.
'This,' I thought, will teach her.'It'll be weeks before anything pops out the ground and is ready' I am considerate like that.
But littlej is just as stubborn...I mean patient as I.
Those seedlings were watered, aerated, and so closely loved that I'm surprised they survived at all, But survive they did, and flourished.
After just a brief dispute over 'size vs price' on zucchinis,the system worked surprisingly well. She grew, zucchinis of course, capsicums, corn, eggplants, cucumbers, chillies, beetroot, silverbeet, every type of tomato- big and small, and pumpkin.
The pumpkin vine grew and grew until I wondered if it was related to the magic beanstalk in the fairy tale. It grew over the shed, it grew over the lawn, it grew over the fence, it grew everything, but pumpkins.
Until..... standing on the veggie bed littlej looked over the fence and saw It. A Beautiful Pumpkin. From her vine. In the neighbours yard. Mocking her. That pumpkin haunted my daughter from then on. Every bucket of tomatoes- and there were many, every zucchini-and there were thousands, none of them satisfied that pumpkin sized hole in her soul.
I refused her request to steal it from our nice neighbours. After all, they had put it in a tyre and straw and were looking after it... . Anyway, it would be too obvious where it had gone, who else would just steal a pumpkin? I heard littlej dropping hints as the neighbours hung their washing,'That's a Big Pumpkin, I don't have any on MY side' I even heard her mumbling about that pumpkin in her sleep. Then, one day, it was gone.
At this point, I feel the need to point out that littlej does not like to eat pumpkin. She will choke down the obligatory 'you-must-eat-one-of-everything-on-your-plate) and will eat my homemade pumpkin soup, but that's it.
It was the principal of the thing.
As winter and frost settled in I thought we had finally heard the end of it. The vegetable beds are dormant, and the neighbourhood is hibernating. I have considerately not served pumpkin for several months as I had no wish to listen to the whinging....I mean, I was being a sensitive caring mother.
But today,TAA DAA!Our favourite neighbour at the door with our half of The Pumpkin. They were only waiting for it to dry enough to cut.(And yes, The Pumpkin is everything a pumpkin should be, firm and sweet) Oh happy day! Littlej was overcome. I hope she learnt her lesson in humble pumpkin pie, and love-thy-neighbour too.
So here it is, littlej's recipe for Pumpkin Soup
half a pumpkin, chopped into chunks
4 or 5 sprigs of rosemary (and some for garnishing)
1 large onion cut in half
200g speck or smokey bacon,in biggish pieces
A few cloves of garlic with skin left on
salt and pepper
500ml to 1lt of stock (you might need more if it's a big pumpkin)
250ml of soy or lactose free milk (I use UHT type as it's already heat stabilized)
1.Place pumpkin, speck, onion, garlic and rosemary on a baking tray
2. Drizzle with oil, salt and pepper, and scrunch up together
3. Bake at 180*/200* until pumpkin is soft. A few brown bits are good and will add flavour
4. Shake off hard crunchy rosemary
5.remove garlic from papery skin
6. Place pumpkin, garlic and speck in pot with stock and milk. Bring to a simmer
7. Blend with a stick/ hand blender until smooth.
8. Garnish with finely chopped rosemary and enjoy
So, readers, what vegetables do you love or loathe?
June 20, 2010
"In the bleak mid-winter, Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron,Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, Snow on snow, Snow on snow, In the bleak mid-winter, Long ago"
Christina Rosetti 1872
There is an old saying that goes 'when the day begins to lengthen, the cold begins to strengthen.' So even though the nights are getting shorter and the hours of sunlight are longer, we have several months of winter ahead of us still.
Hot Chocolate Ginger Pear Pudding
1 1/2 cups SR GF Flour
2/3 cup Treacle
2 tabs oil
3/4 cup liquid - you can use milk substitute, pear juice or even water
2 tabs Ginger
1 tab Cinnamon
1 tsp salt
Pears, if using
June 18, 2010
Last night we felt like Chinese food.
It was a yucky cold night and for once we had no children in tow. Big J and I decided on Master So Kitchen at Kippax. It's a lovely place in Holt, West Belconnen. Open everyday but Mondays for lunch and dinner dine in and take away. There's lots of free parking out front and a couple of tables, but inside is much nicer.
The interior is a pretty pale green with printed window shades and wooden features including a nook, that all presents a fresh, relaxing atmosphere. On one side of the room are stand alone tables, while on the other there is a wrap around bench seat facing the tables.
It was a frantically busy Friday night and at 7pm the restaurant was nearly full to capacity.Takeaway orders were coming thick and fast, but this didn't cause any disruption to table service, and our meals came out hot and prompt.
We were seated straight away by the friendly staff, and even remembered from our last visit in a group 2 months ago. This was a nice touch and made us feel very comfortable..... until I began to wonder what it was about us that was so memorable.... didn't we tip enough? Did we make a big mess? I know we had a good time, so no complaints... Hmmmm.
The menu is full and interesting, stating that it's a mixture of modern Chinese, Malaysian and Thai cuisine. Now normally that would put me off ,thinking "lets just try and get one thing right at time," but the menu is clearly divided and the kitchen has stuck to the usual favourites of each to keep everyone happy.
When I asked about gluten-free options, the waiter got me a highlighted menu right away. It was nice to not need to go into long-winded explanations, or hear "I'll have to check with the chef"
The choices available to me were great. Even things I normally have to steer clear from. I immediately ordered them all. Well, not quite, but it was tempting. They even have a gluten-free selection of yum cha on the weekends.
BigJ and I decided on steamed Har Gau dumplings (I know, gluten-free dumplings!) and they were delicious. The prawn still had some resistance to it and the wrapping was nice and soft. They were presented in a little steamer basket with some hot chilli paste and were very cute.
For mains we Honey Prawn Fritters (again, yay!) and Lamb with Lemongrass and Chilli. We only ever order steamed rice when we go out as I like to taste my food properly without any competition.
The lamb was nice, coming out on a cast iron sizzle plate. It had plenty of flavour, and slices of hot chilli, but was starting to stick and burn to the mega hot dish.
Now the prawns. The best Honey Prawns I have eaten, ever.
Like toffee apples, just hot. The crispness of the batter but firm and juicy underneath And prawny. With less apple. The honey coating was fantastic. It was thick and clung heaviliy to the prawns, but somehow it wasn't cloying or overpowering. I know, how is that possible? The batter wasn't too thick and was nice and crunchy. You might wonder if you could still taste the prawns through all this yumminess? Well, yes, you could. They were firm and not mushy as in many a failed dish. You got a layer of crispness as you bit through each piece.
A lucky fluke? I hope not. I may just have to sample regularly to maintain strict quality control. My judgement may well be clouded by the fact that it's been so long since I've eaten this sort of thing. However, remember this is about what I like and not everyone will agree with my taste.
As we were finishing up, the owner, Gem, began cruising the room. She chatted to regulars and introduced herself to newcomers. Gem's usually front of house while her husband is head chef. Tonight being busy, she has been helping out in the kitchen. She is very sweet and made time for everybody although the place was still pumping.
The prices of Master So Kitchen are very reasonable for this quality of food. It may not be the most snazzy restaurant in town, but our dishes were fresh tasting and not heavy or greasy. Big J and I were certainly full and didn't really need to finish the lot.... but of course we did! We had a great night, didn't break the bank, and will certainly return.
So readers, what is your favourite InTolerant restaurant?
June 12, 2010
I am more than happy to pay top dollar for top ingredients, but I'm not so silly as to look a gift apple in the mouth!
But what to do with this embarrassment of riches? My family voted for an old favourite, Apple Crumble.
I like quite a nice baked top on my crumbles, not a dry crummy type of thing. I don't want a mouthful of sawdust. Although I suppose that does give you an excuse to use more cream ......
But first, the apples. I do own an apple/potato peeler. I actually own several. But this job called for the big guns - The Slinky Machine. These machines have been around for ages, but are one of those items you only see now and then. We got ours back when littlej was in Kindy, to make eating apples more fun. A whole apple is quite daunting for a littlie, and who has time to peel, and chop, then wrap carefully,etc,etc, in the morning rush? Especially when you know it will look brown and unappetising by little lunch. The apples done by a slinky machine will eventually oxidise, but as they are still stacked together the insides are nice and clear, and the novelty value seems to outweigh the ascetics.
First the apple is positioned on a prong at the end of the turning arm, then you wind the arm forward and it screws the apple past a thingy that takes the peel off and through a sharp ring that magically transforms the fruit into a slinky around an apple core.
Then you remove the core and end up with a neat little pile of peelings and a Slinky Apple! Isn't that precious?
You may now wear the apple as an assortment of fruity bling. Over the ear earring perhaps? A bracelet, a necklace or maybe a series of rings? Needless to say, you will be the envy of all 4 to 6 year olds you come in contact with. Oh, Yeah.
But... back to our crumble...
As the apple is already sliced up, there is no need for chopping. Yay! Just pop it in the pot with spices of choice -I prefer cloves and cinnamon- and cook with some sugar until just nice and soft.
If you prefer you can use Agave nectar, but I like raw sugar. Place in a greased dish, I like a deep one, and smooth the top.
1 cup Instant Oats
1 cup of Shredded Coconut
1/2 cup of Gluten free Flour
3 Tabs of Golden Syrup
3 Tabs of Butter- butter has very little lactose (or Nuttlex)
Rub this through your fingertips until nice and crumbly.
Pop into a 180-200* oven until hot inside and brown outside and just starting to bubble up around the sides of the dish. If you use a lid the crumble will be a bit softer, I don't bother.
Serve with Lactose free cream - I use Liddels
This is very good when cold and wintry outside, to make you warm and cosy on the inside.
So, Readers, what food makes you warm and cosy on a cold, wintery night?
June 1, 2010
A Truffle Tree. I just had to have one. Despite all my hints and "this is what I want for Christmas", BigJ still didn't have a clue. I had seen these little babies at my local garden centre and immediately fallen in love. Just one catch , they're not cheap. "Of course I need it, I'm a chef." I rationalized. I paid quickly and left before I could change my mind.
So this is my Truffle Tree. I chose a Holly Oak so I can topiary it and keep it clipped and tidy.
It may be small, but the tree company guarantees that within 3 years I will have a crop of truffles. Oh! The anticipation! I planted my little baby in a half wine barrel, facing north, protected from frost, (and dog, as evidenced by the wire grid) and stood back in awe.
Pretty little purple flowers, with stamens of pure, pure, gold. I plucked carefully, removing the three pronged preciousness with tweezers. The smell was fantastic! A honey scented, dried hay sort of thing- but so much better. Mmmm... honey scented hay.......
8 flowers bloomed this year. All the buds produced greenery and some even seem to have multiplied already as there are so many green spears everywhere. Maybe next year I'll have a complete harvest.
And maybe, just maybe, a truffle. But for today, I'm happy.
Now the eternal question, What to cook today?
So readers, what would you like to make with some saffron?