November 27, 2012
In My Kitchen..... I wish I had more of these amazing tropical fruits from the Singapore Market!
I love my Bloggy Pal Celia, she has the gorgeous blog Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, and apart from her wonderful cooking adventures and baking the most fabulous-forbidden-for-me bread, she runs a monthly In My Kitchen roundup to show off some of the goodies that make their way regularly through her doors. Other blogs are welcome to join in and it's really very fascinating to see the goodies out there in the bloggy world and what other foodie bloggers have in their kitchen each month
Now I'm either very late for the November round up, or very early for the December one... I'm going with early and claiming that I'm really very organised in the run-up to Christmas. You may chose to believe that or not, but I'm sticking to my story
Can you believe the red of that Dragonfruit? Creamy flesh from the Mangosteen, and the crisp juiciness of the Rose Apple- kinda like a great big Lillypilly fruit- yummo!
This month I'm posting some of the goodies I picked up on my Singapore trip.
My luggage held so many little treasures, that I was worried about stuffing it all back in the bags if we were searched by customs- not because of hidden naughties, but just getting it all to fit in again! To save any hassles and avoid forgetting any iffy items, I packed all our food and wooden items in a separate bag to make it easy on the customs guys. It also lessened the worry of sauces and packets bursting over dry-clean-only clothing items in my suitcase :) Travelling is stressful enough without adding extra stresses.
Would you like to see some of my purchases?
Some pre-packaged Singapore favourites, made for tourists but a bit of fun! I still haven't checked all the ingredients, but at least the kids will enjoy them
Look at these gorgeous little ceramic cups that will be perfect for nibblies like steamed custards, laksa shots, etc.
I also bought a whole pack of tiny takeaway cups that will surely come in handy sometime, and a couple of dozen half-sized Chinese Spoons to use for serving appetisers, like single Seared Scallops with Black Bean Sauce, or a bite sized serve of Duck and Lychee Salad- yummo!
A selection of Chopsticks!
Wooden ones, steel ones, silk wrapped ones, and even ones that are shaped like coloured pencils. I love eating with chopsticks, and already have an extensive collection including personalised engraved ones and some gorgeous jade ones for special occasions
A few Japanese items I picked up for Bento Boxes
Sushi rice shapers, sushi roll makers, nori cutters, egg shapers and a cute red Bento Box as well
I love sushi, so many ways to enjoy such a great gluten-free goody
Lots of bits and pieces from Little India:
Thali plates, a String Hopper press which I've been after for ages, a Rose Cookie mould, and a stainless steel Tiffin Box. The prices were incredibly cheap, and just to good to miss out on
Various other odds and ends picked up in an awesome Catering warehouse:
a Wave Cutter for slicing pretty waves into cakes, vegetables etc, a rice mould, a Lucky Koi jelly mould, and even more chopsticks with a holder- perfect for popping into my handbag!
My dear BigJ and littlej sat outside in 32* heat with 100% humidity, while I explored the depths of the store. I would have taken longer, but I didn't want them to suffer any more than necessary- I'm nice like that :)
A selection of awesome regional cookbooks. These certainly put me over my luggage weight limit of just 15kgs, but oh-so-worth-it! Clothing or cookbooks? What a silly question!
I can hardly wait to try out all the bookmarked pages
A local Foodie Magazine. I subscribe to many here in Australia, so was very interested to see what topics were covered in other countries. It was very interesting, and chock full of great recipes as well
Another local Singapore Delicacy! There are even specialised Kaya Toast Cafes set up in homage to this delicious breakfast treat.Who knew that eggs, sugar and coconut milk would make such a wonderful 'jam' ? It makes even gluten-free bread taste great!
There you have it Dear Readers, a few of my latest kitchen purchases. But the big news is that in the New Year I'm getting a whole new kitchen! Well, a remake anyway. I need room, I need storage, I need bench space... I just need to decide on colours. What a hard choice! I thinking colour, but BigJ is thinking neutrals. Decisions, decisions...
So Dear Readers, what colour is your kitchen, or what colour would you chose if you could?
We weren't the only ones who enjoy a tropical fruit salad!
A visitor to our hotel room balcony looking for leftovers- delicious indeed!
November 20, 2012
Cherries and Christmas just go hand-in-hand for me
The weather is warming, the carols are playing, and stone fruit is on the market shelves. Definitely Christmassy, and cherries are even such a lovely seasonal colour!
Here in Canberra, with our proximity to the great cherry orchards at Young, we can't seem to go down any main arterial road without coming across a cherry van pulled off to the side offering kilos or boxes of fantastically fresh cherries.
I got mine from a great character who even threw in free pit-spit bags so I could snack as I drove :) A bit trickier to master than he had made it sound!
Now cherries don't keep all that long, so despite highway nibbling, and school lunches, there was still quite a pile that I needed to use up. After a bit of a think, I went for something a bit different and decided to make a Cherry Cobbler.
Cobblers are quite an old, traditional pudding that apparently came about in colonial times due to difficulty finding the right ingredients and equipment to make the usual boiled type puddings. Instead of being enclosed or having a base like a pie, in a Cobbler a stewed fruit filling is covered with a type of dumpling dropped on top, so that when it's cooked it joins up and gives an old fashioned cobbled street effect.
I like food that looks pretty as well as tasting good, so a rustic Cherry Cobbler seemed to fit the bill, as well as involving a lot less hand work making and rolling out pastry for me. Win win, I say :)
Now the first job is to pit the cherries.
You could leave them whole, but that can cause a few issues like broken fillings or choking, so it's probably just easier to get the job done and have a clear conscience.
I used my nifty little pitter tool. You stick the cherry in one end, then press the little sticky bit down and it pushes the pit out the cherry while leaving it whole. Just to be sure and wear an apron though as it can get a bit messy if your cherries are nice and fresh and juicy like mine
Cherries- I used a good kilo or so
Liquid, about a third to half a cup. It's not meant to be too runny- you could use water, juice, port, wine, but I used a Sour Cherry Syrup from my local deli
Sugar- about a cup or to taste
1 tablespoon or so Arrowroot powder
Pop the cherries in a pan with sugar to taste, the split and scraped vanilla bean, and the liquid.
Cook gently until the cherries are cooked and tender, but still maintaining their shape
Make a slurry out of a tablespoon of arrowroot and some cold water.
I like arrowroot for this type of thickening as it doesn't colour the finished product. It also sets to a gel type effect that works great in acidic fruit pie fillings, but can be a bit goopy in a meat dish though. It also freezes fantastically without breaking down later.
See, gelling up nicely. It sets pretty much immediately, so stir as you go and only add a little at a time
Pop the filling into a greased pie dish
Now for the topping
This was perhaps more muffin-y than dumpling, but if you like you can replace the oil with butter or other solid fat, rub it into the flour, then add the liquids and make it more of a scone type dough
2 cups SR gluten free Flour
3/4 cup castor Sugar
1 cup lactose free Milk (or dairy free substitute)
1/4 cup Oil
2 tsp Vanilla
pinch of Salt
Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
I don't bother to sift them, but I do stir them around a bit with the whisk to mix together and lighten it up a bit as well
Whisk together the milk, oil, egg and vanilla
Pour the wet mix into the dry mix, and stir through gently being careful not to overwork the batter
Dollop spoonful of the mix over the fruit base. The topping will expand as it cooks and join up a bit in a nice random fashion.
I also sprinkled mine with some large coffee-style sugar crystals to add some nice textural contrast to the finished dish
Lovely squishy bottom with the top ready to bake
Pop it into the oven at 200*C for about 25-35 minutes, depending on how thick you've dolloped on the topping. You want it cooked through with no raw batter underneath
And see? Just like Cobblestones!
A lovely fluffy cobbler topping with the crunch of sugar and rich ooziness of the cherry filling..... Mmmmmm....... vanilla, caramelised sugars, cherry tartness- it all smells divine indeed
A big spoon full of Cherry Cobbler, with maybe a drizzle of lactose free custard or a scoop of creamy lactose free ice cream is just what I need to get me in the mood for Christmas!
So Dear Readers, are you getting in the mood for Christmas, and what's your favourite cherry dish?
November 13, 2012
When littlej was in her very first week of Kindy (Prep) she came rushing out of class one afternoon bursting with news.
lj: I had a FIGHT!
Me: Then what happened?
lj: Nothing, so I kept hitting him
Me: And then what happened?
lj: I kept hitting him until he fell down
Me: Then what did you do?
lj: Then I ran
Me: I think that was a very wise decision
Littlej was a very tiny 5year old, and the boy in question was a (comparatively) huge hulking 9 or 10yr old, but that wasn't going to stop her defending her friend. Her teacher had a little chat with me, assuring me it was all under control, parents had been notified and not to be concerned.
As littlej wasn't worried I decided I wouldn't be either.
That was until Kaitlin's Mummy talked to me.
She and the other parents had been summoned to the principals office, along with any witnesses; apologies had been made, restitution for the torn dress was made, suspension had been given, and reports had all officially been made.... Except for littlej.
Littlej had certainly been involved, would she get suspended too? My baby with this on her permanent record at the very start of her school career!
I went to her teacher, who was just lovely, and she explained that this was indeed a bit of a tricky situation.
Littlej certainly had struck another student (repeatedly), but it was in defence of her friend; he was much bigger; there was no teacher present; it wasn't behaviour the school thought she was in the habit of committing; and if the school recognised her part in this little action she would have to be suspended and punished indeed. The big boy was a known bully; it probably did him good to be taken down a peg or two, and he was unlikely to go looking for revenge once his friends found out he had his butt kicked by a kinder student; the teachers were actually impressed with littlej's bravery; and the best course of action was to pretend she hadn't been involved at all.
That was the Official School Decision.
Littlej has never looked back.
She is a lovely little lady- very clever, very confident... and she also now takes karate.
This week she recieved her Blue Belt. We don't condone violence as a general rule, but it's always a good idea to know how to defend ourselves- or our friends :) if necessary. That's a good thing.
littlej's Metalwork candlestick project
Littlej was called in to see one of her teachers this week.
You see, it's the time of year when selections are made for next year classes, and students are asked to give in their preferences for electives. Littlej had chosen Metal Work (shop) class and her male teacher was concerned. He nicely explained that his regular students were mainly boys, and not ones who were in her academically fast-tracked classes, but ones who may misbehave from time to time (he used the word Miscreants), and was she sure this was the class for her?
Littlej said she just smiled at him, and said : That's OK Sir, I don't think I have anything to worry about.
You see, it's not about violence, it's about confidence.
In celebration of littlej's Blue Belt, I made her some Blueberry Lemon Muffins
They're kind of like littlej- muffins are sweet and cute but have a bit of substance as well. Not just pretty and precious like a cupcake :)
3 cups gluten free Self Raising Flour (or plain flour and baking powder)
2 1/2 cup lactose free Milk, or dairy free alternative
2/3 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Oil
pinch of Salt
cupful or so of Blueberries
2 big tablespoons Lemon Curd (yes I know homemade is better, but this was handy)
In one big bowl, mix the flour (baking powder if using), salt and sugar
In a different bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, and oil
Add the wet mix into the dry along with the lemon zest, curd and blueberries
Gently mix together. Don't beat it too hard or the muffins won't be nice and tender, a few lumpy bits are just fine
Pop the mix into muffin pans, and if you want a bit of gratuitous yumminess, top with a little dob of extra lemon curd.
I used 1/4 cup of mix each and made 2 dozen little lovelies
Bake at about 200*C for 20 minutes, leave in the pan for about 5 minutes then place them on a rack to cool down totally
Delicious! But please don't jump in while still piping hot or the lemon curd will melt your mouth off, the sugar heats to lava temperature!
So Dear Readers, did you take Self-Defence classes when you were younger, and what are your tips for self-confidence?
November 7, 2012
I was going to post a whole other recipe today, but last night I just happened to catch an episode of Jamie's 15 minute Meals, by Mr Oliver himself and was captivated
I'm a big fan of Jamie Oliver, he is passionate about bringing real food to real people and teaching them the real skills to pass it on to others.Sadly something so often lacking today.
The meal Jamie made was a simple steamed chicken and veggie dish that looked lovely, but what caught my interest were the Coconut Buns that accompanied the meal.
2 ingredients, 10 minutes, and the promise of yumminesss, I just had to try this out for myself!
Steamed Coconut Buns
1 tin Coconut Milk
2 tins worth of Self Raising GF Flour
Tip the contents of the coconut milk into the bowl of a food processor
Measure out two tins of Self Raising Gluten free Flour
Pop into the food processor as well, along with a pinch of sugar, and a good pinch of salt
Whizz it around until it forms a soft slightly sticky dough
Tip out onto the bench and lightly pull together into a ball
Divvy up into smaller pieces. I made mine into 12, Jamie made 8 larger ones.
Pop them into cupcake papers, just to stop them sticking together, then place in a steamer
Just to add a bit of extra pretty, I brushed my dough with water and sprinkled on some sesame seeds. This certainly wasn't necessary, but I think it was worth it anyway :)
Steam the little buns for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the size. The dough should be nice and springy and be dry to touch- except for water drips of course
Make some Simple Pickles to serve with your buns
Rice wine Vinegar- make sure it's GF
Pinch of Sugar
Shave the cucumber very finely using a peeler, stopping at the seeds in the middle. Shave the carrot thinly with the peeler as well
Pop into a bowl with the sugar and a good slurp of vinegar and scrunch it all around until fully moistened, then set aside until the buns are ready
After 10 minutes, nicely puffed and ready to eat!
Cut in half, still steaming warm and ready to go
What a lovely array of yumminess!
I used a gluten free Hoi Sin Sauce, Chinese BBQ Pork, and of course, my pickles
A good splodge of sauce, a slice or two of pork, a pile of pickles.... and munch away!
Absolutely delicious indeed!
The fillings were great, but the buns were the real stars here.
Soft and springy with a lovely touch of coconut, these buns tasted just like NON gluten free ones would at yum cha. Next time I'll stuff them and make Char Siu Bao to add to my gluten free dim sum collection.
So Dear Readers, what do you think of super-chefs? Have they done much to change the world, and do you have any of their cook books on your shelves?