Busy in the kitchen

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Whilst all those lovely new season vegies are busy growing, why don’t we step into the kitchen to see what lovely delights we’ve been able to come up with…

Winter Brewing: #27 & 28 Happy Pils “B” & “C”

While the weather was cold over winter, I managed to make two batches of my Happy Pils pilsener. I used different types of hops in each of the batches. The basic recipe is as follows:

  • 1.5kg Bohemian Pilsner grain
  • 500g Munich Malt I (light)
  • 100g Carapils
  • 2kg LDME
  • ½ tab Irish Moss
  • Wyeast 2278 Bohemian Pilsener starter (425ml)

The first batch I did used “B”-saaz, which is a strain developed in New Zealand, and is rumoured to be what is used in the James Squires Pilsner. The schedule for that is as follows:

  • 30g B Saaz (AA7.8%) @ 60mins
  • 30g B Saaz @ 15mins
  • 20g B Saaz @ 5mins

The second batch used traditional Czech saaz hops, which makes this batch a Bohemian Pilsener proper:

  • 70g Czech Saaz hops pellets (AA3.6%) @ 60mins
  • 30g Czech Saaz hops pellets @ 15mins
  • 20g Czech Saaz hops pellets @ Flame-out

Both batches remain untouched in bottles as I write this, as brews made with a bottom-fermenting yeast strain require longer (and cooler) time to prime in the bottle. Permaculture principles always permeate my brewing, as I take advantage of the seasons when brewing, thus minimising my need for gadgets that need electricity – why try to brew lagers in summer, or ales in winter?!? These beers will be left until those warm summer nights when the ideal thirst-quencher after a long hot day in the garden is a cold, crisp, hoppy beer.

Cooking from the garden

I have had a ball over the last couple of months cooking “on-the-fly” (as I like to call it). I can’t plan recipes ahead of time, and I never seem to be able to plan a menu before I go to the shops. So, I work along the ‘organic principle’ of working with what I have at hand, which not only includes what is in the garden, but what is in my fridge or pantry. At first, this idea was daunting – but then I discovered another use for Google – type in your ingredients and the word “recipe”, and up comes a diverse and wondrous variety of possible combinations of ingredients. Its then just a matter of finding something that you: a)have all the ingredients available; and b) like the sound/look/taste of!

The following is a recipe I found in this way. While I had all of the ingredients in my fridge/pantry, most of them are also found in my garden – its just that they are still in punnets or growing as seedlings still. So in a few months, I will be able to make this one again, but this time with all home-grown ingredients.

Pumpkin & Parsnip Cassoulet

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 lge onions, chopped
  • 500g pumpkin, diced
  • 500g parsnip, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2x cans mixed beans (I didn’t have cans, so I used a selection of dried beans, left to soak for several hours in a bowl of boiling water with some bi-carb soda. The beans I used – all growing currently – were Borlotti, Black Turtle, Red Kidney, White, and Pinto. After soaking, I measured out about 500g, and then put the rest in the freezer. I could have used Azuki, but they generally take a lot longer to soak, much like chick-peas)
  • 2x cans diced tomato (Again, come the end of summer, we should be able to provide this as fresh ingredient, given the number of seedlings we’ve got going. Just remember that you’d need a lot more than 850g if using fresh…)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 300ml Vegetable stock (I actually used stock I had just recently made from scratch and had left over from something else. Making your own stock is easy, reeeeal easy….)
  • 2 lge sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 tbs sugar (reduces the acidity from canned tomato; maybe not necessary if you used fresh tomato)
  • 75g breadcrumbs (we use gluten-free of course. Often mixed with a bit of polente)
  • 25g parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 160-180. Heat the oil in a large pan/wok, add onions and fry for 5 min/until golden. Add pumpkin, parsnips, and garlic, and cook for a further 3 mins. Stir in beans, tomatoes, wine, stock, thyme, sugar, and plenty of seasoning (or to taste). Bring to the boil, then transfer to a large casserole dish, pressing the beans and vegetables beneath the liquid.

Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs and grated cheese. cover, then cook for 40 mins in oven. Uncover, stir well and cook for a further 40 mins.

Serve with garlic bread and stir-fried cabbage (I used kale from the garden, equally nice!)

This recipe should serve 6.

Voila!

Help with cooking

Can I just say that Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion is a must for any kitchen-gardener. This is a handy guide to the most common ingredients found in Aussie kitchens, and details the best way to use them, including what other foods they go well with. Combine that with Google, and you are set to being your very own Masterchef!

If Firefox is your default web browser (and quite frankly if it isn’t, then it should be), then there is also a marvellous recipe search engine called GoCook which you can install as part of your toolbar.

My biggest kitchen-gardening inspiration would have to be Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his River Cottage venture. There is a section on seasonal recipes on the website; but I have to strongly recommend trying to get a hold of his TV shows. I believe ABC1 will be screening River Cottage Spring from this week onwards at 6pm.

But closer to home, the ABC’s The Cook and the Chef was also good to learn about seasonality in cooking. Unfortunately, the final episode was screened last week. However, it will most likely continue on ABC2 or as daytime re-runs; and I know it screens also on pay-TV’s Lifestyle Food channel. They had also released a DVD-box set that was organised according to seasons, which we have. I don’t know whether it’s still available, and chances are they’ll re-release something now that the show is no longer being produced.

Of course, I also quite enjoyed Ready, Steady, Cook – both the original British version with Ainsley Harriott, and the Australian version which screens on channel 10. The idea that a chef could be given a set of ingredients and come up with something amazing was always inspiring – especially when I used to look at a pantry full of food, and not be able to come up with anything beyond what I knew (mainly bolognese pasta, or some kind of curry).

Combine these with fresh produce out of your garden, and you have the potential to eat at home like you would in a flashy restaurant or cafe.

Enjoy…..!

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