Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

It’s raining…..

June 5, 2010

It may be a miserable and gloomy day ….. but the seedlings are loving this rain!

What a pity that all our tanks are full, as we could really stock up for the summer. I have heard the BoM are predicting a wet winter. Perhaps this also points to a particularly dry and hot summer next season?

Here’s a recipe I cooked up this morning:

I roughly chopped an onion and fried in pan at low flame. I then added chopped zucchini (maybe the last one for the season) and some mushrooms and a chopped spring onion, then seasoned with salt and pepper and oregano. After a few minutes, I added some fresh chopped spinach and olives; let that cook for a bit before adding the egg (3x eggs with a dash of milk, and salt). Turned off the flame, and put in the oven to cook at 180°C. When it looked ready, I brought it out and topped with fresh rocket leaves and sprinkles of grated pecorino cheese.

Serve on toast, with a freshly brewed cup of organic/fairtrade coffee…

We really are using the last of the autumn veg at the moment (except for pumpkins of course)…


What to do with all these pumpkins….

May 29, 2010

Fence pumpkin

Want a good recipe to have with all those pumpkins?

Pumpkin Soup with Sage Pesto

  • 1kg diced pumpkin
  • 2x potatoes, diced
  • 2x large onions
  • 1.5Lt chicken stock

Chuck the above ingredients into your pot and bring to the boil, then simmer until the vegies are soft. Blend, then season with salt and pepper to taste, as well as a pinch of nutmeg. Serve into bowls, and add a spoon of the following pesto:

  • 8g Sage
  • 20g flat-leaf parsley
  • 1tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup toasted walnuts
  • pinch rock salt
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 50g Good quality parmesan, romano, or pecorino cheese, grated.

Blend all the ingredients together (except the cheese) until you have a green paste. You may need to add more oil, maybe salt too – see how you go. When its blended, add in the cheese and stir it all through.

You could look at adding a dollop of cream into each bowlful too. Maybe even sour cream. Experiment. The amounts of the ingredients can also be altered, depending on what you have available, and how many people you want to cook for.

Busy in the kitchen

September 22, 2009

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.


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.


It’s getting chilli around here….

August 7, 2009

Please be careful when grinding up last season’s chillis to make pepper – I haven’t been able to stop my eyes or nose running for the last half-hour….


Certainly my newly-acquired coffee/spice grinder comes in handy for such things. Just cut the chillis off their string, place in the grinder and let it rip!

Voila! Instant cayenne pepper!

From this ...

From this ...

... to this!

... to this!

Uses for Cayenne Pepper

Well, you can use them for cooking obviously. Sichuan cooking (southern province of China) incorporates these chillis whole; but they are used in many recipes requiring the flavour and heat from chillis. I find that drying them on a string and then grinding into powdered form is a wonderful way of preserving them. The powdered form means it can then be mixed with other ground spices to make a ‘curry’ of your choosing.

What creates the heat from chillis in general is a compound known as capsaicin, which is found in all fruits of the Capsicum variety – cayenne chillis are generally regarded to be a variety of Capsicum annuum – which are all part of the Solanaceae family (“nightshades”, along with tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, belladonna and tobacco).

Capsaicin is said to reduce platelet aggregation in blood and help relieve pain. It is also said to contain vitamins E and C, and carotenoids.

In Chinese Medicine Dietetics, it is considered Hot, and so can counter col, especially in cold climates and seasons. It is also Pungent/Acrid, and so will assist in dispersing qi up and out, which is often why pungent foods/herbs are employed in cooking to help sweat out a cold/flu. However, too much of a good thing can also be harmful, as the heat in this little cracker will dry up the yin/fluids. Those who constantly eat hot-spicy foods often present clinically with a lot of heat in the Lung and Stomach with some manner of yin-deficiency.

I find that adding a very small amount of cayenne gives you the flavour and a little heat, without a meal becoming over-poweringly hot. At the end of the day, if something is soooo hot you can’t taste the other flavours, then you may as well have just eaten the chilli on its own.

Surprisingly, our chilli bushes are still alive, even in this cold weather. The Jalapeno is still throwing fruit, as are the Topino Rosso. Even the miniature Sweet Chocolate Capsicum is alive. I haven’t noticed the Cayenne bushes producing anything, but then I haven’t looked.

Now that we’re in august, we are planting the seeds for spring growth – mainly greens still at this point. But in the next couple of weeks, we plan to start putting in more carrots, swedes, turnips, some more brassicas (the possums ate everything we had in!), celery, tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini, etc. The snow peas are growing slowly, and I’ve noticed the first green shoots from the potato bed. Winter has been harsh, with everything growing really really slow – and anything that was going well was eaten by possums (I wonder if I can use the infamous ‘Snail Ale’ to use here…..? LOL).

A wee winter warmer

July 16, 2009

Here’s a recipe for a tasty treat on those cold winter evenings when you have friends and folk around – I made a couple of bottles of it for our Yuletide feast, an it went down very nicely!

Ravenwolfe’s Mulled Wine

  • 1x bottle red wine: I got a cheap bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon. I’m no wine drinker, so I’m completely in the dark about what would be best. If you look around the www for resipes, there are a number of opinions – sweet wines, fruity wines, dry wines….. like I said, I have no idea about wine – so I bought something cheap. Once you get all the ingredients into it, it tastes fine….
  • 1x vanilla bean
  • 1x cinnamon stick: roughly bashed
  • 1x whole nutmeg: roughly bashed
  • zest from one orange
  • 1x cup brandy
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 4x cloves

I roughly bashed the spices together. Then I dissolved the sugar in the brandy on the lowest heat setting on my stove. Then I added the spices and vanilla bean. Once this had warmed, I added the bottle of wine, and kept this going until it was warm. Because I did this the day before, I retained all the spices in the wine, and then re-warmed it on the night of the feast.

It is really really important not to bring any of this to the boil, as the alcohol will evaporate – unless of course that’s what you want. Keeping the heat on lowest level assures this. If you start to see steam, take it off the heat immediately.

This will obviously not fit back into the wine bottle, so find something that will take a litre of liquid.

Like I said, I don’t like wine – but this was very tasty! It was nice and warming too!

#24 Spicy Ginger Beer (gluten-free)

June 1, 2009

This recipe is actually suitable for anyone who is either coeliac/gluten-intolerant or fructose-intolerant.


2kg Fresh Ginger
1kg Dark Brown Sugar
150g Corn Syrup (maltodextrin)
500g Lactose (milk sugar)
500g Dextrose (glucose)
2x cinnamon sticks
10g cloves
3x lemons
½ tab Irish Moss
4g Yeast nutrient
Red Star Premier Cuvee (champagne) dry yeast pack


Chop up lemons and ginger, add to pot of water and bring to the boil. I did this over the space of a number of days, adding water when the level got too low, and keeping the pot covered when not on the stove.

Once I was satisfied that I had extracted as much of the ginger as I wanted, I strained the ginger into my boiling pot, and adding the corn syrup and dextrose, bringing to the boil once more.

Once it started boiling, I added the spices and the brown sugar. I left this boil for 1 hour. Five minutes before flame-out, I added the Irish Moss (dissolved in 1 cup water) and the Lactose. I poured this solution into the fermenter, and then topped up with water to 23 litres. I then added the yeast nutrient at this point, covered it and let it cool down a bit more.

I rehydrated the yeast in 50ml water, which was about 40°C. I pitched this yeast when the wort was about 32°C. It had finished fermenting after 7 days, which I then bulk-primed with 170g raw sugar and bottled.

  • OG 1.045
  • FG 1.010
  • ALC/VOL. ~5.2%

This is a very popular recipe of mine – the perfect ladies’ drink! Given that colder weather is here, the addition of spice should make this somewhat warming.

I found the ginger on sale, it is conventionally farmed and grown in Australia. Obviously, I want to avoid food miles… however, the time I made this with organic ginger, te taste was far better. The problem being the price… organic ginger sells for around $15/kg. If conventional stuff is only a couple of dollars less, I usually go for it, but when conventional is half the price, it makes a difference when buying kilos of the stuff.

The Dark Brown sugar is also essential. It certainly darkens the colour a bit, and also gives off an almost ‘rummy’ aroma – remembering that rum is essentially fermented from sugar cane. You could replace all of the fermentable sugars with this (ie, dextrose), but I find dex is better at fermentation, so I use this blend. Of course, if gluten isn’t an issue, try using malt!

Also, because there is no malt, GB’s tend to love a bit of a shake-up. Often in beer brewing you avoid splashing of the wort as much as possible, as introducing oxygen can sometimes affect flavour. However in this case, oxygen just gives the yeast something extra to play with. Every couple of days, give the barrel a shake.

You can also re-use the chopped ginger to make your supply of ginger paste for cooking. Just put it back into a pot with a little bit of water, mash it up using your blender/bamix until it turns into a paste, and reduce right down. Then decant it into jars (or other container) and refridgerate or freeze. Commercial ‘fresh ginger paste’ has vinegar as a preservative, but it should be ok without it so long as its in the fridge. Commercial stuff is usually 92% ginger, with the rest being water and vinegar – so I’m not sure about how much vinegar you could add if you wanted to store in a pantry. Its really amazing to see how much gingery flavour is still left after having boiled for the GB.