Saturday 22 February 2014

Preserving and pickling stuff

There is a real resurgence of people interested in preserving now. We all took it for granted when we were younger. It was something our mothers and grandmothers generally did. Most homes in the 50's and 60's had a lovely supply of fresh produce from garden fruit trees and well tended vegetable gardens. And of course, bottling and preserving was one of the ways to ensure nothing was wasted. It meant the pantry was always full of very inexpensive jars of jam and fruit, chutneys, pickles and sauces to consume and gift throughout the year.
I knew all the jars I saved would be handy
In the 1970's and 1980's we went through the deep freezing craze. We owned one such humungous deep freeze. For me, it was always a bit of a challenge to retrieve the items from the very bottom. Usually a large beast would be purchased, chopped up, packaged and stored. By the time you got down to the Spanish chops at the bottom of the freezer you were well sick of the lamb. And don't ask what happened to the cheap bits of bagged beef!
I don't know too many people who go to the trouble of packing their freezers with half a beast or one ton of fruit and vegetables nowadays. But it is good to see the massive revival in jam making, pickling and preserving. It is fashionable again, "to do it yourself"....
I would have a least 4-5 jars of various chutney, pickle, mustard and jams (open) in my fridge. I love sauces and pickles and adore it with crackers and cheese, smeared on vegetable pies, slapped on a meat sandwich or drizzled over my homemade chips.
The huge bag of cloves and peppercorns in my tomato sauce mix
This year a request came from my hubby to make Nana Spence's tomato sauce (long story and no direct relation to me). He raved about it - so the recipe was duly acquired. I am not sure how to obtain permission to post the recipe on my blog as sadly Nana Spence is long gone, but I am working on it.
I also made my mothers green pickle which ended up a bit of the Edmond's recipe and a bit of what I remember she used to throw in -  namely green runner beans, cucumber and cauliflowers from the garden.
To make the tomato sauce we had to purchase a very expensive, super, duper, shiny mouli. We also had to buy sauce bottles. So I think my first batch of sauce was probably a little costly - future batches will be cheaper (gift recipients - please return my little bottles for next years batch!).
I made my marmalade this year from beautiful, juicy grapefruit donated by The Redcliffe Homestead B & B in Taradale, Hawkes Bay. Thank you Sue, it is especially delicious.
I get so much pleasure looking at all the little jars and bottles lined up in my pantry. It makes me smile and the hours and hours of work are so well worth it.....

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Lamingtons and sponge making

I am a lover of books. Any sort of book. I can be quiet as a mouse flicking through most sorts of books but especially recipe books, ooohing and aaahing and drooling over the ingredients and photos, while always on the lookout, of course, for new ideas.
While visiting Elaine I was handed a copy of  the book 'The Mackenzie Muster - A Century of Favourites" published in 1989 and reprinted many, many times. It is a real beauty, clearly a classic that has stood the the test of time. Full of interesting farming recipes, tips for cooking for big, hungry country folk and catering for crowds. It kept me enthralled for ages. Some of the recipes were pretty 'out there', for example - lamb on a rope! ( If you have a yearning to cook this dish let me know and I will send you the recipe).
So I found myself searching in the book for a good sponge recipe as I had offered to make a few dozen of the classic Kiwi Lamingtons for a local fund raising event. I don't recall having ever made Lamingtons before. But I thought it might be a good idea to make chocolate and strawberry Lamingtons from scratch.... "no store bought sponge for our customers", says I.
I found an easy recipe in the previously mentioned book - 'a big sponge for shearers'! My thinking was, it had to be the 'perfect never fail' sponge, something that has been alluding me for sometime now.
I adore the countryside and love the smell of fresh farming air etc but I can honestly say I have never had to cook for shearers or any farming folk for that matter. In fact you couldn't get a woman more 'city like' than me. But I imagined hungry shearers were pretty hard to please so decided to give the recipe a try.
I am sorry to say I still haven't perfected sponge making and my attempt at baking the 'big shearers sponge' was an utter failure. Not to waste anything, said 'cake like' sponge was dispatched to the freezer for later use in a large trifle.
Six eggs down and back to the drawing board. I turned to Donna Hay's Chocolate recipe book and managed to produce one smallish sponge that I considered almost acceptable but not perfect. But unfortunately it was clearly not big enough to make dozens of Lamingtons.
My attempt at a sponge
By this stage in the morning I was completely 'sponged out' so resorted to asking dear hubby to pop down to the supermarket and buy one large unfilled sponge.
My conclusion through all of this is experience -  making Lamingtons from scratch was a real test of sponge making skills. It was also very time consuming, requiring a lot of patience and a lot of careful dipping and rolling in coconut. (I found the chocolate coating originally too thick and caused the sponge 'cube' to actually fall apart - not helpful.)
I used a Taste recipe for the strawberry Lamingtons and a good old reliable Edmond's recipe (slightly watered down) for the chocolate ones.
Once all the 'issues' were sorted out I considered all the effort absolutely worth it.

Result: They were really nice after all the drama! I was on the morning shift at the stall and my Lamingtons were (thankfully) slowly disappearing to happy customers for $2 each.
My mother always made wonderful sponges, I really wish I had noted down her secret to the perfect sponge. I will just have to keep on trying......

Friday 7 February 2014

Roast Pumpkin and Mexican Green Mole

While I have some knowledge of Mexican cooking, it is mainly in the 'bog standard' recipe range. In fact I am such a novice I wasn't sure how to pronounce 'mole', how sad is that! I do now! I made this Mexican Vegetarian dish a few weeks ago. In fact I enjoyed it so much I have launched into seeking out other Mexican recipes. The recipe in question came from a wonderful blog called Pease Pudding
The author of the blog is Alli Pirrie-Mawer, a woman with 'many strings to her bow'. I met Alli in 2012 when she organised the NZ Food Bloggers Conference during Wellington on a Plate. Due to her work commitments no meeting was planned in 2013 but we have been informed another one is in the pipeline for 2014. I can't wait. I had such a marvelous time at my first one in 2012.
First step done
I am feeling a bit lazy to write out the recipe here but if you go to the link Alli is more than happy for you to copy it.
I thought two kilograms of pumpkin was a lot for a meal for two of us (even taking into account left overs) so I halved the recipe. I wish I hadn't as we had two (last minute) extra guests for dinner. Thankfully it turned out to be quite enough. It was so delicious we ate the lot in one sitting - sadly no leftovers for my lunch!
I am not a fan of really hot food, so I measured the chilli part very carefully and I put in a little less. I found it perfect to my taste, but one guest needed more heat and piled on extra Chipotle chilli!
I could not find the pickled Jalapeno Chilli in our local shop so they were not added (but I thought it was hot enough without them). Again my guest said they should have been added, mmmmm.... you might like to add them. I found the pumpkin seeds a really nice addition to the mole, they gave the sauce such a great texture. I served it simply with tortilla wraps (quickly warmed/ lightly browned in my fry pan).
Mexican cooking is definitely taking me into unchartered waters but I have now started on a journey to try as many recipes as possible.
Roast Pumpkin and Mexican Green Mole
The final look before serving, it had been sitting a while so not as 'orangey' pretty as Alli's blog photo
A few nights ago we had Oaxacan Green Mole Stew, sourced from one of my vegetarian cook books called Moosewood Restaurant - Cooking for Health. The basis of the mole verde was a can of Tomatillos and luckily I had one in my cupboard, purchased some time ago. Actually the Tomatillos were the most expensive part of the dish! The beans came from my garden and I managed to find five corn cobs for $4.00. While extremely tasty (and it used lots of stuff I had 'hanging out' in my pantry) it is not as pretty to look at like Alli's dish - which may be the decider whether to make it again. (By the way both dishes are great for Vegans).
Oaxacan Mole Stew
So, thank you Alli, your Roast Pumpkin and Mexican Green Mole recipe must be shared - it has become a real favourite of mine too.