Archive for the ‘Kitchen’ Category

Preserved meat update

Canberra will have a very warm day tomorrow, so I have shifted my curing meat from under the house to the fridge. Something about meat and 30 degree temperatures doesn’t sound good.

After I brought it in, I weighed it to check its progress:

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It’s 800g even, which is only 50g above my target weight (1.08 kg x 0.7).

I also unwrapped it to get a good look:

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It looked and smelled ok. No sign of bad mold, just a pleasant meaty smell combined with old wine.

I’ve heard that sometimes curing meat will dry unevenly, and harden on the outside while staying wet in the middle. Apparently the fix for this is re-equilibrating the moisture in a plastic bag in the fridge, so I’m taking the opportunity to do this while it’s inside, just in case.

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An autumnal cake

Until we set an orchard, we’re reliant on the shops for fruit. If like us you’re not lucky enough to have fruit trees, you can usually tell that a fruit is in season because it’s cheap in the shops.

Right now it seems to be pear season. These are going into Miss soon-to-be-4’s birthday cake. The great thing about pears is that if you slightly overdo it, they don’t make the cake taste weird.

So the recipe was 6 pears, halved and roasted until soft, then cooled, cored, skinned and pureed. Into that went 2 cups of sugar, 1 tablespoon if baking powder and about 1 cup of cocoa, plus some ground cinnamon and clove. Miss stb4 proclaimed that it “smelled gorgeous!” Mixed it till smooth, then beat in 4 big eggs. After that, in went about 250g melted butter and half a block of melted chocolate. Again, we mixed till smooth. Then we folded in about 2 cups plain flour. If you overbeat cake mixture that contains flour, it sets the gluten off and makes the cake tough. The advantage of adding the flour at the end is that you can beat the hell out of it to get the mix smooth at first, and you only need to ease off at the end when the flour goes in.

That went into an oven preheated to 160 for about 50 minutes. I put a tall baking paper collar around to stop it burning, which seemed to work.

This makes heaps of batter. You might want to halve it actually:

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It made 1 big cake and 3 small ones.

I think this is the best cake I’ve ever made: moist, spongy and chocolatey. Miss stb4 was much more interested in the batter though, and completely rejected the cake in favor of licking the bowl! 

Edit: once you decorate a cake for a four year old, all traces of the seasons are lost:
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Green tomato sauce

A while back we cleaned out our tomatoes to make way for broad beans.

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We also picked out remaining people beans and olives.

Most of the tomatoes didn’t ripen so I made some green tomato sauce with them. Step 1 was smoking them, but I missed getting a picture of that. Then, in the pan with about a kilo of browned onions and some apples:

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Had to do the onion in batches.

Then I boil up cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, while black pepper, caraway, coriander, cumin, cayenne and anything else that takes my fancy in some vinegar, strain through a cloth into the tomatoes, tie off and drop the “bag” in.

Plenty of sugar goes in, a bit of salt, and then it boils away for a while.

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Six jars, some of them whoppers! This is great on roast beef.

Thinking about foraging

Last October, I found a bunch of morels on my way to work. I picked them, but not trusting my identification skills I used them to inoculate my garden. I figure I can grow whatever they are, and show them to a mushroom expert when I fine one.

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But it has got me thinking: what could we find if we put or minds to it? I went looking for black trumpets today, and I think I may have found some remnants:

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They look terrible but I think they may have been black trumpets once. No point picking them: there wasn’t much left to identify. I’ll try the spot again later though.

And here is what I think is Hawthorne, from a park:

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There would have been buckets of them. We went looking for white mulberry, but couldn’t find any.

Problem is, the stakes are high with wild food. Misidentification is a mistake you might only make once.

Does anyone have a good reference for foraging? How could I be sure that I’m not going to poison myself?

Mmm beetroot

A friend brought us some beetroots today. Instead of doing them savory like I usually do, I went with sweet:

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It’s 200 grams of melted butter, 3/4 to 1 cup of cocoa, 1.5 cups of sugar and four eggs beaten together, with 3/4 cup floor folded through, then 6 big beetroots, boiled and peeled, then grated. Add salt if you’re using unsalted butter. It goes in the oven at 180 which you turn down to 160 after 20 mins. Skewer should come out a bit gooey. Probably a bit too beetrooty for the kids, so I might do 4 beetroots next time. I like it though!

Cooking with silver beet

Silver beet and rainbow chard were our best performers this year. They seem to be pest resistant and they are nutritious and quick to prepare.

This seasonal sage and pumpkin pasta dish exemplifies it:
Fry a small onion in a knob of butter with about a tablespoon of chopped sage. Keep the heat reasonably high so it all browns nicely. Once brown, throw in about a cup of finely diced pumpkin. Butternut works really well. Let it cook for about 5 mins, stirring so it browns evenly. Add a small pinch of nutmeg and half a cup of white wine.

As this is reducing on a lowered heat, either slice your washed silver beet into ribbons, or just hack at it with scissors. Pop it into your colander.

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Cook the usual quantity of your preferred pasta. When it’s done, simply drain the pasta through the silver beet in the colander. This is enough to cook it. Mix through, and dress with olive oil

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To finish the sauce, stir 2 tablespoons of sour cream and another 2 tablespoons of chopped sage through, thin to the desired sauciness and pop it on the pasta. 

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Top with parmesan, crumbled feta, and/or pine nuts.

I hope you enjoy this with your home grown silver beet!

Using the cheap cuts: trotters

We bought half a pig from friends who have a farm and received a bag of trotters as a bonus! I originally had visions of a hot dark Chinese stew but went with pea and ham soup instead. first I washed and salted the trotters, then smoked them on the bbq:

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Then 2 days in the crockpot:

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(that’s the before; didn’t manage an after)

Picked the bones out:

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The pea part is mainly green split peas, with red lentils and urad for fun.

I’m trying a new trick from dal making: after frying the onions, I added some mostly cooked peas into the frying onions and cooked them up together. Apparently it adds a different flavour.

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And here’s the finished product:

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it still needs to simmer for a bit but it already smells good and the texture is amazing!

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