Three Green Meals

FeaturedThree Green Meals

A local cooking columnist recently mentioned that she and her husband eat a green meal once a week. I thought this was a great idea: it’s healthy, it creates a discipline, and you have to use you imagination. So I’ve been trying it out for three weeks. There’s only one rule – it HAS to be all green.So:

Week One Green Meal: Spinach pasta with spinach and pea sauce

ingredients

Fresh Spinach pasta ( bought from the Farmers Market) with  spinach and pea sauce

Edamame beans ( these are fresh or frozen soy beans)

Zucchini, beans and bokchoy, sliced

Vegetable dressing: 1 tbs soy, 1 tbs rice vinegar, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tbs mirin

Parsley

Method.

Cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente

Make the sauce by adding chopped spinach and peas to homemade chicken stock, cook then and reduce it until it is a thick sauce. There’s a long French tradition of making exquisite sauces by reducing stock for a very long time, this is no different.

I was surprised to find the Edamame beans in the local supermarket in the freezer section. They were in pods   Defrost them, pod them and add uncooked  t to the steamed fresh vegetables.

Rather to our surprise this was a delicious meal!

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Parsley pasta with leeks, beans and green olives

Week Two Green Meal:  Parsley and garlic pasta with leeks, beans and green olives

Ingredients:

Fresh pasta ( or dried)

Two leeks

Green beans

Green olives

Method:

Clean and slice the leeks thinly. Fry in some olive oil at a low heat, with the lid on the saucepan. Check and stir they do not brown, cook for about twenty minutes.

Cook the pasta until al dente.

Steam or boil the green beans until they are cooked but not too soft.

Add the beans and the olives to the leeks and add a little of the pasta water to moisten.

Drain the pasta and add the olives, beans and leek mixture to the pasta and serve.

This was also delicious.

Week Three Green Meal:  Puy lentils, broad beans, spinach with Chimmichurri sauce and avocado.

Ingredients

Puy lentils – I cup

Broadbeans 1 cup  podded

Spinach 1 bunch

Avocado 1

Chimmichurri sauce

  • 1 large bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, washed, stemmed, and dried
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, or Malden salt, or Murray River salt.
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped oregano
  • 1/2 chilli, or to taste ( I actually use Sambal oelek which is an Indonesia chilli paste, which is handy to keep in the fridge if you don’t have fresh chillies on hand)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Whizz everything up in a kitchen whizzer.I have a small Kitchen Aid one which is handy for this kind of thing, I suspect its for making baby food.

Cover the lentils in water and then add about a thumb depth more. Cook the lentils for about twenty minutes until they are soft, add more water if they are not and they have absorbed it all.

Pod the broadbeans.. Boil a small amount of water and add them to it, and cook for about ten minutes. If they are young you won’t need to peel them  once they are cooked, which is tedious to do. Chop the spinach and add when the beans are alsmost cooked and stir until the spinach is wilted.

Cut the avocado in half and peel and slice.

Arrange the lentils, beans, spinach on the plate with the avocado in the middle. Squeeze a little lime juice over the avocado and then arrange the chimmichurri sauce over the top.

 

 

 

 

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Strawberries and rhubarb dessert

FeaturedStrawberries and rhubarb dessert

In the last couple of weeks in Australia (and now in New Zealand) some idiots have been inserting needles into strawberries, causing panic amongst people with small children, and causing the strawberry industry to junk tonnes of strawberries. I never buy my strawberries from a supermarket, but from the Farmers’ Market, where they are needle free,  but nonetheless there is a strong movement to support strawberry farmers, by buying strawberries as well as making sure you cut them in half before you eat them.

So – we’ve been eating heaps of strawberries at our place, and this is one of my favourite ways of having them – especially good when they are not as sweet and ripe as they are at height of the season. And mostly we eat strawberries raw but they are also delicious cooked as here.The astringency of the rhubarb compares nicely with the sweetness of the berries, and the only other ingredient is sugar.

I bunch of rhubarb

I large punnet of strawberries

1/2  cup of sugar ( to taste – depending on the sweetness of the strawberries and the sourness of the rhubarb, you might need more, you might need less)

1/2 cup water ( or orange juice)

Wash and cut up the strawberries and the rhubarb. Put all the ingredients in a pan and cook for about twenty minutes until the rhubarb is cooked and the strawberries are soft. Stir every now and again to ensure the mixture does not burn.

Serve and eat, hot or cold.

 

Hugh’s Seville Orange Marmalade

FeaturedHugh’s  Seville Orange Marmalade

For more years than we care to remember my other half, Hugh has made the best jam and marmalade you have ever tasted. He once gave a jar of his Japonica quince jelly to my London cousin, a chef, who ate it half teaspoon by half teaspoon over a space of some months, and wouldn’t let anyone else share it. I’ll give you that recipe in the Australian Autumn. But now it’s Spring and here’s another secret – Hugh’s recipe for  marmalade. Written by him. Warning: he’s a scientist!

Most people of taste recognise that Seville oranges make the best marmalade because of their balanced combination of sour and bitter flavours.  Botanically, Seville oranges are a separate species of Citrus , C. aurantium L. (meaning named by Linnaeus, no less, the father of modern taxonomy.) They are typically about the size of a small Navel orange, with similar coloured skin, but very distinctly flattened top and bottom.  (Beware if you do a web search for Seville orange you will find many references to a much smaller Citrus fruit with knobbly skin; this is the US Seville orange, which is quite different – botanically a variety of C. aurantium.)

In Australia, Seville oranges have a relatively short season, from mid July to mid September.  You will not normally find them in a supermarket, but will be able to get them at a good specialist fruit and vegetable market or shop

A web search will also throw up all sorts of tediously elaborate recipes, which read as if intended to put off the home maker.  In my opinion, none of this is necessary.  All you need is Seville oranges, sugar and water,  Plus you need to make two decisions about what you like:

  1.  Do you like your marmalade to be a dense mass of fruit, or do you prefer more clear orange jelly with pieces for fruit (mainly rind) embedded in the jelly?
  2. Do you like the fruit to be cut thick or thin?

As you can tell from my choice of language, I prefer more jelly.  I also prefer the fruit cut thin, even though this means more work cutting up the fruit.  So here is how I make this sort of Seville orange marmalade.

  1.  Buy your Seville oranges and note how much they weigh in total.
  2. Take one third of the oranges (the ones with the fewest skin blemishes), cut them in half along the “equator”, and pick out the many pips you will see in each half with the tip of a small, sharp knife.
  3. Thinly slice the fruit.  This is the slow and tedious part.  I use a mandolin on the 0.75 mm thickness setting to do most of the work, and finish the last pieces with a knife, but a large, very sharp knife (and basic knife skills) are just as good.
  4. Put the sliced fruit in a pan, cover with water ( just cover) and boil.
  5. In the meanwhile, juice the other two thirds of the oranges.
  6. Pour the juice into the pan when the fruit has been boiling for 10-15 minutes.
  7. Bring back to the boil and then check a piece of cooked rind for softness.  It may well be soft enough to your taste; if not, keep boiling until it is, which should only be a few more minutes.
  8. Add sugar.  The quantity is also a matter of taste, but I usually find about two thirds of the original weight of the oranges is about right; this will be roughly equal to the weight of fruit and juice you have used, excluding the shells of the juiced oranges.
  9. Stir constantly (to stop sticking on the bottom) while it comes back to the boil.  Lots of jam recipes tell you to pre-heat the sugar in the oven, but I have never found this necessary, provided you keep stirring the bottom of the pan.
  10. When the sugar is completely dissolved, the marmalade should be done, but to make sure, as with any jam, it is a good idea to test for setting.  I use a rather unsophisticated approach: spoon a bit of jam onto a saucer and put in the freezer for a few minutes to speed up cooling.  Tilt it to see if it wrinkles, and does not flow. If it runs off the saucer it’s not ready and you must have put in too much water at the start, but all you need to do is keep gently boiling, while stirring, for a few more minutes.  Note that all citrus naturally contain lots of pectin, so you never need to add pectin to make marmalade, unlike, say, strawberry or apricot jam.
  11. After letting the marmalade cool down for 10 minutes or so, ladle into heated jars.  I usually use a small jug.I normally put the jars in the cold oven while the jam is finishing its cooking, and set the temperature to 80 C, and leave until the jars are heated through. I have been using this setting for decades and have never had a broken jar.
  12. I always use jars with screw down lids, some people use cellophane tops, but as long as your lids are clean they fine, the jam tends to dry out with the cellophane tops as they are permeable to water vapour.
  13. Enjoy your marmalade.

Chocolate Chestnut Cake (GF) – step by step

FeaturedChocolate Chestnut Cake (GF) – step by step

This is a delicious cake, and whats more it’s gluten free, but so good everyone will like it. Some people may find it hard to get hold of chestnut flour – sometimes you can buy it online, or in those shops where they sell everything by the scoop.  Alternatively if you have an Italian deli near you they will probably stock it. I keep mine in the freezer so it doesn’t go stale. If you can’t get it you can make the recipe without flour, just use less milk, or add a bit of cornflour instead.

Ingredients.

200 gms 70% chocolate

200 gms cultured unsalted butter

200 gms chestnut puree (available in cans)

70ml milk

50 gms chestnut flour

3 eggs ( approx 92 gms egg whites, if your eggs are small you may need four)

110 gms caster sugar

Method

In a large steel bowl over a pan of simmering hot water, melt chocolate and butter together. Do not let the water reach the underneath of the bowl.

In a separate pan warm the milk , chestnut puree and chestnut flour together and mix until smooth.The puree I use is very stiff. If it is not as stiff, use less milk.

When the chocolate mix is melted take off heat and add in the chestnut puree mix.

Mix the egg yolks with the caster sugar. Stir this into the chocolate mixture.

Beat the eggwhites until they form stiff peaks. Egg whites beat better in a copper bowl, if you happen to have one. You can clean them using lemon juice.

Line the base of a 20 cm tin with baking paper. Do this by smoothing the baking paper over the base and tucking it through the edge, then pull it tight. Trim off the edges.

Butter the sides of the tin.

Pour the mix into the cake tin.

Bake at 150 C ( fan) for 45 – 50 minutes until a skewer is clean when  you insert it into the cake and pull it out.  Allow to cool on a rack, then remove from the tin.

Decorate with poached pears, strawberries and/or raspberries, and sprinkle with sieved icing sugar.

Featured

Boeuf Bourgignon – Step by Step

 

OK this doesn’t qualify as baking but we can’t live by bread alone. So it was a cold night, I had some friends coming round, and what better to cook for them than the very traditional French dish, Boeuf Bourgignon, using beef and veggies bought at the local Canberra and Region Farmers’ Market.

Ingredients:

1kg stewing steak, chopped into pieces.

1 cup of lardons ( or bacon shopped up small)

Olive oil ( 2-3 tablespoons)

1 bottle of red wine (not expensive, but not bad quality either.)

7 or 8 pickling onions or shallots ( if you can’t get these just cut ordinary onions into quarters)

About 15 small mushrooms

2 or three carrots, sliced

2 cloves garlic, peeled

Mirepoix: 2-3 carrots, 2-3 sticks celery, 1 onion. A mirepoix is a mix of finely chopped vegetables that is a flavour basis in French (and Italian cooking).

1 bayleaf (2 if fresh) fresh parsley, thyme, marjoram.

4 tablespoons plain flour

Pepper and salt

Method

Mirepoix : If you have time you can finely chop the mirepoix vegetables. Alternatively, chop them in a kitchen whizzer, which makes them very fine, but I like this as it is a way of thickening the sauce.

Fry the lardons and the mirepoix in some olive oil, stirring frequently. Do not let them burn.

Take a thin plastic bag and put the flour in. Season with pepper ( not salt, as this can toughen the meat. Add the salt at the end of cooking)

Put the meat into the plastic bag and shake madly. This will cover the meat with a fine coating of flour and thicken the sauce. You may have to do it in two lots.

Take the mirepoix out of the frying pan and set aside for later.

Put some more olive oil in the pan and heat. Add the meat in two batches, and brown.

Turn the heat up and pour the entire bottle of wine in. Wait until it bubbles up, them turn down the heat, add the mirepoix, the peeled onions, additional carrots if you are using them and the mushrooms.

Notes on veggies. I always add more vegetables than traditional recipes allow as it makes the meat go further, and because I like vegetables.

Either put entire stew into a slow cooker for about 5 hours or if you haven’t got a slow cooker, put in a casserole, in the oven and cook slowly for about two hours at 160 C, until the meat is tender. How long it will take is dependant on the kind of beef you buy.

(Slow cookers are a wonderful gadget, quite cheap, and it means you can go out, leave the food cooking for several hours, and come home to a wonderful smell as though someone else had cooked dinner!)

Serve with steamed green beans of broccoli, and celeriac mash. (see recipe)

Baking Alaskan Sourdough, revised recipe

FeaturedBaking Alaskan Sourdough, revised recipe

I have amended this recipe( November 2018) to make it slightly quicker, easier ( line the banettons with rice flour) and better. Importantly I have  added a tip on making a tight ball of dough before leaving the bread to rise finally, to make it  rise better in the oven. I also suggest you can make three loaves and leave two in the fridge to rise for up to five days before baking.

Why did I start making bread? It’s a way to drive to buy my favourite sourdough bread – all the way to Honor’s Bread in Bermagui NSW – some three and a half hours, so the next best solution, I kept on thinking,  was to make my own.

But I kept on dragging my heels, until a friend said – ‘have some of my starter. I brought it back from Alaska.’ Don’t ask how she got it through Australian Quarantine at Border Security.! We have the toughest quarantine in the world. I should know, I once worked there.

Actually the answer is she didn’t even think bringing live yeasts into the country in a tightly screwed down jam jar would be a problem, so she sailed through the nothing to declare section of Customs. Anyway all the yeasts have now been baked in bread.

This is a recipe for white sourdough – it’s has the most satisfying golden crunchy crust and big aerated holes – and the secret is – you don’t have to knead, just fold.

Because the process takes 24 hours, in which time you need to be around, I only make  three loaves of bread once a week and freeze two. Alternatively I leave two unbaked loaves in the fridge for up to four days, and bake them as needed. I am amazed at how good they are. Five days in the maximum I reckon.

Ingredients ( Half these ingredients if you think this will make too much)

For the leaven

200 gms sourdough starter fed with equal amounts of flour and water to make 400 gms(100% hydration) That is:

100 mls water ( tepid. It should be blood temperature, so when you put you finger in the water it doesn’t feel hot or cold.)

50 gms strong white flour (make sure the flour is bakers flour, not pizza or pasta flour)

50 gms wholemeal baker’s flour

For the dough

400 gms leaven

1200 mls water (tepid)

1.2kg strong white baker’s flour

400 gms wholemeal  baker’s flour

40 gms sea salt.

Timeline. This is as a guide, obviously you can start earlier if you like!

7am: Take the leaven out of the fridge and leave at room temperature, covered with a damp tea towel for an hour or so to warm up and go bubbly.(If you haven’t  got a leaven make one first. See post on creating a leaven.)

9.am: Feed the leaven. When the leaven has a decent amount of bubbles on the top add equal amounts of flour and water to leaven (as in recipe) and leave to rise for about two hours, covered with a damp tea towel.

9.00 am: Autolyse. Mix together the flour and the water for the bread, but don’t  add salt. Mix by hand until elastic and smooth.This autolysing give the gluten time to develop. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place. The leaven and the autolysed mix can both develop at the same time.

11.00 am:Mix the bread dough.The leaven should have a number of bubbles on top and if you tip it it will look active with lots of holes. Mix the leaven and the autolyse mixture together and add the salt.Combine all by hand. This is the beginning of your bread and is when the folding begins. Set the timer for half hour intervals for the next two hours.

In between read one of my short stories, or a book,  watch a video, do the cleaning or play with the kids. I even have a friend who takes it in the back of the car when she goes shopping, then whips out to fold it when the half hour is up!

11.15 pm:Beginning fold. Remove tea towel. Leave dough in the bowl, and wet your hands. Grab part of the dough furthest from you  and stretch and fold over the rest of the dough. Turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat. Turn again, and then once more so you make four turns  in total.Cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place.

11.45 pm: repeat

12.15 pm: repeat

12.45 pm: repeat

1.15pm: repeat and then leave the dough for an hour

2.15pm: repeat and leave for an hour

3.15pm: Divide Tip the dough onto a lightly floured board and divide into three  balls. The best thing to cut them with is a dough scraper – an invaluable and cheap baking tool. Leave the balls to rest for 20 minutes to rest the gluten.

3.35pm: Shape dough Flip balls over on bench. Shape by pulling and stretching each corner into the middle of the ball. It’s very important to create a very tight ball of dough – this means it will rise better, so keep on pulling and stretching and folding until its no longer possible.

Shape and put into a well floured banneton( the best non stick flour there is,is fine rice flour,I  suggest you use this so your bread doesn’t stick in the banneton)or a well oiled tin with the seam the seam at the bottom if in a tin and at the top if in a banneton ( as you reverse the loaf out to bake it.)

Put in fridge to next morning Cover the bread with a damp tea towel and leave overnight in the fridge or alternatively I leave mine in the garage in winter because its almost as cold as the fridge. I have left mine as long as five days in the fridge and it still bakes well, albeit with a harder crust.

OR  If you are running out of time you can bake the bread after letting it rise for an hour but it won’t be as good!

Baking:

Early morning: Take the bread out of the fridge or garage and bring to room temperature for about an hour.

Put a large pizza stone in the oven, or failing that a number of bricks in a square,with the flat sides uppermost. On the rack below the stone put a metal baking tray.

Heat the oven to 250C.

Sprinkle some fine semolina onto a steel baking peel. (You can buy these for making pizzas, if you don’t have one use a stiff piece of cardboard or a metal tray upside down without any edges.)

Spray the inside of the oven using a plastic spray bottle and boil the kettle.

If you bread is in a banneton upend the bread gently onto the baking peel. With a razor blade slash the top of the bread into three or four even cuts.

Slide the bread onto the pizza stone with the peel. Pour the boiling water into the metal tray underneath the stone. The steam will create a nice crunchy crust.

Cook the bread for 20 minutes at 250 C then turn down to 220 C to ensure the inside is cooked. Test if it is cooked at the end of 40 minutes by tapping the bottom. If it sounds hollow it is cooked

Wait an agonising hour for the bread to cool down, then cut, spread with butter and jam, and eat. If you cut it when it is hot it will go a bit rubbery and not quite so delicious.

 

 

 

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Celeriac Mash

I first had celeriac mash in France with lamb shanks, and it goes very well with such a dish. I also serve it with Boeuf Bourgignon, ( see my step by step recipe)..

Celeriac is a root vegetable, very ugly, that tastes like celery.

For my celeriac mash I used half a celeriac and 4 medium sized potatoes.

Method:

Peel half a large celeriac, and peel the potatoes. Cut both up into chunks

Pop the celeriac into a saucepan of acidulated water ( I squeeze in half a lemon) as it goes brown very quickly.

Pop the potatoes into a separate pan. Bring to boil and cook for twenty minutes until cooked.

Bring the saucepan with the celeriac in to the boil, and boil for about 15 minutes until tender.

Drain the potatoes. Put the dry saucepan back onto the heat and dry out the potatoes by shaking the pan until the potatoes are fluffy.

Using a potato ricer mash the spuds. The ricer is the best tool, as it only squeezes each potato molecule once, so the potatoes never go slimy as can happen if you mash them in a whizzer, and it’s easier to to than with a fork than or a potato masher.

Mash the celeriac with the ricer ( the strong armed person in you household will have to do this as they are hard to mash.

Mix the two mashes together and and butter and hot milk to taste. Whip up. Add salt and pepper.

Serve.