Monday, January 30, 2012

Winter Is Coming

I'm dreaming of winter. I love winter. I get to rug up and walk about in the wind and (last winter) rain then come home to snuggle up in front of the (gas) fire with my ugg boots, a daggy tracksuit, and a blanket to read a book without feeling guilty. No Guilt because the weather is terrible outside. 

Of course it should be mandatory that while relaxing with a good book in front of the fire, listening to the rain outside there should be a pot of really good tea and scones. Fresh, fragrant, delicious smelling, warm scones with home-made chunky jam and lashings of whipped cream.

This weekend the temperature plummeted to 30° Celsius. Jam Time. The local Farmer’s Market had beautiful stone fruit and citrus amongst its other offerings. 

So in anticipation of winter I made a batch of one of my favourite, incredibly easy, never fails jams - Peach, Nectarine and Citrus Jam.

Peach, Nectarine and Citrus jam

About 1 litre

Preparation time 20 minutes
Refrigerate overnight before cooking.
Cooking time 60 minutes
Extreme care should be taken with the boiling jam. It may spit when stirred.

Equipment Required.

5 x 200 millilitre jars with tight fitting lids
1 sharp knife
1 cutting board
1 food processor
1 large stainless steel, glass or plastic bowl
1 large wide heavy bottomed pot.
Jar filling funnel

750 grams each of 'ready to eat' peaches and nectarines 
1 kilogram white sugar
2 oranges and 1 lemon
6 cloves or ¼ teaspoon of ground cloves


Scorethe skin of the peaches and then blanch them until the skins split (30-40 seconds).  Refresh (cool) in cold water until you can handle them. the skins should pull off in your hands. Other wise peel them as finely as you can. 
Slice up the citrus and remove the seeds. Chop the flesh and rind in a food processor until only small 2 - 3 mm size bits of rind are left.
Combine cloves, sugar, pureed oranges, lemon and all the juices from the food processor in the bowl. Break peaches and nectarines into smallish chunks over the bowl so you catch the juices. Stir, cover, refrigerate overnight. Stir regularly to dissolve the sugar. 

Transfer the fruit/sugar mixture to the saucepan. Bring to the boil over medium heat. Stir about every 30 seconds until it boils and then stir frequently until mixtures forms a gel on the back of a wooden spoon and fruit breaks down (50 - 60 minutes). Regular stirring will prevent it sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning. 

To test setting point, remove the jam from heat and spoon some onto a cold saucer. Return to freezer for 30 seconds and then draw a line through it with your finger. If it doesn’t run back together, it’s ready. If not, cook another few minutes and then test again. If you can find them remove the cloves.
Ladle hot jam into warm sterilised jars and wipe them clean with a hot, damp cloth. Seal the bottles as soon as you can, and cool completely. The lids should vacuum seal as they cool. Store any that don’t in the refrigerator and eat those first.

To sterilise the jars, wash them well in hot soapy water. Rinse in hot clean water and turn them upside down and allow the jars to drain. Don’t wipe them dry. Turn them back up the right way and put on an oven tray. Place into a 100° Celsius oven for at least 10 – 15 minutes. Dry the lids with a lint free cloth.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Daring Kitchen Scones

This month  Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Audax worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!

I do consider myself an above average scone cook so I am happy to say my recipe is the same as Audax's. I never use lard as he did as The Husband is a vegetarian.

I am also a champion scone eater which is one of the reasons I got up to over 100 kilos.
Happily after 2 years of real effort I am down to just under 80 kilos and to stay that way I have had to limit my scone intake.

The husband is one of those horrible males who still weighs the same as he did the day we got married. Damn his metabolism. No 2 son has inherited those genetics, so these days I make scones for them and just have a mouthful. It's hard to just have a mouthful of a warm scone.

For the challenge I made the plain scones supersized and The husband and No 2 son had them as hamburger buns.

I also made a cheese and chive scone round and they ate that "As Is" claiming it needed nothing with it. As they ate the whole thing who am I to argue.

The crumb was fine and bread like, which is how I like my scones. If you would like to read the whole detailed, I can safely say, scientific research that Audax went through he has blogged about it on his blog Audax Artifex

These recipes are as Audax wrote them and are his work not mine. Thank you Audax for all the hard work.

Basic Scones (a.k.a. Basic Biscuits)
Servings: about eight 2-inch (5 cm) scones or five 3-inch (7½ cm) scones
Can be doubled

Preparation time: Preparation time less than 10 minutes. Baking time about 10 minutes.
Equipment required:
 Large mixing bowl
 Baking dish
 Measuring cups and spoons (optional)
 Flour Sifter (optional)
 Board (optional)
 Scone (biscuit) cutter (optional) or knife (optional)
 Dough scraper (optional)
 Spatula (optional)
 Weighing scale (optional)
 Cooling rack (optional)
 Pastry brush (optional)

1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) (1/3 oz) fresh baking powder
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) salt
2 tablespoons (30 gm/1 oz) frozen grated butter (or a combination of lard and butter)
Approximately ½ cup (120 ml) cold milk
Optional 1 tablespoon milk, for glazing the tops of the scones

1. Preheat oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9.
2. Triple sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. (If your room temperature is very hot refrigerate the sifted ingredients until cold.)
3. Rub the frozen grated butter (or combination of fats) into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces if you want flaky scones or until it resembles coarse beach sand if you want tender scones.
4. Add nearly all of the liquid at once into the rubbed-in flour/fat mixture and mix until it just forms a sticky dough (add the remaining liquid if needed). The wetter the dough the lighter the scones (biscuits) will be!
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top of the dough. To achieve an even homogeneous crumb to your scones knead very gently about 4 or 5 times (do not press too firmly) the dough until it is smooth. To achieve a layered effect in your scones knead very gently once (do not press too firmly) then fold and turn the kneaded dough about 3 or 4 times until the dough has formed a smooth texture. (Use a floured plastic scraper to help you knead and/or fold and turn the dough if you wish.)
6. Pat or roll out the dough into a 6 inch by 4 inch rectangle by about ¾ inch thick (15¼ cm by 10 cm by 2 cm thick). Using a well-floured 2-inch (5 cm) scone cutter (biscuit cutter), stamp out without twisting six 2-inch (5 cm) rounds, gently reform the scraps into another ¾ inch (2 cm) layer and cut two more scones (these two scones will not raise as well as the others since the extra handling will slightly toughen the dough). Or use a well-floured sharp knife to form squares or wedges as you desire.
7. Place the rounds just touching on a baking dish if you wish to have soft-sided scones or place the rounds spaced widely apart on the baking dish if you wish to have crisp-sided scones. Glaze the tops with milk if you want a golden colour on your scones or lightly flour if you want a more traditional look to your scones.
8. Bake in the preheated very hot oven for about 10 minutes (check at 8 minutes since home ovens at these high temperatures are very unreliable) until the scones are well risen and are lightly coloured on the tops. The scones are ready when the sides are set.
9. Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process, serve while still warm.

Variations on the Basic recipe
Buttermilk – follow the Basic recipe above but replace the milk with buttermilk, add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, increase the fat to 4 tablespoons, in Step 3 aim of pea-sized pieces of fat coated in flour, in Step 5 fold and turn the dough, rounds are just touching in the baking dish, glaze with buttermilk.

Australian Scone Ring (Damper Ring) – follow the Basic recipe above but decrease the fat to 1 tablespoon, in Step 3 aim of fine beach sand sized pieces of fat coated in flour, in Step 5 knead the dough, in Step 7 form seven rounds into a ring shape with the eighth round as the centre, glaze with milk.

Cheese and Chive – follow the Basic recipe above but add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda, after Step 2 add ½ teaspoon sifted mustard powder, ¼ teaspoon sifted cayenne pepper (optional), ½ cup (60 gm/2 oz) grated cheese and 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives into the sifted ingredients, in Step 3 aim of beach sand sized pieces of fat coated in flour, in Step 5 knead the dough, rounds are widely spaced in the baking dish, sprinkle the rounds with cracked pepper.

Fresh Herb – follow the Basic recipe above but after Step 3 add 3 tablespoons finely chopped herbs (such as parsley, dill, chives etc).

Sweet Fruit – follow the Basic recipe above but after Step 3 add ¼ cup (45 gm) dried fruit (e.g. sultanas, raisins, currents, cranberries, cherries etc) and 1 tablespoon (15 gm) sugar.

Wholemeal – follow the Basic recipe above but replace half of the plain flour with wholemeal flour.

Wholemeal and date – follow the Basic recipe above but replace half of the plain flour with wholemeal flour and after Step 3 add ¼ cup (45 gm) chopped dates and 1 tablespoon (15 gm) sugar.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Summer meals

It is hot, hot, hot, here today. I've been making jam so the house is overheated . I had no choice. The peaches and nectarines, at the Farmers Market, were to good to pass up. I'll tell you more on those when the jam is finished.

So for dinner tonight I wanted something quick involving minimum mess and fuss.

I am trying to cook my food using minimal oil and fat so while I was at the Farmers Market I decided that a warm eggplant salad, cous cous and chicken tenderloins would be just the shot.

This is it without the chicken (for the vegetarian of the house).

Warm Eggplant Salad with Cous Cous, Tomato Kasundi and Baba Ganoush.
 Serves 2


1 sharp knife
1 cutting board
1 frypan with lid
1 sandwich press (electric grill)
1 metal bowl
plastic wrap
bake paper


Eggplant salad
1 small eggplant
2 small onions or 1 large
1 zuchinni
2 large ripe tomatoes - diced
1 teaspoon ground coriander 
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup chopped parsley

Cous Cous

 1/3 cup dry cous cous
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon preserved lemon skin - finely chopped
boiling water

1 jar Tomato Kasundi
1 tub Baba Ganoush

300 grams of chicken tenderloins.
1 teaspoon Lemon pepper


Preheat the sandwich or electric grill.

Cut the eggplant into 1 cm slices and cook between 2 sheets of bake paper in the grill.

While it is cooking put the cous cous in a metal bowl with the parsley and lemon and just cover with boiling water.
Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

Cover the bottom of the fry pan with water or vegetable stock.
Slice the onion and zuchinni into thin slices and heat covered in the frypan.
When the eggplant is cooked add it to the frypan with the cumin and coriander. Cover with the lid and allow it to steam over a low heat until the liquid is nearly gone.
Add the diced tomato and parsley and cover again. Turn off the heat. Leave it to sit while finishing up.

You could also do all this is in a plastic bowl in a microwave if you wanted too.

After the eggplant is cooked add the chicken tender loins to the grill press.
Sprinkle with the lemon pepper.
Cover with a piece of bake paper and cook until golden, about 5 minutes.

Pile the cous cous and vegetables on a plate add a big spoon of baba ganoush and tomato kasundi.
Top with chicken if you want it.

Cooking the vegetables in water or stock rather than oil gives this dish a fresh and different flavour. Tradition tells us to fry in oil but try this method and see and taste the difference.