Monday, 30 June 2014

The Weekend Kitchen

This weekend we took a friend of ours and his kids (aged 4 and 6) camping.  It was the first time camping for the kids so we kept it to just the one night in case things went pear shaped.

We had a great time sitting around the campfire cooking marshmallows on sticks, playing with our dog Jessie and spending time outdoors.  For us camping and living outdoors is nothing new but for a couple of city slicker, gadget addicted kids it was a bit of a learning curve.
No matter how long you go camping for whether 1 night or 10 nights you still need almost the same amount of stuff with the exception of food.  So after coming home we still had to unpack everything and put it all away.  So by the time we had checked on all the animals and had some lunch it was mid afternoon.

I used the afternoon to turn my compost pile, make a batch of washing liquid, do a couple of loads of washing, prepare our menu for the week ahead, organise an easy dinner and bake a double batch of Chocolate Curnchies.  The Chocolate Crunchies are a favourite in our house.  I make them with half the amount of sugar of the original recipe and I still think they are plenty sweet enough.

Since I had the oven on I also whipped a rice pudding. Here is the recipe I have used for years.

Rice Pudding

10 Tbs Rice
4 Cups of milk
4 Tbs Sugar
1 Tbs Butter

Preheat your oven to 150 degrees Celsius.  Place all you ingredients in a large oven proof dish.  Bake for 2 hours stirring every 20 minutes for the first hour.

What did you get up to this weekend?
Did you spend time in the kitchen?

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Thanks Freezer 2 - We Appreciate The Meat You Give To Us

Today we say farewell to our beef cow "Freezer 2".

Freezer 2
It is a sad day on the farm because even though she has been raised for the purpose of filling our freezer (and our bellies) we have enjoyed her antics and personality for the past few years and we will notice her absence.
We really are very thankful that her life is given to provide for ours.  Today I will feed her her last handful of hay and watch her enjoy it.  I will look her in the eye for the last time and give her a rub behind the ear then I will say goodbye and leave her in peace.
The first cow we raised "Freezer 1" went into the freezer in December 2012 and you can read about that here.
The local guy we use to do our home kill is very good and last time our cow was sitting down chewing her cud when the lights went out.  Hopefully it will be just as calm for Freezer 2.

Freezer 2 is a Murray Grey and we hope that she will produce tasty beef that is well marbled and has a good layer of fat.  You can see from the photo below(taken April 2013) how much weight she has put on in the last 12 months so it will be interesting to see what her dressed weight will be.  Freezer 1 was just over 250 kg but it is really hard to tell what they will weigh while they are still walking around.

Once killed her carcass will be cut into the 4 quarters and hung for a week in a cool room.  Then next week we will have the job of bagging up all the different cuts.

April 2013

May 2014
We will not be replacing Freezer 2 as it will take us a long time to eat that much been even if we give some to the family.  And with our planned move to New Zealand in the future we do not need the added complication of livestock to get rid of.  Freezer 2 currently has a little friend that belongs to one of our neighbours and we have been told we can keep him to keep the grass down or we can borrow a mare that is in foal.  
We have not decided what we will do yet and we might just give the paddocks a rest and borrow an animal again later, but there is no rush to make that decision.

Do you kill your own animals?
How do you say goodbye and thank you?

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Make Your Own Harissa

Harissa is a popular middle eastern condiment and in Morocco they use both a spicy variety, which is this one, and a milder variety using red capsicums.  And when I say this is spicy what I mean is it is HOT!!


65 g Dried Chillies Stems Removed
1 Tbs Dried Mint
1 Tbs Ground Coriander
1 Tbs Ground Cumin
1 Tsp Ground Caraway Seeds
6 Cloves Garlic
100 ml Olive Oil
1/2 Tsp Salt

Prepare and sterilise a 600 ml jar.
Roughly chop the chillies then cover with boiling water and soak for 1 hour.
Drain and put them in a food processor with the mint, spices, garlic, 1 tablespoon of oil and salt.
Process for 30 seconds, stop scrape down the sides then process for another 30 seconds and scrape down again.
Then with the motor running gradually add the remaining oil scraping down the sides as required.

Spoon the paste into your jar and cover with a thin layer of olive oil.  Label (you do not want to get this mixed up with anything) and date then store in the fridge for up to 6 months.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

A Moroccan Feast

Recently we had some friends visit us for lunch and I decided I would cook up a Moroccan inspired lunch for us.
We had Spiced Chickpeas, Carrot Salad and Beef and Quince Tagine.

Carrot Salad

1 Tsp Cummin Seeds
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tsp Honey
Pinc of Ground Cinnamon
Pinch of Cayenne pepper
4 large Carrots, cut into batons
2 Tbsp Chopped Corriander
2 Tbsp Chopped Pistachios

In a dry frying pan cook the cummin seeds over a low heat for 2 minutes or until fragrant.  Do not over cook or they will become bitter.  Transfer to a plate to cool.
Place the lemon juice, oil, honey and spices in a screw top jar and shake well to combine.  Leave for 10 minutes for the flavours to infuse.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add the carrots.  Cook for 5 minutes then tip into a basin of cold water to stop the cooking.  Drain and cool then toss in the dressing and sprinkle with herbs and nuts.

Spiced Chickpeas

1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Onion
2 Cloves of Garlic
1/4 Tsp Cinnamon
1/4 Tsp Cayenne Pepper
1/2 Tsp Turmeric
2 x 400 gm tins of Chick Peas or 1 Cups of Dried Chickpeas that have been soaked and cooked
1 Cup of Vegetable or Chicken Stock
1/2 Cup Sultanas
2 Tbsp Chopped Flat Leaf Parsley

In a large fry pan heat the oil over a medium heat and add the onion cooking until soft and slightly golden. Stir in the garlic and spice stirring for 30 seconds then add the chick peas stock and sultanas.  Bring to a simmer and stir occasionally while cooking for 10 minutes.
Season to taste and sprinkle with parsley.

Beef and Quince Tagine

I cook this in a tagine but if you do not have one it will work fine in a heavy base pan you can use on the stove top and in the oven.

1 kg Chuck Steak or Shin Beef
2 Brown Onions
4 Cloves of Garlic
4 Tbl Olive Oil
2 Tsp Ras El Hanout (see Notes)
1/2 tsp Harissa ( Use Cayenne Pepper if you do not have Harissa)
1/4 Tsp Ground Black Pepper
1/2 Tsp Salt
3 Diced Ripe Tomatoes
1.5 Preserved Lemons, Skin Only Finely Diced (skin only)
2 Tsp Honey
2 Tbl Chopped Coriander
2 Tbl Chopped Flat Leaf Parsley

Prep all of your ingredients before you start an heat your oven to 140 degrees.
Dice the beef into 2.5 cm pieces and brown in batches on the stovetop using 2 tablespoons of the olive oil setting aside after each batch.
Once the beef is browned add the remaining oil to the pan and cook the onion over a medium heat for 5 minutes then add the garlic, ras el hanout, harissa or cayenne, pepper and salt and cook for a further minute stirring the entire time.
Add the meat back to the pot and then add the tomatoes, honey, 3/4 of the preserved lemon and half the coriander and half the parsley. Stir well then cover and cook for 3.5 hours.
The tomatoes and juice from the meat should keep the dish moist but check it after 1.5 hours and add a little water if required.

When the meat is tender transfer to a serving platter and scatter over the remaining herbs and preserved lemon.

Ras El Hanout

This a blend of many spices that can differ between makers but this is the version I make.

1/2 Tsp Ground Cloves
1/2 Tsp Cayenne Pepper
2 Tsp Ground Allspice
2 Tsp Ground Cumin
2 Tsp Ground Ginger
2 Tsp Ground Turmeric
2 Tsp Ground Black Pepper
2 Tsp Ground Cardomom
3 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
3 Tsp Ground Coriander
6 Tsp Ground Nutmeg

Store in an airtight jar.

Monday, 23 June 2014

The Weekend Kitchen

The weather was lovely over the weekend and this meant time was spent outside rather than in.
Saturday morning was spent doing a fundraising BBQ outside our local IGA and the afternoon was spend doing outside jobs.

On Sunday I did spend a little time in the kitchen putting down another batch of citrus peel in vinegar for cleaning which I will top up as I have more peel.  I also cleaned the kitchen windows both inside and out.

Now my windows are lovely and clean but it makes me think that more than just the kitchen ones need doing.

What did you get up to in the kitchen over the weekend?

Friday, 20 June 2014

Preserved Lemons

Preserved Lemons are used from North Africa to India.  You can use the pulp but most recipes call for the skin.

You need to have a clean sterilised 2 litre jar ready to pack you lemons into so get his ready before doing anything else.  Thin skinned lemons work best for preserving but work with what you have got.  I have even used this recipe for Tahitian limes which are quite lemony when finished.  Both the rind and flesh sweeten during the pickling process.

Preserved Lemons

8 - 12 Small Lemons
310 g Rock Salt
500 ml lemon Juice (From Additional Lemons)
1/2 Tsp Black Peppercorns
1 Bay leaf
Olive Oil

Scrub your lemons gently under warm running water with a soft bristle brush.  Cut into quarters or if you only have large lemons cut them into eighths.
Sprinkle a couple of spoons of salt into the bottom of the jar then add a layer of lemon segments followed by more salt and then more lemons.  Continue this pattern packing lots of salt around the lemon segments and packing the lemons as tightly as you can.
When the jar is full add the peppercorns, bay leaf and remaining salt.  Then fill all the way to the top with the lemon juice.
Seal the jar and leave for 6 weeks in a cool dark place.  Each week you need to turn the jar upside down and give it a good shake before returning it to your cupboard.  The lemons need to stay below the juice so you may need to top it up with extra lemon juice but at this stage you do not need to fill to the top of the jar.
The liquid will be cloudy initially but will clear by the fourth week.
To test if the lemons are preserved check the colour of the pith.  If it is still white they need more time so reseal your jar and leave another week or two.  The lemons will be soft skinned and the pith the colour of the skin when they are ready.

Once the lemons are preserved cover the brine with a layer of olive oil.  Top up the olive oil each time you remove some lemon to use.
Refrigerate after opening.

Using Preserved Lemon

When using preserved lemon skin you need to remove all of the flesh of the lemon and then give the remaining skins a rinse under the tap.

You then need to remove all of the pith to leave just the preserved skin behind.  This is easiest to do by flattening the lemon out on your chopping board and using a knife on its side cutting flat across the board as well.
When you are left with just the skin you can dice it finely and add it to your dish.

There are some dishes that use the pulp so check your recipe.  Generally if it just says preserved lemon they mean the skin and not the pulp as well.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Lamb Kofta

We really enjoy Middle Eastern food and so we eat it quite a bit.  It is one of those cuisines that turns basic ingredients into delicious meals by using lots of spices for flavour.

Kofta or Kafta is a form of meat ball generally consisting of ground meat, spices and onions common from the Middle East, to Greece and as far as India.
Every country has a slightly different take on what is included in the mix and this is one of my versions.  It uses spices common to Lebanese cookingincluding Sumac but feel free to adapt to your own tastes.  Sumac is a ground up berry and is usually found in the spice section. The other version I make uses grated onion, allspice, chilli, paprika and cumin so it really is us to you what you include.

Lamb Kofta

1 Kg Lamb Mince
1 Tsp Ground Coriander
1 Tsp Ground Cumin
2 Tsp Sumac
1 Clove of Crushed Garlic
1 or 2 Quarters of Preserved Lemon (See Notes Below Recipe)
1/4 Tsp Salt
1/4 Tsp Pepper

Mix all of your ingredients together and set aside for at least 1 hour in the fridge to allow the flavours to infuse.
Shape the mixture into sausage shaped meat balls about the length of your thumb.  You have the option of skewering onto soaked bamboo skewers or just cooking as they are.  Cook in a hot griddle pan or fry pan.

Serve in flat breads with any or all of the following: Hummus, Tabbouleh, Olives, Caramelised Onions, Feta, Lettuce and Tomato.

Using Preserved Lemon

When using preserved lemon you need to remove all of the flesh of the lemon and then give the remaining skins a rinse under the tap.

You then need to remove all of the pith to leave just the preserved skin behind.  This is easiest to do by flattening the lemon out on your chopping board and using a knife on its side cutting flat across the board as well.
When you are left with just the skin you can dice it finely and add it to your dish.

I use preserved lemon in rice, couscous, salads and meat dishes and I am sure there are other uses too.
Lemons are currently in season so it is the perfect time to make some preserved Lemons and I will share my recipe with you tomorrow.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

The Weekend Kitchen

We have just enjoyed a long weekend here in Queensland and it was a weekend filled with visitors so there was quite a bit of action in the kitchen.

Sunday saw Hubby's family gather at our place for a BBQ lunch.  I made some deviled eggs (which is something I make often for gatherings since we have lots of eggs, even though it is quite retro it seems to be something everyone likes), a vegetarian nicoise salad and a sponge cake.

My father in law thought I had added something to the sponge cake to make it so yellow and I had to convince him that it was just the yolks of the eggs.
Monday was a quite day at home but I made a pot of vegetable and barley soup that turned out to be very thick as I over did it on the barley.  We had some for dinner but I froze the rest to have on hand for easy weekend meals over the coming weeks when I know we ave things planned during the day.

Devilled Eggs

Deviled Eggs - 3-23-08.jpg

Do not use fresh eggs for this recipe.  Your eggs need to be at least 2 weeks old or you will not be able to peel them without the white breaking up.  This recipe can be be scaled up for parties and if you are not a fan of curry flavour you can use mustard powder instead.

6 Eggs
1/4 Whole Egg Mayonnaise
1 Tsp Curry Powder
1/4 tst Salt
1/4 Tsp White Pepper

Bring your eggs to the boil and boil for 8 minutes.  Drain the eggs and cool by filling your pot with cold water and changing it every few minutes until the eggs are cool.  Peel your eggs the cut each one in half length ways.  Gently pop the yolks out into a small bowl and set the whites aside to be filled.
Add the mayonnaise, curry powder, salt and pepper to the yolks and mash them together until they are smooth.
Use a teaspoon to refill the egg white halves.  You can then sprinkle the top of each one with a dusting of paprika or some chopped chives.  Cover and chill for a few hours before serving.

Sponge Cake

This is a really easy sponge cake recipe and you can double it and split the mix between 2 tins if you want a really tall sponge cake.

3 Eggs
Pinch of Salt
3/4 Cup Castor Sugar
1 Cup Plain Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder
50 gm Melted Butter

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees.  Grease line a 20 cm round spring form tin.  When lining the sides allow your baking paper to come up above the edge of the tin by 2-3 cm.
Using an electric mixer beat your eggs and salt on high speed for 2 minutes then slowly add your sugar and beat until thick.  Meanwhile sift your flour and baking powder together.  Stop your mixer and sift your flour a second time into the egg mix and fold through until just combined.  Fold in the melted butter and pour into your lined tin.
Bake for 30 minutes and when cooked remove from the oven and leave in the tin for 10 minutes before releasing and turning out onto a cooling rack.  Once cool slice and fill with jam and cream if desired.

What did you get up to in the kitchen over the weekend?

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Mixed Vegetable Curry

This is a really easy and very tasty curry that is satisfying enough to keep even the carnivore in the family happy.
I try and make sure we have at least 1 meat free day a week because even though we have a freezer full of meat this can also be the reason we eat meat at most meals.
We have heaps of beans and still a few eggplants going in the garden at the moment and the other day I found some frozen cauliflower that I froze at the end of last winter so they really needed using up.  Perfect for this dish along with a few spices and some other basic vegetables.

Mixed Vegetable Curry

1/4 Cup Natural Yogurt
2 Cloves Crushed Garlic
2 Tsp Grated Ginger
2 Tsp Salt
1/4 Tsp Cracked Black Pepper
1 Tsp Ground Coriander
1 Tsp Ground Chilli Powder
1/2 Tsp Garam Masala
4 Bruised Cardamom Pods
2 Tbs Oil
2 Diced Onions
2 Medium Potatoes cubed
1 Sliced Carrot
300 gm Cauliflower Florets
2 Small Eggplants cubed
1/2 Cup Water
1 Cup Coconut Cream
150 gm Green Breans
Mint and Coriander to garnish

Combine the yogurt, garlic, ginger, salt, pepper and spices in a small bowl and set aside at least minutes.
After about 5 minutes heat the oil and cook the onions stirring until the onions are lightly browned.
Add the carrots potatoes,eggplant and cauliflower and cook for 5 minutes stirring occassionally.
Add the yogurt mix, waster and coconut cream and simmer covered for approx 15 minutes or until the potatoes are just tender.
Add the beans and cook for 5 minutes.
Serve up and sprinkle with chopped mint and coriander.

If you do not like things spicy either halve the chilli or leave it out.  And feel free to use what ever vegetables you have on hand.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Slow Living May 2014

Linking up with Christine again this month and this month seems to have been quite busy.

Nourish -Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch over packaged, over processed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead.
All of our meals were cooked from scratch again this month and I have been thinking about how living in the country gives us a real advantage in this area.  We just do not have the temptations that exist when you live in or close to suburbia.  We are still really focused on using up the food we have on hand and making good use of what we have growing in the garden (even if this means 1000 ways with Pak Chow) rather than doing any shopping.
I made a huge Bacon and Egg Pie (with Pak Choy of course) that used about a dozen eggs and it kept us going for days.

Pear and Almond Cake with Ginger Syrup

Bacon And Egg Pie

Prepare - Stockpile and preserve. Freeze extra meals or excess garden/market produce. Bottle/can, dehydrate or pickle foods to enjoy when they are not in season.
Mostly we are making use of our stockpile rather than adding to it since we are currently in a situation where we have had to cut costs.  This is an incentive to not go shopping and to use up things that we have on hand, so the pantry is also getting a clear out.  This month I did add a few things, some preserved lemons and some cherry chutney which we to use up some lemons I was given and some cherries I had stored in the freezer.

Reduce - Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing.
In our ongoing efforts to reduce the clutter in our home this week I finally got around to sending off all our old phones and chargers for recycling.

I also found out that soft plastics can be recycled and located the nearest drop off point to us.  It is 50km away but we do tend to be in that area at least once a month so for now we are washing out all out plastic (where required) pegging it on the line to dry and then bagging it up ready to be dropped off.
This month I also turned an old blanket into a dog coat for Jessie which cost me a total of fifty cents.

Green Start (or continue!) using homemade cleaners, body products and basic herbal remedies. The options are endless, the savings huge and the health benefits enormous.
Just the usual happening on this front.  As it is citrus season I have a catch of citrus cleaner on the go but since there is just the two of us we do not go through that much of our cleaning products.

Grow plant/harvest. What's growing this month? What's being eaten from the garden?
The garden is producing lots of Pak Choy, cherry tomatoes and beans at the moment plus herbs and the odd eggplant, we also have plenty of citrus.  I am having another go at broccoli but I may have gotten them in too late and I am growing spinach for salads and rainbow chard for us and the chickens.

Pak Choy growing really well

Create - To fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others.
Creations have been on hold this month and reading has taken over.

Discover Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests.
I have been reading lots over the last month.  Liz lent me some great books and I am working my way through them.
This month I read You Can Farm by Joel Salatin and a few books about farming from the library.  The Joel Salatin book was inspirational and filled with great information but the books from the library were about very traditional farming methods based on high chemical usage which is not what we are about.

Enhance Community
This month I am working with a number of small business owners in our community to get feedback from shoppers about their spending habits and what prompts them to shop outside of our community instead of locally.
We are also undertaking a campaign of encouraging the community to shop locally and what the benefits of doing this are.  I have been writing weekly press releases for our local paper and so far they have been well received.

Enjoy - Life! Embrace moments with friends and family. Marking the seasons, celebrations and new arrivals are all cause for enjoyment.

During May we celebrated mothers day with my mother in law and my sister in law who became a mum for the first time in March.

My brother in law, sister in law and baby
All the Men of the family
Proud first time grandparents
It is such a joy to share these moments with Hubby's family knowing that they will not happen as often once we move to New Zealand.

What have you been up to?

Monday, 2 June 2014

The Weekend Kitchen

We were quite busy out in the garden over the weekend so there was not much action in the kitchen but I did manage to make a batch of  chocolate crunchies.

I also processed up all of the egg shells that had dried during the week.  I like to dry them well either in an oven that has just been used or on top of our wood stove.

Than I crush them up in my morter and pestle until I have quite a fine mix.

Once they are nice and fine they are ready to be fed back to the chickens.  I like to do this by adding a few table spoons to their wet mash  once a week.  It is really just a top up as they have access to shell grit at all times as well.

What did you get up to in your kitchen over the weekend?