Monday, January 31, 2011

Zoup time

One here...
The cool weather after the cyclone we didn’t get has been great in that it has coincided with the summer harvest. It was easy to spend time in the kitchen on a gloomy overcast day. Along with the Satsuma’s, the zucchinis and cucumbers are going nuts. I can never understand why the nursery sells seedlings of these plants in punnets of six or eight. To consume that many you would need an extended tribal family or a dozen children. Hating to waste anything and the neighbours having already planted their own, I planted  most of the zucchinis in the most unlikely places where they had little hope of survival and of course they are all thriving! 

I had a zucchini that had ‘got away’ and now weighed about a kilo. Usually, I would stuff one this large or sneakily chop it up for chicken food. Thanks to the unseasonal rain, its skin was still tender and its seeds barely formed so I thought it worth playing around with.

1 onion, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp oil
2 t curry powder
1 large zucchini, roughly chopped

1 Tbsp Maissel stock powder
2 Tbsp coconut milk powder

Gently fry the onion and the curry powder for one minute.
Add the zucchini and cook a minute more.

Cover with water, adding stock powder and coconut milk.
Simmer for ten minutes.
Blend and check for seasoning, add salt and pepper if you like.
Serve with a dollop of yoghurt and some chopped mint or coriander leaf.

and here!

Very quick, very easy and with so little cooking, very fresh tasting. It is also gluten free. I actually made mine in my Thermomix™ (alias ‘Thermo man,’ my favourite kitchen helper ever) which meant I didn’t even have to chop the vegies.

I expect that by tomorrow it will be back to temperatures in the thirties. I have just ‘done a Nigella’ and eaten a few mouthfuls of the left overs in the fridge and the soup tastes just as good cold. If you are weight watching, omit the coconut powder and stir in some yoghurt towards the end of the cooking time.

Maybe I should try that recipe for zucchini cake next...

Happy eating!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wot wheat, where?

Last weekend we catered for a yoga retreat, a lovely group of people enjoying themselves in the bush. We had been asked to cater for vegetarians, meat lovers, a couple of dairy free and a coeliac sufferer. I always think it is important to offer everyone the same food in these circumstances. The challenge is to make it all seem ‘ordinary’ so as not to frighten the more conservative eaters and to introduce them to healthier ways of eating without compromising on flavour or variety. The menu for the weekend was based on rice based cultures: Moroccan, Indonesian and Indian, served buffet style.
I was lucky enough to meet Nicky Smith there. A kindred spirit, she runs a gluten free blog, sharing recipes and easy ideas for gluten free meals that the whole family will enjoy.
I was shocked after one afternoon tea to see a baking tray of my gluten free lemon cake had been all but finished. Nicky has asked me to share the recipe with you - she took a doggy bag of it home!
This is a domestic sized amount and will make a 30cm spring form or a 20cm square baking dish.
I usually cook my lemons in the pressure cooker in a small amount of water, doubling the amount and freezing the rest for later. If you use a saucepan, you will need to cover them with water before simmering.

2 lemons, well washed and simmered whole, in water until soft then cooled
2 cups of ground whole almonds (why use blanched – these are cheaper!)
1 cup of sugar ( you can use honey or apple concentrate but sugar and lemon together are a match made in heaven)
2 tsp of baking powder
6 eggs, beaten

Heat the oven to 180C.
Grease and line your tin with baking paper.
Drain the lemons, reserving the liquid and process until smooth in a blender.
Mix the almonds, sugar and the baking powder in a bowl.
Stir in the lemon pulp. You should have a fairly thick cake batter. If it is stiff and difficult to stir, use a little of the lemon cooking water to thin it down.
Pour into the pan and bake about 40 minutes until the centre is slightly springy when touched and is lightly browned.
Turn off the oven and leave in there to cool.
Serve with fresh fruit cooli, lemon syrup, or cheats fruit sauce, yoghurt, cream, ice cream or all!

Lemon Syrup
The reserved lemon water can be used to make a syrup for serving with by adding half its weight in sugar, stirring over a low heat until it boils and simmering until the desired thickness is reached. Pour over cake while still warm in its tin or serve as a pouring sauce separately.

Cheats Healthy Fruit Sauce
A simple and rather luxurious sauce can be made by heating a jar of sugar free fruit conserve in a saucepan until it is runny.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The dogs a glutton

The last few apricots are sitting on the shelf in the kitchen. Just when you think you can’t bear the sight of any more, they are finished. I have had to put these up a shelf. Lady, our dacshund, has taken to helping herself and has been leaving kernels and under ripe or bruised fruit all over the house. Of course she will only eat (and chase) the perfectly ripe ones. Now we are down to the final couple of kilos, they suddenly become precious – soft furry concentrated sunshine, picked warm from the tree, with juices dripping - so sensual .
We have had a bumper crop of stone fruit thanks to a cold snap and the lack of hail during spring. I have tried to be sensible about managing the apricot tree this year. It was radically pruned last year but a diet of soy whey, its position is next to the compost heap and above the septic tank has  will ensured this tree will tower over the shed roof again!
The accessible parts of the apricot were thinned after fruit set and one large lower branch netted so the fruit could sun ripen for eating. The ring necked parrots helped thin the upper branches, preventing any limb damage.
I picked most of the crop just as they began to change colour then laid them in single layers on trays and in baskets to ripen further. (That’s why Lady could reach them – the kitchen looked like a fruit shop for a couple of weeks.) Each day I checked them for marks and processed a few kilos.
I have frozen most of them, lightly stewing them first. I am not fond of dried apricots and have become realistic (finally!) about how much apricot jam the family can eat. I did make one batch and can always make more from the frozen fruit later if I choose.
Lady was quite annoyed all day yesterday without her fruit snacks. Today she was smug. On the rug we found a partially chewed under ripe Satsuma plum. Another plum lay in a purple pool under the table. They are obviously not ripe yet!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

And the sky cried

If I could make a wish for this year, it would be to travel through it with some measure of grace, calm and good humour.

Seeing out 2010

It has been a year and a day since my best friend Nerys died. There have been three hundred and sixty six turnings around the sun. Time enough in my life for a new grandchild, a family wedding, a new job, fifty one blog posts, the website launch and in the way of things, another death of a friend. I have missed her love, guidance and support, the stern lectures and the shared laughter. Thanks to both families and my friends I have found a path through the sadness and a measure of confidence to move forward
The pace of 2010 was frantic in all ways. In these first few weeks of the new year we have seen extreme weather conditions around the world causing death and destruction. The news arrives almost instantaneously through the electronic media, reminding us that we are not in control – that life has its own plan for us. In the face of every challenge, be it emotional, financial or physical, we tend to live our lives in the moment and begin to reassess priorities for the immediate future.
This weekend thousands of people have put aside their weekend to help others. Fifty five million dollars has been donated to a flood relief fund, and everywhere there are stories that show people at their generous best. Nerys would have liked that. 

Nerys and Marc with Brodie and Pip