Giant Broccoli

At the beginning of this year I planted broccoli, both the Purple Sprouting, and the pretty lime green Romanesco varieties. The plants grew… and they grew… and they grew… They were massive, but no flowers appeared, just more leaves and they got taller. I was getting ready to pull them out and send them over to Maggie’s chooks, when someone mentioned that dumping some ash from the fire around them may spur them into flowering mode.

With the cold weather we had no shortage of ash and as soon as the bucket was filled, it would be emptied around the bases of the various plants. Finally, there was action, flowers appeared, first in the Romanesco, and finally the Purple Sprouting variety was in full bloom! I just had to get Gary to take photos of me with my giant broccoli plants, I stand at 165 cm or 5 feet 6 inches, just so you have an idea of how tall and prolific they are!

The next issue was – what was I going to do with all of this broccoli! With the Romanesco being quite like cauliflower, the first thing I decided to do was make Great Gran’s Cauliflower Pickles, I had run out recently and the larder needed to be replenished.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Then I hit the books, I found a recipe for pickled cauliflower and another for an Asian vegetable pickle that could be added to a stir fry. I decided that the former would be made with the Romanesco and the latter with the Purple sprouting variety.

But still the Purple Sprouting variety produced more and more and more!!! With another cooking lesson to prepare for, where I would be teaching Maggie how to make her own gluten free pasta, I decided that I needed to do a practice run, and the sauce would have to have Purple Sprouting broccoli in it.

The pasta was a hit, both here at home, and at Maggies, in fact I showed her how to make her pasta and then make two different ravioli – so as she was finishing off her ravioli, I made our lunch, Homemade Gluten Free Pasta with Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Fresh Herbs, Tuscan Salami and Crunchy Garlic Bread Crumbs.

Pasta with Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Fresh Herbs, Tuscan Salami and Crunchy Garlic Breadcrumbs

A recipe born from a glut of broccoli!

Ingredients

  • 360 g dry or 440 g fresh pasta
  • 20 g butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 100 g Tuscan salami cut into thin julienne
  • 2 tbsp finely diced French shallot
  • 4 tbsp garlic greens or 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 6 anchovy fillets, chopped (optional)
  • 2 bunches of purple sprouting broccoli, chopped (see note below)
  • 1 cup of baby broccoli leaves (optional)
  • 4 tbsp verjuice
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to season
  • Sea salt, to season
  • 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp baby capers, rinsed

For the crumb

  • 6 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp butter

Directions

  1. To make the crumb:
  • Preheat the oven to 200˚ C / 400˚F (fan).
  • Combine the thyme leaves, breadcrumbs and crushed garlic together.
  • Line a baking tray with baking paper and spread the crumb mix evenly on the lined tray. Dot the crumbs with the butter and bake 5 – 10 minutes until the crumbs are nice and crispy. Set aside
  1. Cook your pasta according to the packet instructions.
  2. Meanwhile place a large frying pan over medium heat and add the olive oil, butter, salami and shallot and sauté until the shallot softens.
  3. Add the garlic greens, anchovies and chopped broccoli and cook stirring for 4 – 5 minutes.
  4. Add the verjuice and cook for a further 2 minutes.
  5. Drain the pasta and add to the broccoli mixture together with the parsley and toss through.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and divide between four serving plates.
  7. Sprinkle with parmesan and top with the crunchy garlic breadcrumbs, and finally scatter over the capers.
  8. Serve immediately.

Notes:

  • Chop the purple sprouting broccoli into small pieces of approx 1 – 1.5 cm (1/2 inch) for the florets and 1/2 cm (1/4 inch) for the stem. You will need 2 cups altogether.
  • Place a dish with a little extra grated parmesan and another with any left over crumbs on the table for people to help themselves.
  • If you do not have Purple Sprouting Broccoli, you could use or broccolini.

Until next time…

Happy gardening & bon appétit!

slide1-2

Links:

Curing Your Own Olives…

This year I was gifted an abundance of olives, so with a recipe given to me by my mother, I set to work. The first batch of olives came from our family home in a little town called Navarre. Picked by Gary, my two sisters and myself. To prepare the olives, they were sorted and washed, then each olive had to be cut with a knife (a tedious, but necessary part of the process to allow the brine to penetrate the olive, removing the bitterness and acting as a preservative). Next I prepared the brine and chilled it down, then with the blackest olives in one (food grade) bucket, and the greener ones in another, I poured in the brine, ensuring they were well covered, popped a plate on top to hold them down, and finally put them on our front porch where it is nice and cool.

A few days later a friend from Melbourne gifted me two more boxes of olives, so the same process again, and more containers of olives popped up on the front porch.

Each day I made up a fresh batch of brine, drained the olives and added the fresh brine, until the olives had lost almost all of their bitterness. This was an interesting process, as the olives from Navarre took much longer than the olives from Melbourne! I am not sure if it was the climate, the variety of olive or what…

Finally when I was happy with taste, I set to making the final brine, preparing the jars that the olives were to be stored in, and bottled them – each bottle carefully labled with where the fruit came from. With that done, I took a handful of each of the olives, steaped them in fresh water overnight to remove some of the saltiness from them and made up two of our favourite marinade. We now have a good supply of olives to last us through until at least next season, that is if they last that long.

Home Cured Olives

  • Servings: Makes as much as you want!
  • Print

This recipe was given to my mother by a local producer from Moonambel in Victoria, many years ago. I have tried other recipes, but keep coming back to this one.

Ingredients

  • Freshly picked olives
  • Salt (see notes)
  • Water

Directions

  1. Place the olives into a bucket and cover with cold water to wash them. Strain the olives from the water, retaining both the olives and the water. Measure the amount of water and note the quantity, this will allow you to calculate how much brine you need make. You can now discard the water.
  2. To make your brine add the same amount of fresh clean water that you noted in step 1, to a large pan together with 100 g/3.5 oz of salt for each litre/2 pints of water. Bring the brine to boiling point, stirring to ensure that the salt has dissolved. Remove from heat and cool until it is cold. Pour into food grade bucket large enough to hold the olives and the brine.
  3. Make three slits in the skin of each olive with a small, serrated knife while turning the fruit between the thumb and index finger. (Discard any blemish or bruised fruit) The cutting allows the brine to penetrate the fruit thus drawing out the bitterness, and at the same time preserves it.
  4. Put the cut olives immediately into the brine.
  5. When all the olives are in the brine place a clean plate on top of the olives to keep the them submerged. All olives must be under the liquid.
  6. Each day, pour the liquid away and replace with fresh brine. Repeat this washing process for about 12 days for green olives and about 10 days for black (ripe) olives until the bitterness has nearly gone. The best test is to bite an olive. When the bitterness has nearly gone, the olives are ready for the final salting.
  7. As in step 1, strain the olives from the brine, retaining both the olives and the brine. Measure the amount of brine and note how much. You can now discard the brine. Measure that quantity of clean water into a pan and dissolve the salt, this time 200 g/7 oz of salt for each litre/2 pints of water. Bring the salt water preserving mixture to the boil. Remove from the heat and set aside until it is cold.
  8. Place olives into clean jars and then pour the salt water brine over them until the fruit is completely submerged. Top up the bottles with up to one centimetre of olive oil to stop air getting to the fruit.
  9. Seal and lable.
  10. Store for at least 12 months in a cool cupboard.

Notes:

  • When curing olives, you should:
    • Use only fresh, unbruised fruit.
    • Make sure your utensils are clean.
    • Only use glass, stainless steel, unchipped enamel or food grade plastic containers.
    • Never use copper, brass, iron or galvanised utensils as they react with the olives and taint the flavour.
    • Ensure that the olives are covered in brine and when placed in jars, the brine should cover the olives and then 1 cm of olive oil to prevent any air getting to the olives (the olives float in the brine) .
    • Wipe the rim of the jars well to ensure a good seal.
  • When choosing your salt, choose a good quality salt such as sea salt, rock salt or kosher salt. Always check to ensure that there are no additives such as thickeners and iodine.
  • Apparently this recipe is an old Greek recipe and is very easy.
  • Olives can be pickled when green or black. Black olives are just ripe olives and are used for pickling and also pressed for olive oil. Green olives are used for pickling.
  • In season some of the olives begin to change towards black, at this time it is fairly safe to pick the green olives for pickling.
  • If the tree is large, place cloth sheets on the ground and strip the fruit from the tree with your hands or with a rake with suitably spaced prongs. Collect the fruit from the sheet, removing odd stems and leaves as you go.
  • When you want to use your olives, drain off the brine. Place the olives into another clean jar, or bowl and fill the jar with clean, cool water. Cover and leave in the refrigerator for 24 hours, taste them, and if still too salty repeat the process and return to the refrigerator for a further 24 hours. (The plain water removes some of the salt from the olives). At this stage you can also add your favourite marinade, if you wish.
  • This brining method eliminates the need to use a caustic soda solution that is used in commercial processing of olives.

Sources:

  • Preserving the Italian Way, P Demaio, 2006.
  • Maggie Beer’s Autumn Harvest, M Beer, 2015, Penguin Random House.
  • Smoking, Curing & Drying Meat & Fish, TT Turan, 2015, Stackpole Books.
  • The Preserving Book, L Brown, 2010, Darling Kindersley..

Recently I spent some time with my sisters in Ballarat, where I took a jar of the marinated olives, warning that it was a bit like a lucky dip, that is, you occasionally get a bitter olive, I set the jar on the table – they were a hit.

So if you have an abundance of olives, some friends to help you pick and prepare them, ansd the patience to make the fresh brine daily – in a couple of weeks you will have your own fresh olives – no nasty additives, and prepared with love. Maybe an olive party would be the way to go, with your family and friends sitting around chatting and cutting the olives, the task would be less tedious and definitely much more fun.

Anyone for a drink? - 3

Until next time…

Bon appétit!

slide1-2
Links:

Links:

Home Cured Olives

Marinated Olives

Spiced Olives

Simple fresh food is always so delicious…

Life is busy, hectic, crazy, but life is wonderful!

This last week or so has been just as crazy as ever and I thought I would share a little of the goings on…

My friend Maggie wanted to learn how to make gluten free baguette, the one that I had shared with her on earlier occasions. So we set a time for another cooking lesson, this time in my kitchen. I made everything ready, typed up the recipe and had it duly checked by my live-in-editor, Gary, and with all the ingredients and equipment set out on the bench – we were ready…

Maggie arrived and we got to work, or should I say, she got to work… When I teach someone to make something, I always let them do the work, that way they get to know what needs to happen, and how things feel as they work through the recipe. That being said, I guide them along the way.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Gluten Free Baguette

  • Servings: Makes 2 loaves
  • Print

I found this recipe on the internet but have tweeked it a little - reduced the number of egg whites, increased the water and use olive oil instead of butter.

Ingredients

  • 280g rice flour
  • 110g tapioca flour
  • 3 tsp xanthum gum
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1½ tbsp sugar
  • 400 ml lukewarm water
  • 1½ tbsp dry yeast
  • 1½ tbsp olive oil
  • 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • Canola spray (to grease the pans)

Directions

  1. Using a stand mixer, blend the rice flour, tapioca flour, xanthum gum and salt on low speed to combine
  2. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and yeast, then, using a fork, whisk into the tepid water to combine.
  3. When the mixture foams slightly, add it to the dry ingredients.
  4. Then add the olive oil, egg whites and vinegar.
  5. With the mixer on high, beat the mixture for 3 minutes.
  6. Spoon the dough into French baguette pans that have been sprayed with canola oil. Smooth the top with a wet spatula.
  7. Lay out a piece of plastic wrap and lightly spray with canola oil. Place this lightly (oiled side down), over the dough, and set to rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
  8. Preheat oven to 200˚C.
  9. Bake for 45 minutes.
  10. Remove from the pans and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Notes:

  • The mixture is quite sticky and I find that the best way to get it into your baking pans is to use a plastic spatula. I have a jug of warm water on the side and dip the spatula into the water each time, this stops the dough from sticking to the spatula.
  • The dough rises quite fast and will at least double in size.
  • Source: http://blog.kitchenwaredirect.com.au (Gluten-Free Recipes; French Bread by Katherine Cortes).


With the dough made, we sat down for a cuppa, some cake and a chat while the yeast did it’s thing and the loaves puffed up. The oven was turned on and heated up, and then the bread went in… Maggie was very excited. I had made some baguettes earlier, so while the bread cooked, I took out some home-made hunter sausage, my home-made camembert, and homemade chilli jam and we stood around slicing up the baguette, spreading it with butter and chilli jam and then topping it with pieces of sausage and cheese – a wonderful, simple and delicious lunch, as we waited for Maggie’s bread to cook. Excited with how easy the bread was to make and how delicious it was, Maggie could not wait to show it to, and share it with her husband.

Later in the week, I was sitting down after a busy day, and when I picked up my phone, I noticed a missed call and message – Coltish Pork had a couple of pieces of loin and wanted to know if I would like it – herein lies a story for another blog. But from the conversations that ensued, it was decided that I should meet Maggie at the Sale Farmer’s Market early the following morning. This is where I met Jan, a friend of Maggie’s, from Alloway Olives.

Maggie & Jan at the Alloway Olive stall

Maggie and Jan at the Alloway Olive Oil Stall – Sale Farmer’s Market

I quickly decided to buy a bottle of her wonderful olive oil with an idea of how I was going to use it – A freshly baked baguette, some of this deliciously fresh olive oil, and some of my home cured olives would make for a wonderful relaxing end to the day with my husband, Gary, as we enjoyed a nice glass of wine.

Until next time…

Bon appétit!

Caricature

Links:

Alloway Olive Oil

Gluten Free Baguette

 

Rhubarb & Frosts…

As mentioned in my last post, we recently endured a spate of heavy frosts. While the visual effects were stunning, the aftermath in the gardens has been quite destructive! Citrus, lemons, limes, mandarins, etc literally froze on the tree, and because there was no reprieve from the frosts – they just kept coming, night after night after night, the fruit did not recover and turned to mush. Initially the fruit looked perfectly normal, but when you touched it, it was soft and squishy, and finally it just fell from the trees. That is not all, people in the district fear that their precious trees may not recover from the trauma, and it is the centre of many conversations within the community. That is just the citrus trees… There has been so much more destruction in the garden, and many have lost so, so many of their treasured plants and trees. Fortunately we were very lucky and my wonderful husband’s diligence saved so much.

That being said, I just thought I would show you what happened to our rhubarb… The stalks froze, and then they split when thawing!

 

My sister, Sonya, made the comment that all I could do with it now, would be to knit it!!! But remembering how my Gran used to cover her precious tomato plants when they were newly planted to save them from the spring frosts, we went in search of large pots to cover the plants each night – it worked… The rhubarb has recovered and we have a lovely new flush coming along…

 

I have also spent a lot of time trying to learn all about growing rhubarb, and have added the information here.

In the mean time, my sister Janice sent me a recipe via text message that she had found in an English gardening magazine, she just took a shapshot of it and sent it through. I managed to scrounge enough rhubarb, and decided that I would add some beautiful golden delicious apples from the local farmer’s market, tweaked the recipe here and there, and this is what I ended up with – Rhubarb Sauce. I have served it alongside homemade pork, ginger and sage sausages, roast loin of pork and added it to the jus I was preparing to accompany a piece of beef scotch fillet – it is amazing!

 

So if you have a little rhubarb on hand, give it a try, it doesn’t take too long and will be a great addition to your pantry…

Rhubarb Sauce

  • Servings: Makes 6 x 250 ml bottles
  • Print

My sister, Jan, found a recipe for Rhubarb Sauce in an English gardening magazine and sent me a photo – I changed it somewhat and this is the end result. It is slightly tart and a little tangy, and pairs beautifully with pork and is a wonderful addition to a sauce for steak.

Ingredients

  • 600 g Rhubarb (preferably red) washed, trimmed and cut into 2cm pieces
  • 400 g Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 600 g Purple onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2.5 litres Cider vinegar, (approx)
  • 300 g white sugar (appros)
  • 1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp pickling spice
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 dried red chilli
  • 2 cardamon pods
  • a few chards of cinnamon bark
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Place the pickling spice, cloves, chilli, cardamon pods and cinnamon bark into a small piece of muslin and tie with a piece of cooking twine to form a small bag.
  2. Add the rhubarb, apples, ginger, onion and 250 ml of the cider vinegar, together with the spice bag to a large pan. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, until the fruit is soft – approximately 20 minutes.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and discard the spice bag. Allow to cool slightly before pureeing the mixture in a food processor until smooth.
  4. Measure the puree and add to a clean pan and for each 600g of puree add 100g of sugar and 300 ml of cider vinegar. Finally add the ground spices and salt and stir to combine.
  5. Bring the mixture to a boil and then cook over medium /low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick and of pouring consistency.
  6. Pour into warm sterilised bottles and seal and lable.

Notes

  • You can purchase pickling spice from the spice section at the supermarket, or prepare your own.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Until next time…

Happy gardening & bon appétit!

Caricature

Links & Sources:

The Frozen Garden!

We have recently endured a spate of heavy frosts, and for us it was very cold – minus 7.6 celsius etc. The first morning I got up and wandered down to the vegie patch, before heading into the garden for the community in Stratford. As I worked in the garden there I was kicking myself for not having got up earlier and taken photos of the beauty that a frost creates. I know that it also causes devastation, but all I saw was beauty.

Fortunately Mother Nature was going to ensure that I had ample opportunity to get my beautiful pics, and the following morning it was even colder, I got up earlier and with camera in hand headed down to the vegie patch. You know, I really didn’t feel the cold while I wandered around snapping photos of my frozen herbs and veggies… I’ll let you be the judge, but I think that while Mother Nature can be cruel, she can also create moments of great beauty.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When I got back inside, my gorgeous Gary was up and getting ready to go down to water everything in an effort to save it. So all rugged up, he headed down, but there was a problem! There was no water – the pipes and hoses were all frozen, in fact one hose just snapped in two!! Not to be thwarted, buckets were gathered and filled, and with watering can in hand he set to work… With me in the house filling the buckets, Gary was down in the frozen Vegie patch watering all the foliage of the plants.

 

Now our vegie patch is not just out the back door, so I grabbed one of the trolley barrows and loaded filled buckets into it, and started my way down, a little water sloshed out along the way, but I must say, the majority of it found its way down there. With empties on board, I returned to the house and began filling again. When it was all done, there were hot drinks to wrap our hands around and the feeling of having done everything we could to save as much as we could.

 

With more frosts on the way, we thought we might try to cover the hoses and pipes in blankets that night, only to discover that they were still frozen! So the bucket brigade was on duty the following morning.

Inspired by the frozen beauty of the vegie patch, I knew exactly what I would prepare for our Sunday night Soup and Sweets meal – Blushing Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Kale and a Scattering of Brie ( I had planned on using a nice blue cheese, but when I went to get it out of the refrigerator, there was none!) For dessert Pears Poached in Wine nestled in a pool of Crème Anglaise?

Blushing Cauliflower Soup with Kale Crisps and a Scattering of Brie

Inspired by a spate of very heavy frosts that made the vegie patch look like it had been placed in the freezer, it was simply beautiful visually.

Ingredients

  • ½ purple cauliflower
  • 2 pink lady apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
  • ½ onion, finely diced
  • 2 sticks of celery, finely diced
  • 2 tsp freshly picked thyme leaves
  • 750 ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground white pepper
  • salt to taste
  • 40g butter
  • 2 tbsp diced brie

For the Kale Crisps

  • 4 kale leaves
  • olive oil
  • sea salt

Directions

  1. Heat the butter in a large pan, or wok, over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and sauté over gentle heat until the onion is soft.
  2. Add the cauliflower, cover with a lid and raise the heat a little. Cook until the cauliflower is tender, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the thyme and apple and continue to cook for another five minutes.
  4. Pour in the stock, add the pepper and season to taste with salt. Simmer until the apple and cauliflower are cooked.
  5. Leave to cool slightly before blending the soup in a blender or food processor.
  6. Reheat and serve garnished with kale crisps and a scattering of diced brie.

For the Kale Crisps

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C or 160°C fan forced. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Remove the centre stems from kale and discard. Tear the leaves into small bite size pieces, scatter on the baking tray. Drizzle over the olive oil and toss ensuring the leaves are coated in olive oil.
  3. Spread kale out in a single layer and bake for 12-15 minutes or until leaves are crisp. Sprlnkle with a little sea salt.

Notes:

  • Source: SBA’s Kitchen
  • Ensure you keep the brie in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve. When it hits the hot soup it begins to melt

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Oh, and was all the effort worth it to try and save our veg – I think so. While we have lost a couple of things, and couple of more have been damaged, the majority of our veggies live on, including newly planted lettuce and coriander, parsley etc… I have talked to quite a few people who have lost so many plants, they are devastated by the loss.  I feel so sorry for them and so understand how they feel…

Until next time…

Happy gardening & bon appétit!

slide1-r

Links & Sources:

 

1 2 13