Tag Archives: Memories

Figs

 

Figs evoke such wonderful memories…

 

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To eat figs off the tree in the very early morning, when they have been barely touched by the sun, is one of the exquisite pleasures of the Mediterranean. (Elizabeth David)

The beautiful big fig tree down by the creek at our old family home – we always knew that if the creek flooded in the spring and/or summer that we would have a wonderful crop. Then there is the Christmas cake and pudding that I make every year, that has a jar of fig jam included in the recipe – I am happy to say it is always fig jam from our store cupboard. And who could forget a day at the races in the country, with my beautiful friend Sophia, where a platter scattered with fresh figs, feta, walnuts and prosciutto, drizzled with honey was handed around to get the day started. This is where I totally fell in love with the flavour of the fresh fig.

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A great fig should look like it’s just about to burst its skin. When squeezed lightly it should give a little and not spring back. It must be almost unctuously sweet, soft and wet. (Yotam Ottolenghi)

We both have very fond memories of our time with an elderly couple in France where I received some of the best advice ever. Over breakfast, we were talking about the fruit grown on their property and how it was stored… Genevieve told me that the apples were stored in the old stone chapel across the way, and, in fact, we were eating the last of what they had stored away from last season for our breakfast. I asked, what to do with excess figs, apart from drying them or making jam etc. She told me that she just threw them in a bag in the freezer, then whenever she was cooking a roast, she would grab a few out and scatter them around the roast as it cooked – she assured me that they would keep their shape and not become mush, and she was spot on!

So whenever anyone asks if I could use some figs, I never turn them down. I bring them home, wash them, and throw them in a bag in the freezer.

This year I don’t know how many kilograms we have received, but I recently weighed what is left and there are still 11 kilograms frozen and waiting for me to use. I follow Genevieve’s advice and toss them around a roast, but I also take them out and dehydrate them. Occasionally I grab a few, slit them down squish in some feta and wrap them in prosciutto, grill them and then scatter with some toasted walnut and drizzle with a little honey or fig vinegar glaze.

Last week the weather turned very wintery providing the perfect opportunity to use some of the figs from the freezer, together with some dried figs and fig vinegar. This Slow Cooked Pork Scotch with Figs and Fennel Seeds was the perfect warming meal on such a bleak, cold day. The pork just fell apart and was perfect with all the sticky figiness!

Slow Cooked Pork Scotch with Figs and Fennel Seeds

This delicious winter warmer was inspired by the onset of winter and the need for some yummy comfort food - the thought of combining some delicious Coltish Pork with figs and fig products I had been making over the last month or so seemed obvious!

Ingredients

  • 1 kg pork neck
  • 150g diced onion
  • 80g diced celery
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2/3 cup fig vinegar
  • 2 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped sage
  • ¼ cup dried figs, diced
  • 2 cups pork stock
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 150˚C.
  2. In a mortar and pestle, pound the fennel seeds, peppercorns and salt to a powder.
  3. Cut the pork neck into four even sized, thick slices and season lightly with the spice powder.
  4. Heat oil in a large heavy based, ovenproof pan or casserole and fry the slices of pork in two batches, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Remove from pon and set aside.
  5. To the same pan, add the onion, celery and garlic and sauté until the onion is tender. Add the remaining spice powder and stir.
  6. Turn up the heat and the fig vinegar and diced fig, stirring to deglaze the pan. Cook until the fig vinegar has reduced by half, then reduce the heat, and stir in the sage.
  7. Place the pork in a single layer in the pan, add the stock and bring back to the boil.
  8. Cover with the lid and place in the preheated oven for 1½ – 2 hours, or until the meat is tender.
  9. When the meat is cooked. Remove it to a plate and cover to keep warm.
  10. Skim the fat from the juices in the pan, then place the pan over a medium heat to reduce the sauce to a nice syrupy consistency.
  11. Serve hot with steamed greens, creamy mash potato, and if you wish, some grilled fresh figs.

Notes:

  • Source: SBA’s Kitchen
  • If you do not have pork stock, I would suggest using chicken stock.
  • I prefer to purchase the pork neck in the piece and portion it myself, but you could ask your butcher to do this for you.
  • If you do not have fig vinegar, try using a combination of cider vinegar and balsamic vinegar.
  • I love to support our local farmers, so purchase my pork from Coltish Pork. It is wonderful to get to know the producer and become friends with those who are providing such a wonderful quality of product to work with.

 

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Finally just this weekend we had our great friends, Caitlin and Paul visit, and to start a long, leisurely evening meal we prepared a Salade de Chevre et Figues. I love it so much when our guests join in the food preparation – I had such fun cooking and chatting and catching up.

Of course there is always a good supply of figs waiting in the freezer so that I can make another batch of fig vinegar, which is fast replacing balsamic vinegar in a lot of dishes in our meals.

Until next time…

Happy cooking & bon appétit!

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Apricots

I still remember the joy of fresh bread, lashings of homemade apricot jam, and the cream! Fresh cream, real cream, not the homogenised, pasturised stuff from the supermarket shelf – just fresh, runny cream, no sugar, not whipped, just pure fresh cream dribbling over the edge of the bread.- Oh the memories …

We now have two apricot trees in our garden, a Moorpark – supposedly rich in flavour making it great for fresh fruit, jam, drying, stewing and juice, and a Blenheim, said to be one of the most flavourful of apricots around! However, like all of our fruit trees, they have only been in the ground for six months, which means that we must be patient, and wait until they grow before we see a nice crop.

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We did have a tiny surprise though – just after Christmas I spotted one solitary little apricot. It had been hiding and growing out of our sight and, fortunately, out of the sight of the birds. I watched it carefully, trying to make sure that the birds did not beat us to it. Then early last week, when I checked on it, I discovered that a grub had made it’s mark – I hadn’t counted on that, so quickly whisked it off the tree, and took it to the kitchen, where it became a simple little sweet treat to finish our evening meal – A simple apricot pastry.

Given the lack of fruit from the garden at the moment, I am constantly on the watch for a good buy, and was delighted to read a little add in the local newspaper for apricots. I made a call and was able to pick up 10kg, which lead to a couple of heavy days in the kitchen! But from that 10kg, we now have 14 jars of apricot halves in a light syrup, 15 jars of Worcestershire sauce, and 10 jars of apricot jam in the store.

There were a few left over so whipped up an apricot and pine nut tart – gluten free.

You know, apricot jam is not only great as a spread, but it can also be used to flavour meat dishes too, and the apricot halves can be used to make delicious sweet treats such as clafoutis, charlottes, tarts etc, but will also used in savoury dishes, including a favourite – Spicy Chicken Tagine with Apricots, Rosemary and Ginger! As for the Worcestershire sauce, it’s always handy to lift an otherwise dull dish!

So now that the store is stocked up with apricot preserves, it is my plan to highlight some of them in recipes over the coming months.

Until next time…

Bon appétit!

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Nougat Glacé

Nougat Glace evokes memories of special times spent with beautiful friends. Some years ago, my amazing husband decided I needed to get away, so whisked me off to France for a much needed ten day break and opportunity to be with my best friend, Véronique. Below is a little piece I wrote in my diary about our arrival…

As we pull into the Auxerre station I notice Véronique and Yannick waiting for us on the
platform and wave madly, Véronique notices me and as we go to step off the train they are waiting at our carriage door. We hug and kiss each other – it is so good to be together again.

In the car we chat all the way back to their home and our luggage is quickly stowed in their little gite where we will sleep during our stay, and quickly note the log fire burning in the living area. This is heaven.

Over at the main house we sit down to lunch, the first meal of what is going to be a four day gourmet feast! Our meal starts with Yannick’s walnut wine, a delicious tipple that I have now learnt to make. As sip on the aperitif, we continue to catch up and nibble on chips and pistachios. Entrée was then served – a terrine of foie gras with brioche, all made by my wonderful friend. Next on the menu was a main of braised veal with vegetables from their garden, which was followed by a selection of local cheeses and a basket of bread.. Finally for dessert, nougat glace, a delicious homemade icecream, served with raspberry coulis. I have to add that throughout the meal, Yannick produced an incredible array of wines, carefully selected to complement each course – what a wonderful welcome!

So what is Nougat Glace?   It is a delicious creamy frozen mousse of Italian meringue and whipped cream, that has a selection of dried and/or glace fruits, and nuts carefully folded through. The nougat flavour is created by adding honey to the sugar syrup used when making the Italian meringue. Often made with praline, I prefer to make it with lightly roasted nuts, which cuts back the sweetness a little. It is generally served with a raspberry coulis and little sprigs of mint to garnish.  If you want to impress at a dinner party, this is the way to go, everything is prepared ahead, all you need to do at the last minute is melt a little dark chocolate and plate it up!

As I mentioned, this is a very sweet ice cream, so we find that the tartness of fresh raspberries and a little drizzle of good quality 70% chocolate, helps to balance the sweetness a little. Of course you must use a beautiful honey in such a special treat, and our preferred honey is macadammia honey – just delicious!

Nougat Glacé

A frozen mouse of meringue and cream with all the flavours of nougat. This delicious sweet treat is often served during the Christmas festivities in France. A perfect dessert for the summer.

Ingredients

  • 3 egg whites
  • 300 ml pure cream, very cold
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 40 g sugar
  • 40 g pistachio nuts
  • 40 g blanched hazlenuts or almonds
  • 40 g golden raisins
  • 40 g dried cranberries
  • 40 g dried blueberries

To Serve

  • 250 ml raspberry coulis
  • 50 g 70% dark chocolate, melted
  • 200 g fresh raspberries
  • sprigs of mint to garnish

Directions

  1. Beat the egg whites until stiff.
  2. Meanwhile, place the sugar and the honey in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat slightly and continue to cook until the mixture has reached 117° C.
  3. With the mixer beating slowly, pour the honey syrup in a thin stream into the egg whites, then increase the speed and continue whipping until the mixture has cooled.
  4. Whip the cream to soft peaks.
  5. Cut the raisins and into pieces.
  6. Chop/crush hazelnuts and pistachios.
  7. Line a cake mould with parchment paper or plastic wrap.
  8. Gently fold the egg whites into whipped cream, and then gently fold through the fruit and nuts.
  9. Pour the mixture into the prepared mould and cover with plastic wrap.
  10. Place in the freezer for at least 12 hours, to freeze.
  11. To serve, turn out onto a flat cake plate, drizzle with a little melted dark chocolate and garnish with raspberry coulis, fresh berries and mint leaves.

Notes:

  1. If you prefer, make a praline from the nuts as folows:
    1. Line a baking tray with baking/parchment paper.
    2. Combine 3/4 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of water in saucepan and heat, stirring just until the sugar is dissolved. Increase to medium-high heat and cook without stirring until mixture turns golden caramel brown.
    3. Remove from heat and quickly stir in the nuts just to coat them in the caramel.
    4. Immediately, pour the mixture  in a thin layer onto the prepared baking tray.
    5. Allow to cool completely and harden.
    6. Break into one to two inch pieces, enclose in a clean tea towel and then crush using a rolling pin – be careful not to overdo it and turn it into a powder!
  2. To blanch hazelnuts:
    1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
    2. Roast in oven for 5-10 minutes, until the hazelnuts are aromatic, lightly roasted and the skins start to crack.
    3. Place the hazelnuts into a clean tea towel and gently rub together, to remove the skins.
    4. Spread the shelled hazelnuts, in a single layer, on a baking tray.

Until next time…

Bon appétit!

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Nougat Glace

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The Little Gite – a perfect little home away from home in the Burgundy countryside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family, fun, love and food

Christmas morning dawned and we woke to the voices of children, our grandchildren, not all of them, mind you, the last one would arrive later in the morning along with other treasured members of our family.

Preparations had been underway for some time, and the day before, late afternoon, our Christmas began with the arrival of my husband’s daughter and her family from Roma in Queensland – it had taken them three days to get here. We were so excited to see them and have them join us in our new home for Christmas. This year was going to be very special with all of our children and grandchildren together with us for this special time of year.

It was going to be a hot day, but there was a lot of cooking to be done. A huge slab of pork belly was prepared and put in the oven, it needed to cook slow for a couple of hours. Chickens were filled with handfuls of fresh herbs and placed on a spit out on the terrace.

Meanwhile the vegetables were prepared – trays full for roasting, and others for the steamer. I had made a the day before and we also made a beetroot, orange and fresh herb salad.

The arrival of our son and his family from Melbourne, created great excitement with the family from Queensland meeting their little cousin, Cooper for the first time. There was a lot of catching up.

The cooking continued, electric fans were dusted off and set up to try and cool things down. Cream was whipped, Irish Mist Cream prepared to accompany the plum pudding which was bubbling away on the side burner of the BBQ alongside the chickens.

The vegetables were placed in the oven and the temperature bumped up so that we would have beautiful pork crackle.

The last of our guests arrived, my two gorgeous sisters, Sonnie and Jan, together with my beautiful mum and our great-nephew, Aussie. With everyone here, it was time to think about carving and serving, but alas, the oven was not cooperating with the quantity of food in it, the veg weren’t cooking fast enough and the crackle was definitely not happening!   The oven could not go any higher – Our lunch was going to be late, but what could I do!

The ham that I had cured and smoked was retrieved from the fridge – it would be served cold alongside the corned silverside, they were both carved. The chickens were carved, salads placed in bowls, veggies steamed, gravy made and finally the pork had to be carved, even though the crackle was not as I wanted – there was very little left, and the meat was succulent, tender and moist.

People gathered around, filled their plates, and then everyone decided to sit around our kitchen table, which comfortably seats six! Chairs were seconded from throughout the house and squeezed wherever they would or might fit, our table was surrounded by fourteen – it was amazing.

After the meal was finished and everything cleared away it was time for something the children had been waiting for all day…. Gifts from under the tree – they couldn’t wait… Everyone gathered in the sitting room and Jan, Chris, and I played Santa, handing out gifts, to some particularly eager little ones, and some almost as eager older ones – it was mayhem, but wonderful mayhem.

Unfortunately time was close for Chris and his family to return to Melbourne, so we quickly served a little dessert for them to eat before they left.

Once they left, Pavlova with lashings of cream and fresh berries, cheesecake heaped with cherries, peaches, and various other fresh fruits, and of course, the plum pudding with Irish Mist Cream, brandy sauce and icecream were set out for all to enjoy. As we were enjoying our sweet treats, Sonnie walked in and said “don’t eat the cream – it’s off!” Everyone stopped, and then it dawned on them that there was nothing wrong with the cream – it is her favourite and she was just trying to stop eveyone eating it.

So that was our Christmas feast – family, fun, love and food, one cannot ask for anything more, can one.

The afternoon continued with time to cool off in the pool, and I was surprised that people were interested in eating again later that evening. So brought out a platters of local cheeses, fresh fruit, cold meat and fruit cake, and we all sat around the table on the back porch and nibbled and chatted. Before setting up beds for all, for a good night sleep.

Until next time…

Bon appétit!

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Paddock to Plate!

Part of what I am about is using local and home grown produce as much as I can, so recently I purchased another side of lamb from Forge Creek Lamb, and while you can select the cuts that you would like, I prefer to dress the lamb myself. You see I was raised on a sheep and grain farm about 500 km from where we now live, so am quite familiar with the various cuts of lamb, having observed and helped my mother and father dress many during my childhood and teenage years. One thing that I learnt was that there was very little waste. My mother was meticulous ensuring that all the meat was saved and frozen, even the tiniest of skerricks! Fat was rendered down and the fresh dripping was used to fry the BEST fish and chips – usually redfin fish that dad had caught, the bones were used to make stock for soups, the little bits were used to make pies, and so on.   So with that memory, I set to work.

Firstly I set up my kitchen – bowls each for meat to mince, casserole meat and sausage meat set up close to where I would be dressing the meat; a baking dish for the bones; a bag for the fat (I think we’re probably a little more wary of animal fat nowadays, so mainly use olive oil and peanut oil for frying) were close by; my stand mixer was set up and the mincing attachment placed in the fridge; knives steel, hacksaw and chopping boards were layed out; an area with my vacuum seal machine was set up with various sized bags at the ready; and, finally a pile of tea towels were stacked up. Then I set to work….

So this is what happened

  • The loin was boned out and tied at one inch intervals, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and then popped in the fridge for a while, before being cut into little noisettes.
  • Little cutlets were cut, their long rib bones were boned from the flap before being trimmed, and all of the excess fat was removed.

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  • The flap takes time as there is quite a bit of fat to be removed, and invariably you will end up with the odd hole here and there, but they are easily filled with some offcuts. When it was done, it was laid out flat on a large piece of plastic wrap and then rolled up ready for packaging and freezing. The flap is delicious filled with lamb sausage mince, rolled and wrapped in prosciutto and then cooked at low temperature for a while . It makes for a delicious hot meal with veg, but alternatively makes an amazing sliced cold meat for sandwiches or salad.
  • The shank was removed from the shoulder and Frenched.
  • The shoulder was partially boned out.
  • The neck takes quite a bit of work, removing the ribs and cutting the meat away from the vertebrae. But it is well worth the effort with the finished product rolled and slow cooked for a delicious warming meal.
  • The hind shank was removed from the leg and Frenched.
  • The hind leg was totally boned out and butterflied in readiness for summer family gatherings. It will be cooked on the BBQ.

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  • The chump was boned out.
  • Larger off-cuts were set aside for casserole and stir-fry
  • Smaller off-cuts were minced
  • Fattier off-cuts were minced together with seasonings to become sausage mince.
  • Finally the bones were roasted and then placed into a large stock pot with water, onion, celery, carrot, bay leaves and peppercorns and left to simmer away for a few hours. After being strained and allowed to set in the fridge, the fat was removed and the stock was pressure canned in Mason jars for use at a later date.

I know it sounds like a lot of work, and I can’t lie, it is! But I have a beautiful product to work with and the most amazing childhood memories to guide me along the way. I hope that my efforts have ensured that the lamb I cook has been treated with the utmost respect – from paddock to plate!

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Now with all this beautiful Forge Creek Lamb in the freezer, I have the delightful task of coming up with the best way to prepare and serve it. The first meal that I prepared with it used the little lamb noisettes. I simply pan fried them to pink and placed them on a small disk of fried potato.

To accompany these little noisettes we had steamed peas, baby broad beans and asparagus topped with roasted baby rainbow carrots. On the side I put a little roasted beetroot and goats cheese, and to finish it off, I prepared and a delicious sauce with the lamb stock, white wine and aromats. I was so happy with this plate of food, inspired by the lamb and a trip to the local farmer’s market where I purchased all the vegetables to accompany it.

Of course we had to have dessert – Tarte chantilly aux fruits rouges – a berry and cream pie with the first strawberries from our garden.

The work still continues on the corner patch, it is now fenced and has a gate. We’re still waiting for the timber to box the beds, but hopefully it will be ready next week! I have managed to get a few things planted though, including a Boysenberry.

Until next time…

Bon appétit!

Links:

Tarte chantilly aux fruits rouges – Berry & Cream Pie

Slow Cooked Lamb Chump

Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks

Glossary

Corner Patch

Forge Creek Lamb