Posts filed under ‘Food’
With the recent knitting frenzy, culinary adventures in the little house have been few and far between, however we did have one hit over the school hols, and it’s become a staple.
We are a household of PB-oholics, so I don’t know why I hadn’t tried this before, but even I was surprised by how easy this was.
Empty bag of peanuts into kitchen whizzer gadget, and whizz away. Add a little salt if like us, you are used to shop stuff and prefer to acclimate gradually. I used roasted, unsalted, and added 1/4 tsp of salt, mostly dissolved in 1 tsp of water.
Watch for the interesting experiments involving how big a spoonful you can eat without gluing your mouth together. Apparently this is a riot, and a competition worthy challenge (almost everything is a competition worthy challenge when you are between the ages of 4-8 apparently. Can anyone tell me what age competitiveness stops?)
And how much peanut butter you can eat in one sitting without making yourself feel ill.
A word of warning though. If you are doing this with kids, you may want to buy one bag of peanuts per offspring.
Boy #1 was adamant that he only liked the supermarket variety (the one with all the lovely hydrogenated fats..) so I did a bit of sneaky parenting and asked #2 to help me make it, and this could be his very own jar, and #1 could have the shop stuff all to himself. After watching 2 get to sit up on the kitchen bench and peer into the top of the mixer, watch the contents go from whole nuts, to a cohesive, glossy mass, even choose the degree of crunchiness, etc, he decided he wanted his own jar after all! Good thing I had a spare bag in the cupboard!
Apparently the lure of being able to sit on the kitchen bench and peer into the mixer is too great to resist, even at the grand old age of nearly 8!
Meanwhile #3 just sat in the high chair and watched in avid curiously, as usual. His turn will come, no doubt.
I seem to have accidentally bought a kilo of chillies. These were labelled as capsicums at the local Fruit and Veg, and I got them because they were were grown right there in their farm, and I wanted to support a local producer, but I’ll admit they looked a little suspicious to me. I even asked the checkout girl, who assured me they were definitely capsicums not chillies.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against chillies. I love them. But a kilo is a lot. And they a hot enough that a slice or three is enough in a single sitting. And the kids aren’t really into them yet, so putting them to use was looking like being a bit of a challenge, short of putting the wind up the worms in the compost bin.
However we get through jars on jalapeños on a regular basis, so I thought I’d experiment with making my own pickled chillies. And while I’m at it, why not try lactofermenting them, rather than vinegar pickling? Better for you, and probably less mucking around.
So here we have:
half a bag of chillies, washed, sliced and minus their stems
1/2 T salt
2 T whey strained from some kefir because that was what was to hand
Water, enough to cover the chillies
Sorry, yes, this is a very minimal recipe. It is however the basic recipe for lactofermentation. It can be used to pickle practically anything from cucumbers to sauerkraut.
4 days on the bench top in average coolish autumnal weather, and they’ve been in the fridge since. After a week or two they had mellowed nicely and now make weekly appearances on nachos night.
There’s nothing like gouging a hole in a nice soft piece of bread while trying to spread butter on it. Or trying to warm a knifeful of butter over the toaster so you can make a sandwich, and then having it slide off and fall in.
So if you’ve run out of spreadable butter, or don’t feel like paying twice as much for something you can make at home in a couple of minutes – try this:
250 g butter
75g mild flavoured oil
75g cold water.
Pop your cold butter straight from the fridge into your thermomix/beater/mixer (you can chop it into smaller chunks first if it helps keep your mixer happy) and whizz until smooth.
Slowly add oil, either in batches or drizzled in while spinning, then do the same with the water. I used a light olive oil as the flavour is less dominating, but anything would do. The mix should be fairly runny at this stage.
Pour it into a container – recycling a previous butter container works well as then you can easily tell what’s inside. Return it to the fridge to resolidify.
Now feel very smug and make yourself a cup of tea as a reward for a job well done. 🙂
We are a household of peanut butter addicts. But nowadays there are more and more places PB is not welcome, like kindy or playdates with friends who have allergies. And variety is a good thing after all. Hence sunflower butter. It’s nut free, dairy free, vego, vegan, even paleo if you skimp on the maple. And it only takes a few minutes to whip up.
It’s simple and quick to make, with only 4 ingredients:
500g sunflower seeds
1T maple (or a little less honey) – more or less to taste
You can use the sunflower seeds as is, or prepare them in a couple of different ways – if you’re a soaker, soak and dehydrate, or if you’re a roaster, toast them until they are just turning golden. Toasting gives a slightly nuttier flavour.
You can also play with adding flavours – chocolate or cinnamon to entice the kids, or brewers yeast for a more savoury spread.
Blitz the seeds in your whizzer on high and after a little while you’ll have sunflower meal.
Keep whizzing until the oil starts to be released from the sunflour meal and it begins to look shiny and clumpy. This can take some time. Try different speeds if the mix isn’t moving much, and scrape the sides down periodically. The mixer may get quite warm.
Once the mixture has become oily and somewhat smooth looking, add the maple syrup, and whizz some more on a lower speed to reduce splatter. Taste test at this point for salt and sweetness. Add extras if needed. Then gradually add oil until the desired consistency is reached. The moisture content of your seeds will impact how much oil is needed to make the butter spreadable.
Try not to eat entire batch before decanting into jar. 🙂
Warning: eating more than half a jar at once can lead to queasiness! Don’t ask me how I know this..
Continuing on from yoghurt and bread in the Counter Culture series, another interesting kitchen experiment is to make cider vinegar. It’s surprisingly easy and absurdly satisfying, turning fruit scraps into something with a truly amazing number of uses. And all it takes is fruit and a jar of water; air and time will do the rest.
Vinegar has a remarkably long history, extending back to the Sumerians and beyond, a good 8000 years and probably more. Many people swear by it for a myriad of wondrous health uses, and also as a remarkably versatile cleaner, especially when complemented with bi carb soda.
Cider vinegar is created when the sugar in fruit juice ferments, turning the sugar into alcohol. A group of bacteria called acetobacter then feed on the alcohol creating acetic acid, which gives vinegar its distinctive acidity.
During this process, the bacteria create a curious-looking layer of cellulose that floats on top of the vinegar, called a mother, or Mother of Vinegar. Most commercial vinegar has been pasteurised to kill off this bacteria and stop it growing more mothers at home (after all, most people would be a little uncomfortable finding a glob of gelatinous goo in their bottle of vinegar, and would assume it had gone off.) However it’s harmless, and chock full of live, good bacteria.
There are a number of ways to go about making cider vinegar, but the one I’ve been using is simple and doubly satisfying because it involves making something useful out of a waste product.
A large glass jar, preferably with a wide neck
A mesh lid, or a scrap of cloth that can be held on top with a rubber band
Sugar or honey
Wash and peel your apples, reserving all peelings and cores. You could use the flesh of the apples too, but the larger the chunks, the longer it takes to convert. (This makes a great excuse to make apple crumble or applesauce with your skinned apples. This is usually my aim, but the kids almost invariably eat them before I get the chance!)
Cram your apple scraps into the wide necked jar, add a tablespoon or so of sugar to provide some immediately digestible sugars (or you could try honey or some other form of natural sweetening – this is said to slow the process down a bit, however this has not been the case with my own experiments.) Add warmish water until the skins are just covered, leaving a decent amount of air space in the jar. The greater the ratio of surface area to liquid, the sooner your vinegar should be ready.
Acetobacter are present in the air naturally, so inoculating your new culture is generally easy. Use a breathable lid such as cheesecloth, or even a normal lid that has not been done up tightly, to allow air circulation but prevent insects falling in and contaminating your brew. However you can help things along by adding a glug of vinegar to your jar.
Put your jar somewhere coolish and leave it to do its thing for a while. It can take anywhere from 1 – 3 months, depending on temperature and other factors, including how sharp you want it to be, relative to how patient you are. You can start taste testing it with a straw after about 3 weeks and when it reaches an acidity you are happy with, strain, bottle and use straight away or leave it to age further.
- Keep all fruit submerged or it can go mouldy. Mould is unlikely to be really nasty, but it is not good either. Don’t consume anything you really don’t like the look or smell of.
- To speed things up, try whisking your mix to aerate a few times in the first week. Or add more vinegar. Most sources say to add unpasteurised vinegar, but it worked for me using normal vinegar too, so it’s worth a shot if you don’t have the other sort on hand. Unpasteurised vinegar will add helpful live bacteria, but normal vinegar will at least help boost the acidity to get things moving in the right direction.
- Vinegar bacteria are not fond of sunlight. Some houses are dark enough as is, but I find I have to keep mine in a cupboard.
- Don’t be alarmed by the scum that begins to form on top of your vinegar. This is the beginnings of your mother. If you leave the jar undisturbed, this will gradually thicken and form a curious looking disc on the surface of your vinegar.
- The mother will sink to the bottom if it gets wet on top, and another will begin to form on the surface. This process can continue until all the available sugars have been used up.
- Unless you can test the acidity of your vinegar, it is not recommended to use it for pickling or preserving as it may not be acidic enough to kill off any invading nasties.
- You can also use fresh apple juice, however I suspect it would be important to use some starter vinegar to get the conversion going quickly before it went off.
- Consider writing the date on your jar or a calender somewhere. I can rarely remember what I was doing 2 days ago, let alone whether I peeled some apples two months ago or three.
- Once you’ve grown your first mother, you can add it to future batches to get them going more quickly. Or you can feed it to the chooks.
- The process is pretty forgiving. So far I’ve made maybe 10 batches, under a variety of conditions; adding vinegar (raw, pasteurised, and balsamic) or not; scraps versus apple chunks; summer and winter; daylight versus dark; filtering the fruit out after a month or leaving it in; short and long fermentation periods, and so on. They’ve all worked so far.
*Don’t like apples? Try some other fruit. There are endless variations to explore. Vinegar is often made from grapes, rice or other grains, pineapple is sometimes used as a starter, and raspberry vinegar is another common flavour. Consider the sweetness of the fruit and add more sugar if required. You can also make your own wine vinegar if you dilute it enough that the alcohol content wont kill off the vinegar making bacteria.
I’m not an expert (in anything!), just an extremely curious researchaholic. If you have more experience, or have been experimenting with culturing, I’d love to hear about it.
I’ve always envied bread bakers.
As someone who had never never had much luck with bread, I was daunted by it. I first learnt to knead with clay, where the aim is to knead the air out, so my few attempts at dough were about as dense as my early clay experiments. However the simplicity of this recipe, and the no-knead approach, called to me. Just flour, water, salt and yeast. And it really does seem fail proof!
I won’t pretend this is anything new, but it’s new to me, and it’s so exciting that I feel compelled to write about it. No knead bread, sourdough style, artisan bread, 5 minute bread, fail-proof bread, its many names reflect its popularity.
It started with this recipe in the NY Times for no knead bread. I stumbled across that a couple of years ago and really wanted to try it, but as we don’t have a crock pot, I sighed and moved on. Until recently when I read about alternatives to the sturdy crock pot, including the humble saucepan*. So it’s called Saucepan Bread here instead.
This is Jim Lahey’s recipe, it’s beautifully simple;
3 cups plain flour
1/4 tsp yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
400 ml tepid water.
Curiously we happened to have a packet of yeast in the cupboard. I’m not sure if it was hiding there when we moved in, or if it’s one of those things that cupboards create by themselves, the way floorboards breed dust bunnies. Somehow opening the packet was one of ‘those’ moments for me. A threshold experience. In the same way that receiving your kid’s first school report card makes you feel that, yes, undeniably, you must really be a grown up now, if your own children are getting report cards. Yeast somehow seems like Serious Cook Stuff. Scary.
It’s not really. Scary, that is.
Mix the dry things together, then add water. It looks like a scruffy mess and like surely you’ve added too much water, but don’t fret, it’s supposed to. Keep stirring until it all comes together. Now cover it, leave it in a warm spot and go do something else. For 8-18 hours, ish.
By the time you’ve gone about your business for a day, or had a good solid sleep (unless you too have small children, in which case odds are you snatch sleep in all-too-short snippets..) and done half a day’s worth of whatever, it should be ready for the next phase. Again following the flexible nature of this recipe, don’t stress too much over the timing. The flavour will ripen as it ferments, but I’ve turned it out after 5 hours, and after 24, it was good either way.
By now, the dough should be looking quite different. Bigger and sort of bubbly on top.
When you’re ready for phase 2, scrape the sides of the gloop down, and plop it onto a well floured surface. Stretch it out a bit if you want to, fold it in half, or just fold the edges over until it makes a nice blob. This gives the yeast new fuel and sets the reaction off again, creating new bubbles, a second rise. I usually try to tuck the scruffy bits underneath so that the stretched side is on the top like a parachute. Flour the outside well. Cover lightly with cling film, a tea towel or an upturned bowl, and let it rise again.
After another 2 hours it should have puffed up again. 30 mins before you’re ready to bake, crank your oven up to 230C (450F) and put your container-of-choice, in my case a trusty saucepan, in to preheat. When using a saucepan, be leery of plastic knobs or handles unless you are sure they can take the heat. It will be seriously toasty in there. Or possibly melty or burny if you happen to use an unsuitable knob. Caveat baker.
I keep a circle of baking paper in the bottom to help avoid sticking, but this isn’t essential, extra flour on the bottom should help avoid any potential sticking.
When you’ve reached full temperature, don your oven mitts or gird your arms in tea towels, pull the saucepan out and flip your dough ball in. Whisk it back into the oven as fast as you can.
Bake for 30 mins with the lid on, then another 15-30 with the lid off until it gets nice and golden.
Remove from oven, run around the sides with a knife if need be, decant bread onto cooling rack, and then burn your fingers and tongue trying to eat a slice right away. (Possibly this step isn’t essential either..) It is easier to cut when it’s cool, if you can wait that long.
I may still be ignorant in the ways of bread, but inspired by this technique, I now plan to some day tackle a true sourdough. To anyone else who has never baked their own loaf of bread, I hope the simplicity and forgiving nature of this recipe makes you at least a bit curious. Chances are you’ll find it a very rewarding experience.
*Other containers that apparently work include Pyrex dishes with fitting lids, Dutch ovens, aluminium foil if you don’t have a fitting lid, even a pizza stone with a stainless steel bowl overturned on it to keep the moisture in. The important thing is to have a contained environment so that the bread is moist inside and crusty outside. And that it is sufficiently hot. Crank your oven!
We had a low key easter this year, leaning more towards family get-togethers than large scale chocolate massacres, but the one traditionally eastery thing we did get up to was stained-glass eggs.
If you’ve never made them before, it’s worth it. It’s great fun, and unwrapping each egg to discover its decorative paint job is always exciting.
Wrap each egg in a few scraps of onion skin, enclose in foil, and boil as usual, though using as little water as possible will result in deeper overall colour.
One layer of skin fives a pleasantly blotchy dye job with higher contrast, and two or more creates deeper golden/butterscotchy tones with intriguing mottles. The dry outer skins seem to have the darkest pigment, though the lighter inner layers sometimes dye up surprising acid yellows and greens.
Red onion skins provide a nice variation too. Not as bright as I’d expected, but on closer inspection the red skin egg had some lovely subtle colours, including a touch of blue-green (perhaps created by some alkaline egg white seeping out of a crack that formed during the boiling stage?)
As an experiment, I left one egg au naturel to see if it take on some colour, and it became a more even, brighter yellow hue. Looking at the remaining water this is not surprising. It is the one in the centre of the bowl in the top picture.
If you haven’t tried this before, I hope you’ll be inspired to give it a go and make your own one-of-a-kind masterpieces!
(And if you were wondering, none of the onion flavour carried over into the eggs, even the ones that cracked during cooking.)