Mandy Mandy Quite Contrary part #2

Leave a comment

*Collapses, flailing on the couch with relief*

Finally, tomato season is over. I made my final batch of green tomato chutney over the weekend, marking the end of what turned out to be months of weekend sauces, chutneys, relishes and salsas. I’ve pulled most of my tomato plants out – already replacing some with garlic, kale and leek – and this weekend I’ll pull the remaining ten or so. Already, there’s literally hundreds of baby tomato plants popping their heads up after self-seeding. What a shame they won’t last the winter! Along with tomato preserves, I’ve been pickling chilli, gherkins and other veggies, drying herbs and freezing berries. I feel very organised and prepared for any zombie apocalypse.

 

Raspberries!

Raspberries!

Berries

I’m still getting about half a dozen strawberries and maybe three or four ripe raspberries each day. While I did get to make loads of yummy stuff with the strawbs, there was never quite enough razzies in one day to do much with. So towards the end of the season, I’ve been freezing my berries. It’s by far the easiest and most practical way of preserving them for use later in the year. Raspberries, I simply pick and immediately pop into a small snap-lock bag in the freezer. I don’t even bother to wash them – my garden is totally organic, so I know there’s no unwanted chemicals hanging around, and the lack of water means no ice crystals will form on the fruit. I do, however, check the berries over for unwanted critters and hitchhikers! With strawberries, I’ll hull them first, and maybe slice the bigger ones in half. That’s it! Perfect for baking, defrosting to have with breakfast cereal, yogurt or desserts.

 

Strawberries and Raspberries ready for the freezer

Strawberries and Raspberries ready for the freezer

Herbs

Last summer, I turned most of my basil into pesto and froze it. I didn’t find it all that successful, and we struggled to use it all up. This year, along with chives, Italian parsley, oregano and celery leaves (sooo delicious!) I’ve been dehydrating my basil to use dried in the kitchen. It’s time consuming, but so, so simple. You can buy a basic dehydrator like mine for about $40 upwards. I think we paid around $60 five years ago. For herbs, just pick straight from the garden, remove leaves and check for critters. With chives, I hold a bunch in one hand and snip them into smaller pieces with scissors – much easier than cutting with a knife. Arrange leaves flat on the shelves of your dehydrator, and set to a low heat for about six to eight hours. You’ll know when they’re ready because the herbs will be crunchy. Your kitchen will smell AMAZING for days. Commercial dried herbs have nothing on the homemade stuff – you’ll find home dried herbs have a more concentrated flavour and are a great replacement when you can’t get hold of fresh produce.

Basil in the dehydrator

Basil in the dehydrator

Advertisements

Cookbook Review: Argentinian Street Food

Leave a comment

Argentinian Street Food

‘Argentinian Street Food’ might be a super-cute cookbook with its simple cover and cut-out design, but don’t be fooled – it works damn hard for all that cuteness. A little on the quirky side, filled with simple step-by-step illustrations and gorgeous photographs, it’s the sort of book that will have you pouring over the recipes just for the fun of it. And then, pretty much demanding you cook from it. It’s that irresistible.

 But what I love most about Argentinian Street Food is the subject matter. Yeah, yeah, of course – FOOD – but my favourite kind of food. We’re not talking sit-down to eight courses that take three days to prepare here, Street Food is exactly what it should be: simple to prepare. Simple to hold. Simple to eat, pastries. The kind of food where you’re more concerned about the awesome conversation you’re having with the people you’re sharing that food with than which of the eight knives and forks you’re supposed to use first. In other words, this is social food. It’s fun and it’s tasty. And then there’s ice cream. Well, helados, which is kind of like Argentina’s version of gelato, but… different.

argentinian

The authors, Enrique Zononi and Gaston Stivelmaher are Argentinian chefs who live and work in Paris, serving up their specialty pastries and ice cream in three different restaurants, as well as a mobile food cart that wanders through the streets of Paris. Called ‘Carrito’, the van is a tribute to the Buenos Aires of the 1950’s, serving empanadas and helados. The book starts out with the basics – how to make the two different styles of dough required for making stuffed empanadas (baked and fried).

Then, with step-by-step instructions even a first-timer can understand, it moves on to how to fill and fold the dough ‘parcels’, and, most importantly, how to ‘hem’ them to get not just a great-looking result, but a empanada that won’t leak. And then, the recipes move on to the actual fillings. For me, the first one I’m going to try cooking is definitely the Blue Cheese and Celery (with pecan nuts and mozzarella too!) though my husband is keen on checking out the Duck Confit and Foie Gras version. But it’s not just extravagant, out-there fillings included here – good old ham and cheese gets a look-in too.

Zanoni and Stivelmaher have also included a handful of ‘Pica Pica’ dishes, which are basically ‘little dishes’ – a bit of something on the side. My favourite here is the marinated beetroot with fresh goat’s cheese and chopped pistachios. Omgosh!

Finally, we get back to the helados and dulces – or confectionary. I’m passionate about making my own ice cream, and the stand-out recipe for me here is the Raspberry-Malbec sorbet. I can’t wait to try it out with some home-grown raspberries. And oh, while we’re at it, I think the Preserved Cumquats recipe just saved me the drama of marmalade this year…

 

Argentinian Street Food is available from April 1st, 2014.

 

Published by Murdoch Books

160 pages, hardcover

ISBN – 9781743362945

RRP – $29.95

Zucchini and Sweetcorn Relish

Leave a comment

I love the whole process that goes with cooking sauces, chutneys and relishes. From collecting suitable jars and bottles to growing the ingredients myself (you don’t actually have to do that bit…), chopping veggies and adding to the magnificent four gallon enamel pot that once belonged to my Dad. He gave it to me a few years before he died, and using it isn’t just seriously practical – it’s very sentimental. I love the scent of vegetables, vinegar and spices wafting through the house, having something to stir and taste each time I wander into the kitchen, and the fact that it might take a whole day (or even two!) to make a good sauce. It’s worth every minute. If you’ve never attempted making your own sauces or chutneys, don’t freak out! It’s a much easier (and weirdly relaxing) process than you might think.

My Dad's 4 Gallon Pot. Perfect for cooking relish!

My Dad’s 4 Gallon Pot. Perfect for cooking relish!

 

I’m going to write up a few of my chutney recipes over the coming weeks – all made from home grown ingredients. We’ll start with the simplest of them all, Zucchini and Corn.

 

We didn’t just have an abundance of zucchini this year, but also corn and capsicum. The corn in particular was to die for. I almost felt bad using it to make relish, but then…nah. I didn’t. Now, these quantities listed are for a double batch. Feel free to halve them. You can also play around a little bit with spices, garlic and chilli. But *don’t* change the quantities of your sugar, salt and most importantly, vinegar. This has to do with the preserving process, and keeping things safe. This recipe will make about 8 quart-size jars.

Preparation for relish

Preparation for relish

 

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 1500g of zucchini, diced. This works out to be around 8 largish zucchinis.
  • 2 red capsicums, diced.
  • 1 green capsicum, diced.
  • 2 cups of corn kernels (fresh from the cob, if you can). Works out to be around 3 – 4 large cobs of corn.
  • 3 onions, sliced.
  • 3 cups of white vinegar.
  • 2 ½ cups of white sugar (seems a lot, but this is a big batch of relish).
  • 1 medium chilli – this is optional. I did one batch with it this year, once batch without. The spicier version is the family favourite.
  • 8 teaspoons of turmeric.
  • 5 teaspoons of mustard powder.
  • 3 teaspoons of mustard seeds (or whole grain mustard).
  • 1 tablespoon of curry powder.
  • 4 – 5 cloves of garlic, crushed.
  • 3 tablespoons of salt.
  • Cornflour to thicken at the end of cooking.

 

Zucchini. Corn. Capsicum. Onion. That's pretty much it!

Zucchini. Corn. Capsicum. Onion. That’s pretty much it!

HOW IT’S DONE:

After you’ve chopped everything up – throw it all in the pot (except the cornflour). Seriously, that’s it. Just chuck it all in. Bring it to the boil, then turn down the heat to low. Now, I have recipes where they recommend simmering for an hour. I cook it all day – well, for at least five hours anyway. Leave the lid on your pot for the first couple of hours, then remove, which will help to reduce your mixture. Make sure you remember to give it a good stir regularly. Keep tasting it, too, and feel free to add more of your favourite spices (or chilli!)

 

*Do note that I don’t use any oil in my chutneys. There’s good reason for this. Firstly, you don’t need it. With the vinegar and combined vegetables, trust me when I say there’s plenty of fluid in this mix. It won’t burn if you stir it every now and then. Secondly, oil can be a carrier for botulism when you’re working with preserves. So I’d rather stay safe than sorry.

 

To thicken your relish at the end, add a couple of teaspoons of cornflour to a small jug. Add water and mix until it forms a smooth, thin paste. Add to your relish mix in a thin stream, stirring constantly. Best to go a little at a time with this, remembering your relish will also thicken as it cools.

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble...

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble…

 

 

Jarring Up:

Ah, the controversial bit. Depending on which country you live in, and what your food safety laws are, there are different recommendations for the preservation of food. What do I do? Well, I wash all jars – make sure they are the type where the lid will ‘pop’ up and down – on a sterilisation cycle in my dishwasher. Yes, even the brand new ones.Then, I add a couple of jars (and their lids) to a large pot of boiling water for ten minutes. Use a pair of tongs to remove. I make sure I’m wearing thick rubber gloves, too. Fill jars with VERY HOT relish mix, leaving about 1cm at the top. Wipe away any mess around the lip, and fit the lid. Some preserving jars will have a flat lid and a metal ‘skirt’ to fit around them. If your jar has sealed properly, and depending on the heat in the room, within about half an hour, the lid will ‘pop’ down with suction from the cooling relish. I store my sauces and relishes for over a year in the pantry if they’re unopened, in the fridge once they have been opened.

Zucchini and corn relish

Zucchini and corn relish

 

Other methods include water baths and pressure baths. I recommend checking them out for yourself and seeing what you feel most comfortable with, depending on the quality of your water and sanitising conditions. A good website for all things preserving can be found here:

Pick Your Own

 

Zucchini and corn relish is super-delish on ham, corned beef or salami. I’ve been using it as a dip, spooning a couple of tablespoons over cream cheese and serving with crackers and a crumbly tasty cheese. But my favourite use for it has turned out to be as a pizza sauce! Yep, a few spoonfuls on a pizza base, salami and a sprinkling of cheese – AMAZING.