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RELISHING AUTUMN April 22 2015, 3 Comments

 

EG's Stephanie Wapling, relishes the challenge of the seasonal glut. 

Every new season brings new labours and Autumn came this year with its share of enjoyable challenges.  Everything fruited more than any other year since I moved to the country and we were inundated.  We had Japanese plums by the bucket load and berries for weeks.  I took a bag of plums into the Earth Garden office only for my workmates to put up their hands and say “No! I don’t have time to deal with any more fruit!”  

I never thought such abundance could create so much pressure.  When I left the city five years ago, working in the high pressure fashion industry I envisioned a slower pace and a more casual schedule.  Golden light through the trees while I breathed deeply and enjoyed the greenery and all that ...  I did not foresee the stress of trying to preserve kilos of fruit before it spoiled and fruit flies took over my household!  I have had every saucepan I own on the stove at once and badgered all my friends for empty jars.  The added pressure of a toddler in the kitchen whilst trying to sterilize said jars was quite a juggle.

But we persevered and we have triumphed!  I have my stores filled with apple sauce, apricot jam, plum jam, bottled nashis and pear and ginger compote.  We even tried our hand at making wine and have blackberry wine and plum wine fermenting away.  We have enough plum paste for dozens of cheese platters (did I mention we had a lot of plums?) 

My last endeavor was THE beetroot.  My friend dropped around a beetroot as large as my child’s head!  What was I to do with it?  I chose a recipe that would use it all at once and it just so happened to use all my remaining jars.  This mammoth specimen weighed in at 2.7kgs and made 17 jars of delicious relish!  Simple to make, versatile to use and I have found it makes a great gift.  This is a recipe that I altered to suit what I had on hand.

BEETROOT RELISH

2.5kgs grated beetroot 

2 brown onion diced

2 cups balsamic vinegar

1 cup white vinegar

4 tsp yellow mustard seeds 

2 tsp nigella seeds

3 cups golden castor sugar

4 whole cloves

Rind of a lemon

2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

Enough water to almost cover

Fry seeds in a little oil until fragrant, add everything else, cook until beetroot has softened and liquid has thickened slightly.  It’s ready whenever it is to your taste; I’m not big on following recipes!  Pour into sterilised jars, seal and let cool.  

 

     

     

     


    NO NEED TO KNEAD March 27 2015, 0 Comments

     

    by Ellen Regos

    Photos by Josephine Newman

    Edited extract from Earth Garden No.167

     Lately I have been experimenting with the no knead approach which I am really loving! As I am lazy by nature, I find this recipe so easy to make and it costs me less than half a commercially bought loaf.

    The secret to a good rise is the starter culture. It is possible to make ones own but I have found that one inherited from a fellow maker provides a connection to the long history and tradition of bread making and is a great way to start if it is a first attempt.

    Once the starter culture is obtained, have a go at this very simple recipe below, which makes one loaf of sourdough bread:

     SOURDOUGH LOAF

    Ingredients

    Starter culture in a 300g jar
    I kg organic plain flour
    2 tsp salt
    2 cups water
    Up to 1 cup of optional ingredients (seeds, nuts, herbs, oil, fruit, olives, sprouted grains, etc.)

    Equipment

    Ceramic or glass bowl (4-6 L)
    Measuring cup
    Butter knife or small whisk
    Tea towel and elastic band
    Teaspoon
    Bread spatula
    Pyrex dish with lid
    Sharp knife or razor blade
    Wire rack
    Apron (optional)

     Day One

    1. Take the starter culture out of fridge and add it to the ceramic or glass bowl, putting the jar back into the fridge (no need to wash the jar).
    2. Add one cup of flour and one cup of water to the bowl and mix in with a butter knife or small whisk (no need to remove all the lumps).
    3. Cover the bowl with a tea towel using an elastic band to hold it in place and leave the bowl on a bench for 24 hours (or overnight).

    Day Two

    1. Remove the tea towel and elastic band (the culture will be frothy and there will be lots of bubbles)
    2. Remove the empty jar from the fridge and refill it with mixture from the bowl, placing the jar back in the fridge for the next loaf (there will be some starter culture that remains in the bowl).
    3. Add one cup of water, three cups of flour and two teaspoons of salt to the remaining starter culture. Add any additional items to flavor the bread (see optional ingredients list above) at this stage.
    4. Stir ingredients with a butter knife and mix well.
    5. Cover the bowl with a tea towel, using an elastic band to hold it in place and leave the bowl on the bench for 24-36 hours (the soft dough will double in size during this time).

    Day Three

    1. Remove the tea towel and elastic band from the bowl.
    2. Use the spatula to scrape the dough onto a lightly floured bench and lightly sprinkle flour on top of the dough, using hands to flatten out to a flat oblong shape around 1cm thick.
    3. Brush off any excess flour from on top of the dough before folding opposite edges into the center with the seam at the top.
    4. Flip the bread into a floured Pyrex dish so the seam is at the bottom.
    5. Slash the bread with a sharp knife or razor blade to desired pattern.
    6. Put the lid on the Pyrex dish and place on the bottom shelf of a cold oven.
    7. Turn the oven to 260 degrees Celsius and cook the bread for 45 min (this time includes 15 minutes for the oven to heat up).
    8. Open the oven and remove the lid, turning the oven down to 200 degrees Celsius and cook for a further 15 minutes.
    9. Turn off the oven and remove the bread.
    10. Turn the bread onto a rack and cool for an hour before devouring! 

    Sourdough proving in a bowl

    Sourdough scraped onto a floured surface

    Final dust of flour before putting into an enclosed Pyrex dish for baking

    Ellen demonstrates sourdough bread making at work

     

     


    Capsicum Chilli Sauce January 22 2015, 0 Comments

    It's summer harvest time. Here's an easy recipe to add a fiery kick to your dinners
    by Bridie Pereda
    Earth Garden 167

    Ingredients

    8 bullhorn capsicums
    100 g small hot chillies
    2 cups sugar
    1 1/2 cups white vinegar
    5 cloves garlic
    knob of ginger, half a thumb size
    2 tsp salt
    black pepper
    2 good slurps of balsamic vinegar
    Method
    In a food processor, blend the capsicums, chilli, garlic and ginger. In a pot add the remaining ingredients, add chilli combination and bring to a rolling boil. Keep at the same temperature, stirring until sauce thickens a little (approximately 30 minutes). Pour in to sterilised glass jars or in to a clean glass jar and store in the fridge.

    Viv’s Rhubarb Chutney November 28 2014, 0 Comments

    This is a nice tart chutney that works really well dolloped on crackers and cheese or throw a small jar into a curry before serving.

    It’s a great way to use a glut of rhubarb. If you don’t have 3 kg’s just adjust the quantities accordingly.

    Ingredients

    3-4 tbsp sunflower oil
    4 tbsp mustard seeds
    2 tbsp crushed black peppercorns
    1 tbsp fenugreek seeds
    1 tbsp ground cumin
    2 tsp turmeric
    1 bulb of garlic, peeled and grated
    5-7cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
    2 fresh chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
    3kg Rhubarb roughly chopped into 3cm peices
    500g Brown sugar
    250g Raw sugar
    400ml cider vinegar
    2 tbsp salt

    Method

    1. Warm the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat and add the spices, stirring well and frying until the mustard seeds just begin to pop. This will only take a minute or so – be careful not to scorch the spices. Add the garlic, ginger and chillies, stir well, and fry gently for few minutes.
    2. Tip the chopped rhubarb into a large preserving pan and pour over the spices.
    3. Add the sugar, vinegar and salt.
    4. Stir over a low heat until the sugar dissolves, then simmer for about 2 hours until thickened, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if you think it’s beginning to look too thick.
    5. Check for tartness. As rhubarb can vary you may need to add a little more sugar to taste at the end. Make sure it is dissolved and cooked in completely and don’t make it sweet like jam.
    6. Bottle in warm, sterilised jars, filling the jars really full as the mixture will shrink slightly as it cools. Seal with vinegar-proof lids.

    Download the PDF


    Apple Porridge Slice November 14 2014, 0 Comments

    (aka, The Blacksmith’s Breakfast)

    by Tracy Hansen
    Back Yard Ovens Volume Two

    Queensland’s not necessarily the greatest climate to make oven tools in – summers are pretty hot down at the forge. So, as the temperature rises, The Smith gets up earlier and earlier, trying to beat the heat.
    I love Pete, make no mistake about it, but when he starts getting up at 4am, then 3.30, then 3, well, somewhere around that time of the morning, love stops being enough and he’s on his own. Even the dog stops getting up with him! Only trouble is, if you’re going to pound metal for four or five hours, you need some fuel inside you. This slice, half porridge, half muesli bar, with some fruit thrown in, will let a man forge on right up till lunchtime if he has to...

    Base
    6-8 Granny Smith apples
    2 cups of rolled oats
    2 ½ cups hot water
    1 cup softened butter
    2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
    4 eggs
    3 cups SR flour
    2 teas ground cinnamon
    2 teas ground nutmeg
    250 grams sultanas
    200 grams walnut kernels, roughly chopped 

    Topping
    1 cup butter
    1 cup cream
    1 cup yogurt
    2 cups rolled oats
    4 cups walnut kernels, roughly chopped
    4 cups shredded coconut 

    Note: If you’re cooking walnuts, it’s imperative that they are the lovely, plump, lightly golden ones, not the over-roasted, shrivelled up, old, dark brown ones. If you can’t find any, use pecans instead.

    Method
    Peel and roughly dice the apples, then sprinkle them with lemon juice to stop them going brown.
    Pour the boiling water on the oats and leave them to soak.
    Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
    Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each egg.
    If using a mix master, at this stage you probably need to transfer up to a bigger bowl, so you can stir through all the remaining ingredients.
    Check the oats. If they are too stodgy, add a little more water, just enough to loosen them up. Add the oats to the mixture and then sift in the flour, cinnamon and nutmeg and stir until all the ingredients are combined.
    Add the walnuts, sultanas and apple and fold through. 

    Your oven needs to be around 180-190 degrees Celsius. We usually do a long, soaking fire-prep, get up to pizza heat and then go back down a bit (maybe stopping for pizza and bread on the way!). When the oven is bathed in a lovely warm after glow, and the fire has died right down to softly pulsing coals, push the coals out to the edges of the oven and check the floor temperature by scattering some flour on and watching it toast. If it instantly incinerates, have at least another glass of wine and then try again…

    This slice is fantastic for a wood fired oven because it’s so dense and moist. It is a bit of work though, so to be extra sure it doesn’t burn on the bottom, I use an old patisserie trick and double-up on the containers.

    So, spoon your batter out into your baking paper lined pan and spread it right to the edges. Slide your second tray (if you’ve got one) underneath, put the mix in the oven and close the door.

    The base needs to cook for around 30 minutes. I check it every 10 minutes and adjust its position in the oven accordingly. After about 20 minutes, if everything is looking good, I go make the topping.

    Put the butter, the cream and the yoghurt in a saucepan and bring them to the boil. Add the sugar and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes until it’s all combined. Mix through the oats, walnuts and coconut and take the topping out to the oven. When your slice is lightly browned and feels firm-ish in the middle (just set enough to hold the topping is ideal), gently distribute the warm topping over the base.

    Return the slice to the oven and cook for another 10 minutes or until the topping is firm and a rich, golden brown. Sometimes, we light another log from the coals and lightly ‘grill’ the topping near the flames to get a really crunchy, caramelised top.

    Let the slice cool completely in the pan and then move to the fridge. The slice will keep for well over a week and will just get better each day as the oats absorb the flavour of the apple and the aroma of the spices.

    Peter Bergemann and Tracy Hansen are the proprietors of
    Slow Food and Handforged Tools. Check out their website
    www.slowfoodandhandforgedtools.com.au or phone (07) 5447 0331 for more information.

     

    Download the PDF


    CHOCOLATE BEETROOT CAKE September 26 2014, 0 Comments

    by Madeleine Delany

    Earth Garden 167

    100 g dark chocolate
    3 medium free range eggs
    300 g brown sugar
    180 g butter
    300 g cooked beetroots (see cooking method below)
    1 tsp vanilla extract / 1tbsp vanilla essence
    30 g cocoa powder
    100 g almond meal
    100 g plain flour
    1 ½ tsp baking powder
    ¼ tsp salt

    1. To cook the beetroots, wash thoroughly and place in a pot full of cold water. Bring to the boil and cook until soft when poked with a knife. Cool, rub off the skins and then blend or mash until smooth. (Reserve the red cooking water and use to cook rice or lentils – I made beetroot and goats cheese risotto!)
    2. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line two 22cm cake tins.
    3. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler and leave to cool to room temperature.
    4. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk together the eggs and sugar.
    5. Slowly add the cooked beet puree, the melted chocolate and vanilla into the egg mixture. Beat until just combined.
    6. Sift the cocoa, flour and baking powder. Add this, the almond meal and salt to the beet batter. Fold until just combined. Don’t over mix.
    7. Pour into cake tins and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the cake just springs back if you touch it. Leave to cool, the spread one the frosting
    Cream Cheese Frosting

    250ml cream
    250g cream cheese
    ¾ cup icing sugar
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    Whip cream and cream cheese to soft peaks, add icing sugar and vanilla and beat until combined. Spread on the cake and refrigerate.

    Download PDF

     


    Scandanavian Crispbread September 04 2014, 1 Comment

    Gary Thomas, Spade to Blade
    Earth Garden 166

    1 ¼ cups lukewarm milk
    25g (2tbs) yeast
    1tsp salt
    250g wheat flour
    250g rye flour (I also use spelt) 

    1. Mix the yeast and milk together.  Leave to stand somewhere warm a few minutes.
    2. Add all other ingredients to the milk and fold together to a firm dough.
    3. Knead for 5 or 10 minutes to stretch the gluten.
    4. Halve the mixture and roll each half into a sausage shape.  Cut into 16 even pieces.
    5. Leave balls to prove somewhere warm for 20 minutes.
    6. Preheat your oven to 200 celsius.
    7. Roll each ball out to the thickness of a 5 or 10 cent piece.  I will often use a pasta machine roller for this.
    8. Prick the surface all over with a fork or dimpled roller.
    9. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, flip and bake another 2 minutes on the other side.  Remove and cool.

    These are terrific served with a bit of cheese and apple jelly.They will keep for weeks if stored correctly. You can add contrast at step 2 by folding through a couple of tablespoons of fennel or caraway or poppy seed.


    For Scandinavian Crispbread, cut the dough sausage into 16 even pieces.

    Roll crispbread dough through the pasta machine to the thickness of a coin.

    Cooked Scandinavian crispbreads. Serve them with cheese and fruit jelly.

    Download PDF


    Spinach or Silver Beet Pie August 08 2014, 0 Comments

    Tanya Jenkyn
    Back Yard Farmer 11

     This is an old family favourite of ours that evolves depending on what cheese you happen to have in the house at the time.  It works for us because the two things we never run short on are spinach (silver beet) and eggs.  And the beauty of it is that you can use a lot of eggs and silver beet in this recipe as long as you have a big enough baking dish.  Quantities here are elastic.  You will need...

    Filo pastry
    Sesame seeds
    Dukka
    Big bunch of silver beet (maybe 10? depends on your plants)
    A man-sized handful of pine nuts
    A whole lot of eggs (I usually use at least a dozen)
    3 or 4 different types of cheese grated or crumbled choose your favourite but I usually use a combo of tasty and feta or goats cheese with something extra for a piquant kick of flavour like a blue vein and or parmesan.  Total cheese quantity should be around 2 or 3 cups.

    Wash and chop silver beet.  Grease baking dish and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Line the base with filo pastry (4 or 5 layers) fill the baking dish with chopped spinach, don't worry if it looks a bit mountainous, it will collapse a lot during cooking.  Beat eggs and add all the cheeses, salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle the pinenuts over the spinach and then pour the egg and cheese mix over the top.  Push it all around a bit to disperse the mix a little more evenly then layer the top with more filo (3 or 4 layers).  Use some beaten egg with a dash of milk to baste the top and seal the sides of the pie.  Stab it a few times with a fork and sprinkle the top with dukka or a toasted seed mix.  Bake in a moderate oven (180 degrees) for about 30-40 minutes until the top turns brown and it doesn't look too gooey in the middle. 

    Download printable version


    Potato Gnocchi July 25 2014, 1 Comment

    Potato Gnocchi

    Homemade gnocchi blows any store-bought stuff out of the water. Some recipes call for an egg to be added to the dough, but if you know your taters and use the right variety, the dumplings won’t need any help sticking to- gether when cooked.

    1kg toolangi Delight or another high starch, low water- content potato. (also, use mature, rather than young potatoes — even old ones that have been sitting in your pantry a while drying out are great!)

    425 – 450 g type ‘00’ or plain flour

    Boil your spuds till cooked, drain off the water and put the tubers back in the empty saucepan on the hot stove. Leave them here for a minute or so to dry them out, removing as much excess water as possible. this is a good tip if you are simply making mash, too.

    Once just cool enough to handle, peel them. Mash the cooked potatoes, or, if you have one, put them through a potato ricer for a much smoother consistency. Season this mix with a little salt. turn the mash out onto a floured work surface, and knead in the flour a little at a time. alternately, do this in a stand-mixer. The measurements for flour are approximate; they can always dif- fer on any given day. Just keep adding until you have a nice light-feeling, smooth dough. the ratio of potatoes to flour is generally two to slightly less than one, if you want to change the quantity you cook.

    Divide the dough into thirds and roll into a ‘sausage’. Chop the mix with a sharp knife into gnocchi-sized chunks, and roll in a little flour to stop them sticking together. at this stage you can either leave them ‘rustic’ style, or roll a fork over each one for the traditional gnoc- chi shape. (there’s a nifty contraption called a gnocchi paddle you can get for this purpose.)

    Have a pot of salted water ready at a low simmer to drop the dumplings in. they will only take a minute or so to rise to the surface, and then you know they’re cooked. Scoop them out and dunk straight into sauce that’s waiting to embrace them.

    Like any pasta, gnocchi lends itself to experimenta- tion when it comes to the accompanying sauce. I tried creamy blue cheese most recently, simply placing 
    1⁄2 cup milk, 
    80 g blue cheese, 
    20 g butter, 
    1⁄2 cup cream, 
    black pepper, 
    some chopped chives and asparagus in a saucepan and heating.

    But how about burnt butter and sage? Or wild mushroom and leek? Or a simple fresh tomato and basil?

    One last tip I’d like to pass on: invest in a potato ricer for your kitchen. It will give you the ultimate creamy, smooth mash with the least effort. 

    From The Humble Spud
    By Madeleine Delaney
    Earth Garden no 156

    Download Printable Version


    Banana Pancakes July 11 2014, 3 Comments

     with fresh fruit and french cream

    Ingredients for four people:

    1 1/3 cups buckwheat (preferably freshly ground)
    2/3 cup of millet flour (preferably freshly ground)

    1 tablespoon of yoghurt 1/2 cup of milk

    2-4 eggs

    Add more milk to desired consistency

    Add chopped banana

    Method: The night before
    mix flours, yoghurt and milk. This will be very thick.

    When ready to eat
    Add eggs to flour mixture.
    Add milk (to favoured consistency) and mix. (For a fluffier texture you can also add organic baking powder to the mixture).

    French Cream

    beat 125ml (4.25 fl oz) cream until stiff then add 3 tubs yoghurt.

    mix well.

    Cook pancakes in heavy based cast iron pan with butter.
    Top with fruit French cream and maple syrup or honey. 

    From Back Yard Farmer Number Nine
    Modern Peasants
    by James and Anne Larsen

    Download Printable Version


    Oven Aromatics July 04 2014, 0 Comments

    Using Aromatics in Your Oven

    by Tracy Hansen, Belli Park, Queensland

     

    Smoking

    We’ve always smoked things in our oven.  Not serious, preserving style smoking, but just the using of smoke to imbue things with flavour.

                To learn the basic method, read up a little on fish smoking and then have a go at doing something with these basic techniques in mind.  I like to ‘smoke’ ocean trout pieces rolled in sesame seeds.  If you flake this fish over warm roasted sweet potato dobbed with a little butter and scattered with freshly chopped coriander, you get the most beautiful visual and scented salad that just melts in your mouth.

                Citrus peel also works a treat for this sort of ‘lite’ smoking.  We scrupulously save any nice thin mandarin peel and dry it out in the just-warm oven overnight and then use it for a wood oven spin on the classic Duck a la Orange, amongst other things.  Kaffir lime leaves and stems are similarly lovely and pungent, particularly with chilli-ed up seafood and any sort of apple prunings and peelings are wonderful to infuse into pork.  Tea is great for smoking too.  I know I sound obsessed with duck, but wait till you try some duck smoked over a handful of Earl Grey …

    Packaging

    If you have access to a grape vine, the prunings make nice aromatic oven wood and the blanched leaves make a great lightly scented wrap material and act as a tenderiser for stew-y meats. Slow roasted goat pieces marinated in red wine and cooked wrapped in vine leaves are amazingly succulent.  Baked ricotta cakes covered in vine leaves also look and taste fantastic.

                 This use of aromatics as a protective cloak is actually really handy for wood fired oven cooking.  A loose wrap of slightly damp fennel or dill or coriander stalks is perfect to half-steam delicate things and really helps to keep them moist.  A whole small trout or bream stuffed loosely with some lemon slices, soused in some white wine, pepper and butter and then wrapped in lots of those long ungainly fennel stalks straight from the garden (the ones that are heading to seed) will cook to perfection on a tray in the oven and the smell will have everyone drooling.  You can also 'Asian' your fish up by using coriander stalks, soy, ginger and lime.

                Of course, the absolute hands down winner in the scented packaging stakes would have to be cardamom.  Plant some in your garden as soon as you can, because even if you never get to pick a pod (and I’ve been waiting seven years now!) the leaves are in a class of their own.  Little parcels of chicken thigh meat and yoghurt wrapped up in cardamom leaves, put on a tray and baked for an hour in the WFO are just unbeatable and anything cooked or heated up on cardamom leaves will be permeated by that wonderful heady odour – saffron prawns baked on (already cooked) coconut rice with a cardamom leaf under them are just delicious and a thick Asian style rice pudding wrapped into little cardamom covered parcels and reheated, makes a fragrant, no-fuss desert.

    Tools

    Back to old and woody garden things, I try to keep quite a lot of strong rosemary and lemon grass stalks in the garden because you can make such fantastic skewers out of them.  Our sweet little local Queensland scallops speared on lemongrass skewers, dobbed with butter, glazed with white wine and really quickly roasted over the coals are a bit of a fave starter here. Moroccan minced lamb on rosemary stem kebabs also gets the big tick from my man.

                 There you go, a Cook’s Guide to Aromatherapy!

    The woody aromatic herbs make really cute marinade brushes.  Slappin' some marinade on a beautiful hot piece of meat with a bunch of rosemary or sage smells great and really makes you feel good.

    Slow Food and Handforged Tools 

    Download Printable Version


    Baked whole ricotta and olives June 20 2014, 0 Comments

    Baked Whole Ricotta and Olives

    by Margaret Tacey

    Turn a whole 1kg ricotta onto a baking dish.  Thinly slice 3 or 4 garlic cloves and scatter over.  Crush 3 or 4 bay leaves and sprinkle over.  Throw on 1 flat teas chili flakes, 1 teas oregano, some thin slices of roast capsicum, S&P, ½ cup grated fresh parmesan.  Drizzle about ½ cup olive oil over and put in an oven about 160 degrees C for 2 or 3 hours or until golden brown.  For the last hour add some chopped balsamic tomatoes with juices, more parmesan or oil if needed.  Olives can be added in the last 20 minutes.

    Baked Olives

    Put a few handfuls of your favourite olives in a pan with some olive oil, 3 bay leaves and a few whole garlic cloves.  Rattle the pan over heat until the olives start to spit.  Add ½ cup of water or white wine to pan, a grinding of pepper.  Place around Ricotta or separately in the oven for 15 mins.

    If your oven is well insulated and you seal the oven door at the end of a day's feasting, there'll still be good heat the next day for some relaxed cooking where temperatures and timing don't matter too much.  Dishes like the ricotta and the olives are perfect.

    Download Printable Version


    Roast Pumpkin Pizza June 13 2014, 0 Comments

    Roast Pumpkin Pizza 

    by Andrew Hopgood 

    We’ve talked about building an oven for a long time and I always thought it would cost too much until my mum and dad bought me the book Back Yard Ovens for my birthday.  After reading it about 

    47 times I felt I was ready to attempt building my own oven. 

    I chose a suitable position in the garden, poured a slab, bought 1200 bricks and some bluestone for $140 from e-bay and built the base.  My neighbour just happened to have a 6mm steel plate which fit like a glove on top of my bricks as a base ready for the mud to go on. 

    I used a metre long piece of bluestone as the mantle and after nearly giving myself a hernia, lifted that into place.  Then I collected enough empty beer bottles (from my brothers new years eve party) and laid them into a bed of mud as suggested in the book.

    From there I laid some fire bricks for the floor of the oven and then built the brick arch.  A brick sand mould covered with newspaper came next and then the mud stomping began.  Three layers and about ten inches thick.  A week or two to dry out a bit and away we went.

    We had some large cracks appear at first but after a bit of repair work they seem to have disappeared

    We’ve only had it going four times but each time we try something different and last weekend we came up with one we thought worthy for sharing.  We provide bowls of various ingredients and then invite friends to come and create their own pizzas for us all to share (and judge).

    We’ve found that less is more when it comes to piling your ingredients onto your base.  The kids love your basic tomato/basil base, cheese, olives and bacon whereas we love to experiment with

    pickled octopus, chili prawns, smoked salmon, roasted vegies etc.

    The Roast Pumpkin Pizza created by our friend Mel has been our favourite to date and this is how it goes:

    Ingredients

    Roast pumpkin pieces, roast capsicum, roast eggplant, grated beetroot, sliced mushroom, finely sliced red onion, mozzarella cheese, tomato/basil puree, (prosciutto optional).

    Make the dough about two hours before you cook. 

    It’s your basic dough recipe: 

    1 tspn dried yeast,

    1 tspn salt, 100ml warm water, a splash of good olive oil and about 150g of plain sifted flour.

    Whisk up the yeast, salt, oil and water in a bowl and leave for 15 minutes.

    Add flour and knead for 10-15 minutes.  Place it in a large bowl greased with olive oil, cover and let sit for an hour and a half.  Push it down flat, cover again and leave it for another fifteen minutes.

    Now you’re ready to roll it out.

    For the toppings we dice some pumpkin (1cm chunks) and roast it in the wood fired oven with rosemary and garlic in a baking tray.  A splash of your good olive oil over the top first.

    We also roast some eggplant and capsicum separately. 

    Spread the base with a tomato/basil puree and then scatter the pumpkin pieces around.

    Sprinkle with grated beetroot, sliced fresh mushrooms, roasted capsicum and eggplant, finely sliced red onion.

    Sprinkle some mozarella cheese over the top (not too much) and bake in a hot oven (about 4 minutes should do it).

    Kick back with a glass of wine and enjoy (or make another one with prosciutto on top - also very good).

     

    We scoop out the coals when we’re done and throw them in the fire pit located next to the oven, and spend the rest of the evening round the campfire.  Bewdafool.

     

    Download Printable Version


    Onion Jam May 23 2014, 0 Comments

     ONION JAM

    'The easiest thing in the world, all it takes is time.
    Fantastic with fresh white cheese or grilled meat or veg in a sandwich. 


    8 large red onions
    150g butter or good olive oil or combo
    ¾ cup brown sugar
    100ml balsamic
    Salt and pepper
    1. Peel and slice onions finely. 
    2. Combine all ingredients in baking pan. Cover.
    3. Cook in moderate oven 2 hours, remove lid and cook for two hours more, stirring occasionally. It is ready when completely soft.
    4. Cool and keep in a clean refrigerated jar up to 4 weeks.'


    Recipe courtesy of Gary Thomas, Spade to Blade, Earth Garden #160.

     

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    Pear Upside Down Cake May 16 2014, 0 Comments


    Pear Upside Down Cake

    by Tracy Hansen, Belli Park, Queensland

     Calling this concoction a ‘cake’ is a bit of an understatement (like calling chocolate ‘nice’ or Brad Pitt ‘presentable’).  In reality, it’s as complex and caramel-y as a tarte tatin and as comforting and nostalgic as your Nanna’s steamed pud.  Like anything understated though, when you discover just how good it really is, it’s a lovely surprise!

     

    For the pear layer:

    6 tablespoons butter (90g)

    1&1/2 cup lightly packed (270g) dark brown sugar

    6 ripe pears

    For the cake layer:

    12 tablespoons (180g) butter

    1&1/4 cup (225g) sugar

    1&1/2 teas vanilla essence

    3 large eggs

    2&1/4 cups (315g) flour

    2&1/4 teas baking powder

    3/4 cup (185ml) milk

     NOTE: All ingredients need to be at room temperature.

     Melt the butter in a 25 cm diameter cast iron skillet or similar.  Add the brown sugar and cook while stirring, until the sugar is melted and fudge-y and the mix starts to bubble.  Remove from the heat and allow the pan to cool.

    While the pan is cooling preheat the oven to 190⁰ C/ 350⁰ F, measure out your cake ingredients, and prep your pears.

    The pears need to be peeled, cored and sliced into approx 10 similar sized segments. Do not prep your pears until needed as they start to go brown very quickly once they are peeled.

    Arrange the pear slices in a pattern on top of the cooled fudge-y sauce.

    For the cake, cream together the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla, then add the eggs one at a time and beat really well between each addition.

    Sift the flour and baking powder into a separate bowl.

    Stir in half of the flour mix, then the milk, then the remaining flour.  Do not over mix during this final stage, just stir enough to ensure all the ingredients are incorporated.

    Dollop the mixture evenly over the pear slices, then smooth lightly with a spatula or knife to obtain an even layer.  If your skillet/pan is looking quite full at this stage, place a baking tray underneath it to ensure that if the fudge sauce bubbles over, it will not make a mess (takes a lot of the fun out of the cake if you have to clean burnt sugar off the oven!).

    Bake for at least 45 minutes (check at 30 minutes to see if the cake is browning evenly) or until the cake starts to pull away from the sides and the centre feels just solid.

    Remove from oven, let cool about 20 minutes, then place an ovenproof cake plate or biscuit slide THAT IS LARGER THAN THE SIZE OF THE SKILLET on top, and wearing oven mitts, flip the cake over onto the plate or slide.  Theoretically, the cake will let go of the skillet easily and in one piece.  If some of the cake/fudge/fruit stays stuck to the skillet, do not despair!  Simply arrange the stuck bits roughly where they should be on top of your cake and continue on…

    Turn your oven setting to grill/top element and keeping a close eye on your cake, return it to the oven until the fudge layer gets really caramel and toffee-d BUT NOT BURNT!  Remove from oven when you’ve taken it as far as you dare.

    Whilst it is nearly impossible to leave the cake alone even to get to lukewarm, it is one of those cakes that just gets better every day, so try to leave some in the fridge for at least 24 hours if you can…

    That said, it is best served warm (reheated in the oven for extra fudge-yness or even in the microwave is fine), with a lovely (not too sweet!) custard or some ice-cream.

    This cake is also delish made with green apples or rhubarb or quinces.  If using quinces, they need to be poached until just tender and cooled in advance of assembly as they just will not go all soft and golden and be at their quince-y best if not pre-cooked.

    Tracy Hansen and her partner Peter Bergemann are the proprietors of

    Slow Food and Handforged Tools.  Check out their website www.slowfoodandhandforgedtools.com.au 

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    Broccoli Soup May 09 2014, 0 Comments

    by Tanya Jenkyn, Esperance, Western Australia

    Let’s be honest, there’s not much that’s sexy about broccoli but I reckon if you take a few minutes to reflect on the nutritional value of this vegetable you may reconsider.

                Broccoli is very low in calories and the protein content is one third of its nourishment.  It is rich in vitamins A, C, folic acid and some of the other B vitamins.  Most of the minerals are also present, particularly good amounts of potassium, along with calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and iron.  Along with all its Brassica relatives, broccoli has been found to act as a cancer preventative and recent studies suggest some broccoli compounds may be particularly helpful in smokers and folk with chronic lung disease.  What a powerhouse!  All that in one funny looking vegetable and it’s pretty easy to grow.

                Like all the Brassica’s, broccoli is a heavy feeder so before planting out I like to boost the soil with some well-rotted compost and manure.  Add to this a good dose of blood and bone and if, unlike me, you’re in an area without naturally alkaline soil you may want to throw on a little extra lime.  Loosely mulch with pea hay (or your own locally sourced choice of mulch), plant out your seedlings and water in with some seaweed tonic.

                I would like to say that from here on all you have to do is water occasionally but I feel I should mention those nasty little green caterpillars that love to dine on all things in the Brassica family.  In our patch, we’ve netted all the beds.  We used steel pickets, bent high-density poly pipe over the top and covered them with bird netting.  This has proven mightily effective in keeping the bunnies, the peacock and the toddler off our crops but those dastardly cabbage moths still get in and lay their eggs, leading to caterpillar invasion.  I do believe, however that if we used a finer mesh that this wouldn't be the case.  So we just keep a spray bottle of chilli and garlic spray at the ready and squirt the little blighters as we find them.  I recently spoke to a friend of mine who said she just pays her kids five cents for every caterpillar they catch and squish, now that’s organic gardening!

                Getting back to the business of eating, I have a few suggestions to put some bling back into your broccoli.  To preserve the nutritional content broccoli is best eaten raw or lightly steamed.  Try using the florets as crudités to accompany a dip, throw some into a stir-fry or steam and toss through some butter and toasted nuts.  

     

    Here is a couple of extra recipes you could use when you have too many broccoli ready at once, or just need to smuggle some vitamins into your family.

    Super Easy Broccoli Soup

    1 large slurp of olive oil

    1 red onion, chopped

    4 cloves of garlic, chopped

    2 heads of broccoli, chopped

    1 1/2 L of stock

    salt and pepper to taste

     In a big pot, sauté the onions and garlic in olive oil, add chopped broccoli, cover with stock, bring to the boil and then simmer until broccoli is tender, about 5 minutes.  Blend and serve with hot buttered toast.  How easy is that?

     

     

    Blue Broccoli Cheese

    1 head of broccoli

    3T butter

    3T of plain flour

    750mL milk

    50 gm blue cheese, chopped

    1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

    1/4 cup of sliced almonds

     Roughly chop up the broccoli and place in a baking dish.  Melt butter in a pan, add flour and stir until it forms a paste.  Gradually add milk until the sauce thickens then add all the blue cheese and most of the tasty cheese.  Pour the sauce over the broccoli, top with the rest of the cheddar cheese, sprinkle with sliced almonds.  Bake in a moderate oven for 30 minutes or until the top is crisp and golden.

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    Hot Cross Buns April 16 2014, 0 Comments

    Hot Cross Buns

    Recipe courtesy of Gerald and Heather Hanley

    From the Good Life Bread Book 2008 (Love the car tip!)

    250ml water

    200ml apple juice

    2 tablespoons mild olive oil

    3 tablespoons brown sugar

    4 cups white bread mix

    2 tablespoons skim milk powder

    1 tspn cinnamon

    1 tspn nutmeg

    2 tspns yeast

    1/2 cup sultanas (half chopped dried apples when we have homemade ones)

     

    Pour oil over paddle in bread machine bucket.

    Add water and apple juice.

    Add sugar, bread mix, milk powder, spices and yeast.

    Set the machine to dough setting and press go.

    About 4 minutes into the knead cycle add the dried fruit.

    When dough is ready remove from pan and knock down on a floured surface.

    Shape into rolls as big or small as you like.

    Place on an oiled baking tray, cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise in a warm place. (We often use the car for this in the winter where it's nice and warm)

    After about an hour (depending on the weather) when it's doubled in size, remove wrapping and brush with milk.

    A cross of flour and water mix (2 Tbspns water and 1/2 cup of flour) can be added now for hot cross buns if desired.

    Place in pre heated oven at 190c fro 15-20 mins until cooked.

    These are great toasted under the grill.

    Ed's note - this recipe would be easily adaptable if you don't have a bread machine. Just knead by hand and follow the rest of the instructions.

     

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