Monday, 1 December 2014

Prisoners of the Season - Ho frickerty HO!

I have to admit to a really large dose of seasonal "bah humbug". I don't enjoy the marketing frenzy of retailers that begins even before the ridiculousness of Halloween is over and I don't enjoy the all holds barred of other people's determination to enjoy their idea of festivity even in the face of the discomfort and detriment of others.

Merriment should not impact on the health and welfare of others in the community and when objection is raised for very valid reasons it seems ill fitting to direct invective at the beleaguered and distressed.

Case in Point?

Take the silent and oft unnoticed, but debilitating neurological disorder epilepsy for instance. How many in the community would even consider the effect of flashing lights for most of the night on a sufferer? The lack of sleep entailed in traffic? loud laughter? raucous exclamations? screaming children? How many people are aware that flashing lights and lack of sleep can be key precursors to seizure activity? how many care?

This is not my usual foodcentric mode, but my foodcentricity all began with a desire to find a place of wellness and fulfillment, not just for myself, but for my small family each with variety of silent, invisible illness and so the plight of those who also suffer such ills is not lost on me and those who may know me would know I care so very deeply.

What am I trying to say?

Well ..... Don't malign those who take less enjoyment in the frivolity and excess of the season than you as they may well have a very good reason.

Take into consideration that your flashy over the top displays of lack of consideration can in fact be detrimental to others.

Take with you, if you are more inclined to more sedate and considerate modes of celebration, our thanks because even though you may not realise it those not of your ilk keep us and many like us imprisoned in our homes after dark .... unable to take advantage of any evening occupations and enjoyments.

If, in your estimation, I sound bitter and at variance to the season of the Holy Dollar and that doesn't suit whatever you keep under your silly red hat then I'm afraid that's just too bad. Catering to the chronically ME-centric is not in my best interests ....

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Table for Amy: dining out with locavore intentions

It is not often that we eat out and less often do we find ourselves in a place that echoes our sentiments and our ethics as sincerely as Table For Amy.

Our biannual treks to Sydney are always rushed affairs filled with stress and appointments and an extreme desire to get back home as soon as possible, but my driving ethic also demands a stop, revive survive every 2 hours and so Kiama got our attention this time round for a revival with coffee and a bite to eat high on our agenda.

Serendipity played Her part in where we stopped simply because I know how hard parking can be in the centre of Kiama and so thinking ahead I promptly stopped at the first available parking space in Collins Street.

Table for Amy Cafe!

Straight in front of us down a grassy terrace were the original workers' cottages and in one was the quaintly and quirkily named Table for Amy Cafe.

Specials board at the door

The first glance says retro styling shabby chic, but the menu celebrates local produce and an imaginative food styling that really drew me in. Who can resist pulled lamb burger with fresh salad, grilled chat potato and home made tzatziki?

pulled lamb burger with fresh salad, grilled chat potato and home made tzatziki

I nearly did until the welcoming and charming staff happily allowed me to forgo the bread in the burger as I don't eat bread.
pulled lamb with fresh salad, grilled chat potato and home made tzatziki

I even got an insight into what made the pulled lamb so incredibly sweet and stickily scrumptious and walked away with the recipe dancing in my head, but no spoilers! If you want it too you will have to try it and be really nice to Judy whose recipe it is ... and if you ask prettily she will share with a smile and some delightful conversation.

We were also served the biggest latte ever offered in a cafe I am sure ... drowning was an option and the coffee didn't disappoint with well rounded roasted notes and an absence of extreme bitterness sometimes found in locally roasted beans. Someone knows their coffee!

Picnic blankets at the door as well as a warm and friendly welcome

Also on offer are picnic baskets filled with house specialties complete with rugs to pre-order for that romantic or family moment on the grass. This Sunday comes complete with live entertainment and Wednesday nights are a local hit with special roast nights.

Prices struck me as incredibly reasonable and servings generous. We grabbed 2 servings of baked goods, a fig slice and a fruit slice, for our continued trek home which didn't disappoint either and made the last 2 hours of our journey sweetly interjected with crumbs and yumminess.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Herman The German Friendship Cake

A friendship cake? what is this nonsense?

It's wonderful nonsense! The wonders of natural fermentation, the slow food process which is fully self invested and the prize of a delicious cake at the end. Then you can share the fun adventure with a friend. When our friends Teresa and Ben offered us our very own Herman starter we were intrigued as we had a sourdough bread starter already and we love anything new that improves the quality of our menu through natural process.

Herman is a natural sourdough starter designed for cake and the concept of global friendship being tied together with a starter is not entirely new, but this was my first experience with it.

Herman comes to you as a cup of starter that you feed and grow and nurture and it is hard to contain the sheer joy of seeing the bubbles and froth when this little guy gets going.

The Instructions are clear and easy to follow and a basic cake recipe comes with Herman.

If you want to start your own Herman these instruction are freely available on the fun website dedicated to the friendship cake phenomenon, but I will include them here:

Our Herman starter

What You Need

Firstly, make sure you have the following:
  • 5oz plain flour
  • 8oz castor sugar
  • 1 packet of active dry yeast
  • Half a pint of warm milk
  • 2 fl oz. of warm water

What You Do

  1. Dissolve the yeast in warm water for 10 minutes then stir.
  2. Add the flour and sugar then mix thoroughly.
  3. Slowly stir in the warm milk.
  4. Cover the bowl in a clean cloth.
  5. Leave in a cool dry place for 24 hours
  6. Now proceed from day one of the 10 day cycle.



Sourdough Fruitcake


1 cup
½ cup
4 cups
Wholemeal spelt flour
1 teaspoon
Baking soda
1½ cup
Dried currants
1 teaspoon
1 cup
Plus 2 tb Blackberry nip or other wine
1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon
1 cup
Sourdough Starter
½ teaspoon
Grated nutmeg
6 tablespoons
3 cups
Candied fruit; cherries, pineapple, orange, citron and ginger
1 cup
raw sugar
1 cup
Brown sugar
Eggs, well beaten
1 cup
Chopped nuts
2 tablespoons
Grated lemon rind

into the baking pan
Soak dried fruit in 1 cup wine overnight. Remove starter from refrigerator and set, tightly covered, in warm place overnight.

It should be in at least a two cup container as it will just about double its volume overnight. In the morning, cream butter with sugar and beat in eggs and lemon rind. Drain wine from raisins into creamed mixture. Stir in starter and 3 cups of the flour sifted with the soda, salt and spices. Sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of flour over the fruit and nuts in a large bowl. Toss and shake until well-coated.

Add to batter and mix thoroughly. Turn into loaf pans which have been generously buttered. Let stand in warm place for 30 minutes. Bake in oven preheated to 145degC with a pan of water on floor of oven and rack as near as possible in middle of oven. Bake about 2-½ hours for medium-sized loaves watching carefully to see that they do not brown to quickly. Test with toothpick. Remove from oven, turn pans on sides and allow to set for a few minutes before taking from pans. When cold drip 2 tbsp. of wine over each cake. As soon as it is absorbed, wrap tightly in cellophane freezer paper and store in refrigerator or freezer. They improve with age.

Sourdough Fruitcake

Dutch Hot Cakes

Dutch Hot Cakes
2 cups plain flour
pinch salt
1 egg
1.5 cup warm milk
3/4 cup of Sourdough starter
1 cup sultanas and currants
butter or oil for cooking

Place the flour and salt into a bowl, put in the egg and 1 cup of milk. Mix to a smooth batter, then add the rest of the milk and fruit. Oil or butter a skillet or griddle. Drop spoonfuls of the batter onto the hot surface and cook on both sides until browned. Butter and serve hot.

* With gratitude to Herman The German Friendship Cake

Abalone on the menu


One of the joys of a coastal idyll is the bounty of the sea, bay and tidal reaches. The first sighting of abalone on the rocks off our favourite swimming beach churned up all the possibilities of seafood adventures. Allow me to share some of our journey to date into enjoying haliotis ... the abalone.

This aquatic mollusc has an edible and highly prized foot muscle and is valued around the world as a delicacy. Eaten cooked and raw it has great diversity in cuisine and tradition. In the wild it may be found on rocks dining on red and brown algae and other vegetarian fair.

legal size Abalone
Great care should be taken when fishing for this creature as many licencing and harvesting rules are in place according to the local jurisdictions. In NSW a minimum size is enforced of 11.7cm as well as a bag limit of 2 per person. In some local areas a recreational limit is placed so that only weekends and public holidays may be observed as legal for abalone catches. Abalone may not be taken from the wild using scuba so free diving and snorkelling are the only way to legally take abalone from our waters.

Cultural references:

Our Mauri neighbours well love their pāua and have a rich legacy of recipes including fritters, steaks, sausages and baked in the shell. The legend of Pāua is such that Tangaroa, the sea god, gifted the lonely Pāua with a coat of many colours as well as the hard camouflage for protection so that his beauty was his own and charged him with the duty of adding more colour to his coat every year. True beauty comes from within.

In the Americas abalone was most esteemed among the Navajo. Echoing a distant past, abalone, as one of the Navajo's four sacred stones and plays a significant role in many of their myths. As one of the four sacred stones, abalone is associated with the creation of the sacred mountains that mark the boundaries of the Navajo homeland, a building material of the first Navajo hogan, and was also a part of the first loom, a vital part of the Navajo culture.

The native peoples of California see abalone is a Spirit Woman who is ever present, front and centre, during  every ceremonies. The chiming of abalone pendants suspended from the ornately decorated dresses worn by the women evokes strong feelings at every ceremony. Multistrand necklaces of abalone are worn by both the men and women. Abalone Woman transformed long ago into a form of wealth and the belief is that she is the feminine form of wealth.

In forms of magick abalone has been used for centuries in jewellery, carvings and as a vessel for offerings and cleansing and embodies all the aspects of the water element including love, beauty, gentleness, caring, comfort, peacefulness, delight and solace as well as romance, fine food, and creativity (especially poetry and music). An abalone amulet may protect the wearer from negativity, especially anger, depression, fear, and/or sadness. An abalone talisman can help you move past negative emotions, bring you in touch with your own inner beauty and will  inspire creativity, especially in writing. Ritually abalone should only be teamed with silver to enhance contact with its attributes.


Nutritionally abalone has a lot to offer as it is very low in Saturated Fat. It is also a good source of Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Thiamin, Vitamin B12, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Protein, Vitamin K, Pantothenic Acid and Selenium.

Abalone is highly regarded for its health benefits and is believed to promote healthy eyes, alleviate colds and arthritis, reduce fluid retention and improve circulation.


Abalone Fried Rice

abalone fried rice


2 x abalone, prepared and thinly sliced
2 x eggs, beaten
3 x shallots, finely sliced
2 x garlic cloves, minced
1/2 x red capsicum, sliced into fine, long strips
2 x bacon rashers, sliced into fine batons
6 x snow peas, topped, tailed and sliced
6 x pea sprouts (the green non flowering tendril)
1 cup long grain rice cooked to instructions
2 Tbls olive oil, cold pressed
2 Tbls catsup manis
1 Tbls mirin

Prepare your omelette: in a non stick pan with a small portion of the olive oil gently cook your beaten eggs until slightly golden brown underneath, but barely set on top, fold in half and set aside to set and cool.
Slice the omelette once cooled.

Prepare your rice in advance and allow to cool uncovered to reduce moisture content. Prepare all other ingredients before you start.

Heat your oil in your wok and begin the stir fry with your garlic then add bacon to render a little of the fat. Add the abalone and fry briefly then add the capsicum, shallot and snow peas.
Add your rice and stir fry coating the rice in the oils and fats and flavours.
Add the catsup manis and mirin and the pea sprouts.
Just before you serve stir through the omlette and allow it to reheat.

Garlic Butter Abalone

garlic butter abalone



3 tbsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely diced
4 abalone, trimmed and finely sliced


In a heavy based pan melt your butter with the olive oil and saute the garlic until translucent and the butter well flavoured. Toss in the abalone slices and sizzle until it curls and is slightly caramelised.
Serve with the garlic butter over rice and a garden salad.

BBQ Abalone

BBQ abalone


4 abalone, trimmed whole
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 rosemary sprig long enough for basting


Using a very sharp knife slice the abalone not quite all the way through so that the shell side of the foot muscle is intact. Mix the olive oil and garlic and marinate the abalone for at least 1/2 hour.

BBQ on a hot grill using the rosemary to continually baste the meat as it cooks and takes on the smoky flavours.

Serve immediately with your choice of BBQ sides.

BBQ abalone sliced and served with quinoa

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Finocchio? I tell no lies ......

Foeniculum vulgare

Fennel seed
Honest? ... fennel delights me in so many ways. It is such a giving herb and vegetable and its sweet anise flavours lend it to so many dishes by way of its root, bulb, stem, feathery leaves and seeds. Belonging to the same family as celery I find it quite capable of taking on similar roles in salads, stews and other culinary efforts as well as having application as a medicinal, a spice and a sweet. Let us explore this charming garden plant with such a wealth of bounty.

Indigenous to the Mediterranean it is no surprise it enjoys temperate growing zones, but has been found naturalised in most climates excluding desert habitats and considered to be an invasive species in Australia due to its adaptive ability.

In wide use throughout many culinary, herbal and cultural traditions, it is a good idea to look at fennel with new eyes whilst delving into these many referenced uses and applications.

In China the fennel seed and roots are used in Chinese herbal medicine as part of the group of herbs that warm the interior and expel cold. Fennel is partnered with star anise and tangerine peal as a flavour base for braised meat dishes as well as other cooking styles for pork, lamb, fish, duck as well as in soups. 5 spice powder is a spice mixture of five spices including fennel seed, used primarily in Chinese cuisine but also used in other Asian and Arabic cookery.

Fennel seed in a roasted spice mix with dill,coriander, mustard and nasturtium pods
Fennel seeds are widely used in Indian cuisine to flavor and a tempering agent in curries, chutney and pickles. Known as Saunf is an essential ingredient in the making of Rogan Josh, a Kashmiri meat delicacy.  It is an essential spice in the making of Thandai, a North Indian summer cooler. Fennel seeds play a major role in Ayurveda for gas, stomach and respiratory related problems as well as an appetiser, carminative/purgative, an anti-spasmodic, an anti-emetic and an hepatic herb. Panch phoron is a 5 spice blend of whole seeds used in Bengali cuisine as distinct from the powder used elsewhere in Asian traditions. Fennel leaves are used in some parts of India as leafy green vegetables either by themselves or mixed with other vegetables, cooked to be served and consumed as part of a meal.

In Middle Eastern cooking the bulbs and stalks may be cooked a variety of ways or used raw in salads. The leaves are used both fresh and dry, while the seeds are added to meat dishes, breads and other foods to impart a mild licorice flavor. It is known to aid in digestion, freshen the breath, as a diuretic and as treatment for sore eyes and poor eyesight.

Young fennel plant
Fennel is very popular in Italian and French cooking and is the essential ingredient in many Mediterranean dishes using the fronds (the feathery part), stalks and bulbs. Fennel is used cooked or raw.  Once cooked it is enjoyed for its mild and sweet flavour. Served raw sliced on a crudités platter instead of celery or in a salad. The Italians enjoy fennel simply served on its own with salt and a bowl of fine olive oil for dipping into. Fennel seeds are the primary flavor component in Italian sausages and the dried leaves to flavour egg, fish dishes and risotto.

The Spanish use the stems of the fennel plant  in the preparation of pickled eggplants, berenjenas de Almagro.

Something that has graced my culinary scope more recently is the use of fennel pollen. Fennel pollen can be used in just about anything, including desserts. Use as a dry rub on meats, poultry and seafood before roasting, sautéing or grilling. Sprinkle into rice, pasta or grain dishes - use it in sauces, and on potatoes or steamed vegetables.


Nutritionally fennel is a power house. The bulb is very low in Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Niacin, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Folate, Potassium and Manganese.

fennel flower for pollen
Fennel seed is low in Sodium, and very low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol. It is also a good source of Phosphorus, Potassium and Copper, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium and Manganese.

There is little to no nutritional information in regard to fennel pollen or roots. What I could find was the pollen had NO nutritional value which is to me a tad ridiculous, but I have found the young roots to be quite delicious.

Historical Fennel

In Greek mythology, Prometheus used the stalk of a fennel plant to steal fire from the demigods

Pliny (AD 23-79), the Roman author of The Naturalis Historie believed that serpents ate and rubbed against fennel because it was able to improve their eyesight after shedding their skins. Following that observation, Pliny believed fennel was so powerful that he used the aromatic herb to treat 22 different ailments.

Hippocrates suggested fennel could aid wet nurses to increase their milk supply.

As Old English finule, fennel is one of the nine plants invoked in the pagan Anglo-Saxon Nine Herbs Charm, recorded in the 10th century Lacnunga manuscript. The charm is intended for the treatment of poisoning and infection by a preparation of nine herbs.

Fennel was a staple in the household of King Edward I of England and during medieval times, evil spirits were thought to roam freely as the sun turned southwards. Fennel, when hung over doorways, was thought to protect those within from the spirits. Fennel seeds inserted into keyholes were thought to protect a dwelling from ghosts on any night but particularly Midsummer’s Eve.


Sow your seeds straight out into the garden in the late spring after the frost threat has passed in a position you are happy to have dedicated to it's growth as the roots will reshoot each year. Loosen your soil and add compost generously with some sand for drainage if heavy clay soil is evident
Fennel sprouting

Cover the seeds lightly with seed raising mix or light soil to about 2 mm and water frequently until the first leaves are evident. A good plant spacing is about 20 cm. Keep a good distance from dill or coriander to reduce cross pollination

When the bulb of the fennel plant starts to develop hill up the soil around it so that the sun doesn’t turn it green and keeps it white and sweeter tasting. This is called “blanching".

Once the bulbs are growing, water your fennel frequently so they don’t dry out. That’s if your intention is to harvest the bulb. If you are just after the seeds, then it is less important. Dry weather will encourage the plant to go to seed. This will ruin the bulb but is necessary for a seed harvest.

Give your fennel patch a fertilizer feeding each year in the spring with a generous addition of fresh compost.

NOTE: Be careful when foraging that actual fennel is collected. Dog fennel, an annual of similar appearance, is regarded as toxic to dogs, cats, horses, and guinea pigs. Clinical signs include contact dermatitis, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, allergic reactions. Long term use can lead to bleeding tendencies. The scent of dog fennel is considered to be unpleasant.



Creamy Cauliflower & fennel Soup

1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large brown onion (diced)
1 bulb of fennel (sliced)
2 cloves of garlic ( crushed)
1 large cauliflower (cut into florets)
375mls of vegetable stock
Water if needed
1 cup of cream
salt and pepper.
Large handful of chopped dill or parsley or both.

Lightly toast the fennel seeds in a dry saucepan until aromatic then mill or process to a powder in a mortar

Add olive oil to the saucepan and fry the onions, sliced fennel and the garlic until onions are translucent.

Add chopped fennel seeds, cauliflower and the stock, and water if needed to just cover the ingredients, put on the lid and simmer until cauliflower and fennel are tender.

Blend the soup into a lovely creamy texture.

Add cream and dill, parsley, salt and pepper and serve.

Pumpkin and Fennel Soup

Pumpkin and Fennel Soup

2 cups butternut squash, cubed
2 cups Jap pumpkin, cubed
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2 bulbs fennel, finely spiced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 leek, white end finely sliced
1/2 cup white wine
6 cups beef broth, home made is possible
sour cream to serve
baby fennel frond chopped to serve

Saute the fennel, garlic and garlic in the oil and butter until translucent. Add the pumpkin cubes and saute until the pumpkin browns slighty, deglaze with the wine and add the stock and allow to simmer until the pumpkin is tender. Blend down to a smooth texture.

Chicken and Fennel Casserole

baby fennel

1 tbsp olive oil
8 chicken legs
1 leek, finely sliced
2 tablespoons spelt flour
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil, additional
8 whole baby fennel including roots, sliced
or 2 large fennel bulbs, finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely diced
sprig oregano, leaves finely sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
handful baby spinach, finely sliced
300 ml cream
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Baby fennel roots add a gentle
anise and parsnip flavour

Baby Fennel

Place the flour in a freezer bag with the chicken and shake to lightly coat the legs. Pleace the chicken in a lightly oiled oven dish and bake until lightly browened turning and basting with the pan juices half way.

In a large pan saute the leek, fennel, garlic and oregano in the oil and butter until the leek wilts. Add the baked legs and deglaze the roasting pan with the wine and pour the resulting mixture into the pan and add the stock.

Simmer until chicken is cooked through and threatening to fall off the bone. Add the spinach and cream and season and allow a low heat to wilt the spinach and the cream to form the sauce.

Serve with rice and a  fresh fennel frond.

Chicken and Fennel Casserole


Ouzo flavoured Spirit

Ouzo flavoured vodka

2 larges heads of fresh green fennel seeds
2 cups of drinkable Vodka

Lightly bruise the fennel seeds to release the sweet anise flavours and oils.
Place into a sterilised preserving bottle and top up with vodka.
Seal tightly and store in a dark cupbourd for at least four weeks.


1/4 cabbage, finely sliced
1 fennel bulb, finely sliced
1 carrot, grated
4 radish, grated
1 small red onion, finely diced
2 green onions, finely sliced
1/2 red capsicum, finely diced
1 stick celery, finely sliced
small handful baby spinach finely sliced
4 tbsp duck egg aioli
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
nasturtium petals to garnish

Mix all the salad vegetables together.
Add the lemon juice to the aioli to thin it down and stir it through, season and garnish just before serving.

Fennel pollen fritter

Fennel Pollen Fritters

12 fennel flower heads and/or green seed heads
1/2 cup wholemeal spelt flour
1 Free range egg
1/2 cup apple cider
Oil, for frying

Trim the fennel flowers from their stalks.
Place the flour in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and break in the egg. Add the cider and whisk till combined.
Heat the oil till very hot. I prefer to wait till it’s about 200oC.
Mix the batter again and dip in a fennel flower or seed head, moving it around in the batter to ensure it is well coated. Lift the flower up, allowing most of the drops of batter to fall back into the bowl, then quickly transfer it to the hot oil, flowers down (stalk up). Hold it under the bubbling oil with the stalk. Leave it tin the oil till crisp and golden. Transfer to a wire rack and repeat with remaining flowers.
Arrange the flowers on a serving tray and eat immediately.
Use your teeth the strip the pollen from the stems.
Duck egg aioli would be a perfect accompaniment.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Tomatoes? Get your Nightshades ON!

Always it happens - You plant a few tomato seedlings and just when you get to enjoy a few salads and then BAM! too many tomatoes. I love this seasonal bounty when it happens because it allows me to draw out all the stoppers of creativity to make the most of the season.

The tomato is native to central South America and was cultivated by the Aztecs centuries before the Spanish explorers introduced it to all over the world. There are many hundreds of cultivar varieties of different type and size. Most cultivars produce red fruits, however, a number of cultivars have yellow, orange, pink, purple, green, or white coloured fruits.

The Tomato Festival is a tradition in Spain since 1945 and there are several theories about how it began, but no one knows for sure. One of the most popular theories is that during a town celebration the city councilman were attacked by some discontented people. The people enjoyed this so much, that they repeated the event the next year, and in a couple of years a tradition was established.

In Magickal tradition the tomato is a fruit associated with heart health, money, love and love's protection. Not surprising that it is also associated with the planetary energies of Venus.



Health benefits of Tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the low-calorie fruits and have just 18 calories per 100 g. They have zero fat and zero dietary cholesterol. Nonetheless, they are an excellent sources of antioxidants, dietary fibre, minerals and vitamins.
The antioxidants present in tomatoes are scientifically found to be protective of cancers, including colon, prostate, breast, endometrial, lung, and pancreatic tumours. The total -ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) in this vegetable is 367 µmol TE/100 g.
Lycopene, a flavonoid antioxidant, is an unique phytochemical present in the tomatoes. Red varieties are especially concentrated in this antioxidant. Together with carotenoids, lycopene may help protect cells and other structures in the human body from harmful oxygen-free radicals. Studies have shown that lycopene protects the skin from ultra-violet (UV) rays and thus offers some defence against skin cancer.
Zea-xanthin is another flavonoid compound present abundantly in this vegetable. Zea-xanthin helps protect eyes from "age-related macular disease" (ARMD) in the elderly by filtering harmful ultra-violet rays.
This fruit contains very good levels of vitamin A, and flavonoid anti-oxidants such as α and ß-carotenes, xanthins and lutein. Altogether, these pigment compounds are found to have antioxidant properties and take part in good vision, maintain healthy mucus membranes and skin, and bone health. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in flavonoids is known to help protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
Additionally, they are also good source of antioxidant vitamin-C (provide 21% of recommended daily levels per 100 g); consumption of foods rich in vitamin C helps the body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful free radicals.
Fresh tomato is very rich in potassium. 100 g contain 237 mg of potassium and just 5 mg of sodium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure caused by sodium.
Further, they carry average levels of vital B-complex vitamins such as folates, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin as well some essential minerals like iron, calcium, manganese and other trace elements.

Semi Dried Tomatoes

preserved in sunflower oil
with bay and peppercorn

2 kg ripe Roma tomatoes
3 tbsp sea salt
3 tlsp caster sugar

Halve tomatoes lengthwise,
Leaving attached along one side. Remove cores and seeds with a grapefruit knife. Stand tomato “shells” upright on a wire rack. Scatter with one third of the salt and sugar and leave to drain for 4 – 6 hours. Scatter with another third of salt and sugar and leave another 30 minutes. Turn over and allow to drain. Leave a further 4 – 6 hours. Stand upright again and scatter with remaining salt and sugar. Leave for a further 4 – 6 hours.
Arrange the tomatoes on a rack in a fan-forced oven. Set temperature at  50 - 75°C and dry for about 4 – 5 hours. Adjust oven temperature as required. Tomatoes must not darken. Turn over when tops are dry and continue for a further 2 – 3 hours until bottoms are also dry. Cool on rack, store in an air tight jar with a bag of silica gel.
(If you wish to dry the whole tomato out, seed and all rather than wasting it, just allow for an extra hour or so in the oven to dry)

Tomato Soup

Tomato soup

3kg beef bones
2kg tomatoes very ripe, diced
3 cloves garlic
2 onions diced
2 sprigs sage
2 bunch basil
salt and pepper to taste (a fair bit may be needed)

Roast the beef bones with a sprinkle of salt and pepper until a fair amount of caramalisation has occurred and they are nicely browned. Place in a large stock pot and just cover with water and add tomatoes, onions and garlic. Cover and simmer until the tomatoes collapse and then for 40 minutes more.
Remove the bones and allow to cool while the stock and veg simmers and reduces.
Skim any excess fat and scum from the top of the soup.
When the bones are cool enough to handle pick off any meat you can find, chop and return to the soup.
Taste and adjust the seasoning and blend with a stick blender until smooth.
Taste and adjust again for seasoning if required.
Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a fine shred of fresh herb
A crust roll or some toasted sour dough would not go astray.

Spicy Tomato Relish

Spicy Tomato Relish

2.5 kg ripe tomatoes cut into small dice
500 g red onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
2 tspn cumin seeds
3 long dried chilli peppers
475 ml white wine vinegar (we used 1/2 apple cider 1/2 white balsamic)
220 g raw sugar

Place the diced tomato and the onion slices in a shallow dish and sprinkle with the salt. Leave overnight. Use a mortar and pestle to crush the mustard, cumin and chilli peppers. Drain the tomatoes and onions and place the pulp in a saucepan with the spices, vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered for 45 min. stirring frequently. Remove the lid and simmer for a further 15-min. Spoon the hot relish into sterilised jars, filling completely. Cover.

Tomato Relish

3 kg tomatoes
1 kg onions
2 cups vinegar
1.5 tbsp dry mustard
1.5 tblspn curry powder
750 g sugar
3 tbsp salt
dash cayenne pepper
4 tbsp cornflour, slaked with water

Scald and skin tomatoes, sprinkle with half the salt and leave overnight.
Peel and chop onions, sprinkle with half the salt and leave overnight.
Next day combine the two mixes with the sugar in a large pan. Mix the other ingredients in well and bring to the boil and simmer for at least an hour. Thicken with the cornflour, stirring well to avoid lumps, then boil a while longer, usually around 2 hours in all.

Tomato Pasta Sauce
spaghetti and meatballs
with tomato pasta sauce

1.5 kg ripe tomato
1 large brown onion
1 carrot
1 stick celery
125 ml olive oil
1/2 tspn sugar
4 tbsp verjuice or white wine
freshly ground black pepper
2 large basil leaves

Wash the tomatoes and cut into quarters and place in a pan. Peel and chop the onion, carrot and celery and add to the pan with the oil, tossing to coat well. Add the salt and sugar and place the pan over a high heat. Stir constantly to prevent burning until it starts to caramelise and the liquid evaporates, about 20 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the verjuice, check for seasoning and add the basil, torn. Fill jars with the sauce and seal.

Tomato Kasundi

225 g ginger, peeled
100 g garlic, peeled
50 g green chillies, sliced in half and seeds removed
600 ml malt vinegar
300 ml canola oil
2 tbsp turmeric
5 tbsp ground cumin
3 tbsp chilli powder
5 tbsp mustard seeds, ground to a powder
2 kg tomatoes, washed and chopped
450 g salt
3 tbsp sugar

Puree ginger, garlic and chilli to a paste with a little of the vinegar. Heat the oil in a preserving pan and add all the ground spices and heat gently. Add the paste, tomatoes, vinegar, sugar and half the salt, stir and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the oil is all floating on the surface. Taste and add more salt as needed. Bottle into sterilised jars while hot. Pour a slick of hot oil over the surface to prevent the preserve from drying and cover with screw tops. Leave for a couple of weeks for the flavours to develop.
This is great with lamb, chicken, rice or lentils. It can be used as a marinade, and is great with cheese.

Green tomato chutney

8 cups green tomatoes , peeled and sliced
¼ cup pickling salt
1 ½ onions , peeled
8 cups apples , chopped
1 ½ green peppers , chopped
1 ½ fresh long hot red peppers (optional)
2 cups vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons pickling spices
3 cups brown sugar
½ teaspoon chilli powder
Put layers of tomatoes with pickling salt.
Add enough cold water to cover tomatoes.
Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Drain& rinse the Tomatoes
Put them a large pot place and add Onions, apples, green pepper and vinegar.
Bring to a boil and boil 30 minutes.
Tie the pickling spice in gauze and add to the pot.
Stir in the brown sugar.
Simmer over low heat for about 2 hours
Watch that it doesn't burn! Pour into sterilised jars, seal and water bath for 10 minutes.

Roasted Tomato Sauce
Roasted Tomato Sauce

2 kg tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 onions sliced thickly
1 capsicum deseeded
1/2 cup olive oil
Few sprigs sage
bunch basil
Fresh pepper, a little salt & sugar to taste

Place everything into a baking dish and toss to spread & oil.
Cook at about 180°C for 35 – 40 mins until all softened. Remove from the oven and when cool enough to handle, squeeze the garlic soft centres from the skin and return to the tomatoes, discarding the papery skins.
Blend together, including the oily juices, tasting and correcting seasoning. Pour into sterilised jars, seal and water bath for 10 minutes.
cockle butter ravioli with roasted tomato sauce

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Beetrooted Adventures

Beetroot is one of my favourite roasted veg and we have been eating quite a few baby beets simply roasted in the meat juicy pan and a sprinkle of salt, but here we will share other lovely ways to serve beets.

Beetroot bulbs fresh from the garden
Beetroots have long been used for medicinal purposes, primarily for disorders of the liver as they help to stimulate the liver's detoxification processes. The plant pigment that gives beetroot its rich, purple-crimson colour is betacyanin; a powerful agent, thought to suppress the development of some types of cancer.

Raw beets are an excellent source of folates and vitamin C and is also rich source of B-complex vitamins such as niacin (B-3), pantothenic acid (B-5), pyridoxine (B-6) and minerals such as iron, manganese, copper, potassium and magnesium.

Beetroot in the garden
Beetroot is rich in fibre, exerting favourable effects on bowel function, which may assist in preventing constipation and help to lower cholesterol levels too.

Beetroot fibre has been shown to increase the level of antioxidant enzymes in the body, (specifically one called glutathione peroxidase), as well as increase the number of white blood cells, which are responsible for detecting and eliminating abnormal cells. Beetroot is also one of the richest sources of glutamine, an amino acid, essential to the health and maintenance of the intestinal tract.

Beetroot is rich source of phytochemical compound, glycine betaine. Betaine has the property of lowering homocysteine levels within the blood. High levels of homocysteine in the blood result in the development of coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke and peripheral vascular diseases.

Other studies have looked at the effect of beetroot juice on blood pressure. A reduction in blood pressure is beneficial for the avoidance of heart disease and stroke. Studies state that nitrate rich foods like beetroot may help in heart attack survival.

Beetroot leaves in a salad harvest
Beetroot contains betaine, which in other forms is used to help treat depression, and trytophan, the feel good chemical in chocolate.

Beetroot Greens should not be overlooked in the harvest menu. The greens are an excellent source of carotenoids, flavonoid anti-oxidants, and vitamin A; They contain these compounds several times more than that of in the roots. Vitamin A is required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin and is essential for vision. Consumption of natural vegetables rich in flavonoids helps to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers. They also provide dietary Protein, Folate, Pantothenic Acid, Phosphorus and Zinc, and a very good source of dietary fibre, Vitamin C, Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol), Vitamin K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese.
Beetroot microgreens

Beetroot sprouts have a light earthy taste, just a touch different and neutral in combination with other vegetables. It is the fantastic colour that that makes all the difference on your plate. Mostly used to decorate salads, toast dishes and other snacks or stir fries. The sprout are rich in vitamins, amino acids and mineral salts, they are easy to digest and have a low calorie content. Eaten raw, they maintain all of their nutrient value.

Beeturia is a harmless condition of passing red or pink colour urine after eating beets and its top greens. The condition can be found in around 10-15% of the populations who are genetically unable to break down betacyanin pigment.

Beet greens contain oxalic acid, a naturally-occurring substance found in some vegetables, which may crystallise as oxalate stones in the urinary tract in some people. It is therefore; in individuals with known oxalate urinary tract stones, kidney stones, are advised to avoid eating excess greens.

Caramel Beets



12 fresh baby beets (don't buy canned!, the vinegar they can them in will ruin this recipe!)
100 gm butter
4 tbsp brown sugar (raw will do, rapadura/muscarvardo is better)
3 tbsp fresh cream

Melt butter in a small pan, Peel baby beets, add beets to melted butter and rigorously 'fry/cook'
In approximately 5 minutes when the beets are slightly softened add the sugar and allow to bubble, occasionally shaking the pot to stir (remember DO NOT WALK AWAY, burning sugar does not smell nice!) 
When the sugar has dissolved and reached the hard ball stage add the cream.

The most glorious reddish caramel savoury sauce occurs and, the beets just absorb it.

The beets were so luxuriously sweet and creamy they had changed from the slightly earthy tasting vegetables that bleed red all over the plate into a delightful sweet and savoury side.

Pickled Beets 1

ready for pickling

peel and slice beetroot, place in a large saucepan and cover with a bottle of red, half bottle of apple cider vinegar and a spoonful of honey. Adjust the liquid so that it covers the beetroot completely.

Simmer gently for until the beetroot feels tender but still crunchy.  The wine/vinegar/beetroot juice goes kind of thicker and darker and its done.

Put the slices into sterilised jars while hot then pour the hot liquid over the top and make sure there is no air bubbles, screw on the lids and as it cools, the pop tops will suck in.

Store in a dark cupboard - they keep for ages.

Perfect addition to a salad

Pickled Beets 2

see Pickled beets above but using rapadura/muscarvardo sugar  instead of honey and add cloves and peppercorns. I like to get them as babies (golf ball size) and have them whole early in the season and then do the sliced ones later so I have variety.

Beetroot Dip (so pink it's crazy!)



1 large fresh beetroot trimmed and well scrubbed
Beetroot dip as part of a platter
1 * 1.5 litres fresh home made natural yoghurt
(yes you can use greek if you want)
salt to taste
rind of half lemon finely grated

Place your yoghurt in 2-3 layers of fine muslin or cheese cloth tie up and hang until the whey stops dripping and the yoghurt is thick (this new product is called Labna or yoghurt cheese) 8 hours should be enough
Roast your beet in a hot oven until tender, peel and chop finely. Place all your ingredients into a processor and blend roughly. season to taste and serve.

* Reserve your whey for birchering oats

Beetroot White Chocolate Icecream



Beetroot White Chocolate Icecream
Beetroot White Chocolate Icecream
300 g fresh beetroot
4 x egg yolks
100 g raw sugar, milled to a fine powder
200 ml double cream
300 ml whole milk
100 g white chocolate broken into small pieces



Roast the beetroot in a oven proof pan with 1 cm water and covered with foil for approximately an hour or until tender. Remove and leave to cool.

Put yolks in a bowl with the sugar, whisk sugar and egg yolks until well beaten.

Heat 200 ml of the milk and all the cream in a pan to scalding. Pour milk and cream mix over egg and sugar mix whisking as you go.

Return custard to the saucepan and heat over a gentle heat stirring constantly until mixture has thickened to cover the back of a spoon. Take off the heat and pour into a clean bowl to cool. Stir occasionally to prevent a skin forming.

Custard for Beetroot Icecream

Melt the chocolate over a gentle heat.

Peel beetroot and chop roughly. Place chopped beetroot in a blender along with the remaining 100 ml of milk and blend until smooth. Add the beetroot puree to the cooled custard, mix and add the chocolate and stir thoroughly to incorporate.

Place the mixture in an ice cream maker and churn for approximately 45 minutes. Place the icecream in a freezer proof container and finish in the freezer.

serve with Beetroot and Chocolate Cake.

Beetroot and Chocolate Cake


Beetroot and Chocolate Cake
Beetroot and Chocolate Cake
180 g self - raising flour
75 g cocoa
1/2 tspn bicarbonate of soda
125 g beetroot, finely grated
125 g home made or greek yoghurt
1 Tbls fresh mint, finely shredded
3 x eggs, free range & organic
200 ml olive oil, extra light virgin
1 tspn vanilla extract
100 ml beetroot juice, freshly juiced
10 ml olive oil, extra light virgin
200 g dark chocolate, 70%



Preheat your oven to 180degC
Sieve the cocoa powder, self-raising flour and baking powder into a bowl and stir in the sugar
In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, grated beetroot, yogurt, oil and vanilla extract until it is well blended.
Add the beetroot mixture to the dry ingredients and mix together and then pour this in to a pre-lined spring form cake tin.
Bake for 30 minutes or until it is springy to the touch and a skewer comes out clean.

For the ganache:
Place the beetroot juice and the olive oil into a saucepan and bring to the boil.
Pour over the chocolate and mix together until smooth.
When the cake is cooked and cooled, pour over the beetroot ganache and serve with beetroot white chocolate icecream

Beetroot Ink - this makes a reddish-pink ink

1. Boil a couple of beetroots then either juice them using a juicer or mash then up and strain through muslin or a fine sieve ( if using a sieve you may have to strain more than once to get any fibres out).
2. While the juice is warm (if it’s cooled just reheat in a microwave or on a stove) add in a little gum arabic powder, stirring until this juice has thickened slightly.

Believed to have magickal properties associated with the feminine, Saturn, Earth and Love. Use as an ink in love magick, also as a blood substitute and for healing old wounds from the past.