Archives for category: Urban garden eating

Some months ago I slipped into a second hand bookshop while waiting for Richard who was in the barber. I think at the time we were in the midst of our food waste challenge so I was cooking strictly from the pantry and vegetable garden and was determined not to buy any food. There were however no rules in place regarding the buying of cookery books. In the time it took for Richard to have a very speedy grooming I managed to find and buy three cook books all of which were of the ‘cooking from the garden’ variety. I was delighted with them. Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes by Jeanne Kelley, Plum Gorgeous by Romney Steele and I’m afraid I just can’t remember what number three was, let alone find it. It might be buried under the mountains of paperwork waiting to be tamed into a tax return. Now there’s an incentive to get that done.

Blue Eggs and Yellow TomatoesThis morning when I was looking for inspiration for my weekend ritual of making something for Scarlet’s creative challenge while at the same time treating my family to a little surprise, I reached for Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes and idly flipped through it with no real expectations. I knew I had to make two things: a nice healthy (carb free) breakfast for Richard preferably using things from the garden, maybe a variation on last week’s frittata, and something muffin-like and way more indulgent for the kids using only ingredients we had on hand.

Two recipes jumped out at me: ‘Bittersweet One Pot Brownies’ and a Swiss chard encased baked egg recipe. ‘Perfect’, I thought,’those recipes are just crying out to be made – with some modification.’

And into the garden I went. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the lovage growing so abundantly in its corner and its companion, the French tarragon. They did work rather well together last week. And then there were the spring onions in desperate need of picking.

Spring Onion Flower

That was the healthy/low carb diet option taken care of. Now I just needed to come up with something creative for the brownie. I rummaged around in the cupboard and found half a packet of blanched almonds and a jar of instant espresso powder bought for one of Nigella’s recipes. A nice start but what else? There was some left-over halva from last week. ‘Could that work in a Brownie?’ I wondered.

And so I ended up with Green Eggs and Halva, Almond, Mocha Brownies and a happy little family.

Halva Almond Mocha Brownie

Green Egg

Green Eggs

Ingredients

  •  olive oil and or butter for frying
  • 4 Swiss chard leaves
  • 6 large spring onions finely sliced (include some of the green part)
  • two stalks of lovage including the leaves, finely chopped
  • a very generous handful of tarragon, finely chopped
  • a heaped teaspoon of tomato jam
  • salt and pepper
  • feta cheese
  • 4 extra large free range eggs

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Butter four small ramekins.
  2. Cut the stalk out of the Swiss chard (keeping the leaves whole) and chop the stalk finely
  3. Fry the Swiss chard stalk, spring onions and lovage very gently in a generous amount of olive oil and butter until very soft.
  4. While frying the spring onion mixture lie the Swiss chard leaves on top of the mixture in the pan one at a time until just wilted. Set aside.
  5. Add the tarragon, salt, pepper and the tomato jam to the spring onion mix stirring until nicely mixed together.
  6. Line the ramekins with the Swiss chard leaves.
  7. Crumble a little feta into each ramekin, add a couple of spoons of the spring onion mix, crack an egg into each ramekin, spoon in some more of the spring onion mix and top with the remaining crumbled feta.
  8. Place on a baking tray and bake for 12 minutes or until the egg is just set.
  9. Turn out onto a plate and serve with a little fresh chopped chilli.

Halva, Almond, Mocha Brownies

Ingredients

  • 140 grams butter
  • 245 grams dark chocolate, broken into chunks
  • 170 grams sugar
  • 3 extra large free range eggs
  • seeds of half a vanilla pod
  • 115 g cake flour
  • 10 ml instant espresso powder
  • 50 g chopped roasted almonds ( I roasted them in the oven in the baking tray for ten minutes while mixing the batter)
  • 100 g sesame halva cut into 1cm cubes

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease a 15 x 27 cm baking pan and line the base with baking paper.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a heavy pot over a very low heat stirring constantly. Remove from the heat.
  3. Stir in the sugar.
  4. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
  5. Fold in the flour and espresso powder, and then gently fold in the almonds and halva.
  6. Pour into the pan and bake for about 20 minutes. Be careful not to overcook – you want the brownies to be moist inside.
  7. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan. Cut into squares.

 

Advertisement

I’ve had a lot of fun lately taking  part in the truly creative (I really am envious!), Scarlet Bennett’s thirty-day creative challenge. I started halfway through, have  barely managed to deliver something creative even every second day and some of my contributions have been extremely modest, but it has been a delight and a joy.  And motivating too. I’m addicted. I’ve loved seeing – and hearing – the results of the daily creative activities that have been produced 10 000 km away in Canberra. Every morning I’ve scrambled to do something, anything, even vaguely creative, before Scarlet’s blog posting deadline of 8 pm Canberra time/11 am Johannesburg time – and so breakfast has ended up being the creative time of the day for me. I have been inspired by the group and their wide ranging creative activities and although I won’t be composing any music or attempting a drawing I might just take a leaf from opera singer and strange bedfellow, Kanen Breen’s book and get out a needle and thread or a bottle of nail polish one of these days.

Here’s a round up of my kitchen fun and games, eats and drinks:

Day 14: Breakfast Puff – an old favourite, from a previous life, when I was the lucky recipient of a subscription to US Gourmet magazine from my then mother-in-law

Day 16:  Three potions – tarragon oil, black pepper syrup, lavender syrup

Day 18: Tropical fruit and black pepper ice cream breakfast. Also from a previous life and from US Gourmet magazine c. 1993

Day 20: Swiss chard muffins – Swiss chard and sage from the garden, spiked with black pepper syrup from day 16

Day 21: Passionfruit cordial and carrot, clementine, mint and ginger juice

(With thanks to Scarlet for making the pictures look so good!)

The most fun of the week was the morning I spent making the potions. I first came across  a recipe for tarragon oil on Heidi Swanson’s wonderful blog, 101 Cookbooks. I’ve never made it exactly as she does since we somehow seem to be incapable of growing parsley but our tarragon is a rewarding and reliable plant that comes up year after year. You can make the oil with the first leaves that appear in spring  or with the last leaves of the season. A great way to preserve tarragon – and you’ll never countenance using dried tarragon again.

Tarragon oil

Take equal quantities of tarragon and olive oil. Blanch the tarragon leaves in boiling salted water,  refresh in ice water and squeeze dry. Purée the tarragon with the olive oil using  an immersion blender. Allow to stand for an hour or so and then strain through a fine sieve. Store in the fridge but bring to room temperature  to serve.

Use the tarragon oil:

  • In simple salad dressings – combine with black pepper syrup and freshly squeezed lemon juice and toss with  simple salad greens.
  • Drizzled over roasted beetroot and goat’s cheese with black pepper syrup
  • Added to savoury muffins
  • In egg dishes
  • As a marinade for chicken  – with the black peppercorn syrup

Black pepper syrup

Combine 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons of crushed black pepper. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for about half an hour. Cool, strain and store in the fridge. Use the stained black pepper kernels in any dish that calls for crushed black pepper.

Has been known to:

  • Combine exceptionally well with tarragon oil
  • Invigorate the childhood favourite, macaroni cheese
  • Add a certain je ne sais quoi to a Swiss chard, sage and spring onion fritatta

tarragon

 

 

 

There is something so satisfying about preserving fruits. Jars, bottles and bowls of jewel coloured delights lined up on the pantry shelf just waiting to add a little something special to a meal.

I have loved my quince obsession and although there were a few ups and downs it resulted in a mountain of membrillo, jars of spiced quinces and bowls of quince curd.  One evening we had a platter of three types of quinces – spiced, curd and membrillo and we served oat cakes and cheese alongside the quince platter.

But my preserving time has not all been devoted to quinces – passion fruits too have been demanding attention.

I am so thrilled with the sprawling passion fruit/granadilla vine that has been bearing fruit continuously since December. Although we are now in mid winter and the plant has been lightly frosted at the top there are  still flowers and buds on the plant as well as between about one and two hundred slowly ripening fruits.  Over the last few weeks I have picked about eighty fruits and have made two batches of passion fruit cordial.

DSCF5657

Passion Fruit Cordial

For every one cup of passion fruit pulp add one cup of water, 3/4 cup of light brown or white sugar and 3 T lemon juice.

Mix together well and bring slowly to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer gently until slightly syrupy.  Strain – or not – and bottle in sterilised bottles. I like to strain about two thirds and mix that with the remaining unstrained one third.

passion fruit cordial

In my search for quince recipes I came across Ouma Babsie’s preserved quince recipe. I loved the fact that in this recipe the quinces are baked whole in the oven, then peeled and sliced before simmering in syrup and bottling. Since I was slow cooking some lamb in the oven it seemed to me to be the perfect time to make Ouma Babsie’s preserved quinces.

I popped the lamb into the oven and dashed out to run some errands knowing that the lamb would be cooking happily for four hours. I got waylaid in book shops and coffee shops but made it safely back home within my four hour time limit. The quinces, I forgot, had only needed two and a half to three hours – not four hours – in the oven. They were luckily fine if somewhat too soft to slice and simmer for Ouma Babsie’s preserved quinces. Very disappointing.

roast quince

I just happened to have a mountain of other quince recipes waiting to be made so after a quick rifle through the pages I found a couple of solutions. One: quince pancakes  which we had for breakfast the following morning. They were delicious both hot for breakfast, at room temperature later in the day and cold the next day.

And two: quince curd. I made it according the the recipe from the British Food Larder.  I pureed the pulp with an immersion blender and then cooked the curd exactly as per their recipe. Heaven. And a serious contender for a winning place in the ongoing war that wages in our household – second place maybe to passiflora edulis.

The pièce de résistance of all the quince cooking was the preserved spiced quinces. We ate the spiced pink slices with cream for dessert and with cheese. And we ate them straight out of the jar, too. We could not get enough of them.

This is a recipe I need to make again – soon. Very soon. This is a recipe I should be posting here. This is a recipe that came out of my head. This is a recipe for which there are no notes. It is a recipe that seemed so obvious. How could I have not written a thing down? This is what I think I did/what I would do next time:

Spiced quinces

  • Make a syrup with a 3:4 ratio (sugar:water) in a heavy bottomed pot (equal weight sugar and fruit?)
  • Add bay leaves, star anise, cloves and cinnamon to the mix while stirring to dissolve the sugar
  • Peel, core and slice the quinces and immerse them in the syrup
  • Bring to the boil
  • Simmer gently until the quinces are soft, the syrup is thick and both the quinces and syrup are beautifully pink – I cooked mine on the Godin fireplace for I think a few hours
  • Bottle in sterilised jars

I was slightly worried that I had overcooked the quinces and that the syrup was going to turn into toffee. When I eventually allowed myself to open a jar I was delighted to find that in fact I had spiced quinces in a quince jelly.

And stupid as I was not to make any notes,  I did at least take a few photographs.