Monday, September 26, 2011

Insanely easy baby cauliflower cheese

,The other night I was going through the cupboards trying to think of a way to use up some of the jars that had been around for awhile.  One was a jar of  'Three Cheese Sauce' that is used for pasta bakes.  I was trying to work out what I could do with it, as well as make some little meals for the Poppet.  This is the result.

Vege cheese

A jar or cheese sauce (or make your own cheese sauce - very thick)
A couple of bits of stale bread, toasted to make breadcrumbs (or use breadcrumbs/ panko crumbs).
Two cups of veges to boil.
Handful/ Quarter cup of rice.

I chopped up the veges into baby size (will depend on your baby's eating abilities) and threw them on to boil with the rice.  Once the rice had cooked and the veges were soft I put them in little ramekins and filled to the top.  I spooned the cheese sauce over the top and sprinkled with breadcrumbs.  I baked them for about 20 mins at 180C.

This resulted in six ramekins of baby food/ toddler food to eat over the next couple of days.


I am in love with Lower Hutt Bin Inn. In addition to cheese and breadmaking supplies they now sell mushroom growing kits. You get a big bucket of compost with mushroom spores mixed through. I'm really keen to see what happens!  I have so been wanting to do this for awhile.  Apparently we should get mushrooms growing for nearly two months.

We visited Bin Inn so the Sweetheart could get some taties.  Do you remember these?  Small yellow cylinders that puff up when cooked in hot oil.  She can be kept entertained for a long time making these!  We also made our peanut butter using their grinder.  It was a pretty successful morning actually.

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Duck egg cooking

I was very pleased to be gifted a dozen duck eggs recently. Duck eggs are bigger than chicken eggs and have slightly different cooking properties. I'm also wondering if they have a slightly different taste. They are very beautiful, some tinged with pastel blue, others the palest pink.

Duck eggs are supposed to be wonderful in baking, creating light as air sponges and beautifully risen cakes. There is some debate as to how favorably they compare with chicken eggs when poached or fried.

My first experiment was duck egg pasta. I mixed up some tipo 00 flour, duck eggs and saffron essence to christen my new pasta maker. I had to add about 20 grams of flour more per egg. I had the impression that the eggs had more yolk than chicken eggs. The pasta was delicious, a rich pale yellow. The Sweetheart took over pasta producing responsibilities, eagerly cranking the machine and we ate it with homemade pancetta, broad beans, peas, pinenuts and basil.  So yummy.

I next tried the creme brulee I mentioned a couple of posts ago.  It wasn't a successful batch of creme brulee for a number of reasons, but I did wonder if the custard had a slightly different taste.  I made up a batch of meringues and they came out tasting different from chicken-egg meringues; I can't quantify the difference.  A little gamey perhaps?  I wondered if it was all in my head but some quick internet research confirms a slight taste difference.  I also learnt from the same link that if you soak an uncooked egg in vinegar you can remove the shell!!!  Look at the photo!

I did have a go with the duck egg in pancakes.  We make pancakes so frequently around here I figured it was a good test of the duck egg properties.  The pancakes were similar to the times when I have made them with buttermilk - better air in them and noticeably lighter.

My internet researches also led me to preserved duck eggs.  These are a Chinese delicacy - you can often find them in Chinese Rice Porridge soup (I'm not ever going to do a recipe for this soup).   I bought one from the local People's market and gave it to my husband for taste testing.  He actually wasn't that keen, but he had eaten them previously in restaurants.  I may have explained the preservation technique in too much detail; he didn't finish his.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Vexing recipes and rhubarb deliciousness

I was really excited to see a recipe for Rhubarb Creme Brulee in last weekend's Sunday Star Times.  It looked delicious so I decided to give it a go.  I had heaps of stewed rhubarb left over from making Rhubarb jelly and thought I would put it to good use.  The recipe was vexing.  The first time round the result was a runny brulee and the second time I just made the changes that I thought would fix the recipe.   The recipe also didn't make sense in one part - a requirement to strain the mixture made no sense (in fact, the only way in which it might make sense was if you had copied the instructions from a recipe where they had used a whole vanilla bean).  But that is me just being petty, I don't like published recipes that don't seem to have been well tested.

I like my way better, so this is what I did.  It was also my first time using the blowtorch a friend entrusted to my care while overseas.  So good.  So fun.  So delicious.

Rhubarb Creme Brulee Make-Do Mum style.

A cup and a half of stewed rhubarb (I used Nigella's Jelly Recipe that uses a fair amount of sugar and has orange peel in it).  Heat until warm/hot (not boiling hot).
300ml cream
4 egg yolks (freeze the egg whites in snap lock bags for later)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 TBSP sugar
Caster sugar for grilling later

Preheat oven to 160C 
Split the rhubarb mixture evenly between six half-cup ramekins.  Make a bain-marie and put the ramekins in it.  Pour very hot or boiling water into the bain marie so that it comes halfway up each ramekin.

Heat the cream in a saucepan on moderate heat until bubbles start forming on the side.  In a separate bowl beat the egg yolks and sugar together until pale and creamy and the sugar is well dissolved.  You can use a mixer, although with this amount it doesn't take too long to achieve by hand. Spoon a TBSP or so of the warmed cream into the yolk mixture to help warm it up (don't want to cook the egg before going in the oven). Mix the remaining cream into the yolk mixture then pour into the ramekins.

Bake for 25-30 mins until the top is well set.  Remove from the oven once set and take the ramekins from the bain-marie as soon as possible (a fish slice makes this easy).

You can either refrigerate for a couple of hours, or, serve warm.  I prefer it warm.  Either way you have to do the crispy topping.  Sprinkle caster sugar over the creme brulee and then either carefully grill or use a blowtorch until the sugar caramelises. 


Spoons are practically single use items in our household. They go to creche, or in the nappy bag and we never see them again.

I was delighted to see these spoons in the window of our local charity store.

I know that they were treasured in their display cases for years, but now they have an active happy life dishing up cereal and yoghurt for my girls!

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Frozen lemon slices

One little trick I forgot to mention when dealing with all the fruit was freezing lemon slices. I thinly sliced four lemons, put the slices on a sheet of baking paper and froze them.

Once frozen I stored in a plastic container. I'm hopeful that there are hot days ahead, and it will be nice to have some ice cold lemon slices for tall glasses of water.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Jelly and the end of citrus madness

I am so cheerful - I've come across the first rhubarb shoot in my garden.  Each year my rhubarb plants grow stronger and produce more.  I'm hoping for a bumper crop this year, particularly of the red-stemmed variety.

Last night I was relaxing in front of the TV and saw Nigella make a beautiful pink rhubarb jelly.**  Earlier in the day I saw a post on the Stuff website for an old fashioned orange jelly.  So jelly was on my mind when I went into Moore Wilson's and purchased (amongst other things) a rabbit shaped jelly mould.  Rabbits are the Sweetheart's favourite animal so I knew that it would be popular. 

So citrus madness ends a bit quietly with orange jelly (quite nice, never got a picture) and the last few lemons were used as zest/ juice in baking.  I gave away a few more grapefruit, and made up a mixed batch of citrus cordial.  I saw that Posh Porridge is doing orange curd this week so my last orange will go to that.

The box of citrus nearly killed me.  It was just too much at once.  But I really enjoyed looking for different recipes, sharing the bumper harvest and reaping the benefits of the preserves!  Thanks to those who helped out with taking some of the fruit or preserves!!

Weird fact.  While I was in the middle of citrus madness I learnt that in most recipes you can replace lemon juice with citric acid.  It makes a lot of sense, actually, and is good to keep at the back of your mind if a lemon is the only ingrediant that you lack!

** note if making this jelly that one envelope of gelatine is 1TBSP, or an amount that will set 500ml of liquid.  On the TV show Nigella used a whole half bottle of muscat, about a cup more than the recipe states.

Attacking the oranges...

Just realised that I had saved this post rather than finalising it! Oh dear!

The oranges are simply delicious.   Honestly they are the best I've ever had, and I don't think that I will have any trouble getting through them.  Still, there are quite a few and I decided to make Rich Orange Jelly Marmalade.  It is so beautiful.  The problem is though that it hasn't quite set properly and I can't be bothered reboiling it tonight.  I think that the pectin from the pips may have been contained in the cheesecloth that I used to hold the pips.  I don't think that this step is necessary since you drain the mixture later on anyway.

I've also learnt that you can preserve the juice so I've squeezed heaps of grapefruit to preserve.  You boil it for five minutes and then fill a clean glass jar to the top with the juice.  This seems like a good way to delay the matter of what to do with grapefruit juice!

I'm feeling pretty pleased - managed to give away another six grapefruit and about the same number of lemons.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Suction bowls for high chairs

Felt very smug this week as my thirteen month old fed herself weetbix in a bowl.  It was one of those suction bowls.  The next morning she ripped off the bowl and sent weetbix flying all over the carpet.  Lame.  Apparently few people have success with them.

At the same time the completely obvious has been pointed out to me: not to make as runny weetbix (use less milk).

We live, we learn!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

World famous on Facebook!!

Well, in my own mind anyway.  Mad Millie have spent some time playing around with calcium chloride and soy milk and have come up with an official recipe for making tofu.  They credited me, which was very kind given my experiments were based on the experiments of many who have gone before me!  Next step for me is to make egg tofu.

Lemon confit (not preserved lemons) recipe

I searched online to see if I could find an online version of the lemon confit recipe I was given.  I couldn't find one, but a lot of people use lemon confit/ preserved lemons interchangeably.  Here is the recipe, it is from the Yates 'Garden Fresh' Cookbook, with a couple of suggestions from me.

Lemon Confit

8 lemons
1 Tbsp salt
Boiling water to cover
1.25 litres water
3 cups sugar

 Put the lemons and salt in boiling water - just enough to cover (drain off any excess water). Bring back to the boil, then immediately drain, plunge into cold water and drain again.

Cut the lemons into thick round slices - 5 or 6 to a lemon, removing the seeds as you slice (save the seeds for their pectin if you have some jam making planned)!

Put a fresh amount of water in a saucepan, add the sugar and stir to dissolve over low heat.

Add the lemon slices, bring back to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover the pan and leave to gently simmer for an hour or until the slices are translucent and soft and the liquid is thick and syrupy (it took two and half hours for me, the syrup and lemon took on an orangy-brown colour).

Cool, then put in covered jars.  (Sterilise the jars if you want to keep it for a bit longer)

Keep in a refrigerator for 3-4 weeks.

This recipe is linked to Carole's Chatter 'Food on Friday - Lemon's and Limes.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Playing with the lemons and fixing the jelly

Giffy, a frequent commenter on this blog, suggested lemon confit. I was considering preserving heaps of the lemons so was very glad for another idea.

The recipe is straightforward and easy to just leave cooking away. One of the instructions in the recipe was to remove all the pips. Ordinarily I would be a little annoyed at such diddly work but took the opportunity to harvest pectin from the pips. Pectin is strong in lemon pips, which is why adding lemons to jam recipes is common. I boiled the seeds for awhile, then added the sweet orange jelly. It worked well. If it didn't work then I was going to use a friends's suggestion and use the yummy failed jam as a sauce in a self saucing pudding.

My windowsill looks like a TV mother's full of preserves and goodness. The bench was a complete mess though. Soon my citrus will be all gone and there will be no excuse for incomplete housework!

I've given some grapefruit to both my neighbour and a friend, I also lost another to mould. It makes me happy to know that three other families have benefited from the harvest. I also managed to give away a couple of jars of marmalade!

Anyway, try the confit recipe (next post). I think it would be lovely with yoghurt or ice-cream.

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Grapefruit product taste test round up.

Marmalade: (recipe from the Edmond's cookbook) very sour, even with extra sugar.

Grapefruit curd: (Stephanie Alexander's recipe) a complete revelation, so delicious.

Grapefruit candied peel: still quite sour, but nice to have a tiny slice with something sweet.

Grapefruit chutney: so, so sour. My friend thinks it will be nice thinly spread in a cheddar cheese sandwich so took a jar.  This made two large jars and used a lot of grapefruit - pity it isn't sweeter though.

Grapefruit cordial: even kids like it!

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Turning to chutney

A friend suggested grapefruit chutney as an option so I went to Chef Google to explore. There are not that many distinct recipes, and many had grapefruit as a subsidiary ingredient.

I chose this recipe. I had no capsicum but wanted to sweeten things up so chopped up a couple of apples. I added a lot of extra sugar but it is still very tart. I wonder if I prepared the grapefruit correctly? I peeled the grapefruit and cut out the white bits but didn't segment it completely.

I used ten grapefruit and two oranges for this recipe.

I also managed to use a further lemon (zest only) on my first attempt at Osso Bucco.

I consolidated all the bags of citrus fruit into a giant box and feel quite glum about the amount left. I feel that only the curd and cordial recipes are actually nice. I'm not concerned about the lemons because I can just preserve them if necessary.

Also it feels like each recipe leads to something else! The curd making meant I had a heap of egg whites left over, so I made a pavlova and the Sweetheart and I made berry meringues. I've also purchased some new preserving jars as I've exhausted my stash.

On the bright side everyone visiting my house comments on the lovely smell!!  And this appears to be my 100th post as well.  

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Grapefruit continued

I made the marmalade this morning, it did make quite a lot. It was fairly sour, even when helped with extra sugar. It does look beautiful though.

The grapefruit cordial is delicious and I will definitely make some more. I only had one nice glass bottle left, so the rest is in a plastic milk bottle in the fridge.

Finally it was curd time. I made one batch of lemon and one of grapefruit. I referred to Stephanie Alexander's recipe and technique. It was nice not to have to faff about with double boilers. When I looked at all my leftover egg whites I realised why lemon meringue pie is made - it neatly uses all the leftover egg whites. I am going to do a pavlova and some meringues.

Today I've used only three lemons and one grapefruit. I've tossed two moldy grapefruit and given a few grapefruit and lemons away.

I've purchased four large preserving jars and see chutney and preserved lemons in my future.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dispatching the first twenty grapefruit

I really want to get as many grapefruit processed as quickly as possible - I need my floor space back!  I figured the easiest way to do this was to start of making marmalade.  I quickly learnt that marmalade uses surprisingly few grapefruit to make a surprisingly huge volume of jam.  So the first four grapefruit, plus two lemons are chopped up and soaking.  I'm using the Edmond's cookbook recipe - there are billions out there to choose from.  I think I'm going to make another batch - but a bit more lemony and with some ginger - I think it will be lovely with chicken.

Next I decided to make Grapefruit Cordial.  I first had this at a friend's house, and she pointed out that the recipe came from Cuisine magazine.  This makes a really refreshing drink - perfect with sparkling water.  I made a double batch.  These grapefruit are super juicy - I stopped bothering with the juicer and just squeezed with my hands.  I used ten grapefruit for this recipe (couldn't get zest off a couple of them).  I think I'll be making another couple of batches as it is a great way to use them up, stores well in the fridge and has been one of my past Christmas gifts for friends and family.

One of the recipes I found requires juice - I'm going to make a grapefruit and mint vinaigrette.  But I don't need it know so decided to freeze blocks of juice.  With the skin I decided to create grapefruit peel - this was really fun.  I wanted something that I could just leave in the cupboard (as I suspect my freezer will soon house a lot of frozen juice).  The peel I will use in baking, and to decorate my planned grapefruit curd cupcakes.

I feel really bad about all the leftover grapefruit.  My worm farm doesn't take kindly to citrus, so it is all going in the bin.  Any ideas? 
The first twenty are done.  And I've got a friend who is keen for some.  Lets see how quickly I am inspired to do something with the next batch!

96 Grapefruit, a bag each of oranges and lemons and a dozen duck eggs

I've been on holiday.  It wasn't long enough but I did get enough of a mental break to get thinking of some fun projects when one landed in my lap: I asked my Mother in Law if I could have a bag of grapefruit and lemons from her tree.  I got four bags of grapefruit, one each of lemons and oranges.  Six plastic supermarket bags of citrus fruit have travelled the length of the North Island with us.

Do you think that I can use them all?  I'd like to try.

I also found a local source of duck eggs via a friend.  When I got home late last night there were a dozen beautiful pale blue and pink eggs in a carton on my back porch.  Duck eggs are apparently fantastic for baking - resulting in the lightest sponges.  They are very rich when fried or poached, and there is debate as to whether they are as nice as chicken eggs when prepared this way.

So I'm going back to pasta making.  I think it is time to invest in that pasta maker.


Saturday, September 3, 2011


"Are they going to sing Mummy?" we are at Aotea Square and madam is annoyed that she can't go on the stage. The All Blacks will be here later to get 'capped.' we are on holiday to avoid the hype and we are in the middle of it. The children are unimpressed - what use is a stage if the rugby players are not going to sing?

Sweetheart travels well, the Poppet does not. We were that family at the airport, in the plane and in the taxi. I have learnt that you cannot breastfeed on take off and landing (baby must be seated facing forward on your lap on take off and landing). We were also not allowed to have her in the front pack during the flight for 'safety reasons.' I get safety, but given I assume that unsafe incidents in planes involve fiery deaths, it is hard to take it seriously.

The girls are so tired today, it was 10pm by the time we checked in. We woke though to laughter - the girls sharing a morning joke and rude noise competition. I am so proud of how nicely they get on.

I admit to feeling a bit stressed out prior to the trip, but it was very nice to just make our way slowly down Queen St today, checking out whatever interested us. Having no particular timeframe to follow I just let the four year old lead. I got led into Starbucks and a donut store and introduced the girls to the pleasures of the Japanese $3 shop.

Then we went to the highlight of the trip - to see the girl's aunt. Sweetheart and her Aunt have the best, most special relationship. It is so lovely.

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Location:Mayoral Dr,Auckland Central,New Zealand

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Charcuterie 4, and the impact of spring on cheesemaking

I'm continuing with the processed meat experiments.

I really liked the pancetta I made last time, but wondered how well it was preserved in the centre of the meat.  When I realised that I would be on holiday when the recently defrosted pork belly would finish preserving I decided to experiment a little.  This time I have cut the pork belly into strips and am flipping every day.  The meat appears to be shrinking very quickly.  As a flavour experiment I've added a whole lot of semi-dried rosemary.  I think it will be very nice.  I found the pancetta tough to cut into strips last time, I'm considering seeing if the local butcher might help out with their slicing machine....

I don't have a 'cheese fridge/ beer fridge' so my cheesemaking throughout winter has relied on fairly consistent low temperatures.  I just put the ripening cheese in a container on the back porch.  Most of the time it has been absolutely perfect.  However it is getting warmer and the camembert I made yesterday will need a different ripening location...

Packing up for a trip - snack butterflies and packing tips

I can be pretty disorganised so it may surprise those I know that I approach packing for holidays with an organisational fervour matched only by professionals in the field. Part of it relates to a previous job that required a lot of travel; part of it relates to having children. I hate missing things out - and generally only ever forget one thing!

This is our first family holiday as a four person family.  We are flying north, then driving around for a few days.  When you have children that need to be held you can't take too much luggage (and with a pram as well it can all get a bit bulky rather quickly).  We are taking one large suitcase and a stroller (as we have a behemouth pram).  I'm using packing cells for the first time (look on the Kathmandu website), a tip I picked up from Lovely Wee Days.  I used to think this kind of thing was just a wee bit over the top  - but having children I see their benefit - one cell each for the children, one for nappies and their paraphenalia.  Smaller ones for medications, hairbrushes and hair ties and bibs.  Everything stays neatly together.  We always take a waterproof dirty clothes bag as well.

With children making sure their basic needs are met makes the holiday a lot more fun.  This means a lot of snacks - children don't go long without food.  We look forward to stopping for meals along the way, but will need to fuel up.  I saw these 'butterfly snacks' on another site about a month ago - but then my husband emptied our internet cache and I couldn't get back to it; unfortunatly I cannot credit them for this.  These are tiny snaplock bags with rubber bands around them - If I felt like it I'm sure I could decorate them further.  I think coloured popcorn (or popcorn with a tiny bit of food-grade glitter) would look really cool.  The best thing is that the bags are reusable so it is a pretty easy trick to re-do a few times.

Two days of bibs - eight! The Poppet is still not a very tidy eater. She is very determined to feed herself at the moment, and it can result in full clothing changes a couple of times a day!

No more hotel rooms for us anymore - it is motels and serviced apartments all the way.  Serviced apartments have the bonus of laundry facilities - essential with children. I save all the samples of detergent that I come across for travel.  These are great and look a lot less suspicious than travelling with a container of powder! Another trick that I have used with wool wash (don't seem to get samples of this) is to impregnate a muslin with wool wash and place in a snaplock bag - can't spill.

Gone fishin'

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