Friday, March 23, 2012

Apricot and cardamom jam/ Wellington Jam-Off

The Great Wellington Jam-Off is being held on Sunday at the City Market.  I've seen a lot of comments coming through Facebook and Twitter about the Jam-Off and I'm happy to be a jam-petitor.  It is so hard to know which one jam to submit though.  I think that my best jam of the season is Blackberry and Apple - I got the recipe off the Jam-Off website though so thought it poor form to submit that! I really wanted to submit the Apple Butter I made last winter but thought that it wouldn't meet the definition of jam.

I had been wanting to make preserved apricots with cardamon for a while.  I figured a cardamon pod in every jar of preserved apricots would be delicious, making them a little bit more special when we came to open them in winter (if they lasted that long).  But then the jam-off came and I figured that it would make an equally delicious flavour of jam.

It is pretty good - so long as you are very economical with the cardamon.  I made a batch of apricot jam largely following the recipe in the Edmond's cookbook.  For that recipe (which makes ten jars from 2.75kgs of apricots) I added six cardamon pods.  I tied them into a muslin, along with the apricot kernels and removed after ten minutes of boiling.

The result is pretty good actually.  The star of the show is the apricot - quite an aggressively apricot flavour and the cardamon just adds a warmth to the apricot, almost a depth to the flavour rather than a change to it, that lingers long after the jam has been eaten!

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Beef Ho fun (Beef with rice noodles and onion).

Beef ho fun is one of my favourite Chinese takeaway meals.  A brilliantly made beef ho fun can make me feel happy all day.  I thought that it would be simple to replicate, but my first attempt was a complete failure and my second attempt was just a bit off.  On the third attempt my family was a bit dubious (and sick of their third exposure to poor beef ho fun in three weeks) but it came out fantastically. 

I prefer it with fresh rice noodles.  You can find these in the bigger Asian grocery stores, in the fridge.  You want the wide (1.5cm) noodles.  You can buy a pack of dried rice noodles.  I have trouble getting these blend well with the meat - they can get a bit sticky.  It is still nice, but I was going for beef ho fun perfection so feel obliged to mention my picky noodle requirements.

I would give this a go with chicken or firm tofu.  Beef though, for me, is the standard.

Beef Ho Fun.

Beef marinade:

Per 500grams of rump beef (cut in strips across the grain):

3 TBSP light soy sauce
4 tsp cornflour
4 tsp rice wine (really cheap and available at Asian grocery stores)


One onion, sliced
Four spring onions (white bits cut in half): chop in 5cm lengths.
Two big handfuls of mung beans

For cooking:

1.5 tsp finely minced garlic
roughly one inch square knob of ginger, sliced into matchsticks then diced.
1.5 TBSP vegetable oil (for cooking the beef)
1.5 TBSP vegetable oil (for cooking the noodles)   *Adding a couple of drops of sesame oil is nice.

One bag of fresh rice noodles (or dried rice noodles, cooked then drained).  Enough noodles for four people.

Marinade the beef for at least an hour.  Heat a wok to a very high temperature and stir fry the veges.  Stir the onions and spring onions for four or five minutes then add the mung beans.  Cook for a further two minutes then remove from heat and cover.  After five minutes put the veges onto a plate and return the wok to a high heat.  Once the wok is hot add 2 TBSP of oil and cook the ginger and garlic for 30 seconds.  (At this point you may like to drain the marinade from the beef - this makes a 'dry' ho fun.  Equally you can cook the marinade with the beef and have a 'wet' or gravy version. Add the beef and leave to sizzle for a couple of minutes.  Stir fry until cooked through.

In a clean wok heat the oil on a medium/ high heat.  Add the noodles.  Leave them for about a minute before stirring.  Your aim is to get a few crunchy/ well seared noodles and the best way to do this is to leave the noodles.  You need to concentrate to make sure that they don't get burned.  Once the noodles have been heated through and you have a few crispy bits add the vegetables and meat.  Stir through and serve.

I am undecided on adding a big twist of freshly ground black pepper at the end.  I like pepper a lot, but may over-use it when cooking myself.  Taste the dish and decide for yourself!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Follow up: kitchen science

Sometimes I wonder if doing experiments with the kids has any pay off. Then I saw this in my daughter's writing book. She has just started learning to write last year and I think she is doing a great job!

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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Kitchen science - cream to butter and more jam

I think that the best part of having an inquisitive five year old is doing experiments with her.  The Sweetheart has largely been unimpressed by my cheesemaking habit.  I did suspect though that she would find making butter and buttermilk* very cool.

The four ramekins below show our experiment in progress: cream, whipped cream, butter, buttermilk.  The moment when the buttermilk and butter separate into solid and liquid is like magic - unfortunately be both missed it - and only realised once we heard the watery slosh in the mixer!  The butter is delicious and we plan to make waffles tomorrow with the buttermilk.

Afterwards we used the butter and some jam I made shortly afterwards for the most delicious post dinner toast.  The jam was the result of blackberry picking along the Hutt river the other day.  I found the recipe for blackberry and apple jam on the Wellington Jam-Off blog

* Traditional buttermilk, as opposed to the cultured buttermilk that is typically found in store.  Traditional buttermilk is watery and smooth, cultured tends to be thicker.

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

My happy place.

I came to Moore Wilson's today with the intention of a long stay. The baby is asleep in her pram so I've done my shopping and ended up in my very, very happy place - the cookbook room.

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fair food

The first weekend in March is usually the Newtown Fair. We have been to hot fairs, windy fairs and this year the cold, rain and windy fair after the 'weatherbomb' yesterday.

We avoided the three shaved ice stalls (felt sorry for them actually) and focussed on the delicious warm offerings:

Pulled pork, coleslaw and wolf sauce sandwich in Pomodoro bread.

Beef chimichurri.

Baby's first samosa!

My older daughter tried her first mango lassi and declared it delicious! My husband grabbed some candy selections (his favourite) and I purchased some delicious candied cashews.

Although we were well soaked from the two downpours we were caught in we again felt grateful for living close by. As I type the sun came out and I assume those at the fair currently are enjoying themselves a lot more than this morning's attendees!

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