Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Oaty Blue Cheese and Thyme crackers

This is one of my favourite recipes, particularly at Christmas time.  You can freeze the mixture in rolls once made, then defrost, slice and bake when required.  If you slice them thickly they will be more like savoury biscuits. They tend to be crumbly, but ever so delicious.  You really do need a food processor to make this recipe. 

I'm thinking of making some blue cheese this week for Christmas time.  Last year I made a huge wheel of blue cheese and wedges of it made fantastic gifts.  I used the rest to make these delicious crackers.

Oaty Blue Cheese and Thyme crackers.

1 cup plain flour
½ cup instant rolled oats
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
50g blue cheese
120g butter
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Preheat the oven to 175°C (you may like to turn it on when you chill the recipe below).  In the bowl of a food processor combine the flour, oats, baking powder and salt and pulse together to combine. Make sure that the oats are well blended into the flour.
  • Add the thyme, blue cheese, butter and lemon juice and pulse until the mixture is 
well combined and forms a ball.
  • Transfer the mixture to a clean surface and shape it into a firm log, about 4-5cm in diameter. Wrap the log in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  • Roll in poppy seeds.
  • Cut the log into thin slices, about 5mm thick, and arrange them evenly on lined trays (do not cook on baking racks - the cheese in the crackers will make the mixture stick to the racks). Bake the biscuits in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes until they are golden, you may want to flip them over at ten minutes to make sure both sides have a good colour.
  • Leave the biscuits to cool for 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. 

Use 50g grated parmesan and 1 tsp fresh diced rosemary instead of blue cheese and thyme.

Inspired by Issue 68, food magazine.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

How I made Apple Cider Vinegar

I've been so busy with the garden over the last few months and my lack of blog posts made me think that I was cooking less.  I have been doing a lot of cooking - but mostly making things from recipes I've already posted.  It is really nice to have a 'critical mass' of recipes that represent my family's meals.

I have though been doing a fair amount of preserving.  I currently crave a food dehydrator and tonight I start my first attempt at dehydrating using our oven.  I've made my usual autumn jams/ jellies and the chest freezer we purchased prior to my hospitalisation last year is full of tomato soup, frozen berries and blanched vegetables.

We have been picking and eating a lot of apples so I was very pleased to make my own apple cider vinegar.  It costs about ten dollars for 250ml from our supermarket so having made a litre for very little work made me very happy!

How I made Apple Cider Vinegar is based on three to four minutes of clicking through dozens of websites.  I was inspired by a post on the Wellington Garden Share Facebook page.

How I made Apple Cider Vinegar.

Day one, week one.

Get a very clean glass or plastic food safe container (I used a ten litre glass jar).  Sterilise (I used the Iodopher that came with my cheese making kit).

Fill the glass jar with apple peels and cores (more peels than cores).  Cover with water.  (You may wish to put a plate or something over top of the peels to keep them below the water.  Add a teaspoon of sugar. Put a muslin over the top of the container and secure with a rubber band.

Put in a consistently warm place out of direct sunlight (I put next to the fridge on the floor).  

Shake gently each day.

Week two or three

After a week or two you should notice signs of fermentation (fizzy or bubbly).  Strain the mixture into a clean bowl, clean the original container and put the strained contents back inside.  You should have a weak, fermented apple juice.  Add the mother (the cloudy bit or jelly like bit) from a purchased jar of fermented apple cider vinegar.  Try not to use a metal utensil.  Many sites claim that metal might somehow deactivate the mother, but none I read gave a plausible explanation.

Leave in a consistently warm place out of direct sunlight.  Cover with a muslin (do this until you are sure that fermentation has ended, otherwise the lid might pop/ explode off.

Week three to five

After a week or two you should notice that the mother is increasing in size.  There should be no other signs of fermentation.  When the mother is quite thick and gelatinous and covering most of the surface of the vinegar you can remove it.  Put the mother into a clean glass jar and add about half a cup of vinegar - you can then reuse it for other vinegar making.

Bottle the apple cider vinegar and leave for another couple of weeks to age. It should smell and taste vinegary - mine is also a glorious pink colour and has a definite smell of apple. Glorious.


Do not use this vinegar for preserves.  Recipes for preserving rely on known ingredients and it is hard to know from batch to batch exactly what the composition of the final apple cider vinegar is.  For example, some websites mention testing the ph level to determine if the vinegar is acidic enough for preserving.  I think with preserves it is best to be safe and use commercial products.  Use this vinegar in water for a drink or for dressings.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Curcubit surprise

My determination that we would be self sufficient with vegetables this summer means that we have a lot of vegetables available to eat.  I'm not sure we got to self sufficiency - but we got close.  The money saved on buying vegetables (and we did go five or six days at a time without buying vegetables) was spent on summer stone fruit!  While my boysenberries, strawberries and blackberries have all performed well, they do not keep us in fruit.

What did change was a determination to find recipes that fit the ingredients in the garden

I cooked these courgette and scallopini in a herbed mustard vinaigrette.  I just put the lid on top and baked them in the oven.  The reason I called this recipe 'curcubit surprise' is that I had no idea I was growing scallopini, let alone white ones.  I was checking on my mad pumpkin patch when I realised that the group of baby pumpkins were in fact scallopini.  Alas, because they had reached a very large size I think that the plant has produced only one crop and then died.  Still, it was good for a few days of odd shaped vegetables.  I think I also prefer the American name for scallopini - patty pan squash.

Last summer I had two courgette plants and was annoyed that I had no glut of courgettes.  I thought that the plants were slightly unproductive due to being grown in containers.  This year I have five courgette plants, two green and three yellow.  They came from a mixed pack.  The yellow courgettes seem to grow more slowly than the green ones, and produce nowhere near as much.  Still no glut.  I can't work out though if we just eat a lot of courgettes?  Since our stand by meal option is usually some kind of stir fry, we can easily grow through two or three in each stir fry, a few times a week.  I was really hoping to freeze a lot for winter, and to have so many that I would be forced to make things like chocolate zucchini cake or beg friends to take them off our hands.

Another curcubit in the mixture above is crookneck squash.  I planted many of these seeds and got two small plants.  Mine didn't get very big, and I only got maybe ten off both plants.  If they get very big they turn into squash with a hard, warty skin.  You then have to bake them, as the skin isn't soft enough to eat.  Only one of mine made it to this size, mainly because I gave up hope that the plant would produce anything.  I can't work out if they were just in a bad location, or if they just aren't big producers.  I'll give them another year!

I have learnt a good lesson - one which I suspect most gardeners know through common sense.  Don't through the potting mix from your non-germinated pumpkin seed wantonly through the garden.  As of this evening it appears that I will have thirteen pumpkins.  I only deliberately planted three plants, four have just sprung up and one I swear was supposed to be a cucumber plant is actually a buttercup pumpkin plant. Sigh. Still, the pansies that grew from the same method are very cheerful.

I did later find the cucumber plant - I planted it in the communal vegetable garden I share with my neighbours.  I nearly cried I was so thrilled to see a cucumber and not another blinking pumpkin.  It was delicious.  The second one is on my kitchen bench, and I will probably eat it this evening rather than subjecting it to refrigeration.

Last summer I went crazy with peas: snow peas, sno peas, capucijner peas and garden peas.  This year belonged to the curcubit.  I think next summer will be beans.

Friday, February 7, 2014


Isn't it beautiful?

Beetroot Tart Tartin

I've been enjoying Hugh Fernley-Wittingstall's Veg TV programme and managed to have a good read of the lovely cookbook that accompanies the series.  On seeing this recipe I knew it would only be a matter of time before I made his recipe for Beetroot Tart Tartin.

My garden has been very productive this summer, and so I had plenty of these beautiful beetroot chioggia to use.  They look like candy canes!  The children were quite bemused by the presentation of these vegetables - surprised enough to try them!  Both ate a surprising amount (for my oldest a surprising amount is more than one mouthful of something new).  Next time I will try and arrange to have all baby beets.