Saturday, 27 April 2013

pomegranate jelly with orange custard

when i moved into my previous house i had visions of burgeoning fruit trees growing in our new and enormous garden so i went about planting a variety of fruit trees that i imagined the children picking fruit from as they played outside and i also envisaged myself bottling the fruit for my family to eat in the winter didn't happen though..i struggled with the huge but beautiful ornamental trees in the garden robbing moisture and goodness from the soil, a possum plague, various diseases and beasties attacking the foliage and time constraints..

so, when i was researching fruit trees for my current garden, i opted for the hardier stuff and the more unusual such as feijoa, cumquat, elderberry and pomegranate trees..they're all doing really well and they require minimal work..i picked my first feijoa yesterday, the cumquat is massed with fruit, the elderberry produced eight umbels this year and the pomegranate has produced about 30 beautiful large  fruit..the pomegranate produced a smaller crop last year but the fruit wasn't as flavoursome and juicy as it is this year..

i made a pomegranate jelly with vanilla custard last week but i wasn't happy with the flavours because there wasn't enough complementarity between the two elements..this time i added some orange juice to the jelly and a subtle orange flavour to the custard with the use of orange zest and the finer crushed biscuit is much nicer this time too rather than the chunks i added last time.. 

pomegranate jelly and orange custard
tea with hazel
serves 3-4


pomegranate jelly

2 large organic pomeganates
juice of 1 organic orange* (retain the orange skin for the candied orange peel recipe below)
25 gms sugar
40 mls water
2 gold strength gelatin leaves
extra castor sugar (if needed)

orange custard

1 cup milk
1 tablespoon (tbs) sugar (or more or less as desired)
1 egg yolk
finely grated rind of 1 organic orange*
1 tbs corn flour
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tbs extra milk

candied orange peel

skin of 1 juiced orange (see pomegranate jelly ingredient list above)
40 gms sugar
60 mls water
extra water


2 savoiardi biscuits crushed into irregular sized pieces the largest being about almond sized


pomegranate jelly

~ remove the arils from the pomegranates
~ put the arils in a colander sitting over a bowl and press the arils with a metal spoon extracting as much pomegranate juice as possible
~ pour the orange juice through a muslin lined sieve into a measuring jug adding enough pomegranate juice to make up 200 mls of juice in total
~ put the sugar and water in a small saucepan over low heat stirring until the sugar is dissolved
~ once dissolved increase heat, bring to the boil, then remove from heat
~ cut the gelatine in quarters, cover with water to soften, squeeze out water and add to the hot syrup stirring to combine
~ add the gelatine/sugar syrup to the juice and stir
~ test for sweetness and add extra castor sugar as required stirring well to dissolve
~ divide between 3-4 glasses, cover with foil, and refrigerate until set

orange custard

~ bring the milk, sugar and orange zest to boiling point then remove from heat
~ mix the corn flour with enough extra milk to form a paste then add egg yolk and mix well
~ while mixing slowly add a few tablespoons of the hot milk to the cornflour/egg
~ strain the cornflour/egg into the hot milk stirring well to prevent curdling
~ return to a moderate heat and cook until the custard just comes to the boil and then remove from the heat
~ add vanilla, cover the surface with cling film to prevent a skin forming, and set aside to cool

candied orange peel

~ place orange skins in a saucepan, just cover with water, boil for 10 to 15 minutes then drain
~ make a syrup with the sugar and water, add orange skins, and boil for 30 minutes occasionally adding more water if the syrup becomes too thick
~ once cool cut the white pith from orange peel and cut the peel into fine batons 

assembly and serving

~ sprinkle the crushed biscuits evenly over the set jelly, dollop on custard dividing it evenly between the glasses and then top with a few pieces of candied peel
~ cover again with foil and refrigerate for 2-3 hours before serving

notes: * i used small homegrown sour oranges..if using sweeter and/or larger oranges adjust the amount of sugar, juice and zest accordingly

Wednesday, 24 April 2013


just lately i've become a bit frustrated with my sourdough loaves..they just haven't been doing what i want..yeah..they taste ok but i've been finding them harder to slash and they've been cracking a lot on the bottom and not opening up on top properly so i've been doing a bit of pondering and a bit of reading and a bit more pondering..

yesterday i made a loaf where i changed a few things that i thought might be causing the problem..i've been making quite a high hydration dough lately so yesterday i lowered the hydration level of the dough and instead of covering the dough during its second prove i left it uncovered because i read somewhere that this helps the dough develop a 'skin' which makes slashing easier..the last thing i did differently was to bake the loaf using a conventional setting rather than using the oven's bread baking function (convection) because i read somewhere that fan assisted heat can dehydrate the surface of dough which i guessed might impact on oven spring (i use steam with both methods)..

whenever i make a loaf of bread i develop a case of 'baker's anticipation'..yesterday was no exception as i peered through the oven door and watched happily this time as the loaf sprung open beautifully..and i'm not sure why but the bread actually tasted a bit different too..not better or worse..just different..oh..and by the way it was a breeze to slash..

 oh has an 'ear'

and a nice crust

and look at the holes

do i sound like a proud mother showing off her newborn?

Monday, 15 April 2013

the quotidian

sometimes it's the simple things
like a rogue elderberry umbel hidden among the canopy of undulating foliage
the berries crushed with sugar to form a tiny amount of vibrant syrup
and drizzled over a meringue with cream
sometimes it's the simple things
like an autumn afternoon chatting with a friend
drinking cups of tea
and sewing, reading magazines and eating
yes, sometimes it's the simple things
that lift our spirits 

meringue nests with cream and elderberry syrup

Friday, 12 April 2013

food waste

as i wandered through the supermarket the other day i noticed a whole lot of people milling around some boxes of produce so i scurried over to see what all the excitement was about..i must have had a quizzical look on my face because without talking to me the supermarket employee pointed to the plastic bag holder..when i came back with my bag he nodded towards the boxes and told me for $3 i could fill my bag..i'm not good at bun fights so i hung back until the dust had settled accepting that i might miss out on the better produce..but it didn't turn out like that at all because i was easily able to fill my bag with quality produce such as new seasons apples and corella pears, lebanese cucumbers, a couple of heads of garlic (not the bleached imported variety), red capsicums, beetroot and organic bananas..admittedly there was a lot of poorer quality stuff in the boxes including rotting vegetation but my well honed urban foraging skills enabled me to find the better stuff among the dross..

i had a bit of a chat with the attendee while he was telling me to tie my bag securely (in case i stole a soft banana?) and as he put a bar code sticker on my bag..he told me that the same thing happens every day from 3-4 pm and that he has his regulars who come every day..i don't know that i will become a 'regular' because i buy my green groceries elsewhere but if i happen to be there at the right time i'll probably check out what's on offer again..

i checked out my bounty when i got home and the only thing wrong with the apples was the odd blemish but otherwise they were fresh and crisp..the other things weren't perfect either but there was nothing intrinsically wrong with any of it..there have been several stories in the media recently about the huge volume of food wasted annually around the world..among the doom and gloom there are good things happening though such as programs where producers, suppliers and restaurants donate food to charity..and i've seen a few television programs lately where, often for philosophical reasons, people engage in what's known as 'dumpster diving' where supermarket waste bins are raided for food..and the issue of household food waste is becoming a more salient issue in terms of media attention and educational programs..

i'm pretty sure the supermarkets' daily $3 'greens grab' is primarily motivated by money but i can see some positive aspects..the first is the economic benefit to the consumer and the second relates to waste reduction which results in reduced landfill, methane gas production and the associated effect on climate..and i get the sense that many of us, in reducing waste, respect ourselves more when we respect the hard won and precious life affirming commodity that's food..

a few articles addressing the issues i've mentioned (food donation) (eating and cooking food from supermarket
waste bins) (household food waste) (household food waste)

roast beetroot and taleggio soup
tea with hazel

ingredients soup

2 medium to large beetroot peeled and quartered*
2 small red capsicums cut into quarters*
1/4 small pumpkin peeled and cut into chunks
4 medium tomatoes cut large
1/2 large zucchini cut into chunks (i only used this because i was low in stock and i thought this watery vegetable would amp up the fluid volume of the soup without eclipsing the flavour i was after)
4-5 cloves garlic unpeeled*
1 litre stock
olive oil
2 teaspoons (tsp) salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp chilli flakes

ingredients to serve

1 tsp sumac per person
3-4 slices of taleggio per person
finely cut parsley and chives
extra salt and pepper


~ place the beetroot, capsicums, pumpkin, tomatoes, zucchini and garlic in a roasting tray and drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and chilli flakes
~ roast at 180 deg c until the vegetables are well browned and softening
~ once cooked remove the roasted vegetables to a saucepan, add stock, and cook until the vegetables are falling apart
~ puree the soup and pass it through a mouli

~ reheat, adding water if it's too thick, and serve with slices of taleggio, chives, parsley and sumac

note * denotes 'green grab' produce

atta milk loaf
tea with hazel


250 gms atta flour
250 gms white bread flour
approximately 250 mls full fat milk
1 tsp yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt


~ mix flours and yeast with enough milk to make a shaggy dough and leave for 10-15 minutes to autolyse
~ add salt, mix briefly, rest for 10 minutes and mix briefly again
~ cover with clingfilm and place in the refrigerator overnight
~ remove the bowl from the refrigerator the next morning and leave for an hour or two 
~ turn the dough out of the bowl on to a well floured bench, stretch and fold a few times, and then rest for 20-30 minutes
~ repeat the stretch and fold and rest cycle once more
~ shape the dough into a round, sprinkle with semolina, place top side down in a muslin lined colander (or dough proofing basket) and leave until well risen
~ slash the loaf and cook with steam for 20 minutes at 220 deg c (break baking function) and then at 180 deg c for a further 20-25 minutes or until well browned

i think the milk gave the loaf a tighter crumb than i've become used to
 but happily it wasn't heavy and it went well with the soup

Thursday, 11 April 2013

what's for dinner mum?

when my children were young they'd see me start cooking and would want to know what i was making but most of the time, because i only had a feeling for what i was making, i'd have to say that i wasn't sure..they're really used to my unusual cooking style now..this spiced pasty and relish is a recipe i made by feel many years's really versatile because substitutions are easily made..for instance, even though i usually add peas, today i used green beans instead because i'm still picking my own..and i've never used eggplant before but i've had a great crop this summer..

spiced pasty with ginger tomato relish
tea with hazel

ingredients pasty filling

250 gms minced lamb or beef (i used lamb i minced myself)
1/2 onion grated
1 cup pumpkin diced large
1 medium potato diced large
2 small or 1 medium eggplant diced large
1 carrot diced small
4 small zucchinis cut into small rounds
1 capsicum sliced into 0.5 -1 cm strips
1 cup of beans cut into 2 cm pieces
2 teaspoons (tsp) cummin
2 tsp tumeric
2-3 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp pepper
2-3 tsp salt
1 tsp ground coriander

ingredients pastry

250 gms plain flour
125 gms cold butter
1/2 cup grated vintage cheese
1/2 tsp salt
approx 1/2 cup iced water with a squeeze of lemon juice


sesame seeds
2-3 tablespoons milk

ginger tomato relish

1/2 cup homemade or good quality bought tomato chutney (beerenberg's or baxter's are both good)
1/4 cup currants
1 tsp finely grated ginger

method pastry

~ place flour, salt and cubed butter into the bowl of a food processor and process until the butter is just incorporated
~ add cheese and enough water for the dough to just start forming a ball
~ remove the dough from the bowl onto a floured bench and knead briefly to bring the dough together
~ shape into an approximately 8 x 8 cm square, wrap in cling film, and refrigerate until the filling is ready

method filling

~ steam the vegetables in batches until al dente
~ place in a large bowl with the other ingredients and mix gently

method construction

~ roll the dough out into a large oblong and place it on a baking paper lined tray
~ place the filling across the middle of the pastry extending to 3 cms from the short edge pressing the filling to eliminate air pockets and create a dense filling
~ fold the longer pieces of pastry over the filling brushing a little milk on the pastry to seal the edges
~ fold in the two ends sealing with milk
~ brush the top with milk and sprinkle with sesame seeds
~ cook for 20 minutes at 210 deg c then reduce heat to 180 deg c and cook for a further 30 minutes or until well browned

method relish

~ place chutney in a small saucepan, add currants, and heat gently until just boiling
~ stir in ginger

serves about 4-6 people depending on how peckish they are..

Sunday, 7 April 2013

nurturing my spirit

i think it's great that our council provides us with 'green' bins but i've chosen not to have one and it's not because i don't have green waste because i fact i have lots of it..i've chosen not to have one because i'm greedy for all the compostable material i can get my hands on..

nothing goes to waste..i have three compost piles on the go at once..two at different stages of maturity that get watered, if necessary, and dug over weekly and one that's being added to system isn't very sophisticated though but it seems to work really compost initially goes into a really large wired concertina like canvas bucket (i found it in a hard rubbish collection and cut the bottom out of it)..once it's full i lift the bucket off and move it to another spot close by..all kitchen scraps, cardboard and paper, non invasive weeds, leaves and spent vegetable material is added..i cut larger material up into smaller pieces to facilitate quicker composting..anything woody or prickly like rose prunings that's not easily compostable is cut into manageable sized pieces, tied in bundles, and stored for use as kindling..smaller stuff that's not easily tied or that's infected such as black spot and rust affected rose leaves gets put into paper bags and used as fire lighters..and the ashes from the fire then get dug into the garden..i bag invasive material such as kikuyu and 'solarise' it..a month or two in the sun and it's then ready to be cut up and used as mulch..i've hung onto the couple of buckets of soil full of the very invasive oxalis and star of bethlehem bulbs, that i've been carefully digging up, to feed to chooks but i'm still undecided whether i'll get them again or not..

solarised and cut kikuyu ready to be used as mulch

when i moved to my new house five years ago the front garden was an expanse of half dead kikuyu lawn with one camellia and the back no better..out the front instead of lawn i now have curved gravelled paths bordering beds of tall growing hybrid tea roses, herbs, and taller deciduous and non deciduous fruiting trees..the garden out the back is still a work in progress but i now have four vegetable gardens..the soil still needs lots of work even though i added trailer loads of compost in the initial stages of the garden's development and i continue to regularly add my own compost..i expect it will take many more years of work before i am happy with my soil but it will be a labour of love..

considering globally what's happening to the earth it might seem inconsequential for me to care so much about my own little bit of turf but i've found that if i don't live according to my own values, regardless of what others are doing, then i'm not at all happy with who i am..and also in looking after my soil my spirit flourishes and blooms..

papa meilland
i fell in love with this rose when i first saw it
 in the kitchen garden at heide  several decades ago