Monday, 10 April 2017

Vanilla Plums, Rice, Sugar and Olive Oil


Things I have learned this week!


1. Rice contains arsenic! I am gobsmacked! Maybe you knew this already. If you are a not a big rice eater then eating small amounts of rice should be fine. However, to make it safer, soak rice in water overnight, drain the water and discard it and then use fresh water to cook the rice. Arsenic will be drawn out of the rice and into the water  you are discarding making it much safer.


2. Never use olive oil in non stick pans. Use grape seed oil, avocado oil or bran oil. This will enable your non stick pan to stay pristine for ever. Olive oil will burn on your non stick pan rendering it useless. Thank you George! ( I read this on the box of my new George Colombaris pan) How come I didn't know this?


3. Quitting sugar is like giving up smoking. The thought of it is way more difficult than actually doing it. I am on day 6 of a sugarless diet! But, I did buy a jar of Rice Malt Syrup which contains no fructose and I tried it in my coffee. It tasted OK but it wasn't sweet.

4. Sweet cooked fruit in season does not need added sugar. If you add sugar out of habit to your food, stop and think 'do I really need this'.

5. Volunteering for something takes less time that you think and is a great way to meet new people and learn about your local environment.

6. Plums are one of my favourite fruits.

So I had better let you have my favourite plum recipe that is so simple you wonder why you have never tried it before. (Ssh, it contains no sugar either)


VANILLA PLUMS





Ingredients

1 kg ripe plums, any kind will do
1 vanilla pod
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup water

I feel a bit of a fake posting this recipe - if you can even call it that! 

1. Wash and cut the fruit into quarters removing the seed.

2. Add to a large pan with water, cinnamon stick and the seeds from the vanilla pod.

3. On a low heat cook plums until they are soft and thick, about 15 - 20 minutes. 

4. Take off the heat and cool. Remove the cinnamon stick. 

5. Serve warm or cold with ice cream, custard, yoghurt or by themselves.

See I told you it was really easy.


Did you know? The plum is related to the almond, peach and nectarine.Plums are called 'drupes' something with a hard stone at the centre, from the Latin word 'druppa' meaning 'over ripe olive'. (I think this must be because the olive has a hard stone in the centre). If you are a linguist and know more about this, can you leave a comment please.

Phenols are also found in plums and prunes (dried plums); they function as antioxidants - plus they aid in helping the body to absorb iron. And finally they are high in vitamin C. What a clever thing nature is.










Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Lentil, Mushroom and Brussel Sprout Strudel


My mother had no formal training as a chef yet she cooked for a large number of people for a long time. She became 'famous' locally for her steak and kidney pies, Yorkshire puddings and roast meats.

As a child we always had plenty of food on the table, vegetables my father grew; beans, peas, cabbages, potatoes and with butchers in the family even during hard times we ate well. Our neighbour handed over bruised apples from his tree and with my rhubarb (found on an old allotment and brought home for dad to plant) we ate fabulous crumbles with custard for dessert.

But my mum was a lousy vegetable cook; Over cooking was something she was accustomed to from her childhood. Carrots with a little bite were 'under done', runner beans with a 'squeak', were 'not cooked properly'. So for me to become vegetarian from a relatively young age, seemed somewhat odd.

I have memories of sprouts cooked in boiling water for ever, until they were just a load of mush and served proudly with Sunday roast and lashings of gravy. If you have similar memories then I know what you are thinking! Brussel Sprout Strudel - no way!

Although my childhood sprouts weren't OK,  I haven't been discouraged from eating them but I cook them very differently to my mum and I love experimenting with sprout recipes. My love of sprouts and lentils gave me the inspiration for this recipe. Add mushrooms and it makes perfect sense, to me anyway. 

The lentils are strong and firm and with the butteriness (if indeed that is a word) of the sprouts, they just melt in your mouth.

I am pretty sure that most people who like to cook have some recipes where the ingredients are just completely absurd. And I bet that once you tell people what's in the dish, they seem surprised that they go together so well. 

This is that kind of recipe. Don't be scared now, just give it a go and you might surprise yourself. 



  LENTIL, MUSHROOM AND BRUSSEL SPROUT STRUDEL


Serves 4 people

225g Brussel sprouts
1 x 425g can lentils
200g can/jar of roasted red peppers
125g mushrooms, chopped
1 brown onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
20g butter
50g Parmesan cheese finely grated
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
Filo pastry about 12 sheets
salt and pepper
20g extra butter for the filo pastry

Sauce

1 cup white wine
1 - 2 tablespoons flour
1 knob of butter
1 cup stock or a stock cube and water


Steam/ cook  Brussel sprouts until almost tender. Remove and set aside.

In a large frypan add olive oil and 20g butter and cook onions and garlic on low until they are soft and just starting to brown. This will take around 15 minutes.
Add mushrooms, brown for a few minutes then add roasted pepper. Cook uncovered, stirring often for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. 

Chop the sprouts in half and ad these to the pan and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring and seasoning as you go.

Remove from the heat and place them in a bowl and set aside.

Using the same pan, make the sauce. Add the butter, flour to make a rue then add cup of white wine and stock and cook, stirring until the sauce thickens.

Cook the sauce for a couple of minutes then return the vegetables to the pan and mix until they are well coated. Now take them off the heat and allow to cool before making up the strudel.

Once the vegetables have cooled, it's time to make the strudel. 




Melt the extra butter in a microwave container. Take one piece of filo pastry and using a pastry brush, brush butter over the surface. Don't take too long or the pastry will dry out. Now sprinkle over a little cheese and breadcrumbs and add another layer. Repeat until you have 4 pieces of filo on top of each other.

Take half the mixture and place it in a line along the long side of the pastry, leaving a little pastry free at the ends to tuck in. Now fold the ends over the mixture and roll up like a big sausage roll.

Repeat this with 4 more sheets of filo and mixture. You should make 2 strudels out of this mixture. Lastly brush the tops of the strudels with any remaining butter. Place them on a baking tray lines with baking paper and bake in a preheated oven 190º/375º for 20 - 30 minutes until the pastry is nice and brown.

 Serve with a salad or two or your favourite vegetables and a dollop of chutney or pickle.


Tuesday, 7 March 2017

River


When I was just a kid I canoed 27 miles on Loch Lomond, Scotland. It left a lasting impression on me and one I have yet to match. I was afraid of nothing as a youngster, keen to try my hand at everything where there was a bit of adventure. Sadly, most of my pursuits ended in my 30's and then the fear took hold. Everything I thought of doing scared me enough not to try it. I didn't believe in myself and was afraid that trying something I thought I couldn't do would just end in failure - so I didn't try anything. I watched as my family went off hiking and cycling and sailing and swimming.........

Over the last 18 months, something changed - I am not sure how or what but it has been a revelation! A letting go, a freedom! 


An overheard conversation prompted my Thames Path Walk, and this book,  "The unlikely Voyage of Jack de Crow" by AJ MacKinnon, sparked the idea of a river adventure and voilà! I'm on the river in a kayak! So what's my next challenge I hear you say???? Oh, I'm hooked on the kayak, I'm not ready to give that up yet. There's a lot to explore, places to go and things to see, albeit at a slow pace. And I'm not sure where my next inspiration will come from.

There are many places to get on the water in South Australia but having your own kayak would help - I'm working on that. The Murray River has some amazing places through SA and New South Wales, so I'm tempted to be having a few mini holidays over the coming year. Getting into National Parks, tributaries of Lake Alexandrina, the Coorong and the Onkaparinga River are all potential places for me to explore over the coming months.

Tasmania is also on the horizon for October 2017 and it would be fantastic to see the unique flora and fauna of the region. Huge red gums, forests of ferns and epiphytes and to sneak a peak at a platypus in the wild. It hurts to think about it.

Here's some photos taken in Loch Luna Reserve and on our evening paddle, part of the National Park near Berri in South Australia.




If you are looking for an adventure, try this company Canoe Adventure based in Berri. Kym and Karen do an excellent job of getting you into fabulous areas along the Murray River and off the beaten track. They let us loose with their kayaks, introducing us to some beautiful places we have promised to come back to.

I'm not a person who quotes God or the Bible, but this quote I found in my local paper rang true -

"See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness". And that is what it feels like.