Category Archives: food

Recipe – Toasted Muesli base

Just made a batch of toasted muesli and thought I’d share:

As always, apologies for the poor picture quality. My purpose though, was to show the colour of the muesli when it’s done. Getting it to this degree of doneness took approximately 30 minutes in a low oven [Fan bake 150 C/Fahrenheit 302]. You may also notice that there is no fruit in the muesli. All of the extras are added after the muesli base has finished toasting. Or if you’re like me, you can just eat the base on its own with milk.

Okay, enough of the prologue. Here’s the recipe:

  1. Place 3 cups of rolled oats in a large baking dish.
  2. Add 1 cup of almond meal and mix.
  3. In a small pot, place
    1. 1 tablespoon of good apricot jam and 2 tablespoons of raw sugar [or make it all apricot jam].
    2. 1 tablespoon of good oil [I use peanut coz it’s mild but olive would be good too].
    3. 1/2 teaspoon of Cassia cinnamon*
    4. 1/4 cup water
  4. Bring the wet ingredients to a gentle simmer – just enough to make the mixture easy to pour.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly by hand. It’s a little sticky but the best way to get the flavour all through the oats.
  6. Place the pan of muesli in the middle of a cool oven [Fan bake 150 C/Fahrenheit 302] and bake for about 30 minutes.
  7. VERY IMPORTANT: Stir the muesli every 5 minutes or so to ensure it ‘toasts’ evenly instead of burning on the bottom.
  8. When the muesli is the right colour, remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool.
  9. When the muesli is completely cool, place in an air-tight container. Will last in the pantry for about 2 weeks.

Now, a word about quantities and taste: I do not like my muesli sweet, so if you have a sweet tooth, this recipe will need adjustment. I suggest doubling the quantity of sugar/jam and trying it out. If it’s too sweet, you can reduce the sweetness one tablespoon at a time until you get exactly the degree of sweetness you prefer. And that, my friends, is the only reason anyone should make their own toasted muesli!

cheers

Meeks

p.s. Cassia cinnamon* is not the same as the cinnamon found in most supermarkets. It has a stronger, more aromatic scent and flavour, which is why it’s used by bakers. Cassia cinnamon can be found quite easily on the internet and I would strongly recommend buying some, especially if you have a problem with pre-diabetes. Apparently it helps balance blood sugar:

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1002/cassia-cinnamon

 


Apricot cake & triple-choc-biscuits

I remembered to take some photos this time so here are our latest baking creations [recipes follow for those so inclined]:

First up, the apricot cake:

All the apricots in the cake came from our own harvest, which was quite spectacular. These are photos of what we picked five days ago:

and these:

The total haul has probably been twice that much, all of it with a sweetness you have to taste to believe. We literally have apricots coming out of our ears. This is a pic of the compote we preserved:

The instrument of torture in the foreground is for removing boiling hot bottles from the sterilizing water. Worth every penny!

And finally the biscuits [cookies to my US friends]:

The odd lumps in the middle are whole pieces of chocolate [some dark some dairy milk] that bake with the biscuits. Like my chocolate mousse cake, this is something we don’t make often because it, too, is death-by-chocolate. If you scroll down to the recipe you’ll see why. I may have to go on a starvation diet once the last of the indulgences are eaten. 🙂

RECIPES!

Apricot Cake 

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 C [165 C if using fan forced] or 360 F.
  2. Lightly grease a 10″ [ 25 cm] diameter ringform cake tin and line the bottom with grease proof baking paper.
  3. Separate four large eggs. Place the yolks into a small bowl and the whites into a mixing bowl.
  4. Add 75 gm of caster sugar to the egg whites, plus a tiny pinch of salt, and beat on high until shiny and very stiff. Set aside in a cool place but not the fridge. You do not need to wash the beaters.
  5. In a second mixing bowl, place 200 gm of room temperature, unsalted butter and another 75 gm of caster sugar.
  6. Cream the butter and sugar until it’s pale and creamy.
  7. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well between each addition.
  8. Gently fold the stiff egg whites into the creamed butter. Do not over mix.
  9. Sift 200 gm of self raising flour and fold into the butter/egg mix. The cake mix will be quite firm. Only fold until it’s just combined.
  10. Pour the cake mix into the prepared tin and gently press to the edges.
  11. Lightly press fresh apricot halves all over the top of the cake mix. [I used about 3/4 of a kilo of fruit. If you want to use less, reduce the baking time a little to compensate].
  12. Place the cake in the middle of a preheated oven and bake for approx. 45 – 50 minutes. Do not open the oven for the first 20 minutes of baking.
  13. As the cake cooks it will rise up around the fruit. The cake is cooked when it shrinks slightly from the sides of the baking dish and/or a skewer pressed into the middle comes out clean [i.e. not sticky-gooey].
  14. Take the cake out of the over and allow to stand, in the baking dish, for about 5 minutes.
  15. Remove the outer ringform and place the cake [still on the bottom of the pan] onto a wire rack.
  16. Using the baking paper, gentle ease the cake off the bottom of the pan and onto the rack.
  17. When the cake is a bit cooler, and firmer, you can finally ease it off the baking paper as well. I wait until the cake is cool and then ease it straight onto the serving platter I intend to use.
  18. Dust the top of the cake with a little icing sugar [optional] and serve on its own or with cream. Bon appetit!

Triple Choc Biscuits

The main ingredient of this recipe is chocolate. I kid you not, a total of 500 gms of chocolate! 😀

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 C [375 F] or about 175 C if using fan forced.
  2. Prepare the baking trays you will use to bake the biscuits. We used an Avanti biscuit press to make the smaller biscuits and discovered it does NOT work on baking paper; the biscuit dough has to be pressed directly onto the baking tray. We also made large, manual ‘balls’ of dough. These we placed on baking paper.
  3. Chop approx. 450 gm of dark cooking chocolate or a mix of dark and milk chocolate. We used 1/2 and 1/2 of Plaistowe Dark and Dairy Milk Chocolate. Reserve approx. 50 gm for the choc chip ‘dots’.
  4. Gently melt the 450 gms of chocolate with 125 gms of unsalted butter. [In the past, I’ve also use Slightly Salted Butter and simply omitted the salt later on]. You can use a microwave or simply use a bowl placed over a pot of gently simmering water on the stove.
  5. Remove the melted chocolate from the heat and stir in 1/2 a cup of caster sugar. It will look quite granular.
  6. Next, stir in 3 large, whole eggs, one at a time.
  7. Finally, sift 1 1/4 cups of plain flour with 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa, 1 teaspoon of baking powder and a good pinch of salt. [If using slightly salted butter, omit the pinch of salt].
  8. Add the flour mix to the chocolate mix and stir until just combined.
  9. Cover the dough with cling wrap and place in the fridge for up to 1 hour [minimum of 10 minutes].
  10. Remove the dough from the the fridge and use a biscuit press to mould the biscuits.
  11. If you don’t have a biscuit press, scoop out a spoonful of dough with a spoon, very lightly roll into a ball and place the ball on the baking paper covered tray.
  12. Leave enough room on the tray for the biscuits to expand as they bake.
  13. When all the biscuits have been formed, gently press a small knob of chocolate into the middle of each biscuit and bake.
  14. For the Avanti biscuits, baking time should be no more that 6 minutes.
  15. For the hand-rolled balls, baking time should be around 10 minutes.
  16. The biscuits will still be a little soft when you take them out of the oven. Leave them on the baking tray until they firm up.
  17. Place biscuits on wire racks to finish cooling. Store in an air-tight container for up to 3 days [if they last that long]. 🙂

Oh, and…enjoy!

Meeks

 

 


Cities without streets?

This is the jigsaw puzzle I completed this morning – just to see what the image was actually about:

Isn’t it amazing? A straight, boring street completely re-purposed to provide a beautiful green space for both residents and casual visitors to enjoy.

I know nothing about that street, other than the title of the jigsaw puzzle: ‘Lombard street’. If anyone knows where it is, please share in comments!

Anyway, the Lombard Street puzzle got me thinking about another place that I did know about: Havana. It’s become the urban agriculture capital of the world, with citizens and government working together to create food gardens on every available urban space. There are chickens and rabbits being ‘grown’ on roof tops, vegie plots on balconies, larger communal gardens in the middle of parks, and street markets selling the locally grown produce back to this city of two million.

The birth of Havana’s urban agriculture was painful to say the least, and driven by need. You can read the history in this great article:

https://www.dwell.com/article/havana-world-capital-of-urban-farming-659b65ad

The point though, is that it began as a grass roots movement with ordinary, hungry people taking food production into their own hands because they had to. The food they grew was organic because Cuba couldn’t afford herbicides and pesticides. The food Havana grows is still organic or semi-organic because the Cuban government recognized the value of what was happening and formalised it. Commercial pesticides are not allowed within the city limits. And the weird thing is that those organic, urban gardens really do supplement the diets of Havana’s residents.

Getting back to the jigsaw puzzle that triggered this post, I started wondering how much real estate our cities devote to roads. What if those roads could be re-purposed for parks and open spaces and communal gardens? What if we had alpacas wandering down Swanston Street, mowing the grass? [I chose alpacas coz they poop in the same spots all the time, making clean up a lot easier].

Seriously, we could go from this:

Image copyright Anthony Frey Photos – click photo to visit site

to this:

Original image by Anthony Frey Photos. Alpacas by acflory

Now I know that roads are like the veins and arteries of a city, but do they have to be so wasteful? Surely we have the technology to put them underground? Maybe not all of them, but the freeways could definitely go…

I’m sure that anyone with real engineering experience will shoot this idea down in flames, but still…it appeals to me. At some point we really will have to rethink the design of our cities. Maybe then we’ll find a way to stop wasting all that space on roads. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


Fried Rice, from leftovers

I’m sitting here shoveling down the leftover fried rice from last night, but the leftovers began the night before. If you like fried rice and never know what to do with leftover roast chicken, read on.

Recipe – Fried Rice à la Meeka

Ingredients*

Leftover roast or braised chicken, meat removed from bones

Leftover cooked rice [boiled or via the absorption method]

1 – 2 rashers of middle bacon [or ham]

1 – 2 eggs

Capsicum, red [diced]

Spring onion [the white part, cleaned and chopped into small pieces] 

Leftover corn on the cob if available [kernels cut off the cob]

Sesame oil [a drop or two]

Soy Sauce [Light or dark]

Peanut oil for frying [it has a light, clean flavour that’s perfect for Chinese dishes, but I use it for everything]

A large wok

An egg slice or some other tool for stir frying the rice

*quantities will depend upon how many people are to be served and how much they like certain ingredients. As a rule of thumb, you’ll need approx. 1.5 – 2 cups of cooked rice for two medium sized people.

Method

Heat a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil in the wok until you can see a ‘heat haze’ rising from the oil.

While the oil is heating:

  • beat the egg[s]
  • cut the rind off the bacon and cut the meat and fat into small cubes/squares.
  • wash and cut the capsicum into small squares.

When the oil is hot, pour the beaten egg into the hot wok and swirl it around to spread it as much as possible [a bit like making a pancake].

When one side of the egg pancake is done, flip it over and cook the other side until it too is golden. Remove from wok and place on a cutting board. Cut into bite sized pieces and set aside.

Next, place the bacon pieces into the remaining oil along with the capsicum. Lower the heat and allow to cook gently until the bacon is nicely coloured but not quite crisp.

If using, add the corn kernels to the bacon and capsicum. Allow to cook gently for a few minutes more. [This is just to heat the corn through as it’s already cooked].

Remove the bacon, capsicum and corn from the oil. You can add it to the cooked egg.

Add a drop or two of sesame oil to the oil remaining in the wok. Don’t throw this oil out as it contains all the lovely flavours of the bacon etc!

Add the cooked rice to the wok and break up the lumps, tossing the rice almost constantly until the grains are nice and loose.

Return the egg, bacon, capsicum and corn to the wok and toss through the rice.

Add the pieces of cooked chicken.

Keep tossing until all the ingredients are heated through again, and the flavour has had a chance to spread through the rice.

Finally, add the chopped spring onions and a slosh of soy sauce to the rice. Do NOT overdo the soy sauce. 1/2 a tablespoon is more than enough at this stage. People can add more later, to suit their own tastes.

Toss the soy and the spring onions for a minute or two until the rice is slightly…beige? It will get a little colour from the soy, but it shouldn’t be brown. That means there’s too much soy!

Serve as is or braise some Chinese vegetables to serve with the rice.

To reheat the next day, place the leftover fried rice in a pot and add 1 tablespoon of water [the water will steam the rice and stop it from burning]. Cover and heat on a very low flame until it’s hot enough.

Bon appetit!

Meeks

 


Sunday decadence!

What do you do with a rich, moist cake that kind of falls apart? Easy, you make a trifle, of sorts. Then you eat it for Sunday brunch because…hey, all that cream will go off, right?

So…are you curious? Thought so. 😀

This first photo is actually showing the bottom of the cake. I put a heap of Morello cherries into the batter and they all sank to the bottom. Duh.

That meant the bottom stayed a bit wetter than the top, and that resulted in the top of the cake falling ‘away’ from the bottom when I decanted the cake onto the cooling rack. Sigh. Had to scrape the ‘bottom’ out and place it on top of the rest of the cake.

Note: the cake is a variation on the ‘Apricot and Olive Oil Cake’ recipe found in the ‘Made in Italy with Silvia Colloca’ cook book. And yes, it does use olive oil instead of butter. Anyway, when made according to the original recipe, the cake turns out perfectly every time. I made a few changes…

This next photo is a closeup of the cake showing the morello cherries [circled in yellow]:

So, anyway, the cake tasted sensational, it just looked sad. That’s when the Offspring had this brilliant idea: why not make some crème frangipane and turn the cake into a trifle?

I was a little skeptical, but as the cake had turned into an ugly duckling because of me, I could hardly demure.

The Offspring made the crème frangipane and proceeded to put a very simple trifle together [no jelly and the custard was kind of folded into the whipped cream, but who’s being a purist?]. Then we ate it…

No pics coz there’s no trifle left. You’re just going to have to take my word for how utterly delicious it was. 😀

But to show I do have a heart, here’s the recipe for the crème frangipane we used [it’s not the authentic French recipe, but it’s delicious and MUCH easier to make]:

Ingredients

1/3 cup caster sugar

1 tablespoon corn starch

2/3 cup full cream milk [light milk just doesn’t quite work]

1 egg yoke [from a fairly large, free-range egg]

300 ml of thickened cream [that can be whipped]

Method

Mix the sugar, corn starch and milk until there are no lumps. Then place the mix in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir constantly until the mix thickens.

Take the pot off the heat and immediately stir in the egg yoke. [This is a kind of cheats custard].

The original recipe* says to flavour the custard with either Kirsch or vanilla, but we left it plain. At this point, the custard is very sweet.

Use a whisk, hand beater or an electric beater to whip the cream until it’s quite thick.

Place both the custard and the cream in the fridge until the custard has cooled.

Once the custard is quite cold, add the whipped cream and gently fold the two together. Ta dah!

You can use this crème frangipane as a filling or for any recipe that calls for sweetened cream. It’s so good. Also, so fat….:/

Hope your Sunday is as nice as mine,

cheers

Meeks

* The original recipe comes from the Sunset French Cook Book, 1976. This is my favourite cook book of all time. It’s falling apart, literally, but it has never failed me. 🙂

 


Recipe – Cheese scones without butter

This is not a very accurate recipe, apologies in advance, but it is very easy and very forgiving! The only thing to remember is to be quick. This dough does not like to be over worked so rein in the perfectionist!

For non-Australian and UK residents, scones look like this:

Attribution: https://www.kidspot.com.au/kitchen/recipes/easy-pumpkin-scones-1048  The post includes a recipe for pumpkin scones.

Ingredients for Cheese Scones:

  • 1 cup self raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder [yes, a whole teaspoon]
  • pinch of salt [parmesan is salty so don’t over do the salt]
  • about 1/3 – 1/2 cup of parmesan – I used flaked but grated will do as well
  • and cream…

Method:

  1. pre-heat the oven to fan bake 160 C [conventional oven 180 C or 350 F]
  2. place a piece of grease proof paper onto a flat baking tray
  3. mix all the dry-ish ingredients in a large bowl, including the parmesan
  4. make a shallow well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add a dash of cream
  5. using a knife, or a fork, NOT hands, start working the cream into the dry ingredients
  6. keep adding a bit of cream until the scone mixture starts to hold together, only then go in with your hands [you want the scone dough to stay cool]
  7. quickly mix the dough into a ball – do not over work!
  8. place on a lightly floured board and kneed just until the dough starts to feel a bit elastic
  9. spread out with your hands [or a rolling pin if you have one] – 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch
  10. cut out scones and place on baking tray
  11. gently kneed leftovers into another ball, flatten and cut out
  12. place the scone tray in the oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes

Cooking time will vary according to your oven and how thick you made the scones. They’re ready when they have a nice pale brown blush on top [very much like the photo of the pumpkin scones above].

To serve, spread with good butter and eat. Enough for two medium sized people as an afternoon snack or to have with a bowl of soup as a simple evening meal.

Good appetite. 🙂

Meeks


3D printed food

My thanks to sv3dprinter for this great post about a company that developed 3D printed food for NASA:

I recommend checking the post out as it contains links to other great videos on 3D printing:

https://sv3dprinter.com/?p=6769

If microwaves brought about a revolution in foodprocessing last century, 3D printing will do the same for this century. I love the tech but I think I’ll stick to home cooking. 🙂

cheers

Meeks


Spinach sauce with savoury French Toast – a recipe

This is a very Hungarian meal and may not be to everyone’s liking but Mum made it for me all through my childhood and I still make it for The Offspring [and myself].

Spinach sauce

1 large bunch of English spinach

2 cloves of garlic

3 tablespoons of plain [all purpose?] flour

2 tablespoon of Peanut or olive oil

milk

Method

Begin by stripping the spinach leaves off the stalks and washing them AT LEAST 3 times. This is the part I dislike because it takes time and patience but if you don’t get all the minute bits of grit or sand or whatever it is off the spinach leaves your sauce will crunch between your teeth – most unpleasant!

Once the spinach is clean put a small amount of water to boil in the bottom of a pot large enough to hold all the spinach. When the water is boiling throw the spinach into the pot, cover and let the spinach wilt for no more than 1 minute. As soon as the spinach collapses into a green ball remove from heat, strain through a colander and refresh with a quick rinse under cold water. Let it drain.

While the spinach is draining peel the garlic and mash it with a heavy knife. I find the easiest way to do this is to use the back of the knife to scrape away at the cloves until they break down into a paste. Garlic presses are no good because you end up with small bits of garlic that can be rather overpowering when you bite on them.

Once the garlic is mashed make a white roux with the oil and flour in a pot large enough to hold the finished spinach sauce.  To make the roux stir the flour and oil together over a gentle heat and keep stirring for about 2 minutes until the flour cooks. Do NOT let it go brown!

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the mashed garlic. The roux can now sit for a little while.

Put the strained spinach onto a wooden chopping board and chop until very fine.

Add the chopped spinach to the roux and combine well until there are no lumps of white showing.

The next bit is a little hard to quantify but pour in at least 1 cup of cold milk and immediately stir into the spinach mixture. At this stage the sauce should be quite ‘wet’. If it looks too thick add a little more milk then return the pot to the heat and allow the sauce to come to a simmer. You must keep stirring [with a wooden spoon] until the sauce is completely cooked. Depending on quantities this could take ten minutes.

As the sauce simmers it will start to thicken and the spinach will ‘bleed’ that lovely green colour into the milk. The sauce is done when it has a nice overall green colour and has thickened to the point where you could almost eat it with a fork – so not runny but not like porridge either. Set aside while you make the french toast.

French Toast

The Hungarian version of french toast is called ‘Bundás kenyér’ and translates as ‘fur coated bread’ [bunda means fur coat. Don’t ask]. Each slice should be golden brown, slightly crunchy and sprinkled with salt, not sugar!

4 whole eggs

6 slices of bread – stale or fresh. [I allow roughly 1 egg to 1.5 slices of bread, depending on the size of the slices]

peanut oil for frying – should cover the bottom of the frying pan with a bit to spare but remember, you are not deep frying here.

Method

I use a heavy cast iron frying pan so it needs to be heated ahead of time while I prepare the rest of the ingredients. Adjust to suit your own pan.

While the oil and pan are heating, crack the eggs into a bowl and beat lightly with a fork – just enough to mix the white and the yolk.

Cut each slice of bread in half and arrange bread and egg mix near the frying pan. Place a serving plate within reach of the pan.

Once the oil is hot [it should be radiating heat but not quite smoking] dip a piece of bread into the egg, flip it with a fork and immediately lift out of the egg. Let the excess egg drip back into the bowl and then gently place the bread into the hot oil.

[Note : you have to be quick getting the bread into and out of the egg because you don’t want it to get soggy. If it gets soggy it will not fry to a crisp finish.]

Fry the bread in batches until the bottoms go a nice golden colour. Turn, fry the other side and then place onto the serving plate. You can drain the bread on kitchen towel if you want but I rarely bother.

Once the bread is all done, sprinkle with a little salt and it is ready to serve. Reheat the spinach just a little bit and stir the slight ‘crust’ on top until it reintegrates with the sauce.

To serve

Arrange slices of golden bread in a fan shape on a plate and pour half a ladle of spinach sauce next to the bread. It should look rather pretty. Then spoon some of the sauce onto the bread and eat the two together to get the combination of smooth, garlicky sauce and crisp, eggy bread. Enjoy!


Artic Apple & double stranded RNA risk

Watch this video to find out about the complete unexpected effect of double stranded RNA fed to bees via genetically modified food.

 

You might also be interested in how the FDA was infiltrated by Monsanto to ensure that GM food did not have to be tested properly. Or labelled.

Meeks


GM Apple going on sale in the US

Apples used to be a symbol of health, and healthy eating. Not any more. To give sliced apples a longer shelf life, the Artic Apple has had a gene removed so it doesn’t go brown…perhaps ever:

Is this a case of Nature getting it wrong and man getting it right?

Fruit that is cut or bruised goes brown through a process of oxidisation. According to the dictionary, this means:

‘To combine or cause an element or radical to combine with oxygen or to lose electrons.

Okay, so what’s the big deal?

To be honest, I don’t know. All I know is that most [? all ?] fruit and vegetables exposed to air – i.e. oxygen – do go brown thanks to millions of years worth of natural selection. Natural selection is not the survival of the strongest, it’s the survival of the fittest. So something about the browning of fruit and vegetables when exposed to oxygen is a good thing, because it’s lasted through countless mutations during which a better gene could have taken over. But didn’t. Because it wasn’t a better fit for the environment.

Of course, the browning of all fruit and vegetables when cut or bruised could, possibly, be one of those genes that are simply ‘neutral’ – i.e. it doesn’t have much of an effect either way so it just hangs around. That is a possibility, but then why has it hung around in all of these fruits and vegetables? Surely at least one of them would have done better without this gene?

I mean, think about it. The whole purpose of fruit is to be eaten…so the seeds inside can be carried somewhere else and pooped out. Then, those seeds have a chance of starting a new plant in a new place. That makes sense. So wouldn’t it also make sense to stop the bruised fruit from going brown? Wouldn’t fresh-looking fruit be more appetising to the fruit-eating poopers?

What I know about genetics could fit into a thimble, but commonsense tells me two things:

  1. the fact that natural selection didn’t get rid of the turn-fruit-brown gene means that there was no advantage to doing so,
  2. being able to sell sliced fruit is a terrible reason to genetically modify anything.

Who gains by being able to have apple slices sitting on a shelf for god knows how long?

And why would you even want to have sliced apples for sale?

I mean, seriously, the apple is the original convenience food. All you need to do is bite into it.

Have these Artic Apples been developed for people who have no teeth and have to gum their food?

Or has our obsession with convenience deprived us of all good sense?

Are we truly that lazy??

What’s next? Apple sauce that grows on trees? Don’t even need to chew….

This whole thing would be almost funny if it were not so real. I truly don’t like the future I’m starting to see.

Meeks

p.s. and to add insult to injury, guess who developed this ridiculous apple – our own, Australian C.S.I.R.O. I am so ashamed.


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