After my mum phoned me and said "if you want to pick all the ripe plums off the tree, you can have them!"
So there it was, a challenge to cook something "keepable" with a couple of laundry buckets of plums! I thought through the kinds of things my grandmother used to cook - jam, preserved, stewed, but didn't feel like cooking that up!
So I decided on this recipe for chinese plum sauce:
Not a bad recipe, but a few notes:
1/ don't add the vinegar until the end. The plums have a tartness that may not need a lot of help from the vinegar. So add the vinegar to taste!
2/ you may need extra sugar, so have it on hand
3/ Stay tuned - I see this as a BASE recipe, and can be incorporated into cooking with other flavorings. I'll update this post with ideas!
I admit, most of my meals seem to include meat these days! So when I was asked to bring "something vegetarian" to my wife's family christmas meal, I was a little stumped!
Sure, I can cook great pizzas, with a pumpkin, fetta and rosemary topping - but as I was told by my mother-in-law: "it may not be enough of a meal" (translation: "Zac! That's not food fit for christmas lunch!"). Fair call....
So I got searching for 2 recipes: spanikopita (spinach pie) and frittata!
I found these recipes and they both worked a treat! I'd highly recommend giving them a go as they are very easy to cook and delicious in the results!
A couple of notes:
1. don't underestimate how much the spinach will reduce when you cook it! It will seem you have the volume of a soccer ball when it's fresh, but when you cook it down, it will be more like the volume of a VHS tape (sorry, couldn't think of a better volume of measurement).
Cook them both ahead of time. The frittata is usually great served cold (room temp). The spanikopita can be heated in the oven for 15 mins
These are recipes for lacto-ovo vegetarians, of course. They contain cheese and eggs!
I have always admired the italian tradition of cooking and canning tomatoes. I'd love to do a session in canned tomatoes for one of my cooking classes (or maybe I need to go to a cooking school that already does it and learn the real way!).
Getting a whole harvest of tomatoes (or just going to the market and buying a box of it nowadays), then stewing up the sauce, and bottling it. After sealing the jars, it's boiled water to sterilize them and then you have your 12 month supply of tomatoes!
But something I've always asked myself is - doesn't the heating of the sealed jars cause the cooked contents to expand, and the lids to pop off or the jars to explode?
I tried it with my plum sauce in beer bottles earlier today. The answer is yes - one certainly exploded! Can anyone advise me here? Does this step not work for beer bottles? Or do you have to boil them with the lids off?
I'm always testing things that I think might make good "courseware" for some of my cooking classes. As is the case with most people's kitchen experiences, there seem to be one failure for every handful of cooking experiments that work out well!
So I though...why just blog/tweet/comment on the success stories? Might be good to throw in a little "don't try this at home" every so often! Afterall, cooking is not cooking without a few kitchen disaster!
So here goes - beer bread!
A little hobby I have on the side is homebrewing. I'm always on the lookout for ways to meld that hobby with my other great hobby of cooking! Often that leads me to matching food with each of the brews - which is always fun. But the other day I was chatting with a fellow homebrewer and he told me about how he used the leftover yeast & malt at the bottom of the fermeter barrel to make a sourdough loaf!
So off I went - got about a cup of the leftover, added a touch of sugar, a few cups of flour and kneaded it until smooth. Then I let it prove overnight - so far so good. It had a great malty, yeasty, hoppy smelll and was nice and dark in color (like the amber ale I had been brewing!).
Then the next day I took the dough, knocked it back and made it into a loaf shape. One more proving and it was in the oven at 180 celcius for about 30 mins.
First mistake - it needed closer to an hour! The bread was so dense that I had to put it back in the over to dry out the clagy uncooked bits in the middle.
Final and triumphant mistake - the taste! I took a warm slice and lathered on some butter. A robust smell - not any stronger than a dark rye or the like. Then the initial taste was a little more confronting - very herbal from the hops. And the final sensation - the aftertaste - was bitter, strong and long lasting! Urgghhh!
Just like a beer, but in a cold beverage, it's considered delicious! Don't try it like this if you're going to give that a go!
Has anyone cooked sourdough from brewing leftovers? Is there something I should have done differently?
I always do this at the cooking school to ensure I have a read-supply of rosemary for all those great winter cooking recipes we love to make at this time of year. A lot of french stews and soups require rosemary in the cooking - alternatively it makes a great addition to potatoes when roasting or cooking slowly to accompany roast.
It's easy to grow your own rosemary (and beats paying $2 at safeway for everytime you want to use it). Just cut off some rosemary and put it into a glass of water by the window. When it sprouts roots, go and plant it in the garden. It's that easy!
(just remember to top up the water in the glass as it drinks it!)