Archive for the ‘experimental cookery’ Category

Olives, three ways

Olives! Available as a crop to swap. I got about 1kg (and then another 1.3kg later) from one crop swapper of mostly black olives. I swapped a hairy winter melon cross, about 1.7kg.

My dream olive is a green sicilian olive from Darling Mills Farm; or a smoked olive picked up from the Orange Grove market.

I tried three ways of preparing my olives.

1. heavy salt brine
(1 litre water, 1 cup liquid)
To tell the correct amount of salt, you float an egg in it. The first egg chosen was a little long in the tooth, so I then used a slightly younger egg (3 weeks old). Then I read up at skillcult, how to make a Sicilian style olive, but more importantly, proportions of salt to water was given.

2. A dry salt pack

This I got from milkwood permaculture. You put a layer of olives in your jar, then cover with salt. Repeat.

I was at a little loss as to what to do with the olives that had slightly bruised or bad bits. My source of the olives said to throw them out, because they turned mushy. My maltese neighbour told me that she put them all in , warts & all. I made a slight compromise, chopped the bad bits off, but then I fermented them separately in a heavy salt brine. I figured that with the extra exposed surface area, they would take less time to ferment.

Here they are (left to right, as above):

Olives, two ways

I’m already having trouble from stopping my olives from floating to the surface, and my weights are obviously not weighing them down.

I also notice the bubbles of the fermentation process coming to the top. About a week in, I tried one of the olives. When I cracked open the lid, I noticed the aroma was starting to smell like the familiar ‘olive’ type smell, but it was still quite bitter. I also noticed that the colour actually starts leaching a little out from the partially green and black olives, so they turn more green.

With a later batch of green olives (swapped for a pumpkin, which I swapped previously), even though I know that they weren’t the Sevillano type, I thought that I should ferment them the skill cult way.

3. Skillcult way
One litre water. 1/4 cup salt. 1/4 white vinegar. I chucked an orange leaf in to add a little tannin, to follow in the steps of my neighbour.

I can’t wait to try the finished products!

Small Scale Kombucha Brewing

I think I like kombucha brewing. It is far less effort and commitment that my attempts at mead (honey wine) have proved and delivered. Plus the turnaround is so much quicker!!

I have described earlier how I grew the mother from a batch of store bought. Win! This saved me $35. Before I gave her a mother jellyfish, my friend Heidi was buying the same quantity that I am brewing here, for $15 a pop. Ouch.

I don’t actually drink that much of the stuff (like a tablespoon or so a day), so I really needed to brew small scale. Most recipes that you find on the internet are for making batches 2 gallons (4 litres) at a time!! This is my recipe which makes 1 litre per week.

I started off with a 400g “gourmet” instant coffee jar. This holds over a litre worth of brew, which is perfect for me.

Kombucha Mama

First Fermentation:
1. Brew 1 litre of tea*, add 1/3 cup of sugar, let cool to room temperature. I do this step overnight.
2. Add tea to kombucha brewing jar, reserving 1 cup worth of the existing kombucha brew in the jar
3. Cover jar with double layer cheese cloth – allowing the brew to ‘breathe’. Store in a warm location, away from potential bumps.
4. (Optional) Taste your brew daily using a plastic spoon, your brew is ready when it shifts from tasting like sweet tea to “vinegary”. In summer, with 35 deg C days, this takes me 4-5 days.
5. After washing hands with water, shift your mushroom ‘mother’ to a clean plate/bowl. This makes it easier to decant the kombucha to your storage container.
6. Decant kombucha brew into a your glass drinking bottle, from which you will take your daily drink. Reserve 1 cup of kombucha brew for the next ferment.
7. Return the kombucha mother to your brew jar, and the 1 cup of reserved kombucha. Start again at step 1.
Secondary Fermentation:
8. (Optional) If you want flavoured kombucha, add tumeric/ginger/apple juice/fresh strawberries to your glass drinking bottle, let it ferment two days in the fridge (or really, just start drinking it). It’ll flavour as it goes. I generally add a splash of the sweet tea from step 1, and what ever random herbs I have lying around. Herbs used so far include mint, vietnamese basil, thyme sticks, rosemary.

Brown floaties OK, mould not. If your mother (jellyfish) gets mouldy, peel off the mouldy top layer, wash the remainder under cold running water, stick it back in the jar and start step 1 again with 1 cup of reserved kombucha tea (or apple cider vinegar)

The kombucha eats up the sugar, so it doesn’t matter what kind you use. Just don’t use honey (it is antibacterial, it might kill the mother). Honey for the secondary “flavouring” ferment is fine.

If you’re making too much kombucha, stick the whole thing in the fridge to slow it down. Add a little bit of room temp sweet tea to keep the mother alive. Do this when you go on holidays.

*So far on the tea front I have used generic black tea bags, green “silver tipped” tea, herbal ‘raspberry’ tea (tastes like pink) and rooibos tea. Don’t try and flavour the first ferment with ginger or tumeric (both antibacterial). The black tea has fermented the fastest, the rooibus the slowest. Perhaps the scoby really does need the caffeine.

This is my current batch:

Kombucha drink

Brewed with green tea. Then a pinch of matcha tea power, some slices of fresh tumeric and a bit of home grown honey.

My favourite flavouring addition is grated ginger & finger lime ‘pearls’. You get the zing of ginger with the added crunch of citrus flavoured pearls in your daily constitution.

The Pique of Pickled Chillies

I had a kilo of long red chillies sitting in my fridge, purchased about a month ago. I had intended to make another batch of nahm prik pao (chilli jam) from David Thompson’s Thai Food cookbook. This takes to a total of four recipes that I have cooked from this book. I actually have had a Laotian friend go through this tome and bookmark all the recipes that she would cook on a regular basis. The chilli jam was one of them.

Pique, from Linda Ziedrich’s The Joy of Pickling:

“The simplest hot sauce of all – and one that is immensely popular in the West Indies – is a vinegar in which hot peppers have been stepped. In Puerto Rico a rum bottle full of pique sits on every restaurant table, displaying long, thin peppers in assorted colors.”

Pickled Chillies, from Adam Liaw’s Two Asian Kitchens, focuses more on the chillies. It doesn’t have the extra flavour additives like garlic and peppercorns that the Pique recipe has.

One focuses on the Vinegar, one on the chillies.

So instead of making nahm prik pao, I decided to make the simplest preserved chillies recipe of all. Stick ’em in vinegar!

Wash, boil, and the dry off in a 100 deg C oven your jars so that they’re sterilised.

I found that the vinegar/liquid quantities in Adam’s recipe not enough to fully cover my deseeded chilli slices. From the looks of it, this would have also been a problem with Linda’s recipe. I had to make double the quantity of liquid. I used a combo of no-name brand supermarket vinegar and apple cider vinegar.

Here is the final product:

Pickled chillies

They look so pretty, I am now regretting tossing the rest of the chillies into the compost bin!

Kombucha me, baby

I had seen some kombucha ready to drink at the Castle Hill markets for about the past two years. I bought a bottle, didn’t hate it, but also didn’t go mad for it either. I looked it up and realised that my mum had been making this kombucha around twenty years ago. Go mum!

Harris Farm had bottles of kombucha fizzy from another brand to buy, and I brought some of these along to try at our yoga class end-of-year party. At the end, we had a little bit left, so I looked up to see if I could make my own kombucha jellyfish from this store bought stuff.

The instructions I followed were from PaprikaHead.

As I would be away for several weeks, I started it growing by putting it first on the counter for two days. Outside temperature was about 35 C (95F). I did this because the label on the bottle recommended consumption within a week of opening. The jar was returned to the fridge whilst I was away, to slow the fermentation process.

Here she is, after about 1 week on the counter with 35 deg C temperatures:

Baby kombucha

The baby kombucha is about 3mm thick (1/8 of an inch). The liquid is that gem-red colour because I didn’t read the instructions properly, and started with a no-tea leaf raspberry herbal tea.

I then transferred to a larger container, fed the mother 1 litre of water, 1/3 cup of sugar, and two black teabags. I was supposed to leave this on the counter for a futher two weeks. However, after a week of hot and humid weather, she looks like this:

Kombucha mama

The thickness of the jellyfish ranges from 5mm to 10 mm (1/4 inch to 1/2 inch). I think that I’m ready to brew!

Baja Kale Chips, Baja

I borrowed two books on “raw food” from the library. Then I went to the shops and bought some lamb’s fry (liver) because it was there, on impulse. I suppose that that is my random liver moment. I’ve already told you that I’m a disbeliever to the ‘raw food’ movement. I guess I’m craving iron. So it was time to make kale chips again.

There was a recipe for Baja Kale chips (mysteriously filed under ‘B’ for Baja). The sunshine coast daily has kindly put Baja Kale Chips on the internet.

The next day, there was a function and a fruit platter at work, so I took advantage of the free pineapple to try out the recipe.

Flavour Mixture:

Baja kale chips flavouring

The mixture was a lot more wet than I’m used to. After tasting it, I compounded the problem by adding a splash of apple cider vinegar and a lot of pepper. I think that the mixture needed a little more acidity.

Once the kale chips are dried, they look much the same as any other kale chips. So I ate them. There is no photo. They were an interesting sweet and sour flavour that I wouldn’t have picked as pineapple, if I hadn’t made them myself. I would probably make them again if I had access to some spare pineapple. I wouldn’t purposely go out and buy a pineapple just to make them.

Preserved Guavas

.. or guavas in syrup.

My usual method of dealing with the guava crop gives you a giant zip lock bag of frozen guavas, and no easy way to use them. Because they haven’t been individually frozen, the only way to get at them is to kind of whack at the bag until bits fall off, and then use it in a fruit smoothie (which I don’t do).

I had such success with the guava pie, that I have also frozen rectangular takeaway containers of guava pieces, already dotted with butter, sugar and cinnamon. I had planned to premake pies, and freeze them for a later day baking, but it was too much effort and time consuming to do so, what with holding down a full time job, studying, and trying to have a life. I then thought that I could use lay out the guava slices in the rectangular takeaway containers, so that I could pick up individual pieces later for cake making and such. That turned out to be much too fiddly and time consuming – not doing that one again.

Then I discovered the Guava Producers’ Association website, and in particular their recipe corner.

Guavas, deseeded

I had already quartered and deseeded a bunch of the better looking fruit, with the vague idea that I would bottle/can it somehow. I guess guavas are a bit of a rare fruit, because it was really hard finding any information on what type of sugar syrup to pair with the guava. Is guava a more acidic fruit, so can I use a light sugar syrup? Or is it less acidic on the ph scale, so I have to use a heavier sugar syrup? At last here was a solution – 250g in 500ml water, to me is equivalent to a medium sugar syrup.

Here, instantly, was a recipe.

I actually ended up using apple juice (Do you know how HARD it is to find actual apple juice that has been produced in Australia at the supermarket?!!) which I had already purchased (10% sugar solution) – 7 cups of which I then added 1/2 cup of sugar. So that’s ~um ~ 15 % solution. Okay. So it ended up being a very light sugar syrup then. Probably not the best if you’re reusing pasta sauce jars for your preserving.

1 x 2 litre ice cream box of guava quarters
1750 mL apple juice (only 1000mL seems to have been used)
100 g sugar
= 4 small bottles of preserved guavas.

These were then hot packed into their jars, and boiled in a water bath.

Preserved Guava

I tried to leave enough headroom in the smaller jars for water bath processing, but the fruit is not fully covered with the syrup. I think that I’m going to have to open these jars, either remove some fruit/add extra sugar solution, and re-process. I’ve had some green tomato relish go nasty because there wasn’t enough liquid in the jar. Although, pickyourown – preserving peaches seems to indicate that not enough water is OK.

“If fruit is not covered by liquid it may darken during storage (but does not necessarily mean it is spoiled, as all fruits will darken somewhat).”

I later on found the Technical Manual of the FAO of the United Nations (whew, what a mouthful!):

“The packaging medium may be constituted by the juice of the guavas, obtained by squeezing the pulp that contained the seeds. Add sugar to the juice to obtain a certain Brix°, according to the final degree of sweetness desired (usually, the syrup should be of about 30-35 Brix°.”

but I had no idea what a brix was. It turns out that it is a fancy way of saying “percent”; so 30-35 brix means a 30-35% sugar solution.

Apparently a guava in syrup is a totally different beast to fresh guava. So I can’t wait to try it!

Megan Pie

When I was visiting the USA, I had a friend make an apple pie from scratch. I was so keen to go and taste it, I kept chanting MeganPie MeganPie MeganPie. The pie was very good indeed. Homemade pie crust, slices of apple dotted with butter, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. Any good pie now is deemed a MeganPie.

So when I returned home to find that the guava season was still in full swing, I made my very own MeganPie.

I had a pie tin souvenired from a lovely pie restaurant in the Berkeley area.

The pie tin

Shortcrust recipe was from the Italian cookbook The Silver Spoon*.

It was quite simple – By weight, One measure flour, half measure sugar, half measure butter. Zest from a lemon.

This made a crumble like breadcrumbs. The recipe omits cold water, of which you add tiny droplets just until the breadcrumbs combine into dough, but not too far such that it becomes sticky and that you need to add flour to compensate in the other direction. I think that it actually uses less butter than the shortcrust I made using The Cook’s Companion (yes – 50g less).

Shortcrust pastry

Here are my ingredients that go into making the pie. I forgot to add the butter in the photo, but it is there.

Pie ingredients

For the filling, I just used sliced deseeded guava, dot with butter, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, repeat.

Guava pie

The lid was made up of several bits of crust that I had rolled out, but was not able to make into one large piece. Amazingly, when I cooked this, it looked like I had done this on purpose to give the lid texture and make more crispy bits.
My slackness with the pie crust meant that there were steam release holes designed in.

I baked this at 180 degrees for 30 minutes, as per Stephanie Alexander directions for a rhubarb pie.

It filled the kitchen with a wonderful lemon smell whilst baking.

The pie was so very good when eating just after baking, the crust retained its crunch even the next day. My neighbour rated it 10 out of 10. My mum said that it was “nice”.

I then saw a recipe in the newspaper for apple pie with tahini filling and cardamon crust. The timing was perfect – I would use cardamon in my next pie crust, but not the additional fiddly filling – I want to make sure that the guava flavour is prominent in the pie, without being masked by other flavours.

The cardamon didn’t smell as good as the lemon shortcrust whilst baking, however, it added a nice contrast to the guava filling.

I think that this year’s guava crop stars in the Year of the Pie. I’ll definitely be making this one again. Perhaps a lemon and cardamon crust?

Guava pie

*I think this makes a grand total of three recipes that I have made from this book so far. Grilled Whiting, Cauliflower with green sauce, and now shortcrust pastry. A search of my blog says I’m telling furphies, and I also used the book for the chestnut and rosemary cake. That’s a 0.2% recipes used so far.