Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Preserved Chilli Peppers in Brine

Chilli Peppers in Brine

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
How many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick?

I just love this nursery rhyme from childhood.  The beautiful alliteration is quite catchy and repeating the rhyme is enough to make you smile, a big happy smile :D

Funnily enough my parents ate quite bland food.  Fish or meat with 3 vegetables almost every night.
Both of my parents are steeped in English background.  My mother is a descendent of Matthew Everingham who was on the First Fleet, so I often joked to my friends that we were brought up on bread and water.

Actually, it was more like Sunday roasts with baked vegetables or freshly caught fish with oven baked chips and salad.  I vividly remember the first time I had garlic bread at a friends' house and marvelled at the amazing flavour.  Chilli, not very hot, was enjoyed at the same friends Italian family restaurant and had such an impact on me.

I was mesmerised!  These wonderful flavours had been hiding from me for all of my life.
Since then, my husband says that I am still making up for the lack of heat in my early years.  I love chilli.
I love garlic and chilli, together or apart.  If I have a sore throat the first thing I reach for is a spoonful of harissa or sriracha  to numb my throat and kill the germs (it certainly makes me feel better anyway).

Hence, we grow chillies, of many shapes, sizes and heat strength.
To eat, puree, cook, dry, freeze, give away, jam or to bottle.

This is an easy recipe for bottling whole chillies and I hope you too have the pure enjoyment of chilli peppers.

Leave the chillies whole, wash them and leave some stem on, about 1cm if possible.

Bring salted water to the boil and blanch the chillies in batches, for 1 minute, then remove, place in a colander and refresh with cold water.

Sterilise your jars by placing clean jars into a cold oven, turning the oven to 150 degrees celsius and when it has reached temperature., turn the oven off and let sit for 10 minutes.
Put the lids into a jug of boiling water and let sit 5 minutes, then carefully remove with tongs.

 Bring the vinegar to a simmer in a saucepan, adding the spices and stirring until the sugar is dissolved.

Take the sterilised jars from the oven with oven mitts, placing onto a tea towel on the bench so they don't crack on a cold surface.   Place the whole chilli peppers in the jar, then pour the brine solution over the top completely immersing the chillies in liquid.  You will find after 5 minutes that you need to add more brine as the air pockets in the chillies are filled with liquid.  Put the hot jar lids on and seal, label and let sit for 1 month before consuming.  This recipe will last for 2 years (if you don't eat them all first).

Pickled Chilli Peppers in Brine

600g fresh long chillies
2 tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons salt
1 Tablespoon black mustard seeds
10 black peppercorns
4 bay leaves
500ml cider vinegar
500ml white vinegar

Extra salt for boiling water

Rinse chillies, leaving them whole, then boil for 1 minute.  Remove and refresh in cold water.
Add all brine ingredients together and bring to a quick boil, stirring just until the sugar is dissolved.
Place chillies in hot sterilised jars, pour brine solution over until completely covered.
Seal and wait at least 1 month before consuming.
Buon appetito!

Homemade Crostoli

Making Crostoli - The Easy Way

Delicious Crostoli

I posted this previously on 'Bright Dinner Delights' but seeing as though Merryn's Menu is now my signature blog space, and Crostoli is such an important part of our life, I have transferred this updated recipe to here. 

Crostoli is a wonderfully light, fried Italian pastry.   Sprinkled generously with icing sugar - it really tastes as good as it looks. First introduced to Crostoli by my mother-in-law Mrs G who made it for special occasions, or to occupy a rainy day.  I have very fond memories of diantily nibbling on Crostoli whilst sipping an espresso, iced coffee or affogato with honeycomb with my extended family.

While it was often offered, and I was occasionally in residence when it was made I had never personally made this sweet treat.  When the good Mr and Mrs G first visited us in Sydney, after our second child was born I asked that now we had been married for twelve years, perhaps she would be kind enough to share her secret Crostoli recipe with me.  'Don't you have it?' she replied, almost sincerely,  'oh, but of course, here it is'.  I still have her treasured hand written recipe in my favourite Italian cook book.

View 1. Crostoli dusted with icing sugar
It is the wonderful family gatherings that make great memories and Crostoli is a big part of my in-laws food traditions.  Easter, Christmas, weekends, rainy days, birthdays or family gatherings always called for Crostoli.  It is enjoyable to make and purely delicious to enjoy.

When we visited last year, our parting gift was a big bag of crostoli which was almost entirely devoured on the first day.  Certain foods we relate to specific people and good food is always a blessing.
Crostoli is not hard to make, but definitely easier with a pasta roller than with a rolling pin - my first attempt! Attach your pasta roller to the kitchen counter top.  I use a little wooden wedge between the bottom of the benchtop and the tightened screw arm to prevent any damage to the underside of the counter top. 
View 2. Pasta roller attached to the kitchen bench
View 3. Place the flours and sugar into a large mixing bowl
View 4. Add the eggs, vegetable oil and brandy.  Add the grated zest of one lemon.
View 5.  Mix together by hand, then knead until you have a firm dough ball
At this time, if you have washing to hang out or something you really have to do, it is okay to cover and place in the refrigerator.  Simply bring out for 20 minutes prior to rolling.

View 6.  Starting with the largest setting, roll dough balls, the size of golf balls through the pasta machine
View 7. Place the sheets of rolled dough onto a lightly floured surface. It is quicker to run the whole batch through on the largest setting, then reduce the machine thickness by two twists and run them all through again
View 8.  Keep adding plain flour as needed to keep the dough supple and not sticking to your work surface.  When all dough strips have been rolled through the thinnest setting, it is ready to cut into strips.

These can be covered with a tea towel if not all rolled out in quick succession.
 View 9.  I use a fluted roller for a nice edge and twist 1 1/2 cm strips into rounds, bows or simply, strips
View 10.  Heat some vegetable oil, enough to deep fry in a large pan, fryer or wok to about 120 degrees celsius.  When you drop a bread cube in it should start sizzling gently,  immediately.
Gently drop in about 10 crostoli, fry for 1 minute then turn over and fry the underside for 30 seconds more
 When still pale but a light golden colour, remove with tongs and drain on kitchen paper.  The Crostoli will harden upon cooling.  If you are called away, cover the dough with a tea towel to keep moist.  When you have fried all of them, place some on a plate and sprinkle with sifted icing sugar.  Brew the coffee and enjoy!
 Only put icing sugar on servings as Crostoli will stay fresh in an air tight container for up to 2 weeks.

Mrs G's Crostoli

3 cups plain flour
2 cups self raising flour
1 cup sugar
6 large free-range eggs
1 small shot glass vegetable oil (50 ml)
1 small shot glass brandy (50 ml)
grated zest of 1 lemon
Mix flours and sugar together.  Add eggs, oil, brandy and lemon zest.  Mix to a soft dough and knead for 2 - 5 mins until pliable.   Divide into golf ball sized balls and flour your work surface.
Attach pasta maker to bench and turn to the thickest setting.  Run each small dough ball through and place on bench whilst you work on the next one.  Turn the pasta roller to the next setting and run each strip through again.  Keep flouring your bench.
Adjust the pasta maker to the next thinnest size and continue to run each strip through.  Cut the dough strips in half if getting too long to handle.  When they have gone through the thinnest, or even the second thinnest setting they are ready to be cut into strips.  Twist into bows, or loose round shapes or simply leave straight.
Heat vegetable oil for deep frying up to about 120 degrees, when a cube of bread dropped into the oil sizzles immediately then the oil is ready.  
Drop into the oil gently, 12 strips, fry for 1 minute then turn over and fry the other side for about 30 seconds or until a pale golden brown colour.  Remove with tongs and drain on paper towels.  Store in air tight containers when cool and serve dusted with icing sugar.

* For a variation, drizzle with honey and sprinkle with cinnamon instead of the icing sugar.
   Buon appetito!