Friday, 30 January 2015

Elderflower Syrup

I am lucky to have Elder Flower shrubs.  Well I am only lucky to have two because I chose to buy them.
One is in the ground and is 1m high while the other is confined to a pot at 40cm high but still producing fragrant and pretty Elder Flower heads continually over summer.
Elder flowers are good for  inflammation, they are anti viral and also good for cold/flu symptoms, sore ears, nose and throat.

Now that summer holidays have passed and I am back to work I am always planning projects in the quieter moments of my day.  These include making use of the wonderful produce growing in our garden or planning the evening dinner, anything that does not involve paperwork.

With this gorgeous Elder Flower Syrup you can flavour water, tea, lemonade, kombucha, jellies or vodka.    1 part Elder Flower Syrup to 3 parts of lemonade.  Just 2 tablespoons in a cup of tea.
Anything that needs a little added intensity of flavour will benefit with the addition of  Elder Flower Syrup.


Elder Flower Syrup

1 organic lemon
4 heads Elder Flowers
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

In a small saucepan bring the water to boil, then add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
Wash and slice the lemon, add to the hot water/sugar mixture.
Crumble the unwashed elder flowers over the top, brushing them off the stem so only the flower is added.
Cover with muslin or cheesecloth and let sit at room temperature for two days.
Strain into a jug and refrigerate or freeze until needed.

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Best Fish & Chips

I was so fortunate to win a copy of Billy Law's new cookbook MAN FOOD at Christmas Time.
Thank you so much Billy!  This is a wonderful cook book with Billy's innate sense of humour shining through with recounts of his past years of travelling and cooking.
For many years I have happily followed Billy's blog A Table For Two.
In 2011 Billy was a contestant on Masterchef Australia and he did exceptionally well.  It was fascinating watching him perform under pressure with the relentless glare of the ever present cameras.

I opened Billy's book with huge excitement.  There was a hand written greeting by Billy with a cute bacon illustration, then I dived enthusiastically into reading this new cook book with great expectations. It certainly is a book to treasure and is all about "Dude Food" = real food with depths of flavour.

This is a wonderfully inspiring cookbook for all occasions.   Full of hearty flavours and delicate delights such as Butermilk Brined Roast Chicken, Cajun Crab Boil ( divine) through to Miso Creme Brulee and Maple Glazed Bacon 'Dossants'  with Salted Caramel (amazing).

This book is already a firm favourite in my kitchen and every recipe is  successful.

                                 "The Best Fish & Chips" sounded divine.

 Billy stated how a generous fish 'n' chip owner on Kangaroo Island shared his batter recipe with him.

This truly is a crisp batter that is so crunchy you can almost hear it crackle as you bite into it.

My hubby was watching me prepare the fresh monk fish I had purchased that day.  Dipping them in the flour, then battering them before popping them into the deep fryer.  His usual  comment "I used to work in a fish and chip shop" surfaced and he took over, reaching for the tongs and informing me they had to be fried once quickly, than a second time for perfection.

I am never one to knock back assistance in the kitchen so I gleefully let him fry the fish, the likes of which NO man has ever fried before, and set about making an accompanying fresh salad.

I followed Billy's recipe for chips and the divine tartare sauce to accompany this dish.

Ultra crisp chips


From Man Food by Billy Law

The Best Fish & Chips

1kg (2lb 3 oz) potatoes, such as Dutch Cream, Sebago or Golden Delight
oil, for frying
75g (2 1/4 oz / 1/2 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
8 (about 100g / 3 1/2 oz each) firm white fish fillets such as flathead, barramundi or snapper
sea salt flakes, to taste
lemon cheeks, to serve

Tartare Sauce
300g (10 1/2 oz, 1 cup) mayonnaise
1 tablespoon capers, finely chopped
1 dill pickle, finely chopped
1 teaspoon wasabi paste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
pinch of salt

300g (10 1/2 oz, 2 cups) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Serves 4

To make the tartare sauce, combine all the ingredients in a bowl, stir to mix well.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make the batter, put the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the centre.  Pour 250ml (8 1/2 oz/1 cup) water into the well, and slowly whisk the flour into the water.  Gradually add a further 250ml (8 1/2 oz/1 cup) water.  Whisk until smooth.  Add the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar, give it a quick whisk and now you should have a smooth batter with the consistency of thick pancake batter.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Peel and wash the potatoes, then cut them into chips, about 2.5cm (1/2 inch) thick.  Put the chips in a large saucepan of boiling water and parboil for 10 - 12 minutes until soft but still holding their shape.  Drain, place on a wire rack to cool down, then transfer to the freezer for 1 hour to draw the moisture out.

Use a deep fryer if you have one.  If not, fill a wok or a large saucepan with oil to about one-third full and bring the temperature up to 130˚C (265˚F).   Fry the chips in small batches until they are blond and a light crust forms, about 5 minutes.  Drain on paper towel.

Put the flour in a shallow bowl or on a tray.  Take the batter out of the refrigerator and give it a quick stir before using, be gentle and try not to knock too much air out.  To work more efficiently, set up a production line by placing both flour and batter bowls next to the frying workstation.
Heat the oil up 180˚C (350˚F).  One at a time, dredge the fish fillets in the flour then pat and shake off any excess.  Dip each fillet into the batter, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl.  Carefully lower the fish into the hot oil, deep-fry for 4-6 minutes, turning occasionally, until they are golden and crisp.  Remove and drain on a wire rack over a baking tray to catch the oil.  Sprinkle salt over the fish when they're still hot.

Bring the oil temperature up to 190˚C (355˚F).  In batches, fry the chips for the second time, for 6-8 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp.  Remove and shake off any excess oil, place chips in a bowl, season with salt and toss well.

Serve the fish and chips with tartare sauce and lemon cheeks on the side.

This is superb man food - also woman, and teenager food.
The batter and chips were super crisp and the accompanying tartare sauce was perfect.

So tell me dear reader, do you too like hearty meals or do you prefer to graze on smaller servings?

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Monday, 12 January 2015

Snow Pea and Asparagus Salad with Feta Cheese

You need such different varieties of salads over the summer months.
I made this and my hubby said "Wow you made a new salad, how wonderful!"
Not that he particularly likes feta cheese but it is only a small component of this salad and you can easily push it to the side of your plate.  Like a 5 year old is often compelled to do when confronted by something that looks strange, such as pureed spinach.

I have been reorganising my cook book collection.
Original Cookbook Order
Thinning it out, discarding some long ago used recipe books  and compiling the remaining books into cuisine, region and/or author. It was either that or buy another book shelf for the dining room which was a serious no win situation.

This took about 3 hours.  I kid you not, it was time consuming taking them all out, making a pile of ones to give to mum to sell at her church fete, then categorically placing the remaining books in a positive order.

Of course, I also had to double check that I really did not need the discarded cook books anymore.

You can see below the new and improved cookbook collection.
Funnily enough I am the only one who cares so it is really a treat for myself, but I smile every time I look in this direction.

Improved Cookbook Collection
Snow Pea and Asparagus Salad With Feta
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 5 cm lengths
200g snow peas, string removed
100g  feta cheese, rinsed to remove brine
handful fresh mint leaves
handful fresh dill leaves
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup virgin olive oil
cracked black pepper to taste

Bring a pot of water to the boil, put the snow peas in and cook for 1 minute.
Remove and run cold water over them in a colander.
Put asparagus spears into boiling water for 2 minutes then refresh in cold water as well.
Place vegetables into a serving bowl and allow to cool.
Chop the feta into chunks and scatter over top.
Sprinkle with chopped mint and dill.
Mix lemon juice with balasamic and olive oil and pour this over top.
Add pepper to taste, the feta should provide enough salt so check for flavour before adding any salt.

Tell me dear reader, do you sometimes go through and re-organise your cook books?

Buon appetito, Enjoy Merryn xx

Monday, 5 January 2015

Tomato and Basil Pasta Salad

I love these long, hot days of Summer.
Relaxing, gardening, walking and cooking are all an essential part of summer holidays.
Hubby has been crabbing every day on the island.  Putting fresh bait in the crab traps and wading through the water in his waders to check them out at low tide.
This afternoon I was waiting on the bank watching as hubby picked up one trap, inspected it, restocked it with enticing bait and started wading out to deeper water.
He was about knee high when he unexpectedly went down on his backside in shock.  He clambered back up and started calling for " help ".  I called out to him " did you say help?"  He nodded and said "help" again.  Mindless of the mud flat I started towards him, he was agitated and thrashing by now...
Suddenly he lifted up a hand, triumphantly holding one crab claw and said "a crab grabbed the toe of my boot, I had to get him to let go".

He really did not know what was trying to pull him under, but will always recognise this in the future.
Incidentally the crab also punctured a hole in the boot of his rubber waders, luckily he has another pair.

After a day like that you need a simple dinner to prepare.

Hopefully when we check them again today we will catch a one armed crab.
(Please don't feel sorry for the crab, he would have torn a toe off hubby happily if he could get through his boot.)

There was no crab on the menu tonight so I made this simple fresh tomato pasta salad and served it with marinated fried chicken skewers, a lettuce based salad and crusty bread.

Perfectly Simple Fresh Tomato Pasta Salad

Serves 6 - 8 as a side dish

500g dried Italian spiral pasta, or any other shape that you prefer
1 tablespoon water
6 big fresh tomatoes, or a large handful of cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup virgin olive oil
handful fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste

Bring  a large pan of water to the boil with the lid on.
When it is boiling add 1 tablespoon salt and stir.  Then pour in the pasta in a steady stream, stirring all the while.  Place wooden spoon over rim of pan, place lid over top and let water come back to a boil.    Put your timer on for 12 minutes.    When the water has returned to the boil remove the lid and occasionally stir while it is cooking.
In the meantime place the washed tomatoes on a chopping board and roughly dice  Finely chop the  basil.
Test the pasta after 12 minutes, it might need longer depending on the shape pasta used.  It should be cooked al dente,  just soft to the bite.
Remove and drain pasta, rinse with cold water in a colander.
Return pan to medium heat, add olive oil and tomatoes.  Cook for 3 minutes then toss the pasta over top and stir to combine.  Continue to cook for another 3 - 5 minutes until the tomato is wilted and the pasta is coated with tomato and oil.  Turn off heat, stir through the chopped basil, then season with salt and pepper.
Pour onto a serving plate.
This can be served hot or at room temperature.  It is also fresh the next day if stored overnight in the fridge.

Buon appetito, enjoy Merryn xx

Sunday, 4 January 2015

January 2015 Garden Share Collective

This month the garden is totally bursting with growth and produce.
While trees such as our peach trees have been incredibly successful,
we have also had our share of failures and mediocre crops.
There are only 5 mangoes on one tree, none on the other mango tree.
Only one avocado tree has set fruit, but this crop will be huge.

Delicious, sweet, luscious peaches.

The first snake beans have just been picked.
This bamboo tripod of snake beans will continue to flower and produce beans for about 3 months.

We are growing purple, yellow, white and Japanese eggplants.
Each variety had a distinct flavour and texture.
I prefer the sweet Japanese ones while a chef friend loves the yellow ones.

This is our third planting of lettuce plants since Spring started,
we need to sow the new ones every 6 weeks before they go to seed.

The first grapes are turning red but we have only half the amount of grapes set
than what we had last year.  The dry spring we experienced could have contributed to this factor.
It is disappointing but we will enjoy what we reap
(no wine will be made this year).

We are growing Sugar baby and a striped variety of watermelon.
The sugar babies are nearly full size but are yet to ripen.
We will eat these in February while the striped ones will take longer to grow.

Shallots, green and red compete with grass to grow tall and strong.

My soy bean plants have grown incredibly well and the lovely young pods are delicious when boiled.

There are Green beans, Italian beans, Lima beans, yellow beans and borlotti beans growing happily together.

Capsicums, an integral garden vegetable are always welcome.

Here is a mingled mess of spinach, marigolds, chillies and leeks.
Not every garden has to be tidy and neat.

Some recently picked tomatoes, this has been a great tomato growing summer!

Chilli bushes, every garden must have at least one.

Jalapenos, I have dried them, pickled them and chopped them to add to fresh salads and dishes.

These red shallots were left too long and they grew into delicious, small red onions.
Their flavour is amazing.

The olives on the trees are growing bigger :D

Pretty chive flowers, a delight to view and to eat in your salad.

There have been so many strawberries, blackberries and loganberries this season.
While it has been dry for the grapes, these berries have blossomed.

These are the highlights of my January garden, if you enjoyed viewing this please have a look at the other Garden Share Collective members gardens hosted by Liz at Strayed from the Table.

Enjoy, Merryn xx