Creamy carrot and spinach soup

Now that the southern winter has truly kicked in, it’s time for some lovely warming soup. I’ve also discovered a batch of carrots lurking away in the back of the veggie bed in a variety of weird shapes and sizes, so what better than to combine the two?

Serves 2 as a hearty lunch or 4 as a starter.

Ingredients

  • 500g carrots, peeled or scrubbed
  • 100g baby spinach leaves or chopped spinach
  • 250ml beef or chicken stock (I used beef, you could use veg if you wanted this to be meat free)
  • 200ml milk
  • 50ml cream
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, sliced
  • pecorino to serve (optional)
  • nutmeg

Roughly chop the carrots and place in a pan with the garlic. Add enough water to just cover and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the water evaporates and the carrots are tender. IMG_0525

Add the stock and puree with a stick blender (or shove through a processor). Return to the pan and bring to a simmer.IMG_0526In a new pan, heat the milk and wilt the spinach to your liking; a couple of minutes at most.

Add the 2 pan contents together, simmer for a couple more minutes and stir in the cream just before serving.IMG_0527Grate on some nutmeg and a little pecorino – enjoy with some hot buttered bread of your choice – perhaps the rye bread in this post!IMG_0529 (2)Note 1 : this is a fairly thick soup; thin down with extra stock during the puree stage if that’s not your thing.

Note 2 : if you wanted to jazz this up a bit you could scoop the spinach out of its milk bath just after the wilting stage with a slotted spoon & puree it in a little of the milk, and set aside. Add the rest of the milk to the stock and carrot mix as above, then swirl in the spinach prettily as you’re serving. Personally I like a bite of chew in my soups rather than a fully blended style.

 

Lemon & Lime Marmalade

IMG_8416A friend from Berry, NSW, has had a huge crop of lemons and limes this year, and I was lucky enough to share in the bounty with a small sackful. The limes had ripened beyond green and were – apart from the size – almost indistinguishable from the lemons. Their unwaxed skins help fill the kitchen with their clean, fresh smell. Citrus is one of my favourite scents. Continue reading

Dried Out

Regular readers will know that one of my abiding themes is the preservation of freshly grown gluts of crops. I love a loaded larder. Loaded Larder. Even the sound of it makes me happy.

This year has been the year of the chilli. I planted loads last year, seeds from my brother’s garden from the year before that. Most of them failed to launch, so I bought a habanero plant (Unknowing fool! I know now that it’s the second hottest chilli in the world, but I didn’t when I was standing in the garden centre, oh no.) This has resulted in harissas, chilli jams and pickles that to my palate are barely edible unless eaten in homeopathic quantities, and a freezer full of napalm globes to be used under extreme caution. Continue reading

Almond and Basil Pesto

The autumn garden. Already the summer is over, autumn has rushed by and in 2 weeks it will be winter. It’s time to clear out the remains of the pumpkin vines, which have spread their sprawling limbs all across the lawn, and reveal the leggy, uncut grass and weeds beneath, to cull the bolted lettuce and pick the ripening chillies. Oh so many chillies! My aubergines have been chugging away steadily, providing us with grilled, pickled, baked and fried dishes, mousaka, baba ganoush and sandwich fillers. I plagued everyone with my aubergine photos and recipes last year, so this year I have only one image, just because I can’t help myself. Continue reading

Passionate

beans andfruit

Pleasingly purple fruit

Part of the quest to only plant food or medicinal plants in the back garden raised a quandary – what to cover the functional but godawful colourbond fence with. We settled on passionfruit vines – a golden, and a regular. Not having grown one before, I somewhat rashly planted two, close together, and now have a pleasingly tangled mass of plants crawling over both sides of the fence. Much to my neighbours’ delight, as she likes to make passionfruit curd. It’s strangling everything in the beds in front of the fence too, but hey ho, that’s what vigorous use of secateurs is for.fence and fruit

Fence. And fruit. Mostly fence.

As another rainy weekend loomed, I grabbed the fruit I’ve saved up in the fridge and made some curd of my own, using a Stephanie Alexander recipe of eggs, sugar and butter.

The result, a small batch of coma inducingly sweet curd which, as is necessary when cooking jams & preserves, I’ve devoured wholesale from the still warm inside of the pan, swirling my bread through the thick sugary globs and basically eating myself stupid. I’m still buzzing slightly from the aftereffects of of the sugar rush. I’m not sure it will last until it’s cooled enough to refrigerate…

IMG_6868

Black Knights

In my little kitchen garden is a shiny black knight, resplendent in one corner of a raised bed.

Not a medieval horse-backed hero however, but a gorgeous variety of chilli pepper, grown from seeds given to me by my brother. The plant is a luscious dark purpley black from it’s stems to it’s leaves, and bears jet black fruit which ripen to deep red. IMG_6814Even the little flowers are a lovely purple-blue.???????????????????????????????

It’s cropping heavily at the moment and has been for weeks now; they’re quite hot, so I can’t use too many at once. Consequently my freezer is full and I’ve given them away to everyone I can think of.???????????????????????????????

Obviously, therefore, my thoughts turn to preserving. We both love Stephanie Alexander’s harissa recipe and have guzzled bottles full in the past. I loved the idea of a black harissa and resolved to give it a go one quiet weekend.

The recipe is disarmingly simple – simply whizz together all the ingredients, lob in a jar, and top with olive oil. Knowing how damn hot these chillies are though I decided to ‘thin it out’ with a green capsicum and remove as many of the seeds as possible, as well as knocking together a pure chilli one for the hardier Mr C.???????????????????????????????

Taking green capsicum, the deseeded chillies, caraway seed, coriander seed and leaves, garlic, sugar and salt, I blitzed them with loads of olive oil. The results were disappointingly green:

???????????????????????????????

I bottled it, straining out some of the excess liquid, and tried again with the pure chilli version. Again, quite green:

???????????????????????????????

I knew that the black form of the chillies is the unripe one and therefore would be green in a normal coloured variety, but I was surprised by how the black pigment was lost when liquidised. Could it be the greenness of the extra virgin olive oil? Surely not the small amount of coriander leaf? Who knows.

So: no black harissa for me. Less drama, but as to flavour, I’ll have to give it a week or so for the flavours to mingle, but I’ll let you know!

???????????????????????????????

Stupidity & Green Tomato Chutney

chutney6I had a glut of green tomatoes, caused entirely by stupidity.

Due to Attack Of The King Parrot, I lobbed a net over all my tomatoes a few weeks back. That kept the blighters off. Trouble is, it kinda kept me off too; I stopped nipping out side shoots and so on because it was a bit of a faff to negotiate the netting.

This weekend, as I surveyed the rampant growth issuing forth from every net hole, I realised I’d have to cut it out of there. And so I did, painstakingly. For about half an hour, until I realised the net cost about 5 bucks, and then I started hacking at it with a craft knife. Obviously.

In the resulting confusion, there were some green tomato casualties; about a kilo worth had grown through the netting, and had to come off.

So it was that I found myself yet again wondering what the hell to do with green tomatoes; and, just like every other year, the inner dialogue went like this:

“well, I could fry them, like in that film. Y’know, the one with the green tomatoes in the title*. But then, what would they go with? Frying seems like a faff. It’s not that healthy either, right? Maybe I should just make more chutney. And give it all away again, because I have shedloads of chutney already. Everyone loves my chutney though. So that’s OK then.”

And at this point, my heart sinks slightly, because, of all the preserving there is in the world, I like making chutney the least. It’s not the results, which are super; it’s the hours of prep and the eye watering boiling vinegar, and since we moved to Australia, the additional heat when it’s already kinda stuffy.

But no more. Now I’ve cracked it, you see. OK so the prep is still a bit boring, but the rest is cured by boiling the chutney outside on the barbecue. Yes folks, another fantastic use for the barbie side burner. So glad we bought that thing.

This recipe is adapted from Delia Smith’s; I’ve been using it successfully for years, it’s brilliant. I find she’s a bit light on spices generally for my tastes, so the below is a beefed up version.

Ingredients

  • 1.2 kg green tomatoes
  • 1.2 kg Granny Smith apples
  • 1 kg onions
  • a bulb of garlic
  • 500g sultanas
  • 500g soft brown sugar
  • 1.5 litres malt vinegar
  • 6 chillies, more if you like heat, less if you don’t
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger

Spice mix

  • 2 tablespoons mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon all spice berries
  • 2/3 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 cloves
  • 2/3 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • muslin square

Place all the spice mix ingredients into the centre of the muslin and tie into a little pouch with string. I have some of those silicone chicken trusser ties so I used 2 or 3 of those. You could just put the whole spices straight in, but I find it annoying to accidentally bite down on a whole peppercorn – or worse, coriander seeds.

chutney5

Peel and rough chop the apples, onions and garlic. Core the apples too. chutney3

Lob the lot in a food processor and blitz until small but not mush. Whizz the sultanas too. Chop the chillies finely.chutney4

Pop the lot in to a large (preferably preserving) pan, and add all the other ingredients. I usually tie the spice bag to the pan, so that it hangs just under the level of the chutney, but you could let it bob about.

chutney2

Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1.5 – 2 hours, or until you can run your spoon through and leave a channel that doesn’t quickly fill with vinegar. You’ll need to stir it often, and I like to give the bag a good squeeze occasionally to get all the spicey flavours out.

Fish out the spice bag at the end and chuck it out.  Spoon into sterilised jars whilst still hot and cover with sterile lids.chutney1

* upon reading this, Mr C positively recoiled and moaned – no more yucky fried green tomatoes. So I guess chutney was a given then….

Glut

Glut. Such an emotive word, isn’t it? Speaks not only of plenty, but of voluptuous over provision. Glut. Glutton.

cherry1

Here, it’s more towards the over provision, in the form of a shed load of tomatoes. This year I had a fair few plants self seed from last season, so I transplanted them all to their final location (gotta keep em moving in the name of crop rotation), not realising they were all cherry tomatoes. Only one solitary beef master type plant – so I suppose that tells me which was the more vigorous strain – and no roma.

What the heck, I thought, how bad can cherry tomato passata be? The answer is….not bad at all!

Ingredients

  • Tomatoes
  • Salt

Method

Wash tomatoes thoroughly, halve and place in a large pan, with some salt (to taste). Bring to the boil – liquid will ooze out of the fruit pretty quickly, but make sure it doesn’t catch while it’s warming up. Cook for 15 minutes or so, or until the tomatoes are soft and pulpy.cherry2

Use a mouli chery3to separate the skin and seeds from the pulp, cherry4then pour into sterilised jars. Ta da!cherryfinal

If I were keeping the passata for years, I might cover the jars in water, bring to the boil and simmer for a further 30 minutes, but I’m planning on these being used quite quickly, so I shan’t worry.

Quick Fridge Beetroot Pickle

That beetroot glut I mentioned recently – though scarred by harsh, acidic pickles from my youth, I had a balsamic vinegar pickled onion recently and it was a revelation. Sweet, rich, and a world away from the battery acid globes of yesteryear, I resolved on the spot to have a go at my own.

In the absence of teeny tiny onions at the markets, I figured beetroot would respond equally well.

Having boiled up a few both trad red and fancy new gold varieties for a different recipe, I had a go at 2 different pickles. One, a trad ‘proper’ pickle and the other a quick refrigerator one. Here’s the first: Continue reading