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Thursday, April 21, 2011


Himself had organised a bobcat to come and remove some concrete from the back yard of our new house.  When I found out that they had to drive over the English spinach patch to get to the back corner I have never moved so fast in my life.  I pulled up all that I could before they got there and ran it over.  I kept all of the tiny leaves and washed them to make a salad with fresh tomatoes, red onion, cucumber and olives.  The larger leaves were washed and lightly cooked and made into a spinach pie (Spanakopita to my Greek friends).  You can serve this either as a main meal with a salad or cut into smaller pieces for picnics or parties.  This is one of my very favourite vegetarian dishes.  Any leftover spinach can be blanched and frozen for later use, this dish doesn't have to be made with freshly cooked spinach.

Wash 1.5 kg spinach, remove large centre stalks.  Lightly steam in boiling water until slightly wilted.  Remove from heat and immediately cool by rinsing under cold water.  Squeeze out extra moisture and chop.  Cook 1 chopped white onion and 10 chopped spring onions in olive oil until softened and allow to cool.  Meanwhile mix 250g ricotta, 200g fetta, 5 eggs, 1/2 cup grated parmesan, 1 tablespoon chopped dill, 1/4 cup chopped parsley and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg in a large bowl.  Add to chopped spinach with onion mixture and season with salt and pepper.  Grease a pie dish and line with a couple of sheets of filo pastry.  Apologies to the traditionalists, but instead of brushing with melted butter between each sheet I simply spray with some canola oil.  Pile the spinach mixture in and then cover with another couple of sheets of canola sprayed filo.  Tuck the edges into the sides of the dish so it is nice and neat.  Score top with a sharp knife on the diagonal so you end up with a diamond pattern.  Give it a final spray with canola and cook in a moderate oven for approximately 40 minutes or until golden.

Enjoy the extra long weekend and hope you all come back and visit next week!

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Last weekend we went to our new house to pick the walnuts.  These were really simple to harvest - some had already fallen to the ground and others were splitting out of the green husks so we knew they were ready.  Himself went up the ladder to pick those that we couldn't reach.  A gentle shake and the ones from the top of the tree fell down.  It was then that I realised that I should have worn a hard hat as I was the one on the ground.  We spread them out in a single layer in front of the combustion heater to gently dry them.

The next day Himself came home from work in a state of excitement as he had discovered an avenue of walnut trees growing near the side of the road in the hills.  We went for a drive yesterday morning and picked another couple of baskets of fresh walnuts. On the way home we found a beautiful wild apple tree so we stopped to pick a basket of fresh red apples.

Fresh walnuts are fantastic to simply crack and eat raw but I also wanted to do some cooking with them.

Fig and Walnut roll
Use the Fig Jam from previous post (March 2011).  Gently heat jam and add chopped walnuts.  Keep stirring so it doesn't burn. When the mixture has caramelised put on some baking paper and form into a cylindrical roll.  Refrigerate until firm and serve in rounds on a cheese plate. 

Cheese and Walnut log
Blend 150 g white castello cheese and 125 g cream cheese with 2 tablespoons brandy and salt and pepper in a food processor until you have a nice smooth consistency.  Combine 2/3 cup chopped fresh herbs, 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes and 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts.  Sprinkle of a piece of plastic wrap. Form the cheese mixture into a long cylindrical roll on the edge of the plastic wrap and roll into the herb and nut mixture so it is evenly coated.  Refrigerate the roll until firm.

Walnut Bircher Muesli
Mix 1 cup rolled oats, 1/2 cup pepitas, 1 cup dried fruits, nutmeg and cinnamon.  Add 1/2 cup apple juice and 1/2 cup natural yoghurt, mix and refrigerate overnight.  Serve with a sprinkling of chopped walnuts.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Quince Paste, Quince Jam and Quince Jelly

I have already talked about my very large quantities of quinces that I need to do something with.  Here are some other recipes for those of you with a few quinces.  I have this year tried to cook quince paste in the slow cooker but I actually prefer the stove top version.  Sometimes I add cinnamon sticks and cloves when poaching the quinces that I am using for quince paste, but that is optional.

I was planning to go to a local market with my fresh quinces, quince paste, dried quince straps and quince muffins as well as some jars of Mums quince jelly today, but it is pouring with rain at the moment which is putting me off (it is an open air market). The idea is to convince some other people of the beauty of the humble quince.

Slow Cooked Quince Paste:
Cook 5-6 whole quinces in slow cooker with water for 3-4 hours on high.  Let them cool, then remove peel and cores and discard poaching water.  Blend the fruit until smooth and put back into the slow cooker.  Add equal amount of white sugar and cook on low stirring until sugar dissolves.  Cover and keep cooking on low, stirring occasionally for a couple of hours.  Remove the lid and cook for a further 1/2 hour uncovered.  You need to have a really thick consistency.  When cooked, spoon into plastic lined containers (little pudding containers or muffin trays are about the right size).  Store covered in the fridge.  Keeps for up to 4 months.

Stove top Quince Paste:
Peel and core 4 - 6 quinces, cook on stovetop in a saucepan of water for about 30 minutes.  Let them cool, then blend the fruit until smooth and put back into the saucepan.  Add equal amount of white sugar and cook on low stirring until sugar dissolves.  Keep cooking on low, stirring every 20 minutes for a couple of hours or until a dark ruby red colour.  Spoon into plastic lined containers and refrigerate. 

The following recipes are from my Mums friend Beth who also supplied the sublime fig jam recipe in a previous post:

Quince Jam (1):
Cook 6 quinces with 3 cups of water until soft enough to mash.  Add 2 1/2 kg sugar and boil until a good colour.

Quince Jam (2):
Boil 5\600ml water add 2 kg sugar.  Mince 6 large quinces, add to boiled syrup.  Add 425 g tin crushed pineapple, simmer for 40 minutes.

Here is my Mums contribution to the quince collection:

Quince Jelly:
Poach 3 kg of whole quinces with 3 kg of white sugar in 3 litres of water.  Strain liquid into jars.  If it does'nt set you can use some jam setta to get the right consistency.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Truffles, Truffles, Truffles

Last Friday night I went to a very special birthday party - a gourmet shop that I pop into from time to time was having its 15th birthday celebrations.  All of the finger food served on the night incorporated the use of Italian truffles.  It was absolutely glorious. I was so entranced by the delicious food that I asked one of the staff members for the list of ingredients in each of the dishes so I could attempt to recreate them myself.  I hate to admit it but prior to that night I had never before tried truffles.  I am now convinced that I cannot live without them.  On Saturday morning I went back to the shop and purchased some truffle oil, truffle infused salt, truffle salsa and truffle parmesan so I could start to make some of these delicious treats.

Here are some of the ideas - I am sure that you can think of many more:

Blanched Green beans, snow peas, pine nuts, chilli and truffle parmesan rolled in prosciutto

Mini potato and rosemary pizzas with white truffle oil and truffle salt

Mini beef and rocket sandwiches with aioli and preserved truffle

Omelette roulade with whipped goats cheese and truffle salsa, topped with salmon roe and chives

Little mushrooms stuffed with polenta topped with almond green olive truffle paste

They were also serving delicious cheeses and condiments as well as having a wonderful selection of chocolate slabs laid out for tasting.

Yes, I was in food heaven and I intend to go back again and again and again..............mmmmmmmmm.

My thanks to my wonderful friend and truffle connoisseur JB as without her continual raving about the deliciousness of truffles I may never have ventured into this territory.

For those of you that adore truffles, here is another tip that they gave me to make the most of a fresh truffle:  Place truffle into a box of eggs and tightly wrap in cling wrap.  After several days you can make yourself truffle infused scrambled eggs/omelette.  Then place the truffle in a canister of arborio rice for a few days so you can enjoy truffle infused risotto.  Same truffle then can go into flour if you like to make your own pasta.  After infusing your eggs/rice/flour use shaved truffle over pasta, meat dishes etc.