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Sunday, May 29, 2011

More Figs!

On KI I was lucky enough to be given a huge bag of home grown figs.  I decided that I would try my hand at making some fig syrup at the suggestion of one of the other ladies who was there with us.

I cut the figs in half and put them in a large bowl, then covered them with brandy (but I didn't have enough to completely cover them so I added some sweet sherry that I found in the bar) and put them in the fridge for a week.  Every day or so I turned them to make sure the alcohol soaked into every single bit.  After a week they went into a large saucepan with just enough water to cover them and simmered until they were all pulpy.  Then I blended it until it was smooth.  It wasn't sweet enough for my liking so I added some sugar (about 2 cups) and reheated until the sugar dissolved.  Syrup was then funnelled into sterilised bottles ready to put on pancakes, waffles or icecream (or just eat it by the spoonful).  As a thank you I sent a bottle of syrup back to KI to the donor of the figs.

I also wanted to try a recipe that I have been given for dried fig muffins.  I decided to use the figs that I dehydrated a few months ago (see related posting).

Melt 100g butter and add 250 ml apple juice. Remove from heat and add 400g chopped dried figs and 1 tablespoon grated orange zest.  Leave about 1 hour or until figs have softened and mixture is cool.  Mix 11/2 cups plain flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 11/2 teaspoons baking powder in a large bowl.  Add fig mixture, 2 large eggs and 11/2 teaspoons vanilla.  Stir until just combined and spoon into prepared muffin pans.  Bake for 25 minutes or until cooked when tested.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


If your house is anything like ours you may still have a lot of chocolate left over from Easter.  We are not particularly fond of the type of chocolate that many Easter novelties are made of so I tend to use a lot of it in cooking so it isn't wasted.

Here are some of the recipes that we use to put all of that extra chocolate to good use!

Chocolate Mousse:
Melt 150 grams chocolate, stirring until smooth.  In a separate bowl mix 100 ml cream and 2 egg yolks.  In another separate bowl (yep sorry this means extra dishes) beat 2 egg whites with an electric mixer until they form peaks.  Mix the chocolate into the cream mixture, then fold in the egg whites.  Spoon into 6 individual serving dishes and refrigerate for several hours. For an extra special treat you can add a couple of tablespoons of liquer (Kahlua, Tia Maria) to the melted chocolate.  For a twist instead of plain chocolate, try some of the delicious Lindt flavoured chocolates (my favourite is the chilli chocolate - great dessert to finish off a Mexican themed dinner).

Double chocolate and Banana muffins:
Sift 1 cup plain flour, 1/2 cup cocoa, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 3/4 cup castor sugar into a large mixing bowl.  Chop 100 grams of chocolate and add to the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl mix 200 grams melted chocolate, 2 eggs, 125 grams melted butter, 1 cup milk and 1 teaspoon vanilla essence.  Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the chocolate mixture and mix well with a wooden spoon, then add 3 mashed bananas.  Spoon into muffin cases and bake at 180 for about 25 minutes or until cooked when tested.

Chocolate chip cookies:
Beat 180 grams butter and 2/3 cup castor sugar until pale and creamy.  Add 1 egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence and beat until well combined.  Add 250 grams sifted SR flour and mix with a spoon.  Mix in chopped chocolate, then roll into a cylinder and chill for about 30 minutes.  Cut into rounds and bake on lined baking trays in a moderate oven for 10 minutes.  Cool on trays, then place on wire rack until firm.

Rocky Road:
Melt chocolate, add chopped marshmallows, glace cherries, sultanas (and nuts if you like - macadamia nuts are extra good).  Spread into a baking paper lined lamington tin and refrigerate until firm.  Cut into squares to serve.

Chocolate Bark:
Melt chocolate, spread in a thin layer on a baking tray lined with baking paper.  Sprinkle chopped up lollies (whatever you have) on top and when the chocolate is solid again break into pieces to serve.

Chocolate Slice:
Process 200grams leftover cake/fruitbread/pannetone (whatever you have) in food processor until you have fine crumbs.  Melt 125 grams butter, add 2/3 cup cocoa, 6 eggs, 11/4 cups castor sugar, prepared crumbs and mix well.  Add 150 grams chopped chocolate, 150 grams chopped glace cherries, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and stir until well combined.  Pour into a lined pan (approx 20cm x 30cm) and bake in a moderately slow oven for about 30 minutes.  Cool in tin, then cut into little squares (dust with icing sugar if you wish) to serve.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"Rubber" Chicken

I have been reading a book "The $21 Challenge" that my wonderful friend JB (the truffle queen I referred to in a previous post) got for me at Christmas time.   Take a look at the book or go online and you will open your eyes up to so many fantastic ideas for saving money.  My thanks to the Simple Savings team who gave me permission to mention them on this blog (http://www.simplesavings.com.au/a.php?a=243336).

This book mentions the term "Rubber Chicken" which refers to how you can make a roasting chicken into a couple of meals.  I roasted a chicken and did lots of vegetables to go with it (roast potato, pumpkin, steamed broccollini, carrots, beans and cauliflower with a cheese sauce).  I then divided up the chicken as follows: leg and wing for each of the kids, 1/2 chicken (minus leg and wing) for Himself and a bit of breast (no skin) for myself.  With heaps of vegetables and gravy they had plenty to eat and didn't realise that there were leftovers (that is part of the trick in our house as they tend to sniff out leftovers pretty quickly).  I craftily hid the leftover chicken in the oven and waited for them all to leave the kitchen.  I then took the rest of the chicken (bones, skin and all) and placed it in the slow cooker with some chopped up carrots, celery, turnip, leek (you can use pretty much whatever you want to get rid of in the bottom of the vegetable crisper and no-one will be the wiser).  Top up with water and throw in some bayleaves, herbs if you have them, salt and pepper and cook for about 4 hours on low.  If you are starting from scratch with an uncooked chicken, cook for about 8 hours.  Then take the chicken out of the broth, remove the bones and shred the meat.  I used a blender to blend all the broth and veggies so it became a nice creamy soup.  Throw the chicken meat back in and (here is the BIG SECRET!) add the leftover cooked 2 minute noodles that your daughter wanted for lunch and then decided not to eat (or you could just add some noodles/pasta if you don't have a daughter or these sort of leftovers  in the fridge).  What I am trying to say here is that you can just use whatever is at hand and enjoy the results!  My two little meat eaters who have to be bribed to eat vegetables LOVED IT.  Even Himself went back for seconds (despite his contribution to their genes being the reason they are mainly carnivorous).

I have been asked for more ideas on how to make quick nutritious family meals on a budget, so if you have any ideas would love to hear them.  I have changed my shopping habits in the last year and have been saving heaps of money by doing the following: use what is in season as it is cheaper (especially if you or your family/friends are able to provide fresh fruit and vegetables), try to make one meal a week meat free, make a weekly/fortnightly/monthly menu plan (whatever works for you) using whatever you have in the pantry/fridge/freezer before restocking, only shop with a shopping list (and don't deviate from the list), shop on-line if you can (the delivery charge adds a bit to the total amount but it stops you putting those "extras" in the trolley), limit visits to the shops between regular scheduled shopping trips (as you always get extra stuff that you didn't actually go there for) and get some tips and tricks from websites like Simple Savings (click on attached link to find out more).

Enjoy your weekend!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The abandoned Apple Tree

By now you think I am some sort of freegan - which I guess I am to a certain degree as I REALLY hate seeing food going to waste.  We regularly go to our local club where Himself is a volunteer and cooks the Friday night BBQ (he laughs and teases me about my "need to feed" but I think that he has caught it from me).  Across the road from the club was a house (that has since been demolished) with a green apple tree and a peach tree growing on the edge of the property.  I decided that I would go and pick the apples and peaches when they were ready.
Unfortunately I completely forgot to go back until I got a phone call from Himself saying I had better get up there NOW - the demolition crew had commenced work and the apple tree had been knocked over and there were apples everywhere.  I couldn't get there before it got dark, so I very politely requested that he get a cardboard box and put as many apples in there as he could.  Which he did.  I asked about the peach tree but it too had been destroyed and the peaches weren't able to be recovered.
Anyway I had to do something with all of those green apples.  I think that most people know how to make Apple Crumble, Apple Pie, Tarte Tatin and Apple Strudel so I won't bother about those (but let me know via the comments if you would like me to include these recipes) .  I thinly sliced some of the apples and dehydrated them for the kids (and my extra large and hungry third child) to snack on.  I also poached and froze quite a lot in individual portions for school lunch boxes. I have some apple recipes that I regularly use so I thought I would share some of those with you.  These are listed separately to this posting - a beautiful moist Apple and Nut Cake (which we had last weekend for my daughters birthday), delicious Apple cake with Maple syrup and  a twist on Apple Sauce (to go with roast pork which we are having for Mothers Day lunch).

Enjoy and Happy Mothers Day!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Beautiful Kangaroo Island

We are all relaxed and refreshed after spending 5 wonderful days on beautiful Kangaroo Island (KI) over the Easter/ANZAC day long weekend.  If you ever get an opportunity to visit KI it is really worthwhile - for the wildlife and scenery as well as the fantastic local produce.

We arrived Friday afternoon and spent some quality time digging up worms for beach fishing at Emu Bay where we were based.  Himself got into the fishing in the late afternoon and landed quite a few mullets while we watched the pelicans on the water.  Said mullets were then used as bait on Saturday morning when Himself and the other males of the group went off hunting for marron (freshwater crayfish).  While the men were doing manly things we took the opportunity to visit Seal Bay where you can view Sea-lions in their natural environment.  After that we went to Raptor Domain to see the Birds of Prey show which is very entertaining, informative and interactive.  Sunday was spent by the females and children visiting the Penneshaw Farmers market where we tried a lot of the local delights including South Rock Lamb chorizo, KItchen Island biscotti and locally made chocolate truffles.  Kangaroo Island Spirits and two local wineries were very generous in their samples!  We then went to Cliffords Honey Farm where they make products from the local pure Ligurian honeybees (my favourites were the honey icecream and honey and mustard dressing), the Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery to get some laundry liquid and Island Pure Sheep Dairy (you have to try their haloumi and cheese).  The males went out on the boat to try to catch King George Whiting for dinner but came back empty handed around lunchtime (it was too rough).  We didn't starve as we had a feast of marron to get through.  Monday was spent at the most spectacular secluded beach - Stokes Bay - which has a safe swimming area.  Back at Emu Bay that night we observed some of the little penguins.  On Tuesday we visited Emu Bay Lavender and treated ourselves to Lavender scones with Lavender Jelly and Apricot and Lavender jam as well as Lavender icecream (all very yummy).  We came home on Tuesday afternoon thoroughly exhausted but very relaxed and happy.

My thanks to the lovely locals who took us under their wings and made sure that we experienced some of the wonderful sights and tastes that KI has to offer.  There is plenty more to do but we didn't want to rush around.

Attached are recipes of the two different ways that we prepared our marron.