Sunday 29 March 2020

Passionfruit and orange muffins and my CoVid19 playlist

A colleague said to me last week that we are only 20 or 30 minutes into a disaster movie.  Yes we have all seen disaster on the big screen but never felt it so keenly as now.  Everything becomes precious when we teeter on the edge.  I look at my food and try to work out how to make it last.  It does not do to be fussy in these uncertain times.

I wish I could tell you that I am making amazing meals at home but they are often grabbed in haste.  Having Sylvia at home from school last week, having 4 medical/dental appointments (quite a few already planned as check ups and a flu jab), means I am so pleased to have a weekend to relax and have some time to sort the house.

It is amazing to think that I made these muffins a week and a half ago.  It seems like a lifetime ago that the kids were at school and my workplace was open.  But already I was working from home and missing all the food we share at work and being able to nip out to shops at lunchtime.  I was craving freshly baked food.  These muffins were inspired by leftover fruit that I wanted to save.  Even then I was aware that I had to use my food wisely.  And I had bought a bag of passionfruit that we had forgotten.  Sylvia took some to school but a few showed spots of mould.  We also had a bruised orange, some leftover wedges of orange from Sylvia's lunchbox, and a decaying box of strawberries.  Some was beyond redemption.  I salvaged what I could.

Sylvia loves eggs for any meal so I made these vegan as I figured I should save the eggs for her.  They were based on a passionfruit and strawberry muffins that I made four years ago.  It seems like another lifetime ago, having energy for volunteering, sharing food, children playing together at a working bee!  I first turned to a bookmarked passionfruit teacake but it wasn't quite what I wanted.  I did get inspired by it to use some coconut.  These muffins were made late at night after Sylvia went to bed and eaten often at the computer while I worked at home.  Home baking is a great comfort.  I am now working up to baking hot cross buns!

Meanwhile I have been thinking about music for CoVid19.  So I will leave you with two lists.  One is a CoVid19 play list and one is a list of CoVid19 humourous versions of popular songs that have given me a laugh (because we need to laugh!).

My CoVid19 playlist
(that I would put on Spotify if I had an account!)
  1. From little things big things grow - Paul Kelly
  2. The fear - Pulp
  3. What about me - Moving Pictures
  4. Don't stand so close to me - The Police
  5. My wandering days are over - Belle and Sebastian
  6. Doctor doctor - Thompson Twins
  7. Changes - David Bowie
  8. It's the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine) - REM
  9. Regret - New Order
  10. All in this together - Ben Lee
  11. In between days - The Cure
  12. i will survive - Gloria Gaynor
  13. Dancing with myself - Billy Idol
  14. Subterraean home sick blues - Bob Dylan
  15. All by myself - Eric Carmen
  16. Fire and rain - James Taylor
  17. There is a light that never goes out - The Smiths
  18. Stayin alive - The Bee Gees
  19. I'm still standing - Elton John
  20. Here comes the sun - The Beatles

10 Funny CoVid19 videos of popular songs:
  1. My corona home (Kokomo originally by The Beach Boys)
  2. Coronavirus rhapsody (originally by Queen)
  3. I can't get no santiser (originally by Rolling Stones)
  4. Wash your hands (originally by Taylor Swift) 
  5. Imagine there's no bog roll (originally by John Lennon)
  6. Torn (originally by Natalie Imbruglia)
  7. Yesterday (originally by The Beatles) - 
  8. We didn't spread the virus (originally by Billy Joel)
  9. Somewhere over the rainbow (originally sung by Judy Garland)
  10. Stayin Inside (originally by the Bee Gees)
 More passionfruit recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Apple, passionfruit and macadamia muffins (gf) 
Purple passionate pine pom juice (gf, v)
Strawberry and passionfruit icy poles (gf, v) 
Strawberry passionfruit muffin (v) 
Tropical orange and carrot smoothie (gf, v) 

Passionfruit and Orange Muffins
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe
Makes 12 mini muffins

2 tbsp chia seeds - plus 4 tablespoon water - soaked
3/4 cup milk ( I used soy)
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate (baking) soda
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
1/4 cup chopped strawberries (or more passionfruit pulp)
1/4 cup passionfruit pulp
1/2 cup orange juice (or more passionfruit)

Preheat oven to 200 C.  Grease a 12 cup muffin tins.

Mix chia seeds with 4 tablespoon of water and set aside.  Also mix milk and vinegar to curdle for about 5 minutes.  (I think I did the chia and milk mixtures together in a small mixing bowl.)

Mix flours, baking powder, bicarb soda, sugar and coconut in a large mixing bowl.  In the small bowl, mix chia mixture, milk mixture, passionfruit, orange juice and strawberries.  Pour wet ingredients into dry mixture and mix until combined.

Spoon into prepared muffin tins and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and a skewed inserted comes out clean.  Leave in tins for 5-10 minutes and then remove and cool on a wire tray.

NOTES: these are quite light and fruity.  They could be iced or frosted if desired.  I tried one with cream cheese on it and it was ok but I preferred the one I spread with peanut butter.

On the Stereo:
No Need to Argue: the Cranberries

Sunday 22 March 2020

Tomato and apricot chutney, a covid19 strategy!

It started with some apricots that a friend gave me from her tree.  Then I bought tomatoes at the farmers market.  By the time the CoVid19 started to get serious in Australia, there were so many more reasons to make chutney than just to use up produce. 

I might even thank CoVid19 for the motivation to finally make the chutney that had been on my to do list for a while.  The tomatoes sat there for a couple of weeks and the apricots were in the freezer for months.  But chutney seemed a good way to preserve the tomatoes for when Armageddon arrived!  Suddenly everything seems precious and odd and uncertain. 

Last weekend instead of going to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child we postponed the show.  I had more time to make chutney.  It is quite a bit of work to peel the tomatoes.  Juice goes everywhere and my hands get soggy and wrinkly.  But it makes a difference not to find bits of tomato skin in the chutney.

I have made chutney enough times to be know I need a bit of time but it will work out ok.  Then I looked at the ingredients in a rhubarb chutney I had bought and it had cornflour.  This was a new idea for me but made sense as often chutney will split into water and vegies.  I tried it and liked the results.  I had simmered the chutney long enough and it was getting late so the cornflour added nicely to the right thickness (or clinging to the wooden spoon).  My biggest issue was whether I got the seasoning in the chutney right.  I worried that the apricot flavour disappeared altogether and I may as well have just had all tomatoes but I am sure they made an impact.

Doesn't it seems crazy to talk about apricots making an impact on a chutney when it is really CoVid19 that is making a huge impact on our lives!  So much has changed over the last few weeks.  I worked from home last week and heard of two diagnoses in my organisation.  My work group is trying to maintain cohesion and morale by video hook ups such as doing the daily quiz from the local newspaper each lunchtime.  At school I have heard about kids playing Corona Virus Zombies and asking is Santa Claus is alright.

All around us life is closing in: borders closing, businesses struggling, stage shows becoming an unnecessary luxury, sport being played without an audience, people staying home.  In other countries schools and shops are told to close but Australia is just sticking to restricting social gatherings.  For now.  So much is changing that more restrictions seem likely.

At work we started being aware of covid19 when some Chinese colleagues got stuck over on a trip home to China.  In Australia the panic started with a rush on toilet paper buying which spread to many other supermarket goods.  It got so bad that our prime minister told us last week that he was very disappointed in us.  But he really should have said: "what were you thinking?"

People's panic buying is so odd.  A few days ago I was in the supermarket and took a photo of shelves bare of toilet paper but the health food shelves with lots of food available (See above two photos).  So this is how we fight a pandemic!  We saw shelves denuded of hand wash when there was still loads of body wash, with no white flour but some wholemeal flour left, and all pasta gone except the gluten free pasta.  I went to a Middle Eastern store and was able to buy a 12.5kg bag of flour when there was none in the supermarket.  Small local stores still had enough because Australia still has enough.  Yesterday I finally saw some toilet paper in the supermarket again but then I gave some flour to a friend for a birthday cake for a friend today.

In Australia we are familiar with having an emergency bushfire kit but we do not know how to prepare for a pandemic that we are told is inevitable.  Fortunately we are told most of us will come out the other end.  There will be great fodder for academics and comedians and we will learn much for the next pandemic.  More change is inevitable. 

This pandemic seems worsened by our modern lifestyles of international travel and expectation of abundance in all seasons.  However our modern lifestyle also seems to make it more bearable with social media, facetime, netflix and cashless purchases.  I have already had lots of discussions about the environmental impact (such as so much less flights) and the changes to how we work and communicate that will inform life after the corona virus.

Yesterday we went to the farmers market.  It was incredibly busy.  I heard someone say people need to get out of the house and want to go shopping in fresh air.  It seems everyone wants to support the farmers too.  In Australia the CoVid19 has come hot on the heels of the bushfire crisis so we have anxiety upon anxiety.  I think of those people who lost their houses in the fires and are still waiting to go home, while we are being told to spend more time in our homes.  

The anxiety upon anxiety has also given us a feeling of fragility of life.  We have lost so much self-sufficiency.  We are dependent on supermarkets and shops and public transport and wide networks of people beyond our local area.  I look back to my grandparents time of chickens and vegies in the backyard, and cooking from scratch in the kitchen.  CoVid19 bring us to reflect in a different way about why they preserved fruits and vegetables and prized tinned goods.

And so I felt I was channeling my foremothers in many ways as I made the chutney.  I have tried resist panic buying.  In the supermarket I feel like I need everything but I have to remind myself there is plenty to go round.  But I catch myself thinking through how I can survive if I can't get to the shops.  I have comforted myself if it gets really bad I can exist on rice, legumes, frozen peas and a spoonful of chutney stirred through.  For the moment thought we have plenty of food.  And I still have to learn more about chutney making and seasoning but I am grateful I can preserve fruit and vegetables this way, that I have my sourdough starter and can make do.

I know this has been a long post.  I have wanted to reflect on covid19 and how it make our world a stranger to us.  I have also been reading about it and want to share a few of the best that I have read: our worlds

It has taken me so long to write this post that the situation keeps changing.  The latest today is that the government is meeting later today to discuss closing down schools, restaurants and more.  Possibly by the time you read this, the situation will have changed again.

I hope you are coping ok with the Corona Virus outbreak: minimising risk, keeping up social connections, and feeling healthy. 

More chutney recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Apricot chutney (gf, v)
Paradise chutney (gf, v)
Plum chutney (gf, v)
Pumpkin chutney (gf, v)
Tomato kitchen sink chutney (gf, v)

Tomato and apricot chutney
Adapted from Green Gourmet Giraffe
Makes about 6-8 jars

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp brown mustard seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
4 cloves (or a cinnamon stick)
3 shallots, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
12 cloves of garlic finely chopped
2 kg tomatoes, peeled and chopped
900g apricots, chopped
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup raw sugar
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tsp chilli paste
1 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp cornflour

Heat olive oil over low heat in a large saucepan.  Add fennel and mustard seeds and heat until they pop.  Stir in the cloves.  Now add the onion, celery, and garlic (I added them gradually as I chopped them) and fry for about 10 to 15 minutes until softening.  Remove cloves (not easy as they look like all the mustard seeds)!

Add remaining ingredients and check seasoning.  (I left mine in the saucepan for a few hours at this point before simmering.)  Bring to the boil and simmer for between 1-2 hours.  I found I simmered at a higher temperature at the start and then reduced the heat as it got thicker and more bubbly.  It is ready when chunky chutney consistency and not much liquid left.  At the end the liquid and fruit was till separating so I added some cornflour and brought it to the boil.

While chutney is simmering, sterilise your jars and lids.  I baked mine for 30 minutes in the oven at 150 C and boiled the lids on the stovetop for 10 minutes, then dried them on a rack.  I find it easy to put all the jars in a roasting dish so I am not having to handle them individually.

Once chutney is ready and still hot, ladle into a jar and screw on the lid (using rubber gloves or oven mitts if hot to handle).  As the chutney cools the metal lids should depress, which is a sign of them being sealed.  Store in a cool place.  This made about 4 medium jars (375ml) and 3 smaller jars (250ml).

NOTES: Highly recommend eating chutney in a sandwich with cheese, walnuts, spinach and sliced plums.

On the Stereo:
Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent: Lewis Capaldi

Thursday 12 March 2020

In My Kitchen: March 2020

Life continues to feel apocalyptic this March.  Hot on the heels of bushfire stress, comes corona virus paranoia and the likelihood of recession.  For me work has been busy, life has been tiring and we have had too much ill health at home.  I am trying to combat such low energy with the purchase of an e-bike.  It also reduces the time spent on crowded public transport! But for now I have an appetite and money to spend on it, so let's take the monthly peek into my kitchen!

Above is what I bought at the local Farmers Market.  Lots of tomatoes.  The Heirloom ones were delicious and so pretty.  I still have chutney plans.  Watercress is in desperate need of use in my fridge.  I had so many grand plans that were thrown last week when Sylvia had a cold most of the week.

I liked the look of these two cheeses from Snowdonia.  Smoked mature cheese and Vintage red Leicester.  So far the smoked one has gone into bread and I am thinking of more bread with the red Leicester.  Stay tuned...

A simple meal of vegies, cheese and vegies because I don't always have the energy to cook a lot after work.

I bought this Harbour Fireworks chocolate on special.  Maybe it was leftover from New Year's Eve.  The popcorn, rice bubbles and popping candy were fun but not so amazing I had to race back for more.

I also was tempted by this Walkers pickled onion crisps in Treats From Home because it was just so British and unlikely to appear in any supermarket.  It was quite vinegary but tasty.  Imagine these on a ploughman's platter!

Sylvia's latest love is Mac and Cheese balls.  Sometimes we buy them from the supermarket and sometimes we get them at Lord of the Fries.  However I made her mac and cheese when we went to my parents on the weekend and she would not eat it because it had too much dairy.  Which means she likes it when I make it at home where we have soy milk but not when it is full of dairy milk.

I was interested to try these vegan raspberry and coconut drumsticks on one of the last hot spells of February.  They were pretty good but I am not a huge drumstick fan and so I could not see myself eating these regularly whether vegan or not.

I had some kale in the garden that I had been ignoring.  Finally I microwaved it and put it on pizza.  It was really good and now there is more kale growing I am thinking this is a good easy plant I should grow more in the garden.

Some birthday presents.  I really like the cast iron frypan but haven't used it much as I haven't been using frypans much and am still weaning myself from non-stick to cast iron.  I love the Japanese bowl and all the little goodies.  That avocado shaped scraper is so cute!

A few more birthday presents that arrived late from my sister in Ireland.  It is a really good Vegan Food magazine issue and I am looking forward to reading "Why I am not going to buy a computer."

These Percy pig lollies (sweets) also came from Ireland.  We were quite unsure what the 40 year anniversary was but a quick Google found that it is 40 years of Marks and Spencer in Ireland!  Who would have guessed that from the packaging.  Anyway it feels like a little bit of Ireland for the upcoming St Patrick's Day.  I guess this might be as exciting as it gets in Ireland with the corona virus shutting down St Patrick's Day parades!

I made sweet and sour cheatballs with some veg meatballs that I found were past the best by date.  I was pretty happy that I managed to use up the cheatballs and the sweet and sour sauce that I had made for some other vegies and had leftovers.

I was so excited to see Miyoko's Vegan Smoked English Farmhouse Cheese Wheel in the supermarket.  She has an amazing reputation (and cookbook) in vegan cheese making, so I was so eager to try her product.  Sylvia was interested but found it tasted too much of nuts.  I found it too sharp and not enough of the mellow smoothness of cheese.  Sadly I have to report that I have had better.  It is still pretty good with crackers.

And I leave you with one more simple meal.  Sylvia and I have been rather partial to garlic cream cheese and grated vintage cheese melted on toast lately.  It was paired rather tastily with crisps and vegie sticks.

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event, that was started by Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial,  If you would like to join in, send your post to Sherry by 13th of the month.  Or just head over to her blog and visit more kitchens.

Sunday 8 March 2020

Birthday lunch - green mint chocolate drip cake, cheesecake etc

A few weeks back for my birthday, Sylvia and I had fun doing a drip cake - and a little anxiety too.  We have spent so long looking at drip cakes on the web that we had to have a go.  It wasn't quite as easy as it looks but we managed to impressed the guests at my birthday lunch.

The early ideas were around a cherry ripe cake but in the end I wanted to it to be green so we switched to choc peppermint.  It had a few sentimental touches.  My mum does lots of pavlovas with peppermint crisp on top but I am not a huge pavolva fan.  So I stirred crushed peppermint crisp into the frosting for between the layers.  I also chose to have Aussie mint slice biscuits instead of mint Oreos even though the latter had a green filling and the former had a white filling.  I really loved mint slices as a kid.  We also found some mint Tim Tams.  As any green lover will know, there just aren't enough green lollies but we also found mint Aero bars, mint Lindt balls, mint Darrell Lea chocolate filled balls, and curly wurlys because they look cute.

What I learned about making a drip cake:
  • The cake I used was the ultimate chocolate cake which was very dense with a thick crust.  It help up well but it resisted trimming with threats of collapse.  Perhaps a better cake that could be trimmed easily would work better.
  • I made two cakes and sliced each into two layers.  I poked toothpicks around the edge to assist slicing the cakes into even layers.  It helped even if they still weren't perfect.
  • We used white chocolate cream cheese frosting.  It was quite soft.  I think a stiffer buttercream would have worked better to make it smoother and neater.
  • I was nervous about the 4 layers collapsing so I put a chopstick in the middle try and stop layers slipping off.  We only had the treat of a little slippage but I noticed there was a crack across the middle of the cake.  
  • I made the cake and frosted it the day before and put it in the fridge.  This worked well as I never would have time in the morning.
  • Youtube is your friend for doing the drips.  Sylvia took over on this because she had been watching videos online and she did a great job.
  • Using a squeezy bottle for the ganache worked well.  It was easy to handle without spills to do the drips and when we were ready to use the rest of the ganache to spread on the top of the cake, it was easy to take off the lid and pour it out.
  • I really liked the peppermint crisp in the ganache.  It gave a bit of crunch, some chocolate specks and lots of mint flavour.  (For those outside Australia, peppermint crisp is hard crunchy mint candy covered in chocolate.  It shatters nicely when chopped.)
  • I think the topping looked a bit messy.  There must be an art to arranging chocolates and lollies on top but I have not quite achieved it.
  • I will also share a link to Smitten Kitchen's wedding cake post because it is a nice example of how to plan a fancy cake.  I can only look on at Deb's preparation with admiration.

My idea of a good party is a small casual gathering but lots of fun and some working baking up a storm.  Sylvia loves to plan a menu too and we spent a lot of the day before the lunch in the kitchen. We had some gluten free guests so Sylvia's idea of this Lime and White Chocolate Cheesecake got the thumbs up.  All we had to do was use GF biscuits.  We used ANZAC biscuits so either GF or non-GF would work.

We made the cheesecake the day before so it would chill in the fridge overnight.  I don't make a lot of cheesecakes so I found it hard to know when it was cooked.  The recipe to said to cook it til it was just set.  That wasn't really clear enough for a novice like me.  So I baked it for 50 minutes instead of 30 and found that it was still incredibly soft.  I am still not sure if that was the recipe or the amount of time it was cooked, though I suspect the former.

In the morning on the day of the lunch, Sylvia and I had fun topping the cake.  E took her for a walk while I did a final clean up of the house.  I was still chopping and arranging vegies by the time my first guests arrived but they were happy to help out. My mum got roses from the garden, she did lots of dishes with my dad and Kerin helped with arranging vegies.

Sylvia made our favourite punch with juice, ginger ale, raspberries, mint, lemon slices and lots of ice.  It was ready to offer family and friends as they arrived.

I'd said to everyone to bring some food if they liked but that there would be heaps of food.  My mum made this baked ricotta which was a hit.  Everyone brought lots of dips and chips. 

So we had plenty of food.  One one platter was lots of vegies with dolmades and vegan feta.  Sylvia did the cheese and crackers platter.  I made sausage rolls and so did a friend.  One of the interesting things about vegetarian sausage rolls is that there are so many versions and I enjoyed trying Trish's.

I was so full by the time we served dessert that all I could eat was 2 layers of a slice of cake.  As well as cake I had just served cheesecake and fruit.  Friends brought along like Turkish delight, meringues and peppermint slice.  Later I realised Sylvia had made grubs and we had bought lamingtons and totally forgotten both.

The cheesecake looked pretty with a drizzle of white chocolate and some lime zest but it was so soft that it was hard to cut.  Once it had sat at room temperature for a short while it was even softer.  But my GF friend was delighted by it. 

Everyone loved the cake.  I loved that it was to crazy to add candles, even if I could not avoid everyone singing happy birthday.  The cake tasted really good but so rich.  I was just relieved that the layers didn't do their slip sliding bit!

I felt lucky to have such a lovely birthday celebration.  Lots of old faces and a few newer ones.  It was good to catch up with everyone I hadn't seen over summer.  Sylvia bunkered down in her room with a friend for most of the party.  Afterwards, we had heaps of food over and I finally had time to open cards.

More celebration desserts on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Avocado pound cake with cream cheese frosting
Baked lemon cheesecake (gf)
Cherry chocolate cheesecake (gf)
Floating malteser cake
Ultimate chocolate cake with green ombre frosting
Vegan chocolate cake (v) 

Lime and White Chocolate Cheesecake

200g ANZAC biscuits (GF optional)
100g butter, melted
500g cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup (180g) sour cream
1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons finely grated lime rind
1/4 cup (60ml) lime juice
100g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
100g frozen raspberries
100g white melted chocolate and lime zest to garnish

Grease and line a 23cm square cake tin.  Blitz ANZAC biscuits in food processor.  Add melted butter and mix in food processor until combined.  Press into tin and place in fridge for at least 30 minutes (or while you prepare the filling.)  Clean out food processor.

Before making the filling, preheat oven to 150 C. 

To make filling, blend cream cheese and sour cream in food processor until creamy.  Mix in eggs and sugar and then lime rind and juice.  Pour into prepared tin and smooth.  Sprinkle raspberries and chopped white chocolate over. 

Bake at 150 C for 30 minutes or until it is set (I found this the hardest part of the recipe and kept it in for 50 minutes as I found it too wobbly).  Leave in oven with door adjar to cool.  Then chill at least 2 hours in the fridge (I did overnight).

Drizzle melted white chocolate over the cheesecake.  (We used a squeezy bottle to drizzle it.)  Then scatter with extra lime zest.

On the Stereo:
Blur: the Best of