My Garden ~ a Kiwi's take on life

Life is a lot like a garden


2 Comments

In Conversation with 10-year old Grandson

Grandson Number 7 has a certain way of thinking and conversations with him tend to be interesting. We know him to be a deep, independent thinker.

Last year, then nine years old, he convinced his teacher he was a heathen and that he should not go to Bible class at school each Tuesday. The alternative class he wanted to attend was related to Values. It was not for him, he told us at the dinner table. The adults of the family were amused. The dinner table discussion was lively. Did he know the difference between heathenism, atheism and Christianity? And, “no”, he blandly assured his Dad that his decision had nothing to do with his mate being  in the Values class. His brothers were skeptical. He had already written and dated a note for the teacher. His Dad’s signature was needed. Later, he and his Dad had a quiet chat. 9-year old Grandson’s wishes were respected.

Today, one week before the school year is due to recommence, now 10-year old Grandson announced he was a vegan. He wanted to know what he should put in his school lunchbox. We talked about the usual goodies that vegetarians like to eat. “But I’m a vegan”. The adult males of the household smirked and left me to it.

Now to to put things into a context, I make a point of having two to three vegetarian meals a week. I encourage the grandsons to cook with me and to explore recipes in my cookbooks. They understand the fresh from the garden to the table approach. And because Himself is a Type-II diabetic, they have an idea why we talk about reading food labels and healthy eating habits.

This afternoon, Grandson pored over my copy of The Revive Cafe Cookbook 5. “I want this for dinner”, he said pointing to the recipe on page 82 for Indian Sweet Potato Rosti. Good choice, I thought, knowing I had the vegetables and other ingredients and that it would be quick to put together. Grandson floored me by asking if the meal would be gluten free. This from a boy who has no health issues. We started to talk about gluten.

His mind had moved on. He was now thinking about tomorrow night’s dinner. He turned the pages of the cookbook and decided on Lentil Ragout on Potato Mash. His brothers, he reckoned, would not know it was not mince. On second thoughts, he thought that Mega Bean Tacos would be a better choice. He and his brothers love tacos. And because he loves desserts and cakes, he thought the Creamy Raw Fruit & Nut Torte in The Revive Cafe Cookbook 6, would fit the bill. Menu planning done, he raced off upstairs back to his X-Box.

What just happened here? He swore he thought about being a vegan by himself. I am picking we need a chat about the difference between veganism and vegetarianism.  And I know his device time is all about gaming so he does not bother much with google searches. It was the same when Oreo, his pet rabbit gave birth in October last year. The big questions came thick and fast in real time.  I must remember to ask him about what will happen to the yummy eggs laid every day by Strawberry, his pet chicken. I live for these in-depth conversations.

Tonight, the Indian Sweet Potato Rosti were a hit.

Cook and then mash 1 large red kumara. Saute 1 chopped red onion, 1 chopped red capsicum and 3 crushed garlic cloves in 2 teaspoons of oil. Add 1 teaspoon each of turmeric and ground coriander. Add 1/2 cup each of frozen peas and spinach leaves.  Cook for about 5 minutes. I did not add the salt. Combine onion mixture with the kumara mash. Shape the mixture into balls and flatten a bit. Fry about 2 minutes each side. Serve with a green salad and sweet chilli sauce.

Dessert was fresh fruit only.

I will hold off making the torte until we have a special occasion. I am thinking to make some bliss balls for lunchbox snacks. No. Better still, Grandson can make them.

We will have the tacos later this week. I will get Grandson into the kitchen and he can cook the dinner. Conversations happen when we work together in the kitchen.

 

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Date and Apple Scones

My mother had a tried and true everyday scone recipe, based on that in the Edmonds Cookery Book, that won her prizes at the farming district’s local Flower Show in the 1950s. The aroma of date scones for afternoon tea fresh out of the hot oven wafted from the house as we four children walked from the school bus across the paddock to the house. Dad always had afternoon tea before milking the cows. No leftovers.

The scones were made with pure New Zealand butter cut into six cups of white flour, Edmonds “sure to rise” baking powder, salt and sugar using a knife then mixed with creamy unpasteurised farm milk. Chopped dried dates were layered on half the dough that was folded over before being cut into large squares before being brushed with milk and sprinkled with cinnamon flavoured white sugar. Mum taught my sister and I to have a light touch with the dough and to not over-mix the ingredients. Our measurements were approximate and remain so to this day.

My own scone making has evolved through the years. With a type-2 diabetic in the family, ingredient adjustments to tried and true recipes are necessary. Himself loves home baked goodies.He has found it useful to be able to grab a scone from the freezer for an after-gym-workout snack when his sugar level tends to get low. Hence I make a double quantity.

Date and Apple scones

Hot scones fresh from the oven

Essentially I still start with six cups of flour, which could be a mix of white with buckwheat or wholemeal flours, and baking powder. I  add spices such as cardamom or cinnamon and no longer add salt or sugar to the scone dough. A rice bran spread with no palm oil is cut into the flour. Chopped succulent Medjool dates and grated apple are mixed with fresh orange juice before being added with buttermilk to the dry ingredients. I cut the dough into smaller shapes than in the past. The top of the dough is brushed with milk and finished with a light sprinkling of cinnamon  mixed with raw sugar before being baked in a hot oven.

I like to think Mum would be pleased how her date scone recipe has evolved. Simple everyday baking, a fresh scone with a cup of tea or coffee is hard to beat.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups of white flour
  • 1 cup of buckwheat flour
  • 12 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 150 grams rice bran spread
  • 2 cups buttermilk – about
  • ¾ cup chopped medjool dates and ½ grated apple with skin on, soaked in juice of 1 orange
  • cinnamon mixed with raw sugar

Method

  • Sift the dry ingredients.
  • Cut the spread into the flour until it is like breadcrumbs.
  • Mix buttermilk and fruit mixture to form a soft dough.
  • Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead lightly
  • Line an oven with baking paper.
  • Cut dough into shapes and place on tray.
  • Brush tops with milk.
  • Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.
  • Makes about 15-18 depending on size.
  • Bake at 220°C for about 10 minutes.


3 Comments

One Hour to Dinner ~ Lamb Curry

Not feeling like cooking tonight after a busy and tiring day. But put dinner on the table I must – particularly as the Type-II diabetic member of the household must follow a regular and healthy eating plan. The whole family can eat the same meals and everything cooked in one-dish is a quick way to get a meal to the table. By no means an expert, I am now used to making sense of the nutritional numbers on food labels and I make sure there are suitable packets and tins of convenience food staples in the pantry. My garden vegetables and herbs provide that vital fresh green element. It is important to reduce fat, not add salt and to enhance flavour with herbs and spices.

Blood glucose levels are directly affected by the kind and amount of carbohydrate foods eaten. Non-starchy vegetables like aubergine, chilli, onions, pumpkin, silverbeet or swiss chard and zucchini are less likely to raise blood glucose levels. One tip I picked up at at a diabetic dietary seminar was to decide the kind of carbohydrate and then to build the dish around that. Wild and long grain rice would be the ¼ plate serve of carbohydrate. Tonight’s ¼ plate serve of  protein was diced lean lamb.

Tonight’s recipe, if it can be called that, made about 5 to 6 servings. We eat off small dinner plates – a dietary portion control tip. Flavours and quantities were decided at random as I cooked, using whatever was to hand in the fridge and on the shelf.

Lightly spray the cooking surface of an electric frypan with Canola oil. Preheat the frypan.

Sauté 1 large chopped onion, 1 finely chopped yellow chilli  and 1 heaped teaspoon each of crushed garlic and ginger pastes.

Add 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, fenugreek, cardamom, dried coriander flakes and ¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Stir and continue to sauté for about 1 minute.

Brown about 500 grams of diced lamb that has been trimmed of excess fat. Stir in about 2 cups of peeled, diced pumpkin and 1 medium diced aubergine.

Add 250ml no-added salt vegetable stock. Stir and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Dice 1 large zucchini and shred several leaves of silverbeet or swiss chard. Add to the meat mixture and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.

Stir in and gently heat through 165ml coconut cream (no additives).

Taste and adjust flavours as desired.

Microwave pre-cooked wild and long grain rice according to instructions on packet.

Serve and enjoy.

 


10 Comments

Cookery class at school in 1958

In 1958, we were given a small textbook, Home Science Recipes when we were taught cookery in Standards 5 and 6, or what is now called Years 7 and 8. Words and phrases used then make me smile now.

“all parts of the dominion”, “domestic instruction”, “helpful to the small family”, “young housekeeper”, “apron”, “never waste anything”, “Housewifery and Laundry Work”

Wordy echoes of strong colonial and emotional ties to England, preparation of girls for marriage and motherhood, and always, a vivid memory of want and hunger experienced by our parents’ generation during the depression and war years. New Zealand as  a country grows food well. This text was compiled by a generation of educators intent on building a nation of self-sufficient citizens and healthy families.

The ingredients then reflected the predominant farming and small country town lifestyles we lived in the 1950s. I shudder now at the thought of using animal fats of “lard”, “dripping”, “suet“. Beef and mutton were staple foods. Home killed meat roasted in a fat was common.  Dad would butcher a sheep about once a week. I recall how my brothers, sister and I lined up as he did so waiting to grab the knucklebones so we could play the game. No sentimentality then. That is how it was.

My mother and mother-in-law always kept a bowl to store the dripping from roasted beef. My grandparents and parents all loved spreading dripping on bread in preference to butter. They had  lived through food rationing. As if that was not enough to fill growing large baby-boomer families,  New Zealand mothers served baked goodies for morning and afternoon teas and  puddings. All recipes used great quantities of animal fats and sugar. Unpasteurised, creamy milk collected as the cows were milked was drunk daily. Thank goodness our outdoor lifestyles meant we were physically active and hardworking compared to present day.

Essentially, we their daughters in the school cookery classes, were cementing household practices of generations before the 1950s. Incidentally, the Window Cleaner recipe in  Cleaning Materials, still works a treat and is cost effective.


7 Comments

Lemons Three ‘olden’ ways

Was it really fifty years or more since I attended cooking class at school? I felt quite ancient when 11-year old grandson talked about his first food technology class and his first recipe for a Fruit Smoothie, a printout pasted into his exercise book. The blender was put to work and the smoothie made an excellent after-school drink. But, he was not really that interested in Nana’s old school handwritten cooking exercise book, or the recipes. It must have looked like lots of hard work.

In 1958, I used non-electronic kitchen equipment and we measured in pounds and ounces.  Girls at my age  were used to cooking at home with our mothers. The boys did carpentry and metalwork instead. For fun, I revisited two recipes, one from my old schoolbook and the other from a recipe given to me when I was first married. The third way with lemons is about hand care, something my mother routinely did in the kitchen.

Lemon Honey, or Lemon Curd as some call it, is delicious. Living on a farm, we kept hens, lemon trees grew well and butter was cheap. Lemon Honey was commonly made. This recipe makes about one and a half cups. I store it in the fridge. It never lasts long in this family. It can be rippled through creamy icecream, swirled through yoghurt, made into lemon tarts or as I did today, added to the centre of lemon muffins.

Lemon Cordial is another oldie. My mother-in-law made it when Himself was a child. My sister-in-law and I continue to make this drink. It becomes a  refreshing summertime drink when made up with finely julienned fresh ginger straws, crushed mint, ice and chilled soda.

Lemons are nature’s cleanser. I can see Mum now, at the kitchen bench, rubbing a cut lemon over her skin and around her nails before dipping her hands into oatmeal and rubbing this all over her skin. Oatmeal leaves a soft feel to the skin.

 


5 Comments

Losing the plot in the veggie garden

 

Gardening 101. Do not, do not turn your back on the summer garden plot. Himself and I took a five-day break and the veggies threw a party.

Cos lettuces bolted to seed. Cucumber had a marrow growing competition with the zucchini.  Pineapple sage bush transformed into a monster. Runner beans did a vertical sprint. Vine ripened tomatoes got saucy. Yellow quinces just wanted to carpet the grass. And the chooks fell in love with the red juicy tomatoes and grubbing among the green herbs.

This cook has the last say. Olive oil, oregano, black pepper and roast slowly in the  oven for about one hour. Slip the skins off when cooled. Use as required. I freeze the pulp in meal lots to use with pasta dishes at a later time.

20160301_171916

 

 

 


4 Comments

Aubergine and Harissa

Call for immediate action was required when I stumbled on the link to this recipe for Aubergine and Harissa Dip while reading a post written by  insidekelskitchen  With a diabetic in the household, I am always keen to try new flavours and easy-to-prepare food using in-season garden fresh vegetables.

The aubergines and a red bell pepper chargrilled while I picked and prepared tomatoes that were slow roasted. Ciabatta bread from the freezer was thawed before being warmed in the oven.

As I have no Harissa Paste in the pantry and have not used Harissa  before, a quick google search was in order to fast learn how to make this spicy paste. I used a recipe by New Zealand cook, Annabel Langbein , the ingredients being

  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 hot chillies
  • 1 tsp flaky salt
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup tomato purée
  • 2 tsp rosewater or a pinch of sugar

To assemble the ‘dip’, I rough mashed the vegetable ingredients  using a fork and stirred the spice paste and seasonings to taste through the mixture.

Verdict. Ticked the boxes. Delicious for lunch served warm on crusty bread garnished with goatmilk feta cheese.! Packed with flavour. There are no leftovers. I can imagine this ‘dip’ combining well with chickpeas. But that’s another meal.