My Garden ~ a Kiwi's take on life

"I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o'er vales and hills," William Wordsworth


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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.

 


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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.


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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.

 


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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.

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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.

 

 


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Chutney ~ relishing food with a zing

“Is chutney a savoury jam, or is jam a sweet chutney?”

The answer according to New Zealand foodwriter, the late Digby Law on page 11 of his Pickle and Chutney Cookbook (reprinted in 1992), my go-to recipe book for many years, is that chutney is a savoury jam. Chutneys, cooked or uncooked, savoury or sweet, add great flavour bursts to many dishes.

Earlier this morning, while it was still cool enough to work in the kitchen, I processed  ripe tomatoes picked last night to make Tomato Chutney using a tried and true recipe. Himself thinks it “smells good”. When preparing tomatoes, I always scald the fruit with boiling water and remove the skins. I used white sugar, which gives the chutney a lighter colour, simply because I had no brown sugar in my pantry.

Overnight it seemed, the cucumbers became my new garden triffids, too big to make dill pickles.  Flip to page 30 of Law’s cookbook and I note I can use 3kg of peeled cucumbers to make a light, refreshing chutney. Vegetables are now salted and standing in a glass bowl until tomorrow.

Cucumber Chutney recipe

Meanwhile, back in the garden, the Mangere Pole beans were soaking up the morning sunshine after drinking up lots of rain yesterday. About midday, I picked one bucket load. Back in the kitchen, the beans were topped ‘n tailed, sliced, blanched in boiling water, drained, plunged into cold water, drained, dried, sealed in large, labelled ziplock plastic bags then put into the freezer 30 minutes after being picked.

How fresh is this?

 

 

 

 


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Grandson ~ creates a chilli salsa

 

9-year old grandson is so proud of his garden-to-the-table moment. A freshly picked Hungarian Yellow Wax chili pepper grown by him, was the hero of a salsa served with sweet corn tonight. Tapered in shape, this chili is well-flavoured, has a medium heat and is easy to grow.

In the best of Masterchef tradition, he selected his ingredients, he created his recipe as he chopped, stirred, tasted, adjusted and presented.  His salsa was brushed over freshly cooked sweet corn.  A great taste summer side dish.

Grandson’s homemade  salsa recipe: combine chopped yellow chili, freshly picked chopped parsley and basil leaves with melted butter, cold-pressed virgin olive oil, crushed garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. On impulse, he added some diced Lebanese cucumber because that is his favourite vegetable. The quantities were decided as he prepared the chili salsa.

During the cook, he used sharp steel knives, deseeded a chili, melted butter in the microwave, worked cleanly. I showed my sons and now my grandchildren from pre-school age, safe use of equipment, creative cooking, food hygiene and kitchen management skills.

Learning happens in the kitchen. Together, we read recipes, do the maths of costs and amounts and learn about food culture. I believe all children need to learn how to plan a meal and to learn about people’s food likes and health needs.  This boy knows his grandfather is a diabetic, why I use lots of fresh ingredients and why I may cook a second dish for the same mealtime.

Usually when he cooks, I work alongside my grandson. We have chatted about my childhood years and the meals my family ate. My late mother’s chocolate cake recipe is now a firm favourite with her great-grandsons. Licking the mixing bowl clean is still an important Cooking 101 task. Tonight, as I wrapped monkfish in prosciutto, we talked about this pork meat and how it adds flavour to fish. My salsa verde had to be taste-tested and we compared the two salsas. Why I was using locally grown and pressed avocado oil and parmesan cheese? Why, indeed. I decided that monkfish is delicate it does not need to be overpowered with stronger flavours.

This 9-year old lad, my grandson, is well on his way to managing a kitchen and feeding the troops. It is not only a skill for healthy living but is also a great life interest.