My Garden ~ a Kiwi's take on life

Life is a lot like a garden


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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.

 

 

 

 


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ANZAC Biscuits ~ Kiwi classic recipe

ANZAC Biscuits is a New Zealand classic recipe. Crunchy outside, chewy inside, Kiwi kids love these delicious rolled oat-based biscuits which are quick and economical to make. They keep well – well, that is, if they do not get devoured by ever-hungry kids who prowl the pantry in search of food.

There is a blend of fact and fiction surrounding the origin of this legendary biscuit recipe. We grew up with the story that during World War I, people back home baked and sold goodies to help raise funds in support of the New Zealand war effort. Military historians found that these were not the biscuits that were sent to and eaten by the ANZAC soldiers at Gallipoli.

gallipoli 300x194 The ANZAC Biscuit“Biscuits! Army Biscuits! Consider the hardness of them. Remember the cracking of your dental plate, the breaking of this tooth, the splintering of that.” From Army Biscuits by Ormond Burton.

Staff at the National Army Museum did some research and found that contrary to popular belief there were no ANZAC biscuits at Gallipoli. The standard Army biscuit at this time was a rock hard tooth breaker also called the ship’s ANZAC biscuit.

Like many home cooks, I sometimes modify the recipe by adding dried fruit, nuts and seeds and adjust ingredient quantities to suit. It is a beginner-cook-friendly recipe. It is 25 April and in keeping with the spirit of our national remembrance day, I used the recipe from another Kiwi icon, Edmonds Cookery Book, to make a batch of ANZAC Biscuits.

Fresh-from-the-oven, the biscuits got the seal of approval from youngest grandson and his two brothers.

 

 


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Chocolate Cake ~ firm family favourite

 

This image of the 1950s Edmonds Cookery Book is part of my cooking heritage. My mother, like many New Zealand women, referred to the recipes in her battered copy to bake a range of goodies for daily morning and afternoon teas. Sadly, we no longer have her copy of this particular edition that my sister and I used when we helped Mum in the kitchen during busy times on the farm feeding workers and visitors. Over the  years, we modified the recipes and adapted ingredients.  Classic Edmonds recipes that we used in the 1950s have stood the test of time.

Mum’s great-grandchildren love eating the same goodies we enjoyed as children – and this chocolate cake never fails the yummy test. 9-year old grandson, owner of an Edmonds Beginner’s Cookbook reprinted in 2015, is proud of his baking efforts. Chocolate cake baking tradition lives on.

Ingredients One-Egg Chocolate Cake

  • 50 grams butter
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup standard plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • few drops vanilla essence
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup milk

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 190ºC.
  • Prepare one 20cm cake tin. Line with baking paper. I often prepare a muffin tray to make 12 mini-cakes
  • Melt butter and syrup in a small saucepan.
  • Put melted ingredients into a bowl. Add egg and sugar. Beat well.
  • Sift cocoa, flour and baking powder together. Fold sifted ingredients and vanilla essence into egg mixture.
  • Dissolve baking soda in milk. Fold into egg mixture.
  • Pour the mixture into cake tin.
  • Bake 30 minutes or until the cake springs back when lightly touched.
  • Leave cake to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes.

Decorate to suit

  • Quick chocolate icing. Mix 1 to 2 cups icing sugar, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon softened butter, vanilla essence and a small amount of warm water to get a smooth consistency. Spread icing over cake. Sprinkle desiccated coconut threads over icing.
  • Cake could be split into two halves so that a filling of whipped cream and sliced fresh fruit e.g. strawberries can be added.
  • Top of the plain cake could just be lightly dusted with icing sugar.


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Chocolate Truffle Cake ~ glorious, rich and decadent

The first three weeks of March have been very busy. Family occasions involved five birthdays, two wedding anniversaries and Easter. This meant time spent in the kitchen, baking and cooking.

Sixty years set them apart, and Himself and two grandsons had a date to blow out candles together on a birthday cake. 12-year old Grandson in particular, is a chocoholic and Poppa is a diabetic. Athletic and fast-growing into teenage-hood, Grandson designated himself as his grandfather’s deputy to eat Poppa’s slice of birthday cake, chocolate in all its glorious richness, decadent it had to be. Chocolate Truffle Cake it would be.

Measurement of ingredients is typically a ‘roughly about’ thing when I cook. I understand very well the intricacies of baking special cakes, but it is not an everyday practice. Precise measurements were a must for this recipe. Care and attention must be paid to time when working with couverture chocolate, cream, egg yolks and sugar. Assembling the elements was to be my new chocolate cake experience. Getting a glossy and smooth coating was my challenge. I trusted Australian food writer, Donna Hay’s instructions.

Ingredients Truffle Cake

  • ½ C plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 1/3 C caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 80 gms butter, melted

Ingredients Truffle Filling

  • 450 gms dark couverture chocolate
  • 2 C single or pouring cream
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/3 C caster sugar

Method

Preheat the oven to 180ºC.

Sift the flour and cocoa three times and set aside. Place the sugar and eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for 8-10 minutes or until pale and thick and tripled in volume. Gently fold through the flour and cocoa and then the butter.

Line the base of a 20 cm springform tin with non-stick baking paper. Pour in the mixture and bake for 25 minutes or until the cake comes away from the side of the tin. Cool in the tin.

While the cake is cooking, make the filling. Place the chocolate and cream in a saucepan over a low heat and stir until melted and smooth. Place the egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and beat for six minutes or until thick and creamy. Fold the chocolate mixture through the egg mixture and beat for six minutes or until cold. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To assemble, remove the cake from the tin and cut in half horizontally. Place the bottom layer back in the tin and pour over half of the filling. P lace the top layer on the cake and cover with the remaining filling. Refrigerate for five hours or until set.

To serve, place a warm tea towel around the tin, which will help to ease the cake away from the side. Carefully remove the cake from the tin and use a heated palette knife to smooth the edge.

Decorating the Truffle cake

Easter pending and staying with the chocolate theme, I used strawberry-filled Easter eggs and a purchased chocolate disc with ‘Happy birthday’ written in white chocolate. I noticed a few rough spots on the coating and thought more truffle filling could have been poured to make a thicker middle layer. Too scared to lift the cake from the tin base, I left it. But hey, no-one cared. Eight grandkids and their Aunts all swooped. It’s chocolate, for goodness sake. What else did you expect! One candle for each birthday boy completed the picture.

Chocolate Truffle Happy Birthday Cake

Birthday cake for Poppa and two Grandsons

Chocolate Truffle Birthday Cake

Chocolate Truffle Cake with strawberry filled Easter egg

 


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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.