I Love a Bit of Crumpet!

crumpet

A few days ago we hosted a little afternoon tea, nothing exciting in that I hear you say, maybe some simple tea cakes or scones and jam, even a sandwich or two but you would be wrong, what we served brought back memories of something very special because more years ago than I would care to admit, (ok, 30 to be precise) we launched into our first food business, a partnership between my brother Jeremy, my wife Jo-Ann and I.

We set about creating a very unique little tea rooms in one of Adelaide’s leafier suburbs called Thomas & Drury. Looking back it was all very Downton Abbey though at the time we aspired it to be more Fortnum & Mason. The backbone of our offering was a terribly British range of cakes and pastries, the recipes for which had been handed down from our business’s  namesake, our great aunt (Phyllis Thomas) and our grandmother (Kathleen Drury). Both of these redoubtable ladies had worked “below stairs” in private houses of Edwardian Britain and looking back, clearly they greatly influenced how we saw food.

T&D (2)

Their recipes were for the type of baked goods that you only normally see done well in a “home” setting. They included a very time consuming Battenberg , a rich Dundee cake, miniature éclairs, featherlight Madeira cake, yeasted pikelets, Cornish splits, shortbread tails, Sally Lunns (a kind of English brioche) and very much to the point of today’s blog, homemade crumpets.

In keeping with the whole theme, we brought into Adelaide a range of single origin teas and coffees from a small independent importer in Sydney, which we blended and packed to order (no Twinnings or Robert Timms for us, which was the norm back then), and of course these were all served from, and into, fine Wedgewood and Royal Doulton bone china (we almost needed a separate mortgage just for the breakages). If that wasn’t enough we also manufactured a range of some 15 or so condiments, sauces and relishes.

shop (2)

But the centre piece of the business was our afternoon tea, served on very elegant tiered, china cake stands and loaded with all kinds of tea time goodies. It was a decent spread, sweet and savory, hot and cold, all freshly made and all very, very proper. Suffice to say it was a bold venture, some would have called it ambitious but today tea boutiques and ethical barista coffee are common place, the great British/Aussie bakeoff and other cooking shows regularly feature many of the classic sweet things that were our stock in trade and fine bone china is  again quite fashionable now, clearly in terms of being “on trend” we were well ahead of the what was to come.

tea (2)

But back to the crumpets, and with a few exceptions during my time at Appellation, I have hardly had cause to make a crumpet in the past 28 years, but for this event it seemed to be the perfect time to revisit the past and so we decided to serve real English style currant muffins, hot off the griddle (not those obese cup cakes Americans call muffins ), a rich, moist bitter chocolate cake with rum fondant icing, flaky, little savoury pies of local ham, cheese and potatoes, a silky smooth potted mushroom pate and of course home made crumpets, all washed down with Barossa Sparkling Shiraz rather than Darjeeling …. My how times have changed and welcome to the Barossa!.

sparkling shiraz (3)

For those that have never tried making crumpets from scratch, they really are very simple (if you can make pancakes you can make crumpets!) and believe me it is worth it. They really are so different from the supermarket variety that have been sitting quietly sweating in their plastic wrappings for lord knows how long.

Firstly, they are much, much lighter, of course they are still full of those little holes designed to soak up all that butter, but they lack the stodginess of the shop bought item. Secondly, and really importantly when you toast them they actually get crisp on the outside, yet staying soft and moist in the center. And thirdly, they are all natural, lacking the long life additives, chemicals (and weird sourness) that plague the shop bought item.

Try them next weekend when you have a little more spare time, the batter will take a couple of hours to be ready to cook, but the great thing is they can (and should) be made ahead, sure you can eat them straight off the grill but the second cooking or toasting actually improves the eating quality. And most importantly, please don’t stint on the butter and never, ever, under any circumstances use margarine, that’s just plain wrong!

Crumpets

250g                                       plain flour
pinch                                     salt
15g                                         dried yeast
350ml                                    milk – blood temperature
1                                              egg
1 teaspoon                            caster sugar

Melted butter for grilling

Method

  • Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl (except butter) and mix well to a smooth batter.
  • Cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature to “prove” for 1-2 hours
  • When proved, batter should be thick and foamy (see image)

batter2

  • Preheat a non stick pan or griddle over a low heat, grease some egg rings or metal cookie cutters well with non stick spray or melted butter.
  • Brush or wipe pan lightly with melted butter and place spoonfuls of batter into rings to about the depth of 7mm

in rings 2

  • Cook until crumpet clearly forms holes on top and base is a nice golden colour.
  • Remove ring and turn crumpet over and cook until lightly golden

on griddle2

  • Transfer to a cooling rack and reheat in a toaster when ready to eat and butter generously!

ready to toast2

Red Gold – Saffron that is!

saffron crocus

Walking around our garden today in the Autumn drizzle, copper leaves cascading off of our old Pear Tree and the first signs of our saffron Crocus’s sprouting through the soil, reminded me of a time over 30 years ago when we lived albeit briefly on the Herts and Essex border in the UK. This was a really beautiful part of the English country side with narrow winding lanes, ancient villages and quaint thatched pubs dispensing real ale. When we lived there, exploring this countryside was a favourite pastime, and we frequently visited the medieval market town of “Saffron Walden” not quite 20km away. Once home to a major saffron industry, several centuries have passed since this fragrant and colourful little crocus was commercially cultivated there, and today, only the name remains as a reference to its past. However, this all got me thinking about the global trade and history of one of my very favourite spices.

crocus

Of course nowadays, saffron is found in just about every supermarket and gourmet store, readily accessible and affordable for everyday cooks but this hasn’t always been the case. Starting as a wild variety of Crocus, probably in the Eastern Mediterranean, over thousands of years Saffron spread across the old world via the Persians who took it east through to the Indus and on to Kashmir, and also via the sea faring Phoenicians that traded it throughout the “Middle Sea” and up along the Atlantic coastline of Spain to the Celtic coasts of Cornwall, where cakes coloured and flavoured with saffron still exist to this day.

Unfortunately over the years the term “Saffron” has been misused to describe almost anything coloured yellow, and certainly when I started in professional kitchens most things labeled “Saffron” as in  “Saffron Rice”were simply coloured with turmeric (which in itself is not a bad thing because Turmeric is an amazingly healthy spice) but  Turmeric as the root of a tropical lily related to ginger bears no relationship in flavor or fragrance to the delicate but powerful stamen of a tiny crocus and a true “Zaffran Pilau” (saffron rice) remains one of the most fragrant and honest examples of just how delicate but powerful this spice can be.

pilaf

And it is this power and intense purity as a dye that saw it used to colour cloth for the highest and most revered in the land. In a culinary sense it has long been used to impart food with the colour of the sun and is thus pretty much always associated with warm and sunny lands like Morocco, Spain, Provence, Iran and India, and of course, no spice or herb history would be complete without reference to its medicinal qualities with natural practitioners regaling it as a cure for many, many ills.

Suffice to say with all this background, over the years a lot of confusion, misinformation and mythology has sprung up around Saffron and even today urban myth holds that Saffron is worth more than gold, in all actuality given todays bullion price it is actually worth about 1/10 of the precious metal per gram.Still at around $3800 per kilo (wholesale) it is hardly cheap but quality differs enormously.

From the rubbish regaled as finest Spanish which is often 3rd or 4th grade at best, to the dubious stuff which is clearly safflower, marigold or other such rubbish (all of which may colour food, but also leave it with a taste of decidedly manky daisies). Then there is the con played out in spice markets around the world, often involving a little sleight of hand,which I have to admit I fell for in the old town of Kochi (Cochin) in Kerala. Famous for its pepper market and spice traders, we chose to visit one that was so fragrant of Saffron from the street we just had to go in, of course this “Kashmiri Saffron” was a bargain and after checking the quality, I decided that it was too good to pass up. Transaction complete the ever polite proprietor insisted on parceling it up for me and it wasn’t until I opened the package several days later and thousands of kilometers away that I realized that the stuff in my tin was absolute rubbish.

However its not all doom and gloom, Tas-Saff in Tasmania have great quality Australian grown Saffron and even here in SA we have had some commercial harvests, plus we can always grow tiny quantities at home (see above) but most excitingly I have recently discovered an importer of some amazing Iranian saffron marketed under the “Bahraman” brand, and tagged “the red gold of Iran” , this is nothing short of amazing as well as really affordable ( details of suppliers follow) and this is exciting because good quality saffron makes all the difference to so many dishes. Of course this leads to the obvious question of how do I use saffron and then what do I use it for?

zaffran

Firstly, for those not accustomed to using Saffron, always soak the filaments you need in a couple of tablespoons of water for about 20 minutes before adding the liquid and soaked stigmas to the dish. As for favourite recipes, personally I love to braise chicken koftas or thighs in a creamy saffron and almond gravy in the Egyptian way, or use it to make richly fragrant pilaf of rice or mixed grains, of course it is an essential ingredient in Paella and the moors spread its use around the Mediterranean coast with all manner of fish soups and stews like Zarzuela de Mariscos from Spain, Cacciucco from Tuscany and of course the most famous fish soup of all Bouillabaise from Provence.

soaking

And here I am in total agreement with Elizabeth David when she writes in her book Spices, Salts And Aromatics In The English Kitchen :   “if I myself had to choose just one type of dish in which saffron makes an important difference it would be Mediterranean fish soups and stews…..”  So following is my loose version of “Bouillabaisse”. It doesn’t quite carry the correct number or variety of fish and shellfish required of the authentic version and is certainly a little less bony, but it is certainly warming and delicious on a cold autumn day and makes great use of the fabulous fresh seafood found along South Australia’s Mediterranean like coastline.

IMG_3827

 

Bouillabaise
60 ml                                  olive oil
1 teaspoon                         fennel seed
1                                           orange – rind only, thinly peeled strip
2 ea                                      leeks – whites only, finely sliced
3-4 cloves                           garlic – sliced
1 ea                                       fennel bulb –sliced into small wedges

2 med                                  ripe tomatoes – peeled and diced
1 tablespoon                      Pernod
1 litre                                   fish stock
pinch                                    saffron – soaked in 30ml water

500g                                     whole white fish – cut into chunks through the bone
200 g                                    prawns – tails
12                                          whole black mussels – scrubbed and debearded
1 tablespoon                       parsley – shredded

Method

  • Heat oil, add the fennel seeds and orange peel and when just sizzling add the sliced leek, fennel and garlic , lower heat, cover and allow to stew gently until soft, do not allow to colour
  • Increase heat, add tomatoes and Pernod and allow tomatoes to soften a little then add the fish broth and saffron. Bring to a simmer for 5 minutes then add fish and boil hard for 5 minutes
  • Add mussels and prawns, bring back to simmer , add parsley and serve immediately with croutes and rouille.

Rouille
6                             cloves  garlic
2 ea                        egg yolks
pinch                     cayenne pepper
Salt & white pepper to taste

1 ea                        lemons – juice of
1 tsp                      water – lukewarm
250 ml                 olive oil

Method

  • Puree the garlic, egg yolks and seasoning in a food processor or blender.
  • With the blades still turning add lemon juice and water, mix well then add the oil in a thin stream.
  •  Taste the rouille and add more lemon juice, salt and pepper if necessary.

Retail Stockists & Wholesale Enquiries:

In Adelaide Central Market – Bahraman Saffron is available at Lucia’s Fine Foods http://lucias.com.au/

Wholesale – email: sales@aus-ktc.com.au   Website: http://aus-ktc.com.au

Just Nuts about Hazelnuts…

cropped-Torino-e1367812482559

Piemonte is one of the food and wine world’s best (or worst) kept secrets. Little wonder that the Slow Food Movement is headquartered here because seriously, there is so much great food and wine packed in this little region of Italy than is really fair. Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, & Arneis are but a few of the wine grape varieties that enjoy near legendary status, grown as they are in famous Appellations like Barolo, Alba, Barbaresco, Asti & Gattinara.

Then there’s the food, white truffles, chestnuts, amazing cheeses, rice, all manner of game meats and hazelnuts. Believe me the Piedmontese are literally nuts about hazelnuts, especially when combined with chocolate and of course this is the where the famous Ferrero family of Ferrero Rocher and Nutella fame are based. What culinary extremes, home to not only some of the world’s most highly regarded wines and rare perfumed fungi but also some of the most widely available and popular sugary confections on the planet.

hazelnuts

But why is the chocolate and hazelnut combination so strong here? The Hazelnut part is easily explained, the climate and terrain of the “Langhe” has been well suited to the cultivation of hazelnuts for centuries, but when the new fashion for cocoa was at its peak in Turin during the late 1700’s this fad ran head long into Napoleon’s Regency of Piedmonte. At that very time around the early 1800’s, restrictive trade sanctions and a physical blockade (sound familiar) prevented cocoa and other luxury imports from reaching destinations under Napoleonic control.

Legend claims that it wasn’t much later, that resourceful Piemontese pastry cooks came up with a smooth, sweet and creamy, firm paste of roasted hazelnuts and bitter cocoa to manage the scarcity of the more highly desirable chocolate. They called this confection Gianduja after a carnival character (pictured below) who was a symbol of independence  Interestingly the development of Gianduja  ran pretty much parallel to the development of Milk chocolate a relatively short trek across the Swiss Alps. Unfortunately for the Torinese, milk chocolate went on to conquer the world while Gianduja remained largely a local specialty in Turin.

gianduja2

However fast track almost a hundred years and in 1946 following world war 2, another severe rationing of chocolate apparently led Albanese pastry chef Pietro Ferrero to produce large batch of chocolate-like “Pasta Gianduja” . Importantly because the major ingredient was locally sourced he was able to make this at a fraction of the cost of chocolate candy and this paste proved both popular and profitable. Over the next few years he refined this to a smooth spread finally launching Nutella as we know it in the early 1960’s.

Since this humble start, Nutella consumption has spread from its Italian home into every corner of the globe to the extent that it is estimated or rather claimed on the internet that the weight of Nutella consumed globally each year roughly equates to the mass of the Empire State Building! Whatever the facts, Ferrero’s success has spawned a whole range of imposters and lookalikes of varying quality.

wheres the bread

However last weekend over Easter when I needed some Nutella I found the cupboard bare and the shops closed. With a little research, I realized that I actually had all the ingredients on hand to make a little batch of something very close to a soft pasta Gianduja, and the result surprised me , it was smooth, rich and dairy free with a much more pronounced toasted nutty character and devoid of the rancidity which often plagues the cheap substitutes mentioned earlier.

The other big plus is that it was quite a bit less sugary and with a tiny hint of salt and some nice cocoa bitterness it even has a slightly savoury edge, and just for the record it made a delicious filing for the Hazelnut and Chocolate Danish Pastries we were trialing for next week’s Vintage Festival Breakfasts at Bethany Wines. Try it yourself, it really is ridiculously simple and equally delicious.

Hazelnut and Cocoa Paste 

120g                                     hazelnuts
1/2  cup                               icing sugar
2 tablespoons                    cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon                       sunflower oil
1/2 teaspoon                      vanilla paste
tiny pinch                          fine salt

Method:

Roast hazelnuts until lightly golden brown, skin blisters and nuts are fragrantly toasty

roasting nutsroasted nuts- skinningready to grind

Rub in a cloth to remove skins and when cool place in a blender and grind very finely

ground nutsblend 20 secondsadd sugar, cocoa, vanilla , oil and saltblend 20 seconds

Add cocoa, icing sugar, vanilla, oil and salt and process until very fine, smooth, glossy and spreadable, its that simple!

 

Its Marvelous What A Difference Milo Makes!

H served

Choosing a dessert to serve to a group can be a difficult thing, especially for a group of family and friends with wildly divergent tastes. Some people love them, others claim not to but will still devour them, while others, self included, prefer cheese or something savoury. But there are so many options, from extravagant to simple, piping hot or frozen solid, light to rich and everything in between, so what constitutes a great pudding?

The growth of dessert bars and restaurants employing “molecular” techniques seems to have made desserts increasingly complex, deconstructed into multiple elements to keep up with food fashion and trends. Of course the best of these “new desserts” in the hands of master pastry chefs can be sublime or ethereal, but all too often they are simply copy cat versions of someone else’s creations, poorly executed and clumsy at best.

Even at the highest levels though, these “new creations” never seem to provoke the response one gets from home spun or comfort desserts. Maybe it’s the familiarity factor, or just plain old, uncomplicated deliciousness with no need for intellectualization, but with old school “puddings or sweets” people will often ask for extra helpings, in a way that they never will for a deconstructed lemon cheese cake, you know the type of thing:

“Cream cheese foam, Buttered almond granola gravel, Heirloom citrus gel and Popping candy dust”.

Keeping this and simplicity in mind I decided that for our family get together, I should serve a safe old favourite, maybe something as simple as a “rich chocolate tart”. But because our “adult” guest of honour, is an ice-cream addict (especially with Milo if he gets the chance) we decided a twist was in order, and  creating a malty “Milo” tart seemed to be a good idea .

With a little trial and error we arrived at the following recipe, its hardly kids stuff, boasting grown up, comfort flavours and it is still definitely rich, but the filling is lighter featuring a Milo enriched pastry cream rather than a heavy chocolate ganache and is even slightly savoury thanks to a little salt in the mix. Even though it may look complicated it really is quite easy and worth the effort, what’s more, it went down a treat with some old rich Barossa Muscat and home made vanilla ice cream of course!

 

Milo Tart

Pastry Case:

125g Flour
50g sugar
20g cocoa powder
90g butter
½ egg- beaten

Method:

  • Sift flour sugar and cocoa together, rub in butter to a fine crumb and add egg.

2 rubin 2a crumble

  • Using fingertips pull dough together, do not knead, allow to rest for 20 minutes
  • Roll out between two sheets of plastic wrap and transfer into a 25cm flan ring.

3 dough 4 pin out

  • Press firmly into tin, trim edges, prick base all over and place in fridge for 20 minutes
  • Bake at 170c for 7-10 minutes or until crisp. Allow to cool before use (can be made ahead)

 

 

Milo Cream
350ml milk
70g Milo
100g malt extract

6 egg yolks
50g cornflour

50g dark chocolate – 70% cocoa
1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt flakes
20ml Amontillado sherry

250ml cream
50g caster sugar

Extra Milo for serving

Method:

  • Warm milk with milo and malt extract until all is dissolved /incorporated
  • Cream yolks and cornflour together in a mixing bowl
  • Whisk in warm milo and milk mixture until smooth and strain into a saucepan.

B Milk & Milo C cook cream 2

  • Bring gently to a simmer stirring constantly with a spatula to ensure nothing sticks to the base

 

  • As soon as mixture boils, remove from the heat and mix in the chocolate, salt and sherry
  • Beat well until smooth and glossy and allow to cool thoroughly

D cook cream 3 E add chocolate

  • When cool, whisk cream and sugar until thick and fold evenly through the chocolate custard
  • Fill into pre baked tart shell and allow to set for at least 2 hours

F fold cream G tart

  • Dredge top with extra Milo before serving in wedges with vanilla ice cream

What’s Hiding In The Pantry

serve

While most of my posts celebrate seasonality, just occasionally something comes up that has nothing to do with my obsession that “fresh is best” and this is one such occasion. In fact for more than one reason this will probably give those that know me reasonably well, cause for a good old chuckle. Firstly because, I seem to have garnered a reputation over the years of being somewhat obstinate about accommodating dietary requests, even to one year being presented a “I don’t do dietaries” t-shirt by one of my team (thank you Cassaly) But to be honest I feel a little hard done by, I have always tried to ensure that the people I cook for have plenty of delicious options. For example many of what may have been considered my “Signature” dishes during my restaurants days were Vegan or Vegetarian, we just never made a lot of noise about that. 

dietaries3

In fact I am pretty sure we were well out in front 10 years ago when we started asking guests on booking, if they had any food allergies and intolerances so that we could make sure they had a special dining “experience”. But take my word for it, in recent years the pendulum has swung, and now it is more common for someone to have special requirements than not. In fact trying to balance a menu to allow for the inevitable has become a nightmare, take designing deserts that are gluten, dairy, nut and egg free …. yet we chefs have stuck with trying to make it work for everyone.

But sometimes in the press of a busy service, when someone presented with extreme or downright odd dietaries I may have channeled Gordon Ramsay because:  

A) Some notice would have been nice.

B) There’s only so much that can be done when your docket board is full.

C) Your Mise en Place is well, in place and that’s what you have to work with.

D) The entire team is fully engaged doing the business for all of the other paying guests and cant drop the ball to create that sulphur, fructose and nightshade free, low fibre, low sodium dish of ancient grains and kale because that’s all you can eat…..

 Ok, so maybe I don’t do dietaries!

But why is this relevant? Well today’s recipe is for a Gluten Free Mango, Lime and Coconut Cake, not only is it dietary friendly (if you can eat eggs and nuts that is) but its neither seasonal nor local, but as I hinted above sometimes you have to be able to crank something out from simply what is in the cupboard. You see a good friend was joining us this evening, someone that genuinely can’t tolerate gluten, and we needed a simple dessert to share, and to be honest she has probably had her fill of figs at our place over the last month.

To cut a long story short for many years I have been preparing a gluten free cake based on Claudia Roden’s famous boiled orange and almond cake,  sometimes I substitute a specific quantity of fruit puree for the oranges, but today this recipe was nowhere to be found. However determined to make it work, we set about chopping another recipe apart and well, the result was this delectable little cake, beautiful with our local Jersey cream and dare I say it, ripe figs.

But the genius was we had everything in our pantry and with 15 minutes prep it was in the oven. Seriously it will be my new go too, definitely not as syrupy as my previous recipe, and if I didn’t know it was gluten free, there is no way I would ever be able to pick it.

Gluten Free, Mango, Coconut and Lime Cake

270g Tinned mango cheeks* (drained weight)
1 lime- zest of pinch citric acid
165g caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla paste/extract
3 eggs
100g polenta
100g almond meal
45g desiccated coconut
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Method

Blend mango with lime zest and citric acid to a smooth puree blending mango Whisk eggs with sugar and vanilla paste until very thick and foamy (like shaving foam) , then fold in mango puree sabayon Combine remaining dry ingredients and mix well then fold into mango and egg foam fold dry Fill into a greased spring form pan (20cm/8inch) lined with non stick baking paper for easy removal ready to bake Bake at 170c for 35 minutes or until lightly golden and a skewer comes out clean when inserted cake Allow to cool for 15 minutes before removing from tin, dust with icing sugar and serve with Jersey cream.   Note: *other well drained tinned fruits like apricots and peaches should work well as would frozen or fresh mango cheeks.

Rote Grutze, Groats, Grits or Gruel

This Saturday marks one of the big days on our Barossa calendar, the Annual Tanunda show, held mid-vintage every year, a celebration of this valley that I am proud to call home, and one of the highlights is the hotly contended Rote Grutze championship.

For the uninitiated Rote Grutze is a dish originally from Northern Germany and Scandanavia where it also goes by the names Rodgrod or Rotezetke Gruetze, and is a kind of red fruit jelly, set with starch instead of gelatin or alginates.

Rotegrutze

With “rote” meaning red, “grutze” is related to the English words gruel or groats and even grits, all of which are porridges of cracked or coarsely ground grains like wheat, semolina, oats, barley, buckwheat, and in the Southern States of the USA, corn.

German Master Pastry Chef Christian Teubner describes Rote Grutze as “…. simply fruit juice thickened with cornflour, semolina or sago….” an accurate description, except European versions use fruits like redcurrants and true blackcurrants, but neither of these do too well in our Mediterranean climate.

By contrast, The Barossa’s Rote Grutze uses Grape juice (and there is a big disagreement whether it should be Grenache, Shiraz or Mataro) and while the pioneers that settled our valley may have been familiar the type of dessert Mrs Beeton called “Danish Pudding” (below) no local recipes for our dessert made with grapes exists until around 1920, some 60 years after the valley was settled.

Danish Pudding

However, such is the legendary status of this dish in the Barossa that I hadn’t questioned its origins, and so for the past 20 years, I have repeated the line that this sago and grape jelly, only exists in this form, in one place in the world, our “Barossa”. So imagine my surprise recently when I found out about an almost identical recipe, but originating on the other side of the world some 200 years ago!

Dating to when the Portuguese Royal family “The House of Braganza” fled to their Brazilian colony in the 1800’s to escape Napoleon and what would become known as the Peninsular wars. This dessert was apparently developed through the merging of  a traditional Brazilian tapioca or cassava porridge, but was sweetened with Portuguese grapes, spices and rich dark Port wine. Called “Sagu ao vinho tinto”  this dish is still made today as a regional specialty and is always served with fresh cream, just like Rote Grutze.

sagu ao vinho tinto

sagu ao vinho tinto

In fact our word Sago comes via the 16th century Portuguese Molluccas where the Sagu palm is naturalized, but today most of what is sold as Sago is actually tapioca. Of course, with this pudding hailing from around 1810, it pre-dates the arrival of Germanic settlers into South Australia and the Barossa by at least 25 years, but intriguingly there is another connection to Portugal through Colonel Light and his service in the Peninsula wars, notably the battle of Barrosa.

So did the good burghers and military men of early Adelaide know this Sago dessert from Portuguese connections or is our Rote Grutze just a coincidence, the result of fusion or evolution with Silesian settlers adapting to grape juice and sago instead of the redcurrants and semolina that would have been familiar, even if the local tradition of doctoring Rote Grutze with “Port” for extra flavor makes me wonder.

Anyway, whatever the origin of this recipe, German, Portuguese, Brazilian, or local invention, it’s simple, delicious and well worth making if you can get your hands on some fresh red wine grapes. I’ll leave you to argue about which varieties are best!

 

Rotegrutze

4 tablespoons       Sago / tapioca balls
500ml                    Grape Juice (Mataro preferably)
2 tablespoons       Caster Sugar
½ stick                   Cinnamon
2                               Cloves
1 strip                      Lemon zest

Method

Prepare grape juice by separating grapes from stems and place in a saucepan with a little water, cover pan and bring to a simmer,turn off heat and allow grapes to release their juices.

ready to juice

Press grapes to extract as much, juice, colour and flavor as possible and strain to produce clean juice, you will need about 1.5 – 2kg of grapes to yield 500g juice.

juice#1stems and seeds

Bring grape juice, sugar and spices to a simmer and leave to infuse off of heat for 20 minute and to dissolve sugar.

spiced juice

Strain off spices, stir in sago and bring back to a simmer stirring well to avoid clumping

starch ready to cook

Continue to simmer gently until sago is clear, about 20 minutes then allow to cool slightly and pour into serving dishes.

Rotegrutze

Chill for a few hours or overnight and enjoy it simply with fresh Jersey cream….. Delicious!

Delicious Nightshades

After last week’s plague of zucchini, it could only be a tomato tsunami this week. On a serious note it would be nice if things ripened evenly because it certainly looks like we’re due an eggplant glut in the next couple of weeks, ratatouille in installments anyone? Of course this is the joy of home gardening, but also why we love our farmers markets like our one here in the Barossa, (arguably one of Australia’s best), simply because different gardens have different things at different times.

toamtoes

Anyway this time, unlike my ponderings over zucchini, there really is no question what to make. Forget passata and relish, there will definitely be no bothering with “dead horse”, no for me there is only one thing to do with an abundance of sweet ripe tomatoes and that is make chutney.

ginger

However this is not your typical “Anglo” grandma chutney, spiced up with curry powder and a hadful of raisins. No, my recipe of choice is for an authentic Bengali “Tamator Chaatney”. Certainly there are elements of curry in the ingredients with ginger, chili, fenugreek and other whole “curry spices” but this is really so much about the tomatoes, so rich and bright red, with crunchy shreds of ginger and a beautiful spicy, sweet, sour balance.

spices

There’s nothing complicated in the prep either, the only technical part is slicing the ginger into fine matchsticks or if you’re into fancy terminology “Julienne”, but even that’s easy this time of year because tender, paper skinned, juicy young ginger from Queensland is in peak supply right now.

panch phoran

Essentially to make this, the simplest of chutneys, the spices including the “Panch Phoron” (a blend of five whole seeds, keep an eye on our website for the release of this and other Food Luddite spice blends in the coming weeks) are simply fried, the tomatoes and seasonings are added and the whole is simmered until rich. Lastly coriander leaves and lime juice are added and its ready for immediate use. However, with a layer of oil on top it will last for weeks in the fridge, but I doubt you can keep it that long, because it goes with just about everything!

 

Bengali Tamator Chaatney

120ml                                  vegetable oil
2 teaspoons                        panch phoron
4                                         green chillies – chopped
4                                         cloves garlic  – chopped
5 cm piece                          fresh ginger – shredded into fine matchsticks
1kg                                     ripe tomatoes – diced in approx. 1cm cubes
2 teaspoons                       salt
1/2 cup                               sugar
50ml                                   white vinegar
2                                         limes – juice of
2 tablespoons                    coriander leaf – shredded

Method

  •  Fry panch phoron in hot oil, add garlic, chilli and ginger and fry gently for 2-3 minutes
  • Add Tomatoes, salt, sugar and vinegar and simmer until well reduced and oil starts to separate at the edges of the pan.
  • Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, stir through the lime juice and fresh coriander to finish
  • Seal in sterilized jars or store in the fridge in a sealable container with a little extra oil floated on top.

A Plague of Zucchini’s

zucchini

Its that time of the year when the zucchini plants you thought would never bear fruit decide to give it up all at once and before you know it you are eating zucchini at every meal. Even worse that time when you go away for a day or so and return to find the cucurbit version of jack and the beanstalk playing out numerous times in the one garden bed, if only my rockmelons would do the same!.

So what to do with these monstrous courgettes ( which are certainly more “courge” than “ette” ) Well one option, and the one favoured by my dear mum (pictured below), who loved a vegetable marrow, saw it stuffed and baked, but for me, am I a fan….not so much. Neither am I fond of zucchini cake, which from past experience, just seems a waste of perfectly good sugar, eggs and flour.

mum - cropped

Peeling, seeding and using a mandolin to cut the zucchini into spaghetti and tossing it in good quality olive oil with garlic, roasted cherry tomatoes and basil, which are also in glut proportions right now, is a possibility, but to be honest the family is already tiring of that. No, I have instead settled on preserving them for the 40 or so weeks of the year when we won’t have a zucchini in sight.

To be honest I haven’t made these for years, but once upon a time, in my formative years as a chef I worked for an family originally from just outside Naples in the South of Italy. They were the very successful operators of one of Adelaide’s most prestigious fine dining restaurants at the time, all table cooking, dinner suits and bow ties. However their family meals and their approach to food couldn’t have been more different than the fancy surroundings of this Georgian style manor house.

Druminor

True to their “Paesano” roots, their food of preference was authentically traditional and despite being in the suburbs of Adelaide they managed a truly agrarian garden (for them not the restaurant, it was strictly hands off for the chefs!) In this pocket of suburbia, they re-created a little piece of their home village with Chickens, Ducks, Rabbits and even goats raised for meat, and the garden was full of whatever was in season, eggplants, lettuce leaf basil, rape, and of course tomatoes and zucchini are just a few of the things that would be grown. What couldn’t be consumed fresh was preserved for use throughout the year, and one such preserve was these “Zucchini Sott’Olio”

dress

Of course they won’t replace fresh zucchini, but these are the business, great as part of an antipasto plate or even tossed through casarecce pasta with a little garlic, some olio di peperoncino and a sprinkling of pecorino cheese. So to Lisa and Vic, a big thank you for sharing your traditions, and one thing’s for sure, your home cooking changed how this “Pommy kid” saw Italian food, and even today, where rustic is trendy, its still difficult to find food this authentic other than at a families table.

Ciao da Marco!

ingredients

Zucchini Preserved Under Oil

3 kg                       zucchini – large
2.5 litres               water
2 cups                   white wine vinegar
100g                      salt
2 tablespoons     oregano – dried bunch /Greek style
10 cloves              garlic – sliced thinly
2                            bay leaves – crumbled
500ml                  extra virgin olive oil

Method

  • Peel zucchini, halve lengthwise and remove seeds, cut into “chips” approx. 4cm x 1cm
  • Bring water, salt and vinegar to the boil in a large stainless steel saucepan
  • Add zucchini all at once, bring back to the boil and cook for 2 minutes
  • Strain into a colander or sieve and leave to drain for 10 minutes

peeled chop blanch

  • While Zucchini is draining, mix garlic, oil, oregano and bay leaf in a large mixing
  • Add cooked zucchini while still hot but well drained and toss well
  • Pack into jars, ensuring zucchini is packed down tightly and completely covered with oil
  • Seal tightly, then and refrigerate until required (can be heat treated to preserve properly)

IMG_20150211_131859 dress jar

Why on earth would you want to eat a green fig?

glazed figs

When it comes to things edible we have a lot to be thankful of from the ancients of the Mediterranean basin. Imagine if you can, who would have first thought that a horribly spiny thistle, possessing bitterness beyond belief, could be transformed into the classic Artichokes a la Grecque, or that olives, equally bitter and looking poisonously purple when ripe, could be cured with salt water to become a delicacy and in fact a signature ingredient of a entire region. What about caper leaves, and to be honest caper buds and berries, then there are apricot kernels, which though full of toxic Prussic Acid (aka Hydrogen Cyanide), could be turned in to the delicious liqueur Amaretto, by steeping them in neat alcohol and adding caramel. Of course the list goes on, and includes the subject of todays blog, something that really is seemingly thoroughly inedible.

FIG1

You see, its midsummer here in the Barossa, and of course that means we are moving closer to vintage. It also means the ancient, gnarly, fig tree in our garden (see my previous post “What’s with the Figgin Seasons..”) is chockablock full of tiny green fruit, awaiting that final flush of growth and ripening that runs parallel to the Shiraz harvest in our locale. What’s more, as summer progresses we see hordes of birdlife descend to feast on the fruits of our valley at this time of year. As a consequence, each year we lose at least 60% of our fig crop to our avian friends and neighborhood possums. Just for once it would be nice to be able to use some of these fruits before they are either decimated by wildlife, or end up ripening so fast that I can’t keep up with them.

FIG2

But who or why on earth would you want to eat a green fig? At this stage in their ripeness, (or lack of) green figs are about as attractive a food as an olive straight from the tree or an artichoke bud straight from plant. They are hard, fibrous and oozing a irritating, lactic sap when cut. In fact, they are exactly the kind of thing the Mediterranean food alchemists would have had fun with. But I have eaten preserved green figs in my travels and with a little research I was able to discover numerous recipes designed to make these inedible “flower buds” delicious  The majority were for unripe figs cooked long and slow in a heavy sugar syrup and destined to accompany cheeses once fresh figs run out. With a bit of a tweak  I have come up with something unmistakably Mediterranean, one which sees them stuffed with pistachio nuts and candied in a spiced, rose flavored, wine syrup. FIG3 Green Figs and Pistachio Nuts in Rose Scented Wine Syrup

24 small                  unripe green figs
24                           pistachio nuts – shelled
¼ cup                     dried rose petals
4                             cardamom pods
4                             cloves
1                              lemon – peel and juice
2 cups                     sugar
½ cup                     honey
1 cup                      water
1 cup                      white wine

Method

Cut a small cross into the base of each fig, place in a stainless steel saucepan cover with cold water and bring to a simmer, cook gently until figs are just tender.

While figs are poaching make a little spice bag containing the lemon peel, rose petals and spices using cheese cloth or a little square of chux cloth, tie securely with kitchen twine and reserve.

When tender drain and refresh figs briefly with cold water and then drain for a couple of minutes before stuffing each fig with a pistachio kernel by inserting it through the previously made cross in the base.

Meanwhile prepare a syrup with the sugar, honey, water, wine and lemon juice and bring to a simmer, skim any impurities from syrup and pour over stuffed figs and spice bag.

Bring back to a gentle simmer and cook until syrup is rich and thick (2-3 hours), remove figs if they are getting over cooked and reserve them to place back in syrup once it has reduced to the desired consistency

Bottle while still hot if the figs are too be used later in the year or simply refrigerate covered if you plan to use them within a few weeks.          

Some Like it Hot!

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With our Spicy new class, “Some Like It Hot” debuting in the Kitchen Studio next Monday it seems a good time to blog about one of my favourite recipes. You know the kind, the ones that you come across once in a while that become a life time favourite. Sometimes you discover them on holiday or in my case, ferret them out while travelling for business. On other occasions they may come via a favourite restaurant or a memorable meal, especially if the chef is feeling generous. Often they are passed down from the kitchens of family or friends. On the other hand of course, there are the recipe books that become much cherished, often for a specific recipe and this post is about one such recipe.

chilli Jam1

Anyone that knows me, also knows I have a weakness or passion for spicy cuisines and chilli, however I am rather particular. I am neither fond of the sweet gluggy, commercial chilli sauces comprised of nothing more than red chili flakes suspended in thickened sugar syrup with added food acid, nor am I a devotee of the “ blow you head off” chilli fan club, that reveres the scorching, palate numbing intensity of the Kala Ghoda or Ghost chilli. For me, as with all food I believe in balance and for me that’s why this recipe has stood the test of time.chilli Jam2

In fact for the past fourteen or so years my chili condiment of choice has been this recipe for Chilli Jam adapted from Christine Manfield’s timeless book “Spice”. Which, for the person just discovering the delights of spicy cuisines, is seriously one of the best Australian books on the subject. While currently out of print, it is worth tracking down a second hand copy (ISBN 0670870854) even if it’s just for the sections on condiments and spice blends alone.

chilli Jam3

But I digress, what makes this recipe special is that not only is it an outstanding condiment, to eaten on the side with just about anything (simple grills especially or even a bowl of plain rice) but it can also become an integral ingredient to stir fries or salads, instantly adding layers of flavor and complexity, unlike the goop  on supermarket shelves. It does have one drawback however in that it is not instant, it takes time and patience to cook the rawness out of the chillies and build richness, but then as every good cook knows, time and patience are a couple of the secrets to great food!

As for our class “Some Like It Hot” click here to see details and book

Chilli Jam (after Christine Manfield)

350g                       large red chillies – chopped
75g                         birds eye chillies – chopped
2                             onions – chopped
4 cloves                  garlic – minced
250ml                     sunflower oil
1 tablespoon          tamarind paste
30g                         palm sugar

Method

  • Blend onions, garlic, chillies and oil to a smooth paste
  • Cook in a heavy pan over a very low heat stirring occasionally until a very deep, rich red colour and the oil starts to separate, have patience this will take at least a couple of hours!
  • Stir in the tamarind paste plus a couple of tablespoons of water and the palm sugar, continue to cook very slowly  to develop the required depth of flavor and to integrate the sweet and sour characters from the sugar and tamarind
  • To store, spoon into a jar while still hot, and if needed float a little oil over the top and seal. Refrigerate for up to 3 months……that is if you haven’t eaten it by then!