One a penny, Two a penny…..

ready to eat

Yesterday our local supermarket was bereft of bread with the usual pre Easter panic shopping but there was a surfeit of those horrible chemical laden, artificial smelling, long life Hot Cross Buns, the ones that started appearing on the shelves the very day the Valentines day chocolate displays were out of the way…. You have to love our “Hallmark Events” culture.

Seeing these sad commercial things sweating it out in their plastic bags, I got to thinking about their origins. I seemed to remember that though they have been associated in our Anglo culture with the event that occurred on a Friday almost 2000 years ago (since at least the late middle ages), but their origin and design actually goes back much further.

Thankfully my trusty old go to pastry text “The New International Confectioner” a book that I have relied on and referred back to for almost 40 years, has a full half  page devoted to the history and mythology of Hot Cross Buns. Steeped in pagan rites, it cites ancient Babylonian fire symbols of a circle with a cross inside and notes that cakes and breads were routinely decorated thus, that the Ancient Greeks did a similar thing with the cross symbolizing the four phases of the moon and in fact many basic breads are still scored in much the same way as would have been the case two thousand years ago.

For example below are images of petrified bread from Pompeii, loaves created following ancient roman texts, modern day Khobz from Morocco, Irish Soda bread and German Easter Bread just to illustrate the form, style and cultural /ethnic traditions that pre-date the commercialization of todays Easter celebration but which all look remarkably familar.

breads

Of course the other misnomer with hot cross buns is the spicing, today, allspice and mixed spice make up the predominant blend, as well as commercial bun spice which is so strong it cant be natural. Interestingly though these spice mixtures are almost certainly Arabic or Levantine in origin, bought back by western Europe by the crusaders, or infused into Europe via the  Caliphate that occupied Spain and the Mediterranean for several centuries.

These sweet spices make up many of the most savoury seasonings in the Arab world and have become greatly used in French cuisine particularly through their incorporation into Quatre Epices. Of course the English adopted the French tradition and used these particular spices in their (originally savoury) mince pies, a fetid beef, suet and dried fruit concoction that was made palatable and sweet smelling by the use of these exotic spices. Clearly they developed a tasting or a liking for these relatively expensive ingredients as they went on to be used almost exclusively in luxury goods like cakes and pastries.

But getting back to where I started, my family all love a good hot cross bun, but I can’t abide the type one buys in the supermarket. So this being Good Friday, and with a little time to spare, I decided to step up and make some for the family. Personally, I like mine a little lighter in spice and not as sickly sweet,  and certainly without the awful mixed peel that tastes like citrus cleaning product, rather in its place Sukkade, a Dutch candied citron that is oh so delicate.

As for the  recipe, it’s pretty straight forward, we made ours in about 3 hours start to finish and the family loves them, I hope you do too.

Hot Cross Buns

500g                       plain flour
300ml                    water – luke warm
15g                          dry yeast
30g                         sugar
Pinch                     nutmeg – ground/grated
¼ teaspoon          clove – ground
½ teaspoon          cinnamon
30g                         butter
1 teaspoon            salt

20g                         Succade (Dutch candied citron peel)
30g                         currants
30g                         sultanas

1                              egg – beaten for glazing buns

Cross Paste
25g                        flour
30g                        water
1 ½ teaspoons    vegetable  oil

Bun Glaze
2 tablespoons    sugar
1 tablespoon      water
pinch of             cinnamon – ground
pinch of             clove – ground

Method – Makes 12:

  • Sift flour, then prepare a starter “sponge” by mixing a quarter of the flour with the sugar and yeast, stir in the water to form a smooth light batter, cover and leave to ferment until foaming and frothy.

bun dough

  • To this “sponge” add the remaining flour, spices, salt and butter and knead well until silky smooth, soft and elastic.

add fruit

 

  • Cover and allow to double, roll out and sprinkle currants, sultanas and Zuckader over, work in lightly, divide into 12 equal portions and shape into small rolls.

bun portion

  • Grease baking dish and place rolls in dish leaving about 1cm all around edges and between rolls to allow for expansion
  • Mix ingredients for “cross paste” and fill into a small piping bag with a fine nozzle and reserve.
  • Cover and allow to double again, buns are ready when they do not spring back when pressed.

egg wash

  • Brush with beaten egg, pipe cross over to decorate and bake in an oven preheated to 200C for 12-15 minutes.

crosses

  • While baking prepare the bun glaze by bringing spices, sugar and water to the boil

baked

  • Remove buns when golden brown on top and bottom, brush with bun glaze while still hot and leave to cool thoroughly (if you can!)

 

 

 

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!

Pav Bhaji – A Blog in Two Parts – Pt 2

 

Pav Bhaji

Last week I wrote about the special little bread rolls from Bombay (or more correctly today, Mumbai) called Pav. An indispensable part of the street food called Pav Bhaji (pronounced Pow Bar-jee), This vegetarian dish really is to Mumbaikars what the meat pie is to Australian blue collar workers,  quick, relatively cheap and filling.

Hardly a dish for polite society, my initiation to this Marathi treat came while I was spending a week in the kitchen of Colabas Konkan Cafe learning the finer points of this regions native cuisine from some of the Taj Hotels best local chefs. 046

As in every kitchen, they have a pecking order and despite being welcomed as an honored guest I was still the newbie, and like every newcomer to a kitchen brigade one has to pass muster with the team. For me this came in the form of a  secret food challenge, specifically lots of chili just for a giggle.

And so, on my second day, “as a treat”  one of the senior chefs made a incendiary version of Pav Bhaji (with apparently twice as much chili as would normally be used) but fortunately , over the years I have developed a reasonable chili tolerance, and knowing the game I grinned and bared it, and it paid off.

konkan cafe crew

With my initiation complete, working with these guys was an absolute joy and the rest of my week flew.  Not only did they take me under their wings and open my eyes to the “East Indian” style of cooking they specialized in, but they also helped school me on India’s myriad cuisines, ensuring I ate at dozens of their favourite, authentic Parsi, Gujerati, Sindi, Goan and Tamil places across greater Bombay. But back the Bhaji part of this dish.

Essentially a “Bhaji” is a simple vegetable dish in the local dialect, but in this guise the Bhaji is a dish of cooked potatoes, mashed and fried in lots of butter, with chopped onions, peppers and tomatoes plus the addition of peas, cauliflower and a spicy red masala.

Pav Bhaji Wallah - image from Food Republic

Although  first documented in the 1850’s,  the name is a kind of Creole. The word Pav clearly derived from “Pão” the Portuguese word for bread or roll and interestingly when they introduced this bread to this region almost 500 years ago they also introduced just about every other ingredient currently used in this version of “Bhaji” (with the exception of dried spices, onions and butter)

Despite these mixed origins, today “Pav Bhaji” it is one of the great original snack foods of India, and like most Indian snacks it is almost always cooked and eaten on the street rather than restaurants. As for serving, the “Pavs” are simply split, buttered and toasted and served to the side of the “Bhaji”, which itself is garnished with chopped onion, coriander and yet another spoonful of fresh butter. Rich, Spicy and Delicious!

 Bhaji (for Pav Bhaji)

200g                       butter
1 teaspoon             cumin seeds
1 teaspoon             garlic – minced
1 teaspoon             ginger-minced
1                              green chili – chopped
1                              onion – finely chopped
1                              tomato – finely chopped
½                           green capsicum – finely chopped

1 tablespoon       garam masala
1 teaspoon          Kashmiri chili powder
1 teaspoon          coriander powder
1 teaspoon          sweet paprika
1 teaspoon          turmeric powder
½ teaspoon        amchur (green mango powder)

1                             potato
½ cup                   cauliflower – chopped
½ cup                   carrot – chopped
½ cup                   green peas
Salt to taste

To serve:
4 pavs                   (see last weeks blog)
fresh coriander
chopped red onion
lime wedges- optional Method

Boil all vegetables except onions, tomatoes and capsicum until soft enough to mash – reserve.

Bhaji ingredients

In a large, flat pan or bbq plate melt a third of the butter, add cumin seeds. When they sizzle, add the chopped onions and fry until transparent, add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant.

Tomato Masala

Add green chilies, fry briefly then add the tomatoes and fry until mushy, then and add capsicum and dry ground spices.

adding spices

Mix and fry stirring constantly until capsicum softens, then add vegetables, mash and continue frying, stirring well.

mash veggies

Add another tablespoon of butter and keep frying for 7-8 minutes stirring constantly. Add a little water if the “bhaji” becomes too dry, check for seasoning and add salt to taste. This cooking time is really important to developing an authentic flavor

frying bhaji

While in this final stage, split pavs and fry /toast in another tablespoon of butter on the edge of the pan allowing the bun to crisp and absorb butter.

toasting pav's

To serve, garnish each portion of bhaji with a teaspoon of butter, some chopped onion, coriander leaves and serve with the toasted “Pavs” (you can also serve some fresh lime wedges to the side if you like)

Pav Bhaji

Pav Bhaji – A Blog in Two Parts – Pt 1

pav #8 For anyone that has spent more than a few days in Bombay there is one street food that seems synonymous with this city and that is Pav Bhaji. Rick Stein described it as like Indian bubble and squeak and he’s pretty close to the mark, think fried vegetables and potatoes but with heaps of ghee (instead of lard or bacon fat like my Nan’s bubble and squeak) and a decent amount of masala spicing and green chili.

If this sounds good, it is, even though its mildly addictive and pretty much a spicy heart attack in waiting. Served in what Mumbaikars call a “Pav” or “Pao” (pronounced POW) which is basically a sweet bread roll, and for a little extra fat they generally butter them and toast them on a griddle…. Insane!

While next week’s post will deal with the spicy vegetable curry or bhaji , today’s installment is about the unique bread that is Pav or Pao. Introduced by Portuguese settlers this type of bread survived both British rule and partition and is today pretty much regarded as the daily bread of Mumbai. In fact locals swear that Pav’s are not the same anywhere outside their city, even in neighboring Goa which has even stronger Portuguese ties.

“Pav’s” are quite unlike normal bread rolls, they are slightly sweet like hamburger buns but also slightly salty. As for shape and size, they are smaller and taller than baps or burger buns, more like a hot cross bun. One big difference is a deep golden glossy top that makes them look like brioche and they even have a buttery smell. (See the image at top)

Coming home with a longing for a Pao Bhaji fix , despite the filling not posing any problems, try as I might, I couldn’t find anything close for my Pav. Some local bread rolls were approximately the same shape and size but lacked the flavor, glossy top and buttery aroma, while others were just over sweet and artificial. In the end I ended up making them myself using the following really simple recipe and as an added bonus, not only are they great for their traditional use but they also make outstanding soft dinner or breakfast rolls, I hope you enjoy them.

Bombay Style Pao (aka Pav)

500g                       plain flour
300ml                    water – luke warm
15g                          dry yeast
30g                         sugar
30g                         butter
1 teaspoon             salt
1                              egg – beaten for glazing rolls

 

ferment Sift flour, then prepare a starter “sponge” by mixing a quarter of the flour with the sugar and yeast, stir in the water to form a smooth light batter, cover and leave to ferment until foaming and frothy. before mixing To this “sponge” add the remaining flour, salt and butter and knead well until silky smooth, soft and elastic. basic dough Cover and allow to double, punch down and divide into 12 equal portions and shape into small rolls. portioned doughGrease baking dish and place rolls in dish leaving about 1cm all around edges and between rolls to allow for expansion shaped Pav's Cover and allow to double again, brush with beaten egg and bake in an oven preheated to 220C for 10-12 minutes. Bombay Style Pav's Remove when golden on top and bottom and place on a cooling rack. Eat toasted or with butter.

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