Thursday, October 27, 2011

TOMATO FEVER

A tomato-growing frenzy hit my office this week. Colleagues who have never grown a single vegetable are joining the club.
Better get this replanted, staked, watered and fed

Instead of filling the world with more chocolate bars, some clever local school fundraisers are selling mature-for-this-time-of-year tomato plants.

One green-fingered woman was ahead of the game and filled her greenhouse with hundreds of seedlings, spurned from a tried-and-tested Italian cherry tomato seed.

Luckily for Coogee Public School, they have the right contacts. My TV station colleague Jane has been shipping into our office as many tomato plants as she can carry. By lunchtime she's all sold out.

I'm trying to get a wee competition up - see which person in TV-land can grow the best crop of tomatoes. I'll even offer these tomato growing tips I recorded last summer.



A gardening columnist recommended planting tomato seeds a few months back, in order to have a crop in time for Christmas. Well, my babies only hit the dirt a few weeks back so I doubt I'll make the deadline.
My own very young tomato seedlings, planted a few weeks ago in egg cartons

 However,  thanks to Coogee's very smart school fundraising scheme, we may just get there.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

PICNIC TIME: LEMON AND CRANBERRY SCONES


Billie loves picnics. She wants every meal to be a picnic. Her teddy bears join her for imaginary picnics on the balcony. At the playground she insists first on settling on a park bench and 'having a picnic' of sultanas and crackers. Only then is it time for some slide action.

While I'm often tempted by cafes, I feel much better when I'm organised enough to pack some bits to munch on. The best is when I take the time to bake. You save on dough and it (usually) tastes better.

WHO HAS TIME TO BAKE?1 I hear you shout. One word: SCONES. Easy. Quick. Always impressive. And you can add all sorts of bits to create sweet or savory twists on the old fashioned classic. No need for jam and cream here.

It's been hard to plan picnics in Sydney of late as we wake up to wintry mornings that sometimes turn into summery afternoons. Last weekend Billie and I headed to a friend's in Darlinghurst, prepared for a picnic in the shelter of her studio.

How happy we were when our gamble to venture over to Elizabeth Bay paid off. We spread out in this gorgeous little oasis, complete with fish ponds and green slopes worth rolling down.



The lemon peel in these scones is sensational. Don't omit it. But you can skip the cranberries, or swap them for some currents, sultanas etc.

This recipe is adapted from my old favorite, Cynthia Lair's Feeding the Whole Family.


RECIPE: LEMON CRANBERRY SCONES

2 cups wholemeal flour
1/8 cup brown sugar 
 3 teaspoons baking powder
small pinch salt
6 tablespoons cold butter
1 cup dried cranberries, or currents etc
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3/4 cup butter milk (or just grab another teaspoon lemon juice and stir through milk)
Extra butter for serving

Preheat oven to moderate, about 350f and 180c. Grease an oven tray.

Combine flour, sugar baking powder and salt together in large bowl. Mix the butter through with a butter knife, and then finish with your hands to create a crumbly mix. Stir through cranberries and zest. 

Make a well and pour in the buttermilk/lemon milk and the extra lemon juice. Mix gently but swiftly until you have a moist dough. You may have to add a few more drops (but only drops) of milk.

Place the dough on a floured bench/table/board and knead quickly and gently with your floured hands. Create an 8 inch circle and cut into eight wedges - like a pizza. Use a slice/spatula to carefully transfer scones onto the prepared oven tray. Bake for 20 mins or until just golden. Check them after 15 minutes if you have a hot oven. Cool on a wire rack, and eat as soon as possible.

If you are taking them out to eat, reheat them quickly in a nearby oven. They will stay warm during the walk to the park. Slice in half and spread with butter. (But they are fine eaten at room temp too.)


Thursday, October 6, 2011

MUESLI TIME


I've been sitting on this post for a while, thinking muesli was perhaps not so worthy of an entry.

However, after watching a certain uninspiring food program on TV last night - where the host ate muesli at a cafe near my house and then met the home cook responsible for the cereal - I realised the world needs my muesli.

One problem I had with the recipe demonstrated last night was the unnecessary butter and sugar it was loaded with. This is also a problem, I think, with many commercial muesli and granola brands.

I'm all for putting butter and sugar where it belongs - on toast, in cakes and biscuits. But I don't need them in my breakfast cereal.

Muesli is Billie's No.1 food. She asks for it all day. And muesli bars, which I must learn to make.

Billie loves to help mama make the muesli. So does Big Teddy.

I should credit my folks with inspiring this recipe - I've adapted and made it my own but it's similar to the one my dad makes.

RECIPE: TWO-SPEED MUESLI

 Lately I've been keeping half of the raw dry ingredients aside in a jar to serve to Billie. Each morning I soak it in freshly squeezed orange juice and perhaps a bit of boiling water. Just for a few minutes, so the juice is still fresh with vitamin C. Raw muesli is easier to chew too.


If you are happy with a simpler, healthier muesli then omit the wet ingredients and just eat raw as above. You can soak with water, milk, yoghurt or juice for a few minutes before serving, or overnight if you want it really soft.

If you like a crunchy, slightly sweet, toasted muesli  - then go the whole hog with the recipe below.

'I want to pour it'


DRY INGREDIENTS:
5 cups whole oats
1 cup wheatgerm
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (optional)
1 cup coconut (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 cup ground linseed (or LSA, but plain linseed if you can)
1 cup raw almonds, chopped quite finely

WET INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup coconut oil or rice bran oil or light cooking oil

 Place oil and honey in small pot over low heat and cook until just bubbling.

Meanwhile, combine dry ingredients - except almonds and linseed - together in large flat oven tray or baking dish.

Pour hot wet ingredients over muesli and quickly stir through. 

You can serve the muesli as is, without toasting, and this is good for little ones not up for lots of chewing.

But for the real tasty deal, place tray of muesli under grill and stir frequently, or place in medium oven and stir every five minutes - keep an eye on it as you don't really wanna burn it.

Add almonds and linseed (I believe you lose some of the goodness during cooking, especially with the super omega-packed linseed. But I may be wrong, so don't quote me.)

Once cooled place in airtight container. But you can eat it while it's still hot. Yum.


'I want to eat it'.
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