Sunday, 25 September 2016

Chilli Oil

Sometimes I have guests who do not eat chilli. A little drizzle of this will lift a dish without the need for chilli in the cooking. Simply pour some of oil over an individual meal, a few drops to start with so that you get the amount of chilli you like.

I make a big bottle once a year, allow it to infuse for twelve months or so, then strain and use the oil over the next year. The process is very simple. The jar should be packed with chillies so choose a jar that is the appropriate size. I often make smaller jars so that I can do a taste testing throughout the year.

How to

Sterilise the jar(s)

Wash and dry the chillies

Blanch the chillies in a mixture of boiling vinegar and salt. I use 1 1/2 cups vinegar and two tablespoons of coarse salt. 

Blanch the chillies in batches, remove from the vinegar solution and place on paper towel.

Pack the blanched chillies into the sterilised jar. Pour olive or grape seed oil into the jar making sure that the chillies are fully submerged. Seal the jar and store in a cool cupboard. Over time the colour of the oil will gradually become pale red and develop a hot chilli flavour. This takes a long time, at least twelve months.

Strain the oil into a sterilised bottle.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Toasted Muesli

I often make toasted muesli as a little gift for friends instead of giving chocolates or biscuits. It is easy to customise or personalise the blend according to the recipients preferences, some seem to like no fruit, others no nuts, or a higher or lower proportion of oats.  This recipe is my starting point. Use the same combination of ingredients but leave the oats, almonds and seeds untoasted for plain or natural muesli. 

Toasted Muesli
200 g rolled oats
100 g pumpkin seeds
100 g sunflower seeds
100 g almond slivers
50 g hazelnuts, roasted and skins removed/ rubbed off and cut in half.
50 g sultanas
50 g cranberries
50 g dried apricots, cut into small pieces 

Preheat oven to 180 deg C.

Line two trays with kitchen parchment. 

Cover one of the trays with the rolled oats and the other with the seeds and almonds. Place the trays in the oven and bake until pale golden brown. Stir once or twice during the baking. This will take fifteen minutes or a longer. 

Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well.

Store in an airtight jar. 

The mixture settles a little so Give the jar a shake to evenly mix the contents before pouring into a bowl.

Sometimes I give a bag of my Breakfast Crunch mix with the muesli.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Salmon with Sun Dried Tomato and Spinach in Puff Pastry

I make these quite often, they are a good for a simple lunch or dinner. The salmon parcels can be made in advance and kept refrigerated until required.The oilyness and robust flavour of salmon combines well with the earthiness of the tomato. The pastry keeps the fish moist and provides a contrasting crisp and flaky texture. Serve with a crisp salad for an easy and tasty meal. I use the semi sun dried tomatoes that are available in the delicatessen section of supermarket or food stores.

The flavours can be altered according to your preferences and what is in your fridge. A few olives, a little crushed garlic, sliced mushrooms or some julienned vegetables. For these I used semi sun dried tomatoes and baby spinach.

This is the process

Cut each fillet in half and open out to form a thinner piece, place the semi sun dried tomatoes on top

Add some baby spinach leaves and a little black pepper if desired

Cut a sheet of pastry in half and place the fish portion at one end of the pastry.

Fold the sheet over so that the fish is enclosed, press the pastry together. Leave a border of pastry, trim away  the excess and then roll the edges of the pastry over. Place on a tray lined with baking parchment. Brush with milk or an egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake in a hot oven (200 deg C) for approximately twenty minutes or until the pastry is puffed, flaky and golden brown.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Muesli Cookies

Having had a few days away I needed to get back into the kitchen. I always enjoy baking and the biscuit jar was empty. We used to jokingly refer to these as health cookies because of the muesli. I no longer use muesli for these, although, a commercial muesli mix could be used. I prefer to make my own blend of oats, seeds, nuts and dried fruit. When I first made these cookies I simply stirred the muesli / oat combination into the mixture. Now I use a food processor to make the butter mixture and then add in the oats and whizz until the oats are coarsly ground. I remove the mixture from the processor and then stir in the remaining ingredients. If using commercial muesli use three cups, if making your own blend the combination of sultanas, seeds and nuts needs to be about two cups. Oat bran is used for rolling the cookies, however, some rolled oats ground up finely would work.

Muesli Cookies
250g butter, softened
1cup raw caster sugar or 1/2 cup caster and 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sultanas or combination of sultanas, cranberries, currants, chopped apricots 
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup almond slivers or roughly chopped hazelnuts
1 1/4 cups plain whole meal flour
1/2 cup oat bran (approximately)

Cream butter and sugar, add egg, vanilla and baking powder and mix well. If using a food processor add the oats and whizz to grind. Place the mixture into a bowl.

Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Roll mixture into balls and then in the oat bran.

Place each cookie on a tray lined with baking parchment and flatten.

Bake at 170 deg C until pale golden brown

Cool on a rack.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Buckwheat and Rye Soda Bread

Soda bread is an unyeasted bread that uses bicarbonate of soda for leavening and is quick to make. The chemical reaction between the bicarbonate of soda and the yoghurt and milk makes the batter rise. This version uses cooked buckwheat which gives the bread a grainy texture and a flavour similar to pumpernickel. I usually cook the buckwheat in advance and let it go cold, however, the cooked grain only needs to cool a little and can then be mixed up into the loaf. The recipe can be altered to use all whole meal flour. Cooked oats can be substituted for the buckwheat. Delicious with smoked salmon, cheese or lightly buttered and with soup. 

Small rolls can be made by cooking the batter in muffin tins, reduce the cooking time.

Buckwheat and Rye Soda Bread

1 1/2 cups cooked buckwheat (3/4 cup uncooked)
60 g melted butter
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
1/2 cup milk ( maybe a little more)
1 tablespoon brown sugar 
1 cup rye flour
1 1/2 cups whole meal flour
1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Place buckwheat in a pan of boiling water and cook for twenty minutes. Drain.

Combine cooked buckwheat, melted butter, yoghurt, milk and sugar in a mixing bowl. 

Stir in the salt, bicarbonate of soda and flours. Add a little extra milk if necessary, the batter should be soft.

Spoon into a greased and lined loaf tin or large muffin tins.

Bake at 200 deg C for twenty minutes, reduce heat to 180 deg C for a further twenty to thirty minutes or until cooked and skewer comes out clean.

Place cooked loaf on a cooling rack and allow to cool.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Farewell to Perth

No trip to Western Australia in Spring would be complete without wild flowers.  We were able to find some, although, too early for the spectacular displays at King's Park. There were lots of kangaroo paws in flower

Lots of clumps of Donkey Orchids

And large drifts of these 

I think they are called cat's paws

There has been a lot of relaxing and walking along these fabulous paths

that often have signs like this inserted. A good way to encourage people to get out and walk, run or cycle.

There were plenty of birds to watch. This Raven was great to watch - same tree, same time every day and not the least bit worried by me coming close.

It was a good to spend with my relatives and have a relaxing holiday with them.

Sunset and Farewell to Perth

Sunday, 4 September 2016

The Reason We Came

We came to Perth for this.

A proud moment, my son Liam, all 'kitted out' in the Australian gear and ready to race. It was a great opportunity for him as a newcomer to the sport and such a thrill for him to be selected to compete.

It has also been great to spend a few days with my Aunty Rey and Uncle Nic. 

They live close to the Swan River with a nature reserve nearby. I have enjoyed many walks around Lucky Bay and the nature reserves.

The walking/cycling paths are excellent and well used with seats and places to watch the many waterbirds that are in the reserve.

Morning, noon or night the red flowers on this tree were glorious

It was so exciting to get close to this bird, it was almost as if it wanted to be photographed.

My Italian cooking lessons continued. A batch of these delicious pizzelle sandwiched with a lemon custard. Trying to decide if I need to purchase the waffle machine to make them at home.