Monday, November 15, 2010

Gypsy vegetable stew

I haven't posted a recipe for quite a while, I have been busy with establishing my new enterprise, The Tailor's Apprentice, where I mentor you over 10 weeks to make the gown of your dreams.  I haven't stopped my love of cooking however, I just haven't blogged about it! Since I last wrote we have planted out our summer veggie garden and got a chook, still a youngster but growing fast and hopefully we will get our own eggs soon.

Since I left my city job in April, I have been getting unfit, too much time enjoying myself in the studio and kitchen and not enough time exercising. So my friend Justine from Empowered Beginnings, is working with me to get back to my fit and healthy self, her motto is:
“Whether you’re planning on bringing a new life into the world, or improving your own – we all have a birthright to be healthy and happy!”

 Justine wants everyone to be empowered to eat well, healthily and to exercise to get the best potential out of their lives. She and her partner have started Friday Night Feasts at their place where we all bring a home cooked meal made from fresh, organic ingredients and cooked from first principles and as seasonal as possible. I made Gypsy Vegetable Stew in my Dreampot Thermal Cooker, the recipe is by Suzanne Gibbs from her Pressure Cooker Recipe Book, I adapted it slightly and added organic chicken to the mix.

Gypsy Vegetable Stew

2 white or brown onions, sliced (I used whole spring onions)
2 green or red capsicums, halved, white insides and seeds removed and then sliced into thick strips (i used red and yellow)
3 zucchini, cut into chunks
2-3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (I left them whole)
1 eggplant, cut into chunks (I didn't use this)
2 tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 x 400 g diced tomatoes or 1 punnet cherry tomatoes (I used tinned tomatoes)
1 chicken breast, cut into chunks
Salt and freshly ground black pwepper
!/3 cup olive oil
Juice of one lemon

I also used the following:
1 large handful of Pumpkin, cubed
1 large handful of Sweet potatoes, cubed
1 large handful of Potatoes, cubed 

All my ingredients were organic and locally sourced, some from my garden.

1. Arrange the vegetables and chicken in separate layers, first the onions, then capsicum, zucchini, garlic, chicken, eggplant, lastly the fresh or tinned tomatoes, sprinkling each layer with pepper and salt. Pour over olive oil and lemon juice.

2. Close the lid of your pressure cooker (I used my Dreampot as a thermal cooker, see below for details *), bring the cooker to high heat, once low pressure has been reached, reduce the heat to stablise pressure and cook 5 minutes.

3. Release the pressure using the natural-release method and remove lid. Serve warm or at room temperature.

* Dreampot method:

1.Organise ingredients as for Point 1 above.

2. Place Dreampot saucepan on cooker, bring to a boil, boil gently for 15 minutes.

3. Remove Dreampot saucepan from cooker and put into Dreampot thermal container.

4. Leave for a minimum of 2 hours (mine was the full 7 hours as I made it in the morning)

This recipes is simple, healthy and delicious, not much else you can ask for in a one-pot meal really.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Salzburger Nockerl

In February this year we had a a friend from Germany visiting us, we met years ago in a choral group and have remained good friends ever since, even with the world separating us.  On this visit she made us this fabulous, delicious and super easy desert called Salzburger (as in Saltzburg) Nockerln (dumplings). She whipped it up without a recipe and I transcribed as she went and I meant to post it as soon as possible after her visit, but I lost the recipe and have been nagging her to send it to me and finally she has found the time, so now I am sharing it with you.

Salzburger Nockerl is a sweet dish typical of Austrian cuisine  that is especially popular in Salzburg, as its name implies. Its a Soufflé omelette baked in three’s on a large  dish and served hot with a sweetened strawberry (or fruit of your choice) flavoured cream or jam sauce.

How to make Salzburger Nockerln
Recipe is taken from Kochen, Die grosse Schule“ by Arnold Zabert

6 large eggs (separate into 6 egg whites and 6 egg yolks)
50g fine white sugar
1 vanilla bean
40g white wheat flour
butter to grease the oven dish
2 table spoons of icing sugar to sprinkle on top

optional: fruits of your choice, like cherries, plums etc. (from a jar or tin)
Preheat the oven to 200

In a large bowl beat the egg yolks with 30g of the sugar for 5 minutes  with electric beaters until they are thick and creamy.

Cut the vanilla bean open and extract the pulp with a knife, then add the pulp to the egg yolks and spoon it in.

Beat the egg whites until they are very stiff, then add the rest of the sugar.

With a spatula carefully mix the stiff egg whites and the flour, spoon by spoon, into the egg yolks. Make sure you spoon as much air into the mixture as you can to make it very fluffy.

Grease an oven dish with a bit of butter. (Don´t choose the dish too big so the Nockerln will rise and don´t just cover the base.) With the spatula place 3 long pyramid shaped bits of the mixture into the dish (“Nockerln”), one next to the other, so they fill the whole dish.

Immediately put the Nockerln into the hot oven, bake for 15 minutes and don´t open the oven door in the process. The Nockerln are ready when they get a bit golden brown on top but are still soft inside.

Sprinkle the hot Nockerln with icing sugar (use a tea streamer) and serve immediately.

You can serve the Nockerln with heated up fruits (with a bit of their own juice) from a tin.

As I said above, this is an elegant, delicious and super easy dish to make for a dinner party, give it a try!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Working for me, not the boss

Two months ago I left my well paid, but extremely frustrating, full time job, to work for me and not the boss, this has been a huge change in my life and has kept me so busy that I've had no time for my personal blog. This post talks about how this huge change has affected me.

I was a NSW public servant, working in eBusiness, project managing the development of such things as websites, applications, and at the end, the move to social networking through Twitter, FaceBook, blogs, etc. I commuted from our Blue Mountain's cottage to the Sydney CBD, a three hour return journey for 9 years!

Last year, this commute, plus my growing unhappiness and lack of fulfillment in my work sent me searching for other career modes that would free me from both commute and 'working for the man'.  I wanted something away from technology, I love using it, but was so tired of trying to convince managers that social networking wasn't 'risky'! A friend had become a marriage celebrant a few years earlier and so I investigated the idea and loved it, it suited me to a 'T'. So last year I returned to study and qualified as a registered Civil Marriage Celebrant and started the journey to my new business of Offbeat Ceremonies.

Being a Celebrant is such a complex and important role, I strongly believe that birth, coming of age, death, menarche, menopause, marriage and commitment ceremonies are rites of passage that need to be thoughtfully and appropriately marked for us to fully transition into the next phase of our lives. Being a Celebrant means that I work with people so they can transition between one phase of their lives to the next. A Celebrant marks these important stages, we are a gatekeeper and shaman and ritual maker. Perfect for a woman who has reached her third age.

Instead of office politics, I get to be with people who want to reconnect to community, who take time to mark and celebrate each new season of life, its a role where I can celebrate important and significant parts of people's lives.

I'd never run a business, had no idea what to do, so I went in search of a business coach who would be my guide and 'shaman' into this next phase of my working life. I found @TerriCook of SuccessZone through Twitter and she has been helping me turn from a 'desk jockey' to a small business entrepreneur who runs Offbeat Ceremonies.

Through Terri I found my 'Purple Cow', Seth Godwin's groundbreaking idea of niche markets. Once I found it, I spent ages finding out the who, what, why and how of them, once this was locked down I could design my marketing strategy, graphics,website around my niche. This is what I've been working on rather than blogging!

All of this has been a revelation to me, I have learnt so many new skill sets and discovered strengths that I knew nothing about. I am loving my business coaching and I would highly recommend @TerriCook to anyone who wants to take the plunge and change their life around.

At Easter I left my job and took early retirement to further develop Offbeat Ceremonies. I was apprehensive and scared of this step, iis hard to move from the secure boundaries of a good fortnightly salary, not to mention holidays, long service leave and sick leave! After a holiday in Melbourne I came back and panicked, 'argh! what have I done' but @TerriCook worked me through it and while I'll be hit by these doubts again, being my own mistress and doing what I want to do is so empowering!

Since I've been working from home, my life is enriched with so many wonderful community ventures, I've started to learn belly dancing and ukulele, get more into my yoga practice, create more in my studio, currently an 1880's 'saloon girl' outfit with a lovely bustle!  I am volunteering at the BM Coop and have been offered a local job for two days a week with Summit Gear, which I am enjoying immensely and gives me a weekly income as I build up the business.

I also spend time on my business, networking, reaching out, marketing and I'm running a competition at the moment:

Join my FaceBook Offbeat Ceremonies fanpage by COB on 31 May and you could win a wedding, commitment or vow renewal ceremony valued at $650!

I am loving the freedom of my new life, I love my clients who are people in love with each other, with life and the world. I love that I have more time for the things that are important to me, my beloved partner, my friends and my business.

The most exciting thing of late is the creation of two videos about Offbeat Ceremonies by @jerelmani and @Lizzzzzzigal from Who Needs a Secretary, once again I met them both through Twitter. A wonderful and creative pair and to quote them

We can handle all of your media requirements inhouse – including professionally produced corporate videos. Our video production team includes specialists in television production and interview techniques. Our team is ideal for working with media shy talent, helping bring out the best in our interview subjects. Take at look at Lorna McKenzie’s latest video, for her Blue Mountains based business, Offbeat Ceremonies.

So, as invited by Who Needs a Secretary, here's the link to my YouTube videos, go and find out about my passion for Offbeat Ceremonies

Why Offbeat
Rites of Passage

May good fortune rule over you,
Peace live in your heart,
And the stars watch over you.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Link love ~ blogs I love

A page of link love, this page will grow and change, so visit often.

Australian women
Tina Used to be Mummified Times Five, but has recently changed names. Tina and I met on Twitter and her blog is informative, amusing and down to Earth and I like that a lot.

Inside Cuisine Rebecca Varidel & guests sharing recipes & more from Celebrity Chefs, restaurants, food producers & farmers, travellers, friends … another Twitter find @frombecca
A page of link love, these are bloggers that I admire and enjoy, the list will grow and change, so visit often.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Five minutes a day fresh bread

I've been baking bread again this year, I've even set up a blog about it Bread with Elizabeth and I'm working my way through recipes I like from Elizabeth David's Bread and Yeast Cookery

All the bread recipes I read say that the bread making should work around your schedule, not that of the bread's, but starting from scratch each time can be time consuming and it can be hard to resist the temptation to 'pop out and buy some bread'

So when I came across this five minutes a day fresh bread recipe in the Mother Earth Newsletter, I was delighted. The method allows you to mix up a big batch of bread mixture, store it in the fridge and it requires NO kneading, saving time and still providing good quality bread.

Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François created the method "When you want fresh-baked crusty bread, take some  dough, shape it into a  loaf, let it rise for about 20 minutes, then bake. Your house will  smell like a bakery, and your family and friends will love you for it."

I'm hooked and have been using this method to bake our bread throughout March as its so darn 'easy peasy'!

I'm not going to reproduce the recipe here as you can either buy their book or follow the method outlined on the Mother Earth website. Let me know how you go with it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Making yogurt

Along with bread making, I've been hunting out the perfect home yogurt recipe over the last few weeks. As with bread, I used to make my own yogurt, but then delicious organic yogurt became available and it seemed easier to buy it.

Of late, we've been looking at ways of reducing our income, I'm working less at the day job so I can spend more time doing the things that make my heart sing and therefore we need to reduce our spending. The cost of our delicious organic yogurt is quite expensive, plus the cost to the environment of every plastic pot makes me less than comfortable.

Last year we bought an EasiYo kit, sadly, the yogurt made from their packets wasn't that pleasant, not like the thick delicious yogurt that we preferred, so I abandoned making it. However, the EasiYo kit has been brought back as its the perfect environment to incubate delicious, creamy, thick, yogurt.

I asked RL, Twitter, FB friends how they made their yogurt and the consensus was the same, use good organic full cream milk, the addition of dried milk powder and a good yogurt starter to start the first batch and then go on with your own.

So, here's the mix I gleaned from everyone and after a few attempts I now get perfect thick, creamy, rich and healthy yogurt.

3 and a half cups organic unhomogenised milk
1/2 a cup of organic milk powder
2 large tablespoons of good quality yogurt culture - bring up to room temperature

Mix liquid and powdered milk together and then heat the milk till just under boiling point. Heating the milk both assists the yogurt in thickening and kills nasty bacteria that you don't want to incubate. Let it cool to around 42 - 39 C. Once cool, mix in the two tablespoons of yogurt, then pour into your container to incubate. I put it into the EasiYo plastic bottle, then pour hot water into the EasiYo incubater but only up to the bottom of the red stopper. Put your bottle in and leave for at least 6 hours (I leave overnight), then refrigerate, and once cool, enjoy.

If you don't have an EasiYo incubator you can use a wide mouth thermos for exactly the same result.

So we are saving money, enjoying the pleasure of creating something ourselves and have reduced our plastic intake.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pickled onions

We are going back to basics in our house, trying to reduce the household budget. We're baking bread and making yogurt, cooking 'two dinners for one' meals, taking our lunch, eschewing cafes and bought coffees, making our own Saturday special breakfasts, having dinner parties at each others houses rather than going to restaurants. We are 'making do and mending' and its damned enjoyable.

We made pickled onions today, they're actually not my favorite pickle, but they are the wife's, and as she came home with pickling onions on Saturday, what could a home cook do but pickle them?

We looked at a few recipes, chose the method and recipe from Food Preserving at Home p.56 by John Gross, then adapted the recipe to our memories of our mother's pickled onions and what we had available on hand.

Pickled onions a la Azure Hills
Made three 500 ml jars (1) of pickled onions

1 kg pickling onions
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup salt
500 mls white vinegar
500 mls apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup  Panch phoran (a Bengali spice seed mix)
15 peppercorns
6 cardamon pods
6 cloves garlic
6 bay leaves
3 nutmeg cloves

Peel your onions, easy way to do this is put them in a bowl and cover them with boiling water, leave for 2 minutes and then transfer to a bowl of cold water. Leave the ends of the onions on as it keeps them from coming apart.

Place the peeled onions in a bowl, cover with the cup of salt, cover with cold water, leave for a minimum of 12 - 18 hours in a cool place, fridge is good. Drain onions, then rinse and drain again.

While your draining the onions, put your vinegar, sugar and Panch phoran into a saucepan, bring to a simmer, simmer for 15 minutes.

Pack your onions into hot, clean 500 ml jars (heat jars in the oven), leaving 13 ml headspace. Add 5 peppercorns, 1 garlic clove, 2 bay leaves, 2 cardamon pods, and 1 nutmeg clove to each jar. Heat pickling liquid to a boil. Pour boiling liquid over onions in bottles, make sure the Panch phoran is distributed between the jars, leaving 13 ml headspace for expansion. Remove the air bubbles from the bottles.

Remove air bubbles, wipe rims and seal jars. We had left over pickling vinegar and we will use it as a lovely flavoured vinegar for salad dressings etc., an extra bonus.

Use a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, to process the filled and sealed jars, for the safest of preserves.

Leave the pickles for a minimum of 24 hours before opening, the longer you leave them, the more the flavours will mature.

Boiling water bath
Fill a big pot, deep enough for your bottles to fit in and be covered by water 25cm deep above the lids.

Fill the pot with water, bring to the boil, when just under boiling, place jars into pot, make sure they are covered by 25cm water above the lids, then bring to the boil. Keep boiling for 10 minutes, then remove jars from hot water, place on a tea towel and let cool. The lids will 'pop' and fully seal the pickles as the bottles start to cool down. Don't leave pickles in the water bath as it will cook them and remove their crunch.

(1) Don't buy new jars, recycle old ones and buy new lids, go to Green Living Australia for more information.