Friday, December 19, 2008

Sugared rose junket

As with the basic junket recipe below, you can of course use a different kind of rennet, and adapt the temperatures and quantities to that.

You need
A small handful of fragrant rose petals (if in doubt, try less rather than more, to start with)
2 cups milk
Caster sugar
Mild-tasting honey (optional)
Vanilla to taste
Curds and Whey vege rennet
A thermometer

To make
Add the rose petals to the milk, and heat it gently in a pot to a scalding temperature. (Till little bubbles are just forming round the edges, but it's not simmering.)

Take it off the heat, cover it, and let it cool to 31 degrees.

By that stage the roses should have released a lot of colour and fragrance. (I love seeing how the petals fade.)

Strain the rose petals out.

Quickly mix in two BIG teaspoonfuls of either caster sugar or mild honey, till dissolved.

Add a drop (or 2 or 3) of vanilla and quickly stir.

Mix a couple of drops of rennet with a tsp of water.

Stir the rennet/water into the milk for 15 seconds or so.

This is your junket mix. Pour it into wide shallow bowls or glasses and leave to set.

Don't move the junket at all while it's setting. That can break the curd.

Once it's set you can refrigerate it. (Not before.)

Just before you serve, sprinkle a good coating of caster sugar over the surface. I don't know what it is, but this makes all the difference - the rose junket goes from being 'interesting' to 'completely delicious'.

(The sugar is the reason to make this junket in a wide shallow bowl - so that you have more surface area to sprinkle sugar over.)

Eat it straight away before all the sugar has become syrup. The crystally texture of the sugar is key!

* This rose junket is a great accompaniment to fruit salad. It's also nice served with a garnish of fruit and edible flowers such as borage or calendula petals. (I especially liked it with bananas and strawberries.)

* You can make moulded junket by lining your bowls with baking paper or waxed paper before pouring the junket in to set.

When it's set and refrigerated, put the plate flat over the top of the bowl and turn it very gently upside down. The junket will come out with the paper still on it. Then just gently peel the paper off.

Then you have EVEN MORE surface area for the sugar.

(And hopefully you can do a better job than me at getting the paper unwrinkly before pouring the junket in - see pic above!)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Basic junket

Junket is a delicious dessert, as well as classic invalid food.

It's great for subtly showcasing the flavours of the honey you use, and it's fun to experiment with different honeys.

For rennet, I use curds and whey vege rennet, but any kind will do of course. Alter the temperature and quantity according to the instructions for your own rennet.

You need
2 cups milk
2 big teaspoonfuls of honey
Vanilla to taste
Curds and Whey vege rennet
A thermometer

To make
Gently heat milk and honey together in a pot, stirring to mix in the honey.

Keep an eye on the temperature and take it off the heat at 31 degrees.

If it heats up further, just let it cool to 31 again before you do the rest.

Add a drop (or 2 or 3) of vanilla and stir quickly.

Mix a couple of drops of rennet with a tsp of water.

Stir the rennet/water into the milk for 15 seconds or so.

This is your junket mix. Pour it into bowls and leave to set.

Don't move the junket at all while it's setting. That can break the curd.

Once it's set you can refrigerate it. (Not before.)

Have it plain, or sprinkle on a little nutmeg or cinnamon.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

How to get those little black bugs out of flowers without washing

It's not a recipe, but I stumbled on this idea while tearing my hair out over the hordes of little critters in our elderflowers the other day. I've since used this method with roses as well.

4 reasons not to wash flowers that destined for culinary or medicinal use
1. It can damage the fragile petals

2. Flowers readily release their fragrant/flavoursome/active components into water, and you don't want to wash any of that valuable stuff away

3. If you're making something like wine, where you want plenty of wild yeasts, you don't want to wash yeasts off.

4. I'm not convinced that washing gets all the bugs out anyway. Sometimes I think it just makes them stick to the flowers soggily.

The bugs

I don't know if other people get these exact bugs in their flowers. They are very tiny and black and crawl fast. They are the only creatures I get in my flowers usually. I have no idea what they are, but I don't want too many of them in my cordial or wine or fritters!

Getting rid of them

You need two BIG pale plates or bowls. (Transparent bowls work well too.)

Put the flowers in a pile on one of the plates, and watch the mass exodus! The bugs all start speeding out from the pile of flowers towards the edges of the plate.

Now pick up the flowers, and put them on the other plate. Quickly rinse all the bugs off the first plate, and dry. (Sorry, bugs.)

Now more bugs will be running out to the edges of the second plate, so switch again and rinse and dry.

Keep doing this, switching between the plates. Gradually there will be fewer and fewer bugs coming out.

At a certain point it starts to feel like washing rice - like no matter how many times you do it, you will never quite be finished. But just gently turn or agitate the flowers a bit each time you put them down, and watch for curled petals where bugs might be hiding in a fold, and eventually no more will come out. Then you can remove any final die-hards with your fingers.

There you are - bug-free flowers.

And if you do end up missing just a few, you can always strain them out of the finished flower wine/syrup/cordial ... Or if it's flower fritters you are making, just think of them as a little protein bonus.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Solar-cooked underground vege curry

I was going to call it a root vege curry, but then I realised potatoes and onions are not officially roots, so I had to go a bit more general.

Cashew nuts
Your favourite curry powder or paste
Coconut cream

(Adjust quantities according to taste and how much room you have in your best thin, dark solar-cooking pot. To maximise heat with my solar cooking equipment, I would not fill my pot much more than half full ... but you are the best judge of your own solar cooker's capabilities.)

To make
Chop onions very thinly. Slices 1-2 cm long and 2-3 mm thick have worked best for me

Chop potatoes and kumara into small cubes.

Chop carrots up however you like them, but smallish.

Throw all veges into the pot, along with plenty of cashew nuts.

Add curry powder/paste and stir round to coat veges.

Mix coconut cream with water till it's a thinly syrupy sort of thickness.

Pour the diluted coconut cream over the veges until it nearly covers them but not quite.

Stir the whole mix some more until the curry is well integrated into the sauce.

Add salt to taste.

Seal it all up, put it in your cooker, and leave in the sun for a day.

Solar cooking info
The basics: how solar cookers work

Instructions and plans for making a host of different solar cookers

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Onion-flower tempura

This has been a big hit in our family. The helping below looks sparser than I would have liked. Stealthy fingers got to the plate before I managed to take a photo ...

- 1 cup standard grade flour
- 1 cup water
- 1 egg
- Salt to taste (anything from a pinch to a teaspoonful)
- Cooking oil (I like olive oil, but whatever you normally use)
- A handful, a bowlful, or a basketful of onion weed flowers - as much as you feel like

To prepare the onion weed flowers
Unless you are really worried, don't bother to wash them.

Cut the flowers off their stalks 1 - 2 centimetres below where the flowers join the stalk. This holds the clusters together, and gives you enough stalk to grip when you dip them in the batter.

To make the batter
Chill the water till it's icy cold. You can put it in the freezer for a bit, or add ice cubes to bring the temperature down more quickly. It has to be really, really cold.

Whisk the egg in a bowl.

Add the icy water and whisk some more.

Add the flour and salt, and mix gently and briefly with a spoon. You want to just barely mix it in - and don't worry too much about lumps.

Use the batter immediately.

To cook
Put about half a centimetre of oil in a frying pan, and heat to medium high.

Once the oil is very hot, dip each flower into batter then drop it into the oil.

When a battered flower is lightly browned on one side, turn it. They won't take very long.

Remove each battered flower as soon as it's lightly brown on both sides, and place on a paper-towel-lined plate.

To serve

Eat unadorned or with a dipping sauce. Soy sauce, or something based on it is nice.

Trouble shooting

If the tempura comes out at all soggy, try hotter oil or even colder batter, or both.

A bit about onion weed
Local wild plants gallery

Friday, October 17, 2008

Kawakawa Honey Ice-cream

This is a custard ice-cream infused with kawakawa leaves. It's delicious, but you don't want to have too much of it at one time. Kawakawa is not just an amazing culinary herb, but a potent medicinal that makes your mouth tingly. (Although if you leave the ice-cream a couple of days after making it, some of the mouth-tingling properties disappear.)

I make custard using a high-heat method, but if you have a different way you prefer, you can easily adapt this recipe to that.

6-8 kawakawa leaves (choose the bug-eaten ones - the bugs know best!)
2 cups milk
¼ cup sugar
4-8 large egg yolks. (4 will work if you’re trying to be stingy with eggs, but more eggs will make the ice cream creamier. Your choice.)
½ tsp vanilla essence
¼ cup honey

A saucepan
A wide flat saucepan or frying pan
A wooden spoon
A whisk
A sieve

To make

Put the milk in a saucepan.

Finely chop the kawakawa leaves and add them in.

Bring the milk almost to the boil (so there are little bubbles round the edges) then take off the heat. Stir, cover and leave 10-15 minutes to infuse.

While the infusion is going on, put the egg yolks into your wide flat pan, and add the castor sugar.

Stir gently with a wooden spoon, till the sugar grains are evenly distributed through the egg yolk.

After its 10-15 mins is up, reheat the kawakawa/milk infusion to scalding temperature.

Take it off the element. But leave the element on, and make sure it's turned to medium-high.

Add the milk/kawakawa infusion very slowly to the sugar/egg mix in the wide pan, stirring all the time.

Once it's all added, put the wide pan onto the hot element and start stirring madly with the wooden spoon. Scrape the spoon across every part of the bottom of the pan regularly, to make sure the egg doesn’t cook hard.

Very soon you'll notice the texture of the mix change. It will look thicker, less foamy, and the bubbles will be bigger.

Do a quick test to see if it’s ready. Run your finger across the custard sticking to the back of the wooden spoon. If your finger leaves a line, the custard is ready.

As soon as it’s ready, whip it off the heat, snatch up your whisk, and whisk away as fast as you can to bring the temperature down. Keep whisking for a couple of minutes or so, then relax.

Add the honey and vanilla and stir in.

Strain the whole mix through a sieve into the container you want to freeze it in. This will get rid of both the kawakawa leaves and any little lumps in the custard. (If you do all this really fast, there should hardly be any though.)

To freeze without an ice-cream maker
Put the bowl in the freezer and leave for an hour or so.
When the edges are freezing, push the frozen bits down into the unfrozen bits and stir briefly and gently.
Repeat approximately every hour for about four hours. (Actually, as time goes on you may need to stir it a little more frequently than every hour, as the freezing picks up speed ... it depends on the temperature in your freezer.)

About Kawakawa
Local wild plants gallery

Monday, September 22, 2008

Lemon Kefir Icecream

This deliciously addictive recipe has done the rounds on the internet. The online English version originated with Clothilde Dusoulier at Chocolate and Zucchini. We’ve adapted it to our own resources (home-fermented kefir, no agave, no icecream maker) and our own needs (two family members don’t like bits of lemon zest in their ice cream!)

4 small lemons
1 1/2 cups fermented milk kefir
1/3 cup sugar

To make
Peel the lemons.

Squeeze the lemons into a pot, and add the peel and the sugar.

Gently heat the pot, stirring till the sugar melts.

Turn off the heat, cover, and leave to cool, with the peel still in.

Put the kefir into a bowl.

Strain the cooled lemon/sugar mix into the kefir, and stir well.

To freeze without an ice-cream maker

Put the bowl in the freezer and leave for an hour or so.
When the edges are freezing, push the frozen bits down into the unfrozen bits and stir briefly and gently.
Repeat approximately every hour for about four hours. (Actually, as time goes on you may need to stir it a little more frequently than every hour, as the freezing picks up speed ... it depends on the temperature in your freezer.)

To serve
This can freeze very hard, so I usually leave it out of the freezer for 10 mins or so before serving.
The texture is sometimes crumbly, so when you scoop it out, you may need to do a bit of compressing as you scoop!

* You can use buttermilk or yoghurt instead of kefir.

* Honey is nice instead of sugar. You can just heat the peel in the honey without the lemon juice, and add the lemon juice to the kefir after, without heating it. (I like the mildness of clover honey for icecream recipes.)

Getting hold of milk kefir
Contact your closest Weston A Price Foundation chapter and ask about it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Cleavers Lemonade

Cleavers (Galium aparine) is best known as that weed you can stick onto your clothes – but it has a history of herbal use as a purifying tonic. Added to homemade lemonade it makes a refreshing and astringent drink.

Cleavers stems and leaves from your garden – two or three cups (gently pushed down)
Lemonade fruit or lemons – 3 big ones or 4-6 smaller ones
1/2 cup of sugar

A juicer, or a blender and a square of muslin
A 1-litre measuring cup

Make the cleavers juice:

It's probably easiest to harvest cleavers with scissors, snipping off the smallest, choicest looking lengths.

Wash the cleavers well, and make sure no bits of other plants have snuck in.

Put cleavers through your juicer, or if you don’t have one, into the blender. Whizz it up and then strain and squeeze through muslin.

This should make at least a quarter of a cup of juice. If you have more than that, you can freeze it for future use.

Note: When you juice it or blend it, you may need to add a couple of tablespoonfuls of water to make it process properly.

Make the lemonade:

Peel the lemons (or lemon fruit).

Put the peel into a pot and add half a cup of sugar and half a cup of water.

Turn on the heat under the pot and bring almost to the boil, stirring sometimes to make sure the sugar all dissolves. Leave to cool.

Squeeze the peeled lemons into the 1-litre jug.

Add a quarter of a cup of the cleavers juice to the jug.

Strain the cooled sugar/water/lemon peel mix into the jug.

Top the jug up to the one litre mark with cold water.

Chill (and decant if you like). Shake or stir before serving.

Variations to try
Add more or less sugar according to taste.
Use honey instead of some or all of the sugar.
Use chickweed (Stellaria media) instead of some or all of the cleavers.
Top up with tonic water instead of ordinary water.

About Cleavers
Traditionally, cleavers has been used for a number of purposes, but especially for cleansing the lymphatic system. It’s a diuretic, so you might not want to drink TOO much at one time.

See the Plants for a Future entry on cleavers.
(It has other names as well as cleavers - they call it goosegrass.)

See my blog entry about Cleavers Lemonade.

Also - my gallery of local wild plants