We all have our idiosyncrasies …

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I just seem to have more than the average person…  and bad habits, but we won’t go into them.

Back to my idiosyncrasies, it is a much safer topic.  I don’t like to have too much food in the freezer or pantry or too many knickers or t-shirts in my drawers (too many cookbooks is just fine, as is too many kitchen gadgets).  If I think I have too much or too many of something, I get stressed.  I have been particularly stressed since I started growing tomatoes … I certainly have too many preserved tomatoes in the pantry. :)

I don’t know why it stresses me.  I hope it is because I don’t want to have too much when others (most in this world) have too little but I am guessing it is more deep-seated than that.

I think it has something to do with the fact that I also don’t like throwing out food.  It is great now that people are becoming more aware that the earth has limited resources so I can argue my idiosyncrasy is based on the fact that resources went into growing/producing that food and, therefore, the food should be used wisely.  But my idiosyncrasy was around long before people were worried about the earth’s limited resources.

It could be the fact that my mum lived through the depression and so valued everything she had.  It could be that my dad was very thrifty.  It could be that my dad died when I was very young so there wasn’t much money to be had or it could be that I am just a little weird.

Having three dogs has really aided this idiosyncrasy.  If there is excess of any fruit or vegetable in the fridge or freezer, it goes into a big pot of food I cook up for the dogs each fortnight.  Today, the pot included pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, zucchini, beetroot, beans, parsley and half a jar of nectarine chutney (that wasn’t a great success), along with the usual protein and carbohydrates.

But there is one thing the dogs don’t abide – marmalade.

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I made this mediocre mandarin marmalade in 2003 (yes, that was 2003), and still it goes on.  I think after the first taste I determined that it wasn’t the best marmalade I had tasted so the first jar languished in the pantry for an inordinate amount of time.  Eventually, I started looking for recipes that had marmalade in them to use it up.  That was 12 years ago and still the jars of marmalade linger.

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It is nearly solid, brown and all crystalised.  But still I won’t throw it out.  Resources went into growing those mandarins and making that marmalade and I intend to respect them.  :)  One of my favourite marmalade recipes is lunch box cookies from the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook (1979 edition) on which I wrote a post in April, 2013.  Just last week, a reader, Lesley, left a comment, thanking me for the recipe and telling me that it has been her favourite biscuit recipe for 40 years.

That reminded me why I had made the recipe in the first place – to use up some mandarin marmalade.  I was on a mission.  Not long after I read Lesley’s comment, a batch was in the oven.  And then the first thing I did when we arrived back in Perth was make another batch.  I explained to Maus the reason for the abundance of lunch-box cookies.  She was not perturbed.

The marmalade is absolutely fine in biscuits.  I either put it in the microwave to melt the sugar crystals before I add it to the biscuit mixture or I add it to the creamed butter and sugar and continue beating until all the sugar is dissolved.  Apart from the obvious benefit of using up the marmalade, the biscuits are very good.  I have been replacing the cup of raisins with ½ a cup of choc chips and ½ a cup of sultanas.  I think I will stay with that amendment.

After 12 years, I am down to 1½ jars of mandarin marmalade.  For 12 years, I haven’t bought a jar nor made another batch of marmalade.  I have another rule: I can’t buy something when I already have some in the pantry.  Luckily, over the years, friends and family members have given us several jars of nice marmalades so we haven’t been starved of it.

Next year, the mandarin marmalade may be all gone. I may even make another batch.  If I do, it should last me for the next decade.

Baking bread in my Römertopf baker

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Bread baking is so much fun, I just wish everyone would do it.  I know it seems a little tricky to the uninitiated but it needn’t be.  The hardest part is getting the dough into the blazing hot oven.  This usually requires either:

  • heating up tiles for one hour on the oven’s highest setting, then sliding the loaf onto the tiles and pouring boiling water into a tray on the botton shelf; or
  • heating the oven and an oven proof pot (usually cast iron) for one hour on the oven’s highest setting and then manoeuvring the risen dough into the pot.

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Ginger, honey and almond lace biscuits

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As promised, Belinda Jeffery’s ginger, honey and almond lace biscuits…

Belinda suggested that these biscuits would go perfectly with the honey pots de crème that were featured in my previous post so I thought I would give them a try.

I served the biscuits with the honey pots and they did, in fact, go very well but I have since been eating them with a cup of coffee and they are perfect that way, too.

Belinda notes that really good glacé orange peel (not mixed peel) makes all the difference to the flavour of the biscuits.  I still have piles of peel I made which I wanted to use (I am not sure whether Belinda would classify it as really good) but, if you are buying peel, you may wish to take heed of this note.

Belinda calls these biscuits “Deliciously chewy ginger, honey and almond lace biscuits”  but, in the recipe, she notes that they need to be a good deep colour or they won’t be crisp.  I am not sure whether they are supposed to be chewy or crisp.  Mine were a good deep colour and chewy (not crisp).

Belinda also suggested moulding them into different shapes  – “delicate, curved tuiles or tiny baskets – to cradle ice cream or fruit”.  I tried rolling them but they didn’t stay put so I gave up and flattened them.

The glacé fruit needs to be chopped very, very finely.  I allocated that job to Maus.  It took her one hour to chop 120g of glacé fruit.  I think the biscuits are worth the hour she spent (I haven’t asked Maus’ opinion.  Not that she would know because I ate most of them.)

Ingredients:

  • 135g almond flakes
  • 30g glacé orange peel, very, very finely chopped
  • 30g glacé apricots, very, very finely chopped
  • 60g glacé ginger, very finely chopped
  • 35g plain flour
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 100mls cream
  • 100mls clear honey
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 170°C.
  2. Line your baking trays with baking paper.
  3. Finely chop 75g of the almond flakes.
  4. Tip them into a bowl and add the chopped glacé fruit and remaining almond flakes.
  5. Sprinkle the flour into the bowl and coat all the fruit and nuts in the flour.  Make sure each piece is separated. Set the bowl aside.
  6. Put the butter, sugar, cream and honey into a saucepan over low heat.  Bring to the boil, stirring constantly.
  7. Let it boil for one minute then remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  8. Tip the almond mixture into the cream mixture and gently stir together until well combined.  Set the bowl aside for 12-15 minutes to cool.  (It will thicken slightly as it cools).
  9. Scoop heaped teaspoons of the mixture onto the prepared baking trays.  Leave plenty of space between each one as they spread quite a bit.  Use the back of the spoon to flatten the mixture slightly and shape it into a rough circle.
  10. Cook the biscuits in the pre-heated oven for 12-14 minutes or until they’re deep golden brown all over and slightly bubbly.  I found that not all the biscuits on each tray browned uniformly.  If this happens, take the tray out of the oven when the first ones are deep golden brown.  Leave them for a few minutes to cool then transfer the browned ones to a rack.  Return the tray to the oven with the remaining biscuits.  They are very forgiving.

 

Real food and honey pots de crème

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I got the best compliment the other day.  We invited two sets of neighbours over to dinner.  It was a hot day so the dinner was simple.  We had an assortment of nibbles and dips to start, including sun dried tomato tapenade and feta and walnut dip.  For mains, we had veal, chicken and apricot terrine with a simple cucumber salad and some roasted baby potatoes.  For dessert, we had these lovely little custards, accompanied by ginger, honey and almond lace biscuits.

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Summer Breeze

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This is a beautiful rose.  I just love the soft rose-pink flowers but, geez, it is hard to find much information on it.  What I do know is: this Summer Breeze, which was bred by Meilland (France) and introduced in 1987, should not be confused with the Kordes’ Summer Breeze which was introduced in 2000.  The Kordes’ Summer Breeze is a vigorous climbing rose which has bright pink single flowers with pale cream centres. Continue reading