Pickled Gherkins

Summer is preserving time, from making chutney & passata to pickled cucumbers and making jam. I have thankfully been given some jars, so I am back on track to get bottling. When I saw Quekes (baby cucumbers) on special I knew I had to make some more Pickles.

My dear friend Niina sent me Moomins Cookbook: An Introduction to Finnish Cuisine available here and I have made a couple of things from it, one of the best by far is their recipe for pickled gherkins.

Our kids love gherkins, as do we, they make a lovely addition to a Ploughman’s lunch, a quick easy pre dinner nibbles, or as an addition to lunch boxes. We can get them very cheaply here in Australia from tiny baby cucumbers the size of your kids fingers to the large Polish ones. However if I make them myself I know exactly what’s gone into them and there is nothing quite like home made in my opinion.

For this batch it almost seemed to take longer to get the sticky goo off my jars than it did to make the actual pickles. Then you just let time take it’s course and in about a month or two we’ll be enjoying our very own pickled cucumbers.

I think you’d be able to use this recipe as a base for other pickled vegies like carrots, cauliflower and onions as well as bread and butter cucumbers.For the amount pictured I double the recipe and had exactly the right amount of liquid. I leave out the horseradish, black current leaves (as I don’t have any) and the dill because it makes my nose itch to the point where I would gladly remove it from my face. You can make it to suit your tastes as well.

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You will need:

Some large glass preserving jars or smaller ones if you’re planning on slicing the cucumbers or gherkins.

Firstly wash your jars in hot soapy water and allow to soak to remove the labels and any goo from the labels. Once they’re clean, rinse well and place on a tray in the oven and heat for 10 mins at about 180 degrees Celsius.

1 kg of Gherkins or baby cucumbers

For the stock:

300ml of water

200ml of wine or apple cider vinegar

160g of sugar

1 1/2 tbsp salt

Seasonings:

1 tbsp allspice berries

1 tbsp mustard seeds

1 tbsp whole cloves

1 tbsp sliced garlic – optional

1 tbsp freshly grated horseradish – optional

For the jar:

2 dill flowers

2 black current leaves

Wash the gherkins well and cut them into slices.

Layer the slices in large sterilised jars together with the seasonings. If you like mild gherkins leave out the garlic and horseradish (as I mentioned above I only leave out the horseradish and they’re delicious, not to spicy at all).

Simmer the ingredients for the stock. Allow to cool, then pour enough stock into the jars to cover the gherkins. Close the lid tightly and store in a cool cellar or pantry (dark cupboard).

I doubled the quantity of stock based on how many cucumbers I had, I also poured hot stock over the cucumbers and microwaved each jar for 30 seconds in order to get the stock hot enough to create a vacuum when you put the lid on. Some people say you don’t need to worry, but I prefer to ensure the jars are sealed properly. Plus I like hearing that little click that happens when the suction forms. Yes you can call me crazy :D.

I hope you love these as much as we do. It’s a little taste of Finland, Thanks to Niina and the Moomins!

Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam in the making

Strawberry Jam in the making

We are in the midst of holidays at the moment and while the weather is warm it’s certainly not hot. I am not complaining, to me these sunny days are what makes a perfect summer. It’s warm and if you were in a sheltered spot it’d be hot, but the evenings are cool and make for good sleeping.

Yesterday was a very lazy day so today we needed to get out of the house and off to the market as we’d used up all our leftovers and we were all going a little bit stir crazy. First stop was Aldi. Now I have sung their praises before and today was no exception. Punnets of strawberries for 99 cents! Yes you read that right. It’s not even worth driving to pick them yourself for that price.

I figured these were going to be the eat them now or make something with them kind at that price so the kids and I went over them with a fine tooth comb and just as I was about to remind Sophia to be careful because she dropped a punnet and they opened up we discovered a mouldy one in there – nice one Soph. So with 9 punnets in tow I was prepared to come home and make either Jam or Sorbet.

Jam won out as I don’t have an ice cream machine. I removed all the stalks and cut the berries in half and ended up with 1800 grams or 1.8kg of fruit after the kids sampled some. I knew you could make jam with roughly equal quantities of fruit and sugar.

So for this amount of fruit which was washed after hulling and placed in a Very large saucepan I added 1.8kgs of white sugar and the zest and juice of two limes. Add this to the saucepan and cover for an hour or so to allow the sugar to bring out the juices. Then bring it to the boil and then simmer and stir for 20-30 mins or until you can feel it start to thicken. Definitely DO NOT walk away from it during this time, the last thing you want is for the sugar to catch or for it to boil over. Truth be told I started in the saucepan you see above and had to transfer it to a deeper pan as it came to within millimeters of the rim…

I put a saucer in the freezer and as the jam started to thicken I drizzled some onto the saucer and put it back in the freezer for 5 mins. When you can push it with your finger and it leaves wrinkles you know it’s ready.

That amount of fruit has yielded a small jar, 4 larger size jars and one enormous jar of jam and a bit extra which we’ll need to use now as I have run out of jars and I am seriously regretting donating my collection of jars to the op shop when we moved!

Now all we need are some scones and cream to go with our jam. Happy sunny days!

 

 

Birthdays are FUN

Tomorrow is Zachie’s 5th birthday so we had a party for him on the weekend and it was a rip roaring success. He was in heaven seeing all his friends in the one place, declared they’re all his BEST FRIENDS! I went the traditional route of pass the parcel and hide and seek but for the most part the kids just played and had fun.

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On the menu there were funfetti cup cakes  which I have made before and my helpers do love to put the 100’s & 1000’s on them. A fruit platter with Truck watermelon, Little Sausages in pita bread, and slow roasted lamb souvlaki with Baba ganoush and Tzatziki. Jelly Oranges & a Prime Mover Road Train birthday cake!

Truck Watermelon

Just like my Mummy used to make :)

Just like my Mummy used to make 🙂

I wanted to be able to prepare almost everything but I thought it would be fun for the kids to be able to make their own little souvlaki. So I roasted two mini lamb legs and served them with some roasted potatoes and all the bits that go with them.

Needless to say I got a mouthful, hubby reported it was all fantastic! 😀

Slow Roasted Lamb

You will need

2 mini lamb roasts (or 1 big one)

2 large cloves of garlic, sliced

50 g butter

handful of fresh oregano, chopped

Juice of 2 lemons

Olive oil

Salt & Pepper

250 mls of water

4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into medium chunks.

Preheat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius. Make a couple of incisions in the lamb and slot in some of the garlic, put the lamb into your roasting pan and season, sprinkle over the oregano, remaining garlic and pour over the lemon juice, olive oil and add the water to the bottom of the pan. Put the butter in knobs over the lamb and roast for 15 mins on each side.

Then turn the oven down to 160 degrees Celsius, add the potatoes to the pan and toss in the juices and cover and bake for at least 2 & 1/2 hours or until done. You want the lamb to literally fall off the bone and be able to break it up with a fork.

Baba Ganoush

This is really too easy for words, once you’ve made it a couple of times I think you can play around with the quantities and be guided by your tastes. I used 3 medium size eggplants to make enough for 20 people.

You will need:

3 medium eggplants

1 large clove of garlic

1/2 cup tahini

400 mls natural yoghurt

Juice of 1 lemon

Olive oil

smokey paprika

Place the eggplants over the gas burner on your stove and allow them to “Cook” for 10 mins on each side or until they start to collapse in on themselves. It’s important to keep an eye on them though. Once they’re charred all over remove from the heat and place in a plastic bag and allow to sweat for 10 mins.

Then carefully remove the skin from the eggplant, you need to make sure that none of the charred skin remains otherwise your dip will taste burnt rather than smokey. Set the eggplant aside.

In a mortar and pestle crush your garlic with 2 tsp of salt, then add some of the eggplant (this depends on the size of your mortar) you can fork it as well, but you want it chunky and not completely smooth. Transfer the mix to a large bowl and add the tahini, yoghurt, any remaining eggplant and lemon juice.

Mix well and pour into your serving dish/bowl. Make a little well in the centre and pour over some olive oil and sprinkle with a small amount of paprika.

Prime Mover Birthday Cake

Apple & Blackberry Crumble

Thanks to Peppa Pig the kids are having this tonight for dessert. Zachie requested by asking Mummy do we have any apples? Do we have any Blackberries? Yes, yes Zachie we do… why? Can you please make apple and blackberry crumble?

Apple and Blackberry CrumbleI made a small one probably enough to serve 2-3 or 4 for kids. It’s a very easy dish to make and takes no time at all!

You will need

Apples

Blackberries

Sugar

Water

Butter

Plain Flour

I worked on equal parts of apples to blackberries, for this one it was 2 Royal Gala apples to about a cup of blackberries. (If you’re using frozen make sure they’re Australian Grown and packaged to avoid any nasty chemicals, or better yet use fresh ones.

Simply stew the fruit in about 1/2 a cup of water. When the fruit is soft but still holding it’s shape add sugar to taste and reduce the liquid. Pour the fruit and syrup into an oven proof dish. Heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. While the fruit is cooking rub butter into the sugar and flour so that you have the consistency of wet sand. I used approx 1 cup of flour to 1/3 cup of sugar and 100g of butter, you want the crumble mix to hold together if you crush it in your hand.

Sprinkle over the fruit and bake for approx 20 mins or until golden brown.

Serve with either ice cream or cream.

 

Who doesn’t love a scone?

We had a catch up today with our Mother’s Group, we have been meeting for nearly 5 years and are still going strong. A very dear friend & colleague gave me her scone recipe (The English Scone) it is without question the easiest and least time consuming recipe ever!

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I am sure my darling Jeanma (Dad’s Mum) would be none to impressed that there is no butter in this recipe, but I tell you even the purists would go for these. So thanks Paulina, You ROCK!

You will need

3 cups of self raising flour

3 tsp sugar

a pinch of salt

1/2 cup cream

1.5 cups milk.

METHOD:

PREHEAT oven to 220 degrees. Put all dry ingredients into bowl, whisk for a few seconds using a hand whisk. Add cream and milk, stir LIGHTLY using a thin spatula or knife ( the less you mix, the lighter and fluffier the scone) Pour sticky dough onto a floured board. Sprinkle some flour on top to prevent your hands sticking. Pat dough lightly to even it out. Dip your scone cutter into flour and cut out scones. Repeat to prevent dough sticking to cutter.

Put them together on a baking sheet if you want ‘pullaparts’ or place them separately if you want individual, crusty topped scones.

Cook for about 11 mins until hollow sounding when tapped. Take out of oven, cover with a clean tea towel until ready to serve with whipped cream and good quality jam.

Note: This mix is really really sticky, have faith it does work, I have played around with it just a little and because it’s so wet I get two dessert or soup spoons and make rough quenelles and spoon the mix onto a lined tray and end up with pull a parts.

Sensational is an understatement!

Butterfly Salad – using up your leftovers

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Christmas has come and gone as too has New Years Eve and we’ve had lots of left overs in the fridge. Our kids are spending almost every day in the pool and that will definitely be the case for the next week as we head into a week of between 30 & 40 degrees Celsius. I decided yesterday the best way to ensure they eat dinner was to feed them by the pool so I made up a salad of diced cucumber, tomatoes, feta & lettuce dressed with a little balsamic vinegar, sliced some yellow & red capsicums (bell peppers) and cooked up some of the leftover veggies in the fridge like asparagus, add to that some BBQ sausages & lamb chops from the night before and voila you have a salad which was demolished quick smart! Although the asparagus was fed to Daddy 😀 all round though a colourful tasty combination.

A Christmas Spin on the Chelsea Bun

Yellow Cherry & Sultana ScrollsMerry Christmas and a VERY Happy new year to you all. I have to apologise again for my lack of posting – I have struggled to find time to write with working etc I must say I have missed it and I am looking forward to more regular postings. That said Christmas is always my chance to get creative in the kitchen. We don’t do traditional in our house and we haven’t for a long time, but now we don’t as we’re a pork free house so no Ham’s etc and Turkey is well and truly overrated in my opinion.

So this year we went with Steak – Angus Scotch Fillet – Jamie Oliver’s Lamb Lollipops which are just gorgeous, this year we didn’t make all the trimmings, but had salads etc on the side. Prawns of course, paprika potatoes & delicious desserts which I will share in another post.

The above scrolls were made for our Mother’s Group Christmas party which ended up being a breakfast as all the kids are early risers and it just made sense. So I brought a fruit salad dressed up Christmas style and these scrolls.

Christmas Fruit Salad

We have had copious amounts of Yellow Cherries and I have made jam and stewed the remaining which I used to make these scrolls.

You will need:

2 tsp dry yeast

1 tsp sugar

2 ½ cups plain flour, sifted

½ cup warm milk

185g softened butter

1 Tbsp sugar, extra

1 tsp mixed spice

1 egg

¼ cup soft brown sugar

good handful of sultanas

about 1 cup of stewed fruit – I used Yellow Cherries.

1 Tbsp milk, extra for glazing

2 Tbsp Sugar, extra for glazing

Glace icing

½ cup icing sugar

1-2 Tbsp milk

What to do:

Combine the yeast, sugar & a couple of tablespoons of the flour in a large bowl, add the milk and mix well. Set aside in a warm place until it’s frothy and thick. This should take about 10 minutes.  While you’re waiting for the yeast to activate sift the remaining flour into another bowl and rub in the softened butter with your fingertips until it resembles coarse sand or breadcrumbs. Stir in the extra sugar & the mixed spice. Add this to the yeast mixture with the egg and mix well using the dough hook on your mix master. Work the dough until it comes together to form a smooth ball.

Lightly oil your mixing bowl put the dough in and cover with cling film and place in a warm place to allow to prove for an hour or until it’s at least doubled in size.

Pre heat your oven to 210°C 415°F or gas 6-7. Ensure your mixed fruit is finely chopped if you’re making your own. Beat an extra 50g of butter with the brown sugar & mixed spice until it’s light & creamy. When your dough is ready, knock it back and roll out to approx 40 x 25cm (16 x 10 inches) rectangle, Spread the butter mixture all over the dough to within 2cm of the edge of one of the longer sides, spread the stewed fruit all over the dough and then sprinkle the sultanas all over it.

Roll the dough from the long side, firmly and evenly to enclose the fruit. Using a sharp knife cut the roll into evenly sized pieces about 2 ½ cm thick. Arrange the slices onto a well greased oven tray with the seams facing inwards. Flatten slightly, cover with cling film and set aside to rise for 30 mins or until they’re well risen again. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown & cooked. When they’re almost ready stir the milk & sugar in a small saucepan over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved, brush this mix over the hot buns. Cool & mix the icing sugar, drizzle over the buns. You should get about 12 – 15 smallish buns.

Enjoy! I am also thinking they’d work wonderfully with stewed apricots or any other stewed fruit!