When you are reading through this food blog – or any other – don’t be fooled into thinking that we’ve got it all sorted in the kitchen. Behind those gorgeously styled photo’s (well, gorgeously styled on other’s blogs, mostly thrown together on mine) are hours of chopping, slopping, slicing, mixing, spilling, cooking, arranging, cleaning up – and the occasional failure. Such was the case for me (yet again) on the weekend.
While trawling the interwebz (instead of doing the washing/ironing/housework) I happened upon an inspiringly lovely image and recipe for carrot jam. I’ve seen this in Middle Eastern grocery stores and often wondered about the flavours it might hold, but never taken the plunge. Having been away from the kitchen for a week my cooking mojo was sparking and I had already made a batch of plum jam. Not wanting to waste the elderly and now slightly bendy carrots in the optimistically named crisper, and with some clean jars still lying around, I was pretty sure this jam was in my immediate future.
The recipe I had found was spiced with cardamom, which I love but, never one to resist a tweak, I added lots of ginger and a cinnamon stick. I followed the recipe to the letter and stirred diligently for over 40 minutes, but sadly never achieved the glistening, sticky consistency I had been promised. Perhaps it was because I had grated the carrots in my Thermomix, thus slightly pulverising them, rather than using a grater – I just don’t know. However, I was left with a saucepan full of very sweet, very fragrant, still slightly crunchy carrots that I had no intention of wasting.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but there are quite limited uses for sweet carrots. I knew the persnickety teens would probably turn their noses up at a carrot pudding and while the idea of a carrot baklava was very appealing, what I was really looking for was a quick fix. Once again casting my eye around the pantry and fridge for things that needed to be used up I found a tub of walnuts and a packet of cream cheese. Carrot cake always inspires instant filial devotion in this house so there it was – a no brainer.
Most carrot cake recipes are probably basically the same, but this old standby has always pleased my lot. I didn’t need to add sugar (the “jam” had 2 cups of sugar in it) and reduced the amount of oil, but added another spoon of spices – I do like to taste them, after all! This was unreservedly the best carrot cake I have ever made, although I couldn’t recommend my recent path as the most energy or time efficient way to get to the end result – however this simple recipe is also very reliable just as it is.
- 1½ cups plain flour
- 1 rounded tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1½ cups caster sugar
- 180 mls vegetable oil
- 3 eggs
- 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- 5-6 medium sized carrots, grated
- 1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
- CREAM CHEESE ICING
- 250 gms cream cheese
- ½ cup icing sugar
- juice of half a lemon
- Preheat oven 180C. Grease and line 22cm spring form cake pan.
- Combine all cake ingredients, except carrots and nuts, in a food processor and whizz until well combined.
- Add carrots and nuts and stir through.
- Pour into cake pan, bake 55-60 minutes until done. Test with a skewer.
- Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool on a cake rack.
- Combine icing ingredients in food processor and whizz until smooth.
- Ice cake when cooled.
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Well folks, I’ve been a little lax on the seasonal secrets front for a while now, but with Jupiter Creek CSA up and running I’m back on deck for a regular weekly posting of inspired ideas for using up that gorgeous, fresh, local produce.
I was very excited to find some wickedly good looking heirloom carrots in my boxes and couldn’t wait to get them into some dishes. The apathetic adolescents roused themselves from their customary torpor long enough to express disquiet about the unexpected colour of some of the carrots and so found themselves on the receiving end of a brief discussion on heirloom varieties, the preservation of biodiversity, vegetable colours and associated nutrient values.
The growing focus on industrial agriculture and it’s reliance on limited varieties of plant strains is resulting in both a dangerous diminishment of biodiversity as the older heirloom varieties vanish from the fields and a concurrent reduction in nutrient levels of food crops. Heirloom fruit and vegetable varieties are a reservoir of genetic diversity and continued production of them will help maintain a larger food crop gene pool and help safeguard against possible future food crises. Add to this the fact that nutritional research has shown that colourful vegetables contain different and essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals – all of which are necessary for optimal health. As a very loose, general guide it is safe to assume that the deeper the colour of the food, the more nutritionally dense it will be, so the deep purple carrots in my box were clearly edible powerhouses.
One of my very favourite ways to prepare root vegetables is to simply slow roast them. I just adore the sweetness that they take on as the sugars caramelise in the oven and I love playing around with fresh herbs and different spices to add a flavour kick. In order to beef up a particularly bland meal the other night (a special request for comfort food – tuna mornay) I bathed chunks of carrot in local olive oil, then sprinkled quite liberally with ground cumin, coriander and Murray River salt, before slow roasting them – heavenly. Tonight I think we’ll be taking advantage of the last of the milder weather and enjoying a carrot salad. I bought myself a nifty julienne slicer and have a big bunch of fresh herbs to use up, too. Carrot salad can be just about anything you like, but this will be our version tonight.
- 1 orange carrot, julienned
- 1 purple carrot, julienned
- 2 spring onions, finely sliced
- ½ cup chopped fresh herbs (I used basil, coriander, parsley)
- 150 gms feta cheese, cubed
- 2 Tbsp sunflower seeds
- 2 Tbsp honey
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup raspberry vinegar
- Freshly ground pepper
- Sea salt
- Toss carrots, herbs and feta together.
- Whisk honey, oil and vinegar together, add salt and pepper to taste.
- Toss vegetables in dressing, then sprinkle with sunflower seeds before serving.
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Well folks, it is a sad week for Adelaide Food Connect subscribers. No link to this week’s box, but for all the details on the demise of Community Supported Agriculture in it’s current form in Adelaide, check here.
You will note I said “in it’s current form”. While there is a great deal of disappointment in the Food Connect community, there is far more goodwill and I urge you all to bring it with you when you attend the (yet to be announced) public meeting. The meeting will be held to address the issues of account settlements, but will also be an opportunity for us all to look at new ways carry on the future of CSA here in Adelaide. Please bring all of your ideas and enthusiasm to this meeting so that together we can help raise a phoenix from these ashes.
In the meantime, this weekly post will not stop – it will just alter it’s name slightly and will henceforth be known simply as “Seasonal Secrets”. It may take me a little longer to change the title on the blog page – I’m having a little problem with that. (Any help from Thesis buffs gratefully received.)
So – on to this week. It’s a glorious day today, but I’m told that winter is on its way back this weekend and what better way to challenge it than with a big pot of soup? There are plenty of soup options in the boxes this last week and, if you are looking for spinach suggestions, might I suggest shredding it finely and bunging it in with whatever soup you make. Leek and potato is a favourite in our house, dead simple and can be instant greened up by the addition of the shredded spinach towards the end of cooking, but before the mulching part of the procedure. Broccoli soup is another simple dish and the spinach won’t be spotted by even the most vigilant teen in an already green soup.
The perfect accompaniment to soup is a fresh, warm, cheesy savoury muffin and, depending on what you put in them, they can just about be a meal in themselves. They are also very easily frozen – brilliant for a weekend bake-up to save time on school lunches during the week. These are limited only as far as your imagination and I’ve put some suggestions at the bottom of the recipe – so knock yourselves out!
- 2 cups SR flour (white or 1/2 wholemeal, 1/2 white)
- approx 1-2 cups of additions (see suggestions)
- 1 cup milk (or 1/2 cup buttermilk, 1/2 cup milk)
- 125 ml oil or melted butter
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Preheat oven 180C.
- Grease or spray muffin tray.
- Mix dry ingredients together.
- Mix wet ingredients together.
- Blend together, mixing until only JUST combined.
- Spoon into muffin pans and bake 20-30 minutes or until they are golden brown and spring back when touched.
It is generally wise to combine grated cheddar with parmesan for a cheesy muffin or the fats in the cheddar will be too heavy for the muffins.
A combination of grated cheddar cheese and grated parmesan, cubed feta, grated zucchini, carrots, pumpkin, chopped capsicum, chopped roasted capsicum, mushrooms, olives, finely shredded spinach, chopped sun dried tomatoes, chopped bacon or ham, finely chopped fresh herbs, chopped nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds etc.
Number of servings (yield): 12
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This weekly post is aimed at offering some simple recipe suggestions to the subscribers of Adelaide Food Connect weekly fresh produce boxes. It can be a challenge to deal with the same seasonal produce week after week and I hope to help inspire with fresh ideas. The link to the list of contents for all the boxes is here.
It’s the end of another week and we are now officially over the “hump” of winter, with the celebration of the winter solstice yesterday – our days will now gradually begin to lengthen, although we have a long way to go yet folks. I was thrilled to find parsnips in my box this week and will be celebrating with a big roast over the weekend.
I spent a bit of time cooking last weekend and some of you who saw my Facebook posts were keen check out the recipes which I promised to share today – so here they are, as promised, although at the cost of a spinach recipe this week.
First up was a very simple Moroccanish carrot and red lentil soup.
Carrot and Red Lentil Soup
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 50 ml olive oil
- 4 medium carrots, cubed
- 200 gms red lentils
- 1-1/2 litres chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
- sal & pepper
- Heat oil over moderate heat and saute onions and garlic until soft and golden.
- Add carrots and continue to saute until they are just beginning to change colour and caramelise a little. This helps to bring out the sugars in the carrots, making the soup richer and sweeter.
- Add lentils, stock and cinnamon stick. Bring to boil and simmer gently for 20-30 minutes until the lentils and carrots are soft.
- Remove cinnamon stick and puree soup with a stab mixer or cool it and put it in a processor and whizz until smooth.
- Return to pan, add cumin, coriander and season to taste.
- Reheat over gentle heat until hot, but not boiling.
- Serve, adding a good squeeze of lemon juice to each bowl.
Number of servings (yield): 6
I also made a cake which was an old favourite, shared with me by a friend more years ago than I care to remember, that I had completely forgotten about. It popped back into my head last weekend when I was searching for ways to use up my glut of lemons. It is quite rich, but seriously good – and especially wicked with an extra drizzle of pouring cream over it.
Lemon, Apricot & Ginger Sour Cream Cake
- 185 gms butter
- grated rind of 1 lemon
- 1 1/4 cups caster sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 chopped, dried apricots
- 1/3 cup chopped, crystalised ginger
- 3/4 sour cream
- 2 cups plain flour
- 1/2 tsp bicarb soda
- Grease and flour a 20cm Baba or ring tin.
- Preheat oven to 160C.
- Cream butter, rind and sugar until pale and fluffy, add eggs one at a time and beat until combined.
- Fold in apricots, ginger and sour cream.
- Sift flour and bicarb together and fold into mixture.
- Spread evenly in prepared tin and bake approx 1 hour.
- Leave in tin for 10 minutes, before turning onto cake rack to cool.
- To serve, dust with icing sugar.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Cooking time: 1 hour(s)
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The biennial, international food and wine festival, “Tasting Australia”, is coming up here in Adelaide in a few weeks time. It is a week long “foodie-fest” which also involves some industry events, including the awarding of the Le Cordon Bleu World Food media Awards. This year South Australia’s own Wakefield Press has had three of their publications nominated for the prestigious awards – “The Blue Ribbon Cookbook”, by Liz Harfull has been nominated for Best Hard Cover Recipe Book (under 35 Euro) and Lolo Hobein’s “One Magic Square” and John Barlow’s “Everything But the Squeal” have both been nominated for Best Food Book. The nominations come from a jury of over 50 international food industry professionals looking at the best the world has to offer in the field of food media and Wakefield Press have every reason to be deeply chuffed for scooping three nominations in such a competitive arena!
To read the rest of the piece that I wrote about these three books you can look at the full article on Boomerang Books Guest blog!
I have previously mentioned my lovely eldest daughter, the Cupcake Queen, in my literary ramblings. She is in her late teens and can be quite frustratingly faddish and picky with her foods. One of her pet peeves is fresh coriander. She seems to be able to sniff it out and repeatedly turns her nose up at it, picking it out of anything and everything or simply flatly refusing to eat it, just like a two year old! I have put this behaviour down to her contrary teenage stage of life and tend to address it by threatening to strangle her if she complains about her meals which, admittedly, has had no perceivable positive effect to date. So you can imagine my surprise when I came across an article in the Dining & Wine section of the New York Times entitled “Cilantro Haters, It’s Not Your Fault“!