A Food & Travel Blog

Seasonal Secrets – What’s in the box 29/30 June

01/07/2011 | By

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!

Basic Savoury Muffins

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven 180C.
  2. Grease or spray muffin tray.
  3. Mix dry ingredients together.
  4. Mix wet ingredients together.
  5. Blend together, mixing until only JUST combined.
  6. Spoon into muffin pans and bake 20-30 minutes or until they are golden brown and spring back when touched.

Quick notes

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.

Variations

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.

Cooking time:

Number of servings (yield): 12

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What’s in the box – 4/5 May

07/05/2011 | By

For a peek at what was in all the boxes this week tiptoe over here.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but it is getting trickier and trickier to sell the zucchini to my affected teens and so, once again, I will attempt to put some spin on this humble squash.  My son used to hide them in his pockets, now he just rolls his eyes at the sight of them in the box, mutters expletives and tries to slip them into the swap box when I’m not looking.   This week  I thought I’d have a hunt around for some slightly different ways to encourage the family to eat them.  I turned to dear old Nigel Slater and his delightful book “Tender | Volume 1″  where even he acknowledges that they are, at best, bland – presumably because they are 90% water.  However, he points out that the very small, tender young zucchinis need little more than some good olive oil, lemon and salt to shine and that the larger ones can be transformed by the judicious addition of other ingredients on, in or around them.

Zucchini should always be baked, grilled or fried – no good will come of boiling them and it will only serve to alienate your family.  I like to slice them quite thinly with a vegetable peeler, salt them and leave them in a colander for 15 minutes or so to drain, dry them and then char grill them on the bbq.  I usually add them to a salad in this manner, but if you were to serve them as a side then a toss in some very good extra virgin olive oil (South Australian, of course), with a good squeeze of lemon, salt, pepper, some torn fresh herbs and  some creamy feta will lift them up a notch – or three.

Nigel advocates stuffing them and then baking for maximum enjoyment and this is how they are often served  in Middle Eastern cuisine.  This can be as simple or as complex as you like, but I think any combination from the following list of ingredients will put quite a zing into your zucchini.

Cooked rice
Couscous
Quinoa
Lentils
Onions or spring onions
Garlic
Mint
Thyme
Oregano
sumac
Lemon – either the zest or chopped, preserved lemon
Cinnamon
Ras el hanout
Sultanas or currants
Tomato – either chopped fresh, chopped dried or semi-dried
Bacon – chopped & crisp fried
Chorizo – chopped and fried
Feta
Grated parmesan

There – that should give you some inspiration to tart up a boring vegetable!

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What’s in the box – 6/7 April

08/04/2011 | By

The list of contents for this week’s boxes is here.

I’ve been a little preoccupied with zucchini this week.

I’ve been faced with the challenge of dealing with one of those great big ones.  You know the kind – the ones that someone so generously gives you, and all you can think of is how many meals it is going to take to get through it all, as you smile and accept it gratefully and graciously.  Zucchini is a member of the squash family and, as such, has it’s roots in the America’s, although the variety of squash known as “zucchini” was developed in Italy, probably towards the end of the 19th century.  Anyone who has ever grown them will be familiar with how very prolifically they can fruit.  Indeed, anyone who has ever grown them will probably be familiar with the experience of seeing their friends and neighbours run shreiking as they advance with yet another armful to offer.  However, they are versatile, lend themselves to blending with any number of different flavours and ingredients and contain serviceable amounts of folate, potassium, vitamin A and manganese.

I tackled my monster squash in three different ways.  The first was by baking a chocolate zucchini cake.  I figured chocolate cake with chocolate icing was an easy way to get it down the kids throats with the minimal amount of fuss.  The recipe I used was less than ideal, though, so I won’t be sharing it until it has been quite significantly tweaked – although the icing did the trick for my kids.  Actually, sometimes I wonder why I bother with cake, when all they really want is the icing.

My second effort was to make zucchini soup.  This was very simple and basic.  The potato thickens the soup and makes it quite creamy, but milk can be added if you prefer more body to the soup.

Recipe: Zucchini Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 potatoes, scrubbed and diced
  • 3-4 zucchini, diced
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • Chicken stock
  • Salt & pepper
  • Small bunch of fresh thyme, chopped

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in medium sized saucepan and saute onion until soft.
  2. Add vegetables and cover with stock. Bring to boil and simmer 7-10 minutes until potato and zucchini are soft.
  3. Cool for 10-15 minutes, then puree until smooth in a blender or food processor or using a stick blender.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add thyme.
  5. Reheat until hot, but not boiling, to serve .

Zucchini Soup

The last of the beast was put into an old and popular standby – Zucchini Slice.  I had thought that everybody in the whole world was familiar with Zucchini Slice and it was a staple for my children when they were small, who loved it’s cheesiness.  I loved it because huge amounts of vegetables could be hidden in it, so I was very surprised to meet a woman (with both a veggie patch and young children) who was unfamiliar with it.   I include the recipe here for any of you who might not know of it and I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbooks for helping to nourish my kids in their formative years.  Any number of substitutions and/or additions apply here.  Ham or salami can be used in place of the bacon and grated/finely chopped vegetables can be added at will.  This freezes brilliantly, reheats well and is just as nice cold in the school lunch boxes.  If necessary, it can  also be tarted up with fresh herbs, sundried tomatoes and feta, cut into small cubes and served as finger food at parties.  The recipe for this or something very similar can be found on any recipe website – this is just the one that I used.

Recipe: Zucchini Slice

Ingredients

  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup SR flour
  • 350 gms zucchini, grated
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 rashers bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/4 oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Beat eggs in a large bowl.
  3. Add rest of ingredients, mix well.
  4. Pour into greased, ovenproof baking dish and bake for 40 minutes or until golden on top and cooked through.

Zucchini Slice

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What’s in the box – 30/31 March

01/04/2011 | By

Check out the link to this weeks boxes here.

Another month gone – but where?!!  The contents of our boxes are slowly changing as the season turns and my thoughts will turn from salads to dishes that are a little more warming, although we’re not quite ready for the full-on, hearty stews and casseroles yet.  This is really where the fresh vegetables that we are lucky enough to have access to will really come into their own.  In our house, we are still happy enough to have a barbeque or a grill to deal with the protein side of the meal, but I am enjoying actually cooking some of the veggies, rather than just slinging them together in a dish or bowl.  And, if I’m perfectly honest, I tend to get a bit over lettuce and cucumber by this time of the year.

The autumn veggies are gorgeous and the carrots we got last week were fantastic – I caramelised ours with butter and a bit of honey as a side dish earlier this week.  This week’s potatoes and leek will be made into a sinfully creamy gratin – just perfect for our very chilly hills evenings, now.  I was delighted to find some of the very late plums in my box this week.    I’m thinking of making some kind of upside-down tarty kind of thing.  Shortcrust pastry placed over the plums, some brown sugar and some butter in a tarte tatin pan should do the trick.  Maybe using some of Careme’s delicious chocolate shortcrust pastry – now that would really be something!

As you may have seen in my blog post, wild Porcini mushrooms have been found here in the Adelaide hills and are causing quite a thrill to ripple through the foodie community.  Most of us are not going to be able to get our hands on them in the short term, but here is a way I tarted up a fairly plain dish during the week using The Mushroom Man’s Porcini Salt. This dish is open to loads of variations, but it was inspired by a recipe I found in last month’s Delicious. magazine..  I think eggplant would work well in it or as a substitute for the zucchini and thyme would be just as nice as oregano.  You could also chop and fry a couple of swiss brown mushrooms to add to it – really the possibilities are endless.

 

Vegetable Gratin

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 small – medium zucchini, medium diced
  • 5 roma tomatoes, medium diced
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • fresh or dried oregano
  • Porcini salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 150 gm feta cheese, cubed
  • 1/2 preserved lemon, peel only, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup toasted breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180C
  2. Heat oil and fry onion over a moderate heat until golden and caramelised. Add the garlic when the onion is quite soft, to prevent the garlic from burning. Remove from heat.
  3. Toss the vegetables in with the onion and garlic, adding the feta and lemon a good sprinkle of the pepper, oregano and mushroom salt.
  4. Spread in an ovenproof baking dish, sprinkle with crumbs and parmesan cheese.
  5. Bake 15-20 minutes.

Vegetable Gratin

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What’s in the box – 5/6 January 2011

06/01/2011 | By

Happy new year, folks, and welcome to 2011 and the first link to the box contents of the year!!

I hope you all had a minimally stressful holiday break and managed to get through the Xmas food binge without having to do all the work yourselves!

We had a very pleasant Xmas at the beach, sharing the  typical Australian summer holiday with a new, young, Afghani friend of ours.  He seemed to cope well with the culture shock and his new skills now include body-boarding and being able to play a card game called “Bulls**t”!  Taught to him by my terribly culturally sensitive teenagers (not!) and with the winner being the best liar,  I’m not entirely sure what his mother would think about the latter.

We have a ridiculously busy January and it looks like I am not going to be all that reliable with this particular section of the blog until the end of the month.  I’m sorry if you are inconvenienced by this in any way, but I promise to be back at full steam in the last week of the month.  To make up for this in some small way, I want to share a delicious seasonal recipe from one of my Xmas presents – Greg Malouf’s beautiful new book, “Saraban“.  I am sure that ham and turkey left-overs are looking pretty tired now, so this vegetarian dish could be just the thing! Greg stipulates white zucchini for this, but I think we can be a bit flexible on that point!

WHITE ZUCCHINI OMELETTE WITH MINT & MELTING CHEESE

100ml olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1 tsp dried mint
4 zucchini, grated (about 350gm)
6 eggs
2 tbsp SR flour
grated zest of lemon
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
200 gms provolone, grated

Preheat oven to 180C.
Heat half the oil in a pan and fry onion over low heat until softened. Stir in the nutmeg and mint and fry for another minute. Set aside.
Pour the remaining oil into a non-stick ovenproof fry pan and heat in the oven for 5-10 minutes.
Squeeze out most of the liquid from the zucchini.
Whisk the eggs until frothy, then whisk in the flour,lemon zest, salt, pepper, zucchini and cheese.
Pour mixture into the hot oil. Cover the pan with a lid or foil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until nearly set.
Remove the lid and cook a further 15 minutes until browned.
Serve hot with thick yoghurt and fresh herbs, or cold with a relish of your choice.

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What’s in the box – 1/2 December 2010

02/12/2010 | By

Wow – I can hardly believe that I just wrote “December” in the title for this week box contents!!  Where did that go?

The weather has been crazy – pouring rain and jumpers on yesterday, brilliant sunshine and T shirts today, black spot on all my roses, downy mildew on the vines and I shudder to think what the rain has done to the stone fruit – especially the cherries!

I am thrilled to be getting some stone fruit in our box.  We have several peach and apricot trees, but have yet to manage to beat the birds to the crop – even with netting!  (See my earlier post re birds and fruit)  Some of you lucky things have scored some cherries – enjoy!

The zucchinis are coming into season well and truly now and it will be a challenge to find ways to keep them new and interesting through their long season.  I found this great recipe for Stuffed Zucchini Boats on the Steamy Kitchen website. This recipe appeals to me on so many levels – one dish meal, simple prep, a  very versatile dish that can be rearranged in lots of different ways, should be able to get the kids to eat it and it is flavoured with Middle Eastern spices – my very favourite kind of cuisine!

If you are starting to struggle to cope with the broad beans I have a couple of very quick ideas.  Toss the cooked and cooled, peeled beans with some feta and some chopped parsley with a little good quality lemon infused olive oil and serve at room temperature or, alternatively, cook and peel the beans then toss with extra virgin olive oil, some cumin and a good grind of salt or some of the lovely Maldon Smoked Sea Salt that is available in gourmet shops.

Food Connect have come up with a great idea for Xmas presents for those who are hard to buy for – or even those who aren’t!  What about giving your nearest and dearest a Food Connect voucher so they can have the opportunity to share in the great fresh, local produce!  Just call Toby on 8268 7776 for the details.

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