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An unusual Thai red curry

February 21, 2013

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I haven’t taken a great photo here but this was a really nice curry. I wanted a red curry but not the usual creamy, sweetish red curry. I wanted itto have a hint of bitterness mixed with a hint of heat. Bitterness from little Thai eggplants, snake beans and grachai (Thai ginger). Sweetness from pumpkin. Creaminess from delicate silken tofu. Yum yum! Part of my motivation was to keep this low fat and healthy, hence the low amount of coconut cream and use of tofu.

My Thai Red Curry

Curry Paste
1 tsp corriander seeds
2 tsp Thai shrimp paste
1 tbs sliced galangal
1 tbs sliced lemon grass
2 tsp chopped grachai
1 red shallot
1 tsp peppercorns
2 tsp chilli powder

3 kaffir lime leaves
2 tbs fish sauce
1 tsp palm sugar
4 tbs coconut cream
250gm packet silken tofu
Thai apple eggplants
1 bunch snake beans
1 cup butternut pumpkin
1 carrot cut into sticks
Handful of snow peas
Handful of mushrooms

Roast the coriander seeds and shrimp paste in a pan for a few minutes. Grind with the rest of the curry paste ingredients into a fine paste.

Put two tablespoon of coconut cream into a pan and cook until it splits. Add the paste and finely shredded lime leaves and fry well. Add a little water a few times to prevent it from burning. Cook for approx 10 minutes. Add fish sauce and sugar. Add remaining coconut cream and some water until it is a thick curry consistency. Add the pumpkin and carrots and cook for ten minutes. Add the eggplant and cook until tender. Now add the remaining vegetables and stir. Cut the tofu into large cubes while still in the container. Carefully place them on top of the veggies. Cover the pot and cook on slow for 10-15 minutes. The tofu should steam and cook while sitting on top of the curry – keeping its flavours clean and separate from the curry.

I ate this without rice and loved the contrast of the bland delicate tofu with the spicy and slightly bitter curry. Crunchy snake beans against creamy pumpkin and eggplant.

My 2013 food quest

January 22, 2013

Too much sanity may be madness. And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.”

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

I have decided that this year I am going to get really, really good at making sourdough bread. Most of the time I make mighty fine bread, much loved, mostly eaten. Occasionally the dog and the chooks have to step in and eat the duds, but that happens less often these days. I started on my sourdough journey a few years ago thanks to Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. She gave me a jar of starter, her bread recipes and a dvd showing me the technique. I have had such fun with it over the years. I have passed on jars of starter to many friends and it has traveled to many new cities and homes. I have even had little sourdough bread making demonstrations in my kitchen.

And yet, and yet….I want to get better at it. I want to make perfect pillowy, bouncy dough. I know it will make me happy to make and shape perfect dough. (Do you get an incredible urge to ‘touch’ when you see someone working with superb looking dough? Do you suffer from dough-envy like me?) I want to make baguettes like the ones I ate in Paris. And loaves of bread that taste better than anything I have eaten yet. I know I can get better crumb, better flavour, better crust.

Why the quote from Don Quixote? Apart from being a very good quote anyway, I thought of Don Quixote as I set off on this mad quest of mine. It may be impossible to make a perfect Parisian baguette in my home kitchen, or strive for a perfect loaf that is more perfect than anything I have yet tasted. But most of all it is quite mad because I am still gluten intolerant and will certainly ‘suffer’ for my quest along the way. But oh such fun I will have!

I have ordered some new bread making books, and some French couche linen….and I can’t wait until they arrive!

Happy New Year!

January 9, 2013

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I hope you are surviving the extreme hot weather this week – the hottest on record for Australia apparently. Friends living or holidaying on the other side of the world keep sending photos of snow, making me wish for some of that icy cold.

Eating this lovely sheep milk yogurt, drizzled with some of our honey and topped with a gorgeously ripe peach and blueberries is how I attempt to stay cool. Decadently healthy and it does very nicely for afternoon tea when I am trying to avoid the vanilla cupcakes with chocolate glaze Tara is baking (freshly baked cakes, still warm from the oven, would be one of my biggest weaknesses. Many a good intention has come undone when faced with such temptation!)

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After school date cake

November 20, 2012

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Not a cake for a ‘date’ but a cake with dates! I needed something for afternoon tea for my kids. Swimming lessons after school so they needed something for an energy boost. Not enough time to make anything complicated and the usual challenge of no chocolate since Sam does not like it, no nuts since Tara’s friend is highly allergic and she won’t take anything with nuts to school so she does not harm her friend. What to make in a hurry that they will both like? Well, we all love sticky date pudding so I used that as my starting point. More cake-like and healthier. It turned out so well that I will be making it again. As soon as Tara took a bite she asked if I remembered what I put in it and told me to write it down straight away. So here I am, writing it on my phone while the kids have their swimming lessons.

Date Cake

1cup dates
1/2 cup water
150gm unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2tbs golden syrup
3/4 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1.5 cups plain flour

Cook the dates in the water until they are soft and jammy. You may need to add more water. Add the butter and allow it to melt. Take it off the heat. Ad the baking soda and stir well until the mixture gets a little frothy. Add in the eggs and sugar and mix well. Add the milk and flour and ate until just combined. Pour into a baking tin lined with baking paper. Bake at 180C for 20-30 minutes.

 

Update: I have made this cake many times since – it is a great standby cake, super simple to make and much loved by all who try it. Easy to throw together in five minutes, with butter straight from the fridge (no softening of butter required – why does that drive me nuts?!).  It is relatively healthy too since it is not laden with sugar and butter. My kids take big chunks of it to school.

I even made it as a bit slab cake for a kids music camp and topped it with icing to  make it fancier. I used brown sugar (not recommended – too ‘gritty’) and golden syrup in the icing while trying to hint at the taste of the caramel sauce that goes with sticky date pudding. I had to whip it for a very long time to overcome the brown sugar grittiness, and next time I would melt it with the butter before adding it in. It did taste great though and was very popular with the kids.

Food for thought

November 15, 2012

How do you cook your vegies? (I hate microwaved food, especially vegetables, so steaming is the way to go for me.)

Dreaming of market day in Provence

November 1, 2012

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And then there were four…bee hives

October 17, 2012

A few days  after our first swarm, we noticed another swarm in the late afternoon. This time it was too late to try and catch them. We followed the progress of the cloud of swirling bees as they moved across our backyard, to the neighbours at the back and then the neighbours at the side, then the national park next door. Good bye bees. The kids were spotting from an upstairs window and I followed the cloud around as it moved. Have you ever watched bees swarming? It is an odd experience. There is a really loud humming and buzzing and there are so many bees flying around. Literally a swirling ‘cloud’. One minute there are hundreds of bees flying in tight circles and the next second there are none. Before you can blink they have moved on.

Sam went to the park to see if he could spot them but had no luck. I was really sad to see so many of my bees leave home. I feel like I have nurtured them all year and then they have just abandoned me without saying good bye. (Yes, I know I didn’t really do anything to ‘nurture’ them, and yes they are only following their genetic programming…but I can’t help but take it personally!)

This is what Sam says to me:

Don’t be too sad mum, at least this is preparing you for when I leave home

My 12-year-old. Hmm. “Thanks darling” I said, “but that really does not help make me feel better”!

The very next morning….another swarm! This time Sam and I caught it beautifully. We rigged up a temporary home for them in a cardboard box (I had been told this would work), and easily caught them all. Feeling very proud of ourselves I headed back to the bee shop to buy yet another box and frames. When I got home…they had all flown away again! They didn’t approve of the cardboard box.

We tried to catch them again. This time it was hotter (always makes me more stressed) and we were short of time. And they were back on the neighbours fence. Yes, the one who does not like bees! Oh dear. Very unsuccessful attempt at catching them. We left it and headed off for kids music lessons. I rang David, the guy who helped me last time. David to the rescue again. He came straight over and had almost finished catching the swarm by the time I got back after dropping the kids off. Yay for the kindness of fellow bee keepers.

So now I have four hives. One strong and three weak hives. I really didn’t want four hives, would have been happier with two strong hives. I am half tempted to try to combine two of the weak hives together. I hear conflicting advice on whether or not this is possible. Should I try, or should I just leave them alone to do what they wanted?

Sam and I opened up the original hive that kept swarming to try to figure out what was going on. Normally a hive will make an extra one or two queens if they are getting ready to swarm. A day or two before the new queen emerges, the old queen leaves with the best worker bees. The new queen kills off any other queens not yet hatched and all is good.

But in our hive we saw about 15 queen cells. About 5 had hatched, accounting for the swarms we had seen, and perhaps some we hadn’t. There were still a lot of unhatched queens so we had to cut off those queen cells. Sam wanted to examine them so we put them on the dining table in the house while we continued our work. When we went back inside, one of the queens had hatched! We were too soft-hearted to kill it off so we took it outside and put it near the hive. This week I have to go back and have a look inside all the hives. Check that the original swarming hive has a functioning queen (and no more queen cells!). Check that my strong hive is not getting any ideas about swarming. And check the new hives to make sure they are doing ok. Four hives in spring is shaping up to be a lot of work. Soon they will need more boxes and more frames…sigh!