Thursday, 16 October 2014

Merryn's Menu: Easy Red Velvet Cake

Merryn's Menu: Easy Red Velvet Cake: A few years ago, I think between Children No 2 and 3 our dear friend came to have Christmas Eve dinner with us.  Her husband was working and she came over for an Indian feast.  Little did I know she would have a food reaction to the red food colouring I used.

Merryn's Menu: Quick Baked Strawberries

Merryn's Menu: Quick Baked Strawberries: We have a big strawberry patch, in fact we have two patches.  Two is usually better than one. This past month saw me lifting out the strawberries to weed and renew them.  There were sufficient to bake with sugar, lemon zest and verjuice.  Delicious.

Quick Baked Strawberries

We have a big strawberry patch, in fact we have two patches.  Two is usually better than one.
This past month saw me lifting out the strawberry plants and extracting weeds from their roots.
Hubby topped up the bed with compost and dirt and laid new straw on top of the bed.
Then the strawberry plants were replaced into the rejuvenated bed and now they are flourishing.


Look at these lovely plump strawberries.
The gorgeous hippeastrums were gifted from a dear, sweet friend. 



These are so simple to bake.   I popped in a bowl full while my Red Velvet Cake was cooking.
This recipe came from an old, dear Italian friend who also loves her garden produce.

Baked Strawberries

2 cups strawberries
1/4 cup castor sugar
grated zest of one lemon
3 tablespoons verjuice

Wash and hull strawberries then place into an oven proof bowl.
Sprinkle over the sugar and lemon zest then splash with the verjuice.
Cover with alfoil and bake at 170 celsius for 15 minutes, until soft.   

Isn't it amazing how we learn and offer so many good food ideas with our friends.

Bon appetito, enjoy Merryn.

Easy Red Velvet Cake

A few years ago, I think between Children No 2 and 3 our dear friend came to have Christmas Eve dinner with us.  Her husband was working and no one wants to be alone on Christmas Eve.
I was heavily into cooking Indian food at the time (I still adore Indian food - the hotter, the better).
We had a wonderful night and a fantastic dinner with six courses of gorgeous Indian food.
Around 10.30pm our friend bade us goodnight with kisses and warm Christmas wishes.



She called on the 30th December to wish my husband a happy birthday and told us that when 
she arrived home on Christmas Eve her body was nearly red all over with a rash.
So, our dear friend spent Christmas in a hospital bed.



What did you put in the food that caused a food allergy? she wanted to know.
I cooked with all of the usual ingredients, but added red food colouring to the Tandoori marinade.


Sine then, I have been very cautious about using red food colouring, 
hence my red velvet cake is not as red as some I have seen.
The red colouring is purely colouring, not flavouring so therefore entirely optional.


This dear friend, is still a dear friend I am pleased to say.
So tell me, have you ever poisoned a friend with your cooking?


Red Velvet Cake

2 free range eggs
1 1/4 cups castor sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup (250ml) rice bran oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup (150ml) milk with 1 tablespoon white vinegar added to it
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
2 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 2/3 cups plain flour
2 small tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon red food colouring

Preheat oven to 170 celsius.
Whisk eggs, salt, sugar and vanilla extract together in a large mixing bowl.  While whisking pour in the oil in a steady stream and continue whisking until well combined.  
Pour the cider vinegar into the milk and add the sifted bicarbonate of soda.
Mix the sifted cocoa with the flour.
Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the egg mixture and stir gently until mixed through.  Add half of the milk mixture and stir through.
Than another 1/3 of the flour, mix, then the rest of the milk and finally gently stir through the remaining flour mixture.  Mix until well combined.  Add the desired amount of food colouring.
Pour into a round 20cm paper lined and greased baking pan.
Place on middle shelf of oven and bake for 45 minutes.  

I iced mine with a simple icing of 2 cups icing sugar, 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons milk.
Heat butter and milk together in a small bowl in the microwave, then add the icing sugar until well mixed.    Purely because my family do not like butter cream or the heavier icings.

Served here with a lovely, plump baked strawberry.

Bon appetito, enjoy Merryn.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Eggplant and Tomato Galette

I had to smile this morning when opening the mail. 
 My Mother is in New Zealand and sent me this card.


The information is not very detailed but I know she is in Auckland and she is well,
plus she is thinking about us.
Minimal information
that is quite endearing.
Mum is not very 
electronically minded
but she has a heart of gold.



It confirms the theory that less is more,
much like this simple Eggplant Galette.
technically simple yet full of warmth.






This is one of those those simple, straightforward recipes where you put it together, 
place it in the oven then find 40 minutes later, lunch is served.


There are variations to this recipe but I love that the eggplant can be sliced and added, stress free.
This recipe is loosely based on one I found here tomato and eggplant galette.

Galette Pastry

1 1/2 cups plain flour
pinch of salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup ice cold water

Place flour, salt and butter into food processor and process until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Then add the water in a slow drizzle until it comes together as a ball.  You may need to add another tablespoon of water.  When ball stage is reached, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Eggplant Filling

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 eggplant, cut into 0.5cm round slices
3 large tomatoes, cut into 0.5cm slices
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
2/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
2 extra tablespoons virgin olive oil

1 egg yolk mixed with 3 tablespoons milk for an egg wash

Preheat oven to 180 celsius.  
On a floured surface roll dough to a 35cm circle.  Place dough onto a baking tray lined with baking paper.   Brush the extra virgin olive oil over pastry, leaving a 5cm border at the edge untouched. 
Distribute the mozzarella and 1/3 cup of the fresh parmesan cheese over the base, leaving the 5cm border bare.  
Place a row of eggplant slices on top of the cheese, slightly overlapping them.  Add a row of tomatoes on top, sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little basil.
Place one more row of eggplant slices on top with another row of tomatoes on top of the eggplant. Season with more salt and pepper and the remaining basil.  Drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil.
Fold up sides to make an open pie.  
Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle over the remaining parmesan cheese, including onto the pastry.
Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes or until lightly golden and the vegetables are soft.











Roll the dough and place cheese then
vegetables on top, leaving a 5cm  border.

Lift up sides of pasty, brush with egg wash and sprinkle all over with fresh parmesan cheese.


The side view when sliced.

I will bake this for lunch for my parents when my mother returns from NZ.
Bon appetito, enjoy, Merryn.



Monday, 6 October 2014

October in My Garden



This week I picked the first snow peas.
Every day now I will be picking more snow peas.
It was about 5 weeks since I planted the seeds in the ground before they started flowering.
There will be a continual supply now for approximately 6 weeks.


I weeded the asparagus patch and hubby topped it up with compost, dirt and bark.
You can see the spears peeking through, then I cut them off just below the level of the dirt.
I store them in a glass of water at room temperature for a few days until there is enough for a meal.


Here is a haul of freshly picked peaches and nectarines.
There are fruit fly traps hung on every flowering tree
and we have to net every tree to protect the precious fruit from birds.


I was so happy to see this artichoke head emerging from the top of the plant.
They will be ready in December for picking (cooking and eating, yum).


This is a second peach tree which is a different variety from the one that is fruiting now.
It is great to have unique types so they flower at different times.
There is small fruit on this tree as well.
The blossoms are purely delightful and brighten up the garden.


I have papayas and paw paw growing together in a clump. 
The papaya are a darker orange colour then the pawpaw
and I love to eat the slices with lime juice squeezed on top.


The radishes have grown so well and quickly
that we have been eating them already for 6 weeks
They are still a good size to pick and enjoy.
They stay fresh in the ground. 


I was delighted to find this lavender
'Strawberries and Cream' at the nursery on the weekend.
My bees might produce white pollen!


Broccoli in abundance, pest free, although I did accidentally 
cook a caterpiller in a batch recently;
much to the teenagers' disgust.


The first of the new season's zucchini.
We will be able to pick flowers and zucchinis for the remainder of this year.


These are the highlights of my October garden.
I am also growing lettuce, spinach, leeks, chard, endive, cauliflower, tomatoes and cabbage as well.
Bon appetito, enjoy Merryn.
P.S.  What is the strangest insect you have found in your cooking?

Breakfast Food

My Morning routine; 
Feed children, feed cats, walk outside to feed goldfish and give chickens some greens.


Then feed myself!
The best start to the day is fried (or poached) eggs.
It only takes 5 minutes till on the plate.

Above are 2 organic eggs with chopped green chilli fried in olive oil.
On top of multigrain toast, with a sprinkling of chilli furikake,
served with lightly fried home made haloumi.
Accompanied by Pure orange juice and followed by a lovely coffee latte.


Here are 2 organic fried eggs with chopped red chilli served on toast with a little 
XO sauce placed on top after cooking.  
Eating breakfast in the sun with a glass of orange juice
with an inspiring book to read.  



2 perfectly fried eggs with 4 stalks of fresh picked asparagus.






Notice my common breakfast theme.
2 fried eggs with healthy toast and juice will
sustain me for most of the day.

Our gorgeous chickens dutifully lay them daily so we know they are organic and free range.

Bon appetito, enjoy Merryn.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Fried Ham Wraps

On Sunday I was hanging out wet clothes washing and taking off what was dry from the line.
My mother had arrived over for coffee and naturally helped me to do the washing.
"You should turn your good clothes inside out when hanging them on the line" Mother said.
"Mother" I replied "Washing the clothes is not an art form, it is something to do as quickly as possible".

I think lunch should be like this too, cooked as quickly as possible so you can enjoy your day.


N.B.  Most of our mothers did not work after they were married, and had ALL day to do chores.



                             Take one wrap and fill half of it with whatever fillings you enjoy.  
                                                Include cheese so the wrap melts together.




Super Quick Lunch Time Fried Wraps

2 white sandwich wraps per person (you could use burrito wraps)
sliced ham
mozzarella cheese, grated  (you could use tasty or cheddar)
tomatoes, finely sliced
pickled jalapenos, sliced
olive oil, to brush wraps

Lay one wrap on a tray, add 3 slices ham to cover one half of wrap.
Place sliced tomato on top, sprinkle with black pepper, then add the sliced jalapenos and sprinkle with cheese.  Fold over top, brush lightly with olive oil.
Heat griddle pan over medium heat, carefully place folded wrap on top and cook for 2 minutes.
Brush exposed side with olive oil then gently turn over with a spatula to brown underside for 2 minutes.  If desired, you can turn again at a 90 degree angle to create this cross hatch effect, fry for 1 minute then turn over at 90 degrees to create the crosses on the other side.
Place on a plate and cut into triangles.  Eat warm, or at room temperature.

Bon appetito, Enjoy, Merryn.

I ask you, seriously, do you turn your clothes inside out on the line so they don't fade?
Does anyone actually enjoy washing clothes?
I would rather be in the kitchen cooking, or walking in the garden.

Citronella Spray for Keeping Insects at Bay - My Unique Creation

The recent rain has meant mosquitoes have laid eggs and bred, well, more mosquitoes.
Flies that lay dormant for winter have resurfaced now that it is Spring.
My bees do not like commercial anti-insect sprays and have been attracted to - yet repulsed by these sprays so we do not like strong smells in our garden.  Nor do we like bee stings.


I will always use a natural alternative whenever possible,
such as this Citronella Anti Insect Spray. 



Distilled water is basically fresh rainwater that has been allowed to settle for a few days.
This Citronella Spray has a light, pleasant fragrance and is nice on your skin.

This product has been road tested in my backyard, directly in front of bee hive entrances.

Citronella Anti Insect Spray


250ml distilled water
2 teaspoons olive oil
130 drops Citronella Essential Oil

Diffuser bottle in which to store the spray.
Pour in measured water, add olive oil and count citronella drops.  Put on lid and shake to disperse.
Give it a light shake before using so that the oil is mixed through the water.

Enjoy, safely, Merryn.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Fijian Omelette - my unique creation

Whilst staying in Fiji every morning we would delightedly traipse down to breakfast by the ocean.
Breakfast was a delightful feast of fresh, tropical fruit, wicked pastries, hot fare or congee.

But it was the gorgeous "Egg Bar" where I inevitably strayed to on each sunny morning.

The warm and happy smiles of the Fijians were constant and a pleasure to see each day.  Bula!


When we arrived home, refreshed and relaxed 
I took up the tradition of frying these delightful omelettes each morning. 



Naturally, we called them "Fijian omelettes"


Dice your ingredients firstly, then heat up 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small pan.
Fry the vegetables/bacon for about two minutes then sprinkle with salt.


Pour over 2 eggs beaten with 2 tablespoons milk.

  
When the egg is almost set, sprinkle cheese on one side.


Then fold over so the cheese
melts in the middle.


Fijian Omelette for One

2 eggs, preferably free range, beaten with 2 tablespoons milk
2 rashers bacon, diced
1/4 capsicum, diced
1/4 onion, diced
1 small red chilli (optional) finely chopped
1 tomato, diced
2 mushrooms, finely sliced
1/3 cup grated cheese (cheddar or mozzarella)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat a small frying pan over medium - high heat.
Add the olive oil, swirling to cover bottom of pan.
Add the bacon, capsicum, mushrooms, tomato and chilli if using.  Cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally.  Sprinkle with a little salt, then pour over the beaten egg.
Turn heat to low and cook for about 4 minutes.
Place grated cheese over one half, then fold the other half on top to form a semi circle.
Cook for a further minute, then slide onto plate to serve.


Bon appetito.  Enjoy, Merryn.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Merryn's Menu: Preserved Lemons - so simple to make at home.

Merryn's Menu: Preserved Lemons - so simple to make at home.: I have a few cookbooks, many on different cuisines as you take a gastronomic trip around the world. Going through different cooking phases,...

Preserved Lemons - so simple to make at home.

I have a few cookbooks, many on different cuisines as you take a gastronomic trip around the world.
Going through different cooking phases, Preserved Lemons crop up in many Middle Eastern recipes.



How pretty is this on your pantry shelf!



The first time I was given a jar of preserved lemons, no one told me to discard the flesh.
They were really bitter.


These are funny looking specimens.



However, the preserved lemon rind is delicious.

Finely chopped and added to a mozzarella, tomato and olive salad with a lemony dressing,
or slow cooked in a delicious sauce with roasted lamb.


Preserved Lemons

Ideally use organic, unwaxed lemons.

8 lemons, washed and dried
1 1/2 cup fine sea salt
1 cinnamon stick
3 dried bay leaves
1 tablespoon black pepper corns
1 extra lemon, juiced
2 cups boiling water, approximately.

Large glass jar with a tight fitting lid, sterilised.

Cut lemons vertically into quarters but not the whole way through, just so that they open outwards.
Pack the lemons with salt and place into the bottom of the jar, pushing them together so they fit snugly and with no gaps.   Pour some salt on top of the bottom layer, add half of the spices, then lay the remaining lemons on top.  Cover with salt, add the remaining spices and cinnamon stick. 
Squeeze over the juice of one lemon and cover the lot with boiling water.  You do not want the lemon protruding above the liquid.
Seal, label, then place into a dark corner of the pantry for one month.

When using, remove the lemon, taking out how much you require and rinse in fresh water.
Discard the flesh and any pith then finely chop the rind to use in many recipes.

Bon appetito, enjoy Merryn

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Sourdough Loaf cooked in the Breadmaker - my unique creation.

Bring our your bread maker, dust it off and cook a perfect sour dough loaf in it, overnight.





The benefits of sourdough bread are myriad but essentially -


Sourdough bread is more digestible than normal white bread and more nutritious as well.
Lactic acids in the sourdough bread ensure the vitamins and minerals in the flour are
more available to your body by helping to neutralise the phytates in flour
that would inhibit their absorption.
 The sour dough bread is more digestible and less likely to cause food intolerance issues.
The acids also slow down the rate at which glucose is released into the blood stream
which lowers the bread's GI (glycaemic index).



There was not a recipe for sour dough loaf in any recipe book I have, 
so it seemed sensible to prepare it as normal, let it rise overnight in the tin, 
so the wild yeast could further ferment.
Then I baked as per any bread loaf after eight hours.



Sour Dough Breadmaker Loaf


Place 200g sourdough starter in a bowl
Add 300ml cold filtered water
400g plain flour (I use bakers flour)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white sugar

Mix all together lightly in a bowl until just combined.
Place into the bread maker tin provided that is inserted in your bread maker.
Put into bread maker, click into place, choose setting (crusty)
and set timer so it is baked and finished for your 7am breakfast.

* Makes 750g loaf

This dough needs to rest for at least 8 hours before baking (up to 12 hours is okay).
Next time I will use the bread maker unit to initially mix the dough, then have a delayed start so it will still bake eight hours later.

The resulting loaf is light but with the unique sour dough texture you expect from sour dough.
We ate it fresh for two days and toasted on the third day.

Bon appetito, Enjoy Merryn






Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Merryn's Menu: Lemon Myrtle Biscuits - my unique creation

Merryn's Menu: Lemon Myrtle Biscuits (cucinato da zero): There is a lovely retired man who walks his terrier late every afternoon past my home. We have had many pleasant conversations and I know his dog's name is Tubby.

I asked my husband what the man's name was and MOH (my other half) replied "I can't remember if it is Bill or Ted as when he told me I remembered Bill and Ted for name association ".
I therefore assumed it had to be Bill.
Yesterday we were having a very long discussion on the footpath and I invited Bill to look at our tiled floor as he was considering re tiling his floors.  His wife, who ambled along later came to introduce herself, then MOH joined us as well. 

I bravely referred to Bill by name during this conversation, only to find his wife slapped him on the shoulder and said, loudly, Ted here ... 

See the little lemon myrtle specks in these cookies.




Outside of my kitchen window is a beautiful Lemon Myrtle Tree which has a gorgeous and strong fragrance.  The leaves are divine in both tea, cookies, yoghurt and cakes.  The flowers are delightful. 



(P.S.  Next time I see Ted I will explain why I called him Bill by accident.)

Lemon Myrtle Cookies

1 lemon, grated zest and juice
3/4 teaspoon dried lemon myrtle leaves
(I dry 2 leaves in the microwave for this then crumble them in the coffee grinder)
1 cup castor sugar
pinch of salt
120g unsalted butter, softened but not melted
1 1/2  tablespoons  olive oil
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups plain flour
1 cup fine semolina
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarb soda             

1/2 cup extra castor sugar for dipping

Whisk together in an electric mixer; the lemon zest, lemon myrtle, sugar and salt, beat for 1 minute to help the flavours permeate the sugar.  
Add the butter, olive oil and lemon juice then beat until white and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, then the egg yolk, beating until well combined.  Scrape down the bowl with a spatula and whisk again until it looks shiny.  Add the vanilla extract and mix through.
Remove from mixer, add the flour, semolina, baking powder and bicarb of soda then mix with a wooden spoon lightly, until just combined.
Cover tightly with glad wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
Preheat oven to 170 Celsius (340 Fahreneit) and cover two trays with silicon or baking paper.
Roll pices of dough into balls roughly the size of walnuts, dip into the extra castor sugar and place slightly apart on the baking trays.
Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes until lightly golden.
Leave on trays for 2 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool.

Lemon Myrtle Biscuits - my unique creation



There is a lovely retired man who walks his terrier late every afternoon past my home.
We have had many pleasant conversations and I know his dog's name is Tubby.
I asked my husband what the man's name was and MOH (my other half) replied "I can't remember if it is Bill or Ted as when he told me I remembered Bill and Ted for name association ".
I therefore assumed it had to be Bill.
Yesterday we were having a very long discussion on the footpath and I invited Bill to look at our tiled floor as he was considering re tiling his floors.  His wife, who ambled along later came to introduce herself, then MOH joined us as well.

I bravely referred to Bill by name during this conversation, only to find his wife slapped him on the shoulder and said, loudly, Ted here ...

See the little lemon myrtle specks in these cookies.



Outside of my kitchen window is a beautiful Lemon Myrtle Tree which has a gorgeous and strong fragrance.  The leaves are divine in both tea, cookies, yoghurt and cakes.  The flowers are delightful.

Soft, light mixture.
Roll the balls into walnut sized pieces.



Lightly golden, firm and slightly crispy.

(P.S.  Next time I see Ted I will explain why I called him Bill by accident.)

Lemon Myrtle Cookies

1 lemon, grated zest and juice
3/4 teaspoon dried lemon myrtle leaves
(I dry 2 leaves in the microwave for this then crumble them in the coffee grinder)
1 cup castor sugar
pinch of salt
120g unsalted butter, softened but not melted
1 1/2  tablespoons  olive oil
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups plain flour
1 cup fine semolina
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarb soda             

1/2 cup extra castor sugar for dipping

Whisk together in an electric mixer; the lemon zest, lemon myrtle, sugar and salt, beat for 1 minute to help the flavours permeate the sugar.  
Add the butter, olive oil and lemon juice then beat until white and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, then the egg yolk, beating until well combined.  Scrape down the bowl with a spatula and whisk again until it looks shiny.  Add the vanilla extract and mix through.
Remove from mixer, add the flour, semolina, baking powder and bicarb of soda then mix with a wooden spoon lightly, until just combined.
Cover tightly with glad wrap and refrigerate for one hour.
Preheat oven to 170 Celsius (340 Fahreneit) and cover two trays with silicon or baking paper.
Roll pices of dough into balls roughly the size of walnuts, dip into the extra castor sugar and place slightly apart on the baking trays.
Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes until lightly golden.
Leave on trays for 2 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool.

Bon appetito, enjoy Merryn