28 Dec 2011

Gingerbread Houses

My girls and two of their friends spent a morning at our place decorating gingerbread houses last week. The Gingerbread was bought as a kit from Ikea. The icing was royal icing which we made ourselves. The recipe with plenty of icing for four houses is given below.

Royal Icing
8 egg whites
2 tspns lemon juice
2kg Icing Sugar

Work in Progress

Place egg whites and juice in mix master on low speed and gradually add icing sugar until all combined and glossy.

We piped using zip lock bags with the corners snipped and some plastic piping squeeze bottles from a biscuit kit.
The girls shopped for their own lollies and chose boiled lollies, red liquorice, chocolate freckles, smarties, mint leaves and jubes. We also had little shiny balls (cachous).

These are the finished products!



Cheese is my new cooking thing!

For my birthday I was given a soft cheese making kit and course. The course was fabulous. It was run by Suzanne at "The Cheesemaking workshop" in Northbridge, Sydney. I helped to make feta, camembert, haloumi, ricotta, cream cheese, marscapone and yoghurt in one day. I have just started to make my own.
My first effort was ricotta which was delicious and sweet and we have enjoyed as a snack at home.
Next I tried feta and it has turned out beautifully.

"Wobbling " the curds to help release the whey whilst making the Feta.

I have since cubed it and marinated it in oil, rosemary, garlic, chilli flakes and peppercorns in pretty ikea jars as christmas gifts. 

The Oil blend for the Marinated Feta - 50/50 Extra Virgin Olive Oil for flavour and Sunflower Oil so it doesn't set in the fridge and a dash of lemon juice.
The ingredients in the marinade

The Feta in it's Brine bath.

The finished Christmas Gifts!

I have also made mascapone which was served with christmas dinner - half flavoured with lemon and parsley under salmon canapes and the other half with vanilla paste and icing sugar with dessert.

My next plan is camembert. I am nursing a little one that I made during the course. It is now covered in fluffy white mould and just today has come out of the cheese cave temperature 12 degrees and is now wrapped in foil in the fridge for 4-6 weeks. On friday I hope to make a batch of camemberts (4-5 of them) which should be ready by the end of february.

Must go now as I need to put my Greek Yoghurt on for the morning.

I hope to keep posting how the Cheesemaking progresses.


17 Dec 2011

Peach, Pear and Tomato Relish

For a few weeks I'd been planning on making a chutney or jam to use up all the stonefruit we keep getting in our fruit co-op. I stumbled across THIS recipe in my search, which struck me as sounding incredibly delicious (as well as being a great gift idea). It was however, slightly unrealistic sounding in terms of school term- which is why on my very first day of holidays I set about making it. 

All ready for giving away!
(sadly,  half of it had already been given away
when I though to take this photo) 
It was a downright scary recipe- especially the reccomendation to allow a whole day for it, so I had some niggling doubts about either not finishing it or it turning out disgusting after so much work! Still, I needn't have fear- it was delicious! The blanching and cutting was labour intensive and took a long while, but once it was on the stove it just needed occasionally stirring and a little bit of adjustment in terms of vinegar, so there was plenty of opportunity for going about whatever else needed doing. 

I chose not to use the chilli- I'm sure it would have been delicious, but some of the people I gave it to aren't big on heat- and used 1 1/2 cups of vinegar, which worked fine I thought. I chose to use only 2 pots, because they were very large. The bigger one (which was also on a larger burner) took about an hour and a half less, but this allowed time for bottling it while the other finished off.

Peach, Pear and Tomato Relish (AKA Gramma Miller's Tomato Relish)
Time: allow a whole day, about 2 hours for prep work, then several hours stove-time with frequent attention

Makes about 10 pints (4.7L)

6 peaches
30 medium ripe tomatoes
6 medium yellow onions
3 green peppers
2 jalapeno peppers (this isn't traditional, I'm adding it this year for the first time)
6 pears, peeled and diced (because pears aren't yet in season, I use 3 15-ounces cans of pears in light syrup, including the syrup, the fruit diced small)
4 cups sugar
1 - 2 cups (or more) white vinegar
2 tablespoons table salt
2 tablespoons pickling spices

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil for blanching the peaches and tomatoes. While the water comes to a boil, in batches chop the onion, green pepper and jalapeno in a food processor. Transfer to a large bowl Add the pears, sugar, vinegar (see notes below about vinegar quantity) and salt.

Four or five at a time, drop the peaches into the water and blanch for 1 minute til skin splits, transfer to colander to drain and cool. Let water return to a boil before adding more.

Cut an X in the skin of the blossom end of each tomato, then four or five at at time, drop into boiling water. Cover and blanch for 1 - 2 minutes til skin splits, transfer to a colander to drain and cool.

One by one, peel and then chop the peaches and tomatoes, discarding the peels and adding the pieces (juice and seeds and all) to the bowl and stir to combine. If there is more tomato than the bowl can hold, keep it separate until the relish is on the stove, making sure you allow it space in the pots.

Fill two-three large pots (depending on the pot size) about 2/3 full. Wrap the pickling spices in two or three squares of cheesecloth. (You'll need as many as you have pots for cooking. You can also staple the spices into coffee filters).

Bring the pots to a boil and let simmer until liquid cooks off, adding any leftover tomato as soon as you can. Especially at the beginning and near the end, stir ever 15 minutes to monitor the temperature. 

A couple of hours in, TASTE the mixture. It needs to have a strong vinegar component, if it doesn't, add vinegar. (My Mom and I made a very unsuccessful batch one year, we realized too late it was because we didn't use enough vinegar.) It's done with the liquid is cooked off and the whole mixture has turned a beautiful shade of brown. (Although the recipe says it takes 2-5 hours, my smaller pot took almost seven. I think the amount of liquid and the size of the pot/burner were to blame). It could be refrigerated at this point ... say if it's time for bed and you don't have the energy to fill and process the jars right then! If so, return to a boil but be careful, once it's fully cooked, it's easy to accidentally burn the bottom.

Fill the jars and process for 10 minutes.

The pickling spices were based on a google result-recipe.
Given the sizes of the pieces, I mostly ignored the quantity
for the relish.

Aren't the colours beautiful??

Almost done!

All in all, a big success, that I'll certainly make again (though it may have to wait until next holidays)!