Archives for the month of: February, 2015

trombocino

Since Traumtanz has left the garden, the Dedes got quiet. There was discussion whether potatoes should be planted in the spot that the boat had occupied. But in the end the Dedes weren’t allowed to seize the patch as the boat might come back one day. So the Dedes focussed on the backyard instead and Mouse was busy planting winter vegetables like kohl rabi and broccoli. While she was out there she discovered the zucchini plants have an infestation of cucumber beetle. This is really bad news as the beetles and their larvae do huge damage to the plants and also carry bacterial wilt organisms. So Mouse was busy collecting beetles and squashing them and removing wilted leaves and fruit when she accidentally cut the stem of the tromboncino. Tromboncino is a climbing zucchini and we just have harvested one fruit yesterday, unfortunately the one in the picture won’t mature, due to Mouse’s inattention. I have never seen them in the shops and I am quite curious how they taste.

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Today a little interlude. The Dedes said good bye to a dear friend yesterday: a boat called Traumtanz. They are so used to her, as she has been in the garden all their lives.  All three years of it (of course, everybody who knows us personally, knows the boat has been in the garden for much longer, but we won’t tell the Dedes.)

Anyway, yesterday was the big day. She was loaded onto a truck and made the trip to the beach, where she was assembled. Traumtanz is a Wharram catamaran. One of the features is that the two hulls are only lashed together rather than being connected by nuts and bolts. Yes, it is safe and works well. She was built by hubby and we sailed her for many years before she came back to the house for an overhaul. Unfortunately, the overhaul took much longer than intended, due to all the little things life throws at you. Anywway, she is back and we are so looking forward to some great adventures.

 

quiche mouse

Evan G List, the vegan Dede, complained to Cash Cow that most of the recipes have dairy products in them. It’s either butter, milk or both. He doesn’t eat that stuff. Cash Cow said she was raised on it and she wouldn’t like to miss it, though she herself is vegetarian. Then Mouse came along carrying a plate and said that while she doesn’t eat much she does eat everything. That is just her nature. Evan G looked at her in disgust. Mouse explained she comes from a long line of church mice. Her family was so poor they had to eat what they could find. She still appreciates food and is grateful for what she gets. “It’s lucky if you have a choice” she added. “But but you know, if you don’t want to eat dairy, you can make a short pastry with oil instead of butter. I’ve just tried it and here is the result.” She pointed at a slice of quiche on her plate.

It did look delicious. “What’s on it?” Evan G asked suspiciously.

“Left overs from last night’s dinner again. We had mashed potatoes with garden vegetables. But there wasn’t enough left over, so I put sliced tomato on top of the left overs, added two eggs and sprinkled grated cheese over it.”

“Here we go again” said Evan G. “There is cheese and egg on it. No, not for me, thank you.”

“I mean, the base is vegan” said Mouse. “You can choose your own topping. Whatever you like to eat.”

Ingredients

1 cup of flour, 1/4 cup of oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt (optional), cold water.

1 tart baking tray. The dough is enough for a 12cm x 35cm rectangular tray.

Method

Preheat the oven to 200oC

Place the flour on a flat surface, mix in the salt if you use salt. Pour in oil little by little and work into the flour with your fingertips. It will look like fine semolina when you are done. Add a little cold water and knead. Add only as much water needed to make the dough stick together nicely. Let it rest in the fridge for half an hour or so.

Note: Mouse made the dough after breakfast and left it in the fridge till lunch time. An oil-based dough doesn’t go as hard as one made with butter when it is left longer in the fridge.

Roll out the dough and place on the tart baking tray. Press the dough up the sides to get a bit of a lip at the edge. This prevents the filling from seeping out. Add your choice of filling.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

 

cash cow pie

Cash Cow had intended to make a silverbeet quiche this weekend, but as there were left overs from last night, she changed her mind and decided to turn those into a pie for lunch today. Good old Cash Cow is such a thrifty and resourceful one. Her name might be misleading, she is by no means rich, but she always gives when anyone is in need. She didn’t want to waste the left overs and told Mouse her new plan and Mouse’s first question was, “Tell me, what is the difference between a pie and quiche?”

“That is a difficult one as there are so many different ways of making a pie. The simplest dough is a short pastry and you can use the same for a quiche. I would say the main difference is that with a pie the filling is usually totally encased, while a quiche has an open top.”

“But aren’t there also single crust pies, like pumpkin pie, that don’t have a top cover?” asked Mouse. “I guess they would be the same as a quiche.”

“No, not quite. Quiches are also shallower than pies and have a dairy/egg topping.  With pies, at least when you buy them, you can be never sure what’s in them” she laughed then added, “No, honestly I love pies, but I wouldn’t touch one from a shop.”

“So what is in your one?” asked Mouse curiously. “Just last nights left-overs. We had fettucini with silverbeet and corn in a creamy gorgonzola sauce. The main spice was nutmeg. Simple! To be honest, you can put whatever you want in it.”

Mouse looked at Cash Cow’s recipe for the pie crust and realised she will somehow have to sort the recipes into a logical order. The dough is very similar to Devil’s Flatbred.

Ingredients

1 cup of flour. 70g cold butter, 1/2 teaspoon of salt (optional), cold water.

1 muffin tin (the recipe is for 4 to 6 muffin sized pies. To make a cake size pie double the amount)

Method

Preheat oven to 200oC

Pour flour onto a work surface and add salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and work into the flour with your fingers. Once it is well distributed add a tablespoon of cold water and knead in quickly. Only add enough water to make a nice elastic dough. Try not to overwork it either. Let it rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Cash Cow had wrapped the dough in plastic and left it in the fridge over night. It got really hard, but this is due to the butter hardening again. Knead it once more and the warmth from your hands it will quickly soften it.

Divide the dough into 4 to 6 pieces and roll out thinly. Line the muffin moulds with the pieces and cut around the egdes to make them clean. Keep the cut-off dough for the lid of each pie.

Put the filling in each mould. Roll out the lids and cover each pie, pressing the sides closed. Brush with water.

Bake for 25 minutes. You might want to sprinkle some grated cheese on top in the last 10 minutes.

cash cow and mouse

Mouse has been busy looking after the garden this week. We had a spell of high winds that wrecked havoc with the vegetable patch. Anyway, while she was out there tidying up she thought about the Artist’s survival cookbook and how she could define what recipes should be eligible for inclusion and what should be excluded. It’s a pretty hard decision. As you may have realised, Mouse has trouble saying no to anyone. It came to a crunch when Punch Drunk made a “milk tert”. All the Dedes loved the recipe and wanted to have it included. But somehow it didn’t sit right with Mouse, who is the edtior of the book. So it was good for her to get out into the garden, raking and hoeing and thinking it through.

Last night she came back inside and said, “Okay!” The intonation of this word was so firm and definitive, that all the Dedes turned around and listened. Mouse was surprised by the attention she got and continued: “Our aim is to make a cook book with simple, cheap but delicious recipes that contain mainly flour and water.  They might also have milk, egg, butter or oil in them which are considered basic foods. As you all know, I am not a big fan of sugar, but if a recipe requires a little sugar, that’s fine too. First and foremost, the main ingredient should be flour.” Punch Drunk knew this meant the milk tert is out, as it is bascially milk and sugar with eggs and a little flour. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Fair enough! I can still make it for the Dedes when I feel like it.”

“Right” said Cash Cow. “I wanted to make a silverbeet quiche this weekend because the silverbeet is growing like there is no tomorrow and I believe a pie or quiche base should be in the book. But then the main ingredient will be silverbeet. Shall I forget about it?”

Mouse looked insecure again. Obviously in her mind it was very clear what she wanted, but Cash Cow had a point.

Philosopher came to Mouse’s aid. A pie base should definitely be in the book. It is such a basic and versatile recipe. You can have so many different toppings on your pie. The silverbeet is just one suggestion, isn’t it. What’s important is that you know how to make the base.”

Mouse agreed.

giant zucchini

Punch Drunk has figured out what went wrong with his recipe. It was just a tad too runny. But he still liked what he cooked and it got eaten anyway. Last night he finally caught up with Mouse and wanted tell her about his findings and discuss the amendments to the recipe. She wasn’t particularly interested. She was standing next to a giant zucchini she had just found in the garden and scratching her head. It took Devil, Witch and her half an hour to carry it from the garden into the kitchen on the first floor, as it weights a whopping 2700 grams. That is far more than the three of them together. Not surprisingly they were puffing, cursing and swearing while they heaved it up from one step to the next. “I don’t know what I can do with that one” said Mouse when they finally had it on the chopping board. “I have no idea how I could have overlooked it. It’s grown so big!”

Just as a reminder, the photo below shows Mouse proudly presenting the first zucchini of the season just after Christmas. And the Dedes have been eating zucchini ever since.

first zucchini

 

punch cake

The other day, Australian Punch sent us a recipe Judy had asked him to pass on. It is a South African recipe with Dutch roots and sounded really good. Punch Drunk immediately held his hand up to try it and report back. After all, they are namesakes, though all the Dedes believe Punch Drunk got a few more whacks over his head by his Judy. This morning he counted how many eggs we had in the egg bowl, and yes, there were enough. He checked all the other ingredients as well and put them on the counter. Everything was there, except for vanilla essence. Then he copied the recipe from the message and showed it to Mouse for approval. “That sounds yummy indeed” Mouse said. “However, there might be a bit too much sugar in it and then I am not sure about the vanilla essence.”

“I found a passion fruit in the fridge. Could I use this for flavour?” asked Punch Drunk. Mouse recommended that when one cooks a recipe for the first time one should actually stick to the recipe to experience how the result should look and taste. The next time he could make changes. While they were discussing the passion fruit, Mouse noticed that in the recipe the eggs were separated and beaten separately. “Make sure” she reminded Punch Drunk “that no egg yolk gets into the egg whites and you need to beat the whites until they form stiff peaks. If the egg white is spoilt, with even the tiniest amount of yolk, it won’t happen. Also, clean your egg beater thoroughly should you beat anything that contains fat before you do the whites.” Punch Drunk listened carefully and nodded. He was rearing to get to work. Mouse left the kitchen to do other things.

So he followed the recipe and when he was half way through, he realised there was milk on the ingredient list, but it didn’t say at what point to add it. He called out to Mouse for help, but she was nowhere to be seen. “Ah well,” he shrugged his shoulders, “I’ll just do what I think” and added the milk and the passion fruit as well. It’s better to continue than throw out some perfectly good eggs and starting again.

When the cake came out of the oven it smelt delicious but was a bit runny. So he decided not to publish the recipe just yet and confer with Australian Punch first to see where he went wrong.

 

pavlova scale2

Today is a public holiday in New Zealand. Waitangi Day. The day when, in 1840, the treaty between indigenous Maori and a representative of the crown was signed, putting the land under the protectorate of the English. Pavlova thought it was a good idea to celebrate the day with a cake and mentioned it to Mouse. Of course Mouse immediatly thought Pavlova would want to make the cake after which she is named. “Pavolva doesn’t fit into the flour and water concept at all” she said, perhaps a little too snobbishly.

“Just don’t assume” Pavlova, who is a scientist, camly said. “I am very well aware that pavlova is made of eggwhite and sugar. No, I want to make a sponge log.” Mouse felt a little bad and didn’t ask any further questions. She just held her hand out for the recipe. After she read through it, she said, “You know, we use cups as measurements, you use grams. That will confuse our readers!”

Pavlova threw her head back and said huffly, “I am a scientist, I don’t work with cups.”

Mouse didn’t want to push it and thought she might change the recipe when she edits it later. Instead she said to Pavlova, “There is no fat in it. That’s a good one for all the fat-phobic people.”

“Sugar is as bad as fat” commented Pavlova “and anyway, you have to fill the log. The easiest way is to whip up some cream and add fresh fruit. My favourite is a custard filling, I use Daredevil’s recipe. You could also just spread jam on it if you have nothing else on hand.”

Ingredients

3 eggs, 5 Tablespoons of water, 150g sugar, 100g wheat flour, 50g corn flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder.

Baking paper, clean tea towel.

Method

Preheat the oven to 2200C. Put baking paper on a tray.

In a big bowl mix water and eggs and beat it with an electric beater on the fastest speed for a minute. It will become foamy. Then very slowly pour in sugar while continuing to beat. In this process the egg mixture starts to thicken. Once all the sugar added continue beating for another 2 minutes.

Mix the two flours and the baking powder and sieve half of the flour mixture onto the egg mixture. Without stirring too much, fold into the egg mixture (this can be done with the electric beater on the slowest speed, or with a spoon). Continue with the rest of the flour in the same way.

Pour the batter onto the baking paper that’s on the tray and put in the oven for 12 minutes.

When it comes out of the oven, place the sponge cake on a clean tea towel and roll the tea towel and cake up. Let it cool. Once it is cool, carefully unroll, remove the tea towel and spread the filling of your choice on sponge cake and roll it up again.

 

mouse and witch

Witch went to Mouse and said, “You are right!” Mouse was staggered as she didn’t have a clue what she was talking about.

“I agree, we shouldn’t include the teff custard in the book” she explained. “Why the sudden change?” Mouse asked her friend. And then Witch told her that she had just read an article about teff being currently en vogue with Hollywood stars. So the demand is rising and will rise even further. However, it is also one of the basic foods in Ethiopia, where half the population  lives on less than a dollar a day. As the carbohydrates in teff are absorbed slowly people can eat their national dish injera, a sour dough bread made from teff, and then work all day without getting hungry. The Ethiopian government is now expecting a price explosion due to increased demand from the Western World, akin to what happened when quinoa all of a sudden became popular a few years back. This might result in hunger and malnourishment in the poorer population of Ethopia. As a measure, the government has currently banned exports of teff except with a special license.

“I wonder if you can obtain a special license when you give money to a government official?” asked Mouse.

“That’s not my main concern, but you might have a point there” said Witch. “Teff is certainly a very healthy food, but we in the West don’t run the risk of starvation, particularly not the Hollywood lot. Luckily, teff is a relatively hardy plant, but I understand it is time consuming to look after and process. Personally, I will forgo my desire for teff until other cultivating areas have been established – but not in a Monsanto type of way.”

dardevil custard

There are some days when you need comfort food. When everything has turned to custard it’s best to have a bowl of it, or at least that is Daredevil’s advice. Daredevil is a peace loving character who only fights for what he strongly believes is right. Of course, what he considers the right thing doesn’t necessarily coincide with other people’s opinion and he sometimes feels like Don Quixote. When he realises he is on a kamikaze mission he usually makes himself a big bowl of chocolate custard and eats it slowly and quietly in the corner, reviewing his position. It doesn’t happen too often, but yesterday he felt the urge. “Do you think, Mouse, my custard is eligible to be included in the book?” he asked, while he had another mouthful.

“What’s in it?” asked Mouse, “you don’t just rip open a packet of custard powder, do you?”

“No, I use corn flour, milk, sugar and cocoa and – when I have one on hand – an egg.” Mouse thought for a little bit and said, “not sure about the cocoa, it isn’t on the ingredient list. And I see you use corn flour?”

“C’mon, corn flour is a flour and it is a much better thickening agent than wheat flour.”

Once again Mouse couldn’t say no. “Okay, give me your recipe. I am only collecting them at the moment and I’ll think about it!”

Ingredients

3 heaped tablespoons of corn flour, 2 cups of milk (or milk and water), 1 generous tablespoon of cocoa, 2 tablespoons of sugar.

Method

In a bowl, mix the corn flour, sugar and cocoa and add half a cup of milk to make a smooth paste. Make sure there are no lumps in it.

Heat the rest of the milk (1 1/2 cups) and before it boils add the paste you made earlier. Stir continuously until it bubbles. It will thicken quite quickly once it starts boiling. Stir until it doesn’t thicken any further.

Eat warm or let rest to cool.

“You said earlier you might add an egg if you have one. When would you add this?” asked Mouse.

“Simply mix any eggs into the corn flour paste before you put it into the heated milk” answered Daredevil. “They are also a thickening agent and you can leave out a little bit of the corn flour.”