Friday, 26 June 2015

Pear and Ginger Chutney

From the genus 'Pyrus', the same family as the rose, comes this hugely adaptable and delicious fruit - the pear. Each and every variety having their own special uses. They are low GI, average less than 60 calories and dentists prefer them to apples, (less acid). If you want to know more, check out this great Australian Pear web site.

After buying quite a few locally grown pears and finding my chutney shelf pretty empty, I thought it was time to get out the jam pot.  Sweet, gooey and dripping in a dark spiced syrup was the result of two and a half hours of cooking up a mixture of pears, dried fruit and spices. If you were to close your eyes and just take in the aroma you might find yourself on a magic carpet drifting over the Middle East and the souks of Dubai or Iran.

This chutney has all the ingredients for something very special and believe me in earlier years it would have been deemed so precious, people would have traded it as currency! I'm thinking I could eat it by itself on a piece of fresh bread or served with a delicious cheese platter. Needless to say, once you have tasted it I am sure you will have your own ideas on how to serve it.

Pear and Ginger Chutney


2.5 kilos pears peeled and chopped
½ cup green pepper, chopped
1.5 cup raisins or sultanas
4 cups sugar
1 cup crystallised ginger, chopped
2 cups vinegar - I used a mix of malt and white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon each salt, cloves, and allspice
2 cinnamon sticks

Mix all the ingredients together and simmer uncovered for around 2 - 3 hours on a very low heat. The mixture should be dark brown, thick and very syrupy.
 This dish is quite sweet and teems very well with cheese. The sweetness of the syrup is  cut by the spices and the tartness of the vinegar.
Once the chutney has cooled a little, remove the cinnamon sticks and bottle as for jam. (See my post on Cherry Jam for instructions on).

Saturday, 13 June 2015

French Bread

Bread making has never been my strong point. I can buy exceptional artisan bread locally - but yes there is a cost involved and a high one. If you can get all the element right, then bread making should really be a pretty easy process, but I did say "if".  Attempts previously have been under proved, over proved, under cooked,  or just plain revolting.

I found a recipe for some French style loaves on line and it look relatively easy and I was very surprised that they turned out into something resembling bread, well edible - but they weren't French! What I really wanted was a baguette!

Here's my first attempt at making French Loaves
Since this attempt I have been reading more about bread making and what's needed to make a good 'baguette' and it seems that steam is needed to get something close to authentic. I decided to try again using a a different recipe and I introduced some steam into the picture to see if I could get the bread I was looking for.
I am sure there are a lot of bakers that can't understand the difficulty we mere humans have with making bread, but I am trying !!!!!

The recipe I found on the web at Thanks Chef John for sharing this and the little video that goes with it to walk you through step by step.

It's a no knead recipe that seemed to be pretty simple to make, but the proving time said 12 hours in a warm place.  Although it isn't quite winter, the evenings are very chilly and my house cools overnight and I was wondering if it would rise at all. I did not need to worry because I left the light on in the oven for a good 3 hrs to give it a start and that was sufficient to keep it warm and help it to rise. 

Here's a photo of the finished product. Not bad? This is the closest I have got to a Baguette and I think if I keep trying to tweek the recipe I should end up with something close. The density of the bread is pretty good and it turned out to be very light and crusty.

If you have another recipe that you think works well, please let me know, I am desperate to make some more.

Next batch I will add a few more photos, but until then Happy Baking!

Friday, 5 June 2015

Cheese and Herb Scones

A few days ago a friend asked me if I had a savoury scone recipe. Here was I thinking that everyone would have their own favourite recipe, but maybe not! So here is one that works every time.

Savoury Scones can be served for lunch or dinner or just a nice snack at any time of day. I have served them with many different soups, cream cheese and pickle or with a slathering of butter. Which ever way you choose to eat them be mindful that they are addictive and it's difficult to stop at just one.

Serve these in preference to sweet scones because lashings of cream and jam have way more calories and I like to think that the savoury scones are a little healthier than the sweet alternative. So be friendly and share them around.


Ingredients  Makes 12 scones

2 cups self raising flour
30g butter diced
pinch salt
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup tasty cheese
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup of extra cheese (optional)
handful of chopped herbs chives, oregano, basil, parsley
or a combination of these works well

  • Prepare a baking tray with baking paper and set aside. Heat oven to 200ยบ fan forced/400
  • In a large bowl add butter, salt and flour and rub in with fingertips.
  • Add cheese. Combine water and milk and add this to the flour beginning with a well in the centre.
  • Using a flat bladed knife work the flour until it comes together in a ball.

  • Knead very gently on a floured board them roll out to around 2cms thick.
  • Using a floured scone cutter, cut out scones and place reasonably close together on your prepared baking tray.

  • If using extra cheese, sprinkle this on top of the scones and bake in oven for 15 - 20 minutes until nicely brown on top. Cool on a wire rack.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Corn Soup

I have a hankering for a Corn Chowder! I haven't made one of these for a very long time and with winter just around the corner this would put a smile on my face and fire in my belly.

Sweet Corn is such a versatile vegetable, not only in the way it can be prepared to eat but its other uses. Did you know that toothpaste, rubber products, paint, varnish and cosmetics are just a few of the items made from corn? Amazing to think of this widely grown and eaten vegetable can do so much.
Can you think of any other product that you use on a regular basis that is also made from corn?

But I am talking food so let's get back into this fabulous Corn Soup or Corn Chowder. This soup originated in USA as a Clam Chowder and Corn Soup is often served as a vegetarian alternative.
But whatever the origin, this Corn Chowder is pretty damn good and I like to think of many Americans sitting down during Thanksgiving and dipping a chunk of bread into the very same.

My fancy - a bowl of steaming soup, some crunchy bread and a glass of wine! A perfect end to a perfect winter's day.

Corn Soup or Corn Chowder

Ingredients   serves 6 people

2 sticks celery very finely sliced
small onion very finely diced
2 medium sized potatoes, diced
500 ml reduced fat milk
500 ml cup vegetable stock or water
fresh thyme
salt and pepper
1 400g can creamed corn
2 cobs of corn with corn removed or a packet of frozen corn
knob of butter
1 tbls olive oil
2 tbls chives finely chopped
1/2 cup extra tasty cheese

  • Take olive oil and butter  and add to a large pot and under a low heat. Stir in onion and celery and cook for a few minutes until the onion softens. 
  • Now add potato and cook for a further 2 minutes coating the potato with oil and butter. 
  • Mix milk and stock/ water together with fresh thyme,  creamed corn, salt and pepper and cook for 15 minutes or until the potato is almost cooked. 
  • Take fresh or frozen corn and add this to the pot and continue to cook until the corn is soft. 
  • Check consistency. If the soup is too thick you can dilute with a little more milk.
  • Before serving, place some of the extra tasty cheese into the bottom of each bowl then fill with hot soup. Sprinkle with freshly chopped chives.
  • This soup is delicious served with with Cheese and Herb Scones, Bagels or fresh crusty bread.
I haven't posted a recipe for my scones yet, but I will try and do this later in the week, because I have been asked to include it.  Check back soon.