Seasonal Eats: Mango Salsa

mango salsa || cityhippyfarmgirl

It being the height of summer here in Australia at the moment, it’s hard to imagine any day that doesn’t involve hot, or at least a variation of hot. Sure I know it will eventually, it usually does but for the moment it’s all about the heat and how to get through it all without melting into a puddle.

Swimming helps, and oooh yes indeedy it does help. Swimming is divine. Feeling the silken flow of water over your body is one of the greatest things in life. I can wax lyrical on that topic from now until eternity…however it’s not about the water today.

So how else do we cope with the regularly accompanying heat of an Australian summer? Well, I’ll start by doing as little cooking as possible. Sure I still bake sourdough. It’s a baking standard round here. But if I can stretch out the days in between putting the oven on in an already hotter than hot kitchen I will.

Filling bellies is the thing though. If I don’t want to use the oven, and am trying to steer clear of any stove top cooking as well, well that leaves a little less food options when cooking from scratch.

Mango salsa, is thankfully something that doesn’t involve either the oven or stove top. Sure you probably don’t want it accompanying every meal time…but you could certainly give it a crack!

mango-salsa-recipe-cityhippyfarmgirl

Mango Salsa

2 mangoes, peeled, seed taken out and flesh chopped evenly

1 small spanish or brown onion, finely diced

1 small chilli, deseeded if super fiery hot, and finely diced

1 squeeze of lime

1 grated small radish

a generous handful of roughly chopped mint

pinch of salt and black pepper

Add all ingredients together and serve with chickpea pancakes if you don’t mind using the stove top, or a bowl of corn chips, and a cold drink with as many ice cubes stuffed in as possible.

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What’s your favourite way to stay cool over summer?

Jazzing up your dinner with Pangritata- Frugal Friday

cityhippyfarmgirl

cityhippyfarmgirlPoor man’s parmesan it’s called but eating it, I feel anything but poor.

crunch, crunch, crunch….

 Like any good peasant food, it’s cheap, frugal, uses up what’s available and is rather versatile in jazzing up the most basic of meals.

crunch, crunch, crunch….

You can team it up with what ever you have on hand, looking good at your local farmers market, or getting flaccid in your fridge.. For me, it’s usually some seasonal green vegetables and maybe a little fetta to bump up the protein. (The pictured one was zucchini, peas, and leek.)

Really the possibilities are endless. Just the thing for Frugal Friday.

cityhippyfarmgirl

Pangritata

In a frying pan add some

Stale bread crumbs (I use the ends of my sourdough loaves, and pulse them in a blender until crumb like.)

Add a couple of slugs of olive oil

a clove of crushed local garlic

zest of an organic lemon

some finely chopped fresh chilli

and some salt and pepper to taste.

Lightly fry it up until golden, (or alternatively bake it on a tray if you have the space in your oven while cooking something else.)

I make a whole big batch and just keep it in the fridge. No idea how long it keeps as it never lasts that long round these parts.

Give it a crack.

Pistachio and Vanilla Panna Cotta with Persian Pashmak

panna cotta

I was a little nervous about using the Pashmak. I hadn’t really understood why until it came out in an email to the revered foodie Tania. I had asked her for some input on what to make with the goods and suddenly it became abundantly clear to me… I was nervous because this Persian fairy floss was dainty and delicate.

Dainty, delicate… and pink!

Not three words that I would usually string together in my cooking. Rustic yes, every day yes, basic yes…but dainty and delicate? Not really.

I’d bought it with grand visions, plans changed, ideas came and went, and so did the time. When are you going to use that stuff? said Mr Chocolate helpfully… Soon, really soon.

Cupcakes possibly… a cake could be good…or perhaps a little panna cotta?

Now panna cotta sounded like the right thing although along with never having played with pashmak before I’d never tried making panna cotta before, or used gelatine for that matter.

Well that was my answer wasn’t it. The one that I had the least amount of knowledge on, and only a fluffy idea forming, well that would be the one. Of course it would be, it’s the cityhippyfarmgirl way. Hackbaking I like to call it, (and if it all ended up in colourful sloppy mess in a bowl? I had a sneaking suspicion we’d still eat it.)

cityhippyfarmgirl

Pistachio and Vanilla Panna Cotta

300mls cream

150g natural yogurt

50mls water

75g raw sugar

 1 tsp vanilla

60 mls water

2 1/2 tsp powder gelatine

Sprinkle the gelatin over the water, dissolving it. In a pot add the cream, yogurt and sugar- gently heat to dissolve the sugar. Cool a little, and add the gelatine mixture and vanilla, dissolve again.  Pour into individual glasses and chill for about 3 hours.

40g lightly roasted pistachios- roughly crushed

Persian Pashmak*

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* Pashmak wilts in humidity…a lot!

If you like rose water, you can swap this for the vanilla.

Jammin’ with Mariana

I love making jams and marmalades. For me it’s the perfect way to preserve the season. Vanilla Plum Jam- a gentle reminder of hot summer days in a jar, when eaten in the cool of winter. Tarty Citrus Marmalade- Autumn love and enjoyed every week of the year on my sourdough toast.

I started making jam and marmalades back when I was a teenager. I’d watched my mum do it countless times and just learnt by watching. A couple of decades on and I still happily make my preserves although I’m not particularly good at why I do certain things, I just do.

For this reason I thought I would do a Q and A on jam making, with the ever knowledgable Mariana from Thru My Kitchen Window. Mariana’s pantry is the kind of pantry I would quite happily raid any night of the week. Those darkened shelves, I know would be lined full of beautifully made preserves. Made with a basket full of love and knowledge, (which is a pretty awesome combination when it comes to cooking.)

how to make jam-cityhippyfarmgirl

Jammin’ with Mariana @ Thru My Kitchen Window

Q: What is the best kind of fruit to jam and do I use over ripe, or under ripe fruit?

A: Fruits that grow successfully or are native to the area where you live.  Apples would be an exception; for example I live in SE Qld and I source my apples at the local farmers market. The apple growers are from Stanthorpe (over two hundred kms away) and I know the apples were picked up to three days before market. Under ripe or close to just being ripe are the best fruit to use in jamming.

mulberries

Q: What is pectin, why do I need it and which fruit has the most? Can I use that packet stuff that says Jam Setter?

A: Pectin can be a hard thing to understand until you’ve worked with quite a number of fruits; at least it was for me. I would describe pectin as a ‘gummy-like substance’ that oozes from the fruit while it’s simmering. Adding lemon juice to simmering fruit helps to further release the pectin. Pectin levels are different in every fruit, eg; apples are high; strawberries are low.  Preserve books generally contain information about the pectin levels in most fruits; consult them or the net and use as a guide to help you achieve the best setting. It’s worth noting that once you add the sugar to the fruit you are no longer enabling the pectin to release; so do not add sugar until you’re happy with the softness or firmness of the fruit. You may think the rind in your marmalade is very soft, but once the sugar is added it actually assists in toughening the skin, so don’t be afraid to cook down fruit with rind, unless of course you like a firm rind.  The sugar will cook with the available pectin to form a gel or set; you may need to persist a few times till you get the setting right. Don’t give up, it’s all learning.

I’ve made and used my own liquid pectin stock. It’s very good; but some of the gels have been too firm so in future I’d only use it with poorer pectin fruits if at all.

I don’t use packet jam setter so I can’t comment on that one.  I’ve heard that these setting agents can reduce the intensity of the flavour in the fruit. However if you’re new to jam-making then anything that will help to boost your confidence in setting the jam can’t be such a bad thing.

how to make jam- cityhippyfarmgirl

Q. How long do I cook it for? Is timing the same for every fruit or does it vary?

A. Cooking times for jams all vary, for example strawberry jam could take 5mins to simmer and another 5 or 10mins for setting, whilst for strawberry and apple jam, simmering could take 20mins till the apples are soft and up to another 20mins till it jells. It’s all approximate unfortunately as so many factors depend on the condition of the fruit. For instance if you use overripe strawberries you’ll most likely end up with a strawberry sauce with very little chance of setting. Unblemished, just-ripe strawberries will in the same cooking time will give you a much better jam result.

jam

Q.What’s the saucer test, and how do I know when it’s ready? Also, I’ve heard about jam getting wrinkly, what does that mean?

A. I used to do the saucer test. Basically it’s to test how well the jam is jelling. Place a teaspoon of the jam onto a chilled saucer that’s been in the fridge.  Allow a couple of minutes to cool. Then with your finger gently push the jam from one side to see if it ‘wrinkles’. If it does then your jam has reached setting point; cease any further cooking. If it doesn’t wrinkle then presumably it needs more cooking.

These days I use my wooden spoon to determine the setting of my jam, jelly or marmalade.  Dip the spoon into the centre of the saucepan and slowly lift the spoon well above the pot. Tilt and watch how the liquid drips back into the mixture. If it runs off quickly, then keep cooking.  When a setting point is reached, the jam should fall off the spoon in small clumpy teardrops . I much prefer using this method than the saucer test but it does take practise to recognise the signs.

blueberries

Q.Skimming scum off the top doesn’t sound very pleasant, do I need to do that?

A. Yes. It’s unavoidable that some impurities will rise to the top as it should. This is a good thing.  Take a metal spoon and skim away from the sides. Don’t attempt to skim from the centre of the pot; you’ll scald yourself.  With some fruits there’ll be lots of scum while hardly any with others. Generally cooking the whole fruit albeit chopped, will produce greater scum. This is usually the case for jelly-making, and even more important to remove because jellies can be quite transparent and therefore the clarity depends on how well you skim the scum away during cooking.

Q. How to sterilise your jars and do I really need to? There seem to be so many different methods to do this?

A. Consult ‘canning books’ or simply ‘google’ to see recommendations on how best to sterilize. I always wash the jars and lids together in hot soapy water; rinse in boiling water, sit on a rack that’s also been placed in hot water.  Arrange the jars on a baking tray bottom side down and place into a preheated conventional oven at about 80degrees; leave while the jam is cooking. Don’t put the lids in the oven till five minutes before the jam is ready. Your jars and lids should be quite ‘hottish’ just before filling. Once you’ve filled your jars, seal immediately. Place the jars side by side in a high sided tin or tray.  Cover with a tea towel to help cool down slowly.  I’ve yet to encounter a problem doing it this way. I read that filled jars should be reboiled for ten minutes, but I find it all so tedious and an extra step in what can already be quite an arduous task.

jamjars

Q. How long does the jam keep for?

A.The greater the sugar content the longer the keeping time. If you use one cup sugar to one cup of fruit then easily a year and even up to two years. You may get some discolouration of the jam as it tends to darken a little the older it is. These days I prefer to use a ratio of between sixty or seventy five percent sugar to the fruit. In this case it’s best to use the jam between six months and up to a year. At least that’s my experience.

citrus

Q. If I have never made jam before, what might be an easy fruit to start with?

A.Choose a fruit that’s in season, one with reasonable pectin levels.  Add some Granny Smith Apples – this will improve your chances for a really good set – and help your confidence for the next jam-making session.  If you want to be really adventurous, go for making marmalade. You’ll have extra work with finely shredding rind, but your chances for a good setting will be excellent as citrus have high levels of pectin.

Q. And lastly, what’s your favourite jam?

A. I love a really good orange marmalade; it’s hard to beat.  However; dabbling in lilly pillies and jaboticaba fruit the last couple of years has been thrilling and has produced some wonderful discoveries.  And the mulberry season this year was one of the best ever. The mulberry and lime jelly I made was so intense in flavour it was unbelievable. My gifts to people turned into a nightmare! They were begging me to buy more of the stuff, so I’ll have to say mulberry jelly is my favourite. One thing it did confirm, there’s nothing quite like the taste of a home-made preserve.

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A huge thank you to the lovely Mariana for taking the time to do this and if anyone has any other questions that haven’t been covered here, please do ask in the comments. Hopefully I, Mariana, or someone else can jump in and answer. Jam making isn’t scary or complicated, it’s following some general rules and then you are away, ready to preserve the season. 

the pumpkin time had arrived

pumpkin dhal

The pumpkin had been sitting there, waiting patiently on the kitchen table for weeks.

Days went by, and still nothing. Evening meals came and went on by, still no pumpkin passed our lips. I was waiting for the right moment, the right time to cut in to that deep orange flesh. It had been grown and given with thought and love. I wanted to eat it in the same way.

The time was right, the knife was sharp, our bellies were hungry.

The pumpkin time had arrived.

Pumpkin Scones

25g softened butter

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup mashed pumpkin

1 beaten egg

grated rind of half a lemon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

pinch of salt

3 cups sifted s/r flour

Cream butter and sugar together. Whisk in all other ingredients except the flour. Fold in flour with a knife. Turn out on to a floured surface and lightly knead, just until the ingredients come together. Cut out with a floured upturned glass. Pop on to a baking tray and bake at 210C for about 20 minutes.

capsicum sweet chilli sauce

I wanted to make this chilli sauce, but then realised I didn’t have enough vinegar, and also wanted to use up the eight long capsicums I had, (bull horn’s.) So I fiddled a bit, a little tweak, a whispered please let it work and hey presto… capsicum chilli sauce. I think I actually like this one even more than the other as it’s a little less sweet, leaves the taste of the capsicums and still gives a dish the kick I want it to.

Capsicum Chilli Sauce

8 long thin capsicums

100g small hot chillis

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups white vinegar

5 cloves garlic

2 tsp salt

black pepper

2 good slurps of balsamic vinegar

In a food processor, blitz the capsicum, chilli, garlic and ginger. In a pot add add the remaining ingredients, add chilli combination and bring to a rolling boil. Keep at the same temperature, stirring until sauce thickens. Poor in to sterilised glass jars/ bottles or in to a clean jar and store in the fridge.

asparagus and capsicum- Frugal Friday

Summer eating is getting kick started here, and I’ve been lucky enough to get some wonderful locally grown asparagus and capsicums lately. When the vegetables are already tasting delicious and as they should be, I don’t want to do much to them, there is no need. Simple cooking means dinners ready in a few minutes, and I’m definitely up for that.

In a pot or wok* over high heat, add a good slurp of olive oil. Some chopped capsicum give it a couple of minutes head start and add your chopped asparagus. Stirring it through, and cook until asparagus is just done.

On to a plate and drizzle some extra olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Serve with a swiss cheese omelette and some crusty bread.

What’s delicious and seasonal in Sydney this month?

Berries- strawberries, raspberries, blueberries

Cherries- still expensive, but oh so good

Nectarines and peaches are getting a look in

Asparagus- cook it as soon as you buy it, don’t let it sit in the fridge for a week

Basil-for pesto making, dead easy.

* I use my flat bottomed wok for just about everything. Used on a gas flame, it cooks quickly and evenly. Don’t just use it for Asian style meals, it lends it self to pretty much any kind of cooking you can think of…except maybe cupcakes.

how to make butter and yogurt- Frugal Friday

I think every blogger who ever dabbles in food posts, has done a how- to- make- yogurt and/ or butter at one time or another. Just to add to the lovely collection- here’s my way.

How To Make Yogurt 

What you will need-

kettle, yogurt thermos, yogurt container, powdered milk, 2 heaped tablespoons old yogurt, water, measuring cup.

Time it takes- do it in the time it takes to boil the kettle.

Fill your kettle up and turn it on. Take 2 heaped spoonfuls of bought yogurt (like the end of the tub), add a little water to mix it, it’s now runny and set aside.

 Fill your yogurt container half full with water.

 Add one and a half cups of powdered milk. No need to shake it down and fit as much as you can, just roughly 1 1/2 cups. Mix it with a spoon and add your runny yogurt mixture. Mix again and fill the rest of the container up with water. Lid on, give it a good shake.

 Kettles boiled. Fill it up to the top of the plastic thingy inside. Place your yogurt container in with the lid on, add the thermos lid and leave it (don’t peak) for 8-12 hours. The longer you leave it the tartier it will taste. (I’ve forgotten it for 24 hours and it’s still fine.)

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Once, about every six weeks I refresh the batch with a packet of the ready to go yogurt mix you can buy (which is just add water and shake.) I find it keeps the cultures stronger, and more likely to keep it at a thicker Greek style yogurt consistency, (which is what we all like.)

$20 for the yogurt maker, and each litre of yogurt I make, works out to be about $1.50 a batch. I then add any of our homemade seasonal jams to sweeten the yogurt. Dead easy. You are saving a whole bundle of money, no more plastic tubs and you don’t have the usual paragraph of ingredients that’s in a lot of yogurt today.

How To Make Butter

In a mixer, pour in a carton of cream. The best you can buy, (not thickened cream). Whip it….and keep whipping…

 Keep it whipping until it starts to look like this. The liquid will start to separate, which is then able to be drained off. Add a pinch of salt (to taste) and keep squeezing out that excess moisture using a spatula against the side of the bowl. You don’t want any of that moisture in there. Once it is all drained off it can be shaped into what ever shape you need.

Next time you see one of those fancy pancy butters imported from countries far far away, you can have a little chuckle at the thought of spending that much money on butter and then go home and make it yourself. Again, dead easy.

Now where’s the bread to go with it?…

Strawberries in Lemon

Some delicious strawberries are starting to hit my kitchen bench. Just briefly.

Briefly as The Monkeys like to wrestle them out of my hands and flick them into the mouths quicker than you can say… hey, I was going to eat that.

I hid two punnets at the back of the fridge. It was the only way I was going to get this dessert out.

Strawberries in Lemon

2 punnets of strawberries (minus maybe a few…. they looked good to me too)

3 tbls raw sugar

3 tbls lemon juice

Let it sit for about an hour, letting all those juices think about things a while. Then put on the table with a flourish…. look what I just found at the back of the fridge!

*For an adult version swap the lemon juice for a sweet white wine.

* For Sydney-siders locally grown strawberries are coming in soon, so keep a look out at your friendly local farmers markets.

custard biscuits

As a kid I was rather attracted to anything with custard in it. My mum’s egg custard using our backyard chook eggs was a firm favourite, along with a coconut custard pie that she would sometimes make. Always offering to ‘wash’ the pot for her, I would scrape out every last tiny spec left on the bottom of the pot. This was the beginnings of building my strong custard foundations.

My sister and I next discovered that custard powder was an easy way to make your own after dinner treat. Just add milk, cook and your away. A lovely bowl of sloppy sweet goodness. (My sister using so much custard powder in there that the spoon would stand straight up in it.)

My grandmother always used to keep ready-made custard in a carton in the fridge, for when ever hungry grand kids came to stay. I’d eat my weight in it for dessert, followed quickly by breakfast over the top of my weetbix, (these sorts of things you can get away with when you bat your eyelashes, and try to look like a hungry waif. Grandma was always keen to feed me up.)

Outside the home, if we ever went to a bakery it would always be a custard tart, or a custard slice (vanilla slice) that I would choose. There was no need to consider anything else as clearly custard reigned supreme in the bakery choices.

These days my custard consuming as been curtailed a little. The palate is a little more picky and the metabolism a little more sluggish than my frantic teenage appetite for all things custard. Although I did recently introduce Little Monkey to a beautifully delicate French patisserie custard slice. He was keen. As he elbowed his way through to the last portion that I had stupidly been slower to eat. Looks like the little fella might be following in similar custardy footprints.

Custard Biscuits

Cream together

200gms softened butter

100gms (1/2 cup) caster sugar

then add

70gms (1/2 cup) custard powder

225gms (1 1/2 cups) plain flour

1 tps vanilla essence

mix together, and shape

I used a piping bag to shape these, or you could easily roll them into balls and squish them down as well. Bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes, or until a light golden colour.