Friday, 28 September 2012

Aromatic Vegetables & Potato Fritters

Sometimes you have an odd collection of vegetables and leftovers in the fridge.   This week I had a small swede, some pumpkin, a large parsnip, a leek, some leftover corned beef and mustard sauce.   I knew Lois Daish would have ideas for this odd collection in her "Good Food" cookbook, and she did.

This vegetable stew is an ideal way to use up a number of vegetables, and you can use what you have on hand rather than sticking exactly to the recipe.   If using kumara you should dice it and cover with water otherwise it will turn brown.

Pumpkin or Kumara Stewed with Aromatic Vegetables

First stage of aromatic stew cooking up leek, parsnip/carrot, celery and herbs

(Serves  4)
The point when you add the pumpkin and water to the sauted vegetables
500g pumpkin, butternut or kumara ( I used a mix of swede and pumpkin)
1 leek or onion
1 carrot (I used the parsnip)
1 rib celery
2 cloves garlic
3 Tbsp olive oil or clarified butter or a mixture
grated zest of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
thyme, parsley and bay leaf
1-2 cups water

Cut the rind off the pumpkin or butternut and remove the seeds or peel the kumara - cut into 2 cm dice.
Finely dice the leek or onion, carrot (parsnip) and celery.   Peel and crush garlic.
Put the oil in heavy pot and add the finely diced vegetables with the garlic, lemon zest and herbs.
Season with salt and pepper.
Fry gently for about 15 minutes.
Add the pumpkin (and the swede) to the cooked vegetables and stir.
Barely cover with water and simmer until tender - about 20 minutes.
Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley or your chosen herb - coriander would be good.

I accompanied the stew with corned beef potato fritters, but this is delicious as a main on a bed of couscous, finished off with a dollop of pesto and some pickled red onion.

You could also serve it with cooked greens.

Here's another recipe from Lois Daish that I adapted to use my leftover diced corned beef.  I usually keep faithful to this recipe because its delicious as is, but it also works with additions.

Roy Duncan's Potato Fritters - serves 4 

Potato Fritters cooking
 recipe from "Good Food" by Lois Daish
4 medium potatoes
salt and pepper
nutmeg, freshly grated
2 egg whites
Clarified butter or oil for frying

Put the grated potato into a clean tea towel,
 squeeze hard into a jug the water from the potato
Peel potatoes and grate with the course side of the grater.  Place in a cloth and squeeze out as much liquid as possible*
Place in a bowl and season well with salt, pepper and nutmeg.   
Whisk the egg whites until snowy.  Fold gently into the potatoes.

Heat oil in a frying pan until moderately hot.  Place spoonfuls of the potato mixture in the pan.
fry until golden brown on one side.  Turn over and brown the second side.   Continue cooking until the potato is tender.  
Drain on paper towels and serve immediately while still crisp.

Variation:  dice up corned beef, a dollop of mustard sauce or 1 tsp mustard to replace the nutmeg, and a handful of rocket sliced.

* I used the freshly squeezed potato liquid as part of the water measure in the Aromatic vegetable stew.   It's too good to throw away.   No use keeping it as stock unless you cook it because it quickly turns black but you could drink it as it has health benefits.   You should rinse out your tea towel immediately to avoid staining.

Instant pickled onion: a decorate and tasty addition to a salad or a  topping to a dish like the aromatic vegetable stew. It's great in a simple cheese and pickled onion sandwich. Slice onion (red, brown or Spanish white) very finely using a mandolin (if you have one). Sprinkle on some sugar, salt and then a sprinkling of cider or wine vinegar to taste. It takes a minute for the onion to soften and be pickled - sweet and milder than raw. Keeps for a day or two in the fridge. 

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Carrots - eat lots of them!

There is nothing quite like pulling a carrot straight from the garden, running it under the tap and eating the crunchy sweetness straight away.      But is it healthier to eat a carrot raw or cooked?  

I was surprised at the answer.  Carrots are more nutritious when cooked.   

A European study has revealed that 3% of the total beta-carotene content is released from raw carrots when consumed in raw pieces, juiced or pulped 21%, and cooking the carrot the accessibility was up to 27%. Addition of oil to the cooked pulp further increased the released amount to 39%.   It's to do with the ability of our digestive system to extract the beta-carotene from the tough cellular walls of the raw carrot. (Reference: European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2002)   

That childhood favourite of bubble and squeak (parsnip and carrot mash) is the healthiest of all if you add olive oil.

Don't stop eating them raw - you do benefit from the vitamin C in carrots that is lost in cooking.   
The last of my autumn planted orange and purple carrots - their  "hairy legs"  show their age but they still taste sweet when cooked in the oven

This is good news for me because I love carrots cooked in the oven and Farmers Market chef Alison Lambert gave me an excellent way of cooking them.   I have a request for that recipe to go with the gremolata topping I gave in the parsley posting.  

Caramelised Carrots with Gremolata (lemon and parsley topping)

(serves 4)
2 Tbsp oil 
50g butter
600 g carrots (if small keep whole or cut in half lengthwise) *
(or a mix of carrots and parsnips)
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 cloves garlic, squashed lightly but kept unpeeled

Preheat the oven to 180C.  

Place your roasting dish into the oven to heat up so that when you add the carrots they immediately roast and colour up.

Put carrots, thyme, and garlic into bowl with oil, butter and season.  Toss and combine so that the carrots are coated in oil.

Toss into a preheated roasting tray and give it a light shake, cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes

Remove foil and continue to roast for a further 20 minutes or until tender and golden.

Toss  through or sprinkle on top the gremolata and serve immediately - you need to do this last minute so that when the vegetables are placed on the table they have that fresh fragrance of the parsley and lemon zest.  

You can also mix in some mint with the parsley which would work really well for some vegetables, e.g courgettes and asparagus.
Use this method of mixing the oil or dressing through and then tossing onto a preheated tray for all your vegetable roasting adventures and experiment with other herbs e.g. marjoram, rosemary
 * Good to know:   Carrots cooked without being sliced have one quarter more of the anti-cancer compound falcarinol than those that are chopped up first.  So limit the cutting up as much as you can until after they are cooked.   I saw on a television programme that it doesn't take any longer to cook a carrot whole than to cook it sliced.   

Purple carrots are not just a trendy addition to your carrot options.   They tend to have greater quantities of anti-oxidants and vitamins than the orange variety.   

The more intense the colour, the higher beta-carotene content the vegetable or fruit has and this includes greens like kale, silverbeet and broccoli.   I have purchased six orange cauliflowers called Cheddar Cheese so I imagine these contain beta-carotene.

My family used to joke that my son Francis was raised on raw carrots like a rabbit.  He was my only fussy eater but he would eat raw carrots.   Perhaps Francis knew a thing or two because carrots are so good for you.   Carrots help your eyesight, hair and nails,  regulate blood sugar, lower blood pressure, improve your ability to fight infection, assist in fighting liver and heart disease and for breast feeding mothers can enhance the quality of breast milk - so why wouldn't you eat lots of them!    

But there is a warning that you can overdose on vitamin A especially if you are consuming lots of carrot juice.   People have turned up in doctors surgeries looking quite orange with vitamin A poisoning.

My favourite juice combination is carrot, apple and ginger and is a great tonic to take if you are fighting infection or feel your body is under stress - and it tastes so good!

Jamie Oliver first introduced me to baking carrots and I often do carrots this way or mix with some other vegetables.  He uses thyme but I often use marjoram - you can use either or try tarragon as it's delicious with carrots.

Baked Carrots with Cumin, Marjoram and Chardonnay
(serves 4)
450g preferably whole new carrots scrubbed
1/2 tsp ground cumin* (you can add a little more as to your taste but cumin can easily dominate)
About 1 Tbsp of fresh marjoram or oregano or a couple of sprigs of thyme
Olive oil or I really like Avocado oil with lime for this - or you can use butter
1 glass chardonnay (or any leftover white wine and just as much as you have leftover)
Seasoning with salt and pepper

Jamie Oliver does this all in a large piece of foil.   I tend to use a covered casserole dish.  He mixes everything together on the foil (like I did in the bowl in the previous recipe), brings the sides up and then add the wine and scrunch the foil together to seal.

He cooks this for 45 minutes at 220C or longer for older bigger carrots.  I tend to cook them for 50 minutes at 180C fanbake in the casserole dish.   But it can fit in with whatever else is in the oven temperature wise - just the cooking time will vary.

I often cook potatoes and other vegetables this same way with some squashed garlic to make a one pot vegie meal for the two of us.    New potatoes are especially delicious.

The foil method is handy to use if you haven't got much room in your oven as it can be shaped to fit, or if you are somewhere where there are not enough oven dishes.  It's great to present for an outside meal as it looks rustic and casually thrown together...which is it.

* Its important that your ground spices are fresh so that the oils and fragrance remain.   You don't need to buy ground cumin you just need cumin seeds.   Put them into a small heavy pan on the stove top and toast until you can smell the fragrance - it will only take about ten seconds.  Now put the seeds into a spice grinder (a coffee grinder you keep for the purpose) or grind with a mortar and pestle.  Now smell the difference between the ground cumin you buy and the one you have prepared.

Carrot tops contain vitamin K but the carrot itself doesnt
I didnt know you could eat carrot tops.   I won't will be eating my aged carrot tops for vitamin K but I will try some baby carrot tops when they arrive.   I need to plant some carrots soon so that I can enjoy lots of carrots over the summer.    I do prefer to get my vitamin K from parsley (see my previous post on parsley).

Sunday, 23 September 2012

You say griddle and I say girdle - stove top baking revisited

Girdle, Griddle or Bakestone - a cast iron cooking plate for stove top baking 
There has been some debate with neighbours Rob and Clare about just what to call this piece of cooking equipment.   Alexa Johnson's recipe book "Ladies a Plate - Traditional Home Baking" gave us the answer.   Well three answers really!   The Scots call it a girdle, the Irish a griddle and the Welsh a bakestone.   "These metal plates were once an essential piece of kitchen equipment in the days when domestic ovens were rare and fuel was scarce."  I will call mine a girdle from now on to reflect my Scottish heritage.

Clare and Rob hunted down their own girdle or griddle in a second hand shop in South Dunedin.  Clare proudly handed to us while we were in the garden a plate of Welsh tea cakes  - they were delicious!

You can use a heavy, preferably caste iron, pan instead of the girdle to make any of the following recipes.
Welsh Tea Cakes made by Clare

Welsh Tea Cakes  or Welsh Cake Johnnies 

(From Alexa Johnson's recipe book "A Second Helping")
Welsh tea cakes are a cross between a pikelet and a girdle scone.   They look and taste similar to a dense pikelet with a sugary topping but the preparation is more like a scone.  The cakes freeze well so you can choose to make the full recipe and freeze half or just make half the recipe.   The Welsh cakes Clare gave us were still warm and that's the best way to have them.

170 g butter
450 g self raising flour
170 g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp mixed spice
75g currants
2 eggs
extra caster sugar for dusting 

Rub butter into flour (to save time I use my stick blender to do this), add currants and beaten eggs to make a stiff dough - adding a dash of milk if the dough is too dry.

Working with a 1/4 of the dough at a time, roll out on a lightly floured board to 7mm thick and use cutter of around 5cm width to make dough circles.

Cook 3-4 minutes on each side on a very gentle heat as would be on a coal or wood range top (not easily accomplished on a gas stove top).  They will puff up as they cook.

Store in a folded tea towel and sprinkle with caster sugar as they come off the girdle.

Alternatively you can adapt Nan's Pikelet recipe...

Nan's Pikelets with lemon zest and currants placed on Julia Deans & Anna Coddington souvenir teatowel
In my earlier post I gave you Nan's Pikelet recipe and yesterday with my sister coming for a coffee I decided the adapt the original recipe as suggested in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's "Everyday" cookbook (one of my favourite recipe books).   He calls his pikelets, Drop Scones.   I decided to make Nan's pikelets with 50% white flour and 50% stoneground wholemeal flour to make them a healthier choice and added grated lemon zest to give them a little zing.  Alternatively add 1 tsp of ground ginger instead of the lemon zest.   Hugh suggested adding sultanas onto the pikelet once cooking on the gridle.   I decided that I would like to try currants.   You can even make a smiley face with the currants or sultanas for the kids.  We loved the currants and while the pikelets weren't as fluffy as the 100% white flour ones, you felt satisfied eating less - which is a good thing.

Treacle Scones

In Alexa Johnston's book "Ladies a Plate" Irish writer John Irwin had this to say about Treacle Scones:
"With a piece of buttered treacle bread in his hand a man may well feel like a god."

It traditional to cut Girdle scones into triangles or as they say in Scotland, farls
Treacle scones are crusty, light, slightly sweet and spicy and an excellent morning tea on a Sunday morning with friends.

225 g flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp mixed spice (I used instead Speculaas spice blend used in Holland)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
25 g butter
2 Tbsp treacle
150 ml buttermilk*

Put the Girdle on to heat slowly.

Sift the dry ingredients and either rub in butter with your fingers or do this step in a food processor if you need to save time.

Mix the treacle and buttermilk together and with a rounded knife gently and quickly until the dough comes together and leaves the sides of the bowl cleanly.   Tip mix out onto floured surface, and sprinkle more flour on top.

Knead ever so briefly to make a rough circle .  Rollout  gently to just over 1 cm thick and cut into 6 or 8 farls.  Place the scones on the girdle - do not oil the girdle.

The girdle should have been slowly heating up while you were preparing the scones.  I have found that I need to put my gas at the very lowest point and using a simmer plate if you have one could help to distribute the heat evenly, avoiding burning the outside while leaving the inside uncooked.

Girdle Scones after the first turn
The secret to a thin skin on the girdle scone is to cook slowly - 6-7 minutes each side and then a couple more minutes both sides until the edges look dry - around 15 minutes in total.  Both sides should be a dark golden brown.

To keep them crusty you can cool them on a wire rack, or if you want to keep them warm and soft wrap them in a tea towel.

*You can make your own buttermilk by adding 1 Tbsp lemon juice in 150 ml of full cream milk stirring it on the kitchen bench for 10 minutes to thicken.  Or make half and half mix of skim milk and and low fat yoghurt.

They certainly went down a treat today with our visitors.   We enjoyed them buttered and with plum jam.

You now have three choices of recipe to try some stove top baking.   Enjoy and let me know how you get on.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Parsley - a super food not simply a garnish

The humble parsley - who would guess it's actually a super food rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre.    Yet how many times do you see it looking sadly discarded on a plate at a restaurant?
Curly Leaf parsley - not quite as strong a flavour as Italian flat leaf for cooking

To grow parsley at the start can be tricky but once its established you will always have it.   It doesnt like being transferred as it has a root system like a carrot, but I have had better luck if the seedlings are really little. One plant will usually last for two seasons.    I let parsley run to seed and in my garden wherever it lands it stays.   It seems to thrive in partial shade but it also grows in the sunny sites.

My son, Gus the chef, let me into this secret of creating a fresh bouquet for dishes that have been slowly cooked, especially casseroles.   It's really easy and so effective.

Finely chop parsley, half a clove of garlic and zest from a lemon and add last minute to your dish so that the aroma is still there when you take it to the table.   Now that's a garnish!

I was reminded again of  Gremolata last night when I  attended chef Alison Lambert's 3 hour cooking class celebrating spring.   Alison introduced us to this topping as a final garnish/flavouring for her oven roasted carrots.   

Alison gave us a wonderful night's entertainment talking about living and working in Europe for 10 years, giving us handy hints that I will pass onto you (promise) and a gorgeous two course meal featuring a Greek lamb dish with pasta...yum! (might make that for the next family gathering).   Alison is the Dunedin Farmers' Market chef and like me she stands by herbs stating that they can change dishes from ordinary to something extraordinary.    

I am sure, like me, you will now have new respect for the humble herb parsley. 

Parsley is said to assist in treating PMT, menopause and easing cramps. Eating parsley everyday is claimed to reduce blood pressure.  It's probably the richest herb source of Vitamin K and is loaded with vitamins A, C and B that strengthens the body's immune system, stimulates digestion of protein and fat.   It is a diuretic that helps to rid the body of sodium and a good source of folic acid as well as iron. Chlorophyll found in parsley is a good cure to stop and avoid bad breath - that's why it is recommended that you eat it after consuming garlic. 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Lime Curd & Daffodils

My sister Kerry's home grown daffodils  displayed with flair above her kitchen sink  
 The yellow daffodils inspired me to make some lime curd from small juicy yellow-skinned limes that my sister in law Monica sent me from the sunny Hawkes Bay.    She sends us southerners a mercy parcel every now and then as we can't grow citrus down here.   This time she also gave me a gorgeous litre pack of fruity extra virgin olive oil from The Village Press of Hastings.    I love visiting the Hastings farmers market on Sundays whenever we visit the Bay - I am so envious of things they can grow.
Lime curd recipe makes this much - thanks to limes from Monica and eggs from Claire next door

This curd looks more like a lemon curd in colour and you can use the same recipe for a lemon curd.   I used homegrown eggs from our neighbour Claire and this contributes to the rich yellow.   It only makes a small quantity and if you have abundant lemons, limes or eggs then you can double the recipe.

Lime Curd
finely grated rind and juice of 4 limes ( I use my zest peeler)
3 eggs, beaten
250g caster sugar
75g butter, diced
If you don't have a double boiler use a Pyrex or heat resistant bowl over a pot of boiling water to cook your curd.  Start with the juice and with a whisk gradually whisk in the eggs, sugar and butter.   Keep stirring as it cooks.
You can tell that it is ready when your spoon remains coated
My son Gus who makes heaps of curd told me the secret of a smooth curd is to strain it before bottling into hot jars.  I strain it into a pouring Pyrex jug - I am left with any eggy bits in the strainer.  Eggy bit are caused through not stirring well enough at the beginning and the straining will also catch the strips of lime zest.   If you have grated the zest really finely and your curd is perfect you wont need to do this step.
Finally label with a use by date.   As curd contains egg it should be eaten within 3 weeks and should always be stored in the refrigerator.  This curd is divine with a rich bread like brioche.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Onion Weed - just as good as spring onions

 Onion weed I use to curse as a gardener - then I discovered I could eat it and I have changed my attitude.   I now think of recipes that I can use when I weed this invasive plant.   All of the plant can be eaten.   The flowers - a  pretty white with a green line -  are similar to the spring bulb snowdrops.
The onion weed flower - you can eat it
It does escape into the cultivated garden and it can easily be pulled like a spring onion in this situation.   But its favourite habitat is under trees and you will need a spade to harvest them there.
Lili the cat is not at all interested in the onion weed around her
You will need to hose or soak the onions in water to get rid of all the excess soil, and there is usually a thick and slightly slimy skin over the older bulbets, but these come away quite easily to reveal something similar to spring onions.
Onion weed harvested and ready to used like spring onions

In summer the tops die down but underneath the bulbs, usually the size of marbles, can be dug up and pickled like cocktail onions or sauted whole.  Like onions they have a papery tough first skin but if soaked in water this can easily be removed.   I haven't pickled them yet but perhaps I will give it try later in the year.

How I use onion weed in a foragers salad....
Left over Cabbage & Lentils with my Foragers Salad using Wild Onion Weed
When I am working in the garden I keep aside any tasty thinnings and edible weeds to be used for a lunch salad.   Yesterday I had collected a wild parsnip, horseradish root, miners lettuce, rocket, Southland pea and broad bean shoots.

I reheated the lentils, bacon and cabbage leftovers and put it on toast.  I then added the collected greens and grated parsnip (yes fresh parsnip is quite delicious grated raw).   I had some leftover whipped cream in the fridge so I added the finely grated peeled horseradish root, half a dozen pickled nasturium seeds (you can use capers instead), chopped chervil, a squeeze of lime juice and seasoned with salt.  This made a wonderful peppery-cream dressing.   On top I added chopped previously collected and prepared  wild onion, with the flowers of the wild onion, broad bean and the "purrrple" Southland salad pea.   I drizzled this with some hemp oil - but a good olive oil or my favourite avocado and lime oil would be just as delicious.  It looked and tasted a treat - fresh and nourishing.
Edible flowers decorative and tasty - broadbean, Southland salad pea and wild onion flowers
I am introducing you to my wild weed and flower salads.  I love to create these to add colour, texture and a nourishing freshness to the standard lettuce salad.   This may be intimidating for some of you at first.  I suggest you slowly add these vitamin and mineral packed gems into your family's diet as it takes time to introduce people to something different.

I have been adding flowers and herbs into salads since the 1980's, and have gained confidence in what looks and tastes good.   I remember back then our friend Ian said, "I didn't think I would be eating a flower arrangement for dinner!".  I think he thought I was a little loopy putting viola and borage blooms and calendula petals into a salad but now it's common that restaurants add edible flowers and herbs.  

I intend over time to introduce you to many more herbs, wild plants and other edible parts of vegetables not usually used, e.g. broad bean green shoots and flowers.   I hope you try the humble onion weed - leaves, bulbets and flowers.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

In celebration of the winter cabbage

Today I harvested the last of my cabbages.  I planted six in late autumn and it has been my most successful year yet for cabbage growing.     This success I believe is down to planting late to avoid the aphid and white butterfly and digging in plenty of sheep manure as they are big feeders.   I am lucky to live on the Otago Peninsula so can use seaweed - a  magic mulch!    This week I purchased from the Dunedin farmers market a $5 bag of Havoc bacon pieces thinking this could be a great addition to my final cabbage.    This recipe adds lentils to the cabbage which gives the dish a rich earthy flavour and a satisfying dish.   If you prepare the lentils ahead of time it only takes a jiffy to make at the rush hour of dinner.

It's from one of my favourite books "Riverford Farm Cook Book" introduced to me by my  neighbour Rob.    Riverford farm is one of the largest organic growers in the UK and each vegetable or fruit has a chapter with a number of recipes.   Being English the plants they grow are very similar to our southern NZ growing conditions.
Cabbage recipe with the addition of bacon and onion weed decorated with borage flowers

Braised Cabbage with Lentils Chilli & Coriander  -Serves 4
3 T olive oil
1 large onion chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 chilli chopped (you could leave out if children are eating this)
500g cabbage 
Juice of half lemon
1 T chopped coriander
Salt and pepper

For the lentils:
10g puy lentils (I used green French lentils)
2 garlic cloves peeled
1 T olive oil

Cook the lentils – put in pan with whole garlic and enough water to cover.  Bring to the boil then simmer for about 30 min or until tender topping up with water if needed (esp needed if cooking on gas) – Drain then season well and mix in olive oil. (This can be done ahead )

Heat oil add onion, garlic and chilli then cover and sweat for 5 min until softened, add shredded cabbage and season well.    Cook over high heat until wilted, stir in lemon juice, lentils and coriander.

Adding bacon and celery (if you like) at the time of cooking the onions

My additions to the original are chopped up bacon pieces (equivalent to 2-3 slices of bacon), and chopped celery (because I have it growing and it adds great flavour) at the stage of cooking the  onions, garlic and chilli.   

With the addition of onion weed which is just like spring onion
At the very last minute I added the chopped coriander along with some finely chopped onion weed - my foraging addition to the recipe. 

My cabbage was small and compact - I was surprised to see it weighed exactly 500g! But if you only had a little cabbage you could add a mix of other greens like silverbeet, kale, the crinkly dark green cavolo nero (Itailian kale) or sliced brussel sprouts.     Last time I baked some potatoes and used this dish as a side but it can be a stand alone main, especially with the addition of spicy sausage or bacon.   It would also be delicious served as a bed of green with fish. 

Its always a decision when it comes to taking that last plant.   I harvested some of the cabbages when they weren't fully matured so avoided having too many cabbages ready at once.    When just cooking cabbage quickly I like to add fennel seeds and cook it in butter.  But this recipe today was a true celebration of my last cabbage of winter 2012. 

Onion weed as good as spring onions..... my next posting

Sunday, 16 September 2012

A vintage morning tea - Nan's Pikelets

This post I am dedicating to my mother in law Monica, and my mother Claire.   Monica's recipe is quick, easy and makes excellent light pikelets.  My thanks to Penny who has gifted to me my mother's iron griddle or as the Scots call it girdle iron.

I have memories of Mum making batches of pikelets to feed the shearers.   I warmly recall arriving home from the school bus to be welcomed with the smell of pikelets being cooked on this griddle.   Four hungry kids meant that mum wouldn't even get the chance to store them under the tea towel.  We would be lining up as they cooked.
Nan's Pikelets with Karaka berry jam and cream
Pikelets are classic NZ fare and a treat you can whip up in a few minutes.  They are especially nice if spread with some berry jam and topped with a dollop of cream.   In Scotland pikelets are known as drop scones or dropped scones but really pikelets belong to the worldwide pancake family.

Pikelets on a cast iron griddle
I have made pikelets on my cast iron skillet but its so much easier on a griddle iron because it has no sides so makes flipping easy.   It is difficult with gas to keep the temperature down far enough and the iron seems to get hotter and hotter so you have to make sure you keep monitoring the temperature.

1 cup flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
2  Tbsp of sugar or to your taste (orig recipe had 1/2 cup but I found this too sweet)
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (or as much to make the batter the right consistency)
Add first three ingredients and either sieve or fluff up with a whisk to get air through the flour - this adds to the lightness
Add the sugar, egg and milk
Beat quickly to make a smooth batter the consistency of lightly beaten cream so that it will easily drop from the spoon but will not spread too thinly.
Ideally leave this mix for 10 minutes before cooking ( usually I am making these in a rush so I start once the pan is hot enough).
Pikelet with bubbles show it time to flip - my Mum's metal pikelet spatula that is ideal for flipping

Always make just one pikelet first up as you have to get the cooking surface to just the right temperature.
When one or two bubbles break on the top of the pikelets its time to flip them.
If you have the temperature too high they will brown quickly but could still be raw in the centre.
As they come off the pan store them in a clean tea towel as you do with scones.
If you make crepes, dosas, pancakes or pikelets on a regular basis then it would be worth while hunting out for a griddle iron in a second hand shop or check if your grandmother has one in a back cupboard.
Practise makes perfect and this is good recipe to make with your children.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Miners Lettuce - one of spring's magic greens

Miners Lettuce early growth stage

Miners Lettuce in Flower
I thought I should tell you more about Miners Lettuce - its one of the first spring salad greens I use.   It pops up in the garden in the winter and once you have one of these plants you will always have it as it self sows really well.    I tend to make a cull and use whole plants if they are going to be in the way of what I have  planned to plant. They start in a small rosette but can grow up to 25 stems and by just cutting off some of the stems it will continue to grow.    It does take time to cut and prepare but its worth it.   They can still be used once they are flowering and they look attractive in flower.
Miners lettuce seeds can be purchased through Koanga seeds - $3.80 and can shared with friends.   It originates in western US and was reputed to have come to NZ via the gold miners from California as they knew the high vitamin C content would allow them to avoid scurvy.  This little gem also contains vitamin A that helps the immune system , your eyes and bones.   Not bad for a wild fare plant. In the US it tends to grow in woodlands and I have noticed that the leaves are much larger when they grow in the shade.  So its a plant that doesn't have to be restricted to the vegie garden.