Tuesday, 30 July 2013

An Apple a Day...

 "An apple a day keeps the doctor away".  Believe it or not the Welsh first came up with this well known saying in 1866. I've decided to check this saying out...is it true?

If apples are so good for you then why not enjoy a terrifically good apple pudding too?
Pudding is important for our wellbeing, our soul. You see, pudding is not a treat but a necessity. It is there to heal and comfort, to cosset and hug. Pudding is not food, it is medicine". 

Beau loves apples and dinosaurs.  These Pigeonette apples are from 
Auckland's Parnell French Market where I have found several unusual apple varieties.
Pigeonette apples originated in France in 1755 and are delicious. They have dense flesh and are not quite as sharp as a Granny Smith.  The Pigeonette is a little more like the Sturmer Pippin.  Beau our "apple eater" certainly approves of them. I used these apples to make a delicious pudding.

Eve's Pudding

Eve's Pudding comes from England, the land of comforting puddings.  It's so called because it's a pudding that Eve would find difficult to resist.  It's a perfect marriage between a Victoria sponge and lots of apple.   The cake mix and the apple cook together - no pre-cooking of the apple is required.
In this version of an Eve's Pudding
 I decided not to peel the apples.

I hear Beau call, "Can I help?"  He loves to pull a chair up to help with the cooking.
Beau is squeezing lemon juice into the bowl of water
to stop the apples turning brown while we prepare the cake
It's not a difficult pudding to make but it does help and save you time if you have a cake mixer.

First of all slice up the apples - here I peeled them (for a reason you will see later). Also try the recipe not peeling the apples.  Like many fruits and vegetables the skin contains the most goodness, but you have to make sure the apples are not waxed. Definitely peel them if they are.

For a big family sized Eve's Pudding to serve around 8 you will need 6-8 apples and will need to double the cake recipe below. You can create an apple mix using different varieties.  I usually chop up enough apples to half fill the baking dish and this recipe will use 3-4 apples, all depends on the size of apples.

Beau hates the noise our old Kenwood makes while
creaming the butter and sugar so sensibly insists on wearing
For the cake topping:
100g of butter
100g of caster sugar
100g of self raising flour
 2 large eggs
1 tsp Vanilla essence

The secret to a good sponge cake is to beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. You can do this by hand but a cake mixer makes the job a whole lot easier.
You want to make sure all the sugar has been dissolved
into the butter - this whipping gives the cake air
Next add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.   If it looks like the mix will curdle don't worry once you add the flour it will even out.   You can also add a tbsp of flour after each egg and this often stops the curdling, as does using eggs at room temperature.   Once you have beaten in the eggs, add the sifted flour.  Fold in until the flour is just mixed.  Don't stir if you want to keep the cake light.

I thought I may have chosen too large a dish as the mix
didn't completely cover the apples - but as it rises, it covers the fruit.
Now spread out the apples in your chosen baking dish.   If using cooking apples, you could sprinkle a couple of tbsp of brown sugar and about 1/4 cup of water over the fruit .   I decided to use a cup of apple stock (mentioned below) instead to ensure the apples would remain juicy.  If you think the mix is a little too thick to spread then add 1 spoon of boiling water and fold through the cake mix- this will soften the mix and allow it to spread more easily.

Cook in an oven for 25-35 minutes at 180C.

Dust with icing sugar and serve with cream or ice cream.

Apple Stock
My chef son Gus let me into the secret of making apple stock from the peelings and cores of apples.  Just boil them up with a little added sugar to preserve the liquid.  He uses the stock to cover prepared cooked apple that can be quickly used for apple desserts.  The stock helps apples to keep for longer.  

For this stock I also added a little lemon peel and a
couple of tablespoons of sugar

I like to avoid waste in the kitchen and after reading about the goodies in apple peel, I have found other uses for apple stock in the kitchen.
This apple stock has been coloured pink by the addition
of a cinnamon stick I was cooking with blackcurrants

I use it as a base to cook another batch of apple - an apple compote if you want to give it a flash name.    I also have soaked porridge oats overnight in the stock to either cook up as porridge or as the key ingredient in oat pancakes.

Peter has made eating an apple fun by making a flotilla of apple boats -
Beau thinks it's good fun eating up the boats.

Beau isn't too keen on Eve's pudding.  He prefers his apples raw. I am really pleased because that way, he receives maximum goodness from the apple.

Twelve good reasons to eat an apple a day:

1.  The apple's abundance of pectin is an aid in reducing high cholesterol as well as blood sugar.  It's a wonder food for people with coronary artery disease and diabetes. Pectin is a type of soluble fiber that works to maintain a healthy digestive system.  (The apple stock would be a good source of pectin.)

2.  A nutrient in apples called boron can promote bone strength and brain health.
3.  You must chew an apple and since chewing takes time, your body can register that is it full, without the need to fill up on empty calories.  It's natural sweeteners enter the bloodstream gradually, ensuring your blood sugar and insulin levels remain constant and steady. You feel full for longer.  

4.  Apples enhance memory and keep your brain sharp by boosting levels of acetylcholine, a chemical that transmits messages between nerve cells. An animal study conducted at University of Massachusetts at Lowell, suggests an apple a day can lessen the odds of being stricken with Alzheimer's disease

5.  Children whose mothers consumed an apple or more a day while pregnant were less likely to develop asthma or wheeze by the age of five years according to a study conducted in the UK

6.  Steamed apples sweetened with honey are beneficial for a dry cough and may help to remove mucous from the lungs

7. The flavonoid quercetin present in apples has the potential to prevent many different types of cancer, ranging from breast cancer to lung cancer

8. Because of their high water content, apples are cooling and moistening and aid in reducing fever. Simply grate them and serve them to feverish patients.

9. Easy on the digestion, apples contain malic and tartaric acids that inhibit fermentation in the intestines.

10.  Malic acid (the acid that makes an apple tart or sour) will cleanse the mouth of bacteria and the mouthwash and toothpaste industry use this acid in their products for that very reason.   

11. Apples contain polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that reduce artery clogging plague. However, the key is in the peel. Apple peel contains two to six times the polyphenols as the flesh.

12. The vitamin C in apples assists in protecting the immune system, and make your body more resistant to a variety of diseases. It's also effective in preventing skin wrinkling...now that's an incentive!
Marilyn and the Cox's Orange . The Cox's Orange is both tart and sweet and an
old fashioned favourite.  Using the skin to make stock
gave me a beautiful pale pink liquid.
Eating an apple a day in winter is a pleasure, but later in the year when they are not so crunchy then grate them into your cereal or cook them and keep them in the apple stock in the fridge.   The apple is one fruit that does need to be kept chilled or it will mush up very quickly.

To find out what else you can do with apples revisit my posting "Southern Apple Meets Northland Quince".

Apples are just one of the every day available foods that make up Nature's medicine chest.

A longer version of the wise Welsh saying is:  "Eat an apple upon going to bed, and you'll keep the doctor from earning his bread".  

So what do you say...are you keen to try it?  We have been greatly encouraged to eat apples ourselves  by the youngest member of the household, 3 year old Beau.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Southern Flavours: Smoked Sausage, Oysters and Coffee Liqueur

"Lovely flavours" our friend Ken would exclaim.  I'm sure Ken doesn't realise that his compliments to the cook has encouraged me to seek, understand and experiment with flavours.

Returning to Dunedin last weekend I was looking forward to some good southern hospitality and an opportunity to bring a taste of the south back to Auckland.

Havoc Pork from South Canterbury has been raised
free range with a healthy diet of locally grown grain and added
goodies such as garlic and cider vinegar to keep the pigs happy and healthy.

A visit to the Otago Farmer's Market on Saturday gave me just too many choices. This market is one of the best in the country not only for the range of produce on sale but for the southern warmth and openess of the stall holders. I enjoy taking time to talk to those growing or making the products because it's an opportunity to learn something new.

I had to be sensible. I couldn't take my usual market haul back home on the plane but the Southern Sausage from Havoc Pork was a "must have".  This delicious spicy smoked sausage is more like a salami than a sausage. I have been known to allow it to take part in four different meals so it's really good value for money.

This hard necked garlic is grown by Wairuna Organics and travel up to
Dunedin from South Otago (nearly in Southland)
"Hard necked garlic" is reputed to be the original garlic.  Through the process of selection the thick stem was replaced with the more popular soft stem variety that can be plaited and better suited to warmer climates. Wairuna Organics say this garlic has a stronger flavour than other varieties.  It has fewer but larger and more even sized cloves. I am keen to try growing it up in Auckland to see how it dries up here where humidity reins.

I am always on the lookout for a different variety of apple or pear to try.  My favourite organic fruit supplier will take the time to talk flavours of the fruit he sells.  He told us that the above pears were grown on pear stock and that most pears are grown on quince stock.  Why?  Because pears take longer to grow than a quince... so I couldn't resist a small bag of what he calls Choral Pears.

I regret that I did not bring back a swede.  It would have been guaranteed a southern frost to make it sweet. I feared the swede may have tipped the scales at Air New Zealand so alas it didn't come north.

Cabbage Galette with Southern Sausage

Market Chef, Alison Lambert, demonstrates how to create delicious, no fuss ways of using the produce at the market.  Alison has amazing energy and passion about regional and fresh food. I managed to have a brief exchange with her and sampled a delicious way of using cabbage in a novel way - inside a galette.
Galette is a French word that means "a flat freeform crusty cake" 

The crust is made by a batter similar to a Yorkshire pudding.  It has all the comfort of a pie, with less effort and no butter or oil - just a little cheese.  I took Alison's recipe and added my own touches to the filling to show how easy it is to use whatever you have in your fridge.  If you want to see the original recipe go the Otago Farmers Market website.

To achieve the best results you really need a caste iron pan that can go into a hot oven. I don't have my  iron pans up here but I do have an excellent thick steel pan about 23cm so I slightly modified the recipe to deal with this. You can use ceramic or metal dishes but to get an excellent crust you really need the heat retention that caste iron delivers.

First of all turn on the oven to 180 to 200C and place your pan in the oven to heat up. Then start preparing the greens. I saute or sweat an onion and/or a leek until soft but don't allow to colour.

Add sliced up cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, silverbeet or any other green vegetable like broccoli or beans. I added a fennel bulb from my garden and I used some of the feathery greenery as added flavouring.  I had half a dozen small mushrooms left over and I could have added some celery. I found some fresh tumeric the other day so grated about a teaspoon of tumeric into the cabbage mix which adds colour and its unique health properties.  You need 4-5 cups of cooked greens and Alison suggests 400-500g of savoy cabbage.  Cook until softened.  This only takes a couple of minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

You can enjoy this as a vegetarian dish but I took the opportunity to add some of my Havoc Southern Sausage.  Alternatively add some curd cheese (sold at the market by Evansdale Cheese) or feta cheese.

Now its time to prepare the batter. Beat 3 eggs, add 300 ml of milk and 2 cups of plain flour.
Beat until smooth.  Add a generous handful of chopped parsley,  3 cloves of garlic finely chopped and 50g of grated cheddar or parmesan cheese.  Salt and pepper to taste.
If the mix is too thick add a little more milk.  It needs to be
the consistency of pancakes - thin enough to spread but thick enough
to stick to the cabbage.
Take out your very hot pan, spray with oil and pour half the mix to cover the base of the pan.  The steel pan I was using would quickly lose heat so I placed the pan on a low gas flame while preparing the galette.
See the small bubbles appearing like it does for a pancake.

Pile the cabbage filling on top of the batter base and then pour over the other half of the batter to cover the cabbage.  
This stage looks most unattractive but magic happens over the next 30 minutes.

Return to the hot oven for about 30 minutes or until the surface is firm and a golden brown.

I served this simply with halved beefsteak tomatoes baked in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.  They are perfect flavour companions.

Talking of cabbage... Peta who is looking after our garden at Broad Bay asked me what this giant brassica was. I had no idea where it came from. It could be a cross between a cabbage and a brussel sprout from the neighbours.  She is keen to let it flower and gather the seeds as it would be a great forage plant for her hens.
This rogue cabbage would be nearly my height - if it wasn't on a
lean from  recent storms..it  tastes just like green cabbage.
While a lot of the trees in Dunedin at midwinter are bare, my sister Kerry adds a little culinary colour to brighten her small trees in pots.

I was lucky enough to spend a couple of nights with Kerry.  We decided dinner had to be simple as we didn't want to waste any talking time.  She had a good selection of winter vegies in the fridge and some lamb chops from our brother's farm in Southland.  We decided on oven roasted vegetables and grilled lamb.
The enamel baking dish was our Mum's and
these enamel dishes are once again trendy. It's best
to find one of these old originals as they are twice the weight of
the new ones (but avoid enamel that is chipped)
I put the enamel baking dish into a hot oven 180-200 to heat while I cut up potatoes in wedges, a parsnip cut in finger sized batons as it would take the longest to cook, an onion cut into wedges, and a wedge of pumpkin cut into chunks.  The prepared vegetables went into a bowl and mixed through by hand with a slurp of oil, salt, pepper and some rosemary (about 2 tsp) chopped up to release the oils.  I then spread out the vegetables onto the sizzling hot oven dish and put back in the oven as quickly as possible.   Heating the dish allows the vegetables to cook quickly and ensures the potatoes have a crispy skin.  Oiling the food rather than the dish avoids the oil burning. Cook for 20-30 minutes.  Kerry gave our vegies an Italian touch by adding halved tomatoes and olives in the last 10 minutes and sprinkling chopped basil before they were brought to the table.

The lamb chops were put under the grill at a high temperature and turned over as soon as they browned.  This allows them to remain pink in the middle but crispy brown on the outside.
Simple but oh so delicious!

 We travelled to Dunedin for two launch events of Peter and Rod's book "An Extraordinary Land"  The first event took place in Portobello Hall where the classic giant teapots were put into action for  supper.
I roped our niece Lauren and friend Alan to help
with serving the tea
It's difficult to get the tea just right in such massive teapots.  Too few or too many tea bags can mean the difference between a good cup of tea and an unsatisfactory one.  I just couldn't resist this photo opportunity.

It's not often you see the males of our family taking over the kitchen, except when there is the promise of Bluff oysters.  I loved that moment of concentration I caught on camera.

Far Right: My brother Jamie dipping the oysters in egg and then breadcrumbs, Centre nephew Nick was
put in charge of cooking them, and Peter stepped up to make sure he wasn't overcooking them

Perfectly "just" cooked oysters served with a squeese of lemon juice

Bluff oysters must be the ultimate and perhaps best known flavour of the south.

A new flavour has appeared at the Farmer's market though.  Creator of Quick Brown Fox, Arjun Haszard, can be found there most Saturday's giving out taste samples of his Coffee Liqueurs. It's the most devine tipple for those of us who love coffee and cinnamon...even at 10 in the morning!  We admired the artwork on the bottles and Arjun told us he opted to employ an artist rather than a graphic designer to do his labels. 
I first heard about Quick Brown Fox and Arjun through a video made as part of Insiders Dunedin.  It's a beautifully crafted short film that will show you Arjun at work and talking about how he likes to do business.  

Arjun has set me a challenge - to come up with a recipe using QBF.  If he likes it he will add it to his blog. So armed with my latest favourite book "The Flavour Thesaurus" by Niki Segnit, I am going to create something special using local foods to complement that deep rich coffee and cinnamon flavour.

And while experimenting I will be thinking "What would Ken think of this flavour?.  I hope you too have had a Ken in your life encouraging you to be creative with food.