SPICING UP LIFE

22 Aug

SPICING UP LIFE.

via SPICING UP LIFE.

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SPICING UP LIFE

22 Aug

Lunch time! I thought I’d spend a few moments sharing a recipe with you.
Yesterday I spent quite a few hours at the hospital for an orthopaedic appointment. On the way home I asked Rob what he felt like eating for dinner. First he said pasta and then I suggested Curry and got an a resounding yes.
One of my favourite curries is Bombay Potato and Chick Pea Curry.  I first ate this in a vegetarian cafe in Manly, Sydney, many years ago.  I found a reasonably good packet substitute (made in India) but it never quite hit the right spot with me.
Recently I bought a fantastic book on Cooking with Herbs & Spices.  I found a variety of 
recipes for making my own curry powder amongst other fantastic goodies.  I have a really extensive spice cupboard…not just the usual rack, but an actual cupboard – it smells like a spice market in Morocco, when I open the doors. Having all the spices on hand, I set out to experiment and I was SO pleased I did!  
Anyway, here’s the recipe for the Curry Powder and the Curry dish itself. 

 

1) CURRY POWDER ( Makes enough for about 5meals)

Ingredients:
6-8 dried red chillies
8 tbspns coriander seeds
4 tbspns cumin seeds
2 tspns   fenugreek seeds
2 tspns   black mustard seeds
2 tspns   black peppercorns
1 tbspn   ground tumeric
1 tspn     ground ginger

Method:
1) Remove stalks and seeds from chillies unless you like a fiery mix, in which case leave the seeds.
2) Roast or dry-fry chillies, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, mustard seeds and black peppercorns in a heavy based pan     
    over a medium heat until they become aromatic. Make sure to shake the pan constantly to ensure even roasting.
3) Grind the roasted spices to a powder in a mortar or coffee grinder, then stir in the ginger and tumeric.
    (I like to ensure a find grind by using a food processor.)
Store Curry Powder in a jar with a tight fitting top. It keeps well in a dry, dark place.

BOMBAY POTATO & CHICKPEA CURRY.

Ingredients:
2 x  very large potatoes (or 4 medium) cut into 2cm cubes
2 x  tbspns olive oil
2 x  large brown onions finely diced
1 x  400gm can/tin Chickpeas rinsed
1 x  400gm Coconut cream (reduced fat)
1 x  250mls water
1 x  tbspn CURRY POWDER.

Method:
Using a heavy based pan with a lid (I use a large electric wok) heat olive oil on high heat.
Add onion and cook until opaque. Add curry powder and mix well. Add potato and toss through onion mix.
Reduce to medium heat and add chickpeas. Add coconut cream and stir well. Cook for 10mins stirring often.
Mix in water and reduce heat to simmer.  Cook until potato is tender.

Serve on a bed of Basmati Rice and use Nan bread to mop up sauce.  
Depending on how much rice you cook, this should serve 4.
I wouldn’t normally say this, but it’s even better than the original dish I tried in Manly. It’s simple but so very tasty.

My word – time flies…hope you enjoy the curry. I’m off to bake a new loaf of grain bread. 
Please, let me know if you’ve tried any of my recipes or tips and what you think of them. It’s hard to judge how my blog is going when I get so little feed back.

Vickie.

 

 

 

 

 

MICROWAVE WONDER.

16 Aug

G’day all!
One thing I really love is seafood, so I thought I’d share one of our favourite recipes with you.
I made this on Tuesday 14th for our 8th Anniversary Dinner and made enough for Rob to take a couple of serves to work for his lunch. 

It’s not an expensive recipe and it can be made for vegetarians who eat seafood. It is easy to adjust the spices to your own taste….So here you go:

SHRIMP (Prawn) ETOUFFEE
“Etouffee” comes from the French word for smother, stew, or braise. Seafood is smothered in a tangy tomato-based sauce. It’s part of Cajun & Creole cuisine. 

Ingredients:
(A)
1/4 cup margarine
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped spring onion
1 cup chopped green capsicum
4 or more large cloves of garlic minced
1 cup diced celery

(B)
1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
4 tblspns tomato paste
2 tins condensed cream of chicken soup (for vegetarian use either cream of celery or mushroom)
Salt to taste
1/2 tspn or more of Tabasco sauce to taste
1/2 tspn cayenne pepper.

(C) 
500gms or more of previously shelled and de-veined prawns (shrimp).

Method:

1) In a large microwave safe dish, combine all ingredients in (A) list. Heat on High settings for 8-9mins.
2) Stir in ingredients in (B) list and heat on high for 5mins. Stir well and add (C) prawns and heat for another 5 mins until mixture thickens.

Serve over rice on pre-warmed plates.  (4 servings)

I opted to list the ingredients in the groups they are added as it makes it a whole lot easier in preparation.
The whole meal can be thrown together while you share drinks with guests…just so long as you have cleaned the prawns beforehand.
It’s one of those meals that tastes as though it’s taken ages to prepare and will have family and friends coming back for more.

It’s been a busy time in our garden lately. Our motor mower gave up the ghost, so Rob is using our hand mowers (we have 2) to keep the grass in check.  We are still waiting for the trench in our dog run (sewerage pipes) to be backfilled. The hold up is that the pipes need sealing with cement before they are re-covered with sand and dirt. My son is flat strap, so it will get done when he has the time.

Miss Sookie is now around 16kgs+ and has really found her place in the family…on our bed, on the lounge and wherever Ziggy wants to lay undisturbed! She has no problem with waking Rob up if she fancies an early breakfast and a wee visit outside. We’ve been pretty lucky because she’s not particularly destructive, like a lot of pups – she does, however love bromiliads to munch on, so we had to put a low fence up around the garden beds up against the house. Fortunately we had the materials on hand, so that was a big saving.

Ooops – just spotted the time and I’ve got nothing out for dinner yet!
Catch up with you sooner!

Vickie.

 

 

OUR PIN-UP PUP!

20 Jul

Just a quick drive-by to show you the latest pictures of our Sookie who will be 16wks on Sunday. 

GATHERING THOUGHTS.

17 Jul

Hi All!
I’ve just made a cuppa and thought that it was time I stopped avoiding the issue and had a bit of a chat.  Sometimes it’s hard to share, even if it’s with people you care about. I am really sorry I’ve been so slack.

The last few months have had some real low points and then some moments of delight. Hardly any of them have anything to do with cooking or cleaning, but lots to do with the process of living.

Way back on January 24th, our darling Doberman, Zelda, had her last, very major. operation.  Our poor baby had been battling Mast Cell Carcinoma for about 3 years and had gone through 3 surgeries prior to this. This time she had 2 tumours removed…one of which claimed her left ear. Even without it she was beautiful.  The other was more drastic as it was on her right flank in a position where there was little tissue.  She seemed to be recovering well and then the flank tumour came back.  We agreed with our vet that Zellie had gone through enough.  She had her 8th birthday on May 15th. On May 22nd we said our goodbyes.  She is resting in a sunny spot in our large garden…I planted Lime Basil, Rosemary, Agave and bromiliads to make it pretty.  We bought a little statue of two Geckos to place there too. Our Zellie just adored geckos and spent hours watching them.

The same day that we said our goodbyes and some of the family were here to help, my son told us that his sister-in-law still had some puppies left from the litter her dog had born on Easter Sunday.  He had taken one himself as they had lost their dog Ruby earlier in the year.  Just over a week later, when we were NOT expecting her, our new baby “Sookie” arrived.  No one is sure what her breeding is, other than that her mum is 1/2 boxer. She is a delight…though she can be pretty naughty at times.
 Puppy Sookie.

She’s now 14 weeks old and much bigger, weighing in at over 12kgs!.  Hopefully we have ourselves a big girl as I’m not really a small dog person.  Our other dog, Ziggy ( an elderly Australian Red Cattle Dog) has been nicknamed “Granddad” by me, as he’s incredibly patient with her ~ even though she’s given him some nasty nips because she insists on leading him around by his cheeks. Right now they are having a lunch time nap and blocking the front door.  Rob starts taking her to “Pup Star” puppy school this coming Saturday.  She may not be my Zellie, but she’s still a delight to have around.

Our -or should I say “Rob’s” veggie garden is thriving.  Yesterday I picked 8 tomatoes of various types and today I will be harvesting some Kale.  I think there are a few long capsicums ready too.   We have celery well on the way, but it’s going to be a while yet.  Here’s a tip:  When you are preparing celery and you have a whole bunch, cut across the bottom  and plant the base piece in the garden…don’t cover it with soil, just make sure it’s sitting in an indentation.  It’s amazing how quickly it grows!

I must say that it’s nice to finally have some cooler weather.  We have huge mounds of mulch that my son delivered for us. It came from the local Council Green waste plant and was free!  I have the feeling that it’s going to be worth it’s weight in gold in the months to come.  We have an El Nino season forecast and that means a time of very low rainfall.   When you live in the Tropics, your gardens and rainforest are used to their annual seasonal drenching. When it doesn’t come, tree roots come to the surface and cyclones can blow even the biggest trees over without much trouble. At least the mulch will keep the ground damp.

Time to share a recipe with you. As it’s ‘soup weather’ in the southern states of Australia, here’s a favourite of mine:

Pumpkin & Macadamia Soup

1 tbsn Macadamia or Olive Oil
1/2 cup roughly chopped Macadamias
1 small white onion
1 tspn grated ginger
3 cups of diced pumpkin
1 granny smith apple, chopped
3 cups of chicken (or vegetarian) stock
Natural yoghurt for serving
Roasted, halved Macadamias for garnish.

* Heat oil in a heavy based pan, add the macadamia, onion and ginger then saute for 2-3 mins or until golden brown.
Add the pumpkin and apple and cook 2-3 mins then pour in the stock.
* Cover and simmer for 20mins or until pumpkin is soft.  Transfer mixture to a blender and process until smooth and
creamy.
* Serve in large bowls with a swirl of yoghurt and a few macadamias  tossed over for a delicious crunchy garnish.

Makes 4 good serves.    I think this is one you will add to your ‘favourites’  list.

Don’t forget, if there’s anything you want to know or share with me and the other readers, don’t be shy!  I’d love to know that there are people out there who are actually reading my blog.

Oh…looks like lunch time is over.  I’ll see you soon…I promise!

Vickie

A BIT OF THIS & A BIT OF THAT…

24 Apr

My word time flies when you’re having fun…and even when you’re not!

The weather has finally fined up for long enough to get the vegetable garden under way.  My husband spent the last few days of his holiday digging , preparing and planting.  3 kinds of Tomatoes, 4 types of lettuce, zucchini, chilli, herbs, Vietnamese mint, kale, silverbeet, celery, rocket and capsicum  and they are all, hopefully, sending out tentative root systems.  It’s a long garden bed and in the middle, we are starting another compost bed.  I’m a firm believer in putting back what you don’t use…except for onion and garlic. They inhibit the decomp0sition by acting like the natural anti-biotic that they are.  Too much citrus fruit can also make the mix far too acidic.   I hope that during the season, I can give you some good recipes for the produce we grow.

I was wondering what to write about today and then I thought that Cinnamon might be of interest.  I’m a lover of both the taste and the smell. I thought I might share with you some uses, other than in cooking. It’s a really ancient spice and one that deserves a prominent place in a modern kitchen.

For those of you who have a smattering of understanding regarding compounds: Some of the healing compounds of Cinnamon are terpenoids. One of these Cinnamaldehyde is  a strong and effective anti-fungal and antimicrobial agent. Also the diterpenes in this spice are thought to be anti-allergenics.  Food, not only for thought, but health as well!

1.)  Try this as an air freshener for the entire house:  A pot with water or cider (what a waste!) + 1 or 2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon. Simmer, replacing the liquid as necessary – it can be used over and over again.
2.) Place a few drops of essential oil of cinnamon on a cold light bulb. When the lamp is turned on it will diffuse the oil and gives the room a delightful fragrance.
3.) If you’ve been cooking something with a strong odour…say fried onions or a meal loaded with garlic (welcome to MY kitchen!) sprinkle ground cinnamon onto the hotplate when you have finished.  It gives an immediate rush of perfume that masks the other odours.  It’s also very easy to brush off the hot plate.
4.) You can also use cinnamon as incense by placing a mound in an ashtray or heat proof dish, then light it with a match for best results.
5.) If you have trouble with moths in your wardrobes etc, get rid of the stinky camphor mothballs and the nasty chemical sprays and try this: Break up 4 cinnamon sticks and combine with 1/2 cup of whole cloves and 1/2 cup of whole black peppercorns.  Fill tiny fabric bags – the type you can find in a craft shop and hang in the wardrobe. Make sure you pin a couple to the back surface of the robe.  It works.

Vinegar is another love of mine. I don’t think my house would function without the various varieties that are available to us now.  Gone are the days of the having two choices…plain or malt.  Cornwell’s Skipping Girl is even seen gracing Apple Cider Vinegar now!  Like so many other old standards in the kitchen, vinegar can find a place in the cleaning cupboard and the medicine chest…gotta love the versatility!

Many of my good friends and relatives are heavily into exercise, so here’s a tip that might come in useful for a sprain or strain. I used it when I played hockey – more years ago than I care to remember!!  Soak an old piece of towelling or a tea-towel in apple cider vinegar to which you’ve added a good dash of cayenne pepper. Wring towel out over a bucket (so you can continue using the vinegar). Wrap the sprained or bruised area in the cloth and leave it there for 5mins.
Repeat as needed.  You can even bottle the vinegar mix for later use.

You’ve all heard of Jack and Jill and that Jack ‘went to bed, to mend his head, with vinegar and brown paper”? Well it’s NOT just a kid’s nursery rhyme!  This is a very old remedy for headaches (yep…I’m an ‘Old Wife’!) Using a large size paper bag, soak the open edge in apple cider vinegar. Put the bag on your head, like a chef’s hat and tie in place with a scarf.  Yes, you’ll look ridiculous and ‘yes’ you’ll smell like a fish and chip shop, but the headache should be gone in 45mins and you won’t have taken any nasty drugs to get rid of it.  Try it next time the dreaded nasties attack.

If you’re interested in other uses for this fantastic distillation, let me know and I’ll post some more…I have heaps!

Speaking of vinegar, here’s my very favourite Salad and dressing. I know a friend of mine named Mike, is keen to get his hands on it. So here you go Mike:

Spinach & Pear Salad with Fantastic Feta Dressing.

3 x cups baby spinach leaves  (or one pre-pack from the veggie section in the supermarket)
1/2 cup  walnuts
3 x firm pears (use your favourite variety) peel and sliced just before you add to the salad.
1/2 cup craisins or other dried cranberries.  Soak berries in very hot water until plump…probably about 10mins. Drain.

Dressing:
Equal quantities of White Balsamic Vinegar, fresh lemon juice and extra light virgin olive oil. (I use approx 1/3 cup of each)  Whisk together and add to food processor or blender.
Next add 50g reduced fat Feta Cheese and pulsate on high speed for a few seconds.

Mix salad together in an attractive bowl or on a favourite platter and drizzle on dressing.  Toss lightly.
If you have excess dressing, place in a covered container and store in fridge…it also makes an amazing dip for raw vegetables or crusty bread.
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Time for me to think about what to cook for dinner – could be quiche. I made an extra one on Sunday when we had friends over for lunch. I’ll give you the recipe next time – it’s dead easy and delicious.

Just a link to a very special place  Daintree Vanilla & Spice.  They are vanilla growers and their products are so special that I just have to give them and my friend Jackie Fairfull a plug. Please do take a look see.

Bye for now!

ENERGY – WHERE DID YOU GO?

4 Apr

Sorry for not being around for a week, some of it was unavoidable and some was being just plain slack.

The unavoidable? I ended up in the Cairns Base Hospital last Thursday, courtesy of a persistent chest pain. After much prodding and a heap of tests, the pain was put down to ” just stress”. Now that’s a nice word – it’s a handy blanket term which means “whatever it is, it’s not going to kill you, so stop worrying!”

The slack? Well, I just couldn’t be bothered doing much, other than rest. I did, however, put 5 hours work into the garden. There are fewer weeds but still enough to keep me busy for the next 3 weeks. The ornamental pond needs a good cleaning and thought given to what water plants will grow without too much upkeep.  Rob (my husband) climbed the high ladder and did a heap of pruning.  Branches that were getting to be a problem are no more.  After all that, it’s time to get the mulcher into action.  We’re firm believers in putting our garden waste to good use and always seem to have massive amounts to process. Household food scraps and dog hair (when I think of it) go into the compost bin, with the exclusion of  meat scraps, onion and garlic peelings.

Rob has 2 weeks holiday at Easter and it’s going to be planting time for our vegetable garden. It’s probably seems odd for us to be planting when most other parts of Australia are busy harvesting, but the Wet Season rains would either wash the seedlings away or leave them battered, bruised and rotting in the ground.  Our Dry/Winter Season is glorious with warm days and cool to very cool nights. Yes…we actually own and wear jumpers!

Our vegetable garden bed is going to take a huge amount of work to get it ready for use.  We have so many weeds to battle before we can even start and we don’t use chemicals, so it’s all manual.  The ground is pretty hard after the rains have compacted the soil but Rob and a tiller (borrowed from my son- if it’s fixed) should take care of that.  Otherwise it’s the trusty garden fork.  I’d like to get a few bales of  hay to use as layered mulch. It cuts the weeds and rots down nicely, plus the top layer is a good weed deterrent.

Root vegetables don’t do particularly well here, with most of them falling prey to insects or some other nasty. Anything that does survive is usually stunted and not worth eating.  Tomatoes, on the other hand, thrive – as do lettuce, chilli, capsicum, zucchini and, if I’m vigilant, celery and pumpkin
.  My herb garden usually does well –  In fact one of my daughters asked  “Why have you got a Basil tree?”  My answer was “Why not?” I must admit it is more like a tree than a bush, but then I make a lot of Pesto and it’s delicious, even if I do say so myself.

Now there’s a thought – something to share with my readers…My Pesto recipe!
So here you are and I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

PERFECT PESTO
Ingredients:
4 – 6 cloves of fresh garlic (Australian or Mexican is best flavoured)
1  large bunch of basil – use leaves only
8 tablespoons of roughly chopped flat Italian Parsley
2 tablespoons of  pine nuts or walnuts ( I much prefer pine nuts for an authentic taste)
3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 – 3/4 cup of best quality olive oil (cold pressed is my choice)
Quantity of freshly ground black pepper to taste.

(Please don’t use pre-grated parmesan cheese – the taste is no where near as good)

Method:
Using a food processor; Add herbs, garlic, pine nuts to the bowl – use medium pulse setting until a medium consistency.
Add parmesan and pulsate on high until fine. Gradually add olive oil, a little at a time, until smooth.
This pesto should be creamy and not runny.
Add pepper on last mix.

Serving Suggestion:
Spoon the Pesto over any type of pasta. I like to use large spirals as lots of lovely pesto sticks to it.
It’s also a wonderful dip with any Italian style bread and makes a fantastic base sauce when making a pizza.
If you want to make this Pesto ahead of time or manage to have some left over, spoon into a jar and once settled, cover with a thin layer of olive oil.  The colour will darken, but the taste is fine.

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Do try it. It’s easy, budget friendly and hopefully will become a firm favourite . Please, do let me know if it’s a success in your house.

Time to go, as I have a loaf of multigrain bread to make, before  I run out altogether. Bye!!!