Thursday, 25 December 2014

Santa Claus Melon

Santa Claus Melon.
Christmas Melon.
Or, its real name; piel de sapo.


I bought this melon from my local Costco a couple of months ago, purely out of curiosity as I had never seen one before.  Its true name is a piel de sapo, but also goes by the names of Santa Claus Melon, and Christmas Melon. Why Christmas you ask?  because it stays ripe for the months leading up to Christmas. This, I found to be true. 

I kept and eye on it, thinking 'how can a piece of fruit stay good for so long' but I wasn't disappointed when I finally cut it. 


It was juicy inside, and had pale green coloured flesh.  The flesh cut easily from the skin. It was sweet, but not overly sweet. The taste was more honeydew like, but also reminiscent of rockmelon.


Next time you see a piel de sapo melon, give one a go!  

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Saffron... from Bungendore!

Saffron.

That expensive spice that gets dished out in teeny weeny little plastic boxes from the supermarket, farmed from goodness knows where.  I always pictured back breaking labourers hanging over the edges of exotic cliffs, gently plucking the stamens from crocus flowers in countries like Iran, or elsewhere in the middle east.  I never thought that these flowers could be grown in Australia, as I didn't think we had the climate they liked? 
How wrong I was ! 

Credit to Jindrich Shejbal for the lovely photo of the crocus flower.

Saffron is grown in Australia and New Zealand and there are 60 growers in total across the two countries. One saffron producer is very close to home and operates out of Bungendore.  Windview Farm is on the Kings Highway in Bungendore, and they grow crocus flowers and process the stamens. Harvesting occurs every August.  I discovered them at the Capital Region Farmer's Market at EPIC, and bought one of their little bottles.


I have only ever used saffron in cooking, from colouring rice, to adding colour and flavour to curries and risottos.  I didn't know saffron has a wide variety of health benefits too.  Studies show saffron can help with vision problems (cataracts), respiratory ailments (like asthma), can improve memory and cholesterol levels, can reduce inflammation of the mouth and tongue, and has even been shown to have anti-cancer properties.

The tip to using this saffron is to soak it in warm (not hot!) water or milk (depending on how you are to use it) for a minimum of 15 minutes, or preferably overnight.  This will infuse the liquid with the lovely golden colour and flavour.  Some commercially available saffron is dyed with colourings. If your saffron immediately colours its soaking liquid, then its probably had colours added. 

I can't wait to use this saffron in something. Maybe an Indian feast is in order.  Mmmm... curries, rices and homemade naan breads.

  

Friday, 28 November 2014

I Aint No Hasselback Girl (well, actually I am now!)

Meet my first attempt at a Hasselback Potato!


The name Hasselback dates back to the 1700s in Sweden, where this dish was served at the Hasselbacken Hotel.

You start with an unpeeled potato. Make straight slices nearly to the bottom, but not all the way through. Keep doing this so they are 5mm apart. I mixed up melted butter, garlic, onion flakes and a little oil. Dredge this over the potato, then pop it into a moderate oven. Five minutes before the finishing time, I spread over a little grated parmesan. A medium sized potato will be done in around 45 minutes.

Enjoy!

In My Kitchen - December 2014

I really cannot believe December has rolled around already! This year my 'foodie' gene has kicked in and I have been preparing for all things Christmas in the kitchen. 

As always, I thank the lovely Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for this IMK series. I look forward to each months posts, and the opportunity to tour into kitchens from all over the world and chat with some lovely bloggers. Check out the growing number of participants on Celia's blog.

In my kitchen this month there has been a lot of bottles of alcohol opened. Not for drinking, but for soaking and a bit of baking. Firstly, here is my 'boozy fruit mix' which I will soon bake into a monster Christmas cake. Look at how glossy and shiny all the fruit and nuts are. Right now, it smells amazing, and it has been soaking for about 4 weeks.


Next up is my attempt at homemade vanilla extract.  I have vodka and bourbon, and have popped in an equal number of split vanilla beans into each. They have been soaking for 2 weeks, and already the aroma from each is amazing. I hope to bottle these beauties in about 6 months time.


In my kitchen I baked a lovely apple cider bundt cake. I just happened to have pumpkin spice mix on hand (I acquired it from USAFoods.com.au). The cake was simply delicious. Real 'fall' flavours and perfect at this time of year for a Thanksgiving treat.


In my kitchen was an order from Aussie Farmers, from the 'Naked 'n Fresh' range from Spade and Barrow. The fruit and veg looks a little wonky and misshapen, but it is still perfectly good. At only $20 a box, I couldn't resist.


In my kitchen this month was a batch of rhubarb muffins, and leftover stewed rhubarb.


In my kitchen this month it was my birthday, and we celebrated with a lovely tropical sponge cake, purchased from 'The Cheesecake Shop'.


Lastly, in my kitchen this month are Christmas treats. I doubt whether they will last uneaten until Christmas day ; )





Saturday, 15 November 2014

CRFM

C apital
R egion
F armers
M arket

Are held every Saturday, between 7.30am and 11.30am, at EPIC in Canberra.  I admit it is a bit of a trek from Tuggeranong, but so worth it. Every time I have been, I see new things and talk to different stall holders. Its a vibrant, buzzing place, where people catch up with friends, enjoy the day out with the family, and shop for all things veg, fruit, bread, honey, fish, meats, muesli, ice cream, pizza's, nuts, pies, coffee, plants, and flowers.


It is also a great place to snap some photographs.  I went there today, to try out my new 85mm lens, and boy it is a beauty. Such soft portrait like shots, so razor sharp in focus and a soft blurring of the background.


I was taking some shots of the lovely display at the Win's Creek Honey stand when Maryanne, the stall owner, mentioned she would love some updated photos for her website.

Well, we got talking and I got snapping! I'll send her a USB key filled with images.


I did email her my details afterwards, and added just a single photo as a sample pic, and she loved it!! She's already used that image on her website, and will use it on her Facebook page this week. I am stoked!! Ha, my first 'gig' as a photographer : )

Meanwhile, here is a smattering of some of the amazing photos I took, and some of the colourful, fresh produce that is available.




 
 






Monday, 10 November 2014

Smoque Woden

I must admit I have been a little slack and haven't blogged for days and days. I've done stuff, eaten stuff, visited places, cooked, and baked but haven't put fingers to keyboard.
Well here goes....


Hubby and I, and a friend of ours tried out Smoque in Woden last Tuesday night.  It was to be 4 of our, but our fourth was called to work at the last minute.  We wanted 6.30pm for our booking, but was told either 6pm or 8pm. Ho hum early dinner it was to be then. Not sure why though... there were plenty of spare tables while we were there.

So... now for the food.  We perused the menu. Not being overly super hungry, the boys settled each for a burger, and I chose the pulled pork.  We each chose a different side, to mix and match, at least then we could sample a few items.  Burger no. 1 was the fried chicken burger. A tad dry, not a whole lot of chicken and a bun that saw the sun a nanosecond too long. 


Not bad, but not noteworthy.  Burger no. 2 was a bit better. It was the double bacon burger, and looked meaty and moist. More bang for your buck on that one for sure.  My pulled pork was uber tasty, and came with a square of cornbread which unfortunately was a let down... dry and crumbly. All three dishes were served with the obligatory pickle which was a nice taste change. Sharp, salty and crunchy.


The sides we chose were coleslaw, fries and tater tots. Hands down the fries won. The tater tots were OK, but it was the sour cream and bacon crumbly bits on top that gave them much needed flavour. Tater tots = potato gems. I think that unless you cook them in pork fat, they are pretty bland on their own.

The dessert options numbered just two.  Ice cream (which our friend had) and 'pie of the day'.  We were expecting a deep dish apple pie, or a 'Twin Peaks' inspired cherry pie... but alas it was a cookies and cream cheesecake.  Cheesecake? T'was no pie.  Yes it was delicious, but in an over the top, sooooo creamy kind of way. The crumb base was nearly an inch thick at its thickest part.  Hubby and I shared a piece of the cheesecake. We should have had the ice cream.

All in all, we only sampled but a few dishes. I'll be back for sure, to try the other 'meat' options like ribs, wings and brisket.  Woden Smoque also does breakfast and their waffle dish descriptions are a hoot to read.  "Why yes please, I'll have The Fat Elvis"!!!!.  Good thing for me is that its just up the road from my workplace!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

In My Kitchen, November 2014

In my kitchen this month... is a new, large, shiny, very powerful blender. Its an Optimum 9400 and it makes a smoothie in virtually nanoseconds! I have had it for a week, and experimented with a different smoothie each morning for breakfast.


A recent trip to Sydney involved just a little shopping (of course!). I picked up this gorgeous, rustic Mason Cash bowl at Victoria's Basement in the QVB. It is a great size for whipping up a batch of scones, or mixing dough for a couple of loaves of crusty bread.


A new beer I had not had before.. Mango Beer. It was very, very nice! kind of 'shandy' like with the fruit flavour cutting through the 'beer-iness'. I paired it with a roast chicken which I marinaded in a mango curry spice blend.


On a trip to Costco mid month, I spied a fruit I have never seen before. Its a 'piel de sapo'. Also known as a Santa Claus melon, or a Christmas melon. Why? Because it lasts until Christmas before it turns ripe! I haven't opened mine yet, as it is still firm. Inside it should be pale green and taste much like a honeydew.


Lastly is yet another book to add to my ever growing cookbook collection. This one is Margaret Fulton's Crock-Pot Cookbook from 1976. It is full of no nonsense, sensible cooking. Easy to find ingredients, and recipe categories including casseroles, soups, desserts, making breads and jams.  


I hope everyone has had a great month. This 'In My Kitchen' post is part of the IMK series which is run by the lovely Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. Pop by her blog and check out the IMK posts from bloggers all over the globe.

Cheers, Kirsty

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Mango-a-go-go

First there was my 'nod' to coconut, now today is a mango day.  

Firstly it started with my stepson, who brought over a 6 pack of Mango beer.  Mango beer!?! I had never heard of it!  He asked if I wanted one, to which I said yes, then I planned Sunday night's dinner around it!

So... what to have for dinner?
I wanted something a little spicy, full of flavour, and easy peasy to do. 

The solution?  Mango curry marinated whole chicken, and roasted vegetables.

I bought a whole raw chicken from my mate Marcus at M & K Meats at the Lanyon Marketplace. He even butterflied it for me, right there on the spot. Took him all of about 20 seconds. He's good like that.

Next, the spices.  I think I got out half of my spice jar collection, and started eyeballing amounts into a large bowl.  A dash more turmeric for colour... a shake more of chilli for some heat, and a whole lot of everything else.  Next, I blitzed up some frozen chunks of mango flesh... some olive oil.... some lemon juice... and the spice mix. A lush aromatic thick marinade was created to which I bathed the butterflied chicken. Popped it into the fridge for the next 8 hours.


Nearing dinner time, all I had to do was prep a few vegetables (potato, onions, sweet potato, red capsicum and broccoli) and let the oven do all the work.  60 minutes later and dinner was ready. As I wanted, easy peasy.




Now for the mango beer... It was delicious!

It tasted like a combination of a 'west coast cooler' but with mango flavour, and was matched with the 'beeriness' of the beer. It went down a treat. I can well imagine this beer at a summer evening BBQ. I must look out for it.



Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Plaka

For our second wedding anniversary we ventured over to the 'other side' of town to Dickson to give the re-opened Plaka Restaurant a go. The Plaka was a Canberra staple for nigh on 30+ years at the Mawson shops until they closed their doors a couple of years ago. The family resurrected the restaurant, due mainly to the family's children wanting to again work in the family business.  They have been open in Dickson for about 3 months now. 

The restaurant is huge!! They can seat 70 people outside on the wooden benches (it was much too cool tonight for outdoor dining), and they can fit 150 inside. The tables are well laid out and there is plenty of room to move about. White tablecloths, white crockery and silver cutlery. Simple. Elegant. Greek themed decor adorns the walls. The menu is vast with lots of options. It made it hard to settle on just a few dishes. We will have to drop in again to try more selections, especially the range of seafood offerings.

For entrĂ©e we shared a plate of dolmades. Tasty, warm, beef and rice filled vine leaf parcels, absolutely smothered in a decadent lemon sauce. Five were presented on the plate, and we nearly fought over the last one, but cut it in two to keep the peace.

Hubby's main was veal scallopini. The veal was beautifully tender, and covered in a creamy mushroom sauce, with lovely veg and rice.


My main was the chicken souvlaki plate. Talk about a huge meal! Two chicken shewers, plenty of greek salad, potatoes, tzatziki, and oodles of homemade delicious bread. Next time, I think I will just hunker down on the bread alone, it was devine.


The only selection for dessert was baklava, which as tempting as it sounded, we just couldn't do it justice, so we finished the meal there.

Bon appetit! 

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Ode to Coconut


Ah coconut, how I love thee.  I do. I love all things coco-nutty.
The smell of it, the taste of it, the fact it has both juice and flesh and the sheer versatility of it, from being able to eat it, make soaps from it, and using the coir from its husk to make all sorts of things from doormats to fishing nets.

This month my kitchen has produced a variety of things devoted to the coconut. I bought a coconut from my local supermarket, checking first for that all important sloshing sound when picking it up which meant it was full of lovely coconut water. I also bought a packet of coconut meal (also known as coconut flour).

So, from the fresh coconut and the coconut flour I have made...

Coconut pancakes
Beat together a couple of eggs and add a dash of vanilla. Add to this two mashed bananas, a teaspoon of cinnamon, a teaspoon of baking powder and a third of a cup of coconut flour.  The flour seemed to absorb the moisture really quickly, so I added a splash of milk, and gave it a good whisk.  Pop small spoonfuls into a warm pan and flip when golden.  Yummo. That made for a great weekend breakfast. 

Hummingbird cake
From the taste website, this was a really easy recipe EXCEPT I was watching the Bathurst 1000 race on TV at the same time and omitted the olive oil!! I wasn't about to unload the cake batter from the tin, so I sent it into the oven, sans oil, and it turned out just fine.  The fact that I might have toppled in a couple of extra pineapple pieces may have given it the additional moisture it needed. Suffice to say, the cake was a hit, especially with the hubby.

Coconut cocktail
This was a little thrown together from likely contenders that just happened to be the kitchen. I wasn't about to go to the shops and get something else. So... this little concoction consisted of fresh coconut juice, a splash of gin, a splash of Solerno, and some crushed up pineapple pieces (which were leftover from the Hummingbird cake recipe).  Fruity, warming and sunshine-y, yum. 

A quick breakfast smoothie
About a third of a cup of fresh coconut water, same amount of milk, and a generous handful of blueberries. Blitzed up with the stick mixer until frothy and purple. That went down a treat.

And finally,
Snacked on the coconut flesh. We kept it in a bowl in the fridge and would pop a piece during the evenings. 


 

Sunday, 12 October 2014

A bunch of flowers



Sometimes you just have to spoil yourself.
Sometimes you can't resist something beautiful.
Sometimes you just need to stop and smell (or buy) the flowers.


So I bought this lovely bunch of lillies from my local supermarket. For a mere $6, this bunch came home wth me. Was photographed by me. And was enjoyed by me. Just because.


 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

In My Kitchen - October 2014

Welcome to my first ‘In My Kitchen’ post.  Thank you to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for the opportunity to join this inspiring series. I will be sure to check out the other October posts.

In my kitchen this month, my cookbook and writing stash has been further expanded. Thanks to the trash ‘n’ treasure markets, and a little online shopping for the first batch…


…and the annual Spring Lifeline Bookfair for most the second batch, as well as Rishi Desai's Modern Indian cookbook which I purchased off him, and had him autograph. Oh, by the way, he works in my office! Each time I go to this bookfair I think that I’ll only get a few things, however each year my interests grow and vary and I end up with a heavy bag full of goodies. I now clearly understand the need for a “granny trolley” at this event, as you can store so much inside, and it wheels for easy convenience. Next year I’ll get one, for sure.

In my kitchen is local produce in the form of eggs from Gunning.  Such a cute name and logo ‘Gunning Bum Nuts’ (GBN) makes me smile every time I open the fridge and spy the egg carton. I understand that the family behind GBN has just got an egg stamper made up in the image of their trade marked logo. Too cute.

 
In my kitchen I now have a set of 3 crumbing trays. I saw these in a magazine years ago, but only spotted them recently at new homewares store in the Tuggeranong Hyperdome, ACT.  The store: Off the Pallet, and I picked up these beauties for a crazy 60% off store opening sale.  I put them through their paces by crumbing up some delicious chicken tenders.

From the same store I picked up these cute little bowls. Just the perfect size for photo props for my food photography hobby.

 
Now for a little something grownup - Campari.  I really think my tastes are changing, maturing even. Campari. It’s bitter, orangey, herby and just begging for warmer days, freshly squeezed orange juice, and ice filled glasses.

 
Viewed from my kitchen window are our blossoming fruit trees.

Happy October to you all, Kirsty