Quick delicious cookies

IMG_8820Here’s a basic, quick but delicious cookie dough.

  • 110g butter, ideally at room temperature (Vegans use margarine)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (yes, that is 1.5 tsp don’t stint the vanilla if like me you make these with nuts, of course if you use chocolate chips you could substitute almond essence)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Zap in food processor till well mixed, then add:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

Briefly mix (very briefly in the machine or a bit more vigorously if by hand ๐Ÿ˜‰ Then mix these in by hand, or use other “extras” (choc chips, other nuts, crystalised ginger…)

  • 1 cup wallnuts chopped

Roll into small balls and squash them on a lined baking sheet, they won’t rise or spread much in cooking. Bake at 170C for c.15 mins turning the sheet at half-time.

Be patient, though they are delicious warm and crumbly they are almost better when (nearly) cool. Since this is a quick recipe it only makes a few, to eat at one sitting. So you had better not copy me and be home alone whe you bake them, I said they were quick, easy and delicious, I did not say they were healthy ๐Ÿ˜‰

Clotted cream and scones for a real Devon Cream Tea

Of course, though clotted cream is delicious on its own, on biscuits (especially slightly soft ginger nuts) or with just about anything sweet or semi-sweet you care to name, the absolute best way to eat it is as a Devonshire Cream Tea. No! Any Kiwis reading this who believe a Devon Cream Tea can be approximated using whipped cream, thickened cream or some other Ersatz product – forget it! It can’t for a Devonshire Cream Tea (or even its rival and near approximation a Cornish Cream Tea) you must have proper clotted cream. (Even the stuff they sell in tins and jars that comes from factories is a mere approximation to the real thing.

Here’s how you make a quick modern version. (The real thing is made in big enamel basins over a water bath, using fresh raw cream.)

Making clotted cream

  • Take a bottle of “Fresh Cream” from the supermarket.
  • Pour it into an oven proof bowl or casserole that will allow the quantity you have to fill it 3-6cms deep
  • Put it in the oven at 80C (or if you are not sure of your thermostat maybe 70C for longer)
  • Be patient
  • …be very patient
  • Gradually the delicious “clots” will form as a skin on the cream
  • When you can be patient no longer (or after 8 hours or so) scoop off the clotted cream into a serving bowl

Nb. don’t worry if some ordinary cream is mixed with the clots the variability of texture and taste is part of the joy (part that mass-produced cream, in these days of standardised homogenised industrial dairying, cannot really deliver).

Once it’s cool (be patient again!) eat with jam (traditionally strawberry, but your favorite is probably OK) on scones.
[PS the comment below asking about clotted cream icecreams prompts me to add this note: If you are careful in scooping off only the skin you will end up with a very hard homogeneous product like commercial clotted cream. The ideal is to scoop up some of the runny cream as well each time, giving a good approximation of the texture of real farmhouse cream ๐Ÿ™‚ and the extra benefit of both greater spreadability and a slightly more economical product!]
There is considerable debate between those who put the jam on top of the cream as decoration, and those (perhaps because they value lower calories over taste, heretics!) who use the cream as decoration – provided there are approximately equal loads of cream and jam (in this ecumenical and tolerant age) either can be permitted ๐Ÿ˜‰
If you don’t have a good recipe for scones, and I had no need of one before I discovered the secret of making clotted cream ๐Ÿ™‚ here’s one adapted from Allyson Gofton.
sconesScone recipe
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
50 grams butter (or if you must margarine)
ยพ-1 cup goats whey or milk (ideally slightly soured – I remember my granny saving “off” milk for making her famous scones)
  • Heat the oven to 230C
  • Put the flour, baking powder and salt into the food processor, zap briefly to mix and airate.
  • Add the butter and zap till it becomes crumbs.
  • Make a well in the centre, pour in the whey or milk (start with 2/4 cup
  • Mix quickly with spatula to make a soft dough.If you need to add a little more liquid.
  • On a floured surface roll to 2-4cms thick (depending how big you like your scones).ย  Do not flatten be gentle!
  • Cut into 5cm rounds (or squares) and put on a greased baking tray. Left over whey or Brush with milk to glaze.
  • Bake at 230ยบC for 10-15 minutes until cooked, turning the tray round at half-time.
  • Cool on a rack till you can comfortably eat them. They can be crisped and warmed if you make them ahead of time.

Rice and curry

Rice and curry, Sri Lanka’s maximum taste, minimum animal products staple.(Wikipedia apparently photographed by “Me”)

While I’ve been here in Sri Lanka by a crude meal count I have not managed to be a โ€œRepentant Carnivoreโ€. In fact even including breakfasts I have only eaten one Vegan meal โ€“ breakfast on Sunday I made for myself, Marmite in hot water and some bananas ๐Ÿ˜‰

Every other meal included meat, fish or eggs. Even today, a Buddhist holiday when Sri Lankans eat no meat, meals included fish or eggs.

And yet… Rice and curry (perhaps the Sri Lankan staple) is mainly rice, with some veges and a curry sauce with a small piece of fish or chicken or an egg. Biriyani similarly managed loads of flavour from rice with spices veges and fruit with a small piece of meat. Modern Western meals are stuffed with meat, cheese, eggs, fish… and see the carbs and veges as secondary, Fish and Chips rather than Rice and Curry.

We need to rethink how we cook. Work out ways to do more with less (at least less of those high demand animal protein rich products). Our ancestors did it, a โ€œrealโ€ Cornish Pasty had half the meat a modern one does, and was just as filling and probably better for us…

Vegetarianism is cruel to animals

A bobby calf. Since he was born male he will be taken away the day of his birth so humans can drink his milk (from Veganism is the Future)

We bought a great job lot of books (gardening and vegetarian cooking) on TradeMe. They will be really useful as we extend the vege patch and should provide a different range of recipes. However, even a first look at the recipe books reveals how much milk, cheese and eggs Vegetariansย  habitually use. Unlike Vegans (who require no animals to be killed or mistreated) or even moderate Carnivores (who only require a few), Vegetarianism on a large scale requires massive cruelty to animals.

NZ Farmers’ Weekly “anticipated 1.8 million bobby calves processed this winter”. 1“Processed” here means animals just a few days old being herded into cattle trucks and shipped to the slaughterhouse.

Aussie SPCA explained :

For cows to produce milk, they have to give birth to a calf every year. Most calves are separated from the cows within twelve hours of birth to reduce the risk of disease, and most do not stay on the farm for long….

Bobby calves are housed together and fed colostrum, milk or milk replacer, usually only once a day. They are then sold, mostly for slaughter, at five days old. Products from processed calves include young veal for human consumption, valuable hides for leather and byproducts for the pharmaceutical industry….

Because they will very soon go to slaughter, bobby calves often do not get the same standard of housing, cleanliness, care or attention as the valuable replacement heifers or the bull calves being reared for veal. For their health and welfare, bobby calves should be fed twice a day and be housed in sheltered, clean and dry environments with room to lie down on suitable bedding.

A moderate carnivore who eats only a little cheese and does not drink much milk probably requires few if any Bobby Calves to be slaughtered, we feed them up for a year or two and then eat them. But vegetarians do not eat beef, but they do drink milk and eat cheese.

It’s much the same with eggs, even the most moderate egg eater produces some cockerels thatย somebody has to eat. At least in their case a free range cockerel gets a decent life before the pot…

I don’t know what you make of it, but my conclusion is clear:

  • Vegans do not harm animals
  • Moderate carnivores slaughter a few animals, but after they have had a decent life and are grown up
  • Vegetarians slaughter loads of baby calves and their treatment seems cruel and malicious

If any Vegetarian can defend their morality I’d be delighted to hear it. Until then I can only plead with you, if you don’t like meat then learn to eat Vegan!

Notes   [ + ]

1. “Processed” here means animals just a few days old being herded into cattle trucks and shipped to the slaughterhouse.

Really quick and easy chocolate muffins

This recipe is as quick and easy as it gets. Just turn the oven to 170C, get a muffin tin (I love the bendy silicone ones, so easy to get the muffins out ๐Ÿ™‚ and/or some paper muffin cups.ย  Sieve the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl:

  • 2.5 cups flour
  • 5 rounded tsp baking powder
  • 1/2-1 cup cacao (depending on how chocolatey you like them)
  • 1 cup sugar (I use dark brown for a lovely warm sweetness)
  • 1/2-1 cup chocolate chips or cut up chocolate bar

Then mix lightly and make a “well”. Pour in:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup oil
  • 1 egg

Stir, as gently as possible, till mixed. Spoon into the baking tin/cups. Makes 12 middling size muffins. Sprinkle with sugar or almond slivers. Bake about 15-20 mins till dry but still soft (not moist and squishy). If this batch are dry try again cooking less, till perfect or till you need a break from chocolate ๐Ÿ˜‰

Do use FairTrade cacao and chocolate, so they don’t depend on slave (or near-slave) child labour.ย  And try to keep some for tomorrow (for the sake of your own weight)!

Emergency chocolate cake

  • 75g butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/4 cup milk

Throw these in a food processor and zap till well blended (it is easier if the butter is at room temperature (but for Emergency Chocolate Cake it usually isn’t ๐Ÿ˜‰

Grease a middling size microwave-proof bowl, if you want to use a cake sized bowl then make double quantity.

Then add to the food processor:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Zap into a thick batter consistency, if it is solid add a little more milk (you can use soya etc. milk or water and milk powder).

Pour into bowl, and microwave on high for 2-3 mins till the top is firm. Cool then release onto a plate, eat while still warm, if you need a topping make extra mixture and use that (uncooked).

Chilli Beetroot Chocolate Cake

Gooey chilli beetroot chocolate cake

This moist chocolate cake with a twist of chilli is delicious and economical. 1 Though see below, there are mixed opinions in our house on how to treat the beet ๐Ÿ™‚ ย  The chilli adds a touch of interest, the beet adds colour, texture 2 Too much according to one critic ๐Ÿ˜‰ and moistens the cake. The recipe is adapted (to make it more economical and lower fat (so I can excuse eating it with cream) from one in Lifestyle Block magazine from last year..

  • 200ml cooking oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2-3 tsp Vanilla

Zapped together in the food processor, or by hand.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup cocoa
  • 1 Tbsp (yes really!) Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp Chilli powder

Sifted and mixed.

  • 1 big cooked beetroot

Either: Tim’s preferred version, grate the beet and add to the wet mix. Or: Barbara’s preference, zap the beet while you are zapping the rest of the ‘wet” mix. 3 The difference is the presence or absence of distinct soft red bits of beet in the final cake. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry. Pour into an oiled floured cake tin. 4 I use one with a removable bottom to make getting at the cake quicker once it is baked ๐Ÿ˜‰ Bake at 180C for about 30 mins (or maybe 35 in a non fan oven. I think it is best to remove it while the insides are still a little gooey, because that’s how I like to eat it, with cream ๐Ÿ™‚ 5 But then I’m not Vegan, Vegans should top with frosting to make up for the lack of cream ๐Ÿ˜‰

Notes   [ + ]

1. Though see below, there are mixed opinions in our house on how to treat the beet ๐Ÿ™‚
2. Too much according to one critic ๐Ÿ˜‰
3. The difference is the presence or absence of distinct soft red bits of beet in the final cake.
4. I use one with a removable bottom to make getting at the cake quicker once it is baked ๐Ÿ˜‰
5. But then I’m not Vegan, Vegans should top with frosting to make up for the lack of cream ๐Ÿ˜‰

A tale of two mushrooms: Eating local?

Mushroom photo by orchidgalore (I forgot to take a shot of mine ๐Ÿ™

It is better to eat local. That’s a no brainer. Forget about foodmiles, carbon footprints and the like, just remember the tale of two mushrooms. The first was actually several small buttons, used by the cafe to garnish my lamb’s fry (liver) and bacon. They were anonymous and almost tasteless, the sort every supermarket sells. Who knows where they came from, and apart from presentation 1 My chef son will remind me here that presentation is nine tenths of the flavour, but that’s not quite true. they added nothing to the dish. The second mushroom was a fat giant, bought from the mushroom man at the Tauranga Farmers’ Market. We hadn’t been kind to it, kept it several days sitting in its paper bag in the bottom of the fridge forgotten, till I grilled it for lunch. Fat, juicy and bursting with mushroom flavour, despite the delay and despite cooking it merely by shoving it under the grill with a slosh of olive oil while my bacon toasted.

The local mushroom beat the supermarket thing hands down (I do wonder why some cafes seek to save cents by serving tasteless mushrooms, but that’s another story).

Much of the produce from the Farmers’ Market is organic or spray free for much the same price as the mass market produce. Almost all of it tastes better, usually fresher, often with a story 2 The tale of the people who produced it, or at least the look of them if the stall was too busy for a chat. and sometimes just like in a Kongo market with a “matabiche”. 3 The same idea as a baker’s dozen, a little extra to keep a customer returning to your stall by thanking them for their custom. Like the packet of bacon Frank, of Frank’s Sausages, gave us on Saturday.

You may think that eating local is a luxury for country folk, not so, there are markets all over NZ. So, as the guy on the TV advert says “Eat fresh!”

Notes   [ + ]

1. My chef son will remind me here that presentation is nine tenths of the flavour, but that’s not quite true.
2. The tale of the people who produced it, or at least the look of them if the stall was too busy for a chat.
3. The same idea as a baker’s dozen, a little extra to keep a customer returning to your stall by thanking them for their custom. Like the packet of bacon Frank, of Frank’s Sausages, gave us on Saturday.

Chocolate muffins (non-Vegan)

Chocolate muffins on a sunny Spring day ๐Ÿ™‚

Not Vegan because they use eggs, but then our freely ranging chooks produce several a day…

  • 1.25 cups flour
  • 2-3 Tbs cocoa powder
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 cup sugar (at least some brown is nice)
  • 175 ml milk
  • 2 large eggs, beaten (three if they’re from our quasi-bantam ๐Ÿ˜‰
  • 100 ml vegetable oil (soya or sunflower are good)
  • 75 g plain chocolate chunks
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Set oven to 160ยบC (a bit more if not a fan oven, c375 in the USA).
  2. Prepare a deep muffin tin (with paper cases or if you are stuck grease) it should make a dozen
  3. Sift flour, cocoa and baking powder
  4. Add sugar mix then make a well in the centre
  5. Pour in the milk, eggs, oil, chocolate, and vanilla
  6. Gently mix
  7. Spoonย  into the muffin tin
  8. Bake for approximately 15 mins or until springy
  9. Cool for 10 mins then transfer to a wire rack and leave any that remain uneaten until cold before putting them away in a tin for later ๐Ÿ™‚

I made these because I needed a break after finishing the course notes, I’ve eaten three while uploading this recipe, the only changes I’d make next time, apart from making sure we had paper cups so they could stand properly tall, would be to add more vanilla (we got some proper vanilla extract and it is so much better than imitation “essence”) and to use real dark chocolate instead of Bin Inn’s best chips.

Mushroom risotto

Photo by tristanf

1 Tbsp dried porcini mushrooms
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large or 2 small onions
3 garlic cloves
300g fresh mushrooms (I used half button, half portobello for cheapness and variety)
350g arborio rice
150ml white wine preferably dry
1+ litres hot vege stock
3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp chives, spring onions or fennel
a little more oil, Avocado is nice as well as good Extra Virgin Olive (non-Vegans can use c25g Butter)
Salt and pepper
Non Vegans can top with grated Parmesan

 

Cover the dried mushrooms in hot water and soak (c15 mins), drain them.

Chop the onion and garlic finely. In a heavy saucepan big enough to take the full recipe, heat the olive oil and fry chopped onion and garlic (use a low heat, the idea is to sweat them until soft, not turn them to carbon). Chop the fresh mushrooms and fry them also for a few minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat. Add wine and simmer, stirring often. When it has been absorbed add stock a little at a time. Keep stirring! Add stock (Remember it is important that this is hot, we don’t want to shock the poor little rice grains do we?) till the rice is tender.

Chop and add the porcini and parsley. Season and add the extra oil (or butter and Parmesan).