Its been an under the weather week in this house. I don’t know about you, but after spending too many days housebound with the dreaded lurgy I feel like burning all pajamas and bedding associated with the illness. I may have read too many plague books. Luckily that urge isn’t strong enough to act on, it just tends to lead to a lot of washing in hot water.
My illness was in the throat, so I was off my tucker for a bit. Horrifying I know. Instead of thinking of all the tasty creations I could make for dinner I turned my thoughts to what my giant tonsils would let pass them with the least amount of pain.
I tried soup. No. Heat = pain. Also, my lovely husband, who was learning how to make soup in the Thermomix while looking after a sick wife and children, thought it was a good idea to throw in a chilli. In normal circumstances that would be fine with me. In this case, no. Heat two ways = lots of pain.
Next I tried sorbet. Yes. Ice worked much better. An added bonus was using up some fruit from our ever abundant fruit bowl. I did pink grapefruit. Some vitamin C there. I ate some shortly after I made it, then put the rest in icicle containers so I could access some icy soothing as many times as I needed.
As I often do when faced with unfamiliar things I turned to Quirky Jo. She has some very good green juice recipes. I tried the Shrek Juice for the kids (cup of ice, peeled orange x 3, handful of spinach leaves). They actually like it! Look!
For a grown up version, I went with Jo’s Favourite Green Smoothie, which is a frozen banana or two, snapped into thirds and thrown in, 2 apples in quarters (I did core, though Jo suggested you don’t need to), 1 peeled lime, 2 cups of ice (or a few more cubes – I wanted it icy cold to numb the tonsils), 300g water and a torn up smallish bunch of washed kale. You could use spinach, or even lettuce instead. I had bought some kale and wasn’t sure what to do with it. Muttering Housewife hadn’t said nice things about it, in fact, compared its taste to horse blankets, so I was a bit scared. It had started looking a bit sad and soggy in the fridge so I thought I should chuck it into this juice mix before it went too far. Mix all this up on Speed 10 for 2 minutes for a completely smooth texture. It makes a good amount, enough for 4 serves.
I managed to finish a schooner of it and I couldn’t taste any horse blankets. It wasn’t too sweet, but flavoursome. More a fruit juice taste than a vegetable juice taste. The banana gave it a creamy texture, so I suppose smoothie could be used to describe it. I still prefer to call it juice. And I will call it that when I make it every time I have any greens on hand. It is a great breakfast option as it has a great nutrition boost and good for iron absorption with leafy greens and vitamin C. Also quite a good afternoon pick me up.
I realise there may be friends who knew me in my 20s who may wonder what has happened to me.
After my earlier attempt at jam (see Plum Sauce I & II) I decided to have another crack. In order to motivate myself, I put my hand up for the jam stall at the school fete. Also, the P&C chair is a lovely woman and she put in a late tuckshop order for me. So I owed her. I’m new to the school and you never know how the P&C is going to work. I figure most people work on a mob-like favour system, hopefully with less violence and horse heads. I want the neighbourhood to know I know how to return a favour.
Jam is not something I would have bothered with before Thermomix. It sounded like something that you need to clear the kitchen for, get in heavy equipment and risk burns and ruining a large pot of something just because you forgot it was on.
There are some excellent jam recipes in the Everyday Cookbook. I plan to make the citrus marmalade and the strawberry jam, but first I wanted to try something more my Grandma’s style. She is a ginger fan. Ginger wine (by the thimble, she doesn’t want to get silly), crystallized ginger and, when the local markets are on, ginger jam. This keenness on ginger is interesting because aside from this she has a rather bland palate. Forget spices, salt and pepper are exotic and unnecessary in her meals. Her tea is taken with a mere wave of a teabag over some hot water, with very weak powdered milk added. On a night out at the club she will occasionally order a shandy with strict instructions for only 1 finger of beer, with the rest of the glass filled with lemonade. I like my shandies the other way around.
I found a pear and ginger jam recipe here, which suits because I needed something to bulk out the more expensive ginger and pears were a pretty good price from the apple man at the Kelvin Grove Markets. He sells produce from the orchards around Stanthorpe. Mainly apples, but also whatever else is dropping from the trees at any particular time of the year. I have bought quinces from him (short season this year – too much rain to keep them from rotting), huge Golden Queen peaches and every variety of apple you can think of. He had some called Champagne Apples, which I had to buy. They look very interesting and I am mulling over how to use them.
So with piles of fruit around me I peeled and cored a kilo of pears and half a kilo of pink lady apples. Keep the apple peel and core to add pectin to the jam. Peel 125g ginger and cut into chunks. To chop the ginger finely I put it in the Thermomix first and blitzed at Speed 7 for 3 seconds. Scrape and blitz again if not fine enough for you. Add the rest of the prepped fruit and chop at Speed 5 for 3 or 4 seconds. Check if the right texture for your liking. If you like it extra chunky maybe even just Turbo it a couple of times. Add juice of two lemons, reserving the seeds to add to the apple offcuts.
Add 800-1000g sugar. I didn’t want it too sweet, so I stopped at 800, but the original recipe said 1kg. It will take it right up to the maximum level in the jug, but it cooks down, so I didn’t get overflow during the cooking. Mix it all up on Speed 5 for 2 seconds.
I tied the apple peel, core and lemon seeds into a clean chux cloth and rested it on top of the fruit and sugar. You could also blend the peel and core (but not seeds – will add bitterness) all first up with the ginger so they are very fine and incorporate them in the jam mixture. I didn’t think of that until now, so went with the bouquet garni style. According to the lady I buy milk from you could also just stick a whole apple in the mix as it cooks and pull the core out at the end, the rest will have cooked down with the rest of the fruit and sugar. If you use the chux method just remember to check now and then that the bundle hasn’t become caught up in the blades. It is not a chux jam we are making. I found it stayed on top quite well and cut down splatter through the lid. Close lid, cook for 20 minutes at 100 degrees, speed 1. If you have blitzed apple peel, core and lemon seeds with the ginger you can increase speed to 2 as no issues with getting anything caught up. Put a clean saucer in the fridge.
After 20 minutes check jam is setting by spooning small amount onto the cold saucer. If its ready it will set in 30 seconds and be jelly like instead of runny. If still runny cook again in 5 minute increments until you are happy with it. This recipe filled 5 of my jam jars which I figure is the biggest yield possible, given we started out with a maximum capacity amount in the jug.
I have been playing around with some of the new ingredients I find in my pantry. I bought chickpea flour to make Cyndi’s Gluten Free Bread (new Everyday Cookbook). There was quite a bit left. Then I saw a cooking show where they were making onion bhajis with chickpea flour. They looked delicious and what’s more like something my children might consider worth trying.
I looked up some recipes and came across one in my old favourite cookbook, Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion. She had a recipe for carrot fritters that looked similar to the bhajis, so I thought lets give that a whirl. The kids seem to prefer carrot things to onion things anyway. Also, the recipe required me to open a beer and being that kind of evening that was all the excuse I needed.
I roughly chopped 2 medium sized carrots and some spring onions and threw them into the Thermomix, chopping finely on Speed 5 for 5 seconds (I wanted the pieces pretty small, so cooking would be even as well as children not being able to pull out bits). I added 150g chickpea flour, 1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric, 1.5 teaspoons ground cumin, sprinkling of salt (recipe called for 1 teaspoon, I think you can sprinkle more on the cooked fritters if they need it rather than put too much in the batter), 1 egg and half a cup of beer. Recipe also called for 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, but I left it out in case children found them too ‘zingy’ (their word). If you would like it more zingy put it in, or throw in a chilli or two with the carrots and spring onion at the beginning. Mix on Speed 5 for 5 seconds or until all incorporated.
Heat oil in a frying pan. You need enough oil to be covering the whole pan and also coming up the sides a bit. You will need to top up oil in between batches. Remember to wait for it to heat up when you do this. Splodge small spoon sized batter in a pleasing pattern around the pan, leaving a little room between each so you can lever a spatula in to flip em over. When they start to brown around the edges, flip and wait a few more seconds to brown on the other side. Standard pancake procedure. Flip out onto kitchen paper lined plate. Eat some. Share them with children if you so desire. Or if there are any left.
I served mine to the grown ups with cauliflower roasted till crispy with a good splashing of oil and a sprinkling of ground cumin, pappadums, rice and a spinach curry that I found here. So easy in the Thermomix. And TASTY! I left out the cheese, because I didn’t have the time to make it and it would have been overkill with everything else on the plate. And I was tired by then.