Sunday, August 29

Mrs A Young's Apple & Celery Salad

Lovely Launceston, terrific Tasmania, I bid thee adieu!  Having been at a conference for the past four days and now awaiting my flight back across the strait, I don’t fancy my chances of serving up a vegetarian feast this evening.  Though there’s every chance the boys will have one waiting for me.  Every chance.

I do have in my hot little hands however, a copy of the 21st Birthday Cookery Book of the Country Women’s Association in Tasmania.  It is a splendid publication, reissued this year but not altered I am assured, since it was first published in 1957.  This becomes quite evident when one reads the advertisements contained within its hallowed pages – “A Gift She Will Always Appreciate – Fowlers Vacola Fruit Bottling Outfit – To Mother with love from Dad and the Children.”  Or there’s “Housewives!  You can easily make this tasty dessert to suit all the family – Merry Widow Junkets!”  Yum.  Or my personal favourite depicts two hat-wearing gentlemen having a likely conversation I'm sure – “My wife’s a real Pet!  That’s nothing, mine’s a Prizewinner, she uses McAlpin’s Flour (the housewives choice since 1900)!” 
From the shop window of The Tasmanian Country Women's Association

For this week’s star vegetable my initial plan was to test one of the country women’s recipes but the problem is that there are incredibly few vegetable recipes to be found among its 240 pages.  Although starting off promisingly with artichoke soup (artichokes, tick), the only other vegie recipe I can see is in the Salad Section.  Simply called ‘Apple and Celery’ the ingredients are one head of celery and four cooking apples.  Peel and slice apples and celery into small pieces then sprinkle over finely cut lettuce, advises Mrs A. Young of Evandale.  I bet Mr A Young of Evandale could barely contain himself at the thought of Mrs Young’s special Apple & Celery dish after a hard day’s yakka on the farm. 

I could always try Sheeps Tongues with Sauce, Pigeons on Toast or Jugged Kangaroo, I suppose.  Though what I’m really looking forward to is heading to the baking section for proper scones and sponges, the preserving section for delicious chutneys and jams, and the pudding section for goodness knows what else.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  

Pat Boone was top of the Hit Parade in 1957.  I wonder if the ladies of the Tasmanian Country Women's Association cooed over his beautiful babyface whilst they were kneading their scones and bottling their pears?

Sunday, August 22

She's a Celeriac

Celeriac.  Also known says Wiki, as knob celery (!)  Someone very knowledgeable, someone whom I would call if I ever found myself in a bit of bother, informed me on Friday night  that I need not cite Wiki.   Apparently it has been successfully argued in universities in the United States that Wiki is "common knowledge" and therefore does not need to be referenced.  So henceforth, I shall pretend that I'm far more clever than I really am.  There are a number of celeriac cultivars available, especially in Europe. Among them are 'Prinz', 'Diamant', 'Ibis', and 'Kojak', which all received Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit designation in the trial in 2000. 

I simmered two cups of puy lentils for about 20 minutes until they were soft but not falling apart.  Meanwhile, I prepared the celeriac by discarding the top (which in retrospect would have been quite nice finely chopped and added to the salad), and 'peeling' it with a knife.  Then I diced it into one-centimetre cubes and sauteed them for 15ish minutes in olive oil, crushed garlic and the obligatory salt and pepper.  I mixed the drained lentils and crispy celeriac cubes together in a large bowl and added about half a generous cup of roughly chopped roasted walnuts.  I threw in some leftover beetroot for good measure, the juice of two and a half lemons, about a tablespoon of sumac, and some glugs of olive oil.  I covered the bowl with a plate to keep the concoction warm whilst I cooked 250 grams of seasoned and sumaced haloumi over a hot griddle.  The haloumi went atop the warm lentil and celeriac salad (to which I had added a cup of chopped italian parsley) and was garnished with lemon wedges and another glug of olive oil.  Lovely soaked up with some steaming seeded bread.  Looking back I could have played it differently and the ratio of lentils to celeriac should have been more even.  It seems that celeriac, whilst smelling like celery when raw, takes on a sweet mellow flavour when cooked which was almost lost amongst the earthy, lemony  lentils and the beetroot.  Almost, but not quite.  Close, but no cigar. 

Sumac haloumi with warm lentil and celeriac salad

Sunday, August 15

A is for Artichoke Again

I am fielding requests from international readers!  Solly Billen* (59) of Riverton, NZ wonders how one might prepare globe artichokes.  Having previously been too terrified to attempt cooking such an unweidly vegetable I have decided that today is the day.  Wiki informs me that a globe artichoke is in fact a type of thistle thought to originate from North Africa in Roman times.

In my search for a manageable recipe I've noticed that many advise simply boiling or roasting the beasts and then peeling off their leaves one by one to dip in olive oil or aioli (or areola as Mr R likes to call it).   Not finding this a very appealing nor substantial option for a miserable winter's day, I have settled on making artichoke and goat's cheese ravioli as featured in 'The Modern Vegetarian' by Maria Elia.  Not as challenging as one might first think, because Maria's a cheat and recommends using ready-made wonton wrappers instead of homemade pasta for the parcels. 
Firstly, one must prepare three artichokes.  I cut them horizontally through the middle, removed their stalks and all of the hard green leaves around the outside.  (Maria says that anything green is tough and anything yellow is tender).  Then I scooped out the middle or the 'choke' which is apparently hairy and inedible.  Basically you're left with something about a third of the size of the orginal vegetable and this has to be plunged into lemony water immediately or else it will discolour.  Also in the lemony water I put the lemon halves, two bay leaves, two squashed cloves of garlic and a big sprig of thyme.

This simmered away with some baking paper and a plate on top of it (to keep the artichokes submerged) for about 20 minutes until the artichokes were tender and the sort of greenish grey colour one associates with overcooked broad beans at granny's.  I left them to cool in the liquid and then drained them and diced them.  
I then added about 250grams of soft goat's cheese, 30grams of roasted pine nuts, a big tablespoon of freshly chopped basil and thyme, the zest of one lemon, a couple of squeezes of lemon juice, salt & pepper and then I mixed and mashed for England.  To make the parcels I lined up six wonton skins at a time, brushed the edges with water and placed a teaspoon of the artichoke mixture in the middle of each square.  From there I folded each in half to form a triangle and folded in each corner as well, taking care to squeeze out air and seal edges.  For beauty's sake I pressed a fork around each edge to give a corrugated effect.  I lined them all up on a floured tray, dusted them with more flour and popped my dear little raviolis in the fridge until cooking time.

 Here's my inner 15 year old's favourite song to keep you amused until cooking time...

Quite accidentally we called in to the neighbours on our way back from a rainy walk at 3.30pm.  It is now 7.41pm and I have been sitting beside the neighbour's outdoor fire drinking red wine and recounting tales of lost virginity for quite some time.  I shall now attempt to cook the ravioli alongside some roasted cherry tomatoes on the vine...  Et voila! Cooked the suckers in salted boiling water for approximately 6 minutes.  Given that half of them fell apart, I'd recommend sticking to the recipe (instead of concentrating on your blog)  and cooking them for 3 minutes before removing with a slotted spoon and drizzling with olive oil and fresh thyme.  The taste, according to Mr R, was "creamy, the artichoke subtle yet pervasive and the pine nuts a welcome bit of bite."  Though to be honest, I don't know about artichokes.   If I had my time again, I'd save myself the trouble and open a jar.  Heathen!  Heathen that I am! 


*names have been changed to protect the innocent

Monday, August 9

Sunday, August 1

It'll Have To Be The Carrot

It's Shopping Day.  But Mr R is away 'working' at a music festival and is thus unavailable to amuse Master R by sword fighting down the aisles whilst I spend inordinate amounts of time comparing the potato content of different brands of gnocchi and staring lovingly at the frozen peas that come claim to come from Timaru.  It's also cold, it's gloomy, I have a headache and my hair is limp.  I have cancelled Shopping Day!   Handily though, a bag of carrots and a slimy looking piece of pumpkin remain in the cupboard from last week.  I shall pick the less fancy of the two (like I always do when choosing Christmas Trees just in case the ugly one gets left behind to spend Christmas alone) and pronounce the carrot as Vegetable of the Week!  Congratulations carrot. 

Not the carrots in my cupboard
An urban legend says that eating large amounts of carrots will allow one to see in the dark. It developed from stories of British gunners in World War II who were able to shoot down German planes in the darkness of night. The legend arose during the Battle of Britain when the RAF circulated a story about their pilots' carrot consumption as an attempt to cover up the discovery and effective use of radar technologies in engaging enemy planes. The story reinforced existing German folklore and helped to encourage Britons—looking to improve their night vision during the blackouts—to grow and eat the vegetable. Genius!
Some time later... My bag of carrots has now materialised into a batch of carrot and walnut muffins and a pot of spicy pumpkin and carrot soup.  There are two lovely loaves of plaited sesame bread cooling on wire racks as accompaniment.  Unfortunately you will never see their true beauty because along with my heart, Mr R has taken the camera away for the weekend.  I can assure you however, that they look very much like this...

For the soup I sauteed a large brown onion in olive oil and a little butter, added four cloves of crushed garlic, a finely chopped red chilli, a good dollop of 'lazy' ginger and a liberal smattering of black pepper. Then in went four chopped carrots and about a third of a medium pumpkin (also chopped).  I added enough vegie stock to cover the contents, then bought it to the boil and simmered for as long as it took for the carrots to become tender ( the carrots always take longer than the pumpkin so best to cut them into smaller pieces).  When it had cooled slightly, I whizzed it up with my new whizzer and checked the seasoning.  Lastly, I poured in about a third of a cup of coconut cream, ( makes all the difference).  And there we have it, a smooth, spicy, warming soup to enliven even the limpest of hair. 
As for the tunes, Missy Elliot's 'Work It' got me over the line today.  I love the ending when Missy says "this is hip-hop man, this is hip-hop" and then my i-pod morphs it into the next song which is never ever hip-hop and today in fact was My Morning Jacket's 'The Way That He Sings'. I'll add them both for your aural pleasure...