DIY fermenter and my first attempt at saurkraut

Today I made my own fermenter out of an old olive jar and an airlock I bought at at thrift shop ages ago.

I got a “grommet” from the brew shop, and then came home and drilled a hole in the plastic lid of the olive jar.

I sterilised all the bits and then used this recipe for hot pink jalapeño garlic kraut.  Except I used half regular cabbage and half red cabbage cause that is what I had around.  I ended up using about 2 kgs of cabbage so upped the garlic, chilli and salt accordingly.  I hope even though it’s only 50% red cabbage it will still end up looking awesomely hot pink!

I’m excited to see if my experiment works!  I have always wanted to try fermenting foods but was too worried about doing it all wrong.

Now that I have mastered pickling and preserving (and haven’t died from eating contaminated food) I am getting more adventurous.

I’ll be sure to update this blog with the results.

fermenter

Advertisements

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes with lentils, paneer and TVP

New Zealanders don’t really know what Sloppy Joes are, yet the longer I stay away from the US the more nostalgic I get for childhood comfort foods.  Sloppy Joes are something I have been thinking about lately, since spying a tin of Manwich at a grocery shop in Apia.  On side note I was strangely confused/comforted by the availability of American junk food in Samoa.  I brought home a jar of Goober (the pre-mixed peanut butter & jelly stuff my mom would never buy for me despite pleading for it at the supermarket as a child).

manwich

Warwick asked me about the pervasiveness of Sloppy Joes.  Do any chain restaurants have them?  I said yes, thinking maybe Arby’s does? (He had never heard of Arby’s so assumed it was not actually a well known eating establishment in the States).  I’m not sure if Arby’s actually has Sloppy Joes but some chain restaurant must do? It’s common enough yet I don’t think I have ever actually ordered a Sloppy Joe in a restaurant.   I only remember eating them at parties and family gatherings.  I don’t think it was something my mother ever made either (though maybe my step dad did once or twice?).

Then he advised me that since Sloppy Joes hadn’t filtered down through popular media (TV, film, etc) to New Zealand it must not actually be a wide-spread food.  I tried to argue it was and I think soon to become quite popular outside the US as it seems like all somewhat white-trash kitschy American foods are getting claimed by foodies everywhere and becoming gourmet-ified.  So here is my gourmet vegetarian Sloppy Joes recipe I came up with, and it was yum (despite Warwick calling it “slop”).

 Vegetarian Sloppy Joes with lentils, paneer and TVP

  • Boil ½ cup French lentils in veg stock
  • Add ½ small TVP (mince or peanut sized chunks) to lentils & stock after 20 minutes.
  • Boil for another 5 minutes then strain.
  • Add 2 tbs oil to a heavy bottom pot
  • Sautee 1 chopped onion
  • Add 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper/capsicum
  • 1 chili pepper (I used 1 small Thai chilli, then later added chipotle chilli, depends how spicy you like it)
  • Add ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tbs tomato paste
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • Sautee 5 minutes more
  • Crumble in ½ block of paneer (1 cup crumbled, 2”x2’x4” inches of the block?  I get Gopala paneer from the local Indian shop and I love it.  You can substitute tofu for paneer for vegan Sloppy Joes)
  • Add lentils & TVP
  • Add 1 tin tomatoes (whole or chopped)
  • Add veg stock to just cover eveyrthing
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 tbs chipotle Tabasco (or something similar with a smoky spicy favour)
  • Some liquid smoke – depending on the brand I have found this stuff really varies in strength, what I have at the moment (Angel Foods Liquid Hickory) is really strong and I only added a bit (1/4 tsp?). Don’t go crazy with the liquid smoke, you only need a bit or it can take on an overwhelming smokiness.
  • Give this all a good stir, cover, and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on for 10 or 15 minutes.
  • Let this all simmer for about an hour, with the lid off, stirring regularly (and making sure it doesn’t stick on the bottom).
  • Sift a few tablespoons of flour into the mix if it’s too wet – it needs to hold together enough to stay on a bun.
  • Serve on a nice bun. We topped ours with rocket, and a cabbage/carrot coleslaw. 

 

I really enjoyed the Sloppy Joes, it brought me right back to childhood birthday parties! Warwick ate two so he must have liked them as well.

Sorry it didn’t occur to me at the time to take a photo.  I also wonder if it would work as well in a slow cooker… something to try for next time.

 

Friday I’m in love… with Wellington bargains!

The lovely and fabulous Frocks on Bikes team has organised a brunch at Duke Carvell’s this Sunday. Not only am I super stoked to get frocked up and ride my bike around town with a bunch of other awesomely attired ladies and gentlemen, but I am super excited to eat some yummy food at Duke Carvell’s.  I was also excited to take advantage of their BYO Sundays to make it a boozy brunch… but alas, as of some time recently, Duke Carvell’s have cancelled not only their BYO Sundays, but also their 2 for 1 Mondays!

It’s confusing to try to keep track of all the special weekly deals on in Wellington, and despite my attempts at finding some kind of definite list, I was unable.  So, I will compile here, for my Wellingtonian readers (and myself), various food & drink deals to be had around town.

Mondays

2 for 1 pizza at Mediterranean Food Warehouse (be prepared to wait a while)

2 for 1 food at Chow

2 for 1 steaks at Crazy Horse

BYO at Cuba Street Bistro (Roxy Cafe) for $6 cork fee Monday – Wednesday

**UPDATE** I saw a sign in the window of the left bank Taco Shop saying “2 for 1 Student Mondays”.  They have the best tacos in Wellington!

**UPDATE** I read in the paper that Café Istanbul on Cuba Street does 2 for 1 mains on Mondays & Tuesdays, and is BYO.

Lots of choices for deals on Monday nights now…

Tuesdays

$10 burgers and $10 cocktails at Monterey

2 for 1 dessert at the Library Bar

$11 films at Reading Courtney Place ($10 for students)

**Update** Café Istanbul on Cuba Street does 2 for 1 mains on Mondays & Tuesdays, and is BYO.

Wednesdays

2 for 1 pasta at Med Foods Warehouse

2 for 1 cocktails at  Chow & Library Bar

Thursdays

2 cocktails for $16 at Betty’s on Blair.  I recommend the “Los Dios”  Yum!  They also have Dj’s on Thursday evenings.

2 for 1 cocktails at Good Luck on Cuba

Fridays

?

Saturdays

2 for 1 cocktails at Chow & Library Bar

Sundays

?

Other deals:

2 for 1 sushi at Sushi Bi after 4:00 pm every day (2 Woodward Street)

BYO at Joe’s Garage after 5 pm on Weekdays

$10 jugs of Monteiths at the General Practitioner Monday – Friday 7 pm to 9 pm

BYO at Little India on Cuba Street all the time

BYO at Ozeki Japanese all the time

BYO at Hazel (corkage $6 per bottle)

Maybe we should just start our own BYO pub like these folks in Christchurch did?

I am sure there are other deals and BYO places I am not aware of… please feel free to contribute if you know of any!  I am not particularly endorsing any of the above named establishments… though I have been to most of them and if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t post it here.

Thank you, pilgrims.

Thanksgiving is a big deal where I come from.  Growing up we would go to my grandmother’s house  and have the traditional turkey dinner and all the trimmings.  It was usually a pretty typical American 1980’s family dinner, with lots of microwaved cuisine and store bought mixes.   My stepfather’s mom lived in Jefferson Park, on the northwest side of Chicago, and as a child I remember her having an oil dripping rain lamp I was fascinated by that looked exactly like this:

Thanksgiving is always the last Thursday in November.  The day after, known as “Black Friday” is when the official Christmas shopping season begins.  For me, Thanksgiving is about spending time with the people you love, and eating a lot.  If your family is like mine, some one may even throw an ashtray at some one else’s head on Thanksgiving.  Since my family is 15,000 kms away, I invited all my friends and colleagues over to celebrate with me.

I started cooking on Tuesday.  This involved baking 2 loaves of wholemeal bread to be used for stuffing the turkey. Also I peeled, steamed and mashed the pumpkin for the pumpkin pie.

On Wednesday I made the pumpkin pie, sliced and toasted the bread for the stuffing, and started brining the turkey.

This is actually my pumpkin pie from last year. But it looked like this again this year.

Several people have requested the recipe for this pie.  I have posted it before, but here it is again!

On Thursday I prepared the stuffing, stuffed the turkey, roasted it, made the cranberry sauce, and also whipped up some jalapeno corn bread muffins and some guacamole.

The turkey, in all its beautiful glory.

I used Alton Brown’s brining & roasting instructions, and it was perfect. Last year I followed the Joy of Cooking’s brining recipe, and found that while the bird was good, the drippings were way toi salty to be used for gravy.  On the other hand, Alton’s recipe produced an amazing bird and delicious gravy!

Jalapeno cornbread muffins

I used Emeril’s recipe to make these cornbread muffins, but left out the cheese because I didn’t have any!  I used jalapenos that I grew from seeds last summer, and had been in the freezer for a few months.  They were spicy!

Guacamole and nachos

I didn’t have any cilantro so this guacamole was just mashed up avocado, chopped tomato and spring onion, some diced Thai chillies, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and minced garlic.  A little bit of cumin adds a nice Mexican dimension.

2 variations on cranberry sauce

My cranberry sauce (on the left) is basically straight out of the Joy of Cooking.  I was multi-tasking a bit too much and couldn’t keep my eye on how long it had boiled… so I took it off the heat before it had reached the right consistency, and I ended up with very runny liquidy cranberry sauce.  Brady’s cranberry sauce, on the right, is much more jellied and apparently Rachel Ray’s recipe, and I think it had grapes in it.   Both were made with frozen Sujon cranberries.  Since I didn’t have enough containers to hold all the leftovers, I combined the two in the end and now I have over 1 litre of cranberry sauce in my freezer.

"American" haute cuisine

Of course, what Thanksgiving would be complete without some classic American junkfood?  Thanks to Caroline and Brady for bringing Poptarts and Oreos.

Also on the table was a really nice platter of fried rice courtesy of Xai & Vahn, some Malaysian rice noodles and agar agar cakes from Rashidah,  a salad from Aien, an amazing green bean casserole from Marta, pecan pie from Grant, mashed potatoes from Alice, corn on the cob from Annalise, cheese and salami from Remy, and my special gravy from the turkey drippings.

Let's eat!

The thing that makes the gravy special is that I put some white wine in it.

Overall it was a splendid Thanksgiving full of wonderful people and wonderful food, well worth all the effort.  There were quite a bit of left overs, which I have been trying to use creatively.

I used the turkey carcass to make turkey stock.  I tried to pick the bones clean, then boiled it in 5 litres of water for about 2 hours, with some bay leaves and peppercorns.  Then I strained the stock with a sieve and put some of it in the freezer.  The rest of it I used to make Turkey fennel brown rice soup.  Which is done like so:

  • Use a rice maker or separate pot to prepare 1 cup of brown rice
  • Slice up a fennel bulb and 1/2 an onion and sautee until soft in 2 tbs of olive oil
  • Dice up the zest of 1 lemon, add to pot.
  • Add 1 or 2 litres of stock (turkey or whatever you have on hand)
  • Add left over turkey (or make it vegetarian)
  • Bring to a boil, lower heat, simmer until fennel is tender but not mushy.
  • Add 1/2 cup white wine, juice of 1 lemon, salt, pepper, diced chili, and the brown rice and simmer for 1 or 2 more minutes.
  • Garnish with some fresh parsley or the ends of the fennel.

This is probably my current favourite soup, which I usually make with veggie stock and no turkey, especially when I find beautiful fresh fennel at the veggie market.

the aftermath

Ok, I am still recovering from Thanksgiving.  This year it involved over 3 days of cooking and more than 20 people squeezed into my tiny flat.  But well worth all the effort.  Photos and recipes and other stuff will be coming soon.

Since having a blog is all about getting to be narcissistic, I am going to copy herein a poem that my lovely former flatmate Emma Liu wrote me, following her first Thanksgiving experience in my home on Thursday:

today i’m thankful for You

for the colors and flavors in your laugh and smile.
for the food you make from which love and joy warmly shows.
for how simple and true you truly are.
for how sweet and sunny like honey you are.
for all the goodness you are able to gather.
for all the words that only famous writers know how to best thank you for moi.

thank you nicole~

Autumnal treats

My internal clock tells me that October is the autumn, and I should be eating pumpkins, cranberries, and baked apples.  In New Zealand, it’s spring time, but I did some autumnal baking last week anyway.  Me and my office mates ate everything too quickly to get any photos, but I have transcribed some of my recipes.  Here they are for you to enjoy.

 

Kiwi Pumpkin Pie

Vegan muffins

 

This has become my “go-to” muffin recipe.  If I don’t have soymilk on hand, I use regular milk, which works fine.  To make my autumn cranberry pumpkin muffins, I followed the recipe  as written, however omitted the rolled oats and coconut, used 1 cup mashed pumpkin instead of banana, and added about 1/2 a cup frozen cranberries (you should probably cut the berries in half before adding them to the mix, though I was lazy and didn’t), and about 1/2 cup of dried cranberries.

 

sweet treats for the long cold nights

It’s mid-winter here in New Zealand, and the best way to stave off the soul-crushing depression of a dark, dreary Wellington winter is by getting busy in the kitchen.  And by getting busy I mean baking, though of course, what you do in your kitchen is up to you!

I had been wanted to try baking both Afghans and Pumpkin muffins for sometime.

Afghans

I finally remembered to buy corn flakes at the supermarket, and spent a Friday night at home, making  these delicious chocolate treats. The basic recipe is shown below:

I followed Alexa Johnston’s recipe from “Ladies a Plate” and they turned out really tasty.  Throw everything except the cornflakes in a bowl and mix it a bit, then massage in the corn flakes.  I had to add some water as my mixture was too dry.  These don’t really change shape (expand or rise) during baking, so how they look on the baking sheet before baking is basically exactly how they will look when they come out of the oven.

Pumpkin Muffcakes

My second baking project was a batch of what I have dubbed “pumpkin muffcakes”.  Sounds appetizing, huh? After reading Cameron’s post about Pumpkin-bran muffins, I decided to adapt the following recipe:

From the Tin Goose Cafe Cookbook and made some amazing Pumkin muffins with a chocolate icing.

I following recipe instructions as above, however, I used the following  ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup rice bran oil
  • 2 cups mashed pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 3 tbs wheat bran
  • 3 tbs oat bran
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Since we didn’t have any dark chocolate, I instead made a chocolate icing similar to the Afghan’s icing recipe, however, I substituted about 1/2 cup of  tapioca starch for icing sugar because I found the Afghan icing to be way too sweet.

So, since they are muffins with a sweet icing, I figured they were like a cross between muffins and cupcakes… hence, muffcakes!  This recipe made about 18 bright orange muffcakes, plus enough left over to fill a very small bundt pant.

Just a warning – this photo is deceiving!  Yes, it looks sunny, and it was for about 20 minutes this morning, but it’s raining now and we have 75 km/hour gusts. It’s even supposed to thunder… something that has only happened once since I have been in New Zealand!