Regular Random: five minutes with some crackers and cheese

Cheese and crackers platter. Close-up shot of sliced brie, seed crackers with a bowl of chutney, fresh fig and some walnuts. Image: Su Lesli, 2018

Seed crackers, brie and some chutney. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

Cheese and crackers are amongst my (many) food weaknesses.

I recently found a recipe (1) for crackers made entirely of seeds: pumpkin, sunflower, poppy, sesame, chia and flax seeds to be exact. These are not only gluten and dairy free (for those with such intolerances) BUT also incredibly quick and easy to make.

AND delicious.

Did I mention delicious?

Basically you throw a bunch of seeds into a bowl and add water. The chia and flax seeds go all gooey and mucilaginous (don’t you love that word) in water, and that’s what holds the mix together. (2)

After about 15 minutes you have a blob of stuck-together seeds that can be spread out on baking paper and put in the oven. About 50 minutes after that, you have crunchy, yummy crackers.

Of course, I had to spoil the dairy-free bit by serving them with cheese.

And fig & pear chutney. And a few walnuts.

Yum.

Regular Random is a photo challenge hosted by Desley Jane at Musings of a Frequently Flying Scientist. If you’d like to join in:

  • choose a subject or a scene
  • spend five minutes photographing it – no more!
  • try to not interfere with the subject, instead see it from many angles, look through something at it, change the light that’s hitting it
  • have fun!
  • tag your post #regularrandom and ping back to Desley’s post

1. Seed Crackers (gluten and dairy free), Bite NZ’s Home of Food

2. I didn’t have any flax seeds, so I doubled the quantity of chia seeds. That worked perfectly well in terms of holding the mixture together, but meant that the finished crackers were quite grey-black in colour.

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The Changing Seasons: April 2018

An autumn dish. Close up shot of tarakihi fillet with rosemary lime crumb, roasted butternut squash and watercress salad on black plate. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

An autumn dish; tarakihi fillet with rosemary lime crumb, roasted butternut squash and watercress salad. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

In this last month we have truly felt a seasonal change. The hot, humid days (and nights) are gone; replaced by cold winds, frequent rain and storms which left thousands of my fellow Aucklanders without electricity — some for up to a week.

Cooler temperatures make the kitchen a much more appealing place to be. So when my local grocer had some really fresh tarakihi fillets (ocean bream or morwong to non-Kiwis), butternut squash and fresh limes (at a price that didn’t require me to sell a kidney), I thought I’d try out a dish based on couple of recipes I’d found.

Close up shot of whole butternut squash, whole and halved limes, and rosemary sprigs. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

Butternut squash, paired with lime and rosemary. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

And since I haven’t done a “Version 2” Changing Seasons post for a while, this month you’re getting my pan-fried tarakihi with a rosemary lime crumb and roasted butternut squash.

The actual recipes are:

Lemon & rosemary crusted fish fillets (I replaced the lemon with lime)

Roasted butternut squash with lime and rosemary

Halved butternut squash. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

Image: Su Leslie, 2018

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Peeled and cubed squash mixed with olive oil, lime zest and chopped rosemary before roasting. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

While I did prepare the squash pretty much according to the recipe, I modified the fish dish a bit.

The original recipe involves grilling the fish with the breadcrumb topping.

Stale bread, rosemary leaves and lime zest; blitzed to a crumb. This forms a topping for the fish. Image shows blizted mixture in blender, with additional lime and rosemary in shot also. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

Some stale bread, rosemary leaves and lime zest; blitzed to a crumb. This forms a topping for the fish. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

But since I was using the oven to cook the squash, I decided to pan-fry the tarakihi. I also hate overcooked fish, and being able to watch its progress in a pan means I’m more likely to “get it right.”

Someone told me that you get a really good result by:

a) making sure the skin is really dry

b) putting the fish skin-side down in a hot pan until only the thickest part of the fillet is still opaque

c) turning the fish and and taking the pan off the heat

d) removing the fish from the pan after about a minute.

Worked for me!

The downside of that method is that you can’t make the crust, but I fried the breadcrumb mix in the same quantity of olive oil the recipe suggested putting over the crust. I spread it over the fish on the plate (and on the squash after I’d taken the photos). Yum!

The addition of watercress and a squeeze of lime helped balance the sweetness of the squash.Overhead view of plate with pan-fried tarakihi fillet with rosemary lime crumb, roasted butternut squash and watercress. Su Leslie, 2018

The addition of watercress and a squeeze of lime helped balance the sweetness of the squash. Image: Su Leslie 2018

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Image: Su Leslie, 2018

About The Changing Seasons

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge, originally hosted by Max at Cardinal Guzman. I’ve taken over hosting duties this year, and if you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

  • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
  • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

  • Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
  • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.

If you do a ping-back to this post, I can update it with links to all of yours.

UPDATE

First of all, my apologies for taking longer than usual to create this blogroll. I’ve just got back home after a fab week away.

So here are other bloggers’ Changing Seasons’ posts for April. Please visit and enjoy the month though their eyes.

Marilyn at Serendipity Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

Ladyleemanila

Tish at Writer on the Edge

Joanne at Following a Bold Plan and My Life Lived Full

Sarah at Art Expedition

Max at Cardinal Guzman

Deb at The Widow Badass

Ruth at RuthsArc

Ju-Lyn at Sunrise Sunset

Pauline at Living in Paradise

Jude at Under a Cornish Sky

Mick at Mickscog

Yvette at Priorhouse Blog

 

 

 

Rosemary and feta scones (a recipe)

Close up shot of rosemary and feta scones. Image: Su Leslie, 2107

Rosemary and feta scones. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Ingredients (makes six large scones)

300g self-raising flour*

Good pinch sea-salt

50g very cold butter

220-260ml cold milk

100g crumbled feta cheese

Good handful (or about two tablespoons) roughly chopped fresh rosemary. If you’re using dried herbs, about 1-2 teaspoons.

* You can use plain flour and add 1.5 teaspoons of baking powder. Make sure it’s not bread flour, which has more gluten and the scones won’t rise as well.

Process

Pre-heat oven to 220°C.

Sift flour into a bowl; add salt. Cut in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir through rosemary and feta.  Add enough milk to form a soft dough. Don’t over-mix.

Tip onto lightly floured baking tray and knead gently a couple of times. Roll or press dough until it is about 2cm thick.

I kept the dough in a round, and cut into 6 wedges, but you could use a cookie cutter for more traditional round scones.

The dough doesn’t spread much so you can bake them close together on the tray.

Bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden. Remove from oven and cool on a wire tray (just long enough that they’re not too hot to handle).

Some additional thoughts

The basic scone recipe I used comes from the Edmonds Cookery Book. It’s a kind of bible of traditional Kiwi food, and I’d wager that most of the home-baked scones consumed here have their origin in an Edmonds’ recipe.

When I looked for alternative recipes, I found some that add extra baking powder to self-raising flour and some that use  baking soda and cream of tartar as separate ingredients. I found recipes that use buttermilk or yogurt, some with a mix of butter and lard as shortening, and even some that included eggs.

I’m intrigued by these variations and will probably experiment — with different leavening agents at least. I don’t think I’ll try adding lard though, and as for eggs? Doesn’t that just turn the mixture into muffins?

Do you have a favourite scone recipe? Baking powder, or baking soda and buttermilk? Butter or lard? Do you add eggs?

I’d love to know how these variations work. And of course, what extra ingredients do you add?

Delish of the day

Close-up shot of roasted golden beetroot and feta salad on duck-egg blue plate. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Roasted golden beetroot and feta salad. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

Following last week’s #regularrandom post (Five Minutes with Three Good Things), here’s a shot of the finished dish.

Because the golden beetroot don’t bleed like the red variety, I was able to peel and chop these for roasting. That meant they got a little bit caramelised; and picked up the flavours of garlic and rosemary which I’d added to the roasting dish.

With quite a lot going on taste-wise in the beetroot themselves, I kept the dish simple with just a few salad leaves, some crumbled feta and a bit of balsamic dressing.

The verdict: pretty tasty. But given how long the beetroot took to roast (about 35 minutes — and they were small pieces), I’d probably only do this again in a vastly scaled-up form — for a summer lunch party maybe.

The Changing Seasons: autumn on a plate

Close up shot of poached peach half and halved figs, caramelized and served with nut crumb and icecream. Image and recipe: Su Leslie, 2016

Caramelized peach and fig with hazelnut crumb and ice-cream. Recipe and image: Su Leslie, 2016

I hadn’t intended to post another recipe for Cardinal Guzman’s Changing Seasons challenge, but this one arrived — fully formed — at precisely 3.18 this morning (I checked). As I’m not often woken by ideas this tasty, it seemed silly not to make the dish and share the photo.

Golden Queen peaches and figs are both in season here, and while I have to buy the peaches, I’m lucky enough to have a fig tree that is bearing about four fruit a day at the moment.

Golden Queen peach half and home-grown fig. Dessert in the making. Image: Su Leslie, 2016.

Golden Queen peach half and home-grown fig. Dessert in the making. Image: Su Leslie, 2016.

I poached both the peach half and the fig halves in a syrup flavoured with stem ginger and lemon jest, then popped the peach — cut-side down — in a frying pan to caramelize it. If I were making this as a proper dessert (rather than an experiment), I would roast the peaches to soften and caramelize them in the same process.

The crumb topping was made of finely chopped hazelnuts toasted in a frying pan with a bit of butter.

The icecream was Kapiti vanilla bean.

The Big T was my (surprisingly willing) taster, pronouncing it pretty yummy. Since I asked for constructive feedback, he said the poaching syrup needed more ginger and the crumb a bit more flavour.

I’m working on MK #2 for the boy-child to try later.

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge hosted by Cardinal Guzman. There are two versions:

 Version 1 (The Changing Seasons V1):

  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
  • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery.
  • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.

Version 2 (The Changing Seasons V2):

  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
  • Each month, post one photo (recipe, painting, drawing, whatever) that represents your interpretation of the month.
  • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!

In praise of the fabulous feijoa

When Tish Farrell (Writer on the Edge — check out her blog if you don’t already know it) commented on my post ‘Summer No More’ that the approach of winter means time for baked stuffed apples, I immediately thought (and replied),  “feijoa and apple crumble.”

I did wonder — knowing that Tish lives in England — whether she’d be familiar with that most deliciously, deceptively unassuming fruit, the feijoa. She wasn’t, and so this post is by way of enlightenment.

When I lived in the UK in the 1990s, feijoas were not only unavailable, but requests for them in fruit shops or supermarkets were met with puzzled looks and the odd suggestion that I must have the name wrong. A Kiwi friend recalls an English workmate insisting that such a fruit did not exist, and that perhaps “feijoa” was just her family’s special name for another, real fruit. “An apple, perhaps”  was apparently his suggestion. Annoyed at being so patronised, she drove half way around the M25 to borrow a New Zealand recipe book from me, which she took to her workplace to demonstrate the reality of feijoas to her colleague.

Feijoa, or Acca sellowiana is a species of flowering plant in the myrtle family, native to South America (Wikipedia). I’m not sure how or when it was introduced to New Zealand, but it grows extremely well here and is widely planted in domestic gardens. Growing up, everyone seemed to either have a feijoa tree, or knew people who did, so that during the months March to June buckets of the fruit could be found in every pantry.

Feijoas; creamy flesh inside firm bitter green shells. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Feijoas; creamy flesh inside firm bitter green shells. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Feijoas seem to be one of those things that people either absolutely love or totally hate (like Marmite and Vegemite). My mother loathes them — likening the smell of the uncut fruit to wintergreen (methyl salicylate). Because of this, she tended to discourage neighbours’ donations of the fruit, so my brothers and I compensated by scrounging them from every source possible. One consequence of this was that we always ate ours raw, scooping the sweet creamy flesh straight from its slightly bitter green shell. It is only as an adult that I’ve discovered the pleasure of cooking with feijoas.

The first house I bought had a huge and prolific feijoa tree in the back yard. A Kiwi friend who has lived in Edinburgh for over 30 years visited one afternoon and we (literally) sat under the tree and gorged ourselves.

It’s only since we returned to NZ in 2000 that I’ve noticed feijoas for sale in shops. Before that, it seemed to be very much a home grown or donated fruit — although sometimes enterprising small children would set up roadside stalls selling what was probably grandma’s (hopefully excess) harvest.

This season, feijoas seem to have become — in culinary circles — the new black. Last weekend, I saw feijoa cake in a couple of cafes, the host at the B&B where we stayed baked us a feijoa cake as a welcome, we had the fresh fruit at breakfast and feijoa jam for our croissants. Since then I’ve found a plethora of recipes for cakes, muffins, crumbles, jams, chutneys and cordials, and while I don’t have any feijoas growing in my garden, they are ridiculously cheap at the local fruit shop so I decided to have a go at making a feijoa cake this afternoon.

I’m experimenting with dairy and gluten-free baking at the moment, and I’ve found a local (Auckland-based) food writer, Eleanor Ozich, whose book My Petite Kitchen Cookbook, has lots of useful recipes. One I’m particularly fond of is an orange almond cake; which I modified by using feijoa pulp in place of the oranges. The cake uses almond meal instead of regular flour, and is sweetened with a couple of spoonfuls of honey. I added the zest of a lime for a bit of extra zing, and (I must confess) did mix some icing sugar and lime juice to create a drizzle icing on top. But compared to my usual slathering of buttercream frosting on cakes, I feel I’ve been quite restrained.

Feijoa-almond cake, with lime drizzle icing. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

Feijoa-almond cake, with lime drizzle icing. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

The result doesn’t look as glamourous as the cafe cakes, but the Big T assures me it tastes great.

If anyone is interested in the recipe, I’m happy to bake another cake (purely for research purposes) with a bit more attention to quantities and technique, so that I can actually generate a recipe.

Meanwhile, I’m off to try a slice (purely for research purposes, naturally).