Hello there !!
Here we are with another year come around. I have to say, after the trials of 2017 (shared it seems, by just about everybody else) I’m quite happy about it. A wonderful chance to wipe the slate clean, reset ourselves and head of in the direction of where we want to go. For me ? I want a less crazy, let me live and eat a little more simply and more seasonally. And this is the vein in which we are starting out…..
If you happen to live in Australia, then you are almost bound to be over run with zucchini. Tis the season.They grow and double in size overnight, they are prolific, and they’re cheap (because there are so many of them!) and if you turn your back on them, they will take over. They are something I can grow, but also my little market garden stall is almost giving them away. Now beyond Zucchini Fritters (Wholefood for Children), Zucchini and Sultana Loaf (Wholefood for Children), stuffed zucchini and the ever brilliant Zucchini Slice (made famous by the Australian Womens Weekly, but to which I add heaps of other veggies), this bake is a super simple (meaning crazy easy and oh so quick) and wildly delicious option.If you are into raw zucchini noodles, then now is the time and place (not in the dead of winter) – now is their time to shine and zoodle like there’s no tomorrow. But, back to our bake… it’s a mish – mash of two things – Mum’s tomato pie (tomato, onion, breadcrumbs, dot butter on top) that we always had in summer with a roast, and the classic Tian of summer vegetables.
But, in truth the whole dish started when I discovered that the red onions I’d planted, and thought were not a great success, apparently got it all together and became big fat bulbs of oniony goodness. I also had a glut of tomatoes courtesy of my niece, and said zucchinis. When I cut into those onions, oh my they were just begging for a bit of heat so those sugars could caramelise up and become something quite stupendous.
So before I get to the recipe, there is one super important thing that makes the world of difference. The dish. A tian (a bit like a gratin) is all about the dish. It needs to be shallow – and classically shapes outward (this helps the juices reduce and become oh so good) you can see that clearly in the dish I used. But you need something that is going to get hot. I mean really hot. My preference is for cast iron, and failing that enamel coasted tin. What this does is caramelise the vegetables and the juices along the edges, which totally changes the flavour. So in a few words, if you can – shallow, sides flanging outwards, enamel coated tin or cast iron.
This would make a brilliant lunch with a green salad and some good cheese (goat preferably) if desired. Or perhaps a wonderful bean salad. It makes a great partner for a meat or fish main too. It begs for a glass of great reddish wine. It is totally not averse to pesto (Coming Home to Eat or Wholefood for Children), or a tapenade (I would suggest the Arame Tapenade from Wholefood From the Ground Up) – all in all it is a plant focused winner and workhorse. I hope you love it as much as I do….
I wish you a wonderful 2018, filled with good things, and if trials come along the fortitude and ability to bear them, quiet moments filled with calm and satisfaction. May there also be much joy and deliciousness at your table and in your life.
Until next time… x Jude
PS….Seasonality and what to cook with all that produce is a big theme for me this year, and a focus of my newsletter. If you’d like to join me there, I’d love to share it with you…. you can SUBSCRIBE HERE.
All these gorgeous photos ©Harriet Harcourt
I’m thinking jam. Tis the season with the berries and stone fruits harvesting.
We have become very accustomed to fruits available all the year round, but you will find they have nowhere near the same level of flavour. Fruits are fleeting, lasting only a few weeks, but there is a way to capture that moment — jam. But not jam as you might know it, but a spoonful of deliciousness that tastes like the fruit it is, with just enough sweetness to bring out it’s full flavour. A snapshot of the season in a jar. Now I am often asked can you make jam with something other than sugar, or less sugar and the answer is complex, and included below. So here it all is – as Wholefood Baking is currently out of print, I’ve put the recipe here for you. I promise you that once you know the hows, it’s very easy. But there are rules….
The only fruit to use is that which is ripe, preferably organic and in season. Fruits such as this are bursting with natural sweetness, colour with enormous complexity and luscious flavour. The jam (it’s a universal recipe) here relies less on sugar, and more so on technique to capture the true complexity and glory of fruit flavour — it is a snapshot of the fruit at its best and the season. Jams are very easy to make, and will store in the pantry for up to one year. On a cold winter’s day, when you take that batch of scones out of the oven, you will thank yourself for your stash of homemade jams and the colour and taste of summer will lift your spirits.
Technically, the object of preserving is to slow down the process of decay. Food spoils from the continued activity of natural enzymes in all fruits and vegetables and the continued work of microorganisms in the form of moulds, yeasts and bacteria present in the food and air.
SUGAR, PECTIN AND ACID
Jam relies on sugar to saturate the natural moisture of the fruit and thus preserve it. I am often asked if something other than sugar can be used to make jam — the answer is complex. Many of the sugar-free jams you see are made with white grape juice concentrate, use pectin and have been processed in a boiling-water bath. Because there is not enough sucrose to saturate the fruit and preserve it (and this is true of many other non-sucrose based sweeteners, such as stevia, agave and brown rice syrup), the boiling-water bath is the preserving method. I prefer to use one of the semi-refined organic raw sugars (not rapadura, which is too low in sucrose and too strong in flavour)( I like to use the Billingtons Golden Castor Sugar) in the smallest possible amount, this allows the glorious flavour of the fruit to shine through. Most jam recipes call for equal quantities of sugar to fruit by weight. You need about 60–70 per cent sugar for good gelling to occur naturally (sugar, pectin, acidity). I find this way too much sugar and prefer a ratio of 20–40 per cent sugar to fruit, but this will vary with the fruit — tart fruit will require more, and sweet fruit will require less. Because the holy trinity of sugar, pectin and acid is disrupted, this will result in a softer ‘set’, which I happen to prefer.
Pectin is a carbohydrate that helps to ‘set’ jam. It is particularly concentrated in the skins and cores of fruit. The conversion of the pre-curser substances to pectin occurs naturally during ripening but can also be forced by long cooking, as in the traditional methods of making jam without added pectin. Fruits vary in how much pectin, or pectin pre-cursers, they contain. Pectin produces structure and a kind of stiffness in jam by forming a water-holding network within the crushed fruit. Before gelling starts, individual molecules of pectin are surrounded and isolated from each other by water molecules. If the surrounding solution is acidic enough, the pectin loses some of its attraction for these isolating water molecules. Sour fruit will normally provide enough acid to take care of this step. If the acid content of the fruit is low, lemon juice can be added to make the fruit mixture more acidic. Once the pectin has loosened its hold on the water molecules, something more attractive must pull the water away from the pectin — this is the role of sugar. With its water stripped away, pectin opens out into a structure that links readily with other pectin molecules to form a three- dimensional network — a gel.
Fruits with high natural pectin and acid content include: blackberries + crab apples + cranberries + plums+ quinces+ sour apples
Fruits with low natural pectin and acid content include: apricots+ blueberries + figs+ grapes+ guava+ peaches+ pears+ prunes+ raspberries + rhubarb+ strawberries
Low-pectin fruits benefit from the addition of lemon, to boost the acidity and thus setting. Unripe fruit (sour) will also increase acidity. Jam is best made with a good percentage of fruit that is not overripe because as the fruit ripens, the pectin breaks down and you will not get a good set.
PICK THE RIGHT POT
The right pot is critical to making low-sugar jam, I cannot stress this enough. Mine is a traditional French copper preserving pan that is shallow and wide. It’s about 12 cm (41⁄2 inches) high, 36 cm (141⁄4 inches) across the base and 39 cm (151⁄2 inches) across the top, with a 10 litre (350 fl oz) capacity. The wide surface area encourages evaporation and reduction, thus cooking the jam quickly. It is extremely difficult to make jam in a deep pot with a small surface area — tall pans are a major cause of runny jam.
However, you can make smaller amounts in your average large domestic saucepan. You can use a simple stainless steel pan — just make sure it is not too deep. A wider and more shallow pan with less capacity (for example, a sauté pan with a 5 litre/ 175 fl oz capacity and a depth of 8 cm/31⁄4 inches) is better than a pot with a 10 litre/350 fl oz capacity, but a depth of 16–18 cm (61⁄4–7 inches), or even a frypan with a large shallow surface area. It will mean you can only make small amounts at a time — about 2 kg (4 lb 8 oz) of fruit, but your jam will be more successful. You can also use a 20–24 cm (8–91⁄2 inch) typical domestic saucepan, but keep the amount of fruit to 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz).
Never make jam in large quantities — another cause of runny jam — and never crowd your pan. How much fruit you use (the weight) will depend on the size of your pan — for mine, I use 4 kg (9 lb). A good guide is to only fill your pan two-thirds full of fruit.
JARS AND LIDS
Always use tempered jars that can withstand the temperatures involved in sterilising, jam-making and storage. Some jars manufactured for products such as coffee, peanut butter and mayonnaise are not tempered and do not have strong seals on the lids. Jars must not be cracked, chipped or damaged in any way, and lids must not be scratched or dented. Jars can be re-used, but lids are good for one use only.
STERILISING YOUR EQUIPMENT
Your jars, lids, ladles and funnels must all be sterilised. This is easy to do in an oven at 120°C (235°F/Gas 1⁄2) for 20 minutes. Jars and lids must be sterilised, dry and warm. Once sterilised, turn the oven off and leave in the warm oven until the jam is ready. Equipment can also be boiled for 12 minutes in a large saucepan of water, then dried in the oven at a low temperature.
PUTTING THE JAM INTO JARS
Bottling technique is the other very important part of making low-sugar jams — the jam must be spooned with a sterilised ladle through a sterilised funnel into warm jars (as hot jam into cool or cold jars will cause the jars to break) as soon as it is ready. Make sure the sterilised jars are warm (from sterilising and then being kept warm in the oven) and sit them on a wooden surface or on towels (so they don’t crack when the hot jam is added). This process will ensure the jars seal properly and that the jam does not spoil.
After ladling the jam into the jars, make sure there is no spillage as this will hinder a seal being formed. Gently wipe any spillage, taking care not to touch the sterilised lip of the jar. Place the lids on, taking care to touch only the outside of the lids. Holding the jars with a damp cloth (for a good grip), turn the lids until firm.
Let the jars sit until fully cool — do not move them for 12 hours or you can disrupt the vacuum process. A concave dip in the middle of the lid indicates a vacuum seal. If there is no concave dip, store the jam in the fridge and use straight away.
Once opened and the seal is broken, the jam begins to deteriorate and must be kept in the fridge.
The beautiful photo at the top of this post is ©Cath Muscat and all copy is ©Jude Blereau and Murdoch Books, and taken from Wholefood Baking. Published by Murdoch Books, 2013.
This recipe is a bit of an out take from my new book WHOLEFOOD From the Ground Up (which I can excitedly say, is out 1st June). It was one of the very first recipes I toyed with and it evolved on to become something else, but I wanted to see it come to realization. I do love a nice, deeply flavoured and toothsome vegetarian pattie (too many are just mushy) to put in a burger, or just as happy without. This pattie follows the path of one of my favourite principles – try and be prepared for the week, cook a pot of grain (in this case hulled millet) and cook a pot of legumes (in this case green lentils), to use in any number of ways – but here, as the smoky beetroot burger. I’m writing this up for the Easter break as I think it would make a perfect lunch, or dinner over this most wonderful break.
There are a few things I need to tell you about this recipe. These are really quite quick to throw together, especially if you have lentils already cooked. I would suggest you cook the millet (and make extra if you would like for another use) just before you need it – the warmth will make it a little stickier, which is helpful here (you will have a little left over, but it’s far easier to get the liquid ratio perfect with 1/2 cup millet, so use it for a stuffing, or a salad !). Also, the lentils need to be well cooked – once drained, it will help the whole sticking together thing if they are mashed just a little bit. In the end however, they will stay together, no matter how unlikely you think that will be – the 2 eggs will do the trick. I also absolutely recommend that you soak your millet and lentils (this will make them more digestible), but if you forget or run out of time, cooking them in a bone stock such as chicken will buffer any nutrient losses, and make digestion just that bit easier. Also – the smoked paprika. I can tell you that all smoked paprika’s are not equal. Many of them can be quite bitter, especially when you have to add a fair bit to get a good smoky flavour. I use one that is a dulce (sweet) smoked paprika, and in Perth, Western Australia this is the brand I use. And a word in regards to the miso – both shiro (white) or chickpea are fine, and in Australia I have a preference for this brand (though, to be fair it is only available in limited places, and only on the east coast), otherwise this brand.
I’ve served it here with great organic, wood fired sourdough that has been grilled, avocado, and homemade sweet chilli and sultana sauce. The greens you see there are the beetroot greens, but take note beetroot (especially the greens) are a high oxalic acid food. Heat breaks down oxalates, so I have cooked them gently in a little ghee – this way you will get all their goodies. Pile it all on the bread, slather it and it’s a hearty and delicious meal. A bit of goat curd would not go astray. And, finally if you are after a cake for the (hopefully) cooler Autumn weather over easter, can I suggest this Walnut and Yoghurt Cake. It’s an old post, so not brilliant photos, but I can guarantee, the cake is very good.
Wishing you all a restful, safe and heartfelt Easter… x jude
All photography ©Harriet Harcourt
I’ve just arrived back home after nearly 5 weeks away on the east coast of Australia, teaching and I think a pot of simple beans are in order. This post on beans began some weeks ago, but is ending up somewhat differently to what I envisaged. It was to be a discussion on cooking beans, but now – well it’s more about being, how grounding a simple meal of beans can be and how they can remind you that simple is sometimes all we need. This is happening a lot for me lately – you will see it also reflected in the new book (due June, 2016) – elemental flavours, simple wholegrains and legumes, fundamental animal foods, simple vegetables, simple fruits – foods that are local, seasonal, ripe, and grown in great soil with great ethics. It’s the elemental that gets me, and it’s this elementality (yes it’s my made up word) that is the key. It connects you immediately to what is real and true, and what really matters in life – it takes us into our core, our heart and soul. I have been privileged in classes – especially the 4 day intensives – to see that when simple, good, organic and/or biodynamic food is around (and a lot of it) and when people are supported, something exceptional happens – they cry, they open, they connect to each other and to themselves. It is never ever just about the food, it’s always about the energy that food carries and the context in which we eat it. And good, real food ? Well that’s mighty powerful stuff, and it seems the simpler it is, the more powerful it is. There’s a lot of crazy food out there right now, and whilst it might suit the latest fad, or marketing campaign it doesn’t seem to suit many humans, or nourish on that deeper level.
But, sometimes we do have to know how to prepare that food, how to make it optimally digestible for our human tummies, especially that grounding bowl of simple beans. Beans are part of the legume family, and require a bit of attention. First up, a bit about how they grow – they are ridiculously easy to grow. In Australia, I often find organic beans impossible to cook properly (they are really old, and | or they are heat treated for entrance to Australia and thus never cook), so I try and grow what I can. This year I’ve added the Christmas Lima Bean and Bean Frost to my repertoire of Borlotti, they are easily available online from Diggers, or some wonderful person may share a seed with you (Belinda Jeffrey shared her Christmas Lima with me). But if you live in the U.S you will easily be able to access the glorious Rancho Gordo beans, which offer a huge range of young, heirloom beans.
I know you may have heard that you need to soak your beans, but when you look at the picture above you can see that when they are fresh of the bush, how moist they are (you can also see how lush the pod is, and how bright the colour when fresh, too). They don’t need soaking, as those sugars have not yet begun to convert to very long chain carbohydrates that are hard for us to digest. Once they begin to dry though, you will need to soak them. In lots of water to cover them by about 10cm, and for Borlotti, Frost and Christmas Lima, you will need to add an alkali – many people use a pinch of baking soda, but I prefer Kombu sea vegetable, with contributes minerals, and has a special enzyme that helps to break those long sugars down. A 2cm piece is plenty for 1/2 cup of beans, which when cooked will give you around 1 1/4 cups cooked beans. Leave the beans to soak for 12 – 24 hours in a warm place. Warmth is important as it will help encourage lacto fermentation, which will also help to make the bean more digestible, and help with getting rid of anti nutrients such as phytic acid. Then drain and rinse, add to a pot with fresh water or stock with the soaking kombu, or use a fresh piece. Using a bone stock will help to make them even more digestible. Cook until they are done. The time they take depends on how old they are – beans under 1 year tend to cook from 45 – 1 hour | older – around 1 – 2 hours |older still – much longer, around 2 1/2 – 3 hours. If they are not cooked by then, they most likely never will. They are ready when gentle pressure yields a creamy centre – no pebbly bits. Pebbly bits are not digestible. I hear you saying ‘but where can I get kombu, as it’s not available in Australia?’ Kombu has been banned in Australia due to high iodine levels (crazy as we are a low iodine country, but go figure) – I buy mine online here, but you can also use Wakame which is freely available, it’s good, but it’s not quite as effective. (just a caveat about kombu, it’s great, but use it in small amounts, don’t go nuts with it).
Even though the weather is warming up, I hope you find time for this simple pot of beans in a cooler moment. But, you could always simply cook them as I have just described and use them to add to a salad with a delicious dressing. It was so wonderful to meet you all people in classes, thank you for enriching my life. I’ll be back with some Christmas treats shortly…. x Jude
As you can see, I like a bit of scone with my butter, and it seems that many of you do too, if the facebook post is anything to go by :) I’m making this post quick and short, so I can get this up in time, just in case any one would like to make these for Mothers Day morning tea.
I’ve been making these just recently to have something in the freezer to quickly take out and heat, for morning tea. Autumn has bought some very cold mornings recently, and my house is even colder, so when I’m sitting at my desk (editing the new book), a warm cup of tea and scone is just what the doctor ordered. I love scones, any flavour just about (so long as it’s not chocolate or too weird), and think pumpkin and date is in the top 5. And, there’s no reason you can’t chop up a lot of glace ginger and put that in also.
So whether you are making these for a Mothers Day treat, or just a warm something on a busy working day, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. I’ll be making a batch at Mum’s tomorrow for her freezer, so she too has some treat goodness for a cold morning on hand…. x Jude
It’s been a long time since I’ve been here with you, and done a blog post, lots of very good reasons for sure, but at the heart of it was a plate that was full to overflowing, and an entirely new email and web system being built, both on different platforms than before. Doing a blog in between platforms just felt a little too daunting.Totally rebuilding the website from scratch demanded that I also have a very good think why I continued to keep a blog in the new website. I loved this article on maintaining a long term blog by Heidi Swanson, and others at that time – Heidi talks about this being her practice and the commitment to that practice, and it made me query just actually what my practice was. Along with cooking, writing and photography, the blog itself was a part of her practice. It became immediately clear that for me, my blog was not an essential part of my practice – but rather teaching and writing, that formed that core. I’m not a great photographer and to be honest, I don’t want to learn too much more there – I just don’t have room in my brain for that. That room is saved for learning more about how fats – or any food really – works. I don’t have the ability to run a consistent weekly, fortnightly or monthly blog – some times I am just loaded with teaching commitments (the Whole and Natural Foods Chef Training for example), and sharing my knowledge with in the books I write.
Knowing this, I settled with going ahead with the blog and that I will make it here monthly as best I can, but I knew that I also wanted to be here with you and share what is going on, life and recipe or two. But I also know that I share all those things with you in each of my books, and most certainly in the new book (May 2016) – the book is just about finished (just a few more recipes to go) and editing to commence. I’m incredibly happy with this new baby, I think you will be too. My plan is to post here monthly, and to send out a quarterly newsletter with information and cooking for the season ahead – you can subscribe to that newsletter here
For now, I’d like to give you this yummy and simple recipe, using very seasonal ingredients and to say how lovely it is to be back here with you. Right now, parsnips are being pulled and apples are being picked, and they are a glorious combination. Combined with sage and herbs, a little left over cooked grain and a couple of eggs, they make the most wonderful fritters to eat, any time of the day. I think they will be perfect for the cooler Autumn weather over the long weekend.
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