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.
How is 2017 looking for you ? As I dive back into 2017, I’d love to share how mine has started with you.
Brené Brown recently posted about the 4 questions that she asks herself at the close of the year, and I have found them to be exceptionally valuable – I’d love to share them with you, as I suspect that you might find them valuable too (if you haven’t come across Brené as yet, I heartily recommend that you take a look). What do I want more of in my life?
- What do I let go of that is no longer serving me?
- What will make me feel more alive?
- At the end of every day and every year, I need to know I contributed more than I criticised. How have I contributed, and what will my life look like moving forward?
This is especially important to me as this year I begin a new cycle. It is said that the universe works on a 9 year cycle – 2016 was a 9 year, and I was also in a personal 9 year. It is a time for endings and new beginnings – it would fair to say that everywhere you looked, this was very evident and especially true in my life. My first book was published in 2006 and in the following 9 years I wrote 4 books, run 5 Whole and Natural Foods Chef Training Programs, and after years of following the path less travelled, was finally in a position to buy my own simple home. I build a house and moved in May 2016, with a new book launching also. I absolutely know deep in my bones and soul that this is a cycle ended and I finished the year/s exhausted, not knowing what the path ahead looked like, or even where it lay. I did what I know works for me – rest, meditate and do the spiritual work – this time I answered Brene’s questions for myself.
What I want is more time, less struggle, more ease, less ‘I have to get through this list’, more laughter (what do you call a parrot with a raincoat on ? see below), more being present in the moment.
What is no longer serving me are some of the ways that I teach, which have huge and heavy logistical loads and my push through that wall attitude (which I grant has been a positive many a time – I wouldn’t be where I am with that push). I have been too judgmental and critical – I need to remember what I was like 20 years ago when I was early on the path. Exhaustion and fear are not serving me.
What makes me feel alive is not being exhausted, being rested, doing the spiritual work, knowing I’m on purpose and that I am living a true and honest life, being a person of high integrity and walking a true path. Being with my beautiful daughter Nessie, and sharing her moments and path is what fills my heart with such love and meaning, along with my mum and family.
I’m pretty comfortable in that I have contributed – that I have achieved what I set out to do some 25 years ago – to effect change in how we grow, produce, prepare and eat food, and that hasn’t always been easy. Other than being a mother – which is the most important thing of all to me, this is the thing I am most proud of. That I didn’t tow a line, or post a photo, or go along with a train of thought when I felt it to be untrue, but rather said clearly – the emperor is wearing no clothes – and all with great integrity.
So that has set me thinking in where I go to from here, and how I see the path ahead.
My primary driving force, as I wrote in my first book, is that we as a society understand that food is not something that simply stops us from feeling hungry. It is exactly the same as love – an elemental human need. Together they sustain and nourish us, providing fuel for our body and soul to grow and our lives to fulfil their potential. Yes we all know now it needs to be real (I’m a bit over that whole JERF thing) but what I’ve found over the years of teaching is that the so many WHY’S, WHAT’S, HOW’S AND (REALLY)? make it so hard to actually DO.
Whilst I love the path I’ve travelled, these basic foundations are what I want to get back to – the WHY and the HOW. No matter what the problems going on or intolerances that may be, the food we eat is where we always begin. It will require learning about and building strong, grounded foundations (which I write about in my new book Wholefood From the Ground Up and I also talk about them here) but the translation of the why will always require the knowing how to prepare and cook food. When you know how to cook, how thermal mass works, how equipment can influence the experience and the end result, when you know how an ingredient behaves, when you know all the basic things that I took for granted when I was growing up and was passed. on. I know you are time poor, I know the pressures, but I promise you it makes the hugest difference to know these things, and it has nothing to do with being perfect or creating the most perfect food, or taking a perfect photo of it. I’ve taught hundreds (probably thousands) over the years and I know the difference knowing these things make, I know that cooking from scratch matters and makes a huge difference, and is probably one of the most important things you can do. I also know that these days, sadly you have to know a lot more than I did say, some 40 years ago when i was just a young 20 year old, because back then there was so much less bullshit going on, and food was still real and not the total illusion that it is today. You will also have to get wise – you have to learn some good basic information so you can make informed decisions – because today there is so much of that bullshit abounding about what makes food healthy, wholesome, ethical and sustainable. I want to empower you to make these informed decisions and have many small and big victories in the kitchen. To this end I am going online (and working on implementing everything you wanted in the survey I did last year – goodness me, that was months ago!). Right now, I am working on a class program for Perth (which will include a Whole and Natural Foods Chef Training Program 4 week intensive in May), and am at my desk working on the online programs. I haven’t forgotten about Canberra and Melbourne, and will update you on those a bit later. The best way for you to stay up to date with me (and I with you) is to SUBSCRIBE to the newsletter. As a subscriber, you also unique access to information, events, recipes and treats.
I have been far too busy for food coaching over the last years, but love this one to one contact. You might simply want to get sorted out and see a clearer path for the year ahead – (a bit like me having someone to consult on the garden design, giving me steps for the way forward) or you might be totally stuck with understanding gluten free baking or conversion. There is so much we can do in one hour – I am opening up 6 places, and I’d love to help you with those small victories, or make things easier to understand for you. Cost is $200 and to grab a spot, just email me email@example.com
It’s at this time of the year that I try and post my favourite reads from the year – and most of these are blogs that I actually follow, so I have given you the blog address. I have to tell you though, there are very few nutrition texts or such here – I think I’m just over it all !
Violet Bakery (my most favourite baking book outside of mine :) I make the Cinnamon Scrolls from these all the time. If you haven’t got this, and love baking – get it (in Australia I think the US version, with a forward by Alice Waters is the way to go. Just remember a US cup is 240ml and US tablespoon is 15ml).
The Vanilla Bean Baking Book – I got this for Christmas, and I love it. Can’t wait to try her scone technique. Same goes for measurements above, as this is a US book.
Neighbourhood – love Hetty’s approach to vegetables, so inspiring.
The Salad Book – Belinda Jeffrey has been a friend in the kitchen over many, many years before we met and became friends in real life. I have a couple of these ear marked for the hot weather.
A Year in My Real Food Kitchen – my dear friend Emma Galloway’s new book. If you are looking for good, everyday, delicious gluten free, vegetarian food – honestly, Emma does gluten free better than anyone I know.
Our Delicious Adventure – Jane Grover is another good friend, and I loved reading about their journey around Australia (with great food thrown in).
The Kings Grave – I finally got to read about the search for King Richard 111 body – I love archaeology.
The photo at the top of this post, is the bunch of roses I picked from garden the other day – only now 5 months old, I am just so thrilled with how they are going.The 3 pink ones on the left are St Cecelia, soft yellow Windemere, the strong pink is Sister Emmanuelle, the apricot is Abraham Darby, and the red – the glorious Falstaff. I ummed and ahhhed over Falstaff (a climber), was told not to get it, but oh I just love it – if you are thinking about it, don’t let anyone talk you out of it.
The photo’s below are just a snippet of what’s been going on around here and my top 9 from intagram – love that my gorgeous Smeg Victoria stove made it in twice – you love this oven as much as I do it seems. And now I’ve time, I will do a proper post on my new kitchen shortly. There’s Constance having her bad hair day and looking slightly electrocuted (this photo always makes me laugh, she looked so shocked !) roses from my new garden and good old fashioned baking – proper muffins (not obese, fake, sugar laden muffins), the strawberry celebration cake from the new book, beautiful young Rosie with her Sweet + Sour Chocolate cake, and these glorious ‘from the Womens Weekly’ baked goodies at a country fete.
Constance showing her yoga moves, and encouraging me to get started with it again…
I ask you – how GORGEOUS is this caravan… saw it on Instagram and just love, love it. What about that stove ?
I think I should leave it there !! We need to go a little more slowly this year, a bit more step by step… I will be back shortly with a dairy free chocolate ice – cream (agar and kudzu base)… oh and the answer to the joke – Poly Unsaturated !!!
Wishing you a wonderful, grounded, peaceful new year with many joyous moments. I so look forward to seeing in and working with you this year…
“What on earth is Jude talking about” ? I hear you ask… well a shrub is kinda like an old fashioned cordial, only it’s vinegar based (which preserves it). I love them, and last Christmas I started trying them out and feel pretty confident to tell you how I did it. It’s going to take about 2 weeks, so perfectly in time for Christmas. I just picked up those babies above the other day on my way home… seconds.
The Poole china…well, this year Christmas will be in my new home, with all the family coming. I’m setting the table (part of it will be a trestle table) and I thought to myself, I would love, love to use Mum’s glorious green Poole china. I warn you I may shed a tear as I write this, i’m a bit emotional at the moment… the stopping after a huge and massive year, and it doesn’t take much to get me crying. Mum is 96 and still lives at home, independently, still cooking but absolutely not as capable as she once was. She is at the pointy end of the stick in life, and wanting to move things out of the home to people. The Poole china was to go to me, and I asked mum the other day if I could use it for Christmas. Well, this week I packed it into boxes with mum watching and bought it home. “Check if there is anything else in the cupboard” she said, so i did, and there was – beautiful Kosta Boda glass bowls, stunning glass bowl… “take them too”. My mum has never had a lot, but what she had was beautiful – she has spectacular taste. And here was I packing them to leave her home forever, she was passing this onto me, preparing to know that this part of her life, and indeed her life was coming to it’s close. My mum has always been there for me, when i hated her, yelled at her, left her, she has loved and supported me no matter what. What value of a mother ? It’s everything. So that’s the Poole china. This Christmas, no matter where you mum is, give thanks to her for without our mums, who would we be?
So recipe below… it’s super easy and I hope you enjoy it. I haven’t given you a finished photo of the shrub because mine is still in the making, but if you look around the internet you will see them – THIS pic is gorgeous and will give you the idea. What I also do, when the shrub is finished is use the discarded peach (all sweet and vinegared up) to make peach chutney. Now, if you are looking for more Christmas ideas (like Marshmallow, Gingerbread House and goodness knows what, you can find them HERE. OR, you can just go to the blog and hit Christmas and have a look through.
May your days be merry and bright as we lead into this most special time of the year…
This little baby has been in my head for sometime as a distant image – I kinda knew what I wanted, but didn’t have time to work it out and thus it missed going into the new book. So you are getting it for Christmas dear reader. As I began to slow down last week, I finally could see (in my mind) how to go about this recipe. As it happened I had a play date set with my gorgeous friend Emma Galloway (My Darling Lemon Thyme) as a chance for us to really catch up before she heads back home to New Zealand. What a truly beautiful soul is Emma – and talented. Given photography is not my strength, and it most certainly is Emma’s, I asked her if she would mind bringing her camera and take some shots. These gorgeous shots you see here are hers, and the making of it was a joint effort :) Needless to say, we did not stop talking from the second she arrived to the second she left. Thank you for the beautiful photos Emm!
It’s very easy, gluten and dairy free. Now I say that not because I think gluten and dairy free means something is wholesome and healthy, but because I like my sweetness a little less rich and lighter when the weather is 40c (as it is want to be on a Perth Christmas Day). For those of you that follow my work, you will see it’s pedigree in the Vanilla Bean Almond Cream and Creamy Cocoa Butter and Vanilla Frosting from Wholefood Baking. Just a couple of things:
- You will need to soak the almonds for the milk overnight to make the almond and coconut milk (and please don’t be tempted to use tetrapak almond milk, it will be watery and not nice. You can however make the almond and coconut milk the day before, so you are ready to go the next day.
- You will really only need about 3/4 of the chocolate biscuit base, but I’m too tired to work that out. I would make it up, and perhaps make little tartlets with the left over !
- This really is best eaten the day it is made -it will also look it’s best. I know that’s not optimal for Christmas, but you could have the milk made, and the strawberry juice made and it really doesn’t take that long to put together.
- Use a good vanilla – I like Heilala
- Dont use a generic agar powder, go to a Natural or Wholefoods store and buy it there. Two good brands are Honest to Goodness or Lotus
- If you are wondering about kudzu, you can find it here (in Australia) here in the U.S
I’d like to ask you something here though… enjoy this recipe and I would love you to share it but please respect the copyright of both myself and Emma. There’s a lot of craziness going on in the blogging and instagram world. I (and others I know) will now often see a recipe that is mine (or theirs) directly posted with no acknowledgement, or a few small changes with no nod to it’s source. I would ask that you please respect this.
It’s been a big year for me, with lots of blessings and challenges. I didn’t run the Whole and Natural Foods Chef Training Program this year as I was exhausted, and with a book to finish. That new book is just about put to bed, my family are well, I am loved and supported by that wonderful family and true friends, I have wonderful neighbours, I’m finally able to own my home and am building, I’ve been doing public classes again and I have the absolute blessing of doing work I love – and I hope, making a positive difference. I got the flu badly (twice), I didn’t balance work and rest too well and I’ve learnt a lot of about false friendships and those that are true – lessons are blessings in their own way as they free you for the new growth, deeper friendships and all that really matters. I go into the new year grateful, loving with arms open wide to embrace the new year with joy.
I wish you and your loved ones a joyful, peaceful and safe Christmas, may you be richly blessed with everything that really matters.
Hello !!! Are you as busy as I am right now, finishing off jobs before Christmas (for me that is putting the new book to bed – going through last pages, checking it twice – and getting my new online tax system finished, making sure my builders are going to get the roof on my new house before Christmas to avoid delays in the new year, thank you notes)….. ? I’ve tidied up the blog a bit (but really it needs a lot more tidying up – as does my garden) and have rounded up some recipes that are 1) Christmas and 2) are great for this time of the year. Please bear in mind, some of these recipes are old (but not bad) and have not imported into the new website beautifully – and, I’m a bit better photographer than before (not a lot, but a bit!) They are still favourites.. especially the puff pastry. I’ll have a new post up next week for a easy, dairy + gluten free + vegan dessert – one of my favourites.
Till then… x jude
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