Where there is a will there is a way

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Simple beauty

I just love the super chunky, strong dovetail drawers my partner Shane is making for his fishing space - and the design perspective behind them.  In comparison, all of our cupboard doors upstairs in our kitchen are falling off their hinges as they have fancy hinges and are made from chipboard which expands when wet.  An even more extreme version of what I hate is are the racks in our dishwasher.  Every part of it was designed to move or shift to be fancy, so they are always breaking!  What we have ended up with are broken falling down dish racks...with elastics or various things trying to keep them functional...I hate them.  I actually got so frustrated I planned to send the designers feedback.  Shane responded to my tirade saying I was a bratty housewife!  Amusingly the next time they broke on him he couldn’t get them back in properly and threw them across the room!  At least I lasted a year of wiring them!  Ha ha.

My point.here is that I hate overly complex designs, they are destined to break.

Enter the beauty of these chunky drawers.  Though they are dovetail, like a castle parapet fitting into each other, these are few and large.  There are no runners, they fit like slide out boxes on shelves.  These are not going to break!  Or need an expert to tinker them...I love the philosophy behind them.

Do we really need all the bells and whistles?  I prefer this, that will always work, and last a very long time, never ending up as huge piles of useless waste as they are fixable or reusable. Reachable.

My Prairie Homestead Cookbook learning 3 and 4 (chicken stock, pulled pork)

It seems that I am feeling like a cookbook challenge approximately once a week - at least, so far.  I had never made pulled pork before.  I had this at family gatherings on a bun, a bbq version, and always loved it.  But I needed chicken stock as part of it, which was on my list to try (I make that lots but wanted to try her technique as I was always guessing how long to cook it).

I am back to work after the lockdown, so my time and energy for cooking is drastically cut smaller.  I made chicken stock out of a roasted chicken carcass I had frozen a few days ago the night before, following Jill Winger’s directions which was super cool - using a crockpot overnight, spices, and a little bit of vinegar to help extract collagen from the bones.  I loved knowing how long to do it for (overnight or longer!), what the definition of success was (jelly-like after it cools due to collagen having been extracted, also being able to just leave it and sleep (I usually use a pot on the stovetop), and how healthy collagen is for you (and possibly other stuff from the bones?).

The next morning I strained the stock through a mesh strainer, put the bones aside for the compost bin (yes I know that attracts rats but the earth wants her stuff back), swooshed out the crockpot and put  pork shoulder into the crockpot, added the  required stock (froze the rest in several containers) and left it for the day!  Lots of great food made with minimal effort!

I will admit at the end of the day, my partner Shane helped me spice and turn into what it was supposed to be, he has an instinct for spices and meat.  He said it was very bland, but after it was seasoned better, All the weird bits taken out, he also added teriyaki sauce through it, it was amazing.

But reading about the range is different than doing it many times and experiencing different outcomes; she said if it was a bit frozen you just add a few more hours of cook time, knowing when it is perfectly done I think will require more trials!

But loved the rich, easy filling food for my family (a warm meal for our baby dog too).  Amazing.  Going to now ask my sister for that pulled pork recipe I had growing up at family events!  Now that I know where it comes from.....

Sunday, May 17, 2020

My Prairie Homestead Cookbook learning 2 (foraging frittata)

This frittata is delicious!

I learned a few things making this - I had never made a frittata for one.  But the special reason I was attracted was the use of foraged greens, like dandelion, purslane, lamb’s quarter, and chickweed.  I had been hearing of greenies using dandelion for years.   I knew what chickweed was, but not the others so I had to look them up.  Then when weeding the school’s overgrown garden, I saw lamb’s quarter!  Anyways, it’s a whole new area or set of learning.  As I just told my daughter walking by just now writing this post - it’s important because you can eat dandelion greens instead of spinach, wherever you are.  Also a range of other wild plants!

For this frittata I decided to stick with dandelion greens just to make it simpler, especially as they are meant to packed with nutrition; a superfood.  However when I did do the exciting foraging bit, I saw wild fennel and slipped a bit in (top right in foraging image).  It is easy to look up info on the internet on which weeds are edible...then you can identify it.  But I loved these two NZ pages, if you are interested:

It’s important to know these things, not only because in hard times or crises we may not have access to shops, but even regularly these greens are local, free of chemicals (if that’s how you keep your lawn, I do), and of course super healthy.  One thing I didn’t know is this is an old trick (of course, like the shavers).  My dad said his mom used to send him out to get dandelion greens.

See what a journey this sent me on?

My foraging 

My foraging below, this was so cool...the unmowed lawn was full of richness:


After doing this once, it is easy - I loved the fried thinly cut potatoes as a base, it was delicious.  You cook onion first (I added Portobello mushrooms, why not), then you add the foraged greens with garlic, then take all off very quickly (just wilted).  Potatoes go back into the pan with more butter, then become base for egg mixture combined with greens/garlic/onions mixture you took off, with parmesan added.  I doubled the parmesan by the way, I love it, and sprinkled more on top).  All goes in oven to set.  Yum!

Note: I could have chopped the dandelion greens up smaller, but enjoyed the rustic nature of it for this first one. 


This is what it looked like!  My husband said it was the best breakfast he ever had!  It was awesome.  We ate it with homemade sweet chilli sauce, and chilli tomato chutney.


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

My Prairie Homestead Cookbook learning 1 (cast iron care)

I saw a few of Jill's Prairie Homestead posts that came up on Facebook, about sourdough starter (something I am dying to learn), then during the Covid lockdown she shared a simple pantry bread recipe and tips to make it (how warm water should actually be, adds an egg, turn oven on then off for a warm place to raise bread) which I tried and it was amazing!  She shares what she actually does, the corners she takes, everything one needs to know...and did you know I am also a prairie girl? (Alberta, Canada.)  It is also a book of learning how to do things yourself instead of relying on stores, which is my goal.

I bought the cookbook (e-version) for my lovely stepdaughter's birthday as she also loved the recipe; not the print as we are both in New Zealand (over $70 here) AND it was lockdown so it would never arrive at all...and ended up screenshotting the entire book for her so she could access it more easily.  

It was an amazing way for me to dive through and pick my top exciting gems, from knowledge like how to seal cast iron pans (I only had vague hear-tell), to how to properly make stock so the collagen (jelly stuff) is extracted from the bones!  From home foraged (dandelion greens) breakfast fritattas, to pulled pork, the temperature needed to brew yogourt; and of course that sourdough starter to make sourdough bread!  It's a big deal; I feel like I was fumbling in the dark, and now I know!  

Doing anything new is intimidating before you do it; that is why I am going to record on this blog every time I try something new from the Prairie Homestead Cookbook...it will help me, and you as well!  Starting with my attempt to seal my cast iron pan. 

Cast iron care

12 May

I have an immortal cast iron pan, I have learned to use it and I love it.  But I was a bit vague about the sealing washing thing? Some people said just cook sausages? But when I cook messy stuff, and handwash with soap and water, it would be stripped.  I would wipe out with oil and go again...

using lard (no thanks), bacon fat (I can do that), or linseed oil (ok), you coat it inside and out and place upside down in a 160 C (sorry Jill I use Celsius, fyi she said 350 F) oven for one hour.  Then turn it off and let it cool inside.  

WHAAAT is that all?  

Great to know definitively that the hard sealing will withstand handwashing with soap and water....

Cue to cooking fettuccini carbonara next night or so, one of the few dishes in my repertoire (learned from hospitality classes at school where I support students as a teacher aide), which has bacon. Saved the grease after baking the bacon.  Poured it into pan, wiped all around.  Obviously put in oven at 160 C for an hour....

This is the result (I had missed the wipe it outside bit btw).  It is patchy, but think it will require a few more sealings.  But SO easy to do!  

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Best bread ever from the Prairie Homestead (Jill Winger)

During lockdown, I tried this, and it was the most silky, soft, delicious bread ever.   I made this dough for pizza, which I love making, and have made for many years, developing my own improved method.  But this recipe is better than even my family's one I was using...

It just adds one egg, and of course she gives really good tips for the method - like turning your oven on...and then off, to rise the bread in for an hour.  And why not add an egg?  It's brilliant, and also adds protein.

My photos of my dough and pizza follow, but here is her original teaching video that I think she put out as a gift during lockdown.  But the ingredients are listed below this video (not the method, but for that you can watch the video, then refer to her description where she was posted the whole recipe).


Dough texture below...

Friday, May 1, 2020

Amaze-balls pumpkin soup - healthiest method as it preserves the most vitamins, and is easiest, yummiest ever!

Using the exact same method I cook chilli sauces with, roasting the veggies then blitzing, just make sure your pumpkin soup includes these elements: pumpkin, onion, garlic, a bit of curry powder if you have it, salt, pepper.  Adding a small amount of ginger is great too.  I add raw spinach at the end, or broccoli cooked 2 min - you never want to overcook those.

This is the recipe I want to show all my kids, and friend's kids.  Here is the recipe!

Roasting then blitzing preserves far more nutrients
than boiling and discarding the water!

Preheat oven 160 C fanbake.

Cut up pumpkin into cubes, any kind of pumpkin, cutting skin off wasting as little as possible (cutting skin off is far easier if pumpkin in narrow wedges first).

Cut up garlic, onion or leek, some ginger, any other veggies you want to add - carrot, whatever. Veggies that need hardly any cooking like spinach can be added at the end raw to the soup.

Grease outside of cubes of pumpkin and veggies by placing in a bowl with some olive oil and swooshing around. Then dump into a baking tray or two with baking paper, garlic onion etc too, and salted over, (sprinkle over curry spices too), and roast in oven at 160 C fan bake until tender.

Blitz, add heated chicken stock OR just add cream for vegetarian version.
I served it with feta on top, and some chilli sauce, and it was amazing!

How to create amazing chilli sauces

After all this time of experimenting, making chilli sauces - as once I began growing chillies, I was hooked - I now know the general strategy for creating an easy, but the best ever, chilli sauce!

In short, you cut up all the ingredients which must involve tomatoes (fruit component), chillies (the heat), garlic and onion, and the best sauce has another sweet fruit as well like fejoia, guava.  All ingredients are coated with a vegetable oil like olive oil, with the tomatoes I baste them with a silicon brush across the top, but with the onion and garlic I shake around in a bowl.  I use pink Himalayan salt, pepper, and some curry powder across the top of the tomatoes, sugar across the sweet fruit - and bake them until really roasted well, then blitz them with some apple cider vinegar and sugar, boil for 5 min or so, then bottle.

I hate boiling now, as I feel baking or roasting preserves more nutrients - and love making soup in the same way now - roasting pumpkin with garlic and onion, all oiled, then blitzing.  Why would you want to boil something in water, then pour off the vitamins and nutrients in the water?!!!

I recently created a really successful one that we all love.  This is what I wrote about it on Insta:

The sauce is warm and has heat, it dances on the palette so thus the name A Midsummer's Night Dream, recalling the heat of a warm summer wind.

I measure the recipe by large baking trays; it made 5 various size bottles (reused jam or pasta sauce bottles).  I baked the ingredients in the trays at 160 C fanbake until very cooked looking, and on baking paper so I could dump out the contents after grilled:

  • 1 full size baking tray with quartered juicy (low acid) roma tomatoes (the two bags of tomatoes in the photo below), which I had basted along tops of tomatoes with oil, salted with pink Himalayan salt, sprinkled with curry powder and pepper 
  • 1 full size baking tray with cut up 1 huge onion (shook with oil), 1 bunch of garlic cloves peeled (same oiled), and a bunch of little tomatoes cut up from my garden
  • 1 small tray (1/3 sized) of fejoia flesh scooped out, sugar sprinkled over, baked - probably 10-12 fejoias scooped out
  • THE HEAT: 2 full size baking trays of long, green chillies, deseeded, some were jalapenos, also oiled
I put grilled contents into a large metal bowl with a plate as lid until next day to finish off as prepping is alot of work (especially chillies, and MUST wear gloves, I wear gardening ones so I can wash them and reuse).  The next day I blend with stick blender, and some sugar (to taste) and a few cups vinegar (until saucey), then boil for a few minutes and bottle, reusing clean jars that I had put in oven at 100 C to sterilise.

Then I label! After tasting it...

Ingredients that all went in to this sauce!

Pull out that core...
Deseeding setup
Before going in to the oven...

The trickiest part is definitely the deseeding of the chillies.  Over time I have gotten a feel for it, here is a video clip of my deseeding method: