Monday 28 February 2011
Sunday 20 February 2011
A phone call from Jonathan my first flatmate in Wellington with the promise of a visit prompted a chat about related old friends in our early days in Wellington...which randomly led onto George Rose and Rebecca Hardie-Boys...originally from Mike's hometown Nelson who makes Organic Ginger Beer in New Zealand. A quick google and here we are on the roll of making our own Ginger Beer. I say a roll as it needs feeding daily [like the cat!] and you have to bottle weekly...a bit of a commitment!
It was Amelia's 15th birthday on Friday and it coincided with the first tasting. The bottle opened with an explosive 'POP' not dissimilar to the local drop we are more familiar with. And on the first sampling ...not too spicy and not too sweet...it was actually very good! All of the girls asked for seconds so we must be doing something right...and if nothing else it has been a bit of fun, a good science lesson in the production of gas from the yeast and sugar 'ginger beer bug'. The NZ company Phoenix Organics provides a 'How to make Ginger Beer' PDF as a resource for schools...a good home education kit too...the link is below, scroll down to the Ginger Beer section for the download.
Ginger Beer with Rebecca Hardieboys of Hardieboys Beverages.
Recipe for Ginger Beer Bug from Tony Simpson's book, "A Distant Feast"
10gm fresh yeast or 5gm dried beer or bread yeast
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp sugar
To make the bug:
Mix these ingredients together and leave for 24 hours, then 'feed' daily for 7 days with 1 teaspoon of ground ginger and 1 teaspoon of sugar.
Strain and reserve both the solid and the liquid. If you want to keep the bug going for further brews, halve the solid, add the 400 mls of water and start again.
Keep bug loosely covered in a warm light place.
To make the ginger beer:
strained liquid from bug
3 litres cold water
juice of 2 lemons
1 litre boiling water
1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger (optional)
Mix the strained liquid with 3 litres of cold water and add lemon juice. Dissolve sugar in boiling water and add to brew. For extra zing, add grated fresh ginger. Bottle the gingerbeer and keep for at least a week before using. It will get fizzier with age so take care opening it. Store in fridge when ready to drink..
NOTE: Beer yeast is available from home brewing stores. Don't use bread yeasts with added dough improvers.
In the summer it will be a good non-alcoholic organic thirst quencher for young and old and may stir a few memories for those of us that grew up with home brewed Ginger Beer in the garden shed and got their kicks out of the excitment and danger of opening a bottle left a little too long...how times have changed!
Posted by Glenis at 06:37
Thursday 17 February 2011
The irrepressible Madam Paris popped over today with a crumpled plastic bag from which she carefully produced a perfect white and pale green endive...a treasure from her winter garden...she paused momentarily rattling off a list of options on how we should consume these wee gems. She then departed wrapping her gorgeous cream shawl around her shoulders and shuffling back across the courtyard to an awaiting Dora, her loyal, if not rather huge and often too loud, German Shepherd. She suggested we eat the endive sliced raw with vinaigrette or with crumpled Roquefort cheese, walnuts and apple as a salad or wrapped in jambon under a bechamel sauce baked in the oven till golden and bubbly. I have tried this last suggestion before and, as it is still a little chilly this afternoon, the idea appeals as a nice winter warmer.
We often have our day broken with visits from Madam Paris but they are never without purpose. She will always have a gift in hand or maybe a newspaper article she thinks holds vital information that we must not miss out on or she will carry with her some news of the village...a church meeting, social event or report of a burglary in the area...she has become affectionately known to us all as 'dot.com' because she always knows whats going on when. Who needs the internet!
I am ever grateful for her bunches of fragrant purple lilac in early spring, dahlia's and rhubarb in summer, gorgeous pumpkins, onions and potatoes in autumn. She never brings things we have in our garden and the timing is always perfect...inspiring a new recipe, a discovery of a new French word like 'topinambour' for 'Jerusalem artichoke', or just the sheer delight in something so fresh and home grown to cook with for family or guests. I always stop and pass the day...sometimes she will come and warm herself by the fire or sit in the sun chatting to the girls...she never overstays her welcome and we have given up trying to give her tea or coffee.
Posted by Glenis at 10:16
Monday 7 February 2011
While I am sitting writing this the ducks and geese and chicken at Madam Paris' are going ballistic about something, of which I shall never know. The Village Mayor has also dropped in for a visit with a guy from Lyonnaise de l'Eau about the beloved 'fosse septic'....our septic tank! They are trying to get all of the tanks to conform to standard so are diagnosing them all, at a cost of €80 per household, and so samples were all taken, paperwrk filled and we now await the findings...if we need a new tank it will mean digging up most of our back garden to put in the soak pit...great! Another day in rural France...
Sometimes I feel like I have turned full circle as I go and collect Liliana from the school bus on my bike. I remember when we were children we used to catch the bus to and from school and always arrived home ravenously hungry and went straight into the cake tins to demolish the contents. Miraculously Mum always had three things in the tins...chocolate chippie biscuits, peanut brownies, banana cake, chocolate crunch, louise cake, anzac biscuits, ginger crunch and the like. In the Winter, she would have homemade vege soup heating on the stove or be busy making pikelets on the electric frying pan at the kitchen table which we would eat hot with dripping melted butter and homemade raspberry jam. She would flip these little mini pancakes while she chatted to us about our day at school...a stop in the day. Time to chill before throwing off the school uniforms and roman sandals, chuck on the shorts and t-shirts and tear off outside to spend the early evening running, swinging, jumping and chatting with our neighbourhood friends. Working up an appetite for dinner which would be consumed with the same vigour. I learnt to bake alongside my mother who was never precious about her kitchen and allowed me in with open arms. By the time I was keen and able, being the third child, she was more than happy to hand over the Edmonds Cookbook and the sturdy Kenwood Mixer and leave me to it. My older sister, who preferred to spend her leisure time doing more outdoorsy activities made swift negotiations with me...promising to do my garden jobs if I made her a particular Chocolate Caramel slice or some other super sweet cake she had a craving for. It was fun for me and I baked my way through that cookbook and enjoyed trying to recreate all the different cakes, slices, muffins, biscuits and puddings so that they looked like the pictures...Some only ever got made once, deemed too fussy and abandoned while others became, and remain, mainstays.
With great pleasure I now see my daughter doing the same...creating huge batches of fudge and biscuits to munch with friends and family. We were recently sent new cookie cutters from a great friend in NZ...a kiwi and the map of NZ no less!! Amelia, ably assisted by Liliana, instantly put them to good use! The chocolate biscuit dough recipe was also from the Edmond's, of course.
Yesterday the sun was shining and shortbread was the craving of the day...with friends for lunch the perfect excuse. I have a recipe made with orange zest which is divine and always the first one I reach for but if I am honest when I think of Shortbread the women that comes to mind instantly is Olive Millar.
225 gms butter
3/4 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1+ 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup cornflour
a pinch of salt
Cream butter and sugar and vanilla essence. Add sifted flour, cornflour and salt. Mix till smooth.
Roll into sausage shape and wrap in baking paper and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Slice into 1 cm rounds, prick with a fork and place on a tray. Bake at 150 deg for 15 - 20 mins.
Posted by Glenis at 07:18
Thursday 3 February 2011
I remember Oscar going through a phase of eating only 'green' apples...the tart ones we would never touch as kids but were reserved for apple pies...made with my mothers lightly crafted sweet pastry sprinkled with sugar and baked till golden then served still warm with runny fresh cream that my father brought home in a preserving jar or old battered metal 'billy' with his initials on the side. Apples were a 'basic' that was always available from the fruit bowl...cheap, versatile and often overlooked...especially by me as I preferred the tang of exotic passionfruit, sugared gratefruit and had a unsatiable appetite for bananas. In New Zealand the fact that apples were always plentiful somehow reduced their appeal. In London I often found NZ Apple and Pear Marketing Board boxes of apples in the markets. I would buy them as a gesture to my homeland only to be disappointed with a soft floury 'cold storage' piece of fruit that far from resembled those of my childhood.
Now living in France we have inherited a string of gorgeous espaliered apple trees with five varieties of apples with their arms wrapped around each other...holding hands. I look out across the courtyard at these trees as they reflect the change in the seasons...The barren winter, the floral spring, the lush green summer and the harvest of autumn...I like them for their beauty and always put off picking the fruit in order to admire their form for as long as possible...departing guests get a handful passed through an open window for the journey ahead, a bowl full of warm apples flavoured with spices for breakfast or a 'tarte tartin' for dessert with caramalised apples to finish a meal...they are cut to eat with cheese, sliced into porridge on a winters morning, feed to the pony up the road by the children, cut into slices for a quick after school snack and eaten straight from the branches by many and varied...we have even, much to Liliana's amusement, had a large stray chocolate labradour help himself from the lower branches and then lay happily crunching whilst spilling juice out either side of his jaw! They have been the topic of much discussion, admired by many and recreated by others...a real vision in planting with an eye to the practical beauty...
At the end of the apple season, after previous years of trying unsuccessfully to store the apples in the 'correct' manner, Michael put the apples carefully into one of the many empty Champagne boxes that grace the barn and we moved onto other things...
Posted by Glenis at 07:11