Getting crafty.

Hey friends.

This afternoon we’re going to poke our heads around a new corner, and embark on an adventure down a different street. You may have noticed that the tagline at the top of the page says “adventures in gardening, cooking and craft”. It’s hardly a secret that numbers one and three in that trio are pretty heavily overlooked, though in actual fact, they feature quite prominently in my day-to-day happenings. I spend many days in the garden, tending to herbs and vegetables for the kitchen and for sale at the local farmers’ market. Most other times are spent cooking or baking, or surrounded by calico, glue, and paper-making equipment.

Earlier in the year, I came up with this little plan to make things from recycled, found and foraged materials, and create an online store where they could sit, and hopefully find a home. Over six months later, I have finally taken some mug shots and escorted them to Made It – an online market for goods handmade in Australia (similar to etsy). Let me introduce you to twig & stitch.

At this stage, there are only three items, looking a bit lonely. But I’m hoping that making twig & stitch known will provide me with some motivation to pursue the crafties and get creative.

Have a look if you like, and enjoy your evening :)

www.madeit.com.au/twigandstitch

Advertisements

Vanilla chai biscuits.

A few years ago I travelled to India. Of all the things I brought back with me, possibly the coolest but least-useful items were wooden stamps.

On the odd occasion, I’ve felt really creative and dusted them off to create stamped gift cards or decorated book covers and such. But I have never been so excited when I thought of using them to stamp food. “Such genius!” I told myself, as my mind raced with possibilities.

I have to confess that stamping biscuits has quite possibly become my new favourite activity. I thought that a vanilla chai flavour would be quite fitting for the Indian stamps, though the flavour seems somewhat less important than the fact that these just look really cool! The biscuits themselves are flavoured with spices, with the vanilla flavour coming from the icing on their bottoms.

Might I suggest enjoying these with a cup of tea?

Vanilla chai biscuits

1 egg white
1 egg yolk
1/8 cup sugar
1/8 cup olive oil (or other oil)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
approx 10 cardamon seeds, ground (or a small pinch of ground cardamon)
1 tablespoon ginger powder
1 cup plain flour

1 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
dash of water

Preheat oven to 180C.

Whisk the egg white until fluffy, then add in sugar. Whisk the yolk with the oil, then add to the egg white along with the spices.

Fold in the flour until combined.

Roll teaspoon-sized quantities of dough into balls, then space evenly on a lined baking tray. If you have a stamp, now is the time to get funky. Push the stamp into the balls of dough to flatten. If you don’t have a stamp, try using a fork or a spoon.

Bake for approximately 12 minutes or until solid and turning golden. Meanwhile, mix the icing sugar, vanilla essence, and enough water to form a just-runny mixture (which will fall from a spoon, but not in a continuous stream).

Cool the biscuits briefly, then dip the base of each in an icing mixture. Allow to dry on a cooling rack. Tasty!

 

 

Kitchen cupboard baking in Paris

Featured

Hello! Long time no see!

True, I have left harvest and yarn a bit abandoned recently (but not forgotten). I’ve been travelling in Europe for the past couple of months, and honestly, who wants to write about food when you could be out in the world eating it?

I did have some wonderful food experiences though, especially in Slovenia (of all places), which is hardly a vegetarian’s paradise as grilled meat is the order of the day. I made a point of trying dishes and baked goodies unique to the countries I visited, even if it meant being a bit flexible with my principles at times. Experiencing the local culture while travelling is very important to me, so if that means eating deep fried cheese in a Slovenian gostilna (pub), then so be it.

However that’s not really the purpose of this post. A few days into my travels, I met up with my family in Paris, where we stayed for nearly a week in a gorgeous little apartment in the Marais. Despite being in the home of patisserie, I had an itch to bake something, so seized my moment one morning while waiting for my family to get ready to go out. As we were only there for a short time, the cupboard and fridge were not very well stocked. A few previous renters had left some supplies, though not much more than a packet of salt and a bottle of Pastis. Determined not to be beaten, I went down the road and bought an apple. You can’t go wrong with apple.

I hurried back to the apartment and preheated the oven with a very vague idea. Here is what happened. I found the following items in the cupboard:
corn flakes
ryvitas
a lump of sugar
banana
and my apple
I then proceeded to crush some cornflakes and some ryvita in a bowl with the back of a spoon, in place of a mortar and pestle. Don’t try this. I made a huge mess.
I mixed in some mashed banana to make something resembling biscuit dough, then formed it into rounds and baked them until they were a bit crispy.
I thinly sliced the apple and cooked it with the lump of sugar and some water, then arranged the pieces on the banana-cornflake biscuits.

And there you have it! Sweet apple things!

I was rather pleased at the simple snacks I’d made from almost nothing, and that they were vegan and gluten free (if you leave out the ryvita, which was probably unnecessary anyway).

This was the only time I attempted baking while away, but I gathered so many ideas that I am waiting to test, so the blog will start partying again very soon.

Until then, adios!

Raspberry tin can cakes

August! The months are coming and going a bit too fast this year don’t you think? August brings a new uni semester, imminent overseas travelling, and a return to the garden to get prepared for spring. Yay! It also brings another Sweet Adventures Blog Hop, this month hosted by Christina at The Hungry Australian, with the theme “Berry Nice to Meet You”.

Now, I love berries. I really do. Every summer we spend hours picking raspberries, making jam and adding them to everything we can think of. As I generally aim to put seasonality as a priority in cooking though, I have to admit to being a tad disappointed at the berry theme coinciding with the depths of winter. Luckily, someone in my family had the foresight to freeze a whole bunch of raspberries over summer, so all was not lost! A great lesson in preserving the surplus! Thank you family.

Preserving the abundance of summer for the scarce winter months has an underserved nostalgia in my mind (I am firmly in the ‘convenience’ generation, so have no personal memories of winter scarcity). But I really love the idea of spending warm summer days bottling, jamming, freezing, drying and cooking up all number of sauces and chutneys for when the garden lies dormant and the trees have lost their leaves. Eating seasonally makes so much sense, and makes eating all the more exciting when a change in weather signals the arrival of new produce (who else is getting keen for asparagus?!) Preserving the summer harvest is something I’m really looking forward to putting a lot of effort into this year.

In the mean time though, please enjoy this rather eclectic offering using last summer’s raspberries. My family certainly did, despite them being a little bit weird. Yes, they were baked in tin cans, and yes, they are a cross between a slice, muffin and a crumble. But don’t hold it against them. Also – hurrah for upcycling! These cakes are yummy, especially served warm with a touch of your favourite diary or non-dairy cream-substance (I recommend vanilla (soy) yoghurt). Warming for winter, yet hinting at the fast approaching summer. I know I’m excited.

Raspberry tin can cakes

(Vegan)

Short crust pastry:
80g margarine/nuttlex/butter/spread
170g plain flour
1 tsp maple syrup (optional)
tiny pinch salt
cold water

Cake:
2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup non-dairy milk (I used oat)
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/8 cup olive oil (or other vegetable oil)
1 tsp vanilla essence
3/4 cup raw sugar
1 cup frozen raspberries

Crumble:
1/2 cup plain (or wholemeal) flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tablespoons margarine or coconut butter

First, prepare the pastry. Mix flour and salt in a bowl. Rub in the margarine and maple syrup (if using). Add just enough cold water to bind into a dough. Roll into ball and leave to rest in fridge for 20mins.

Next, make sure you have appropriate vessels for baking. I used tin cans cut in half, which meant an appointment with an angle grinder, then a good clean.
If using tin cans, brush the inside of each with oil, and place on a tray lined with baking paper. Be really careful! They have sharp edges! Don’t try this with children!

Preheat oven to 180C.

Roll out pastry to 3-5mm thick. Use the sharp edge of the tins to cut circles of pastry. Lay each on the baking tray, at the bottom of each tin.

Prepare the crumble by mixing all dry ingredients in a bowl, then rubbing in margarine to forum a nice, crumbly crumble (breadcrumb consistency).

For the cake, combine flour, baking powder and soda and salt in a large bowl, mixing well with a whisk. Place milk and vinegar in a medium bowl, then whisk and let it sit for a few minutes. Add oil, vanilla and sugar and whisk together well. Pour wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients, and whisk until well combined. Carefully stir in raspberries.

To assemble, place a cake mix on top of pastry inside the tins. Make the cake layer as large or small as you like. My cake mix came about half way up each (halved) tin. Sprinkle a generous layer of crumble mix on top of each one, then bake for around 30 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Allow to cool slightly before removing from tins, then serve however you please.

This post is part of the August Sweet Adventures Blog Hop. To check out the other berry-themed desserts doing the rounds, click on the link above and scroll down.

Orange and wattleseed muffins

Are you across wattleseed?

It is brilliant, and what’s more; an Australian native. What could be better than cooking with plants that are native to your own backyard? Though there are hundreds of species of Acacia, only a few are useful in the culinary world. The one I’ve heard used most frequently isĀ Acacia victoriae, and in this case, it is roasted and ground. In this form, it can be used to make a delicious brew – often called wattleseed ‘tea’ – with a taste kind of similar to coffee (but not quite…)

Last week I was pondering the change of season, and the somewhat scarce selection of fruit that comes with winter. It’s citrus, really… oranges, mandarines, lemons, limes. That’s not to say that other fruits aren’t available. Supermarkets make sure of that. But I’m really keen to pursue local and seasonal produce, and with that comes a brilliant opportunity for creativity, especially when your favourite ingredients aren’t around. I’m also going to mention here, that I’ve recently come into a supply of small-batch-milled wholemeal flour courtesy of my lovely boy’s family farm in the Clare Valley. This is pretty well as close as I will ever get to home-grown wheat/flour, which is a tad exciting. I also retrieved some oranges from the tree at said boy’s house this morning, which leads me back nicely to the citrus. So I was contemplating the potential pairings with orange, and my mind went to the packet of wattleseed laying almost forgotten in the meat safe. After some quick consultation, I was assured that this combination would work, so I set about figuring out what makes a good vegan muffin.

I have to admit to being pretty pleased with the result here. Light and fluffy muffins that are not too sweet – great with a bit of butter/spread as a breakfast or morning/afternoon tea treat. The orange and wattleseed actually go really well together. Being a flavour that can’t really be described, I suggest you find yourself some wattleseed and give it a try. They are also vegan and very low in fat, if these are qualities you seek in a muffin. Otherwise, feel free to substitute with milk if you have a cow etc. Happy seasonal baking!

Orange and wattleseed muffins

2 cups wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tablespoons ground, roasted wattleseed
approx 1/4 cup applesauce*
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup soy or other non-dairy milk
1/2 cup orange juice – (approximately one large orange)
rind of one orange
1 tsp vanilla extract

*To make instant applesauce, combine one apple (cored and roughly chopped) with 2 tablespoons of water in a food processor until smooth. This yields the correct quantity for this recipe.

Preheat oven to 180C and grease or line a 12 cup muffin pan.
Place flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and wattleseed in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
In a small bowl, mix applesauce, sugar, soy milk, orange juice, orange rind and vanilla extract. Whisk until smooth and well combined.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, and whisk together until combined.
Spoon mixture into muffin pans until 3/4 full, then bake for 18 minutes or until golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean.