February 13, 2014

When life hands you grapes…

Posted in brisbane, cooking, food, life tagged , , , , , at 4:19 pm by Margi Macdonald

…make Grape Bavarian Cream

Adapted from Jane Grigson’s recipe

1/2 kg (1lb) green seedless grapes
125g (4oz /1/2 cup) caster sugar
(I used raw, golden Aussie castor sugar made from sugarcane, and I’m sure it added a delightful honey note)
4 leaves of gelatine
(lacto-ovo-vegetarians, let us know what you’d use. I found a so-called vegetarian gelatine, but it was made using the shells of some kind of beetle or bug, which kind of defeats the purpose, I reckon.)
Juice of half a lemon or lime ( I used lime)
1 scrunched up and smashed strip of fresh lemongrass
A sloosh of herbaceous, softly flavoured gin
(I used Hendricks, which was an unexpected, serendipitous flavour marriage. One day I’ll make this recipe with St Germain elderflower liqueur, which will probably summon fairies and elves to the bottom of the garden)
Obviously, the alcohol is optional
250ml (8 fl oz/ scant cup) pure cream, suitable for whipping

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Remove grapes from their bunch, rinse well, and dry them off if you’re a bit fussy.
Jane Grigson opens her instructions by suggesting we “peel, halve and pip a quarter of the grapes”.
My servants all had the day off, so I skipped that step.
Put the remaining 3/4 of the grapes in a pan with the sugar.
Simmer gently until they soften and begin to burst.
Modern grapes have tough skins. This will take a while. Be patient. If you get bored, squish them a bit.
Impatient cooks will probably get stuck in with their potato mashers.
Once liquefying, add the citrus juice and lemongrass and simmer and stir gently for a little longer.

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After a while, taste the molten grapey goodness, but be careful it’s hot!!
It will probably be far too sweet (modern grapes are bred for the sweet-toothed customer) so add more lime or lemon juice.
At this stage, you will definitely consider using less sugar next time.
When all liquefied, allow grape mixture to cool, then pass through a sieve or a mouli. Do not use a food processor or blender.
You want to have pure golden grape liquid, without any skins or pips.You should now have about 375g (or 12fl oz 11/2 cups).
Add a little water and/or more juice if needed.
Follow directions for your brand of gelatine.
Return grape liquid to the pan, and stir in the gin over a very low heat. This will help to reduce the alcohol content.
I added my soaked and squeezed gelatine leaves at this stage.
Move grape, gin and gelatine mix to the refrigerator, and leave until it’s the consistency of a fresh, raw egg white.
Whisk the cream until thick and light, with soft peaks.
I folded the grapey-runny-jelly into the cream, but Ms Grigson does it the other way round.
Set aside your prettiest grapes for decorating and stir the rest into the creamy lushness.
I placed a couple of grapes in the bottom of each serving glass, then gently poured the very lush cream into the glasses.
Cover each cup with cling-film (or you can use one “elegant dish” for the whole lot)
Place in the fridge for at least a couple of hours. Can definitely be made a day in advance.
Decorate before serving.
Serves 4
Or 8, if being delicate

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Nutritional information
More sugar, cream and booze than is good for you, but heck, you’re only going to have this once every summer, so go for it!
It has been suggested by at least one dairy-free friend that coconut milk and coconut cream whipped together would be a lovely substitute for the dairy in this recipe. This has me thinking that the fruit base for this could be pureed mango, or pineapple, maybe with rum, and possibly passionfruit and toasted shredded coconut on top…you get the idea.
I’d really love to hear from vegetarian and vegan folk: what setting agent would you use, instead of gelatine?

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February 5, 2014

Poaching eggs; shimmer, simmer, swirl or silicone?

Posted in brisbane, cooking, health tagged , at 8:45 pm by Margi Macdonald

I’m partial to the unctuous luxury of a perfectly poached egg, and the ritual of the poaching process.

I slide the eggs into shallow water in a wide pan, with a little vinegar in the shimmering, less-than-a-simmer water.

What’s your favourite method?

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And a confession: I cheated when I poached this one. Eek!

October 12, 2010

“Sugar is good for you!” – and for the people who sell sugar (via The Ethical Nag)

Posted in cooking, food, health, life tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 10:51 am by Margi Macdonald

India - Haridwar - 010 - vegetables for sale in Bara Bazaar

Do we imagine things are different here in Australia?
I think not.

Do you have a sweet tooth? Do you chew your food quickly, eat while watching TV or checking your emails, or constantly snack while on-the-run?

Many foods, including a number of vegetables and most meats, are naturally sweet. We don’t appreciate their naturally sweet appeal unless we take a bit of time to chew thoroughly, mindfully paying attention to our food and the pleasurable ritual of eating.

The benefits are that an enzyme in saliva which breaks down the natural sugars in these foods does its best work when food spends an adequate period of time in our mouths. We can enjoy the sweet flavour without ever needing to ingest added sugars and sweeteners. We simply need to chew thoroughly.

The other benefit of mindfully enjoying naturally sweet foods – indeed all foods – is that we consume less.

Yes, you read it correctly! There’s a satiety centre in our brains which signals to us when we’ve had sufficient. Unfortunately, the distractions of all our screens, and fast-food-gulping ensure that many of us keep wolfing it down, well after the brain has reminded us we need to stop.

Your sweet challenge for the week?

See how many common vegetables are really quite sweet, when cooked simply and eaten slowly.

Yum yum!

"Sugar is good for you!" - and for the people who sell sugar I just love this. Guess what the Sugar Association recommends in its publication called “Pleasing Picky Eaters’ Taste Buds”? Apparently, “youngsters may find vegetables sprinkled with sugar more enjoyable to eat”. Of course they will. Personally, I’d find corrugated cardboard sprinkled with sugar more enjoyable to eat, too.  That does not make it good for me. And under the “Don’t Worry, Mom” section, the Sugar Association reassures us: “The good … Read More

via The Ethical Nag

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Image: India – Haridwar 010 – vegetables for sale in Bara Bazaar. McKay Savage on Flickr. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Words: © Margi Macdonald at Some Energy Thing. © Carolyn Thomas at The Ethical Nag

October 4, 2010

Strawberries!

Posted in brisbane, cooking, food, health, life tagged , , , , , at 2:19 pm by Margi Macdonald

Who can deny the simple, glorious pleasure of a tiny, perfectly ripe, sweet, juicy strawberry?

Or, indeed a bowl-full?

Why do we love them?

  • their presence at the markets means it’s springtime
  • growers who love to sell them at farmers’ markets are always very proud of these sweet red delights
  • they’re fun, healthful fast-food, containing Vitamin C and silicon, and usually have more iron and potassium than the other berries
  • they dress up and down, with minimal accessorising, and always look good
  • children love them
  • they belong to the same class of plants as roses
  • Eastern medicine considers they have a cooling nature, moisten the Lungs and generate body fluids, and can benefit episodes of sore, dry throat or hoarse voice. Belonging to the spring-phase, they’re an ideal addition to an activating, cleansing diet.

Strawberry nonsense, full of trickery and fakery and things you really shouldn’t swallow, lick, or kiss too often:

  • strawberry-flavoured anything… lipbalms, lipsticks, perfumes. Why? There’s simply no such thing as a ‘natural’ strawberry flavour or aroma. Trust me on this.
  • non-organically grown or mass-produced strawberries. Why? Poor little stawbs… they’re a fruit which is usually doused with all kinds of agricultural chemicals, and is often hybridised to be tough and hardy  { including in your mouth }.  They’re often picked way too soon, which means they never ripen, and arrive in their plastic punnets, all sour, cranky and tart.

How do you enjoy strawberries?

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Images: Renoir Strawberries 1905; strawberry illustration sourced at Wikipedia, origin not noted.

Words: © Margi Macdonald

Cautions and Care: This article is for your information, and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis and care. If you have a concern about your health or well-being, or that of another, please see your doctor or other approriately qualified and experienced health professional.

August 30, 2010

Asparagus. A cure for road-rage, rampaging and ranting?

Posted in brisbane, food, health, life tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:42 pm by Margi Macdonald

Thanksgiving Asparagus. Marilyn M King

Spring is upon us in this great land down-under, and springtime means fresh asparagus. Don’t be fooled into thinking this classy vegetable grows naturally all year round. It doesn’t. It’s one of nature’s sublime springtime treats, best when its hidden, subterranean parts had the pleasure of a good, cold winter.

So what about the road-raging and ranting? Is there a natural sedative in the pert spears of an asparagus bunch?

Well, not that I know of, yet in Chinese herbal medicine its underground tuber is described by Paul Pitchford as able to “improve the feminine principle, especially in the aggressive person, and is used to ease menstrual difficulties, promote fertility, and increase one’s receptive and compassionate nature.” He s not just talking about women, by the way!

The ritual of preparing and cooking fresh asparagus to perfection, enjoyed with a strip of smoked salmon and a soft-boiled egg might at least slow us down, and give cause for gratitude to mother nature for her spring bounty. Perhaps compassion follows such a dainty feast?

Here’s what else we know about fresh asparagus – not that sad, soggy stuff in cans:

  • It has a natural diuretic, making it an ideal food to naturally shift a little fluid retention
  • When fresh and seasonal, it has good amounts of vitamin C and A, sulphur, folic acid, and potassium, and is naturally low in kilojoules and sodium.
  • it also contains an amino acid – a protein building block – called asparagine, which gives urine that unusual smell after we’ve eaten asparagus.

We understand that in Chinese medical terms, asparagus nourishes the cooling, calming, restorative nature of Yin energy. No surprises there, for a food which spent the winter slumbering and gestating underground, away from Yang warmth and light.

Did you know that the little tips of asparagus are actually its flowers, and that aged Parmesan is a great friend to asparagus?

If you live in Brisbane  Australia, and would like to learn how to cook slow-roasted Kealford Farm Organic Pork with spring asparagus on a cauliflower and white bean mash, and many other seasonal wonders contact me.

My colleague Jillaine Wheeler – The Pantry Practitioner – is cooking this, and other family friendly fare in a cooking class this September. There’s also an artichoke and aioli starter, a wild salmon rillette, deeply nourishing, creamy green ice cream, and organic, preservative-free rose on the menu. I hope you can join us.

How do you like to serve and enjoy asparagus? Are you lucky enough to live in a place where fat,white asparagus is common? Let us know with a comment.

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Image : Thanksgiving Asparagus Oil on gessoed board.© Marilyn M King. Used with kind permission. This and other similarly beautiful oil paintings available at Small Oil Paintings

Words: Margi Macdonald

Cautions: The information here is not a substitute for face-to-face health care provided by a health professional, nor can it be construed as advice for the management of any physical, mental or emotional disorder. Please see your Doctor is you have a health concern.

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