Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Day of Baking

Today was the day for baking. Sometimes the mood just hits and I cook in a frenzy all day. Because I buy in bulk, cook in bulk and then freeze down individual meals and half prepared food I am able to cook only when I feel like it and I also only need to buy seasonal produce. This has many benefits; fruit and veg that is in season is cheap, good and generally local.

I had bought a lot of apples recently for under a dollar a kilo so was needing to use them up. I made three apple and cinnamon cakes using a butter cake recipe. This is one of those recipes that I use as a base and then add whatever flavouring I like. It's really simple and I just throw it all in a bowl, bung it in a tin and cook it! Here is the butter cake recipe for 1 loaf cake, it is just plain and it's up to you to add whatever you want... add lemon or orange zest; replace a little of the flour for some cocoa powder; fold some stewed fruit through it; lay some sliced apples on top, etc. I just peeled and sliced the apples and sprinkled some cinnamon and brown sugar on top.

Butter Cake - 3 eggs
150gms sugar
150gms SR flour (or plain flour with a tsp of baking powder)
150gms melted butter (cooled)

Mix, add your flavouring and cook at 210 degrees celcius until a knife inserted comes out clean..about 40mins.

My rhubarb has suddenly sprung to life and I thought that I would try a new recipe that I saw on a blog that I follow. Its Red Wine Stewed Rhubarb and you can get the recipe here.

It turned out beautifully. It has a mulled wine feeling to it and the smell that comes out of your oven is worth it alone! It's very rich and I think I served myself up too much and you need a serious helping of cream or ice cream to go with it. I had it with my home made ice cream, I'll post the recipe for that at a later date.
So it was rhubarb and ice cream for dessert tonight and for main we had bubble and squeak with grilled veg, snowpeas from the garden, a fried egg and homemade mayonaise.

Bubble and Squeak is again one of those base recipes that I use a lot. It's just mashed potatoes with anything thrown in! Tonight I pulled out of the freezer some sauteed cabbage and some left over ravioli filling of pumpkin and parmesan. This all went into the potato with an egg. Make sure you season it with a good amount of salt and pepper. I formed large spoonfuls into burgers, dusted them with flour and slowly pan fried them. Easy peasy! These little patties are great on their own with some kind of cheese like ricotta on top and with any kind of relish. They also work well under a panfried piece of fish, meat or chicken. They will soak up all the juices and taste delicious.

I use a lot of what I call base recipes. I find that it really works if you want to buy and cook with seasonal produce. Instead of shopping with a set shopping list which often means that you spend too much trying to get the exact things that a recipe requires, you can just buy what is cheap on the day (which means it's in season and good) and then just incorporate it into your base recipes. I always buy my dry goods in bulk so don't have to shop for them often so when I go to the grocery store my list will have about 5 things on it that we need and then I just spend the rest of my grocery budget on what looks good. Sometimes this will mean I only buy one or two kinds of fruit and veg but I buy them in bulk, cook up large amounts and then freeze the results. I then mix and match our weeks meals with what is bought that week with bits and pieces in the freezer, jars of preserved goodies and as much from my garden as I have. My goal is to work towards not having to buy any fruit and veg at all but growing it all myself.

My base recipes have not consciously been collected but have evolved over time and have especially become part of my everyday cooking since we have started living a life that is as sustainable as possible. Because I was a chef for 13 years I know that it is easier for me to just adapt and play around with recipes on a whim, but I do have those base recipes that allow for a little experimentation whilst still containing the ingredients that will make it work. To be a good cook you need to experiment, go out on your own, stuff things up and learn what went wrong. You need to understand what flavours work and what don't. Taste as you go, trust yourself and your taste buds!

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