Be’n Cheesy Cob it’s Christmas (Broad Bean and Cheese Dip)

On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me…

An esky bag full of fresh cheese!

Chasing the milk truck to the dairy with my brothers was one of my favourite “cooling off activities” in the sun-burnt afternoon summers. Not only did the much loved milk truck driver decant jug fulls of creamy white magic straight from the vat, he also dolled out plenty of ice – used to cool the milk testing samples – to go with it. At Christmas time, our heart grew even fonder as we waited in anticipation for the annual delivery of our Christmas bonus: the esky bag packed to the gunnels with cheese. Seeing that every other diary farming family received the same gift pack, cheese based dishes got top billing at all the festive season community and farm road gatherings. Whilst most of my dairy-farming friends had a fetish for the cheddar cubes and cabana, my cherished choice was always my best friend Jacey’s mums’ Spinach and Ricotta Dip in the Cob loaf.

Paying homage to the nostalgic Christmas gatherings of yesteryear, I have recreated this beloved dish so as to call it my home-grown own. As my darling little curds saw it fit to demolish my last batch of fromgeric goodness, the odds seem in my favour for an udderly delicious appraisal at this afternoons, first for the season, Christmas party. Say Cheese!

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Be’n Cheesy Cob Loaf Dip

1 Sourdough Cob Loaf (or if you have your own sourdough culture: see below for recipe)

20 broad bean pods (podded and steamed as for Bean Broadening my Salad Days (Pea and Bean Salad)

½ onion (or 4 – 6 white parts of a spring onion), finely diced

1 garlic clove, finely diced

2 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, diced

125 – 200 g fresh spinach (kale, beetroot leaves, chard etc.) leaves, roughly diced

125 g ricotta cheese

70 g yoghurt cheese (made by straining approximately 120g greek yoghurt overnight)

100g cheddar, grated

25g parmesan, grated

2 tbs chives, finely diced

Heat some oil in a pan and fry the onion and garlic till translucent. Add the bacon, broad beans and spinach. Cook till the spinach is wilted. Take off the heat. Stir in the cheeses and mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper if required. Spoon mixture into two 250ml ramekins. Cook (with bread, if making your own) covered with foil at 200oC for 15 minutes. Cool slightly. Top with chives and serve to your festive friends with your fresh, crusty sourdough loaf.

Sourdough Cob Loaf (makes 1 large loaf)

Sourdough mother culture

60 g rye flour (plus extra for feeding the culture)

90g filtered water

200 g spelt flour

250 g whey (or filtered water)

300 g (plus extra for kneading) wheat flour

8 – 10 g salt

Starting twenty four hours before you wish to serve, take the mother culture out of the fridge for 20 minutes or so to warm to room temperature. Place 50 g of the culture into a large mixing bowl (feed the mother culture by thoroughly mixing in 20 g rye flour – or whatever flour you feed your culture – and 30g of filtered water. Return to the fridge). Stir in 60 g rye flour and 90g filtered water. Cover with a damp tea towel (or plastic if you leave in a dry climate: the mixture must not dry out). Leave to ferment for atleast 8 hours.

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Mother culture, yogurt cheese (whey in pot), prepped casserole dish and fermented dough. 

Add the whey (strained from the yoghurt cheese) and whatever amount of filtered water is required to reach 250 g of liquid. Stir in the spelt flour. Cover and leave ferment for another 6 – 8 hours.

Stir in the wheat flour and salt. Bring the mixture together with your hands (it will be a little sticky) and turn out onto a floured surface. Continue to add more flour until it reaches a manageable dough consistency. Knead traditional style or – using the method taught to me by an expert artisan baker in Oxfordshire – by raising the dough above your head and slamming it down onto the surface (atleast 300 times) until the dough reaches an elasticy texture. Line a dish (I use a lidded casserole dish) with cheesecloth dusted in flour. Make the dough into a tight ball and place into the dish. Flatten the dough slightly. Spray with water. Cover. Leave to rise for 2 – 5 hours (depending on air temperature) till doubled in size. (Picture: dough rising – for the last time – and scissored dough about to go in the oven). 

Turn out dough onto a greased and floured tray. Using scissors, cut into the dough slightly to leave a triangular indentation. Continue in a circular fashion around the dough until you have a star shape on top. This helps to release excess steam during cooking and hence reduce the chance of unwanted cracks. Cook in the oven at 200oC for 25 – 30 minutes. Tap on the base of the dough to check whether it is cooked through (it should sound hollow – if not, put it back in for 5 minutes each time till done). Leave to cool for atleast 30 minutes before serving.

Bean Broadening my Salad Days (Pea and Bean Salad)

Broadly speaking, beans are a vegetable that have always climbed their way into my summer salad repertoire. On those blistering hot days, when we all feel totally bushed, my crisp green (and sometimes purple) friends help to trellis the family through the final hours of the wilting day by dding that refreshing bite to the evening meal.

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My cycle route to work in the U.K. winters, was an exercise frozen in fortitude. Navigating winding country lanes and dodging meandering morning traffic was nothing short of a hoar-frost raising experience. Seeing the fields of broad bean heads peaking through the frigid ground, was always a welcome tendril of hope for the coming warming weather. Since returning home to Australia, this rugged plant has proven to be a consistent, broad-spectrum garden performer:

  • Pollinators paradise: the early season white flowers are usually buzzing with insect attention, thus providing a much needed boost of nectar for the brood back home.
  • Biomass booster: you get plenty of green bang for your hibernating compost/wormery buck when the plant has finished fruiting. Hence, a great way to spring your waste munchers into action.
  • Soil strengthener: sickled down and heavily mulched just after flowering, and the stem, leaves and noduled (nitrogen-fixing rhizhobium) roots all act to give back the gift of fertile goodness to baron soil. Excess seeds can be dried and saved for next year (Picture: roots and pea and broad bean seeds at various stages of drying).

And last but not least:

  • Gastronomic goodness: because of it’s other garden giving qualities, I willing overlook the labour intensive harvest process to add a touch of earthy flavoured goodness to salads and dips.

Last Saturday’s Dine-In Date Night creation saw a broadening of my salad horizons: a Personal Best. For all those keen on a fab(acea) accompaniment to the evening meal, then here’s a winning number to poke and pod at: Salad PB (Pea and Bean Salad).

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Pea and Bean Salad (Salad PB)

20 broad bean pods

10 – 12 snow peas, sliced on the diagonal

1 c leafy greens (lettuce, kale, spinach, chard etc.), roughly cut

¼ c millet

¼ c quinoa

2 sticks celery, sliced on an angle

¼ c pine nuts

2 – 3 spring onions (green part only – reserve the white part as a substitute for the next onion meal)

2 tbs mint, finely diced

¼ c Parmesan, shaved

Dressing:

1/3 c natural Greek or pot set yoghurt

2 tbs mayonnaise

1 tbs mint, finely diced

salt and pepper

Prepare the broad beans by first shelling the beans from the pod. Steam the beans for 3 minutes on high. Shell immediately. Cool. Refrigerate.

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Rinse the millet and quinoa together in water (this removes saponin: a naturally bitter chemical coating the seed). Add to a small saucepan with ¾ c water. Cook covered on low heat until the seedy-grain mix has absorbed all the water. Cool. Refrigerate.

Toast the pine nuts lightly in the oven at 100oC for 10 – 12 minutes. Cool. Combine the rest of the salad ingredients in a bowl. When the millet, quinoa and broad beans are cold, mix in with the salad ingredients. Stir through the Parmesan.

To make the dressing, mix all ingredients into a small jar. Leave the mixture to sit for atleast 30 minutes before serving to allow the mint flavour to infuse.

Serve (alongside a wholesome lasagne) to your keen-bean date night hubby to kick off an evening reminiscing about your salad days.

A Frocking Good Summer Wardrobe

The best things in life are free. The second best things are very expensive” – Coco Chanel

I’m a gal with expensive tastes…which is why so much of our families budget goes toward filling our fridge. As I also love to look frocking fabulous, I’ve learned to hitch the hemlines on fast fashion so as to acquire the second best things in life, retro-spectacularly, for free.

As a young girl at home on the farm, summer always began bagly: raiding the top cupboard of my mothers wardrobe for my female cousins’ last season loot. Hours were passed riffling through high-waisted hot pants, mid-drift tops, shoulder-padded blouses, puffed-sleeved leotards, button-down shirt dresses, mini skirts and all manner of fluorescent dangly earrings…until my mother was able to locate an item “suitably appropriate for young ladies” to wear to our glorifying morning mass sessions on Sundays. Since technically I wasn’t disobeying any of the ten commandments, I didn’t feel it necessary to disclose the secret stash of overlooked ensembles I carried in my backpack for those after school playdates with the townies.

These days I am little more overt about my In Style acquisitions of wardrobe attire. Whilst happy to doll out the dosh on the occasional top quality, Australian made garment, my closet maintains a healthy position of financial equilibrium by, mostly, secondhand means. Op-shops, Clothing Fairs, Handmade Jobbies and Textile Tip Bins all rate highly on my Vintage Vogue salvage list. But, like many of my like minded lady friends who revel in the art of procuring their FCUK, D’Jones outfits unnew, the Clothing Swap Soiree is the clear headliner: Fashion Trafficking Redressed.

Straight off the rack, I’ve never organised one of these events myself. I leave that to our ethical fashionistas, Ami and Hils, who rotate hosting duties at the end of each season. Having now attended a number of these Frankiely fabulous events, I would however, like to spread the organisational word to all those keen to Russh into their girlfriends’ garters…sorry…let’s keep it above belt…their female friends’ raiment:

  • Fashion some gossip: start spreading the word early (3 – 4 weeks) via whatever means (email, texts, hand written invitations, social media) is most likely to capture your audiences’ attention. This gives people plenty of time for spring cleaning…and seaming if need be.
  • Cut on the bias: tell your crowd to leave their Vanity afFair at home. No really, anything goes (dresses, shorts, T-shirts, intimates, jewelry) provided it’s good quality. Seasonal garb is more likely to be shifted quickly from the hangers but you never know when someone is looking to get out of the big freeze in the winter or vice versa in the summer and, hence, in need of some out-of-season duds.
  • Make it A-line: c’mon ladies…how often do you get a chance to go on a shopping spree with just your wonderful gaggle of glamorous gals? With enough advance notice most can tee up a hubby, friend or generous neighbour to take up sprog duties for a couple of bubbly hours of Adult (female) only fun.
  • Embrace the elastic waistband: no social gathering is ever complete without some good quality tucker…and some bubbly. Since you’re hosting, pawn this duty off to your guests.

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  • Encourage adhoc embellishments: be creative with your garment display. Couches, backs of chairs, tables, camping drying lines, broom sticks wedged between book shelves and even clothing stands made from gum tree branches can be good possies for your wares. Don’t forget to clear a few rooms (preferably with full length mirrors) for fittings and to ask your guests to bring hangers.

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  • Start a fashion parade: OK. I’ve never actually seen this done but I’ve always thought it would be a good idea. If catwalk culture isn’t your thing, then encouraging your guests to go home wearing just a little something from their afternoon takings, can be a discreet way of saying thanks to the donor. An open mike – “infamous item anecdote” – session has also proven to be a great way to get the afternoon off to a screamer of a start.
  • Install an invisible zip: when the hubby (and kids) comes home, it’s time for your guests to perform a disappearing act. Since you’d probably like to do it again some time, you are much more likely to see a favourable prenuptial agreement if you keep it short and sweet (2 hours…max).
  • Punt on a Phili: now that you are kitted out for a day at the races (work, beach etc.), it’s time to say a big Grazia to a nominated charity or other philanthropic organisation. Think hard about this before advertising. Whilst well intentioned, dumping a large amount of unswapped items at your nearest charity shop is likely to overwhelm and overburden: most goods will ultimately end up in landfill. Local homeless shelters, Women’s Refuges and clothing recycling depots can all be good places to get you off to a Googling start.

After a Bazaar couple of hours of fun at my recent Spring Clothing Swap Soiree, it was time to call it a Woman’s Day. Free from the mental post-purchase – “How am I going to tell Scott about this one?” – persecution, I wobbled my way home on two wheels, backpack loaded with booty. The spoils: a summer shift dress for riverside lounging and a ravishing little number for the next Dine-In Date Night.

Shhh…don’t tell…it’s a Victoria’s Secret!

Livin’ La V-eat Ta Loca (Pumpkin and Eggplant Puddings)

Most Aussies would say that Halloween was not something worth having a song and dance about.

So to prevent getting egg planted on our Trick or V-eating faces, my kooky kids and I whipped up a costume-themed Ta treat to see our neighbourhood kin pumped into “crazy life” action.

This Frankensteinian idea first bolted into my brain at a recent kiddy-catch-up, whence a Michael Mosley inspired brownie hit the afternoon tea table. Keen to take the playdate pudding operation to the next level, I extracted the guts of the idea and transplanted it into a traditional CWA (Country Womens’ Association) chocolate cake recipe: a viscerally boosting experience. If you don’t happen to live in the Northern Hemisphere, then securing the key ingredients from the extended-end-of-season throw out table can be a great way to ward off but the guilty, buying-out-of-season, ghouls.

Feeling inspirited?

Well, if you haven’t the pluck to unleash this monster onto your kids, then atleast you’ve got another twelve months to let the idea fester before the next haunting night of livin’ La V-eat Ta Loca.

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Eggplant and Pumpkin Puddings (makes 24 puddings)

1 med Eggplant

¾ c dates, soaked overnight in 1 c water

125g butter

½ c brown sugar or coconut sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

80 – 100 g chocolate

¼ c cacao powder

½ c coconut flour

¼ c arrowroot flour

1 c wheat flour

¼ tsp cloves

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp baking powder

¼ c milk or yoghurt whey (if required)

Pumpkin frosting:

125 g butter

1 ½ c powdered (icing) sugar, sifted

¼ c pumpkin puree’

1 walnut half (brain)

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To prepare the eggplant, date and chocolate filling and the pumpkin puree’: slice the eggplant into 1 cm thick slices. Salt and leave sit for half an hour. Rinse. Pat dry on a tea towel. Place slices into an oiled casserole dish with a lid. Peel the pumpkin and dice into 2 cm cubes. Place on an oiled baking tray. Bake the eggplant and pumpkin for 30 – 45 minutes in the oven. Cool. Puree’ the eggplant and the dates (including the water) together into a bowl. In a separate bowl, puree’ the pumpkin . Cool in the fridge overnight (or till cold). Finely dice the chocolate. Stir into the eggplant and date puree’.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Whisk in the eggs one at a time. Whisk in the vanilla. Stir the eggplant mixture into the creamed sugar mixture. Stir thoroughly.

Sift the dry ingredients into a separate bowl. Mix thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients one third at a time. Ensure that the dry ingredients are thoroughly stirred through before adding the next third. The batter should be of dolloping thickness. Add a little milk or whey if too dry.

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Spoon the batter into medium sized patty pans (supported in a muffin tray) to ¾ of capacity. Bake at 180oC for 12 – 15 minutes or until firm and spongy to touch. Cool on a wire rack and then refrigerate till cold.

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To make the icing: whisk the butter till light and creamy in colour and texture. Stir ½ cup of icing sugar and 1 tbs of pumpkin puree’ into the butter. Mix thoroughly. Repeat until all the icing sugar and pumpkin puree’ are finished. Ice the cakes using a palette knife (or other flat device). Place a brain (walnut half) atop the icing.

Finally, unleash your V-eating monster upon participating neighbourhood kin: Taaaaaaaaaaa!

Trick or V-eat?

The proof is in the pumpkin and eggplant pudding (watch this space…). My kids really are what they eat…atleast for this years Halloween school disco and Neighborhood door-knock.

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Our haunt at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, was a North American dream home straight out of The Shining: the perfect setting for Scott and my Halloweenception. Built in the days when a wombversational “14” referred to a woman’s child spawn (rather than the number of seconds to hold a pelvic floor contraction), the four stories had since been subdivided. We landed the top two levels. Transfixed by the crazed excitement of big-batching home made treats and pumpkin carving, the practicalities of racing up and down four flights of stairs to the swarming corpses of Trick-or-Treaters was somewhat overlooked. By the thirteenth trek, karma had caught up with me. My eight month pregnant human form had begun to resemble something out of an Alien film with the fetal K1 inwardly signalling a thumping retreat. Feigning disappointment, Scott blew out the jack o’lanterns, politely turned away the remaining bogeymen from our dilapidated door step and hoarded the surplus treats into our kitchen cupboard (well…mostly).

Nearly 10 years on and, just like the cult film, we have rebooted our enthusiasm for the eerie celebration and gone all out…V-eat (Vegetable-Eat) style. Paying tribute to both our R.I.P Canandian experience and a rather tall, 52 Story Treehouse, K1 and K2 have caused a stir-fry among their fellow class sprouts with their upcycled, recylced vegetable land costumes.

Eggplant and Pumpkin Costume

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Resources:

  • Balloons
  • Newspaper, cut into 1 inch strips
  • Paper mache’ glue: made by mixing 1 cup flour with 1 cup water and 1 tsp salt (add more water to achieve a more runny consistency)
  • Toilet rolls
  • Poster paint (red, yellow, blue, white and black)
  • Paint brushes, pencil and marker pens
  • Old green shirts
  • Old green fabric (for the leaves and stem)
  • Old jeans
  • Vegetable netting bags
  • Metal snaps

Making the paper-mache’ masks:

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  1. Blow up the balloon to maximum size. It must be significantly larger than your child’s head.
  2. Using your hands (yep…it’s a little messy) place the glue over the balloon and, working with your child, place the strips of newspaper over the balloon in a cross-hatching type pattern.20181021_165706
  3. Tightly roll or shape the toilet roll into your desired configuration (depending on the vegetable). After you have completed one layer of paper mache’ covering, place the toilet roll on top and use the paper mache’ strips (with plenty of glue) to stick the roll onto the top of the balloon.
  4. Continue covering the balloon with another layer of paper mache’ strips until thick (it should feel firm when you press a finger against the balloon). Leave to dry for 24 hours on top of a ramekin or cup. Repeat again the next day to ensuring a thick consistency over the entire balloon. Leave to dry for another 24 hours.20181024_175706
  5. For the base colour (purple and green for eggplant and orange and green for pumpkin). Mix the poster paint colours together to obtain the desired pigment. Paint the paper-mache’ balloons. A second coat may be required. Leave to dry.
  6. To make the head hole, measure the circumference of your child’s head using a piece of string. Join the string to make a circle. Place this at the lower end of the back of the vegetable mask (not at the very bottom) and use as a guide to trace a circular shape. Using a stanley knife, begin by cutting out the traced circle. You may need to make the hole a little larger.
  7. To make the face, place the mask on your child’s head to work out the approximate position of the eyes (this is not the easiest of tasks to achieve). Using a pencil, draw two small circles (about the size of a beer bottle cap). Take the mask off. Using the two circles to center the position of the face, let your face drawing imagination run to seed (or wild).20181025_164837
  8. Use white and black to paint the face onto the mask.

Neck netting (lace), leaves and bottoms:

  1. For the neck netting: use a piece of string to measure the circumference of your child’s neck (loosely). Add an extra 4 cm to allow for a hem. Measure. Cut a strip of old green fabric (I used an old sheet) 5 cm wide and the length of the string. Fold over and press 2 cm at each end of the fabric strip and fold and press under 1 cm on each length. Fold the strip in half width ways. Press. You should now have a strip of fabric that looks a little like bias binding (that is a length equivalent to the the circumference of your child’s neck). Stack two vegetable netting bags on top of each other. Stretch the netting to the length of the fabric strip. Using a wide stitch, sew the netting onto one half of the length of fabric. Fold over the other half of the length of fabric. Sew close to the seam. Attach metal snaps at the ends.20181024_205433
  2. For the leaves: using a permanent marker, draw onto a piece of fabric (I used one of K2’s old nappies and an old sheet) a stem for your plant and leaves. You can also add on features such as veins too. Cut out the leaves. Pin leaves and stem onto an old green shirt (ours were hand-me-ons from a neighbour). Stitch onto the shirt using a wide stitch.20181026_161811
  3. Bottoms: take your child’s best well-worn jeans from last season and draw a zig-zag pattern at the knee. Cut. At the end of the event, you can trim off the jagged ends, sew a hem and have a nice pair of denim shorts for the summer.

Put it all together and what have you got…

A bumper harvest of vegie-weeners: Trick or V-eat!