all season garden pass

Cavolo Nero, Potato, Leek & Tarragon Soup

At this time of year, we’re pretty much living on the bounty between our garden and the Farmer’s Market, which when I think about it is in essence the same as our garden. Isn’t that the brilliant thing about Farmer’s Markets? They’re essentially like having an AAA pass to lots of different veggie patches beyond your own; patches that grow produce as you would, and provide produce that tastes like you’ve just picked it yourself. I really love that, because not all of us can grow everything at the same time in our own gardens, but all together we can grow everything at the same time. Oh God, someone save me sounding like a tourism ad!

It’s just that I never want to fall into the trap of comparing the Farmer’s Market to a supermarket. It’s an entirely different creature, made up of gardeners who are willing to share a portion of the 6-8 organic broccoli they may have in their garden, some of the season’s first pick of tarragon, or olive oil that has been pressed only 1 day ago –  pack it in their car, drive it to a shed somewhere, unpack it, put a beautiful handwritten sign with it and stand behind a trestle waiting to tell you about it should you ask. If I think about it too deeply it makes me want to pay $45 per head of broccoli and even then I’d feel like I came out the victor in the exchange.

My brain’s been fairly firmly entrenched in market-land of late, with our ongoing Saturday morning ‘shop’ at the Barossa Farmer’s Market being joined by a stint at the very first Full Moon Farm Gate last Saturday night. Just when you think your appreciation for those masters of the handmade and homegrown couldn’t be any greater, a hot mug of locally wildcrafted saffron soup is being placed into your hands, and you’re well aware your belly’s not the only thing feeling full from the offer. It’s an incredible thing to be able to give thanks in person to those who sustain the community you live in. Full hearted thanks.

This soup is a combination of Syd’s potatoes, Thatch’s tarragon, Al’s leeks, Amelie’s limes and our cavalo nero. And there you have another reason to love Farmer’s Markets – first name basis with those who are busy growing food for you. Love it.

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Cavolo Nero, Potato, Leek & Tarragon Soup

serves 4

 

1 bunch organic cavalo nero, roughly chopped

4-5 russet potatoes, cut into 1.5cm cubes

3-4 organic pencil leeks, chopped into 1cm rounds

1 generous handful organic tarragon, chopped

1 litre organic vegetable stock

2 tbsp organic virgin coconut oil

Squeeze of fresh organic lime

Himalayan salt

Freshly ground white pepper

 

Super simple. Heat a large saucepan, add the coconut oil, leeks and potatoes. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon. When the leeks are golden, add the cavalo nero, stir for a further 2 minutes and then cover with the vegetable stock. Let the soup come to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender.

Remove from heat, season to taste and add the tarragon and lime juice just before serving.

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moonlighting

Whole Spice Cola

With the very first Full Moon Farm Gate happening this Saturday night under not just a full moon, but a super full moon, I figured it would be especially good timing for my buddy Ben to share one of the most amazing recipes that will sit trestle-top on the night. Superfood cola. I can’t be entirely sure my earliest taste of this wasn’t the driving force to create the Full Moon Farm Gate in the first place. Thanks so, so much for sharing Ben, and even more for making this, it’ll be the coolest thing to be sipping on this Saturday night. After reading the epic ingredients list for this, all those heading to Langmeil on the 25th may well want to genuflect at the Moonlight Cola stall prior to purchase.

 

Beautiful pics, witty narration and epic recipe by Ben…

Cola Ingredients bottle and glass

 

 

So, this is a recipe for making cola syrup at home. I can’t remember exactly what started this little project – I suspect there may have been rum involved – but it’s developed into a series of still-running, sticky experiments which take over our kitchen for days at a time. Thankfully, it makes the house smell amazing throughout the process, otherwise I think I’d be making it in the garden shed by now.

A funny thing about cola is that it’s a wholly modern invention – well, late 1800’s anyway – and was made from the start with a lot of chemistry, using essential oils for flavour. Unlike a lot of recipes that are now mass-produced, there’s no ‘original homemade version’ we can go back to if we want the real thing (pun absolutely not intended). The name ‘cola’ comes from the Kola nut used in the original recipes, but Kola nut doesn’t really taste of much on its own – vaguely woody, and a bit bitter – it’s just there to provide caffeine. The real flavours that make something taste cola-ish are vanilla and sour citrus to offset the sweetness.

Anyway, the idea behind my tinkering is to make something that’s definitely cola, but by using real ingredients: whole spices, fresh zest and unprocessed sugars for sweetness. Really, it’s just a big, involved pot of some sort of mutant chai tea, with sugar added to turn it into a concentrated syrup. It keeps forever in the fridge – just add sparkling water whenever you fancy something sweet (yes, you can add rum if you’re a grown-up and/or a pirate).

 

Pestling

 

Whole Spice Cola

 1l water

Round one

3 whole vanilla beans

10 star anise nibs (1-and-a-bit whole stars)

10 green cardamom pods

10g coffee beans

10g cacao nibs or whole beans

5g cinnamon stick

2g long pepper

2g black peppercorns

4 cloves

10g dried açaí berry

 

Round two

24g tamarind pulp

20g fresh ginger

5g fresh turmeric

5g fresh galangal

pinch of saffron

2g lavender flowers

 

Round three

10g whole, fresh citrus leaves (lime, lemon, orange, cumquat are all good)

15g lemon zest

15g lime zest

15g orange zest

 

Round four

75g rapadura sugar

50g raw caster sugar

25g dark muscavado sugar

A pinch of sea salt

2tsp of citric or tartaric acid (taste!)

 

Take all the whole, woody spices (that’s all of round one, except the cinnamon, vanilla and açaí) and gently crack them in a mortar and pestle – we’re just trying to open the pods and seeds, without making any fine dusty bits. Dust is our nemesis, as you’re about to find out! Split the vanilla pods with a sharp knife – don’t worry about doing the famous ‘seed scrape’, for once we don’t need the floaty little specks. 

Starting cold, add the water and all the round one ingredients to a pot, and bring it to just under simmering. We’re really just making our giant pot of tea at this point, so we don’t need to see any bubbles. Keep it at this temperature for 30 minutes, stirring whenever you feel like it.

Lime and cinnamon

Add all the round two ingredients to the pot and give it a good stir. Keep it at the tea-brewing temperature for another 10 minutes, then go fishing for the tamarind pulp with your wooden spoon – it’ll be sitting in soft-ish lumps at the bottom of the pot. Either with the back of the spoon, or with your fingers if you’re feeling heatproof, break up the lumps so they dissolve nicely. Once that’s done, give everything a big stir, and let it keep brewing for another 30 minutes. 

Turn off the heat, then add the round three ingredients. Stir the pot well, cover it tightly, and let it cool completely. Adding the citrus ingredients last, and letting them infuse in the cooling liquid keeps the raw, zesty flavours better intact.

Infusing

Alright – what we’re dealing with now is the base flavour for our cola. Taste it: you should get sourness from the zest and tamarind, big earthy dark flavours from all the woody spices, and some sweetness and a big dose of vanilla perfume. It will taste bitter, too – just like you’d expect an hours-long-brewed tea to. That’s fine, even desirable. The real challenge now is our nemesis – the floatie. I’m going to digress on a little bit of science here (if I don’t bring science to a guest-post on the Scullery blog, I’ve failed) – but if you want to skip this part, be warned. There is filtering in your future. Lots of it.

So, the science. It’s about bubbles. Bubbles belong in cola like, well, like they belong in champagne. The problem with our lovely home-infused concoction is that it’s full of all the little floaty particles that separated from our delicious whole ingredients. Bubbles and floaty-particles are really, really good friends – as soon as sparkling water touches a floaty-particle, a big new bubble springs into being (bonus nerd points – every particle is a potential nucleation site). If there are thousands of floaty-particles in your syrup, then you get thousands of bubbles all at once – which gives your glass a head like badly homebrewed beer, and you a flat drink about 30 seconds later. Incidentally, I imagine this is why the original and ‘clone’ recipes you see floating around for the famous, mass-produced colas all call for essential oils of orange, lemon, neroli – you get some of the flavour without any floaties).

Anyway, presuming you’re going to mix your cola syrup with some lightly sparkling water we need to get our syrup as clear and free of floaty bits as we practically can. Let’s get started:

First, slowly pour off the liquid, through a colander and into a bowl. If you’ve got a fancy conical one, use that. That removes the bits bigger than 5mm or so. Save the vanilla beans, and throw the rest in the compost. Clean your pot, then pour the liquid back into it, this time through a fine mesh sieve. Pour slowly (you don’t want to push bits through the mesh with the force of the liquid), and tap gently on the side of the sieve to encourage things if you like. Definitely don’t rub spoons or anything around inside the sieve – let gravity do its thing. We’re down to soft pieces smaller than about 1mm now, which are still plenty big enough for bad nucleation to happen – we’ve got to keep going!

Set yourself up a clear glass bottle, funnel, and the clean mesh sieve. Pour the liquid gently through the sieve again to fill the bottle. Cap the bottle, and put it in the fridge overnight.

Decanting

The next day, you should find a layer of sediment has settled to the bottom of the bottle. Gently, gently take the bottle and pour off the clear liquid on top, back into the pot. Stop before you hit the goo in the bottom. If you want to save every last drop, pour the goo layer back through the sieve, and into a paper coffee filter. You might also see some yellowish solidified oils around the neck of the bottle – don’t worry, they’re there as evidence we’ve used real, proper ingredients, and they’ll reincorporate once you add the sugar.

Now, if you want super-crystal-clear syrup, you can paper-coffee-filter the liquid at this point. Be warned though – filtering through paper takes hours (or days, as I found out while experimenting). If you’re going to do it, set up lots of funnels and lots of filter papers, to spread the load out as much as you can. If you can’t be bothered with this step, just be gentle when you pour the finished syrup – the last little bits tend to settle out in the fridge over time.

When you’re happy with the amount and clarity of the liquid, gently warm it in the pot, just enough to take the chill off. Pour all the sugar into a clean bottle, add the liquid, and shake and stir until everything’s dissolved (you can be rough with it, it’s cool!). Now’s the time to have a taste test as you add the final two ingredients: the sea salt and the acid. The salt is a funny thing – you definitely won’t taste anything salty, but it really brings out the flavours of everything else. The acid is perhaps a debatable point: with everything else being completely whole and natural, it seems a shame to add it, but it gives the finished drink a sourness and ‘rightness’ that I just haven’t been able to get with any other ingredient. Tartaric acid is my pick – it has the handy benefit of preventing the syrup crystalizing in the fridge, and seems to help the mixed drink hold onto its bubbles better. In any case, both acids are naturally found in fruit: citric in citruses, tartaric in grapes (amongst other things), and if you use baking powder in a cake, you’re using tartaric acid anyway. You can easily, easily overdo the acid, though, so add a little bit, mix up a mouthful with water, then adjust until you have it as sour as you like. My syrup usually has about 3 teaspoons per litre, but you’ll need to adjust depending on all your other ingredients. 

For the final drink, I usually use 6:1 sparkling water to syrup – roughly 1 shot in a tumbler of sparkling water – but this syrup isn’t very sweet, as far as these things go. You can personalise the flavour a lot with the blend of sugars you use: More muscovado will give you caramelly-molasses flavour, and the dark-brown colour people expect from cola. Panela or rapadura brings mellow honey flavours, and lighter sugars (raw or even white) are sweet but very neutral, which let more of the herbs and zests come through. 

All that’s left is to bottle it however you like. Depending on how assiduous your filtering is, you’ll get about 800ml of syrup, and it’ll keep for months in the fridge. Cheers!

Finished

mums love cake

Spelt, Persimmon & Walnut Tea Cake

Mother’s Day and cake are inseparable in most households I’d imagine. No different out here on the hill. I love making cakes. Thing is, what sits on a plate when I say cake, and what comes out of the oven when my Mum says cake, are two really quite different creatures. If I tell you that the cake I made for Mum on Sunday happily shared the table with a teapot yet had no dairy, eggs, refined sugar, refined flour or icing, you can probably take a guess at what you’d have at my Mum’s place. Not much spelt to be found in my Mum’s pantry.

Here’s where my Mum totally wins points though. She has never, ever refused to try any of the offerings I’ve baked for her over the years, and I have to say, my teenage baking churned out some pretty gnarly takes on cake. Unconditional love.

This cake was far from the most ‘wholegrain’ I’ve made but it still arrived at the table a spelt based, nut filled, vegan get together, with persimmon puree. “Oooh you made cake!” my Mum said, ‘and I love the icing sugar, it always looks so pretty.”

“Oh that’s coconut flour,” I replied, trying not to sound like a particularly precocious version of myself.

“That’s an interesting idea. Yes, I s’pose you don’t use icing sugar either do you?”

My poor Mum. Thank God she loved the cake. She really, truly deserves good cake after living with a “Don’t you know how bad X is for you?” daughter all those years.

Cake and tea never fail to build that bridge though right? Before the tea cups had been filled we were talking about how kind it is to have donations of homegrown persimmon (thanks Katherine) and walnuts (thanks Ben) to inspire cake baking. When you sit down for afternoon tea with your Mum, kindness comes with cake, no matter what.  If you can refrain from talking about the dairy industry. Which we did. Phew.

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Spelt, Persimmon & Walnut Tea Cake

makes 1 25cm x 10cm loaf

 

370g organic spelt flour

180g organic panela sugar

pinch Himalayan salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 cups organic, just cracked walnuts

1/4 tsp organic ground cloves

1 tsp organic ground cinnamon

 

6 organic non-astringent persimmon

300g organic almond milk (or milk of your choice)

100g organic coconut oil, melted

2 tbsp ground flax seed, mixed with 6 tbsp water

 

Organic coconut flour, for dusting, optional

 

Pre heat the oven to 180C and prepare the loaf tin.

Mix all of the dry ingredients together, keeping 1 cup of walnuts back to put on the top of the cake batter.

In a separate bowl, let the water and flaxseed soak until you have a thickish paste, about 3 – 5 minutes will do it. Measure all of the liquid ingredients in grams and add to the bowl.

To make the persimmon puree, simply remove the calyx from each fruit and then push them through a wire sieve with the back of a spoon. You should end up with about 3/4 cup of puree.

Add 1/2 cup of puree to the wet ingredients and stir through.

Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients and stir with a spoon until completely mixed through.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and sprinkle the remaining walnuts on top. Add an extra dusting of cloves and cinnamon too if you like.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until cooked through when tested with a cake skewer.

Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.

Dust with coconut flour (optional) and drizzle with the extra 1/4 cup of persimmon puree. To the table with tea!

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