homemade barbecue sauce

I’m finding it difficult to figure out what to type here. Maybe it’s because it’s so hot here right now I could just melt into a puddle on my doona. Maybe because I’m stressed out with this moving situation.  Maybe because I’m getting over a cold and my brain is fried at the moment.

Maybe a lot of things.

Meanwhile, I can’t believe it’s the first day of February! Holy Moly, the year is going fast already. Let’s review New Years Resolutions quickly, shall we?

1. Be Healthier. Yep, I’m eating pretty well and loving the vegies and salads that are so fun to eat at this time of year (i.e SUMMER) and I even tried making a smoothie with spinach in it, which I’ll show you soon. It was amazing, let’s just say that.

2. Hang out on the blog more. Well, you may have noticed that I changed my header. Woohoo! But also, I have about five posts ready to be posted, so watch out for that! I’m excited for the new year and the motivation it gives me to post, so we’ll see how that pans out across the year.

3. Get creative. Apart from cooking heaps over the past few days, I have a bunch of sewing projects on the back burner and so many ideas for decorating/organising my new place, so I’ll update more as that goes on!

4. Get a church and mentor… not so much activity happening in this sector as of yet but I will be checking out churches in my vicinity once I’ve settled in a bit more.

How are your resolutions going? Do you have any? If not, what summer foods do you absolutely love? These plums came from my family’s tree back home and they are beautiful. I have at least two more plum recipes that I’m going to post, so keep your eye out! Our tree always produces so much fruit, it’s so awesome.

Peach Plum Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

Adapted from nomnivorous.com

This is one of those recipes you can tweak any which way you like. More peaches? More plums? I wanted more onions in mine, and maybe more tomato. But that’s by the by. This stuff is amazing, you’ll never want to buy barbecue sauce again.

Makes about 2 litres. I know, but it’s so good you can give it to your friends and they’ll beg you for more.

1.5 kilos peaches & plums, halved and pitted [can be any combination of the  two. I used about a kilo of plums and 500g of peaches, which was three big peaches and about 15 small plums]

2 medium onions [but like I said, I would have liked more

1 – 2 chillies, chopped finely [depends on heat tolerance]

3 cloves garlic, chopped

2 tbsp chopped ginger

1 1/2 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup bourbon

1/3 cup honey

50 g tomato paste, about 1 heaping dessert spoon

3 tablespoons molasses

1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon dijon mustard, whole grain or smooth

1 teaspoon salt

Place the peaches, plums, onions and sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan and simmer for about half an hour, until the fruit and onions are soft and can be mashed with your wooden spoon. Stir occasionally.

Add all other ingredients and simmer a further 20 minutes. Bring to boil, stirring, and then simmer another 40 minutes. Having it all cook together like this really melds the flavours together. If it’s too thick, add more bourbon or water. If it’s too thin, simmer for longer although remember it will thicken as it cools. Stir occasionally as it simmers.

Take off the heat and let cool about 20 minutes. Bottle and let cool completely, then refrigerate and send to your friends, waiting for the praise to pour in :).

not your mama’s nutella

Well, unless your mama is Stella of Bravetart. Then, yeah, I stole your mama’s nutella recipe. However, I’m fairly sure Stella doesn’t have kids, so no, this is not your mama’s nutella. Really, it’s not nutella at all, because Nutella is trademarked.

This is a chocolate hazelnut spread that is much better than nutella. Trust me. I know. It took me a while to get there, but it was worth it. (Whether it was worth the procrastination it took – the time away from my essays – only time will tell.) Oh, it was a real hassle but we got there in the end.

So, why make chocolate hazelnut spread yourself, you ask? Good question. The thing is, I’m trying (slowly, painfully, with not much success) to bring my life back to the ground. The earth. So I’m planting stuff and making bread and sitting in the spaces but I don’t have a lot of time and I make a lot of lame excuses.

I want to eat less processed food, more local and organic food. I want to celebrate life properly. It’s a long hard slog but I’m getting there. Sometimes I feel like I say that WAY too much. I’m getting there. Getting to a place where I’m at peace. Getting to the end of my tether. Getting to the top of the mountain. Getting back down again. Getting to God. Getting further away.

Getting there is usually positive, however, because positivity breeds positivity. I am not great at being positive all the time, however, I do my best. And physical activity plus healthy food equals a pretty positive day.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Adapted from Bravetart

Dude, this was a fiasco and a half, let me tell you. I started off with my sister in the kitchen and I should say right here, I am not good at sharing a kitchen with anyone, let alone family. Then the brittle didn’t become brittle, which I figured out later was because I didn’t cook it enough (so either get yourself a candy thermometer or cook until lovely golden brown) so I got sticky non-brittle EVERYWHERE and then it was like nine o’ clock before I even started the dishes. Oh my goodness.

But was it worth it? Yes, definitely. It’s amazing. Make this, and you will never buy storebought Nutella again.

7 ounces (205 mL) water

15 ounces (425g)

6 ounces (170g) honey or corn syrup

3 ounces (85g) butter

1 vanilla bean

10 ounces (285g) hazelnuts, toasted, skins removed, chopped coarsely

8 ounces (200g) dark chocolate (72% cocoa is preferred) melted and cooled

1 ounce (28g) cocoa powder

3/4 tsp salt

6-8 ounces (170-225g) hazelnut oil (We couldn’t find hazelnut oil in the supermarket so we used macadamia nut oil instead and it was fine. I only used about 5 ounces all up.)

Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Scrape out all the lovely insides and put it into the sugar. Slice the two halves lengthwise again and mince them as finely as you can. Rub all that vanilla goodness into the sugar so you have vanilla sugar (this is also a good way to clean off your hands and knife from all that clingy vanilla bean paste.)

Place the sugar, butter, honey/corn syrup and water into a saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and stir continuously until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil, not stirring, until the mixture reaches about 300 degrees (Farenheit, I think) on a candy thermometer (this is about 150 degrees Celsius) or pale golden brown. Or lovely deep golden brown, if you want to go that way.

Take off the heat and stir in the hazelnuts. As you can probably see from my pictures, I didn’t chop the hazelnuts beforehand but I chopped up my brittle fairly well after it set so it turned out ok.

Grease a baking tray and pour the brittle mixture in.

While you’re waiting for the brittle to set is a good time to melt your chocolate.

When it’s set, carefully remove it from the pan and break it into manageable chunks (I fairly well chopped mine because I was scared my small slightly-cracked-but-still-useable food processor might not hold up to the pressure.) Be careful not to cut yourself on the sharp brittle!

Pulse half the brittle in the food processor. As it keeps running, add in the rest of the brittle piece by piece until it’s pretty much powder. Stop the food processor and dump in the cocoa, chocolate and salt. Keep the processor running until it’s pretty well homogenised, then as it keeps running, carefully pour the oil in until it reaches your desired consistency.

Now is the time you dip everything you can get your hands on into this liquid gold and stuff it in your mouth. Soft white bread, crunchy baguette, chopped fruit – anything and everything tastes better dipped in nutella. Then pour it into jars, seal tightly and keep indefinitely at room temperature.

quince paste

Pretty much every time I go home, I come back to Melbourne with more than I left with. My mum insists on giving me food to bring home: something she found on special at the supermarket, vegetarian pasta, jam, preserved plums, fruit. Or something that will be useful to me, like the Breville Kitchen Wizz, a sewing machine, an extra towel. Or just something she saw and thought of me.

My mum’s pretty awesome, to put it another way. Even though I’ve left the nest, flown the coop, moved out of home, whatever you want to call it, she’s always looking out for me.

In honour of Mother’s Day, which I’m spending with my mum at the moment, I’m therefore posting this recipe.

My mum got these from a friend of our family’s at church, who they’ve gotten to know better through Family Group. Their family has an orchard and we got apples, pears and quinces, a whole bunch of which I brought back to Melbourne after Easter at home. I made apple sauce with the apples, I roasted the pears in vanilla, and I made quince paste with the quinces.

When I got them home, I had not much idea as to what to use them for. I’d had quince paste before but I always assumed that, like jam, only cool people and hippies (my mum being one of the cool people, who makes jam and preserves plums) could make it. But after looking around and deciding that I probably wouldn’t eat them all if I poached them and a tarte tatin would be too much work (hey, it’s been hectic around here lately), I figured maybe I could try the quince paste thing. After all, one thing my family in general and my mum in particular love to do is eat, and something we all love to eat is cheese. A cheese platter is always a part of a celebratory occasion, complete with some sort of washed rind cheese like Brie, (popular with the kids) a cheddar and a blue cheese, my mum’s (and her mum’s) favourite.

Quince paste goes very well with a cheese platter. Stella pontificates on cheese platters here, if you really want the low down on a great cheese plate, but we always just go with what we like. Which means crackers, cheese and wine to complement.

And quince paste, if we can get it.

Quince Paste

From Taste.com.au

4 quinces (which is apparently about 1.4 kg. I didn’t weigh mine) peeled, cored and chopped

1/2 cup water (125ml)

700g sugar

Bring the quinces and water to boil in a large saucepan, then lower the heat, cover and simmer for about half an hour or until tender, stirring occasionally.

Place the quinces in the bowl of a food processor and whizz until smooth. Place back in a clean heavy based large saucepan with the sugar, and stir frequently over low heat until it is ruby red and comes away from the sides of the pan*.

Divide the paste among six ramekins lined with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator until set, then serve with cheese, dry biscuits and wine.

*mine didn’t really come away from the pan, it just turned ruby red and delicious looking, so I figured that it’d set in the fridge. Which it did.

hollandaise sauce and a book review

The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon. I’ve been reading it for the past week (it should be read slow, to be savoured) and it’s really an amazing book. It was first released in the 1950s and it’s just the most eccentric journey into the mind of a cook/chef I’ve read. I love cookbooks, I love reading recipes and finding little personal touches and tips and tricks, things to watch out for, to mind, to not mind. Food blogs are great for that, I’ll be posting a blogroll soon, I think.

This isn’t just a cookbook. It’s a manifesto. It’s a celebration of life, food, the earth, God’s creation. To love things for what they are, not for what they mean, which, by the way, works for people too. Intrinsic value, not exchange value, is what is important. You have value for who you are, not for what you mean to me or to anyone else. And that apple you’re eating, has value for simply being an apple, not just because it’s good for you.

The first thing I made from this book was actually bread; beautiful crusty bread rolls, yeasty and delicious, but they’re not here because I made them at Surrender with some of the people from Credo Cafe over at Urban Seed (if you’re in Melbourne, in the city around noon, head over to Credo for food and good company. I guarantee you it will blast your expectations out of the water.) Their Strangers are Fiction campaign is has been launched, so if you want to jump in with that, by all means do so. We’re not strangers, we’re just family that hasn’t met yet.

The first thing I made from this book when I owned it (after I heard about it at Surrender I had to find it) was this hollandaise sauce and it is seriously one of the easiest things in the world to do. After I made those macarons for Easter, I had all these egg yolks left over so of course, I had to make hollandaise sauce.

For each egg yolk, add a tablespoon of cream to a saucepan (that your egg yolks are already in, I hope) some salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and lemon juice to taste. Whisk well and then place over medium heat, still whisking. When the custard thickens sufficiently, back away from the heat (carrying your saucepan and still whisking) over to a pot-stand where you have ready two tablespoons of butter for each egg yolk.  Whisk these in and when they are incorporated, you have homemade hollandaise sauce that will rock your socks off.