Gluten-free carrot cake

Gluten-free carrot cake
Serves 24
In this carrot cake recipe, polenta and ground almonds replace the flour and olive oil is used instead of butter.
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Cook Time
40 min
Cook Time
40 min
CAKE
  1. 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  2. 350g brown sugar
  3. 5 medium eggs
  4. 150g ground almonds
  5. 100g polenta
  6. 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  7. 1 teaspoon salt
  8. 125g chopped walnuts
  9. 500g grated carrot
  10. 1 teaspoon baking powder
ICING
  1. 125g salted butter
  2. 250g light cream cheese
  3. 250g icing sugar
  4. grated zest of 2 large oranges
TO MAKE THE CAKE
  1. Heat the oven to 180ºC.
  2. Line a rectangular cake tin (25cm x 29cm) with baking parchment.
  3. Beat the eggs, sugar and oil together in a large bowl.
  4. Sprinkle in the polenta, ground almonds, salt and cinnamon and mix well.
  5. Add the carrots and walnuts and give the mixture a good stir.
  6. Pour the mixture into the baking tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 40 minutes.
  7. Test with a skewer to check that the cake is cooked.
  8. Cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a baking rack.
  9. Leave to cool completely.
TO MAKE THE ICING
  1. Cream the butter in a bowl with a wooden spoon.
  2. Add the other ingredients and keep in the fridge until needed.
  3. Once the cake has cooled, spread over the icing.
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Making Pear Wine

We have a large winter pear tree. Every year the pears fall onto the floor. By mid December they are almost ripe. Some of them have started to rot and the Jay birds have started to peck at them.  Winter pears are strange because if you pick them off the tree earlier in the year and store them inside they don’t go ripe. They seem to prefer being outside or they need some frost before they ripen.  About 3 years ago I decided to try and use my pear  windfall. After a while surfing on internet I found that the Roman soldiers who were stationed in Britain had no access to grapes so they bought pear trees with them and made pear wine. Roman soldiers tended to drink a litre of wine each day so they must have needed a good source of wine.

My pear wine recipe is very simple and could be very useful in a dystopian  post technological age in latitudes where there is no grapes but it is still possible to get sugar.
I suppose the Romans’ pear wine must have been pear beer because they had no access to processed sugar so the alcohol by volume must have been about 5%. (maybe they used honey)

Ingredients:
 A treeload of ripe winter pears maybe 100kg
Some yeast. I used Young’s Dried Active Yeast.
Lots of sugar.
Boiling water.
Sodium Metabisulphate

Equipment:
200 litre plastic barrel
Plastic trugs
Knives

Method:
Cutting up pears

Pick the pears discarding pears which are totally rotten.
Wash the pears in cold water to get rid of old leaves and other debris.
Cut the pears up into chunks. Maybe 1.5cm chunks. Discard all the really nasty rotten bits but keep the over ripe areas. I did not discard the cores. 

Throw the cut up pears into Sodium Metabisulphate solution and let them get covered in the solution.

Three years ago I did not use any chemicals and everything was fine but last year the whole batch of 150 litres turned to vinegar. I don’t like using chemicals but as I am using semi-rotten fruit hopefully it will stop it turning to vinegar. I got the pears out of the metabisulphate trug with my hands and put they into an intermediate trug before throwing them into the plastic barrel. 

Metabisulphate bath for the cut up pears

Metabisulphate bath for the cut up pears

The next thing to do it to pour boiling water into the plastic barrel as fast as possible. We use every available kettle and put big pans on the wood stove.  The idea is that the heat of the boing water will kill any unwanted bacteria. I don’t know how hot we managed to get the must but it was too hot to put a hand in, maybe 60C. 

Heating up water

Heating up water on the wood stove

The next thing to do is to put in a lot of sugar. I put in 22kg. It can be disolved in the water in the pans but it seems to disolve OK in the actual plastic barrel.

I used a refractometer and the sugar reading says that this has an alcohol potential of 5%.

I want the wine to be about 13.5% so I use my Chapitalisation Calculator

This is what it tells me

“You have 150 litres of must
At the moment your must has a potential alcohol volume of 5 %
You would like your finished wine to be 13.5 % alcohol.

To do that you have to add 24.23 kilos of sugar to the must.
BTW: That is 53.42 pounds

If fermentation goes OK I will add about 20KG of sugar after a couple of weeks.

It is very difficult to be scientific about the amount of alcohol because the pears are in chunks not in solution. Supposedly they have a sugar content which would be about 5% alcohol. The last bit of sugar is added bit by bit.

The yeast and Pectolase is added the following day one the liquid has cooled down.

Maybe I had beginner’s  luck with my pear wine 3 years ago. It was wonderful. The pears shrivelled and the wine cleared on its own.  All I had to was siphon it off in April.

I served it chilled to 11C and it was really tasty.

 

 

 

 

Nut roast

Nut roast
To celebrate finishing the olive harvest before Christmas, we normally have a roast meal cooked in the bread oven. As this year (2017) we had Aida a vegetarian working with us, I decided to cook the traditional roast plus a nut roast. This recipe is an adaptation of Felicity Cloake's post in the Guardian
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Ingredients
  1. 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into chunks
  2. 1 medium-sized red cabbage
  3. 150g almonds
  4. 150g walnuts
  5. 40g butter
  6. 1 large onion, finely chopped
  7. 150g mushrooms, finely chopped
  8. 100g Manchego cheese, grated
  9. 100g brown breadcrumbs
  10. 2 tablespoons fresh sage, roughly chopped
  11. 1 large egg, beaten
  12. Extra virgin olive oil
  13. Salt
  14. Pepper
Instructions
  1. Cook the sweet potato in boiling, salted water until soft and mash.
  2. Oil a loaf tin approximately, line with foil and oil again.
  3. Blanch the cabbage leaves in boiling, salted water for 2 minutes. Run under cold water and then dry. Remove the central stalk so that they lie flat.
  4. Heat a frying pan and gently toast the chopped walnuts and almonds until they start to colour and transfer to a plate.
  5. Turn the heat down and add the butter. Fry the chopped onion and fry gently.
  6. Add the mushrooms and fry for another couple of minutes until they are concentrated.
  7. In a bowl, mix the nuts, onion, cheese, breadcrumbs, mushrooms, sweet potato, beaten egg and chopped sage. Season and stir well.
  8. Line the tin with the cabbage leaves, and spoon in the mixture, pressing it down well.
  9. Fold any overhanging cabbage leaves back over the top.
  10. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes.
  11. Remove the foil from the top and put the loaf back in the oven for another 10 minutes.
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Roast butternut squash with cous cous and vegetables

 

Roast butternut squash with cous cous and vegetables
Serves 6
In this recipe, the flesh is removed from the roasted butternut squash halves and mixed with fried vegetables and cous cous.
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Ingredients
  1. 3 butternut squash, halved and seeds removed
  2. 1 1/2 cups of cous cous
  3. 3 cups of boiling water
  4. 1 onion, finely chopped
  5. 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  6. 1 green pepper, finely chopped
  7. 6 tablespoons fried tomato
  8. grated cheese
  9. oregano
  10. salt
  11. pepper
  12. chopped parsley
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 180ºC-200ºC.
  2. Sprinkle the squash halves with oregano and season with salt and pepper and roast until soft.
  3. Meanwhile, heat some oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onions until soft.
  4. Add the chopped red and green pepper and continue frying gently.
  5. Boil some water.
  6. Put the cous cous in a bowl. Season with salt and drizzle over some olive oil. Mix well. Pour over the boiling water. Cover with a plate.
  7. When the squash is cooked, remove from the oven and scoop out the flesh into a bowl.
  8. Add the cous cous, fried tomato and fried vegetables.
  9. Mix well and check for seasoning.
  10. Fill the squash halves with the squash mixture.
  11. Sprinkle over the grated cheese.
  12. Put back in the oven and turn up the oven to 220ºC.
  13. Roast for 20-30 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling.
  14. Sprinkle over the parsley.
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Kumquat and Lemon Marmalade using a pressure cooker

I have never made marmalade before and have always been put off by the seemingly  never-ending, tedious task of chopping, peeling, shredding, juicing, boiling, testing, etc. But when a friend told me about his method of making kumquat and lemon marmalade by soaking the fruit in sugar for a day, I thought I would give it a go. In his recipe, the kumquats are halved, the pips removed, and then combined in a bowl with lemon juice and sugar for 24 hours before boiling as normal.

My challenge, therefore, was to invent a recipe for a pressure cooker which would be even easier and quicker to prepare. A neighbour’s sister makes quince jelly in a pressure cooker by combining equal parts of fruit and sugar and then cooking for 3 minutes at pressure so I decided to experiment with times to see if this method would be possible for marmalade.

The first attempt was a success (although the cooking times needed tweaking) and I was really pleased with the consistency, texture and taste of the first batch. I had literally thrown everything in together (pips, pith and lemon quarters) but decided that for the second attempt I would tie the pips and lemon pith and skins in muslin to keep them separate.

It was clear that three minutes was far too short and I had to bring the cooker back up to pressure several times. So I decided that for the second attempt I would cook the marmalade for 15 minutes at pressure.

INGREDIENTS
500g kumquats
2 large lemons
400g brown sugar or half the weight of the prepared fruit

METHOD
Cut the kumquats in half, remove the pips and save on a muslin square. Cut the loquats into 2mm slices.
Peel the lemon rind with a vegetable peeler. Shred the rind into 2mm strips.
Put an empty bowl on the scales and weigh in the fruit and lemon juice. Add half the amount of sugar and mix well.
Securely tie up the lemon pith and pips in the muslin square and add toe the bowl of fruit.

Leave for 24 hours, stirring every so often. At the end of that time, the sugar will have completely dissolved and there will be quite a bit more syrup.

Transfer the kumquats and the muslin bag to a pressure cooker. Bring up to pressure and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the pressure cooker from the heat and slow release the pressure.

Open the pressure cooker and transfer immediately into clean glass jars using a jam funnel and a measuring jug. Turn all the jars upside down to sterilise the caps for about half an hour and then turn back the right way and leave to cool completely.

Quick and easy pumpkin soup

Quick and easy pumpkin soup
This is a really quick and easy pumpkin soup to prepare in the pressure cooker. The best pumpkin to use is butternut squash as that way you don't need
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Ingredients
  1. 1 butternut squash
  2. 1 potato
  3. 1 litre vegetable stock
  4. 2 spoons of Greek yoghurt
  5. salt
  6. pepper
Instructions
  1. Cook all the ingredients in a pressure cooker for 20 minutes.
  2. Put the pressure cooker under a cold tap and quick release the pressure.
  3. Blend.
  4. Season.
Notes
  1. It s not necessary to peel the butternut squash.
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Onion and potato soup

Onion and potato soup
Serves 6
Until our own onions are ready, we need to buy them in and the other day I bought a sack of massive Spanish onions. Normally, I would use four large onions but with these ones, three were enough.
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Ingredients
  1. 3 extra large onions or 4 large onions, halved, quartered and then sliced
  2. 2 large potatoes, quartered
  3. 1 litre vegetable stock
  4. 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  5. 2 dessertspoons Greek yoghurt
  6. salt and plenty of pepper
  7. extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Heat some oil in a pressure cooker and vigorously fry the onions for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Add the potatoes, stock and salt. Put the lid on and bring up to pressure.
  3. Cook for 15 minutes and then quick release the pressure by placing the pressure cooker under the cold tap.
  4. Transfer the potato into a 1-litre measuring jug with some of the onions and stock.
  5. Blend with a stick blender.
  6. Stir in the Greek Yoghurt.
  7. Season with pepper.
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Hummus

Hummus
Serves 4
This is an adaptation of a recipe for hummus by Felicity Cloake from her series "How to make perfect ..." I found it tastes delicious without the bicarbonate of soda and just put all the ingredients in the blender. The word "Hummus" originates from the Arabic for chickpeas. Traditionally an Eastern Mediterranean dip, there are as many recipes for this dip as there are ways of spelling it. It can be served with pitta bread, flatbreads or crudité or as an accompaniment to a meal.
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Ingredients
  1. 200g dried chickpeas
  2. 6 tablespoons tahini
  3. Juice of 1 or 2 lemons
  4. 3-5 cloves garlic, crushed
  5. Pinch of cumin
  6. Salt, to taste
  7. Olive oil, to top
  8. Paprika
Instructions
  1. Soak the chickpeas in water for 24 hours.
  2. Don't rinse the chickpeas but cook them in their soaking water in a pressure cooker 30 minutes.
  3. Quick release the pressure and remove the lid. Leave to cool in the cooking liquid.
  4. Transfer the chickpeas with a draining spoon to the blender bowl, reserving the cooking liquid.
  5. Add all the other ingredients and blend well. Add some of the cooking liquid and blend to form a smooth paste.
  6. Taste for salt, garlic and lemon juice, adding more as and if necessary.
  7. Sprinkle top with sweet paprika and drizzle over some olive oil.
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Using a pressure cooker to hard boil young hen eggs

HARD BOILING YOUNG HEN EGGS

Hard-boiled fresh eggs can be hard to peel but eggs laid by young hens are almost impossible. This year I had to replace my entire flock. It was especially frustrating to discover that even when the fresh, young hen eggs were left for 7 rather than the normal 3 days before hard-boiling, they were still impossible to peel.

An egg has an inner and outer shell membrane. Since the egg shell is permeable, as the egg ages, carbon dioxide and moisture are lost through the shell. This causes the two membranes to separate and the air sac to expand. As a result, the older the egg is, the easier it is to peel. 

My normal method of hard boiling eggs was to place them in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. The cooking time depends on egg size. I wanted a quick method that would ensure that relatively fresh eggs could be hard boiled and easily peeled. My Internet search lead me to the prairie homestead page. Although they were not talking about the problems of hard-boiling young hen eggs, they did mention the idea of using a pressure cooker. I am a huge fan of pressure cookers and believe that no kitchen should be without one. I have a number of different sized cookers and use them all the time to make soups, stews, casseroles and other dishes in a fraction of the time. They can even be used to can tomatoes and other vegetables.

 

For the experiment, I chose four eggs that had been laid on consecutive days. The egg on the right labelled 1 day old was laid on the same day, the 2-day old one the day before, etc.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Put 1 cup (250ml) of water in a pressure cooker and bring it to the boil.

Place the eggs on a steamer and lower it into the pan.

Close the pressure cooker lid and bring it up to full power. Turn down the heat and leave it for 5 minutes.

At the end of the cooking time, if your pressure cooker has a quick release mechanism, quickly release the pressure by placing the pan under the running cold tap. Transfer the eggs to a bowl of cold water, running and change the water until the eggs are completely cool.

RESULTS:

I then peeled the eggs and these are shown in the photo below. The results are conclusive and show how the eggs are easy to peel, and even the freshest egg could be peeled with care.

 

How to cork a wine bottle using a hand corker.

This is my first ever instructional video explaining  How to cork a wine bottle.

bottle corker

The bottle corker

Why do we bottle  wine

Putting wine into a  bottle with a cork is an excellent way of keeping the wine until you want to drink it. When wine is stored it should only have a very small amount of oxygen available. Uncorking  a bottle of wine is a pleasant ritual which many prefer to using a screwtop bottle. The corks seen in the video are number 9 corks and are they are the most common. They should last 10 years with no problem.

When to bottle wine
The simple anwser is when no more gasses will be created which could cause the bottle to explode. Wine made from Grapes is picked in the Autumn. The initial very vigourous primary fermentation when most of the sugar is converted into alcohol, lasts about 10 days. The fertmentation then slows down and then many people say that the wine should be kept in a cool place for the  first winter.  The cold temperature seems to help the wine clear. The wine is just about drinkable by March of the following year and by May it should taste good. However, wine is not generally bottled until at least one year after it was first  picked because  sometimes  more subtle types of fermentation can occur such as maleoactic fermentation. This could create carbon dioxide which may cause the bottle to explode. Other types of wine such as champagne and fizzy wine can be bottled when fermentation is still active but they need high pressure bottles and a special cork. It is possible to stop a wine fermenting when it is still sweet by adding Potassium Sorbate which stop the yeast reproducing. However we never put chemicals of any kind into our wine.

 
Cork crusher

Where the cork is crushed.

The video below explains how we put cork into the bottles. For a very small producer like ourselves, a small floor mounted hand corker is enough for our needs. In reality we store a lot of our wine in recycled 5 litre plastic containers. However, a bottle of wine with a cork and a label is a pleasant object so we always bottle some to give away as gifts and to add a sense of occasion when sitting around the table etc. By the way the sphincter like crusher in the centre is called an iris. It dilates and reatracts a bit like the iris in an eye.