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.
Cortijo de la Plata http://cortijoblog.com/

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.
Cortijo de la Plata http://cortijoblog.com/

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.
Cortijo de la Plata http://cortijoblog.com/

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.

Facts about our Vineyard

This is just an information sheet to contain the information about our vineyard for internal use.

grape_picking

2013
We start by planting 75 petit verdot on the Era field. There are also a few plants made from cuttings which are white grapes.

2014
Planted 250 new vines on the new field. Half of them Cabernet Sauvignan the other half Bobal.
We did make some wine but it was a mix of our own and some grapes from over the hill.

2015
We made about 40 litres of wine.
The plants were pruned correctly for the first time in October.

2016
We planted 125 Tempranillo and 125 Cabernet Sauvignon

An audit in June by Daniel the Dressing Gown Man states:
There are 660 growing vines.
About 50 did not make it to October.

Harvest:

The harvest happened on the 21st September.
4 crates from new field
3 crates from the Era field
3 crates from down below.
It took about 2 hours with 6 people to do the harvest.

Made about 100 litres of grape must.
About 12% alcohol potential on the light meter.

Pressing:
The pressing happened on 15th of October with the help of Jordan, Pierre, Jane and Caroline the Belgian girl. The wine was quite dry. I estimate that there were about 65 litres.

Notes: Many of the new vines planted were ripped out by foxes searching for insects.
Maybe the goatshit, leaf mold and earth mix should be aged longer before use.

2017
100 bobal ordered. Arrival date 1st April.
 We planted 1 new line and the rest were used to replace dead vines

This time we used the new petrol auger and it took most of the work out of preparing the holes. In August we put the top wires on all the lines.

Harvest:
The team was Sam, Heather, Alex (skateboarder), Phil Kiwi, Nitsan

The harvest happened on the 15th September.
35 crates in total.
18 crates from new field
11 crates from the Era field
It took about 3 hours with 6 people to do the top fields
6 crates from down below this took about 25 minutes

Made about 450 litres of grape must.
About 15% alcohol potential on the light meter.

The pressing happened on 15th of October with the help of Sam, Heather She-Wolf,  Phil Dynes. The time before pressing was much shorter and wine was still sweet. I estimate that there were about 280 litres.

 

Salade niçoise – or rather just a nice salad

salade nicoise

SALADE NIÇOISE

Everyone has their own idea of what should or should not go into a salade niçoise. I wanted to prepare it with things we have to hand at the moment so this is my take on this classic dish – not so much niçoise but definitely nice.

Tuna is sometimes added but as I didn’t have any I used tinned sardines instead.

We’ve recently harvested the potatoes and so have lots of small, red-skinned ones. I cut them into bite-sized pieces and boiled them until tender.

We also have abundant green beans so I cut them into 5cm pieces and then steamed them for 5 minutes.

SALAD INGREDIENTS:
large lettuce leaves
1 or 2 hard-boiled eggs per person, quartered
tomatoes, cut into sixths or eighths depending on their size
green beans, cut into 5cm lengths and steamed for 5 minutes

DRESSING:
2 cloves garlic
2 anchovies
handful of basil leaves
4 tablespooons olive oil
½ tablespoon vinegar
black pepper
chives, finely chopped

METHOD:
On a large plate, arrange the lettuce leaves and season with a little salt.
Arrange the potatoes on the lettuce, then the beans, tomatoes and tuna. Finally arrange the eggs on the top.

Put all the ingredients for the dressing into a small container and blend well. Spoon over the salad and sprinkle over the chives.

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Carrot and olive oil cake

Carrot and olive oil cake

carrot and olive oil cake

By using extra virgin olive oil, this carrot cake had a great taste, was seriously moist and one of the nicest carrot cakes I’ve ever eaten. I’m a bit concerned about the amount of sugar in the cake itself as 500g seems a lot and so next time I might try using less sugar – possibly 350g.

I’ve just realised that I never say anything about heating the oven to 180ºC. When I bake cakes, I use the wood-fired oven after making pizzas for lunch so it’s more a case of waiting for the temperature to drop from over 350ºC to around 200ºC. Normally this takes about four hours or so and then the temperature will remain constant.

INGREDIENTS (CAKE):
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
500g brown sugar
250g self-raising flour
4 large eggs or 5 medium eggs
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
125g walnuts, coarsely chopped
500g carrots, coarsely grated

INGREDIENTS (ICING):
125g salted butter
250g light cream cheese
250g icing sugar
grated zest of 2 large oranges

METHOD:
Line a deep-sided roasting tin with baking parchment. The size of the tin I used was 32cm x 22cm.

In a large bowl beat together the olive oil, sugar and eggs. Slowly add in the flour, salt and cinnamon and mix well. Add the grated carrot and walnuts and give the mixture a good stir.

Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 35-40 minutes.

Meanwhile make the icing. Cream the butter in a bowl and then add all the other ingredients. Mix well and then keep in the fridge until needed.

Leave the cake to cool on a wire rack for ten minutes before removing from the tin. Leave to cool completely and then spread over the icing.

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