Over the years of trying to grow my own food, I have discovered that the only things that don’t get eaten by the possums, grasshoppers, caterpillars & native rats (which chewed through the nets I’d put up to try & stop the grasshoppers & caterpillars) are turmeric, lemongrass & ginger. Even the chili bush was stripped of every chili & leaf by the possums last year.
Oh, and I have a very happy bay tree growing in a pot. I’ve even supplied my organic bay leaves to a local restaurant for free.
Fortunately, The Hubby & I love ginger & turmeric & have some every day, so having all the garden beds planted out with these two, and one very enthusiastic lemongrass bush, is a win-win. I’m starting to harvest the latest bumper crop little by little according to our needs. What a joy it is after all those years of failure & frustration.
It’s a life lesson really, isn’t it? For years I battled to do what I thought I should do no matter how stressful it was and no matter how much it cost me emotionally, physically and financially. Mind you, as far as growing my own food is concerned I was also passionate about it and really, really wanted to be able to make it work. But no matter how hard I tried and how much money I threw at it, nature always won. All I ended up doing was feeding the neighbourhood possums, bugs and native rats. There was nothing ever left for our table.
So now I’ve let go of that dream and support my local organic store and farmers markets instead. In so doing I’ve discovered the delights of growing the things that really thrive in my garden, things that even those voracious native rats leave in peace.
So here’s to a bumper harvest of ginger and turmeric. And here’s to celebrating the delicious things we will make together and the health they will bring – physically and emotionally.
The Hubby and I had the conversation we had to have a few weeks ago. About cake. Christmas cake to be precise. You see, one of our lovely neighbours comes around every December selling Lions Christmas cakes. Every year we buy one. In the past we have been known to give them away but last year we ate the whole cake before Christmas even arrived. We love Christmas cake.
This year we decided to buy one and divide it into thirds. We’d keep one-third for ourselves and give the other two-thirds away. Never happened. Once again we ate the whole cake in less than a fortnight, way before Christmas day had a chance to dawn. Did I mention we love Christmas cake?
But for myself, it wasn’t always that way.
My grandmother used to create amazing Christmas cakes. They were works of art. She would bake the cake months in advance and regularly soak it in brandy. Then as the day grew closer she’d cover it in marzipan and then finally a coat of royal icing with all the trimmings. As a child I’d try to grab a piece with the most icing. The cake and the marzipan always remained on my plate, naked and dishevelled. Back then I hated fruitcake but I loved the icing. Kids! My grandmother must have despaired. If only she was still alive, I’d give her Christmas cakes the respect they deserved.
Granny was a great cook but there was one thing I could never fathom. At Christmas she’d serve up jellied peas. Who in their right minds would put peas in jelly? My mum explained that the jelly was aspic, a kind of savoury jelly, but I was not impressed. However, in retrospect, I can see how devilishly clever my grandmother was. She solved the problem of children and peas with a two-pronged attack. Peas in jelly won’t fall off the fork, plus it makes peas so unattractive to children they won’t want to eat them anyway. There’s no danger of peas getting squashed into the carpet if no one under 14 is eating them.
I hope you have a joyful Christmas and I also hope that, unlike The Hubby and myself, you have some Christmas cake left to eat on the day. And wherever you are and whoever you’re celebrating Christmas with, may there be no jellied peas on the menu.
Is it a cake or is it a salad? I had thought the title of this post was going to be “I’ve never met a chocolate cake I didn’t like…until now.” But having sampled the “fruits” of my labour I must say I am surprised. When making the icing I thought I’d ruined two perfectly good blocks of very good chocolate, but no. When it all comes together the flavours blend very well. And no one will know, unless you tell them, that this cake is made with sauerkraut and mayonnaise!
German Chocolate Sauerkraut Cake
- 3/4 cup butter, softened
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups plain flour
- 3/4 cup cocoa
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sauerkraut, rinsed, drained, squeezed dry and finely chopped
- 2/3 cup flaked coconut
- 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
- 360 g chocolate, melted
- 2/3 cup mayonnaise
- 2/3 cup flaked coconut
- 2/3 cup chopped pecans
- Cream butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine dry ingredients; add to the creamed mixture alternately with water. Fold in sauerkraut, coconut and pecans. Pour into three greased and floured 9-in. round baking pans. Bake at 180° for about 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks; cool completely.
- In a bowl, combine melted chocolate and mayonnaise. Set aside 1-1/4 cups for the icing. To the remaining chocolate mixture, add half of the coconut and pecans; spread between cake layers. Spread reserved chocolate mixture over top and sides of cake. Combine remaining coconut and pecans and sprinkle over the cake. Best stored in the refrigerator.
My grandmother was an excellent cook. Thin as a rake, she lived on lettuce and sherry. Perhaps that’s why her meals were works of art. She wouldn’t eat them but she could admire them. Christmas was picture perfect, Easter was a Baroque classic and afternoon teas were pastoral scenes. Every time she lit her gas stove with a long wax taper we knew we were in for treat. Even something as simple as a self-saucing chocolate pudding turned out light on top, dense and rich below and with the special touch of being studded with walnuts.
My own cooking is much more purposeful. A blunt instrument compared to my grandmother’s finesse. In my early twenties when my best friend left town, I consoled myself by baking self-saucing chocolate puddings and eating them with tubs of ice cream. Everyday. I can still remember the recipe off by heart:
Mix 1 cup of self raising flour, 1 cup of sugar and 2 tablespoons of cocoa. Add 1 cup of milk, 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence and 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Pour into a baking dish. Sprinkle with 1 cup of brown sugar mixed with another 2 tablespoons of cocoa and pour 2 cups of boiling water over the top. Bake for about 45 minutes, or less if you can’t wait that long. It’ll still taste the same.
No walnuts. No light touch. No oil painting. Just easy, quick, comfort food that’s meant to be eaten, not put on display. A pudding to be your best friend on these cold winter days and nights.
I made an emotional purchase. A jar of home-made lemon butter made fresh the night before. It looked so enticing. I took it home and put it on the kitchen bench. There it stayed for a few days. The Hubby and I don’t eat lemon butter, no matter how enticing it looks. Then I was struck by a bright idea. Lemon Coconut Slice. I doubled this recipe, to use up all the lemon butter, and took the slice to work. It disappeared in a cloud of “ooh”s “oh”s and “yum”s.
It’s lemon season. If life gives you lemons…. make Lemon Coconut Slice.
125g unsalted butter, melted, cooled
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour, sifted
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup lemon butter
1 egg white, lightly beaten
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 1/2 cups desiccated coconut
1. Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced. Grease a 3cm-deep, 18cm x 28cm pan. Line base and sides with baking paper.
2. Place butter, sugar, flour and egg in a bowl. Stir to combine. Press into prepared pan. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until light golden.
3. Meanwhile, make coconut topping Place egg white, sugar and coconut in a bowl. Stir to combine.
4. Spread lemon butter evenly over slice base. Sprinkle with topping. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until coconut is golden brown. Cool in pan. Cut into squares. Serve. Accept praise and plenty of it.