Sourdough choc chip biscuits- refrigerator version

I found a great recipe for sourdough choc chip biscuits that you can mix up in a huge batch and let sit in the fridge for a week, only baking what you want at any one time. This way the biscuits are always fresh out of the oven and you are less likely to eat 24 in a sitting (unless you can find the energy to make a second batch.

Unfortunately, I can’t find the original blog post for the recipe. So I thank the mysterious sourdough baker who posted this recipe originally (of course, I changed a few little things too). Here is my version;

Refrigerator sourdough choc chip biscuits

Ingredients

  • 0.75 teaspoon, Baking Soda
  • 50 gram, Pure Vegetable Oil
  • 1 tsp, Baking powder
  • 2 teaspoon, Vanilla Essence
  • 150 g(s), Sourdough Starter
  • 0.50 tsp, Salt
  • 175 gr, Wholewheat flour
  • 110 g, Brown sugar
  • 1 cup(s), dark choc chips
  • 100 g, White Sugar

Method

The ingredients are listed in weight (some of them anyway) because it is a really easy way to get your proportions of ingredients right (if you have a kitchen scale with a tare button that is). I just bung a mixing bowl onto the kitchen scales and weight out or add all the ingredients except the baking soda and the choc chips. Then I mix them together really well until they look like biscuit dough (or my arm gets tired). After that I add the baking soda and mix it in, then the choc chips.

I usually rest the dough in a container in the fridge for at least an hour or so. Then I use two spoons to scoop up and drop spoonfuls of dough onto a baking sheet with a silicon sheet on it. I put them in a medium heat (200 Celsius) oven for ten minutes then let them cool on the baking sheets.

This dough can be stored in a container with a lid (to stop drying out) in the fridge for about a week. It will make about 24 biscuits (depending on size).

Everyone loves these biscuits and they make great deserts. They are also one more way to use sourdough starter discard and make me feel like I have my life under control (in the kitchen anyway).

Planting potatoes – sort of gardening

It is now the full moon in August, which is my signal from the planet to plant potatoes. Since the fires six months ago I have lost a lot of my incentive to garden, but I am feeling the Springtime urge to get my hands dirty again. I have been maintaining the tiny patch of potted green in our front yard for a few months and it is planted out to the full extent of possibility, so potatoes will not fit.

Since the fire, (a lot of sentences start with that phrase now) I have become very aware of flammable material close to the humpy and gardens need a lot of flammable material to be fertile. To answer the conflicting urges to be fire safe and to grow some food, I decided to start planting staple crops out on the edge of the fire break in a little fenced off area with it’s own water supply (to be wet down in the event of a fire coming close). The fenced off area is yet to happen, but potato planting time is here, so I just ignored the lack of a fence and planted.

This year, I am trying the Ruth Stout method (sort of) and planting in hay mulch. As I am incapable of following any sort of instructions without modification (oppositional child here), I used the hay cleaned out of the animal pens to plant into.

The hay for planting is well traveled; it starts life here at the humpy as sheep fodder, we keep a round bale in the sheep night pen for midnight snacking purposes (which is why the vet says our sheep are heart attack risks). Once the sheep have eaten the bits of it they like, and pooped and peed into the other bits on the ground, the hay is raked up and used as bedding for rabbits, chooks, geese and the sheep. Once it is raked out of the pens (every two weeks or so), it is piled up to be used as mulch. This hay is now damp (with spilled water pots and pee) and filled with a variety of fertility boosting poops. It is also starting to break down into compost.

A random potato planting.

I began the potato planting with a little row of eight tubers in the designated area for planting staple crops; near our new cardboard/mulch hole. More potatoes will join these ones in a mulched field around the compost hole. My partner is going to move one of the fire fighting tank units up to this patch so that the hole and the mulched garden can be wet down really well when a fire threatens.

Yes, it looks like a dump.

The compost hole is huge; at least five metres across and about two metres deep. The purpose of this hole is to hold (and compost) any materials that are waste from the humpy, but will break down into nutrient rich compost (eventually). In there are broken furniture, cardboard, floor sweepings, paper (from cage cleaning, so covered in poop), natural fibre clothes, old or damaged fleece, hair clippings, etc. All the things we used to dump in the chook pen to be turned into compost are now thrown into the hole. The idea is that eventually (in a few years time) we will have a huge ‘pot’ of compost to plant fruit trees into. I don’t know if this will work, but I am willing to give it a go.

Ricotta from tofu – still searching for the grail

I have been home sick a fair bit lately (I am going through some fairly intense dizzy spells) and that has given me a lot of time to read interesting blog posts. I found a blog called ‘Simple Vegan Blog’ which has a treasure trove of interesting recipes and tutorials, among them was a really simple ricotta recipe made with tofu.

Gozleme is good comfort food.

I have been making small amounts of tofu at home and adding it to stir fry and other hidden dishes, but to make this recipe I had to go out and buy some as I haven’t made any in a while and I never make more than 100g anyway. Everything else we have in the pantry or freezer. I wanted to make some spinach and ricotta gozleme (sourdough, of course) that my daughter could also enjoy, so first I had to find a way to make vegan ricotta, then make the gozleme. As you can imagine that took up half a day and made a lot of washing up. If I am going to make that much mess, I like to make something that can be frozen and used at a later date. Making multiple meals at one time cuts the clean up in half in the long term (because I won’t have to do that clean up next time I want that meal). Also, I really like to try new stuff.

After making the gozleme dough and putting it to rest in the fridge, I put the big bunch of spinach on to steam and got to work making the ricotta. The recipe is so simple it doesn’t really count as a recipe, it’s more guidelines really.

Take about 275g of tofu (I used firm), chop it up and put it in the blender (I used the bullet blender and did two batches) with one tablespoon of lemon juice (I used some frozen juice I had), two tablespoons of nutritional yeast (I used three actually) and a teaspoon of salt (I used Murray River Pink salt). Blend it up until it is the required texture and there you have it… vegan ricotta.

This is the vegan ricotta after the spinach and onion were blended into it.

I blended the spinach and some onion into the ricotta to make my gozleme filling. It turned out very well and my daughter came searching for more after we had eaten some for lunch and I had frozen the rest for work lunches (that’s when you know it’s a success).

Vegan ricotta can be used anywhere you would use dairy ricotta apparently; in both hot and cold dishes, even as a dip. I’m not sure why finding vegan versions of animal products makes me feel so satisfied, but it does. This was a very flavourful addition to our vegan cheese library, but it isn’t hard cheese, so the search goes on.

Sourdough waffles

In my perennial search for new things to make with sourdough discard, I discovered a recipe for waffles. My partner loves waffles and will occasionally buy a pack to eat with ice-cream. The hope that the results of my kitchen experiments might actually be eaten by my family keeps me interested in life, so I thought I would give the waffles a go.

I have all of the ingredients on hand (or a reasonable substitute), but I don’t have a waffle iron. I went looking on Ebay and found a fairly cheap ($40) waffle iron that goes on the stovetop. Then I forgot all about waffles for six weeks while I waited for the waffle iron to arrive. I found a great recipe for sourdough choc chip biscuits that was a great hit with everyone (I will post the recipe soon) and have been making bulk batches of them for everyone.

When the waffle iron arrived in the mail, I seasoned the cast iron by rubbing it with vegetable oil and heating it on the wood heater for a few hours. This process makes the iron look like it is a hundred years old and may have been used by your great, great grandmother to hunt rabbits in the far distant past. Then I was ready to make waffles.

The first part of the recipe calls for the flour, water and sourdough starter to be mixed together and left on a counter overnight (deliberate neglect… right up my alley). I didn’t have enough wholewheat flour to do the job (waiting for the next shipment of wheat to be ground into flour) so I added 1 cup of rye flour and 1 cup of wholewheat flour.

The next morning I threw in all the other ingredients except the baking soda, and mixed it up. I put the waffle iron on the stove to heat and added the baking soda to the mix.

I oiled up the hot waffle iron and poured in exactly one cup of the bubbly mix. Closing the lid fast is a bit of a skill, the lid has to be closed before the batter reaches the edge of the iron so it doesn’t leak out. It takes about two minutes each side (you flip the iron periodically) to cook them through.

All together, it took me about half an hour to make the batch up, and I made a small batch of blueberry sauce to go over my waffles while I did it.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

This is a fairly easy way to use up sourdough starter, and I am left with a lovely pile of waffles to freeze for future breakfasts too.

Tips;

If the waffle iron starts making smoke… get the waffle out of there and turn the heat down a bit.

Find a good set of leather gloves for opening and closing the waffle iron… getting the tea towel stuck in the waffle is no fun.

Give the waffle iron a long time to cool down before cleaning the stove… may result in blisters.

A straight edged screw driver makes a good scraper for cleaning the stove of any leaks during over filling of the waffle iron… use gently to avoid scratches to the stove.

A new sink for the humpy

We have needed a new sink unit for a long time. The one we have is a second hand unit with no doors that we got from a local school when they were upgrading their kitchen. It is made from chip board and has only one door. Recently we found a really good deal on a new but unwanted stainless steel commercial sink… so we bit the bullet and bought it. Now we have to put the new sink in. One afternoon, after the day’s work, we decided to attack this easy project…

I emptied the old sink cupboard and removed all the shelves. Then we disconnected the water in and the water out pipes (more complicated than I had imagined) and moved the old unit out. The cupboard part was a lot heavier than I anticipated, it was damp and smelly and there was a space under the base that specialised in collecting dust bunnies. Once it was out and the elephant sized dust bunnies were collected up, we started putting the new unit together (of course it was flat pack).

Putting the unit in place was, in fact, the easy part. Connecting the water inlets and outlets proved to be a bit of a mission. We were all tired and wanted to sit down by the time we got to water connection, but the job had to be finished because washing up waits for no man.

The holes for the taps had to be drilled into my pristine stainless steel sink unit; I was very nervous and there was much discussion about hole sizes and which drill to use. The holes were drilled and the taps put in without any problem and we were on to the water connection bit. The water inlet had to be screwed onto the tap pipe, which (as it turned out) was nicely hidden by the sink unit itself. My partner couldn’t get his (admittedly large and clumsy) hands into the tiny space, luckily my daughter has much smaller hands which did fit into the space, but it took a very long time to tighten up the connection as she couldn’t see what she was doing and had to rely on touch alone.

Next was the drinking water filter unit. We took the opportunity to change the filters on the unit while the unit was free. This unit just bolts to the wall under the sink and the filters need to be changed every six months. That job went smoothly, but seemed to take forever and the filters were housing a well advanced culture of bacteria and general slime.

With all the essentials connected up, we stacked all the essential stuff that usually goes under the sink (cleaning stuff, tea towels, soap, etc) into plastic containers and shoved them under the sink on the handy shelf. At long last we were ready to relax for the evening.

Now we have a new, easy to clean sink and our kitchen is complete. This kitchen will move with us to the house when it is built, so we consider it an investment to buy long lasting units.

The actual house building is going to take a while as we are still struggling to find the funds to build. If you have advice or ideas, feel free to let us know.

Local insects and animals – Satin bowerbird

It is the time of year when nature gets busy. There are babies everywhere; chickens, ducklings, firetail finches, blue fairy wrens, goanna, black snakes…the list goes on. Most residents of the humpy are finding a mate (or sticking with the one from last year) and settling down to raise a family. Not the Satin bowerbird though; he fancies himself a player. Satin bowerbirds are regarded as pests in our area, they are one of the main reasons all our garden areas are locked up like Fort Knox (along with possums, they are the most garden destructive species I know). They eat any fruit and vegetable plants they can get to and love red fruits (tomato, strawberry, capsicum and yes, even chilli). I find them annoying and fascinating at the same time.  

The mature male is a shiny blue/black colour, they are really very beautiful. The female and any males under about five years of age are a greenish yellow, mottled colour with the most extraordinary violet eyes I have ever seen.   The breeding behaviour of the Satin bowerbird is what makes them so very interesting. The male Satin bowerbird builds a bower; basically a well decorated clump of grass. He finds as many blue, silver or otherwise shiny objects as he can to decorate with, endlessly fussing with the placement of ornaments. Bowerbirds will steal pieces from other male’s bowers. When I was a child there was a certain blue plastic hammer (about 30cm long) which used to migrate from bower to bower every year. It was something of a game to find the bower with the hammer. I still marvel at the determination of those males; carrying a toy larger than themselves over distances of up to a kilometer. I wonder if that blue hammer is still being passed around. All of this effort is designed to attract as many females as possible. These birds have even been known to paint their bower with crushed berries and mud (mulberries beware).   The female comes down to see his bower (several times in fact) and if she aproves of the bower she will stay to watch his mating dance (he flutters around and makes whirring noises then dashes back and forward, some even roll over. Then… if he is lucky…she will mate with him. After which she leaves to start her career as a single mother and the male continues to try to attract more females. This has evolved as a very efficient way to spread genes as females do not choose the same male to mate with every year.   At some point between the house viewing and the stage show the female will go off and build herself a messy stick nest (the bird version of a humpy) so as to have somewhere to lay eggs after mating. These nests are not easy to find and I do not see baby bowerbird very often until they get to the leaving home (or fledging) stage. Judging by the number of surviving young I believe that female Satin bowerbirds are very good mothers who rarely lose their young.   The natural diet of the bowerbird is native fruits such as figs, wild raspberries, lilly pilly and other berries. Of course that means they eat what we grow in our gardens (being fruit based as well). Their role in the environment is to spread seed so that new plants can grow. To that end their digestive system is somewhat messy; they eat a lot of fruit but digest only parts of it, they then poop the seed and some partially digested waste out in a sort of spray pattern, usually from a fairly high branch. This means that plants such as wild raspberry can have its seed distributed to new locations. This charming habit also makes raising a baby bowerbird (or any other frugivore) a messy, smelly job. They do tend to be friendly, intelligent and endearing as well though.   The females often  forage for dog biscuits and other protein rich foods while feeding young. I have seen some taking meat scraps from the chook pen now and then also.  While they are undoubtedly a source of destruction and annoyance in the garden, the Satin bowerbird is a valuable part of the ecology and is important to our biodiversity. If you find a bowerbird eating your dog biscuits in the spring, spare a thought for the single mother lifestyle she leads and let her have a few.

Darby the goose update

It has been a while since I did an update on Darby. So I thought I would fill you in on the nature of our life as a goose family.

This photo says it all really.

Adopting animals into our family can be hard work, it can be heart breaking (especially with short-lived species) and it can be the greatest joy… ever. It allows us to get to know a species (or an individual from a species) very well and to be able to communicate with them to a limited degree. Darby is no different.

While growing up, Darby exhibited male characteristics we had seen in the outside geese; chasing the dogs protectively (our poor dogs had a steep learning curve there too), herding family members and honking into the air at odd moments. We began to call Darby ‘him’ based on this. Recently however, my daughter patted him on the back and he immediately squatted and spread his wings; indicating that he is definitely a female. Only a female would squat to mate. It will be hard to change the pronoun, but we are up to the challenge. It also indicates that she may be a little too imprinted on humans.

Darby has traveled around a bit in the car, going to the vet, going to school with me, going into town to get the mail. Geese are social animals and get very distressed when left alone, so we have to take her with us if we are all out. Also the chances of disaster happening when a goose is left unattended with the dogs and all the indoor birds are quite high. Geese are curious and smart birds; they can open gates and find switches and cords that a toddler couldn’t.

Darby lives in the humpy for the most part, walking along with my daughter when she feeds the outside animals, supervising vegetable cutting and cooking in the kitchen, sitting in the sun in the front yard or in front of the fire at night. She sleeps beside my daughter’s bed (or mine when she is away) with her beak resting on the blankets so she can feel the breathing (sleeping) human. Geese love their families and are very protective of the family unit.

Television watching (in the form of streamed movies) is a favorite activity, and we have discovered that geese can laugh (at least it sounds like laughing). She is a fairly vocal family member and is always up for a chat or chiming in with an opinion.

Darby seems to be very happy to continue living in the humpy with us, and we have become used to her being there. In fact we enjoy her company.

Goodbye Prim

This post has been a long time coming. I had to heal a little from the loss first; Prim was a very close family member.

Prim joined us in January 2017. She was a baby then and she grew up in the humpy, she never decided to leave and join the wild lorrikeets, as I think she formed such a close bond with our family.

Her relatively short life (only three years instead of the average 20 years) ended when she contracted a respiratory infection. I believe that the stress of being evacuated due to fires and being exposed to unknown pathogens in many new atmospheres knocked her immune system down and led to her death. I will miss her very much, but the time she spent with us is a time I want to remember.

Prim in her oxygen tent the night she died.

It is hard to express the pain we all felt at losing Prim, it has taken me six months to even write about it. I still shed tears at her memory. I will miss you Prim, I hope your next life is as loving as this one has been.

Making dry shampoo

Me… at work… on pajama day… with greasy hair.

It’s Winter here in Australia, this is the coldest part of our Winter too (it gets down to about 2 degrees Celsius in the evenings. Added to this (for those who don’t know already) we shower outside with a single 10 litre bucket each per shower. We shower in the evenings before bed, so we don’t drag dirt into the sheets, but that is the coldest time of day to shower. All of this adds up to an extreme reluctance to wash hair (on my part anyway).

I usually only wash my hair once a week, but even that is onerous at this time of year, so I have been looking into making my own dry shampoo. A dry shampoo may let me put off hair washing for a little longer in Winter and still allow me to look mildly presentable.

There are a lot of simple DIY recipes for dry shampoo out there to try, so I chose the simplest one to start with. Simple is actually an understatement; I put a couple of tablespoons of cornflour in a jar with a teaspoon of cinnamon and some peppermint essential oil and shook it up until it was blended. Then I tried it out on my unwashed-for-a-week hair.

This is my hair after a week without washing. It feels awful to the touch.
My first attempt at dry shampoo, in an old spice bottle.
My hair after a dry shampoo.

The dry shampoo certainly makes hair feel less greasy and stiff. It smells faintly of cinnamon and peppermint (a weird combination, now I think about it) and looks fairly smooth. I think dry shampoo is definitely worth a try if you don’t want to wash your hair very frequently.

#coronavirus- making kombucha

I don’t like soft drinks; something about the carbonated bubbles makes me avoid them. I do like to try new things (I’m adventurous with food); I happened to try kombucha one afternoon and to my surprise I loved the flavour. So I went looking for how to make it (because, while I may be adventurous, I am also cheap).

So I watched a few YouTube videos and read some blog posts about making Kombucha and how good for you it is. Then I found a local (ish) company that sells Kombucha kits, so of course I bought one.

How does kombucha work? The short answer is; the magic of fermentation. The sugars in the tea are converted to alcohol by the yeast community in the scoby (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast), then the bacteria in the scoby feed on the alcohol to produce a kind of vinegar. The tea also provides a little caffeine, tannins and other flavours to the brew. It is possible to make a kind of kombucha from oak leaves (but I haven’t tried that one yet). The scoby makes a new layer each time you make a batch of kombucha, and needs to be divided every now and then. It can be used to make fruit leathers, or a vegan leather substitute. It can also be given away to friends or used to start a new kombucha batch, or even used to make soap or other skin care products (I look forward to making scoby soap). After all that reading, I was excited to start making my own.

When the kit arrived in the mail, it contained a glass 8 litre jar with a plastic tap, a piece of closely woven fabric (and a rubber band), a bag of tea bags, some sugar and a sealed bag of slime (a scoby). Instructions were included and easy to follow.

I have made about 4 batches using this kit so far and it is an easy process that doesn’t require a lot of fiddling about. So I thought I would go through it here.

Before beginning the process of bottling kombucha, boil the kettle and make a strong pot of tea. I have only used black tea so far, but apparently you can also use green tea and white tea (any tea without flavourings is OK). This pot of tea needs to steep for a few minutes until it is very strong. I use 9 tea bags per batch and I make it in the coffee plunger so I can squeeze the tea bags and get the last of the dregs from them.

When the tea is steeped enough, I pour it into a bowl and mix in 3/4 of a cup of raw sugar. Apparently you can use any kind of sugar (and even honey) as long as the yeast has enough sugar to convert to alcohol (and then to vinegar). The sugar needs to be dissolved completely, so I give the tea a mix with a spoon and set it aside to cool a bit while I bottle the previous batch.

I was lucky enough to be given a supply of those lovely Grolsch beer bottles by a friend (Thanks Lucille), they are perfect for making kombucha in. I wash and disinfect 8 of these bottles, including scrubbing the little rubber seals on the stopper. I pour some fruit juice into each bottle; I have tried orange juice, apple and black current juice and now mango juice. In the future I will try ginger and other herb teas (with sugar) and maybe some fresh juiced fruit from our trees (mulberry springs to mind). The possibilities here are endless, as long as there is some sugar in the flavouring it will make bubbles in the brew.

Now for the moment of truth; bottling the brew. The tap on the bottom of the jar is very useful here, I just fill each bottle almost to the top using the tap. I leave the scoby in the jar and fill bottles until the scoby is sitting about level to the tap (for me that is 8 bottles). These bottles are sealed and set aside in my kitchen cupboard for 2 days, then moved to the fridge or given away to friends. I do label the bottles (mostly because I give them away to friends).

Now to top up the brewer for the next batch. I add another 2 litres of cold water to the sweet tea in the bowl to cool the lot down to body temperature, then pour it into the top of the brewer. Sometimes I need to top up the jar with a bit more water.

The new brew then sits quietly on the kitchen counter next to the sourdough until next week. The brew time varies with the daily temperature and with individual taste preferences.

The finished product is a lovely sparkling, fruit flavoured drink that is apparently good for digestion and internal bacteria balance (with occasional globs of gelatinous pre-scoby). I pour my kombucha into the glass through a tea strainer to remove the inevitable little bits of slime (they are harmless, but gross).

Now I have made a few batches, I have some scoby extras to play with; I’m not sure what to try first, but if you are a local and want to have a go brewing kombucha, leave a comment here and I will eventually get a scoby to you.