Mulberry syrup

The mulberry tree is still giving us a bountiful harvest, and supplying the chooks, ducks, guinea fowl and various wild birds and possums with enormous amounts of food. I pick an ice cream container (the 4 litre size) every day, and knock off a lot of ripe fruit in the process. Nothing goes to waste in nature; the wild birds fly in for a feed at various times of the day, they knock fruit off onto the ground in the process of eating. The chooks and ducks camp out under the tree in the shade and eat the fruit that drops from the birds, the wind and me picking fruit. No fruit sits on the ground to rot. My harvest so far has led to mulberry cake (a basic yoghurt cake with mulberries added), mulberry pie, the first batch of mulberry wine, a lot of smoothies and fresh fruit snacks and now I am making mulberry syrup. The syrup will be stored in the fridge to use as a topping for waffles, ice cream and to use in milkshakes (and other as yet unthought of things). I think I will make a batch to freeze too (for later in the year).

The formula for making syrup is fairly easy to remember; make your fruit juice, then add sugar to it in a ratio of 1:1, cook it down to get the right consistency and you have a great syrup. Of course you can jazz things up a bit by adding spices and herbs, or a dash of a good vinegar to bring out the fruit flavours, but the basic syrup is just juice, sugar and water cooked down into a sauce.

To make the juice; I filled a pot with mulberries, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water and put the pot on a low heat to start the berries breaking down. The juice starts to run out fairly soon, and when the berries are heated through, I turned the heat off. The sugar starts the process of drawing the juice out of the fruit (osmosis) and the heat weakens the walls of the berries so that they are easier to juice.

The entire pot is blended up into a pulp in the blender and the juice drained out using a sieve. Then I measure the juice yield in my handy jug.

Straining juice through a sieve

The juice and an equal amount of sugar are added to the pot and the beautiful purple potion is bought to a simmer for about five minutes. You could simmer for longer to get a thicker syrup, but I like the runny effect.

Simmering away. I had 4.5 cups of juice from a full pot of mulberries

Bottle into sterilized jars or bottles and seal straight away. Once it is cool, the syrup can be stored in a cool, dark cupboard, in the freezer (for a longer shelf life) or in the fridge. Once a bottle is open, it should be stored in the fridge.

Two bottles and a small container of syrup for this batch
The syrup is ready when it coats a spoon; just thick enough to be a syrup rather than a liquid

I have plans for using this syrup to flavour a batch of kombucha, and to make a Lebanese night-time drink called Sharab el toot.

I am loving the harvest of fresh food at the moment, this is what makes life feel abundant and rich; the ability to eat from the garden.

Making tofu at home

Home made tofu stirfry… yum

Tofu is so easy to make and it is such a satisfying thing to whip up and have in the fridge for making stir fry, sauces and various desserts. I have been making about 200g of tofu a week (and my partner still has no idea how much tofu he is eating) and using it to make cheesecake like desserts in various flavours. There isn’t much actual work in making tofu, but there is a bit of planning and thinking ahead. This is how I go about it.

I make a huge batch of soy milk using 2 cups of soy beans. How I do that is described here.

After bottling a litre of milk for home use and putting the okara (the pulp) in a lunchbox in the fridge or freezer, I put the rest of the milk back on the stove on a low heat to warm up again.

When the milk reaches 71 degrees Celcius, I add the juice from a lemon mixed with 1/2 cup of warm water by pouring half the mix into the pot and stirring for a few seconds. I wait a minute or two before adding the rest of the lemon juice and gently stirring the lot a bit. I usually put the lid on the pot and leave it to sit for a half hour or so while I do something else (I have forgotten it and left it until the next day at this point, but it isn’t to be recommended).

When I lift the pot lid, I should see lots of white curds in a clear or slightly yellow/green liquid. Now I know it’s time to pour the lot into a tofu mold lined with some wet muslin or cheesecloth. The liquid that drains out is really rich in nutrients and can be watered onto the garden outside (it gets smelly after a day or two).

This is not a great example of the curds, but you can see how they form

When a bit of the liquid has drained out of the mold, I fold the cloth over the tofu and put the press lid on. You can use anything heavy to weigh down the lid. I usually use a 3 litre juice bottle. Leave the weight on the press for three hours or so. This presses the tofu together and makes it firm.

Curds in the press
Folded over neatly, ready to press
I put a container under the mold to catch the liquid that drains out as it is pressed. The 2 litre juice bottle is just heavy enough to weigh the tofu down

When the tofu is all pressed out, I unwrap the block and put it into a lunch box filled with water in the fridge.

Ready to use tofu

It really is that easy. I plan to plant a crop of soy beans in the garden this year, so I can make tofu, okara and soy milk from my own crop. I wonder if it will taste different?

Sourdough discard brownies

Since this is my digital cook book, I thought I would share yet another sourdough discard recipe. I do love brownies, and these ones use some more of the sourdough discard. I used this recipe as inspiration and, of course, went slightly off track.

Ingredients

1/2 cup aquafaba (chickpea water)

1/4 tsp cream of tartar

1 cup + 2 tbsp icing sugar

100g vegan block ‘butter’

150g dark chocolate chips

1 cup sourdough discard, 100% hydration

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

70g ground almonds

3 tbsp cornflour

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

1/4 tsp fine table salt

flaky salt, for sprinkling (optional)

Method

Pile all the ingredients on the bench so you can throw the mix together quickly

Whisk the aquafaba:

  1. Place the aquafaba and cream of tartar (if using) in a food processor or a bowl with a mixer thingy. Whisk on high speed until it becomes a thick pale foam, like whipped egg whites.
  2. Whilst continuing to whisk, add the sugar a few tablespoons at a time.
  3. Once all the sugar has been added, continue to whisk for 5 minutes more to ensure as much sugar as possible has dissolved. It should look glossy, thick and opaque white, like egg whites whisked to semi-stiff peaks.
The aquafaba whip turned out really stiff, it is so interesting

Melt the chocolate & butter:

  1. Place the vegan butter and broken up chocolate into a small pot and place over a low heat. Stir until almost fully melted. Remove from the heat and set aside so the residual heat can melt it all fully.
  2. Once fully melted, stir the sourdough discard and vanilla extract into the pot of melted chocolate/butter mixture. It may look kind of split/grainy but this is fine.
I love the swirl patterns when mixing this stuff in

Combine & Bake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a 19 x 25 cm rectangular brownie pan with baking paper.
  2. Mix around 1/4 of the whisked aquafaba into the melted chocolate mixture. You don’t have to be gentle here as this step is to help loosen the texture of the chocolatey mixture.
  3. Now pour that loosened chocolatey mixture into the bowl of whisked aquafaba. Sift the cocoa powder, ground almonds, cornflour, bicarb and salt on top (see notes if you don’t have a sieve).
  4. Use a spatula to fold the mixture together gently, trying to maintain as much of that air in there as possible. Make sure you get right to the bottom of the bowl and scrape the sides too!
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes – the top should look dry, matte and the brownies shouldn’t wobble when you shake the pan. If you insert a toothpick into the centre, it should come out with some thick, gooey batter (NOT loose, drippy batter!) attached to it.
  6. Remove from the oven and run a knife around the edges whilst they’re hot to loosen any bits which may be stuckLeave to cool for 20-30 minutes before removing from the tray and cutting into squares. They will sink in the centre as they cool so may crack a bit as this happens. You can sprinkle them with some flaky salt as well now.
Ready for the oven
Just out of the oven

This was a great tasting brownie; so light and tangy with a gooey centre. It was really crumbly though and didn’t hold together well in the container.

Making soy yoghurt

One of the things my daughter misses most from the animal protein world is yoghurt. I admit, I love it too and often keepa litre of homemade yoghurt in the fridge (torture for her when she’s home). I have been wanting to try plant based yoghurt for a long time and now I have.

I was online shopping for soap nuts (my latest soapnut tree seeds have yet to sprout by the way) on the Biome shop site and I happened to see a listing for plant based yoghurt culture. Yes, I know that is nowhere near the laundry section. Yes, I know I’m trying to spend less money. What can I say? I’m easily distracted. I bought the culture (and some soap nuts) and when it came I followed the instructions and stored it in the freezer and promptly forgot I had it.

It wasn’t until a month or so later that I overheard my daughter talking to a friend on the phone saying she really misses yoghurt and remembered I had some starter.

Immediately I began planning to make some yoghurt for her. I made a big batch of soy milk and set some aside to cool in a yoghurt maker container.

The starter culter needs to be stored in the freezer, so I labeled this jar, because there are other things in the freezer in specimen jars that I wouldn’t like to mistake for yoghurt starter.
Waiting for the milk to cool to 40 degrees C
This is how much starter to use per litre
Stir it in well
Plonk it into the yoghurt maker filled with hot water
We have yoghurt

The first batch is a success. It is firm and creamy, but there is a lot of liquid around the yoghurt. I have just drained the liquid off as I use it. It doesn’t affect the taste at all.

Yoghurt is back on the menu!!

Making kunnu aya or Tigernut milk

I discovered a new staple crop!!! It’s amazing how many plants we eat as a species, and how many plants we don’t know we can eat as individuals. I had only heard one reference to tigernuts in my life before (that I can remember); an old Woody Allen movie I watched as a child, where he asks for tiger milk for breakfast on being woken from cryogenic slumber in the distant future. I remember being puzzled at why anyone would risk milking tigers when goats are so easy to find. I dreamed of this scene one night a week ago (don’t ask me why, my mind is an enduring and deepening mystery to me) and I decided to google tiger milk. What I found has sent me on a whole journey of discovery.

Tigernuts are closely related to what I have always known as yellow nutgrass. I have spent years trying to get rid of this plant from various gardens, only to now discover that their relatives taste great and crop hugely. I have planted some seed in pots in the garden to see if I can grow them in captivity.

My first experiment with tigernuts is to make kunnu aya (a traditional nigerian drink) or tigernut milk. Woolworths sells tigernuts, so I bought a small packet to play with. I put a cup of tigernuts to soak overnight, then rinsed them off.

I put the tigernuts and some dates into the blender with just enough water to cover them. I then blended the lot until it was soupy.

I strained it through a nut bag into a jug, then I returned the pulp to the blender with a bit more water and blended it all again. The second lot of milk was not as rich and creamy as the first, but it did boost the yield a lot.

The resulting milk is smooth, creamy and refreshing. The flavour is slightly nutty and a little coconut like. I do love it as a drink. The left over pulp was spread out on a baking tray in a low oven and dried to make tigernut flour.

This little tuber has real potential as a crop here at the humpy. I hope my plants grow and produce in their pots, so I can process my own kunnu aya from tigernuts I grew. The flour is useful as a gluten free option in baking and as a thickening agent. The nuts can be ground as a base for vegan cheeses and creams (in place of cashews) and they can even be boiled and served as a vegetable or added to soups, casseroles and stews. What a useful little plant.

Kugel – how to use excess eggs

Kugel is basically a mix of a starch (like noodles or potatoes), oils and egg. It began life as a way to make a side dish by floating a lidded pot in the stew or soup over an open fire and filling said pot with a pudding mixture to steam. Now they are mostly baked in a shallow dish in the oven. No matter where they evolved, they use a lot of eggs and other fairly cheap and filling ingredients. I decided to give a potato kugel a go. I followed this basic recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 medium to large potatoes, peeled and grated
  • 1 medium onions, peeled and grated
  • 6 eggs (I used a mix of duck and chook)
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Optional (grated cheese, herbs, etc)

Directions

  • Preheat an oven to 175 degrees C. Grease a 9×13 inch pan with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Heat up the pan in the oven while you prepare the mixture. This helps to give the bottom of the kugel a crispy, well cooked taste.
  • After grating the potatoes and onions, squeeze as much moisture out of the mixture by dumping it into a colander and squashing it down a bit.
  • Combine the potatoes and onions in a large bowl. Mix in the eggs, 1/3 cup of vegetable oil, salt, and pepper. This is where you add any optional extras too. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
  • Bake in the preheated oven until the top is golden brown and crisp, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Since my daughter can’t eat eggs or cheese, and my partner doesn’t like onion, this dish is my comfort food. It tastes lovely and fills you up fast, as well as using a lot of eggs in one go, what’s not to love?

Sourdough biscuits

Because I am always looking for ways to use up sourdough discard, I found the recipe on this blog; Sourdough surprises.

I thought I would share this quick and easy recipe with you. Of course I substituted the butter in this recipe for vegan butter and the egg for a flax egg, but otherwise I managed to follow instructions… except for adding M&Ms that is.

Basic Sourdough Cookie Recipe (recipe from The Gingered Whisk)

1 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup sourdough starter, 100% hydration
1 tsp Vanilla
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup toasted chopped walnuts (or other nut of your choice)
6 ounces chip (chocolate, white chocolate, butterscotch, whichever suits your fancy)
1 cup dried fruit (Cherries, cranberries, whatever you have…)

Preheat oven to 200 degree C.
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugars.
Turn the mixer off, and with a wooden spoon gently mix in your starter until combined.
Add the egg (you can turn your mixer back on now) and the vanilla.
Slowly add the flour mixture into the mixer, until just combined.
Fold in your nuts, chips and fruit.
Place by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet and bake 10-12 minutes, or until starting to turn golden brown around the edges

I whipped up the biscuits while I was waiting for the kettle to boil for the washing up, they were so quick and easy to make. I added some left over M&Ms I had in the fridge, some dried cranberries and the left over bits from a packet of walnuts in the cupboard. Not bad for a morning’s work really.

I also made some pound cake… to use up excess eggs.

How I got stuck in the kitchen… a cautionary tale

Sourdough waffles, blueberry turnovers, blueberry and chocolate muffins… oh my!

The kitchen has been the centre of my world lately, and not by choice. I have been having some major dizzy spells (not yet sure of a cause, but the results are like drinking three bottles of wine on an empty stomach, without the giggles) and that has left me at home, trying not to drive anywhere. In an effort to do something useful, I have been making soy milk and sourdough stuff more consistently. This upping of the home-made-food-from-scratch game has led to the inevitable increase in secondary yields that need to be used; okara from the soy milk and tofu making, sourdough discard from the always active starter. These secondary yields need to be used up, so I am spending even more time in the kitchen making stuff for the freezer and meals, then more time washing up and sweeping floors. Added to that, it is the start of the Spring egg laying flush, so we are swimming in eggs too. I feel like I never get out of the kitchen at all.

Still… the result is a lot of yummy food, the full use of all the products we produce and buy and I feel like I am at least a little bit useful. The following photos are a sample of my kitchen efforts and are really just a sort of reminder to myself that all this work is resulting in something, not just making washing up.

Scrambled egg and parsley on sourdough bread
Wholewheat sourdough choc chip biscuits
Whole wheat sourdough bread
Chicken soup (Using a friend’s home killed rooster)
Sourdough waffles with blueberry compote
Vegan lasagne
Tofu and vegetable stir fry (satay sauce)
Poached eggs and spinach on white bread toast
Sourdough vegetarian pizza bake
Vegan blueberry cheesecake bites
Vegan spinach and ricotta gozleme
Okara falafel
Seitan sausage rolls

Vegan meat substitute – seitan

I know it’s a bit blurry, but it looks like real meat doesn’t it?

I finally found a meat substitute my family is enthusiastic about (and by enthusiastic I mean they will actually eat it). Seitan is a high protein steamed dough product made from vital wheat gluten. I am so very glad nobody has discovered they are gluten intolerant, we would be hard put to find whole protein sources if we couldn’t eat whole grains.

Making seitan is one of those kitchen jobs that take a lot of time, most of it in the waiting, but it is worth the wait. My daughter requested some sausage rolls today and I am out of seitan (having used the last batch in a meatloaf last night), so I thought I would show you how I make it. I use this recipe from Chef Jana.

You don’t technically need a goose kitchen assistant for this recipe, but it does add a certain something to the process.

The ingredients are simple to find, except possibly the vital wheat gluten. I had to order the VWG (Vital Wheat Gluten) online from the cruelty free store. You can make seitan from whole wheat flour, but it involves a lot of washing of the dough to remove the starch component and I am trying to reduce water use (we are very low on water in early Spring before the rain comes). So I bought a kilo of VWG and decided to shortcut the process. At some point (when we are water rich) I would like to try making seitan from scratch using my ground whole wheat flour.

Ingredients

2 cups Vital Wheat Gluten

2 tsp paprika

1 tsp black pepper

2/3 tsp nutmeg

2 tsp onion powder

2 tsp garlic powder

1 cup of water with 10 Tsp soy sauce

2 TBSP lemon juice

Method

Mix the dry ingredients together well, then add small amounts of liquid at a time. Mix really well between additions of liquid and when you can form a dough ball, use hands to squish the mass together into whatever shape you choose. Simmer the mass in a pot of stock for about 35-45 minutes.

Ingredients for stock

4 cups water

2 vegetable stock cubes

1 onion

2 garlic cloves

1/2 cup soy sauce

Any herbs you choose (I didn’t use any in the mix today, I will add them to the sausage rolls)

The seitan can be stored in the stock in the fridge for a week or it can be frozen (without the stock) for up to 3 months (apparently, mine doesn’t last that long).

Seitan can be used in any recipe in place of meat. Today I am mincing it to use in sausage rolls. I have used it cubed in stir fry and casserole, minced in meat loaf and sliced in sandwiches. I also plan to use it as a steak one day, to see if I can wean my carnivorous partner off his occasional steak indulgence.

The sausage rolls where made by mixing chopped herbs (parsley, thyme, oregano and rosemary) with almond paste and minced seitan, they rolling the meat in puff pastry, brushing with soy milk and baking for 15 minutes in a medium oven.

This is the sausage rolls I was trying to make…
These are the sausage rolls I made.

I still prefer the cauliflower and mushroom mince for minced recipes with sauces as the texture is better, but seitan is great for recipes that need to stick together in any kind of shape (like sausage rolls and meat loaf). I also think that multiple sources of iron and protein (and all those other nutrients we need) is a better way to be sure we get what we need.

Soy and agar hard cheese- still looking for the grail

I found this recipe while cruising cooking blogs (yes, I am officially now that boring). It is supposed to make an American hard cheese… sort of like the processed cheese used to make cheese sticks (for those who went to primary school in the 70s and 80s). The original recipe called for almond milk, and since I didn’t have any almonds soaked to make the milk… I used soy milk instead. I hope that won’t affect the taste too much. The rest of this recipe is straight from the blog I found it on.

Ingredients

2 cup soy milk

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1 tsp miso paste, any color

2 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

2 1/2 tsp sugar

1 1/3 cup water

2 1/2 tbsp agar agar powder

Instructions

In a medium size sauce pan on medium heat, add in all ingredients EXCEPT for the water and the agar agar powder.

Whisk together until the miso paste has completely dissolved. Taste, and add any extra flavorings at this time if you choose.

In a separate sauce pan, add in water and agar agar powder. Turn on the heat after you add in two ingredients and stir together on medium heat until the agar agar powder has completely dissolved. This should take 2-3 minutes.

Once the agar is dissolved, pour the mixture into the blender with the milk mixture and blend for a minute or two until it is well combined.Pour the mixture into a mold and put it in the fridge to set. This part needs to be done quickly, because the agar begins to set very fast as it cools.

I decided to not take the ingredient and process photos for this post; they all look the same anyway. There seemed to be a lot of liquid in my chosen mold, but I decided to see if it would firm up in the fridge.

The final cheese took about three hours to set and cool completely. Then I upended the mold onto a lunch box lid and cut the cheese straight away. The results look like processed cheese; it has that particular rubbery look and feel that Kraft cheese sticks had (from memory). It is a bit ‘wetter’ than the real thing, and by that I mean it is sort of … umm… jelly ish. The texture is more of a really hard jelly than a squeezed and squashed emulsion. I put some slices onto crackers and the taste is OK, cheesy and pleasant, but not close to real cheese. I think it will make a good cheese for topping lasagne and toasting in sandwiches, but it is not the grail. On with the search.

Vegan butter batch

I also made some vegan butter for cooking purposes, trying out a new recipe I found. I think I was a bit slow getting this butter into the mold. No problems though, I will use it all for baking anyway.

Bagged up ready for the freezer.