Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Christmas royals - a simple pudding idea

In a haze of nostalgia I recently bought a packet of Chocolate Royals, now known as Royals.  (Why they have changed the name, I cannot fathom!  The biscuit and marshmallow are still covered chocolate.)  So when the idea for making Chocolate Royal Christmas Puddings popped up on Pinterest, Sylvia decided she would make these for our Christmas in July lunch.

It is a pretty simple idea.  Some of the recipes I have seen use Jaffas.  As the last bag of jaffas I bought sat in the cupboard so long that I think we threw them out, I decided to follow the ones that uses Smarties.  However the red Smarties were a disappointingly insipid hue.  (Whatever happened to the fun of the advertising jingle that asked "do you eat the red ones last"?)  Though not quite as dull as the spearmint leaves.  While I am moaning about the names of chocolate biscuits, and the colours of Smarties, has anyone noticed that the main brands in the supermarket don't seem to make spearmint leaves?

We bought two 50g boxes of Smarties.  Sylvia enjoyed sorting out the red ones while I cut up spearmint leaves.  Then she measured and melted the white chocolate as she was determined to do it all herself.

The most challenging part was getting the chocolate drizzle right to look like custard on a pudding.  Sylvia did it with a teaspoon but I have seen online that some people do it with a piping bag.  Other than that this was a really easy idea.  In fact it could be done with other round chocolate covered treats such as Tunnocks Tea Cakes or truffles or cake pops.

When the little puddings were finished Sylvia arranged them on the plate with the gingerbread and berries and strategically placed them next to the kids' table. 

I served the kids their pizza first and then they were onto dessert while we were still eating our main meal.  Sylvia was itching to pass the puddings around to the other kids.  Kudos to her for having enough self-discipline to wait until then to try one herself.

I am not a huge fan of Chocolate Royals so I was not wowed by these.  They were a fun festive dessert that was simple enough for Sylvia to make with very little help.  However I can't see these being a regular festive treat.  But I would not be surprised if Sylvia finds an urgent reason to make them again.  After all, they were enjoyed by Mr Cuddles so he might be requesting them at his teddy bears Christmas party.

More cute Christmas eats on Green Gourmet Giraffe: 
Christmas cupcakes: reindeer and holly
Candy cane pizza
Flatbread Christmas trees
Gingerbread Christmas tree
Mashed potato snowmen (gf, v)
Nut roast parcels
Snowman sushi (gf, v)
Zimsterne (cinnamon stars) (gf, v)  

Christmas royals
Adapted from Kidspot

12 chocolate royals
100g white chocolate chips
12 red smarties
6 spearmint leaves, cut into 4 slivers

Melt white chocolate for about 45 seconds in the microwave and stir well.  If a few chocolate chips are not quite melted, heat another 15 second intervals and stir well again.  (And repeat the 15 seconds if needed.)

Drizzle or pipe white chocolate over each royal so it looks like custard on a pudding.  While white chocolate still soft, press a red smartie on top and two little slivers of mint leaves on the side of the smartie.  Let chocolate set (you may need a fridge if you do this in a warm Aussie Christmas).

On the Stereo:
The Best Aussie Christmas

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Christmas in July dessert cheese platter

Today we had a most enjoyable Christmas in July lunch with friends.  It might have been sunny enough for the kids to run about outside but it was chilly enough to enjoy mulled wine, apples stuffed with nut roast, oven bakes and a splendid dessert cheese platter.  We celebrate in our Southern Hemisphere midwinter as Christmas was intended but I also thought today that it is luxury to create a festive meal that we struggle to find time for in December.

Last Christmas we bought an Usborne book called Christmas Decorations to Cut Fold and Stick.  It had such lovely papers as well as easy ways to make decorations.  We bought it late in the festive season and never found time to use it.  Sylvia and I had had some fun making snowflakes and paper chains to decorate the house.  We also dug out some tinsel and decorations including the wreath on the front door.

Yesterday, I spent a lot of the day cooking and cleaning.  These potato and parsley stars first appeared on my blog many years ago and were excellent.  I added a slurp of truffle oil to the mashed potatoes before cutting and baking as stars.  They reheated well too.  Sylvia took quite a liking to them.  In fact I think she liked them more than the candy cane pizza that I made for the children.

On of my biggest challenges in preparing the meal is that my oven timer seems to have died.  The pizza was over baked.  Some of the gingerbread was cooked through to crunchy rather than a soft texture.  It took a while to realise what was happening and by that time, I was well into the meal.  Fortunately, nothing was cooked so badly it was inedible. 

As well as potato and parsley stars, I made nut roast stuffed apples, gravy and roast pumpkin.  I had thought about cooking some brussels sprouts but ran out of time, much to the delight of one of our guests.  They brought along some spinach slice that went down very well.  Another friend brought mulled wine and Baileys to drink which are the perfect midwinter drinks. 

Sylvia made some Christmas Royals for dessert.  She found them on my Pinterest board and decided she must make them.  I will write more about these soon.  But you can see that Mr Cuddles enjoyed one.  Sylvia had a lovely - albeit noisy - time with her friends.  At one time the conversation with the adults had a lull and I suddenly heard a child yell "Ana will kill Peppa Pig".  Best not to ask!  After dinner we sent them out to the front yard to run off some of their sillies.

Meanwhile I had more ambitious plans for dessert.  We went to the Queen Victoria Market on Friday and I was tempted by some fancy cheeses and charcoal lavosh crackers.  Who could resist!  After seeing a few amazing platters online (just search "platters" on Pinterest) I decided I would combine dessert and cheese into a platter.  

The dessert element was the little gingerbread biscuits that I make quite often.  Also included on the platter was raspberry cheese, smoked cheese, brie, swiss cheese, mini crackers, charcoal lavosh crackers, walnuts in shells, smarties, quince paste, medjool dates, dried apricots, mandarin, raspberries, blueberries, and apples (later replaced by pear).  I had dreamed I would have time to make a creamy chocolate dip that that never happened.  I tried to keep it seasonal but berries are too pretty not to include.

I really enjoyed this sort of dessert.  It looked impressive and was really enjoyable with mulled wine and/or Baileys.  I think you could add a few vegies and make it into a complete meal.  As a host of the meal, it was really easy to serve.  No bowls or spoons.  I could sit and chat without rushing around heating up and preparing food.  For all of us it was a very relaxed way to eat dessert.  Everyone could take as much as they liked.

I decided to cover it with clingwrap for fear that little hungry fingers would start chipping away at it before dinner was served and dessert would look worse for wear.  It was just as well because Sylvia and her friends decided that as soon as the clingwrap was taken off they would "charge".  Indeed, as soon as it was served, a friendship of hands were in the platter.  Later when they were hungry they could come back for more nibbles.  The main change I would make if doing more platters would be to use a lazy susan so we could swivel the platter around easily.

Before we knew it everyone had helped with the dishes and headed home.  We were left to remove the wigs that had found their way to hang from the ceiling of the car port and then lie on the couch groaning at our full bellies.  I'll return with some recipes from the dinner soon.

I am sending this to Brilliant Blog Posts.

Past Christmas in July Feasts on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Christmas in July lunch 2016
Christmas in July dinner party 2015
Christmas in July dinner 2014
Christmas in July at Sovereign Hill 2013
Christmas in July cupcakes 2010 
Christmas in July at Miss Marple's Tea Room 2008
Christmas in July birthday lunch 2007

Dessert cheese platter

This platter really needs no ingredient list or method as it is really a matter of using what you have about.  A good balance of soft, crunchy, savoury, sweet is important.  Here is what I had on my platter:

Gingerbread, raspberry cheese, smoked cheese, brie, swiss cheese, mini crackers, charcoal lavosh crackers, walnuts in shells, smarties, quince paste, medjool dates, dried apricots, mandarin, raspberries, blueberries, and apples/pear.

On the Stereo:
White Christmas: Bing Crosby

Friday, 14 July 2017

Cheesey corn dip (with pasta sauce option)

Last weekend we had a family meal to celebrate birthdays and my mum's return home after visiting my sister in Ireland.   The theme was Mexican.  I made my favourite rapid refried beans and tried a new cheesey corn dip.

I'd wanted to try this corn dip for a while.  In my head I had been sure it was Mexican.  Once I made it, I was less sure, even with adding some chilli paste and cumin.  However it still fitted well with the meal.  When we got to my parents' house, we had some of the dip and corn chips as a starter.

Then dinner began.  Everyone had brought food along so we had a generous abundance.  Taco shells, tortillas, nachos, Mexican rice, refried beans, guacamole, cheese, tomato, lettuce etc etc.  I was rather taken by the combination of refried beans, guacamole, cheese dip and lettuce in a taco.

Dessert followed.  My mum had only stepped off a plane from the other side of the world a couple of days previously so she only made a toblerone cheesecake (as well as a few savoury dishes).  And my sister in law brought along some Harry Potter cupcakes and leftover cheesecake.  I was glad we went easy on desserts before I rushed up to Melbourne for my book club's high tea spread.

The dip was quite popular but I had made a lot of it.  Even after giving my mum a tub of it, I still had quite a lot of it.  Later in the week I mixed the rest of the dip with cooked pasta, cooked broccoli (not enough) and a bit of cream cheese and marscapone.  Topped with golden melted cheese, it made a really wonderful pasta sauce.


Now if you will excuse me, I have a Christmas in July lunch to plan, the end of the Janet King series to absorb, and the discovery that Del.icio.us.com is no longer accepting bookmarks because it has been taken over by Pinboard that requires a yearly fee.  (Perhaps it is time to try Diigo - thanks Kimmy.) 

My good intentions of cooking a French dinner for Bastille Day today have gone like snow on the water.  At least the school holidays are officially over so next week I might find a little extra time to organise my life.  If only I had a big pot of dip like this one in the fridge!

More corn recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Caramelised corn with mint (gf, v)
Corn chowder with edamame and tofu bacon (gf, v)
Corn fritters (gf)
Gnocchi with Mexican corn (v)
Roasted corn salad (gf, v)
Smoky potato, bean and corn salad (gf, v)
Tempeh and corn soup (gf, v)

Cheesey corn dip
Adapted from Country Life Experiment

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter or margarine
1 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp chilli paste
1/4 tsp cumin powder
kernels of 5 cobs of corn or 600g corn kernels
3 tbsp flour
2 cups milk
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup cream cheese
juice of 1/2 lemon
seasoning to taste

Heat olive oil and butter over low heat and fry onion while you chop the kernels off the corn cobs.  Once onion is soft stir in garlic, cumin and chilli paste for a minute.  Then add corn kernels.   Scatter with flour and cook a few minutes.  Pour in milk and cook until the mixture boils.  Add in cheddar cheese, cream cheese and lemon juice.  Season to taste. 

Serving suggestions:
Serve warm or room temperature with tortilla chips.  Or stir through with cooked pasta, cover with grated cheese and bake until cheese is golden brown.

NOTES: I used margarine and soy milk.  My soy milk is slightly sweet so I added 1/4 tsp salt.  During cooking I was concerned I should have used less milk and/or less cheese but in the end I liked it as it was.  The recipe should be pretty easy to make gluten free by substituting GF flour.  It could be made vegan by using plant milk and vegan margarine, and either using vegan cream cheese and grated cheese or thickening and giving extra flavour to the sauce and leaving out the cheese.

On the Stereo:
The Black Orchid String Band - self titled

Monday, 10 July 2017

Chocolate sesame sandwich cookies

These Ottolenghi chocolate sesame sandwich cookies are far more fancy than my usual cookies (aka biscuits). But when you are invited to a high tea for book club, it calls for something a bit ooh la la.  I had seen these biscuits made by Cindy recently and was intrigued.  They were a little different to my expectations but nevertheless amazing.

I hadn't really figured out what to make for the high tea until I saw Cindy's biscuits.  Then I had to have these, even though they looked like a lot of work and I had a family lunch before book club.  High tea requires some effort, though it must look like a breeze.

I was glad to have Cindy's comments on the method, especially the advice to chill the cookie mixture before cooking.  While I loved these biscuits, I was a bit unsure if this was how they were intended and have as many questions as comments about them.

Chilling the mixture meant I was baking biscuits as well as mixing the fillings after putting Sylvia down to sleep in the evening.  The Ottolenghi recipe is for yo-yos.  I am quite familiar with yo-yo biscuits which are crisp and short and buttery.  These chocolate sesame biscuits were quite soft.  I wasn't sure if this was intended or if they needed more time because I had chilled the mixture.  I also had an instinct to press down on the biscuits to flatten them slightly like my mum does with yo yos (even if the mixture was too soft to do it with a fork).  I am not sure whether Ottolenghi meant them to be round or flatter.

I do know that Ottolenghi intended for these to use 70% dark chocolate.  I had thought I had dark choc chips but got home and found we only had 100g of 70% dark chocolate in a block and a bag of milk choc chips.  So I fiddled with the ganache by adding cocoa and a bit of salt to make the ganache darker.  It was a bit cheeky but I was too tired to go out to the shops again. And it seemed to work.

My next question:.  Does a mixture of marscapone, tahini and sugar taste like cheesecake to anyone?  Not to me.  I am not very familiar with marscapone but it tastes to me like a thickened cream.  And I am not that fond of cream.  Ottolenghi calls it cheesecake mixture but it is tahini cream to me.  I have wondered what it would be like with cream cheese instead of marscapone.  However, the tahini cream worked brilliantly so I am not going to quibble too much about nomenclature.

I was up early in the morning to sandwich together the cookies before going to Geelong for lunch.  I had all the components prepared so it was pretty easy as a make ahead sweet.  Sylvia "helped" me test how they stood up to a lot of pressure once the fillings were in and I can tell you that this is not advised.  A small child's hand pressed hard on the biscuit made the fillings ooze out the side.  Best to sandwich them together gently.

I had thought that I would be able to take a few biscuits down to the family lunch at Geelong but I only got 10 biscuits.  (Next time I will make them smaller.)  Instead they stayed at home, ready to be grabbed as I ran in the door and out again to book club after my family lunch.

The table at book club was set beautifully with floral tablecloth, vintage crockery, finger sandwiches, strawberries, chocolate caramel slice, lemon tart, polenta and lemon bites, chocolates, a pot of tea and pink champagne.  With some good company and occasional discussion of our book, it was a very pleasant way to while away the afternoon.  Everyone seemed to like the biscuits, though they were rather large considering all the food on offer.  I was amused that there were references to them looking like sliders or hamburgers.

The biscuits were indeed so so good.  I really love the chocolate tahini flavour combination.  These were different because the biscuits were very seedy as well as having a sesame flavour.  They were nice with just chocolate ganache (as Sylvia did in a tester one) but the tahini cream took them to another level with just enough creaminess and sweetness to achieve biscuit nirvana.  I love the bringing together of two different fillings and would love to experiment further.

I am sending these biscuits/cookies to Treat Petite at The Baking Explorer and We Should Cocoa at Tin and Thyme.

More fancy biscuits (cookies) on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Chocolate and black tahini cut out biscuits (v)
Chocolate chip cookies with smoked almonds and cacao nibs (v)
Chocolate walnut thumbprint biscuits (v)
Lebkuchen
Orange and rose petal biscuits
Walnut and quince thumbprint cookies (v)

Chocolate-sesame sandwich cookies
From a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe in The Guardian via Where's the Beef
Makes 12 sandwich cookies

Ganache filling*:
70g dark chocolate, chopped*
25g butter
75ml double cream

Cookies:
80g sesame seeds
80g dark chocolate, chopped
60g plain flour
10g cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
70g butter, softened
50g brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Tahini cream filling:
130g mascarpone
40g tahini paste
25g icing sugar

Make Ganache Filling:
Melt all ingredients together and set aside to thicken.  I left mine in the fridge overnight and it was easy to spread the next morning.

Make Cookies:
Dry fry sesame seeds until golden brown.  Set aside to cool.  Melt chocolate and set aside.  Mix flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt with cooled sesame seeds.  Set aside.  Mix butter and sugar.  Stir in egg, vanilla and melted chocolate.  Gently mix with dry ingredients.  Chill in fridge for a couple of hours.  Scoop out 2 cm balls of dough onto lined try and bake for 6 minutes at 180 C.  Cool on tray for 5 minutes and then on a wire rack.

Make Tahini Cream Filling:
Mix all ingredients.  This is ready to use but can be stored in the fridge.

Assemble: 
Match up cookies into the same shaped/sized pairs.  Spread a generous amount of chocolate ganache on the flat side of one cookie and the tahini cream onto the other side.  (Piping bags would make this neat but are not necessary.)  Press gently together so the ganache and cream meet.

NOTES: 
Ottolenghi recommends 70% dark chocolate.  If like me, you find yourself having mistaken milk choc chips for dark, you can darken the ganache with 4-5 heaped tsp of Dutch cocoa and a pinch of salt.  

When I added the melted chocolate to the butter mixture it was starting to firm and set upon hitting the mixture - perhaps because my egg was too cold.  I had to chop at some of the hardened pieces of chocolate so they weren't too big.  Mixing in the melted chocolate might work better if a few spoonfuls of the butter mixture was added to the melted chocolate first.  

The mixture for the cookies is very soft and needs chilling to handle for shaping cookies and ensuring they don't spread too much.  

I used level tablespoonfuls of mixture for the cookies.  It was too much.  Probably half as much would be better.  I shaped the mixture which made better cookies, despite it still being soft and sticky for shaping.  

We had some ganache and tahini cream leftover - they were wonderful spread on fresh sourdough bread with the chocolate and tahini on the same piece of bread.

On the Stereo:
Remember us to life: Regina Spektor

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Fried rice with tofu scramble

I don't think I went to a Chinese restaurant until I was in my teens but I do remember my mum making fried rice regularly as a kid.  I now make my own fried rice regularly.  It is great comfort food.  Unlike my mum, I have never added egg but I as fascinated to recently find a recipe for a tofu scramble in fried rice.  It was one of those moments when the world suddenly made sense.

As a child I never liked eggs.  As an adult I have embraced tofu as a favourite food.  Those who read the blog regularly will know how much we love tofu bacon in our house.  In fact it is really good in fried rice.  But what was a revelation of this recipe was the idea of mashing up the tofu with a potato masher.  It give the tofu exactly the texture of the egg my mum used to scramble for her fried rice.  And the turmeric gives it colour.

In fact this fried rice is the closest I have found to traditional egg in fried rice.  My only quibble is that the turmeric colours the rice a little as well as the tofu so you don't get quite as much of the yellow egg on white rice effect.

One of my joys about this fried rice is that even Sylvia eats it.  Mind you, I have made it a few times and at first she was not keen.  After a few nights of having it given to her for dinner she has come round to it and is now eating the whole bowl of it.

Speaking of kids, I was gobsmacked the other night while watching Janet King on the telly to see that when the main character tells her kids to go to bed, they take themselves off and are asleep within 5 minutes.  This would never happen in my house.  However, it made me a little paranoid that everyone else has little angels at bedtime.  I was relieved to talk to other parents and find that they found this as unlikely as me.

Putting kids to bed is not fun but at least kids are endlessly amusing.  My favourite comment from Sylvia lately was when I was off to work and told her I was off to save the world.  "No you are going to improve the world," she told me seriously.  I also was amused that she asked me recently if I wanted an obtuse or acute piece of pizza.  (That means angles, for those who have forgotten their maths.)  And at the end of term I found myself cutting up strawberries for her to take to school to feed to bugs that were living the "mini beasts hotel" she had made as a class project.

My vision is now to make an Asian feast with the fried rice at the centre.  I decided to make a miso eggplant side dish to go with it.  This was a disaster.  I followed the recipe pretty closely, with perhaps a bit less eggplant, and the sauce ended up being an overwhelming sludge with too much miso.  I will try again with less miso.

I can see much more of this fried rice with tofu scramble in our lives.  But there is no need to go fancy.  A few vegies simply stir fried with this fried rice will make a most excellent meal.  Of if you are busy and/or lazy, the fried rice is just fine by itself.

I am sending this fried rice to Meat Free Mondays and to Eat Your Greens.

More fried rice recipes on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
Fried rice with tofu bacon (gf, v)
Fried rice with pineapple and cashews (gf, v)
Portuguese fried rice (gf, v)
'Raw' mock fried rice (cauliflower salad) (gf, v)

Fried rice with tofu scramble
Adapted from Kitchen Treaty
Serves 4-6

250g firm tofu
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 carrot, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ginger
3-4 cups cold cooked basmati
1 cup peas
1-2 tbsp soy sauce
to serve, chopped spring onion, tofu bacon (optional)

Mash the tofu on a chopping board using a potato masher.  You might need a knife to cut any large pieces (or just use the egg flip when tofu is in the pan).  Set aside.

Fry carrot for a few minutes in oil until softened.  Stir in garlic for a minute and then add tofu, smoked paprika, turmeric and ginger.  Fry for a few minutes until spices are mixed through,  Stir in rice, peas and 1 tbsp tamari.  Fry for a few minutes until warmed through.  Add extra tamari if desired.

Serve warm with spring onion and tofu bacon, if desired.

NOTES: turmeric is important for colour, you could use more ginger or fresh ginger but this amount suits us, and day old leftover rice is best (I sometimes freeze rice to be ready for fried rice when I need it).

On the Stereo:
The best of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Sunday, 2 July 2017

In My Kitchen - July 2017

July is here bringing the start of the school holidays, winter woollies, and warming stews.  The month started with unusually cold mornings.  (It was 2 C overnight.)  We've passed the Winter Solstice but the nights still are dark.  Above is the last of the lemon and limes from our trees (featured in my latest garden update).  Many of them have gone into lemonade and limeade.  We made another batch with grapefruit in it (but no oranges this time) which is lovely.

On a Saturday morning a few weeks back I baked pumpkin scones, cheese muffins and chocolate cupcakes, before getting Sylvia to her late morning gymnastics classes.  The muffins were for Sylvia to take to a playdate after gymnastics.  The pumpkin scones were for me because I had roast pumpkin in the fridge.  I made them vegan with a flax egg, used half wholemeal flour and curdled the milk with some lemon juice.  They were lovely.

After Sylvia's playdate we headed to Geelong to stay the night.  The next day we went with my dad to the National Celtic Festival at Portarlington.  We love seeing the Irish and Highland dancers on the Village Stage.  More bemusing was the duelling in blow up Sumo suits.  E had a haggis roll.  Sylvia and I tucked into tattie scones.  My dad headed for the doughnuts.  I love all the craft stalls at the festival.  In the background of the above photo you might see a stripey green black and white woollen hat the I bought from a church stall for a bargain $5.

We left the festival early to get back to my parents' house for a birthday lunch for my niece.  Sylvia had decided to decorate chocolate cupcakes for her.  She texted my sister in law to check on her favourite colour and her favourite theme.  Teal was the colour.  (Kids are so fancy these days!)  The theme was Beauty and Beast.  You might notice the cupcake with the red rose which is like the rose in the film.  We had lots of other yummy food - hedgehog, red velvet cupcakes, pavlova and sponge cake to follow a fantastic Asian feast of spring rolls, fried tofu and fried rice.

I had a bag of chickpeas in the cupboard for what felt like years and finally cooked them.  For a time we were just eating chickpeas.  This big pot of curry (based on this vegan chickpea curry recipe) was great.  I added lots of pumpkin and even got Sylvia eating some of the chickpeas (but no pumpkin).  When I searched for curry paste at the back of the fridge I found a jar of rogan josh paste that was 2 years past it's Best Before Date.  It seemed fine so I used it and we are all still alive!

I don't usually think of curry and cheese as likely companions but I did enjoy some of this curry on toast with a thin layer of cheese that had been melted under the griller.

We've had a flurry of Milo-flavoured products lately.  The cereal was ok for a novelty product but too sweet and processed for a regular product.  I preferred the Milo muesli that we also tried.  The Milo bars are quite light and make for a fine lunchbox snack.  I am torn between fond childhood memories and current multinational ownership of this Australian chocolate malt drink.

Sylvia has loved having the Milo bars and set up this photo for me with her cat notes, cupcake stickers, Milo bars and mandarins.  At my parents', Sylvia tasted an imperial mandarin.  It was so good she had to have another.  We have been eating a lot of them ever since.  I will be sad when mandarin season ends.

After my recent apple pudding, I stewed more apples and decided to make an apple crumble for dessert.  I used a favourite crumble recipe but used ground almonds instead of flour.  It was scrumptious.

This packet of Sunbites Snack Crackers excited me because I love smoked paprika.  They tasted really good but were heavy on the seasoning and went too quickly.  Probably not something to buy often.

Another snack that was interesting to try but wouldn't come into our kitchen regularly are these Dang Chipotle Garlic flavoured Onion Chips.  (Crisps to you in the UK.)  Faye kindly gave me to me.  They were an odd mixture of savoury, spicy, sweet and salty.  While strange by themselves, they were surprisingly good in a sandwich with hummus. 

Lastly, as I am not baking much, I bought these Uncle Toby's Lamington muesli bars for lunchbox snacks.  While I was tempted by the name, the novelty and the purple packaging, I chose them because I stood in the muesli-bar aisle checking the nutrients and found these were relatively low in sugar and fat.  Which surprised me.  I would have expected some of the supposedly wholesome oat bars to be lower than a bar based on a chocolate cake.  Oh to have an easy way of navigating the nutritional minefield in the supermarket!

I am sending this post to Sherry of Sherry's Pickings for the In My Kitchen event, that was started by Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial,  If you would like to join in, send your post to Sherry by 10 May.  Or just head over to her blog to peek into more kitchens. 

Friday, 30 June 2017

Garden update - June 2017

Today is one of my infrequent garden updates.  As regular readers will know we only have a small courtyard garden.  For years it has been quite a grey area that is pepped up with some plants.  Recently I put down some astro turf which, together with the mural we painted in January has brought a lot of colour to the garden.  Happy days.  Let's have a wander.

My favourite part of the garden are my lemon and lime trees.  Above is a picture of the trees in January.

The trees were starting to fruit at the same time as the top leaves started to curl.  My mum diagnosed it as citrus leaf miner.  Apparently it is an insect that burrows or mines into the leaf and leaves little tracks.  Like in the above photo.  I have had a trap hanging off the lime tree and been spraying occasionally with eco oil.  It is better but still not quite gone.

How much the citrus leaf minor affected the fruit from the trees, I cannot tell.  We still got quite a bit of fruit in May/June.  But it was really odd that the lemon tree only fruited on side and the lime tree fruited on the other side.

I planted some broccoli in March.  It seemed fine.  Until I saw little bite holes in it.  Which grew and grew...

...until the plants were mostly sticks.  The leaves had all by disappeared.

My mum said it was the white butterflies and to make little butterflies of plastic bags tied to stalks of wire so they scare off the real butterflies.  It is on my to do list.  Meanwhile the netting on the broccoli has helped keep the little blighters away.

The broccoli leaves are looking better.  There is hope.

Above is my rosemary plant.  It has always been quite robust.  Lately it has been rather straggly.  But it's hanging in there.

The lavender took a beating in the summer heat and still isn't quite recovered.  This photo is from April with Shadow checking out the steps we made for Zinc.

I am far happier about my camelias.  Last year we did not get any flowers.  Sad face.  I think it got too neglected while we were in Scotland.  This year we were delighted by all the flowers.

Sylvia enjoyed looking at the buds and predicting which would flower next.

At this time of year my succulents do very well.  They are probably my most neglected plants.  Makes me think I need more succulents in my garden.  The aloe vera to the left is also thriving.

Out the front our roses seem to be just about at the end of their flowering.  They have had a bit of a bashing this year with black spot and aphids.  I've been giving them some eco oil spray too.  hopefully they will rebound.  My mum says they are not too bad.  I am now comparing them with other local roses when out walking.

The photo of the rose is of one of the last.  The rose bushes are more like the ones above.  Quite sparse.

Finally the flowers out the front that were grown from a cutting have thrived for years.  This winter however they have been reduced to a few sticks after our gas meters were replaced in the part of the garden and the flowers were dug up and replanted.  Given that they grew so easily the first time, hopefully this part of the garden will thrive again.

To check out more garden photos - go to the How Does My Garden Grow post.