Easy Tomato and Onion Gravy

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Q. Why is a tomato round and red?
A. Because if it was long, skinny, and green, it would be a bean.

 

My grandmother used to cook a batch of this sauce every week, and use it for a variety of purposes. I learned to make this recipe by avidly watching her and, bit by bit, being allowed to help as I became old enough to navigate a knife and a hot stove.

You can use this recipe as a simple gravy for cooked meats, as a sauce over vegetables, or even with crusty bread or a quick bowl of pasta. It’s a recipe that can be easily varied to suit your taste buds, or the meal at hand. It’s even good on pizza bases or as a foundation for spaghetti bolognese.

One thing chronic illness has taught me is that food can be a medicine, and I have come to appreciate that this particular recipe is jam-packed full of goodness.

The onions and garlic are a good source of sulfur. Sulfur has anti-cancer, anti-microbial and detoxification properties, and supports blood vessel health, gut and heart health, immune cell support and liver health. The parsley is full of vitamins K, A, C, B group vitamins and anti-oxidants.

Cooked tomatoes and tomato paste are packed with lycopene, a powerful anti-oxidant which has been shown to have a preventative effect against breast, skin, prostate, lung and liver cancer.

Chicken stock or bone broth calms digestion, heals the gut lining, and is a good source of protein, amino acids and anti-inflammatory compounds.

What I love most about this recipe though, is that it tastes so yummy, it is simple to prepare, and it makes getting those extra servings of vegetables into your diet that much easier. And it always reminds me of Marga, my maternal grandmother, whose legacy is, in part, her wonderful recipes.

HolbrooksWorcestershireSauce500mLTruth be told, when I add Worchestershire Sauce to this recipe it also reminds me of my grandfather, Ceddie.

As kids we called this sauce Ceddie Sauce because my grandfather ate it on everything. He even had us convinced that it was a picture of him on the bottle! (It’s not, of course, but I still pretend that it is!)

The Worchestershire sauce gives a nice tang for barbeque meats or sausages.

If you want to eat this sauce with seafood or chicken a dash of white wine is nice. Use red wine for red meats.

 

Ingredients:

1 large onion – diced, 1 clove of crushed garlic, 3 cups of diced fresh tomatoes or 1 can of tinned tomatoes, 1 to 2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock, 1 small diced red capsicum (bell pepper,) 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs – I used some green onion and parsley, 1 tablespoon of ghee, butter, or olive oil, salt and pepper.

*Optional – 1 tablespoon of Worchestershire Sauce, chilli or a splash of wine, a pinch of sugar. If your tomatoes are store bought or canned, and the capsicum is not ripe enough you may want just a pinch of sugar to counter the acidity in the sauce. If the capsicum IS ripe and sweet, you won’t need it.

Method:

Place the onion in a large pot or frypan with the fat. Cook over gentle heat until the onion starts to soften. Then tip in the capsicum and cook for two to three minutes, stirring occasionally so that it doesn’t stick.

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Add the chopped tomatoes and chicken stock. Increase the heat and bring to a simmer. Confession: I have a ridiculous amount of tomato plants in my garden this season. Ridiculous. So many varieties. But what can top a home-grown tomato? Expect more tomato based recipes soon…

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Now add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and seasonings.

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Stir well, reduce heat and simmer gently for thirty minutes. The sauce will thicken, so do check and stir occasionally. Enjoy!

That’s last night’s dinner below. A grilled organic T-bone with a side salad of mixed greens, olives, fermented vegetables, radish, walnuts, feta cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Easy Nutella Cheesecake Recipe

nutella cheesecake

“….I can dream away a half-hour on the immortal flavor of those cheese cakes we used to have on a Saturday night.”Mary Antin, ‘The Promised Land’ (1912)

 

This is probably the easiest cheesecake I have ever made. It only requires a few ingredients, and it is seriously yum. Not too sweet, not overpoweringly Nutella flavoured, and it makes the perfect end to a meal. It’s also the kind of cheesecake you can dress up or down, depending on the occasion.

I first ate this cheesecake at a friend’s place. My friend is a chef and when I asked about the recipe they were embarrassed. “You don’t want that. It’s so easy,” she said. “It’s barely even a recipe!” Turns out, her eleven-year-old son had made it all by himself from a recipe given to him from a friend’s mother after he’d eaten this cheesecake at their house.

All the better. If a child who doesn’t cook can manage this, anyone can!

I made this for Saturday night dinner, when our friends from the city came to stay. It took just a few minutes to whip up, and not much longer to devour.

Why don’t you try it, and you’ll see what I mean…

nutella

Ingredients:

250 grams sweet plain biscuits (I used a packet of caramel pecan cookies and the caramel and pecans gave a lovely texture and flavour!), 75 grams (5 tablespoons) of butter, 1 x 400 gram jar of Nutella (which is a chocolate hazelnut spread in case you don’t know!), 500 grams of cream cheese, 75 grams (1/2 cup) of icing sugar (confectioners’ or powdered sugar)

I also used a punnet of fresh strawberries and an extra tablespoon of icing sugar for decoration.

Method:

Place the biscuits in the bowl of a food processor and whizz until they are crushed. Then add the butter and a tablespoon of Nutella. Whizz again until it begins to form clumps.

making the crust

 

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*Note – if you don’t have a food processor, place the biscuits into a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. Tip into a bowl and add the butter and Nutella and mix well with a wooden spoon.

Tip the biscuit mixture into the bottom of a 23cm / 9 inch springform tin, pressing down firmly over the bottom and slightly up the sides of the tin. Place into the fridge to chill.

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Now cut the cream cheese into cubes and add to the bowl of the food processor with the icing sugar. Whizz until it softens and combines. (Can you spy a few biscuit crumbs on my cream cheese? Yes, that’s right. I didn’t bother to wash out the food processor bowl before I used it again. I promise it won’t matter.)

cream cheese and sugar

Spoon the rest of the jar of Nutella into the bowl, and process again until smooth and completely mixed together. (Can’t see those crumbs now, can you?)

nutella mix

Remove pie crust from fridge and carefully spoon the cheesecake mix over the base, smoothing the top. Place back into the refrigerator to set. This will take four to six hours, but it will be even better if you can leave it overnight.

smooth cheesecake into tinIn emergencies, the freezer will help chill things down quickly too. I understand – sometimes you need to make and eat that cheesecake FAST!

Carefully unmold the cheesecake from the springform tin, removing the sides first and then easing the cake from the bottom tray using a knife and a spatula or egg slide. Removing the cheesecake from the springform base stops you cutting through the non-stick coating with a knife when you slice pieces of cake and helps your pan last much longer.

nutella cheesecake 2

To Serve:

It’s perfectly good served plain. But I like to garnish my cheesecake with sweet fresh strawberries and a little dusting of icing sugar. It’s also super yummy with the following variations:

  • whipped cream and a drizzle of salted caramel
  • whipped cream and fresh berries
  • whipped cream and mandarin or orange segments
  • lashings of shaved or grated chocolate
  • tiny chocolate truffles and chocolate sauce

You might also like to make individual cheesecakes, or even put your mixture into teacups or cocktail glasses for something a little fancier.

However, in the end, what matters is the eating. Our visiting campers, Hannah and Mitchell, gave this dish their stamp of approval.

Enjoy!

happy faces

Easy Bread Recipe

easy bread recipe

“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” 
~ James Beard

 

My lovely neighbour, Richard, shared his bread recipe with me last week. He assured me that the bread was both tasty and quick to make.

I hadn’t thought I would try it out so soon, but I made a big cauldron of soup, and there was not a slice of bread left in the house. Well, I decided, I might just give Richard’s recipe a go!

You don’t need special flour, a bread maker or any fancy equipment for this bread mix. I urge you to give it a try, or get your kids to make it for you. :) Yes, it’s that easy.

I’ve expanded Richard’s simple directions for those of you who haven’t made bread before, and listed some additional mix-ins and hints.

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Ingredients:

600 grams of flour of your choice – white, wholemeal, spelt, etc (I used 450 grams of organic spelt and 150 grams of organic rye to make a light rye loaf), 1.5 tablespoons of dried yeast, 600ml of very warm water, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (I actually used coconut vinegar for this loaf), 1 tablespoon of honey, 1 teaspoon of fine Himalayan salt or salt of your choice, plus some olive oil or butter for greasing your tin or tray.

Mix-ins: You can add seeds, grains, nuts and dried fruit to your loaf if you wish. Start with a cup of extra ingredients, and if you like a nuttier, seedier or fruitier loaf, feel free to add more in.

Method:

Place flour and yeast into a very large bowl.

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Pour the warm water, vinegar, honey and salt into a jug or bowl and mix well, until the salt and honey have dissolved. If you are using mix-ins, add them to the water to soften slightly by soaking for ten minutes. As you can see from the picture below I used pumpkin and sunflower seeds!

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Now add the water to the flour and yeast. Using a clean hand, mix until combined. Knead for a few minutes until the dough is springy and elastic, doesn’t stick to your hands, and all the floury dry bits have disappeared. If you need to add a little extra flour or warm water to make the dough the right consistency, do so.

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Leave the dough in the large bowl, covered with a clean tea towel, and put in a warm place until the dough rises to double its volume.

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Punch the dough back down and knead for a few minutes until it returns to its original size.

Lightly oil a baking tin, or a baking sheet. I used a bread tin that measured 30 cm x 10cm and it was perfect. If you don’t have a suitable tin, use a heavy baking sheet or tray.

Form up your loaf by using your hands to shape the dough into the approximate size of your tin, or make a freestyle loaf to sit on your tray. Place the dough into the tin, or onto the tray and cover with a tea-towel again until the loaf has risen a second time.

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Preheat your oven to 210 degrees celcius (410 degrees fahrenheit). Drop the heat a little if using a fan-forced oven.

When the dough has risen use a sharp or serrated knife to score the top of the loaf if you wish, which helps make a crunchy crust.

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Place into the oven and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. If the bread is done it will sound hollow when you tap it.

Remove from oven and carefully remove the bread from the tin. Cool on a wire rack.

If you like a crusty loaf, let it cool with good ventilation. If you prefer a softer crust, cover with a clean tea towel.

My loaf turned out beautifully, with a thin crunchy crust, and a soft light interior. We scoffed some warm with butter and home-made jam for afternoon tea, just to check that it had turned out okay ;)  and I’m pleased to announce that it was scrumptious.

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Heavenly Blueberry Crumble Slice Recipe

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It’s bucketing down here at the farm again, and there’s not much for me to do but sleep, cook or sit on the verandah sipping tea. We still have no power here after the big Australia Day Weekend Wet, but Ben has fired up the generator for a while and my biscuit tins are empty so I am on a mission.  The workers are hungry, (they’re always hungry!) and this is an easy slice to make when you have electricity.  In fact, with a bit of elbow grease I’ve made this with a wooden spoon, my bare hands and a camp oven over an open fire, but why bother when today I have a four hour window of oven-ready cooking time!

This is a very versatile slice.  It can be made with any fruit you have to hand (I like apple, apricot and nectarine too), but I have a mammoth bucket of blueberries in the fridge from the local farmers markets last week, and we need to use everything up before it goes off.  This slice eats well hot or cold.  But keep it in an airtight tin in the fridge if you live in a warm climate. You can also make a double batch and freeze one for later. (Mind you I don’t think this batch will last that long…)

Note – this can also be made just as easily by substituting gluten-free flour, and I have done so many times.

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Ingredients:

Base – 1 cup of sugar, 3 cups of plain flour (all-purpose for my American friends), 1 cup of cold butter cut into small cubes (250 grams, 8 ounces or 2 sticks), 1 large egg, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, zest of one lemon, 1 teaspoon vanilla. Hint – make sure the butter really is cold.

Fruit Filling – 4 cups of blueberries (or fruit of your choice), 1/2 cup of sugar, juice of one lemon, 1 heaped tablespoon of cornflour. I heaped teaspoon cinnamon, reserved.

Method: Place the cubed butter and sugar into the bowl of a food processor and whizz to combine.  You don’t want to mix it to a cream, you want to just barely combine it. Then add in the flour and baking powder and whizz again.  Dump in the egg, lemon zest and vanilla and process one more time.  The mixture should be soft and crumbly.  Divide in two portions.  (If you don’t have a food processor, use a scone knife to cut the butter through the sugar and flour, or rub it together between your fingertips.)

Press one half of the dough into the bottom of a baking paper-lined 28cm x 18cm (9 inch by 13 inch) slice tin. Don’t worry if it looks a little dry.

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Now mix your sugar, lemon juice and cornflour together, and then mix thoroughly through your blueberries.  Tip these over the base and spread out evenly with a spoon.

Mix the cinnamon through the remaining dough and then crumble over the top of the fruit, making sure to get the mixture right to the edges. Bake in a moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit ) for 45 minutes until golden brown.

Cool in the tin.

If you cut your slice while it is still warm it will bleed a little, but that’s the price you pay for immediate gratification.

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Okay, my baking is done, the tea is made, the sodden workers have returned and the generator is about to go off again. Thanks for all your kind thoughts and well wishes. I’ll catch up with all your messages once I have an uninterrupted power supply.

Sending much love to you all from my well-provisioned little farmhouse island,

Nicole ♥ xx

PS. A very unhappy Bert and Harry waiting for the rain to stop…

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Passionfruit and Lime Curd ~ Passionfruit Butter Recipe

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Two things grow like crazy in our neck of the woods come summer – limes and passionfruit. A friend gave me a bag of old wrinkly-looking passionfruit yesterday and asked if I might still be able to use them.  You bet I can!

Passionfruit are very pretty when they are all firm and plump, but they are usually fine even at their wrinkliest.  Just check each one carefully before spooning pulp into anything.

This is a delightful variation of my traditional Easy Lemon Butter ~ Lemon Curd Recipe. It makes a smooth, rich curd that can be placed into tart shells and pie bases, or dolloped onto scones, toast, pancakes or ice-cream. It is tangy and sweet, and is also delectable eaten straight from the spoon… (Yes, I am speaking from experience :D!)

Ingredients:

4 large eggs, 3/4 cup sugar, juice and finely grated zest of two limes, 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen passionfruit pulp plus an extra tablespoon or two kept to one side, 125g unsalted butter (4oz or 1/4 pound) chopped into small cubes.  You can use salted butter if it’s all you have to hand, but unsalted makes it taste extra delish.

Ensure all ingredients are ready before you start. (This will make around 2 cups, but you can easily double the quantities for more – that’s what I do so I have some to give away.)

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Method:

Zest and juice your limes, cube your butter and get your passionfruit ready. Lightly whisk your eggs in a small bowl. Then make a double boiler by half filling a saucepan with warm water and bringing it to a very slow simmer, and then snugly fitting a basin over the top.

Pop the sugar, lime zest and eggs into the basin, and begin whisking. (You could use a wooden spoon if you prefer, but I am devoted to my whisk collection!)  Beat until the sugar is dissolved. Then dump in the cubes of butter and whisk again until amalgamated.

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When the butter is melted add in the lime juice and 1/2 cup of passionfruit pulp. Keep whisking over low heart until mixture thickens, which takes about ten minutes. Don’t let it boil or it will curdle. Mind you, if the heat is too low it shall take longer to thicken, but you will get a good arm workout.

Finally the mixture will have a rich, silky texture and shall coat the back of a spoon thickly. Tip in the last two tablespoons of pulp and mix through after you have taken the curd off the heat. It will thicken a little more as it cools.

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Pour into sterilised jars or other lidded containers, and allow to cool on bench before putting on their lids.  Store in refrigerator. It should last about a month, but then again, it will probably be eaten before the use-by date!

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*These recipes give great opportunities for using your new batch of Passionfruit and Lime Butter:

Nana’s Pikelet Recipe (Pikelets are like little pancakes!)

Easy Lemonade Scone Recipe

Bread and Butter Pudding Recipe (Substitute the Passionfruit Butter for the Jam to give a lovely tropical feel to your pudding.)

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Simple Baked Camenbert Recipe

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.”
~ C. S. Lewis

Our little farmhouse is as popular as any Byron Bay bed and breakfast come weekends,especially on Market Weekends! I’m returning home this morning, after a very big week of psychic work in Brisbane, and this afternoon guests arrive to spend a few nights with us.  It doesn’t give me much time to get ready, in anticipation of feeding the hungry hordes.

Afternoon drinks on the veranda is a much-looked-forward-to Friday ritual in our neck of the woods, and I know my visitors will be hungry after their long drive.  I won’t have had much time to whip up anything very spectacular – so my fallback treat today is Baked Camenbert.  Baking camenbert is so simple, and the result is a rich, melty fondue-reminiscent cheesy heaven! You can scoop it out onto bread or crackers, and there is always a fight to eat the ‘skin’ at the end of the cheese-dipping session.

Our beverages of choice will be Hendricks Gin and Tonic (thanks to my dear friend Rachel for putting me on to this gin), Stone and Wood Pacific Ale (a locally brewed and quite excellent beer) and perhaps a bottle of bubbles or a crisp dry white wine.

Now, to the business of baking camenbert.  I have some splendid, meal-worthy variations of this recipe but for today let’s just start with the basics.  You’ll need a wheel of camenbert (more if there is a crowd!), and some good quality crackers, crispbread or mini-toasts.  A good fresh bread, ripped into chunks can also work well.  I like the camenberts that come in the little wooden boxes.  The box helps the cheese stay in shape as it bakes, but if you can’t get hold of one like that don’t worry.  It will still work out fine!

If you want to make your own crackers and crispbread, I thoroughly recommend the recipes from the fabulous Darla Cooks blog. Just click on the link to visit cracker recipe heaven. Here’s a picture from Darla’s blog of her own crispbread making efforts:

This image courtesy of the amazing Darla Magee-Price

Anyway, back to cheese….

Using a sharp knife (serrated ones work very well for this) carefully cut the top rind off your wheel of cheese.  Then score the inside of the cheese lightly to help it cook through evenly.

If you have some sprigs of fresh rosemary, and a little fresh garlic to hand, these will turn your camenbert into something magical.  It’s so easy.  Just skin a few garlic cloves, cut in half if enormous, and poke into the cheese.  Poke a few sprigs of rosemary in the cheese as well.

Now place your cheese on a baking tray and pop it into a very hot oven for fifteen to twenty minutes. If you don’t have a nifty wooden box for your cheese, and the rind is quite soft, you can place the cheese in a small oven proof bowl or ramekin, or make a little paper and aluminum foil collar to keep your cheese in shape.  Or live on the wild side, put a piece of baking paper under your cheese and be prepared to eat it sloppy if it doesn’t hold its shape.

Check in with your cheese every so often.  You want it browned and bubbly but not burned.

To serve, simply slide your cheese onto a serving platter, surround with crackers, provide a knife if that’s your kind of entertaining style, and watch it be demolished!

Best Coconut Ice Recipe ♥

This is my prize-winning Coconut Ice recipe, which made me almost as much of a Show Queen as my precious cow 767.  It has been entered in many agricultural shows, and won me incredible trophies. As well as the 22 Blue Ribbons and Prize Certificates, this recipe has netted me (among other things…) a tea-towel set, a glass cheese board, a clock set into the tummy of a plastic mouse, and the greatest one of all – a bottle of non-alcoholic sparking wine with a faux French Champagne label that made us all VERY excited. (None of us could read French and the label was tres` impressive!) It tasted so bad that it refreshed the droughty grass outside my kitchen window.

That’s okay.  I always got to eat all of the pieces that didn’t make it into the competitions, and that was the sweetest reward of all.  This is a lovely recipe – easy for non-cooks, and with great keeping qualities. Which is a stupid thing to say really, because it never lasts long enough to prove those qualities.  Make a batch of this and you’ll see what I mean.

Ingredients:

500g icing sugar (4 cups of confectioners sugar for my USA friends), 250g unsweetened dessicated coconut (2 and 1/2 cups), 1/2 cup condensed milk, one egg white, 60g copha (1/3 cup of vegetable shortening), vanilla essence, pink food colouring.

Method:

Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl, and then add the coconut and gently mix through to combine.

Melt your copha and allow to cool slightly.

Whisk the egg white just a little, and add the egg and condensed milk to your dry ingredients. Then add your copha and a slug of vanilla essence ( a teaspoon or so should do it).

Mix until well combined into a firm, moist mass.  Divide the mixture in half, and colour one batch a cheerful pink with your food colouring.

Press the white mixture into the bottom of a baking paper lined tin.  Smooth out with the back of a spoon, and then gently press the pink layer over the top.  Smooth and press in well with your spoon and then refrigerate until set (about 2 hours).  Remove from tin and cut into bars or small squares.  It will only need to be refrigerated if you live in a hot climate.  Or you could just eat it all…

Perfect for gifts, or with a cup of tea as a happy-making treat.