That's the Way the Apple and Rhubarb Crumbles

As the ‘househusband’ in this all-male abode, I cook daily. Once or twice a week I make something sweet to supplement the stewed and poached fruits that my father likes. My son is not really a dessert person at all, and rarely eats sweets, which is not a bad thing. He certainly doesn’t share my dessert genes.

I decided on making a ‘crumble’ to ward off the outrageously cold weather here in Sydney. Granny Smith apples were peeled, cored and sliced, and steamed with a tiny amount of water. I folded in a jar of home-cooked rhubarb that I had taken out of the freezer, plus some sugar, and a good amount of zested lemon peel for an aromatic lemony zing.

apples and rhubarb:

I melted some organic butter, and folded through some oats and some raw sugar. That’s the ‘crumble’ part. I make all sorts of toppings, sometimes the flour, butter and sugar variety which, I guess, is more traditional. Sometimes I make a grain-free topping out of ground almonds, puffed amaranth (kiwicha), butter and raw sugar. That’s a wonderful one to serve on Ekadasi fasting days. I have even made dairy-free toppings using a mild olive oil – nice actually.

crumble 1:

So that’s our crumble all poised to go in the oven, filling a pyrex pie dish pretty much to the brim. There will be bubbly spill-overs (for that rustic crumble look) so I placed the pie dish on a pizza tray to catch the drips.

crumble 2:

I was right. In the preheated 190 degree C oven, the filling bubbled and dribbled slightly. I increased the heat to about 200 C and then finished it off under the grill. Then, after the mantras for sanctification were intoned, I dug out one of my Mother’s crystal bowls and served a generous portion for no-one in particular (yeh, right Kurma). I drizzled the obligatory vanilla custard, caught in generous mid-pour as hoped, for our ‘hero’ shot. Not as easy as you think, as anyone that has taken food photography would know.

apple rhubarb crumble is served:

A true winter-warmer! I can hear those global digestive juices gurgling from here.

My Kitchen Equipment, Part One – Spun Out, Man

Today I thought I’d commence a series of blog entries highlighting some of my kitchen equipment. If you’re just starting a serious kitchen at home, or are just interested in seeing what bits of equipment other people have in their home, you might find this inspirational.

garden in spring:

The other day I foraged my tiny patio garden for herbs and salad leaves to make a green risotto. It’s winter, and most of my herbs and greens have died down. The patio garden photo above was taken in early summer last year. Anyway, there’s always something growing out there.

foraged:

I managed to find some decent rainbow chard (silverbeet), a last habonero chili that was hiding under foliage, two varieties of baby lettuce leaves, two varieties of rocket, some spearmint, vietnamese mint, some basil, marjoram, thyme and oregano, and some parsley.

spinner:

This is a salad spinner. My old friend Tracey gave it to me as a present years ago when I was living in Perth. She was mad on Tupperware, and I was happy to receive this practical item from their range.

I filled the base with water, plunged the greens inside, sloshed them about and drained them. I repeated this until there was no more debris, then transferred the greens to the spinning basket, popped on the lid and spun away.

closer now:

Centrifugal force spun out all the water and the greens were left completely dry. This piece of equipment is essential if you want to make a perfect salad and you don’t always buy so-called prewashed leaves. I subscribe to the ‘wash everything’ mindset, so Mr Spinner gets well used.

Roasting, Stewing and Poaching

I brought home a good-sized tray of red peppers (capsicum) the other day, and ear-marked them for oven-roasting. Early in the morning as the sun rose (the best time for doing ANYTHING, I cut them in half, took out their innards, pressed them flat and roasted them on a tray in the oven, finishing them off under the grill, until they were blackened and blistered.

roasted peppers:

I quickly put them in a plastic bag and allowed them to steam, then removed and peeled them, revealed their soft, bright, smoky-flavoured red flesh. After patting them dry on paper towel, I packed them into a jar and covered them with a good quality olive oil. There they will stay until needed for salad, pasta or pizza.

stewed apples:

My father is a bit of a fan of stewed apples and custard – good Anglo-Saxon fare. So while the peppers were roasting, I peeled, cored and sliced some Granny Smith apples and stewed them with water, and when they were soft, I added a little raw sugar. My father likes them plain, so ‘plain they is’.

poached pears:

On the other hand, I like aromatics, so while all the above was going on, I also poached a batch of peeled and halved pears. The sugar syrup was made fragrant with the addition of saffron, star anise, cinnamon and vanilla, along with a large strip of orange zest. They look very elegant, and their taste and fragrance is quite spectacular.

Memorial Festival for Sriman Yasomatinandana

last gig:

For all the friends and well-wishers of Sriman Yasomatinandana Prabhu, here are the details of his Memorial Festival.

Memorial Festival Date: Friday 1 July,

Time: 10.00am,

Place: New Govardhana Farm, near Murwillumbah, NSW.,

Program: Homages, recollections, kirtans, feasting and more. All welcome.

Ayurveda, Common Sense, & Pasta Farfalle

On Sunday afternoon, after perusing the contents of my refrigerator and pantry, and noting that I was “cooking for one” (my son was eating out with his friends, and my father was too) I decided on following my appetite to guide me in a simple dinner menu choice.

pasta farfalle:

When it’s possible, I always try to follow these two ultra-simple rules of eating: ‘eat when you are hungry’, and ‘cook what you feel like eating’. Life in all its complexities often make this very difficult to achieve, and sometimes it fails miserably. But sometimes I find myself able to fulfil these two great rules at once.

Ayurveda says to eat at the same time each day to promote a proper digestive regulation. My life varies from day to day so radically that this is often just not possible.

However, ayurveda-inspired common sense (and plain ‘granny-wisdom’) also says to eat when you are hungry. If you are hungry, you can digest well. It’s as simple as that. If you can digest your food, you have a better chance of staying healthy.

And as far as cooking what you feel like eating (and thus simultaneously being in touch with your bodily needs and being in a good consciousness while you cook) you will be in a positive and pleasant mood when you eat. The result will be that you will also be best equipped to digest due to your good mental attitude. I learned this simple rule of eating from my Spiritual Master, Srila Prabhupada.

I oven-roasted chunks of orange sweet potato, and butternut pumpkin, and I also steamed some carrots. All orange vegetables, so they look quite similar in the photo above. I also added some steamed peas and cauliflower pieces, and a simple reduction of fresh tomatoes, garden greens, and marjoram leaves. A simple ‘bow-tie’ shaped pasta, known also as pasta farfalle, brought it all together, with a few gratings of kosher Grana Padano cheese, and a good slup of organic Australian olive oil.

Risotto Primo

Last night I cooked a risotto of the dryish-variety, with tomatoes and some garden greens, along with a few pieces of golden pan-fried panir cheese. It was very tasty and looked spectacular.

tomato risotto:

The rice I used was carnaroli, a large-grained starchy Italian rice well suited to risotto. I chose some fresh, very ripe trellis tomatoes and a handful of cherry and grape tomato varieties.

carnaroli:

Carnaroli is a medium-grained rice native to the Vercelli province of northern Italy. Carnaroli differs from the more common arborio rice due to its higher starch content and firmer texture, as well as having a longer grain. Carnaroli rice keeps its shape better than other forms of rice during the slow cooking required for making risotto due to higher quantities of amylose present within. It is often described as being a “superfino” rice.

more tomato risotto:

I added no butter or cheese, just a fruity olive oil in generous quantities. I folded through some of the last of my garden basil and a sprinkling of heavenly-scented fresh marjoram.

Kurma's Kuppa Soup

My Dad likes to have soup some days for lunch, so I make big batches and fill single-serve containers for him to warm up when he wants them.

Today I found myself with a glut of vine-ripened tomatoes, so I decided to make tomato soup, the Kurma Cookbook way.

first blanche:

First step was to blanche the tomatoes – I cut out the cores and made a cross with a knife on the other end of each tomato. This ensures that the skins will lift right off in one piece when they are blanched in water. But you knew that.

The recipe calls for dried basil, but I still have a few leaves on my basil plants outside, so why not use them, I thought.

let's get soupy:

I melted a little butter, added cracked black pepper, a smidge of asafetida and the blanched, peeled and chopped tomatoes and basil leaves, along with a slurp of water.

soup begins:

A long slow stewing broke them down to a nice sloppy, soupy consistency. After cooking I inserted a bamix and pureed the whole mixture, added salt and a sprinkle of raw sugar, and returned it to a full boil.

I melted a tad more butter in another pan, sprinkled in a little flour, and made a tiny roux. I added the roux to the soup and again returned to a simmer, stirring all the while. Finally I poured the whole soup trough a seive and removed the seeds, peppercorn pieces and other debris.

tomato soup:

I know it looks like pumpkin soup in this photo – just a peculiarity of the light. But I can assure you it’s tomato – soupe de tomate de la journée!

Welcome Home Dwaipayana

Dwaipayana:

I just saw my dear friend Dwaipayana for the first time since his horrendous bike accident three months ago. This photo was taken at Yaso’s funeral. It was his first day out of hospital, and boy was he happy to see everyone. It looks like he’ll be allowed to go home next week, all going well.

He even got to play his guitar and sing one of Yaso’s favourite Mahamantra melodies in the funeral service.

Multiple breaks in his legs and steel plates and pins later, as soon as he can support his own weight, Dwaips is a free man. Well, as free as you can be in this world. There’s months of physiotherapy to go, but anything’s better than a hospital bed.

As his brother Tim commented (Tim teaches Ayurvedic cooking and plied his brother with nourishing food in hospital) ‘Dwaips looks better than most visitors that come to the hospital, what to speak of the doctors and nurses as well’. Good to have you back with us Dwaips.

Pie Ahhhhh Squared – Here's One I Baked Earlier

blueberry means pie:

Last week was a prodigious one in the kitchen. I became inspired to keep my blogging life alive, and in the process I decided to photograph most of what I cooked, and share it with you. Obviously that doesn’t include toast, though I must say there have been some spectacular toasties…but I digress.

I was in ‘pie mode’ last week, and as I made room in my freezer for that gigantic batch of panir cheese I found a ziplock bag of homemade pie pastry from a previous baking expedition. It seemed like just enough for another pie!

Glancing at my kitchen table I noted the large bowl of cooking apples, and then I suddenly remembered that jar of blueberry jam that I had cooked for a bit too long and which had turned to a very firm jelly. Blueberries seem like they contain a lot of pectin. I had left a batch, made from only 150g fresh blueberries, on the stove too long, and when I let it cool, I noticed it had stiffened. I had only added a small amount of sugar, so it had not caramelised, and the flavour was wonderful. So there was our pie sorted – apple and blueberry.

roll out your pastry:

I let the frozen pie pastry thaw out, then I rolled it and filled a pie tin that had a removable base. Some leftover pastry was rolled and sliced into strips for a lattice top.

prebake the pastry:

I had prewarmed the oven; now for a full pre-baking of the crust. I find that essential for a pie that’s baked properly, top and bottom. No need for baking blind or anything too fancy. I knew the pastry was a fairly rich dense one, and that it wouldn’t rise.

stew your apples:

While the pastry was baking I peeled and cut the apples into large pieces, added a little water and stewed them on high heat.

add raisins:

I added a handful of giant golden raisins – I tracked down a small package in my pantry. These are the variety from Chile – long, golden, almost see-through, and sweet like confectionery. A fine partner for apples.

add blueberry conserve:

The apples are done – still a few chunky bits, as I wanted. Off the heat. Time to add the blueberry conserve – the whole jar. I’m not adding any other sugar to the pie filling.

just add vanilla:

A flash of inspiration! Some pure vanilla extract. Who can resist? Not me. I had originally thought of adding cinnamon, but vanilla and blueberries are made for each other. The mixture is slightly moist, so I reach for a tiny bag of homemade white breadcrumbs from the freezer. I add those to the mixture, and now the texture is perfect. I have found breadcrumbs to be more unobtrusive as a thickener than, say, cornstarch.

it's ready to bake:

The pie crust is done, so the filling is spooned in, and the latticework – a bit rustic – is added. Ready to bake! The base is fully cooked so all we have to do is make sure the lattice is nicely browned. I add a good sprinkling of raw sugar on top of the pie for some extra caramel sweetness.

pie aaaarghhh squared:

And there it is. I’d offer you a slice, but alas, it has gone the way of all good pies – to pie heaven.

Panir Fest

panir fest:

If you had 10kg of first class organic panir cheese in your freezer, you’d probably be tempted to make more panir dishes than usual. I’m sure that’s the culinary version of the term “burning a hole in your pocket”, if you get my inference.

Honestly, when you taste panir cooked in this context, you naturally think ‘why would anyone want to eat meat when you have this succulent alternative?’ My Spritual Master called it ‘a meat-eater’s delight’. Instead of killing all the cows for their flesh, you can keep them alive and utilise their milk to make panir cheese, which is also rich in protein. You’ll be happy, and so will the cows and their grateful descendants.

So yes, I did use some. To be precise, I pan-fried large batons of panir cheese until golden-brown, folded in fresh tomatoes, peas, green chili, and pieces of zucchini (remember, I like zucchini).

I cooked it all together very slowly – I guess you could describe it as a ‘braise’ – and towards the end I added a spoonful of homemade garam masala, and a smidge of raw sugar and sea salt. That’s fresh from the garden flat-leaf parsley on top.

It tasted as good as it looks.