Monday, December 31, 2012

Baba Ghanoush

A change of holiday plans has seen me back home from Japan early and as much as I love it over there, it is nice to sleep in a proper bed. However the festive season has meant the amount of food I am being fed hasn’t decreased and after a week of overeating, my family has decided that we need to tackle our respective Christmas tummy bulges. Of course activities such as exercise should also be included in the schedule to achieve this goal but the Boxing Day Test meant three solid days lazing around on the couch, in front of the television.

In between the Christmas lunches and dinners, we have managed to sneak a couple of light meals (well, at least one anyway). After a heavy lunch and an afternoon of beer and snacks, I thought it might be nice to use some of the few kilos of eggplant we’ve harvested over the past week and make my first ever baba ghanoush.

The recipe I used is from Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion cookbook, which I mention in this post. I should have made some flatbread (recipe also in this book) to serve with it but I was tired so opted to toast some sourdough bread and cut it up to serve alongside the dip. It was my first time grilling eggplants and I couldn’t contain my delight when I was able to easily peel the skin off the charred aubergines. I am sure the New Year will bring many more “firsts” as I head into my post-graduate degree and I am looking forward to the challenge.

Happy New Year!!

Baba Ghanoush (adapted from the Kitchen Garden Companion)

1kg eggplant
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ cup Greek yoghurt
½ cup tahini
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Juice of 3 lemons, to taste
Sourdough toast, warmed flatbread, rice crackers, etc

1. Heat a barbeque grill-plate until hot. Roast eggplants, turning 2-3 times so they roast evenly; it will take approximately 15 minutes for the skin to char and the eggplants to feel quite soft. Remove with tongs, leave to cool slightly and  peel away charred skin. Cut the eggplants  lengthways and put into a colander resting over a bowl. After 10 minutes, put the drained eggplant into a clean cloth/paper towel and gently squeeze. Chop the flesh quite finely and put it into a large mixing bowl.

2. Put cumin into the mixing bowl with the chopped eggplant.

3. Whisk yoghurt with a pinch of salt until creamy. Add yoghurt, tahini, garlic and half of the lemon juice to the eggplant before mixing together. Taste, add more lemon juice if needed, season with salt and pepper.

4. Serve alongside carbohydrate of choice. If using flatbread, place the baba ghanoush in a plate or shallow bowl so it is easy to dip the bread into it.

- Matilda  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Pudding & One Year Anniversary

I’ll be well into my trip to Japan when this post goes online, hopefully having just caught up with two of my best friends (twins) in Kyoto. The last two years went by in such a blur that I feel that I haven’t been able to be the best friend to these two as I could have – possibly should have – been. I hope our time together in Japan was experienced with me being fully present so as to be able to enjoy the precious time together. Family and friends are, however clich├ęd, the rocks in our lives and I suppose the festive season is a chance to reconnect before the next year begins.

The recipe I’m sharing today doesn’t use a single ingredient from the community garden but it is a recipe that presents itself around this time of year, year after year. I call it “Mum’s” plum pudding because that is what I call my grandmother and this is her recipe. Well, technically it’s a recipe my great-grandmother acquired from the wife of the mechanic my great-grandfather relied upon but that doesn’t sound quite as traditional so we’ll skip over that. My cousins used to joke that I had a problem childhood since I don’t call Mum “grandma” like the rest of them do. I suppose I just heard my parents calling her Mum and so it made sense for me to do so as well. And yes, I always get asked so what do I call my actual mother… the answer is usually a variety of things, ranging from Okasan (‘mother’) to Obaba (‘old hag’). Obaba is of course used in an affectionate way at all times! :-)

I made this pudding for the first time a few days before I left for Japan, as an early birthday present for Dad (he absolutely adores this pudding and is usually what he asks from my grandma each year as a present). Apparently Mum (grandma) dropped one off the other day and I wish Dad had taken a photo to send me because mine is a disgrace. The pudding’s skin came off when I unwrapped the cloth and it looks terrible… but it tastes fabulous! So once I discover the secret to keeping the pudding skin on I will definitely post it. Especially since, in my opinion, the skin is the tastiest part of the whole pudding!!

Mum’s Plum Pudding (adapted from my grandmother’s cookbook)

1 cup plain flour
1 cup plain wholemeal flour
2 tsp bicarbonate soda
½ cup sultanas
½ cup raisins
1 cup currants
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
¾ cup sugar or honey 
2 cups filtered water


1. Sift flour, bicarbonate soda, nutmeg and ginger into a large bowl. Mix the remaining ingredients in, cover with a tea towel and stand mixture overnight.

2. Dip cloth in boiling water and wring out and pat down with flour.

3. Use bowl/colander to support mixture as it is poured into the middle of the cloth. Ensure the top is completely closed, tie with string and dab flour on top (over the gap).

4. Place plate in saucepan before placing the pudding in (otherwise the pudding will burn) and pour boiling water over the pudding.

5. Close the lid and boil pudding for 4 hours (if doubling the ingredients, boil for 6 hours).

6. After the pudding has cooked, remove it from the cloth and place on a plate. Let cool or serve immediately with brandy custard. 

Finally, thank you to those of you who read my blog; It has been a year since I started it and it is a bit of fun to document my road to country bumpkin life. I’m quite a bit away as of yet but hopefully I’ll get there one day – I just have to make it out of university alive first!

So, until next time…  Merry Christmas everyone!  And a happy New Year :-)

- Matilda