Saturday, August 11, 2012

Winter Warming

It may be August and we have had a few days that have made us believe that Spring is in the air, but it is still very cold & August winds are blowing. It's still Winter!

Winter, for many people, means sitting in front of the fire, rugging up in hats, coats and scarves and eating comfort food. For me, turning on the oven and cooking warming food is the essence of winter. In summer it is often too hot to turn on the oven, you don’t want to add extra heat to the house. In winter, the oven warms the house and fills it with the scents of your food. The scent of the cooking food welcomes those that enter the home, inviting them to draw up a chair and enjoy a bite to eat.

In Eastern culture food is described as possessing certain qualities such as a warming or cooling nature, possessing certain flavours such as pungent or sweet, or acting on our body in a specific way. The eastern view of nutrition is concerned not so much with ingredients but with latent energetic properties that are released in the human body through digestion.
Below are some interesting Eastern ideas about food.
  • Plants which take longer to grow (e.g. root vegetables, ginger) tend to be warmer than fast-growing foods (e.g. lettuce, zucchini).
  • Foods with a high water content tend to be more cooling (e.g. melon, cucumber).
  • Dried foods tend to be more warming than their fresh counterparts.
  • Chemically fertilised foods which are forced to grow quickly tend to be cooler than their naturally grown counterparts.
  • Some chemicals added to foods may produce heat reactions as may artificially ripened foods.
  • The temperature of food will also be influenced by the cooking or preparation method.
Longer and slower cooking methods will also produce more warming effects than quicker methods i.e. a stew will be more warming if it is cooked slowly than if it is cooked quickly. 

So in keeping with slowly cooked, winter warming food, I have included here a recipe I have adapted from Herbies Spices.

Old Fashioned Lamb Stew – Serves 4
1 Kg lamb, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 parsnip, peeled and chopped
1 stick of celery, chopped
1 tablespoon oil or butter
2 tablespoons plain flour
2 teaspoons Herbies Sweet Paprika
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 tablespoon Herbies Bouquet Garni, or 1 Bouquet Garni ball

  1. Pre-heat oven to 160°C.
  2. Peel and chop onion, carrot, parsnip, celery and garlic. 
  3. Place paprika, flour, salt and meat in a clean plastic bag, twist top closed, and shake to coat meat with seasoned flour.
  4. Heat oil in a heavy-based, oven-safe pot and saute onion and garlic over medium heat until soft but not browned.
  5. Increase heat, add meat, and turn pieces so that all sides are sealed. Remove from heat.
  6. Add chopped vegetables, 1 cup water and the Bouquet Garni, to the pot, stirring to combine.
  7. Heat in oven for 2 hours or until meat and vegetables are tender.
  8. Serve over fluffy mashed potatoes.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Zucchini & Fetta Quiche

In keeping with the posts about shopping local and supporting local suppliers, this recipe uses mostly locally sourced products. 

Ingredients – Serves 4-6
1 quantity shortcrust pastry
8 Libreri Farm Free-Range eggs
1/2 cup Udder Farm cream
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
2 small zucchini (or 1 large), cut into ribbons
60g Udder Farm fetta cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
2 garlic cloves, crushed

1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C
2. Line a loose based tart pan with shortcrust pastry and blind-bake. (If you place tart pan on a baking tray/pizza tray it is easier to remove from oven and there is less chance of spillage onto bottom of oven)
3. Whilst pastry is blind-baking, place eggs, parmesan cheese, crushed garlic and cream in a large pouring bowl/jug and whisk well. You can season egg mixture with salt & pepper at this stage if desired. (Remember that the fetta is salty, so don't over-do it)
4. When pastry shell has been removed from oven and cooled slightly, arrange zucchini and fetta in base of pastry shell.
5. Pour egg/cream mixture into pastry case, sprinkle chives on top and bake for 35 minutes or until just firm when touched in centre.
6. Allow to stand for 3-5 minutes before serving.
7. Serve with a green salad.

Friday, June 22, 2012

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

The Beatles sang “I get by with a little help from my friends”. Many small business owners in today’s economic and social climate are finding that this is true. We are talking to one another, helping one another with ideas, referrals, and promotion of one another’s business. We have had to do this. If we do not work together we will disappear.

Anyone who doubts that small business is endangered needs only to look around Newcastle and note the number of businesses that have closed over the last while. There are restaurants, cafes, hardware stores, corner stores, motor mechanics, hairdressers, take-aways, butchers, bakeries, clothing retailers and many more that have closed.

Some of these businesses have closed by choice; the owner has retired or decided to move on to another career option. Others have become unviable, and have had to close because they are no longer bringing in enough income to meet rent, power, wages and other expenses. Each business that closes means fewer employment opportunities for our community. There are fewer part-time jobs for students, fewer chances for apprentices to get on the job training, fewer full-time jobs and fewer households bringing in a living wage. Each business that closes has a flow-on effect. They no longer purchase materials or services, they no longer pay wages or taxes, they no longer have money flowing into our community.

At The Fresh Ingredient, Udder Farm non-homogenised milk is a very popular product. Most customers love it, not only for its wonderful taste, but also for the fact that it reminds them of the “good old days”. The good old days, when there was a real community feel about our townships, when we had a “relationship” with “our” butcher, newsagent, baker and grocer. When we knew more about the providence of our food, when we knew who had grown our tomatoes, where our milk came from, or who was fixing our car.

It will take a little “help from our friends”, but we can re-gain our community feel, by making a choice, to support local businesses, to keep money in our towns, rather than sending it off-shore to line the pockets of big businesses. By supporting small business we help keep the heart and soul of our town alive. A town without a heart is a corporation. Is this what we, as a community, really want?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. - Mary

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pumpkin Cheese

We have had discussions recently with some of our customers about retro food. Pumpkin is a very old-fashioned food, and at this time of year very economical. This recipe is my adaptation of a dish a lovely older man made for me once, and then gifted me with the book he had used as his inspiration. So, with thanks to "The Ultimate Book of Household Hints", here is my take on Pumpkin Cheese.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)
1kg cooked pumpkin (steamed jap pumpkin is best)
2 tbs Udder Farm butter
½ cup cooked long grain rice
salt (approx ½ tsp) & good grind black pepper
1 cup Udder Farm Full Cream milk
2 Free Range eggs
60g Hastings Valley Matured Cheese – grated
2 tsp paprika
30g Hastings Valley Gloucester Cheese – grated – extra.


1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C.
2. Mash pumpkin with rice, butter, salt, pepper and milk.
3. Beat eggs, add to pumpkin with cheese.
4. Place mixture in a baking dish, sprinkle with extra cheese and paprika.
5. Bake for 20 minutes or until browned on top.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mandarin & Chicken Salad

Local seedless mandarins are coming into season, they are great to eat on their own, but even more lovely as part of a meal.

Ingredients (serves 4)

·         500g (approx. 2) chicken breast fillets, trimmed
·         4 medium (Black Hill) seedless mandarins, peeled, segmented
·         3 shallots, trimmed, finely chopped
·         1 red capsicum, thinly sliced
·         1 handful (about 80g) snow pea sprouts, cut in half
·         1 bunch coriander leaves, picked
·         5cm piece ginger, peeled, cut into very thin strips
·         1 lemon, juiced
·         1 tablespoon peanut oil
·         1/2 cup roasted cashew nuts, chopped


  1. Poach chicken by placing pieces in a large saucepan. Cover with cold water. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes, stir and turn occasionally. Remove chicken to a bowl. Set aside to cool for 10-15 minutes. Slice the chicken.
  2. Combine the chicken, mandarin, capsicum, sprouts, coriander, shallots and ginger in a serving bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Gently toss to combine.
  3. Combine 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon oil in a jug. Drizzle over salad. Toss to combine. Divide among plates. Sprinkle with cashews. Serve.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Shop Local Campaigns – Thought Provoking?

This year we have been hearing about “Shop Local” campaigns. So far we have discovered that these campaigns are in place throughout suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne, country towns throughout NSW and parts of the United States. Essentially this campaign suggests that whenever possible a consumer purchases goods or products from a local or locally-owned business.
There are many reasons that this campaign is gaining momentum.
  • Environmental; rather than driving to the large shopping centre to make purchases, you call into your local shopping strip as part of your daily travel arrangement, or you walk, as part of your daily exercise routine. This reduces our individual contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Social; shopping locally gives you a chance to interact with your immediate community.
  • Economic; Local businesses often have specials in place that are competitive with the prices offered by big business. Research from the US showed that “Every $100 spent at locally owned businesses contributes an additional $58 to the local economy.  By comparison, $100 spent at a representative national chain store in Portland yields just $33 in local economic impact.’ [1]
  • Service; Local business owners have made a choice to own a business in your community, they are keen to develop a relationship with you, not just to sell you something.
  • Choice; Product lines are gradually disappearing from supermarkets, hardware chains & variety stores, to be replaced by home-brands. Customer choice of product is being gradually eroded. Support of local businesses is a vote for choice. It ensures that the food production and manufacturing in Australia is not dictated by and dominated by faceless, nameless executives in offices in major cities in Australia, or other parts of the world.

So, in the future, when you need to go shopping, THINK LOCAL. Think about the choice you are making. Are you choosing to support your local economy, your local food producers, your local tradesmen, and your local community? Or are you choosing to line the pockets of big business and internationally owned companies? Your shopping choices are determining the future of our world and our children’s world.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Apple Muffins

Autumn is the time when new season apples appear in store. They are very affordable, and deliciously crisp.
This recipe makes 12 regular or 6 regular and 8 mini muffins
300g organic plain flour
1 tbs baking powder
2 tsp Herbies Cassia (baker’s cinnamon)
150g firmly packed brown sugar
2 medium Granny Smith or Red Delicious apples, cored, peeled and finely chopped
125g sultanas
125g butter melted and cooled
2 free-range eggs, lightly whisked
185mls (3/4 cup) milk
1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease the muffin pans with olive oil spray or a little melted butter, or use paper cases.
2. Sift the plain flour, baking powder and cassia together into a large bowl. Stir in the brown sugar, apples and sultanas until well combined.
3. Whisk together the butter, eggs and milk until well combined.
4. Add the liquid mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a large spoon until just combined. DO NOT over mix. If the mixture is over-mixed, the cooked muffins will come out tough.
5. Spoon the mixture evenly into the muffin pans.
6. Bake the muffins in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through. To test if they are cooked, insert a skewer into the centre of one - if it comes out clean, it is ready, if not, bake for a little longer before testing again. 
7. When cooked, remove from oven and stand for 2-3 minutes before turning onto a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 day. Or freeze wrapped individually for a sweet treat.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cheesecake Ice-Cream

This recipe was a hit with family and friends at a recent dinner. It is a 2 stage process, but not that difficult, and definitely worth it! It is extremely rich, and therefore, a "sometimes" food to be eaten in small amounts and shared with friends.
Vanilla Bean Condensed Milk

•400g can condensed milk
•500ml Udder Farm Cream
•1tsp vanilla bean paste


1.In a stand mixer whip cream until soft peaks form, add vanilla bean paste and then at low speed add condensed milk, mix until just combined.
2.Transfer to jug and chill in fridge for 2-3 hrs.
3.Churn in ice-cream maker, as per machine instructions.
4.Place in airtight container. Freeze.

Cheesecake Ice-Cream
•350g cream cheese, softened
•1/3 cup caster sugar
•1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste
•1/2 cup Udder Farm Cream
•125g Toblerone, chopped
•1 litre Vanilla Bean Ice-Cream, softened
1.Remove Vanilla Bean Ice-Cream from freezer
2.Using a stand mixer, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add cream, beating constantly until combined.
3.Fold cream cheese mixture and Toblerone through softened ice-cream. Transfer to an airtight container. Freeze for 4 to 5 hours or until firm. Serve.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Roast Tomato, Fetta and Avocado Salad

Small local tomatoes are currently available at The Fresh Ingredient, they are perfect for this recipe.

Ingredients serves 2-3
500g small tomatoes
3 Australian Organic Garlic Cloves, peeled and thinly sliced lengthways
2tbs Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
50g Udder Farm feta cheese, crumbled
1 avocado, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 cup tightly packed small basil leaves.
1.  Preheat oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with If You Care brand parchment baking paper (available from The Fresh Ingredient). Combine tomatoes, garlic and 1 tablespoon oil in a bowl. Toss gently to coat. Spread over tray. Season with salt and pepper. Roast tomatoes for 25-30 minutes or until tender. Set aside for 20 minutes to cool.  

2. Divide tomatoes and arrange in the base of each bowl, top with avocado, feta and basil. Drizzle each with 1 teaspoon oil and season with black pepper. Allow to sit for 10 minutes to allow the flavour to develop. Serve with pan-fried chicken or a small piece of steak.