basic principles

Tomato Ketchup

Posted on January 10, 2019 at 3:56 pm

Home made tomato ketchup is always demoralising. You spend a whole day, and a load of not-cheap ingredients, all to make something which is almost as good as you can get in the store.

Then I discovered this recipe. It actually makes sense how it all comes together, and it’s delicious. It’s not the same as store bought, but it exists in a different place on the same plane. Enjoy!

    • 5lb / 2.25kg ripe tomatoes (or equivalent in canned, crushed tomatoes – two 28oz/795g cans)
    • 1 onion
    • 6 cloves
    • 4 allspice berries
    • 1 oz / 25g fresh ginger, sliced
    • 6 black peppercorns
    • 1 fresh rosemary sprig
    • 1 parsnip, peeled, quartered, and roasted OR 1 celery heart
    • 2 tbsp light brown sugar *
    • 4.5 tbsp / 65ml raspberry vinegar *
    • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
    • 1 tbsp salt

Peel and seed the tomatoes (or open the can!) and place in a large saucepan. Peel the brown papery leaves from the onion, leaving the roots and the tip intact. Stud the cloves into the onion and place in the pan.

Put the allspice, peppercorns, and ginger into a spice bag or tie them into a small bag of cheesecloth and place into the pan. Add the roasted parsnip to the pan with the sugar, vinegar, garlic, and salt.

Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat then reduce to low heat and simmer for about 1.5 to 2 hours, stirring regularly, until reduced by half. Remove spice bag. Blend until smooth in a food processor or with a handheld blending stick, then simmer for another 15 minutes. Store in the fridge.

* I ended up doubling both of these to get the taste I was looking for. By doubling these it has also increased the shelf life. I would not recommend boiling water bath processing this recipe as it has not been checked by the USDA. The raspberry vinegar was a pest to acquire – you can make it yourself with raspberries steeped in vinegar, or you can try it with other vinegars such as malt, cider, wine, balsamic….

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Gluten free pudding flour

Posted on November 3, 2018 at 7:08 pm
I recently discovered that I can’t eat wheat, which is a major downer when making pudding. After a lot of poking around and trying out various flour substitute recipes from various gluten free sources, I found this recipe:

  • 700 grams cornstarch
  • 500 grams tapioca starch
  • 300 grams white rice flour
  • 200 grams brown rice flour
  • 200 grams nonfat milk power
  • 100 grams potato flour
  • 20 grams xanthan gum

This does, indeed, make a wonderful substitute for wheat flour. However… however, there’s a lot of weird ingredients there. They are also quite costly. I wasn’t going to let weird and expensive get in the way of making pudding, now was I?

So let’s break this list down.

 

  • 700 grams cornstarch

OK, this is a dirt cheap and common ingredient.

 

  • 500 grams tapioca starch

OK, not cheap in your local grocery store.

 

  • 300 grams white rice flour

Not readily available, and certainly not cheap.

 

  • 200 grams brown rice flour

.. what the what now?

 

  • 200 grams nonfat milk power

OK, back on normal ground.

 

  • 100 grams potato flour

… you’re kidding, right?

 

  • 20 grams xanthan gum

You’re definitely kidding now, that doesn’t even exist, does it? … it costs HOW MUCH?!!?

 

OK, time to take a deep breath and break down the weird and expensive stuff. The ingredients break down into 3 categories: whole grain flour, starches, and support ingredients.

WHOLE GRAIN FLOUR (sort of)
Brown rice flour, Buckwheat flour, Corn (Maize) flour, Mesquite flour, Millet flour, Oat flour, Quinoa flour, Sorghum flour, and Teff flour all work as “whole grain flour” for the purposes of this recipe.

STARCHES
Arrowroot flour, Cornstarch, Potato flour, Potato starch, Sweet (also called glutinous) rice flour, Tapioca flour, White rice flour, are all starches for this purpose.

Wait, what about potato flour? If you have instant potato flakes and a food processor or spice grinder, you have potato flour!

SUPPORT INGREDIENTS
Dried milk powder is available in pretty much every store. Shop by price. Xanthan gum is more difficult, and expensive. It is there to be a thickener/binding agent to replace gluten. There are some other options for the thickener such as psyllium husk powder. These kind of ingredients can be found in health food type stores such as Whole Foods or Sprouts in the USA, or online at Amazon.com. Unfortunately there is no real substitute for these ingredients, and they are expensive. Thankfully you only tend to use a very small amount in each recipe. Shop by price.

 

So, let’s break down the flour recipe.
700 grams cornstarch + 500 grams tapioca starch + 300 grams white rice flour

That’s 1.5kg of starches from different sources. Check out the starches list above to see which you can get for a decent price near you.

 

200 grams brown rice flour – use whichever of the “whole grain” flours above you can source at a good price.

 

200 grams nonfat milk power – shop by price.

 

100 grams potato flour – no need to substitute this. You’ve got the potato flakes and food processor, right?

 

20 grams xanthan gum – yeah, OK, that’s expensive. Bite the bullet and put it in, it’s only a couple of tablespoons worth.

 

By percentages: 75% starches, 10% whole grain flour, 10% milk powder, 5% potato flour. Add your xanthan gum, mix thoroughly, and label clearly.

So why should you, person who doesn’t have a problem with wheat and/or gluten, make up an exotic concoction like this? Because this mix makes the most ridiculously light and fluffy puddings, muffins that evaporate in your mouth, and allows your friends or family who do have wheat/gluten issues to enjoy some delicious pudding!

 

PIE CRUST

When using this blend to make a pie crust, the good news is you don’t have to worry about over-working and making a tough crust: no gluten! You do, however, need to work it a bit more thoroughly than wheat flour to make sure all the fat is fully incorporated into the flour. I have also found this blend to be a little more “thirsty” than wheat, so be prepared to add a little more liquid to make your pie crust.

Mind you, if you’re making your pie crust with butter (as you should!) you’ll probably be OK on the extra liquid!

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Satay peanut sauce

Posted on July 28, 2018 at 3:21 pm
  • 1 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup very hot water
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons chili/garlic paste
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled & minced
  • 3 scallions, chopped finely
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • The most difficult ingredient to find is likely to be the chili/garlic sauce, which isn’t that hard to find. (The same company that makes Sriracha also makes a chili garlic sauce that does the job nicely.)

    Whisk the first 7 ingredients together in a bowl until fully combined. Add the last 3 ingredients and stir.

    Store in the fridge.

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    Cinnamon rolls

    Posted on July 9, 2018 at 1:08 pm
    Cinnamon rolls are delicious, but a little bit time consuming to make. It is well worth the effort, though, especially when you get your littles involved in making them!

  • 1/2 cup milk (120ml)
  • 1/2 cup water (120ml)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups all purpose flour (375g)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar (65g)
  • 1 packet / 1.5 tsp active dry yeast
  • These are the ingredients for an enriched dough. We will be revisiting enriched dough for a number of recipes.

    Add all the ingredients in a large bowl, or a food processor, or mixer with the dough hook. Mix until the dough comes together in a sticky ball. If you’re using a food processor, the dough will suddenly clump around the dough attachment and the body of the processor may start to “walk” across your counter.

    If you are getting your little one to mix it in a bowl, they will need to give the dough a good solid mixing until it all comes together in a soft ball. This should nicely tire out the little one as an added benefit 😉

    Turn out the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel. Allow the dough to rise once. This will take about 20 to 30 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size. Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll it out into a rough rectangle.

    FILLING

  • 1 to 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) ground cinnamon
  • Brush the inside of the dough with the melted butter. Thoroughly mix the sugar and the cinnamon and sprinkle liberally over the buttered area, leaving around a half inch (about 1cm) gap at the edge. Loosely roll the dough together to form a tube. Pinch the tail edge to form a seal. Cut the roll into 1 to 1.5 inch slices (2.5cm to 3.75cm). Place them into a lightly buttered baking dish and cover with plastic wrap or tea towel and allow to rise for 30 minutes to 1 hour or until double in size.

    Preheat your oven to 350F / 180C. Bake cinnamon rolls for 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown. Top with water icing.

    FINAL THOUGHTS
    While making this recipe, I have sometimes felt a little disgruntled about the appearance of my cinnamon rolls. They are not visually perfect like the ones you get from those multi-zillion dollar companies.

    Thankfully, I eventually realised that once the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls hit people’s noses, nobody cares about what they look like: they are far too busy stuffing their faces and asking for “more, please!” to worry about cosmetic trivia 🙂

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    Shortening substitute

    Posted on July 3, 2018 at 11:39 am
    I am trying to replace all the “weird” ingredients in my cooking with more natural ingredients. Shortening has been a particularly difficult one to substitute, as it has certain properties that no other cooking fat has.

    One suggestion I read was to try substituting clarified butter. In a spirit of scientific enquiry, I tried it with a blueberry coffee cake.

    Result? Oh my word. A lovely, short, buttery coffee cake. It was divine. And it was so easy to make the substitute!

  • 1 cup / 2 sticks / 225g butter PLUS
  • 2 tablespoons / 28g butter
  • Put all the butter into a saucepan. Heat over medium low heat until the butter begins to “sizzle”. This is the water beginning to cook out.

    Keep the heat under the butter until all the sizzling has stopped. Pour the clarified butter through a cheesecloth to catch any milk solids.

    Pour into a suitable 1 cup container and refrigerate. Makes 1 cup of clarified butter / shortening substitute. Use in any recipe that calls for shortening.

    (Do you have to refrigerate it? No, clarified butter is shelf stable. But having it cold helps when it comes time to make the dough.)

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    Kitchen scales

    Posted on June 30, 2018 at 8:58 pm
    I know that most American cooks use volume measurements in their cooking, but a set of dual-unit (lbs and kg) kitchen scales allow more precision and more repeatability in your cooking.

    Just now, on Amazon.com, there are sets of digital scales from $7 to well over $200. Most of these scales are well rated by customers.

    It’s a small investment in your cooking, and will help you cook recipes from other countries that don’t use volumetric measures. What do you have to lose? Well, apart from the $7 for the scales, plus the $20 for that thing, and oh there’s a new book by my favourite author…. 🙂

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    Update to Dark Treacle

    Posted on January 28, 2018 at 5:39 pm
    Over on this post I take you through how to make Dark Treacle. I recently managed to source some Lyons Dark Treacle at a reasonable price, so I was able to do a side-by-side taste comparison.

    If you’d like to make a Dark Treacle that tastes almost exactly like Lyons, there is one simple substitution. First, you need to make some:

    DARK BROWN SUGAR

  • 3.5 cups white granulated sugar
  • about 2/3 to 3/4 cup dark molasses (not blackstrap)
  • Weigh the ingredients to come to 1kg / 2.2lb.

    Put the granulated sugar in a bowl. Pour the molasses over the top and stir together with a fork.

    Continue with the dark treacle making as on the other post, except you need to measure out dark brown sugar instead of white sugar as ingredient 3. You will finish up with a dark treacle that tastes almost exactly like the original.

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    Substitutions

    Posted on December 31, 2017 at 9:38 am
    A note on some basic substitutions you can make to accommodate differences in what is available in stores.

    SUET
    Some stores in the US are now selling “beef tallow”. Beef tallow is rendered out suet. It also tends to be painfully expensive.

    Amazon.com is now selling Atora suet, which is cheaper than the tallow, but still somewhat costly. Whether it is worth buying for the sake of flavour is a decision I will leave to you!

    I find that frozen and grated butter works fine as a substitute.

    PUDDING BASIN
    The ideal situation is to just buy a pudding basin. They are not too expensive, but they are uni-taskers. Any glass or metal container which is roughly twice or thrice as tall as it is wide will make a decent substitute.

    MIXED SPICE
    Pumpkin pie spice is fine as a substitute. You can also make your own mixed spice blend to taste, just use the sweet spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, etc.

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    Fresh custard recipe

    Posted on December 3, 2017 at 4:44 pm
    It’s funny how you can get a mental block about something. In my case, it was custard. I always saw custard being made from Bird’s powder, and even when I moved to the USA I carried on buying it, albeit at a stupid price.

    Then, recently, I decided to check out how to make custard from scratch.

    Wait… only 5 ingredients?!!? That I already have in my pantry?!! Sign me up!

  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons corn (starch)/(flour)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Combine the first 3 ingredients in a pot. Slowly heat while whisking until the milk is “scalded” (just beginning to bubble at the edges, or a little steam coming off). Take milk off the heat while you whisk the eggs and vanilla together.

    Temper the hot milk into the egg mixture – that is, pour a slow stream into the eggs while whisking vigorously. This prevents you making weirdly sweet scrambled eggs, which is not what you are looking for.

    Once you have incorporated about half the milk mix into the eggs, pour the egg mix into the pot and cook for a few minutes until it thickens up and coats the back of the spoon.

    CUSTOMISATIONS
    You should mentally stick a * next to each ingredient after the milk. You can increase or decrease the corn starch/flour to make it thicker or thinner. You can make it more or less sweet. You can make it more or less eggy, or swap out the whole eggs for 4 egg yolks which will make it much more rich and indulgent. You can add more or less vanilla, or other flavourings such as almond. Once you have mastered the basic recipe, go ahead and customise it to your heart’s content.

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    Clotted Cream

    Posted on March 30, 2017 at 6:00 pm
    Scones without clotted cream just aren’t the full shilling. That’s a fact.

    Unless you are in the British Commonwealth, however, getting your hands on clotted cream is somewhat of a challenge. Finding clotted cream at a reasonable price is even more so.

    HOW TO MAKE CLOTTED CREAM
    Just before you go to bed one night, take 1 pint whipping cream and pour it into a baking dish. Place the baking dish in your oven which is set to a very low temperature: 170F, 75C. Total time in the warm oven should be around 10 to 12 hours.

    When you wake up in the morning after the allotted time has passed, switch off the oven. Take out the baking dish and allow your now freshly clotted cream to cool down to more or less room temperature. Carefully and gently transfer the baking container to the fridge and chill it down completely.

    DO NOT STIR THE CLOTTED CREAM. You want as much as possible to set up to maximise your yield – if you stir, you will yield more liquid than clotted cream.

    You may have some liquid cream under the clotted. This is normal, so don’t worry about it if you do. Use the liquid, along with any milk top up needed, to make your scones.

    Enjoy your clotted cream on your treacle scones which have also been spread with some lovely home made jam. Serve with a nice strong cup of tea!

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