Sunday, 26 April 2015

Mini Pumpkins, Daiya

I wasn't sure whether the mini pumpkins that appeared in the supermarket were worth bothering with, as too often novelty items end up being a one-time experiment never to be repeated when the results disappoint.

That said, I have a completely normal streak of neophilia, and any new fruit or vegetable usually finds its way home eventually.

Though nothing compared with Sydney, the weather in Melbourne was nasty enough to justify having the oven on for a while, and so I decided to make use of one of the two mini pumpkins that had sat in my fridge for over a week.

I cut the top off, with much more ease than most pumpkins, and left the seeds in (as far as I am concerned, they are a bonus not waste) before roasting at 180˚C for a little over an hour.

I also recently got my mitts on some Daiya pepper jack "cheese", which I used to fill the cavity of the pumpkin and gave it another five minutes in the oven.

Though I am completely unconvinced by the hype about the Daiya, this "cheese" filling worked well. The whole thing cooks to a sweetly caramelised, soft consistency, and all is edible except for the tough stem. This also means there is a marked advantage over normal sized pumpkins, which require a) tedious and dangerous hacking; b) can be less consistently delicious when cooked.

With some broccoli and parsnip sautéed in coconut oil, garlic etc, this was a lovely autumn treat for dinner.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Quince and Pepita Cake

My grandmother’s semi-wild garden has a number of fruit trees, yielding fabulous pesticide-free Fuji apples, pears, and a profuse number of quinces.

Writers wax lyrical about the quince’s perfume, recommending leaving them in a bowl for visual and olfactory pleasure, but I find that this is more a constant reminder that Something Must Be Done with the damn things. They keep for quite a while at room temperature, but not forever, and it has been known for knobbly blighters to decompose while I work myself up to addressing them.

The main problem is that they must be cooked for aeons. Yes, one can go down the route of a long, slow roast, as preferred by Maggie Beer and avowed by Nigella Lawson, but this requires an oven that is trustworthy enough to be left on and some psychic ease in letting fossil-fuelled electricity flow for several hours.

Since neither of these conditions apply to me, and I am impatient, I opt for a pressure cooker. This means that the worst I have to contend with is a) washing the pressure cooker and b) cutting the quinces. Rather than raise the risk of slicing a digit off, I opt for cutting them in half, leaving the cores in, and then poaching. The cores are much more easily removed afterwards. Nor do I bother removing the skin, as this is perfectly edible when cooked but can be slipped off easily if not desired.

This is how I deal with quinces:

Take 4 quince, scrubbed to remove the downy covering, and cut in half. Put in the pressure cooker.

Add 4-6 cardamom pods, crushed to allow the seeds out, and 2 star anise. Add enough water just to cover. Seal the pressure cooker, bring it to full pressure then turn the heat down (it should stay at full pressure) for 30-45 minutes. When the time’s up, turn off the heat and allow to cool. When it’s cool enough, the pressure cooker will be ready to open. 

The quinces will be soft, and red. Once cool enough to handle, it is a trivial matter to remove the cores and then do what you want with them. Some of mine have been reserved for eating with muesli, the rest for the following cake.

Note that no sugar is added - they are still a little sharp, but cooking does bring out natural sweetness. I think it is unnecessary to add sugar to the poaching liquid, and very messy.

The poaching liquid can be strained and kept - either as it is, or cooked with sugar to make a syrup

And so to the cake.

This is vegan and gluten free; those who do not share my scepticism about alternative sweeteners (namely that rice malt syrup is ok) may also class it as low sugar.

  • 5 cooked quince, cored and chopped; quince poaching liquid.
  • 2 tbs ground linseed/flaxseed, mixed with 6 tbs water - leave for several minutes to gel 
  • Combine and mix well:
    • 1 cup banana flour
    • 1 cup millet flour
    • 3/4 cup tapioca starch
    • 2 heaped tsp baking powder
    • 3 tsp spices (I used a Gewürtzhaus mix, the name of which I have forgotten; they are all excellent)
    • 1 tsp vanilla powder or vanilla extract
    • 100g pepitas/pumpkin seeds
  • Combine: 
    • 1/2 cup apple sauce
    • 40g coconut oil (melted if the ambient temperature isn’t high enough)
    • 100g rice malt syrup
Then, add the wet ingredients to the linseed mix. Add this to the dry ingredients. Add the chopped quince. Add enough quince poaching liquid to make a thick batter. Put in an 8” springform tin, greased and lined if necessary, and bake at 180˚C for 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

The usual caveats about liquid amounts and cooking time apply - adjust as necessary.

Monday, 13 April 2015


Come on, The Guardian, you're years behind the curve on this one!

I have yet to try the pulled pork method, but I can vouch for a jackfruit bourguignon. Take onions, brown in oil. Add diced carrot. Add drained, ripped-up jackfruit, some wine (I used a pinot noir), tomato paste, Massel "beef" stock. Thyme and bay leaves. Cook for c. 30 minutes. Add sliced mushrooms, give it another 5-10 minutes.

I promise that the precise quantities don't really matter. Especially when you drink the rest of the wine.