Coburg Farmers’ Market – Last Asparagus for 2014, and bonus Christmas Vegetables

(I have spent *way* too much of this afternoon arranging my vegetables into Christmas card configurations and then shooting them with my newly-discovered soft focus camera setting. Hallmark would be appalled. Or possibly proud. I am just giggling like a crazy woman…)

Advent candle wreath, in asparagus, radishes, assorted berries, and spherical zucchini

Advent candle wreath, in asparagus, radishes, assorted berries, and spherical zucchini

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Embarrassingly Belated Pasta Please Roundup Post

I am so, so sorry.  No sooner had Politics Madness come to an end than I found myself plunged into Singing Madness – because of course December is singing season for church musicians like myself.  My best friend visited last weekend and commented on the fact that I was out singing on all three nights – and I had to tell her that this was actually a fairly relaxing weekend compared to the last two, on which I had also been out singing completely different things during the day as well…

We had a small but delicious collection of posts this month, no doubt due to a combination of being intimidated by home-made pasta, and, let’s be frank, my negligence in promoting this challenge properly.  Jacqueline, you have my apologies and I will plan better next time, if you ever let me host again!

As it happens, all three recipes this month are gluten free, dairy free, nut-free, and vegetarian, and two of them are vegan.  An impressive effort!

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Recipe: Cucumber Noodles with Gazpacho Sauce and Guacamole

I am the worst hostess ever for Pasta Please. No sooner do I set the Make Your Own Pasta challenge, but I acquire a Herman starter and become obsessed with him, and then disappear into my politics blog for a round of intensive pre-election blog-writing, pausing only to run out and sing in what feels like every church in Melbourne.  It’s a shocker.

But I am not a total failure, because here I am, a day before the end of the challenge, and I have made pasta! Or a kind of pasta anyway.  What with not being in my kitchen long enough to cook much of anything for the last couple of weeks, getting out the pasta machine was never going to be an option.  But my vegetable spiraliser is another story, and I had this random idea one one of the hot days recently about cucumber noodles, which would surely be an incredibly cooling thing to eat.  But what do you put with cucumber?  Well, I’m fairly sure cucumber gets used in Gazpacho, which is also lovely and cooling… at least until the lid falls off your bottle of hot sauce at the crucial moment and you accidentally add a tablespoon rather than a teaspoon.  My face is still tingling hours later…

Anyway, cucumber noodles with Gazpacho sauce it was, and very cooling and delicious it was too.  Alas, the weather was also quite cold, and not so auspicious for my purposes, so I’m calling this a trial run for the summer.  This is more of a light meal than a main, by the way – sort of a fancy salad, really.  But it’s very fast to make, and would be a beautiful starter for a long summer meal.
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3 roasted capsicums (from a jar is fine, you’re adding vinegar anyway)
6 roma tomatoes + 1 for the guacamole
2 tsp red wine vinegar (see?)
1 tsp hot sauce, or to taste, or however much you drop into the blender by accident
3 celery sticks
1 red onion
a handful of coriander, plus another handful for the guacamole
2 small avocados
1 clove garlic
1 tsp guacamole spice mix (sorry, I’m lazy today)
juice of 1 lime
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Recipe: Strawberry, Pomegranate and Lemon Herman Cake, with Vegan potential

“Vegan potential?” I hear you ask.  Well, yes.  My Herman cake can never be vegan, because he was drinking cow’s milk when I got him, and even if I started feeding him almond milk or soy milk now, he would always be some tiny portion dairy.  But this Herman cake is egg-free, so if you have a Herman that was raised on non-dairy milks, you could make a vegan cake from him. 

And if you are going to make a vegan Herman, I can really recommend this one.  It’s lovely and tangy from the lemon and pomegranates, but is also lushly strawberry.  Also, you get to play Superfood Bingo, because I’m pretty sure chia seeds, pomegranates and anything sourdough is superfood-ish.  If you used coconut sugar instead of raw caster sugar, all the better.

What more could you want from a cake?

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2 tbsp white chia seeds
6 tbsp water
1 cup of Herman sourdough starter
2/3 cup raw caster sugar or coconut sugar
2 cups self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup canola oil
zest and juice of two really good lemons
500 g strawberries, hulled, and either halved or quartered, depending on size
2/3 cup (about 50 – 60g freeze-dried pomegranate seeds
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Coburg Farmers’ Market, Asparagus and a new camera!

Prepare yourself for arty produce photos!  Andrew bought me a new camera, and  I’m playing with settings…

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Recipe: Herman the German Chocolate and Raspberry Cake

I promise I’ll figure out an egg-free Herman next, but this Herman was made quite literally in self-defense.  You see, on Saturday while I was at choir, Herman got out of his container and went on a rampage across the benchtop, spreading chaos in his wake.  I like to think of this as Aggravated Battery – the bench was batter-y, I was aggravated.

(He is a very, very enthusiastic Herman.  I’ve fed him with barley flour, which seems to have curbed his unseemly verve a little bit, but I suspect the hot weather is only going to bring him back, bigger and batter than before.)

And, of course, my Herman is still producing far more batter than I can give away, so on Cup Eve, I decided to make another Herman cake for my colleagues and the colleagues of my husband, since both of us are working on the day itself.  We clearly deserve cake.

Also, this meant I could use up some more batter.

This Herman was, I think, far more successful.  The cocoa calms down the fermented flavour, so it tastes a bit less like eating a brewery, and I think we all know how I feel about the combination of chocolate and raspberries.  You really can’t lose. 

Actually, I’m underselling it.  This is a gorgeous, gorgeous cake.  I’m actually regretting giving so much of it away, because it was so perfectly to my taste – not too sweet, nicely chocolatey, and with plenty of raspberry goodness.

Fortunately, I have plenty of Herman left.  I can make more.

(No cake photos, because I was in a mad rush and forgot.  But here’s a portrait of Herman shortly after his eruption from the jug.  As you can see, I have removed a quarter of him, but he is already bubbling back up in a slightly alarming fashion.)

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250 – 300ml Herman starter (i.e., about a quarter of your Herman on day 10 after his second feed on day 9)
2/3 cups sugar – any kind, but I used half castor and half coconut sugar
2/3cup self-raising flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1 cup almond meal
3 eggs
160 ml canola oil
200 g dark chocolate, chopped
300 g frozen raspberries

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Recipe: Herman the German Peach and Apricot Cake

I have a Herman the German sourdough cake starter!  Does anyone want one?  (No, seriously, I mean it – Herman is a delightful fellow, but I think he was a Tribble in a past life, and as a result, one must constantly find new Herman acolytes who want a Friendship Cake bubbling away on their benchtop during the week…)

Anyway, he’s a lovely, healthy, vibrant Herman – I think he really likes brown sugar, because he froths and bubbles with enthusiasm at the slightest provocation – and he made me a lovely apple cake with the original recipe a couple of weeks back, but one cannot live on apple cake alone, and also, I found his apple cake rather sweet, so I decided to have a bit of a play with what was in the pantry, and see what happened.

The first thing in my pantry was an awful lot of almond meal left over from last week’s baking extravaganza, as well as a couple of spoonfuls of chocolate-coated coriander seeds, which I had forgotten to add to one of my recipes.  An interesting start.  Apricots and almonds are a natural fit, and I felt that apricot and coriander also gets along fairly well – and I also had somehow acquired no fewer than three half-empty packets of dried apricots, so that seemed to be an obvious choice already.  I still needed some ‘wet’ fruit, and I’ve got a surprising number of tins and bottles of peaches lurking around the place, so they seemed like the best idea for that.  At this point, I gleefully remembered my peach schnapps, and got that out, too.

Does this combination work?  You know, I can’t decide.  I love, love, love the zings of coriander with the dried apricots, but the peach is perhaps a little wet for my taste.  And the whole thing tastes so very alcoholic, far past what I would expect for that amount of schnapps.  On the other hand, all the Germans in my lab absolutely adored this, and said it tasted like a proper German cake (“Like Stollen, only not dry”), so evidently it works for some tastes, if not for mine.  I think next time, I’d use fresh peaches, however.  And maybe a bit of cardamom in the batter.  See what you think.

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Your Shopping List

250 – 300ml Herman starter (i.e., about a quarter of your Herman on day 10 after his second feed on day 9)
2/3 cups sugar – any kind, but I used half castor and half coconut sugar
1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup almond meal
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
160 ml canola oil
2 tablespoons peach schnapps, + 2 more tablespoons for the glaze
400 ml tinned or bottled sliced peaches, which you probably should chop, but I didn’t
1 cup dried apricots, ditto
10 g coriander seeds in milk chocolate.  Or just a teaspoon of coriander seeds, just for fun.
115 g icing sugar

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Travel Diary: Germany Part 3 – Barockfest!

In which our heroines play dress-ups, listen to music, dance, and generally have an absolutely wonderful time.

And then, they go home.

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Shakespeare Feast: As you Like It

Hooray!  We finally returned to the land of Shakespeare!  And what a fine, strange, land it is! As You Like It is definitely one of Shakespeare’s sillier comedies, which I attribute to the fact that he was doing his level best to turn it into an opera or a musical – never your most sensible of genres.  Think Twelfth Night on crack.  With even more songs.

So you have Rosalind – played by a boy – dressing as a boy with the suggestive name of Ganymede – and playing the part of a girl – of Rosalind, in fact – in order to ‘cure’ her suitor of his infatuation with  – Rosalind.

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Travel Post: Germany Part 2 – Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten…

In which our heroines take a trip up the Rhine to visit the Lorelei, and my friend is probably the only German on the boat…

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