November 30, 2008
KBB #8: Bitter Peppermint Chocolate Biscuits, hosted by Ellen of Chicken's Kitchen.
I think the shortbread is rolled too thick, the filling is too runny. I am not sure what had got into me that day. Everything was gone wrong. I halved the shortbread when I saw that the biscuits turned out to be way too high and too big for my size. Turned out alright, but the chocolate coating was too thick. Perhaps I am too fussy.
I like the combination of the flavour though. I cut the sweetness of the shortbread by using 50g of caster sugar only (recipe can be found here). For the chocolate coating, I use dark chocolate 72%. I think the combination of not-too-sweet shortbread, peppermint filling and bitter dark chocolate is quite pleasant.
I'd rather have two layers of biscuits rather than three as I don't think I can roll the shortbread thinner than that. The bitter chocolate coating is an excellent accent for this shortbread. It compliments the peppermint flavour. However, I am not sure if I will return to this biscuit again.
November 21, 2008
Indulgence is just coming in sort of ways, depending on how it suits your style. My way is quite simple: relaxing in the garden on a rug accompanied by sweets and a cup of coffee with a good of book to read. Although I only have an hour to spend time for myself, it is just enough to feel 'me' again. You know, when you're a mother, your time is not 'your real' time, but theirs (babies, toddlers, husband?). Aren't we all like that mother elephant (if you ever read this book) whose time for herself is just 3 minutes and 2 seconds before she finally is joined by her three kids. So, whenever you have time, please, indulge yourself, make you yourself happy.
It makes me happy to see my roses, annual and perennial flowers are blooming. All the hard work during Autumn and Winter now is rewarding. Roses are madly in blooms which I hope they'll still store some energy to give more in Summer. I suppose it is quite early for them to blossoming that much, but I guess they're quite happy with themselves.
Are you familiar with how to plant roses? I am not a gardening expert, but I do a lot of gardening from year to year. I experience it, so I hope it's alright to give you some thoughts on what I usually do on planting roses. My way of gardening is based on organic and I don't use commercial fertilizer, but mature sheep, cow, and fowl manure from our farm.
When to Grow
I usually plant roses in Autumn or Winter, when it's usually the time for them to 'hibernate'. They should be cut back to allow fresh growth in Spring onwards.
Where to Grow
I choose to grow them in the position where they can get full sun. Roses love plenty of sun. Try not to grow them where they will get wind too much. I have mine on the windy location and they are not growing as much as those which are in the open site. Moreover, wind sometimes carries disease for roses.
What Type of Soil
I have found out that roses best grown in rich heavy soil which is also well-drained. The soil at my place is already fertile, however, I still fork in some rich organic matter (compost or manure) to keep the nutrients and food balance in the soil, in helping the roses growing better and not starving. Perhaps, this can also be applied to whatever soil condition you have, either sandy or clay. I believe, organic matter (compost or manure) is a way to improve the poorer soil condition naturally.
When we bought the roses, they were all bare-rooted. However, you can always buy those in pots available in your nurseries. Perhaps, there is a certain degree of possibilities your store-bought-potted roses will thrive more than those bare-rooted will. I am certain that the good preparation of soil will give good results on successful planting because of the adequate food and nutrients your roses will accept while they're moved in their new 'home'. One thing to remember though when buying roses, that you should look at the onward facing buds. These buds should be there and healthy because they are the ones which are going to be the new shoots.
How to Plant
Now, when planting roses, I always get a help from my husband to dig out the holes for me. The holes should be wider and deeper than your root base of plant. I usually dilute the juice (vermicast) from the worm farm (vermicomposting--are you familiar with it?) with 10 litre of water for about 1 litre of the juice. I pour this mixture into the holes and plant the rose immediately. This way while the soil is dampened, it also will help to provide roses food in its early months in the new place. You can also use mature manure to be mixed in with the soil to act like a slow fertilizer, organic way.
Spraying- is essential when there are aphids around. I usually use organic base spray which is available in New Zealand. It is using herbal plants to get rid of the nuisance aphids. I also like to mix garlic and baking soda to prevent black spot developed on the leaves of the roses, in early Spring onwards.
Fertilizing-is important to keep providing food and nutrients to roses. In Spring, when the roses are growing their buds, it is the time I am applying mature manure and top the beds with grass cutting or rotten leaf compost. In early Summer, I usually keep providing them liquid manure we catch from the worm farm. I also use grass cutting (the ones from the catcher of your lawn mower) or leaf compost from Autumn falls to be applied on the roses beds. They like to be kept moist all year round. These grass cuttings and leaves will give them more food too.
Watering-is what roses need in Summer. We usually pump the water from the creek to water the garden in dry Summer. Roses need a lot of watering to survive as they are producing mass of blooms. I usually carry 10 litre of water for each rose from the hose (and I have more than 30 bushes of roses), good for exercise, you know.
Pruning-in Winter is necessary as well as is important. I always like to see my roses grow more shoots which are not tangled one another. It is important to prune your roses to get new look (you like to have your haircut or have it trimmed too, don't you?) of growth next year. It is also to let the air circulating in between the bush).
I just like to stay organic, so that I can use rose petals to make rosewater or other delicacies which are rarely to be found in ordinary cafes. More to come, sweet child o' mine! Here's another method of making rosewater.
I put the rose petals in a jar, pour distilled water in it, and then cover it. Put this jar in a place where your rose petals can be heated through in the sun, naturally. I put mine on the deck in the morning and on the window sill in the kitchen in the afternoon where I can get hot afternoon sun. When they are heated, they tend to condense which this is your rosewater-going-to-be. Keep this going on for a week or so until you get the scent you want. Store in the bottle and keep it in the fridge.
I have found out, from the two methods I've been using, the latest one produces more scent than the first. Don't ask me why, because what I really experience that the latest one is quite an easy method. You just need to purchase distilled water available from your pharmacy or health store. This water is also called deionized water or purified water. It's already distilled for ready to use. One thing to remember though, use those roses which are no pesticide sprayed on them.
The other day I made an experiment on using rosewater on cheesecake. It's a simple cheesecake, not too sweet, not too heavy with crumbly ginger nut biscuit base. I like to have a good result on mild rose flavour, so I use the rosewater which I first made from extracting the essence in hot water. To divide the flavour, I then decided to make two layers of the cheesecake. Well, not really layers, because I sort of mixing the two mixture to give rosy swirls. The first layer is the one which is flavoured with pure vanilla extract, sprinkled with chopped mini mars bars just to give accent of caramel sweetness, and then topped with rosewater flavour mixture. The fresh rose petals were the latest to mix in when I thought how it will taste when they are mixed in. So I did.
Well. That was kept in the fridge overnight. The next morning was a nice surprise when our good friends, The Dwens, dropped by. Chatting around the paddock and vegetable garden, we then enjoyed morning tea with this rose and rosewater cheesecake. I put a jar of pomegranate sauce that I made the same day I did the cheesecake. See how it happens when they're mingled.
Sliced away. The result was rather good really. However, I am not sure about the flavour. My guests thought they could really taste the rosewater in the mixture which is mildly scented. Moreover, the rose petals give burst of flavour in it as well. When my mum-in-law came by for a cup of tea, she said she could taste the roses and rosewater in it as well. My brother-in-law, however, points out that the flavour is just right for his palate because he does not really fancy rosewater. Given to taste the mildly scented cheesecake in his mouth, he said it was just right.
So, there's a mixture of feeling here. Here's what I think, the addition of rose petals in the rosewater cheesecake is a good move. This is just like putting diced apples in cupcakes mixture which is bursting into nice flavour and sweetness when popped up into your mouth. I can taste the flavour of the rose petals in it although the rosewater is very mild. Perhaps, it can be much stronger, but I have to be clever which level is the safest way in order to get the right flavour as well as the scent. I also will not use ginger nut biscuit crusts because I think they are too strong for the delicate flavour of rosewater. Nice biscuits will do. Perhaps chopping away some Turkish Delight, sweeties which have rosewater flavour? Anyway, if you happen to try out my recipe below, please let me know what you think. The pomegranate sauce is an optional.
Rose and Rosewater Cheesecake
Biscuits base: 180g ginger nut biscuits, coarsely crushed, and mixed with about 2 Tbs melted butter. Pressed on the base of the cake tin. Leave it in the fridge for around 30 minutes.
Beat 350ml cream cheese with sugar (I just throw in 2-3 Tbs caster sugar-have more if you like it sweeter) until smooth. Beat in the sour cream. In a separate bowl, beat the thicken cream until just fluffy. Mix this into the cream cheese mixture. Have ready 1/4 cup hot water, sprinkle about 2 tsp gelatine powder, leave it to swell. Stir well and pour by straining (should there be any tiny lumps from the gelatine) into the cheese cake mixture. Mix well. Divide the mixture into two portions. One portion is flavoured with a drop of pure vanilla extract. Spread this on to the biscuit base. Chop coarsely 6 mini mars bars, sprinkle on top of the vanilla mixture. Tint the other mixture with a drop of red food colouring, mix well. Flavour it with 2 Tbs rosewater and mix in a cup of fresh rose petals. Combine well, and spoon on top of the white mixture. Deep a skewer and make a swirl to mix the white and pink mixture. Fridge overnight.
Here is one of my roses collection:
City of Timaru. It is said to be one of many roses the Father of roses, David Austin has developed. It was one of the heart centre of garden exhibition in New Zealand some time ago.
November 14, 2008
We're approaching the end of Spring in this southern hemisphere and the weather is quite temperamental. After almost a week without rain, the soil has become dry and we have to attend the garden for watering, more than we should have done in this season, as we're still germinating some seeds for the next crops. While the days have been so windy, it is difficult for us to do some spraying whilst aphids have yet been attacking our cherry trees. We use pyrethrum to spray aphids and bronze beetles in order to be parallel with organic gardening and the safer environment, but this can't be done in windy days. But for my roses, I usually mix garlic and baking soda for more organic 'pesticide'. Sometimes, it works, other time it fails. It just is depending on how much rain we have and how much time I have the opportunity to do the regular spraying. When it's raining or windy, it is impossible to be in the timetable.
I plant my own roses. Most of them are bush varieties, ranged from Floribunda, and Hybrid Teas, besides climbing and patio varieties. Most of my roses are those developed by the Father of rose, a famous rosarian, David Austin.
First time planting back in 2003, we only had 15 bushes, now it's about 30-something bushes including those I grow (fortunately) from cuttings. I refuse to except the term 'green thumbs or green fingers' because I believe everyone can do gardening whenever she/he wants and is able to spend time for looking after plants. Fail or not, it is depending on how someone cares or looks after the plants or not. You can't really plant a bunch of parsley and ignore it for days while you're going socializing somewhere and expect your parsley will thrive without watering or such.
Perhaps, some of you may think that roses are fussy plants, but you know what, they will give you as much rewards as you give them care for. Yes, they need good soil enrichen with manure (they love horse manure, although some gardeners prefer sheep pellets!), plenty of sun, and water in Summer. They have to be pruned in Winter to remove the hard and dead stalks to ensure young growths next year. The dead buds should be picked to give prolong live till Autumn. They also need to be watched out from aphids and other diseases such as mildew and so forth, but this is a part of the maintenance itself.
I don't really think this is a heavy task because I just love being in the garden. I love to watch my flowers growing from seeds or stems into plants which give me flowers or fruits. I love to be able to pick my own flowers in my own garden and arrange them in pots for tables or chests at home. I love to breath the rose-scented air in our bedroom (romantic?). Roses make me happy. Don't they say that rose is the symbol of wisdom, purity, love, beauty and grace which have been mankind's companion for thousand years? Why not try plant a pot or two in your garden, then you'll know exactly how I feel. After all, the rewards are yours.
As much as positive properties a roses has, I just love to make rosewater myself. Sometimes, if I need to, I would bathe in rosewater and lavender essential oil. The recipe is simple: pick rose petals and lavenders. Have ready boiling water and then pour these flowers in a saucepan, pour the boiling water in, cover with the lid, and leave it rest for at least 30 minutes (that if you can't really wait). Pour the water into your bath water, soak in. Relax.
When making rosewater for culinary purpose, I use David Austin's old English rose, which the name I forgot. The petals are small (unlike those of floribunda or hybrid tea cousins) and the scent it pleasantly sweet, the scent which you won't forget forever, and its colour is purplish. It is a kind of climbing rose, almost similar to Gertrude Jekyll. When they have finished flowering, they tend to develop hips which are deep orange colour.
Homemade Rosewater (1)
In making rosewater, there are two ways I usually use. The quicker one is this one. I'll post the other one next.
Old English rose petals
Just use less water, as you can always add it later. The less the water, the more fragrant your rosewater will be. Boil the water, and then add in the petals. Cover the lid. Leave it cool, and then keep it in the fridge overnight. Strain and sqeeze out the remaining water from the petals. Put in a bottle or bottles. Lidded. Keep in the fridge. I usually use this within a week because it does not contain of preservative, or put them in a ice-cube trays. Freeze them, remove from the trays. Put them in the freezer-safe bags. Use them for later use, especially when it is not Summer anymore.
November 13, 2008
I am just so glad that I've found them. It's a cliche feeling perhaps to remember what we did at school times. Not much to tell I suppose. How big was your memory when you were only 8 or 10 years old?
There are shadows, laughter, and yes... childhood food. And there's also friendship, tolerance, and solidarity. That's what I feel when I find my old classmates: solidarity. I still can feel it in the air, even when we're just sending emails of throwing jokes through chatterbox.
Pendopo92 is a website which unites all of us who has connection with this very village. It is the place where I was born, where I spent my primary years with lots of friends, where I was introduced to traditional food which I miss so much since I am really far away to the access. A hometown you might call it.
Pendopo is a very rural area in South Sumatra and had had its golden time back then. In the old days, it was well-known rich with 'black gold'. It has its own history, back in 1912 when it was found in a shallow depth of the earth's layer which then produced 800 barrel of oil a day, until later in 1922, the produce was up to 10,000-20,000 barrels per day. My father worked at that oil company which was named PT Stanvac Indonesia in the old times until these days it is called PT Medco Energi International.
And today, I suppose the oil is gone and people change the directions or plans although many of them have still been involved in oil matters. I am probably one of many who does not follow the next-generation of oil-mining workers and associates because I chose to be different.
Anyway, I am here to submit an entry to contribute Aparna's Sweet Celebration on her 1st blog anniversary. Blogging changes your life? Maybe so. Maybe we're just growing older with a growing group of friends. Maybe we're getting wiser from one oldest post to the latest. Maybe so.
Well, Happy Blogging Annivesary for Aparna At My Diverse Kitchen. Keep blogging, my friend and keep up your good works!
Almond and Orange Blossom Cakes
Source: Donna Hay Magazine, Issue 41, October/November 2008.
125g butter, softened
¾ cup (165g) caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup (250ml) plain flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder, sifted
¼ cup (30g) almond meal
½ cup (125ml) milk
2 tsps orange blossom water
sugar flowers, to decorate
Preheat the oven to 160C (320F). Beat butter, sugar and extract until light and creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beat well. Fold in the sifted flour and baking powder, and then almond meal, milk and orange blossom water (the recipe tells us to beat it, but I just fold it gently). Combine well. Spoon the mixture into 18 x ½ cup-capacity (125ml) muffin tins lined with paper cases (I ran out of paper cases and I used bigger size muffin tins, greased and floured, so I only get 6 cupcakes). Bake for 15 minutes or until springy to the touch. Remove from the tins and cool on the wire racks. When cooled, spoon the lemon icing on top of each cupcake and decorate with sugar flowers.
2 cups (320g) icing sugar mixture, sifted
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 Tbs boiling water
Mix all ingredients together until smooth. (You should sift the icing sugar to avoid lumps formed, although they may be 'melted' when all mixed with the boiling water and other liquid). Makes 18.
November 08, 2008
We went out to visit our good friend, The Dwens, down at Te Kohanga, about 25 minutes driving from our place. Their place, which is hundred of hectares wide that you can even see the Waikato river stretches from East to West from their place, is the most spacious place we can find to brighten the 5th of November with possible assorted fireworks.
Started with dinner and finished with desserts, we began to split up into the night, try to combat the chill and the rain. It was just so much excitement I can tell from the only man who lit the fireworks from the noises he made; 'a bit worrying', Sue said. Imagine that fireworks can even bring joy to whoever lights and sees them.
Today, it is an election day. New Zealanders are voting for their prospect future. Watch the news, then you'll know. Not on my side to talk about politics. At midday, there was quite a hectic movement in the house. While we were attending the garden, applying fertilizer and such, we were reminded that today is Krystal's wedding day. Throwing away the gardening boots and gloves, rushing ourselves to get ready and be as representative as we could. It could be a bit of help if you keep an agenda for a thing like this, you know.
It's just so amazing to witness someone weds. The colour and expressions of their faces promise the future of forever love that they're ready to weave together. I've never seen Krystal so happy and so bright like today. She was so beautiful in her wedding gown. Good luck, Krystal. We're so happy for you. Well done and we wish you all be happy together forever.
I was not on the happy side yesterday as I found out that my name was used by somebody on a shoutbox of a website. I was really furious and sent an email to the administrator immediately to ban the person who did it. I don't know why someone would do that to me while as far as I know I never hurt anyone. I hope it does not happen to you.
Back to the kitchen, I've done a little bit of experiment while ideas are playing around in my head. I develop a gluten-free recipe which I think I have to improve it somehow in the future. I call it Gluten-Free Chocolate Spice Cake.
I have been using the gluten-free package from Healtheries Simple baking mix and I thought why I don't mix some myself. There I did. I found out that sticky rice flour can also be used to make a cake as well as potato starch. I am using a large number of free-range eggs because I believe the natural emulsifier in the yolks can lift up the volume of the cake and also moisten it.
I am sending this experiment cake for World Food Day-Time to be Thankful, hosted by Ivy of Kopiaste. I am thankful to be in such happy condition to be able to feel gratitude in a healthy life and green environment where I still can breath the fresh air. I wish the world would always be green, so our children in the future will always be thankful they live in such a prosperity earth.
Gluten-Free Chocolate Spice Cake
12 free-range eggs
180g caster sugar
50g rice flour, sifted
160g sticky (glutinous) rice flour, sifted
50g almond meal, sifted
150g cocoa powder, sifted
400ml coconut cream (cook until thicken and reduce to 325ml, then cooled)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, sifted with flours
1/8 tsp ground star anise, sifted with flours
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg, sifted with flours
1/4 tsp ground cardamom, sifted with flours
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (I use Queen product)
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a round cake tin measured 26cm x 7cm. This cake will rise high (that if you do not overmix it). Beat the egg yolks until foamy, add in the sugar a little at a time. Keep beating until thick and forms ribbons with pale colour. Remove the beaters and fold in the sifted flours, cocoa and spices, gently. Take care not to knock off the bubbles in the batter volume. Pour in the cooked and cooled coconut cream in a thin stream until all used. Do this very gently, otherwise your batter will gone flat. Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 30-35 minutes or until springy to the touch. The finished colour will be golden brown.
Now, I was thinking to pour in the coffee and spice syrup while it was hot but then I was afraid it would be too much spice thing mixed up in one whole cake. Then, I decided to just sprinkle some icing sugar. Perhaps, you may like the sound of coffee spice syrup? Here's a hint: 2 cups double-srength espresso simmer with caster sugar and whole star anises and cinnamon quills. Cook until the syrup is thicken and reduced. The amount of sugar can be adjusted to your liking, but then you have to remember that when the syrup is thicken, the sugar will then make its way to sweeten the syrup. If you add too much sugar, it might well be empowering the whole flavour in it.
I also want to thank you for your concern of my mother's condition and my own last time I posted. Your warmth approach is greatly appreciated. Thank you for being my readers, friends, and sympathizers. I am nothing without you.
November 07, 2008
At times in your life, you can't always get what you want. Maybe you can, but it is you who are not to decide, unless you are authorized. Life can be so tough, especially when you have to deal with your own feeling, self-esteem, and your existence. What's your role in this universe? What have you contributed to your own life. Yes, your own life.
Sometimes, in the dark of the night, I often am thinking: am I free? Am I as free as free can be free? There's a tingle in my stomach, churning to a certain degree of confusion. While it shall not be questioned, it is tighten my life to the ground.
I am humble, as far as I can say. I don't pursue luxury in life. I am happy with what I have. Sometimes, I feel like to do what you do, but then I froze myself in deep thoughts: it is me who is limited. I don't want to dream because when I wake up, I am still me, not you.
Life sometimes is quite a satisfactory journey when everything is kept tight in a jar of labour that rewards are so wonderful. But, at times... it is so... tiring.
I am feeling tired at times, who never is? I am just going to have a rest.
November 01, 2008
Monthly Mingle: Coffee and Tea.
Meeta does not want a liquid, but I have a semi-liquid. Ha! It's probably not really a perfect time to have cold desserts in New Zealand, not just yet, but this surely is a hint on what's coming next in Summer.
Our updates from the garden is that we're battling the curled leaves on peach trees caused by fungus. There are also potato blight attacked our potato plants which then killed my Urenika plants. I should have sprayed them but you know New Zealand climate it unpredictable. However, I should be looking after another patch I keep and watch over this blight stuff.
The good update is that the raspberry bushes are in blooms. A good sign for a good Summer crop. I keep looking after them by pinching those naughty bettles keep coming to lay eggs somewhere under the leaves of either raspberry or strawberry.
Another update: my article on food photography has been published by Desserts Magazine Issue #4. Some of you may have read it, some probably just been informed. I'd like to share with you what/how food photography is according to me. Many of you perhaps are much more experienced than I am, therefore, I am happy and will feel gratitude to receive any feedback. Along with this, I am still working on a book project where I am asked to be a contributor in China. I am so honoured.
Back to Coffee and Tea, I am choosing tea to become the entry this time. Jasmine tea is just a small reminder of my grandmother. She, with her traditional Javanese kebaya and hair was done high and proud, brewing jasmine tea in a clay pot, gave a big impact on me to love jasmine tea. There was the fragrance which I never forget, the scent of heaven whenever my nose capture the aromatic air is just as well as pleasant as it is relaxing. Can't really it a surprise if it's extracted into many creams of cosmetics or perfume, because it can also perfumed this parfait.
This is a lovely dessert, created by Gordon Ramsay. I don't think I like him swearing at people at Hell's Kitchen or the F Word, but I often find that his desserts are just great and easy to follow. This dessert, for example, is a clever achievement. I love the mild scent of jasmine tea is combined with delicate creamy cream. Love it!
Gordon Ramsay's Jasmine Tea and Lime Parfait
We love enjoying it with fruit compote or slices of oranges.
Source: Gordon Ramsay on Cuisine, Issue 95, November 2002.
2 Tbs jasmine tea leaves
250g caster sugar
4 large free-range egg yolks
juice of 4 limes
4 Tbs pineapple juice
2 large free-range egg whites
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Heat half cream with the tea and 1 1/2 Tbs sugar. Bring to just boil, stirring. Pour into a jug and allow to cool. Chill overnight, then strain through a fine sieve into a bowl. Set aside.
Beat egg yolks until thick, creamy and pale yellow. Set aside. (At this stage, I beat the egg yolks on top of simmering hot water until the mixture thick, creamy and pale yellow).
Put the 125g sugar and water into a saucepan, cook on low heat until the sugar becomes clear. Increase the heat until the sugar syrup is bubbly for 4-5 minutes until the edge of the mixture in the saucepan is near to pale golden colour. (At this stage, I cook all the sugar with the water, to be used for egg yolk mixture and keep the rest to be used for the egg whites).
Trickle this sugar syrup onto the egg yolk mixture foam and beat until creamy. Cool. (At this stage, I divide 3/4 portion of the mixture to go into the egg yolks mixture and keep the rest for egg whites).
Boil the lime and pineapple juices until reduce by half and let cool. Mix this into the egg yolk mixture with the tea-infused cream.
Whisk egg whites with the lemon juice until softly stiff, then gradually whisk in the remaining sugar until the mixture is firm and glossy. (At this stage, I trickle the hot sugar syrup while the motor is running). Fold this mixture into the egg yolk mixture.
Whip the remaining cream until it starts to thicken and then fold into the egg mixture, gently. The mixture will be as light as a feather. Pour into 1 litre mould or individual glasses, mugs, or anything you can think of. Serves 6-8.