August 23, 2009

TGRWT#18: Plum, Blue Cheese, and Hiatus

orchard by ab '09

plumcott blooms2 by ab '09 apricot blooms by ab '09 almond blooms by ab '09 greengage blooms by ab '09

schulten plum blooms by ab '09 Golden Queen peach blooms by ab '09 black dorris-billington blooms by ab '09 typical weather by ab '09

I am kind of losing energy of blogging recently. Like Bruno said, losing my mojo. Yeah, things are a bit too much these days, with Spring is coming, orchard is heavy with blooms, now it is time to plant seeds and seedlings, starting to spray for a prevention against possible diseases on anything we plant, farming causes, really, it is hard to find time around the computer. I can't concentrate on many things at the same time, as much as priorities, I am still as humble as humble pie. It is Ramadan as well. I want to concentrate on the family matters on this important holy month, so this is my last post. And I will be hiatus. I don't know for how long, but we still can be in touch through twitter or facebook if you want. You can see my IDs on my sidebar. I'd love to hear from you.

Just to give my words to Trig, answering his invitation to join They Go Really Well Together, initially organized by Martin of Khymos. This time round, Trig is daring us to food pairing Plum and Blue Cheese.

aged plum cheese by ab '09

damson plum cheese home-made by ab '09

I still have a mould of plum cheese that I made on February this year. This has been a ritual on annual preserving abundant plums since we got great rewards from our Damson Plum trees these past three years.

The process is simple. The cheese is made from boiled plums. I use damson plums which have purple skin and creamy flesh. Don't be tricked by its flesh colour, because when they are boiled, they will give you nice deep red colour, like blood. These damson plums are really tart and almost impossible to eat straight away, unless you have that kind of sour-palatable-friendly buds, that probably will be a different case. I don't usually weigh the plums raw, but I will weigh them when I got the stones out and when they are boiled, and skinned, to indicate approximately the weigh of sugar to use. If you have 500g of plum pulp, you can add the same amount of sugar or less. I usually use a quarter or half of the pulp weigh. I use water, but you can use casis or red wine, if you wish. I haven't explored any cheeses made with alcohol, so please tell me if you have.

The remaining steps are just like the ones you usually how to make jam, but this time, you really need to get a heavy and thick paste. That when you're stirring, you can see the bottom of the pot. Then, you can just pour it into greased ramekins which are straight-sided (other shape like pear-shape or bottle-shape is hard to unmold, unless you are planning to leave the cheese in the container). Leave them to cool. Unmold, then wrap them. I use baking paper to wrap them and then leave them dry in a cool oven, overnight. Store them to use. I also made fruit butter, which is the softer texture of cheese. I pour it into midget cups, so it is handy to spread on our toast.

I tend to leave the cheese develop its flavour for months, at least three months. The cheese that I share with you on one of recent photos is aged a year, which is the batch that I did last year. The flavour is much more intense with great texture of mature sweetness and tartness, playing each part at the same time. Compare those photos above. The first one was made last year and the second one was in February this year.

plum cheese enjoyed with blue cheese by ab '09

We enjoy plum cheese with blue cheese, sometimes with Brie Blue. All New Zealand made, proudly speaking. There is a subtle chemistry between plum cheese and blue cheese and a close connection of tart-sweet-ness is handled perfectly once they hit my tounge. The earthy and nutty flavour of blue cheese, indeed, is a perfect soulmate of plum cheese. There is also tangy texture, hidden somewhere in your mouth, and then topped with mellow flavour of blue cheese. Have it with walnuts or almonds, that is sublime. I don't mind to have sweet grapes in between, just to cleanse my tounge before having some more.

plum cheese enjoyed 3 by ab '09

Now, what is the perfect drink? Wine? Port? Champagne? Up to you. I don't drink alcohol, so I can't give you any recommendation on that. I can only say, it is worth to make your own plum cheese, for the sake of preserving fruit. One flavour goes a long the way. You can even still enjoy it in Winter, when all the stone fruit trees are asleep. Whatever drink you may have, you can truly explore the world of perfection.

till we meet again...

Have a great day. Until we meet again.

August 16, 2009

A Wedding Cupcake for Afternoon Tea

Photo is courtesy and downloaded to re-produced on HomeMadeS
as permitted and agreed by Yulia Riani of Maki Cakes

I've been really amazed by how many of my baking friends have actually immersed themselves in cupcakes making industry. It seems it has become a trend mark in Indonesia when a wedding (and even a birthday!) is celebrated with tiers of decorative cupcakes. Perhaps Lapis Surabaya, as the iconic national traditional cake, has to step aside for a while, as cupcakes seem to be the most-wanted and have been on the top of the list of bridal decision these days. Have a look at these swirled decorative cupcakes for wedding that Yulia Riani made for a wedding celebration.

I don't know how many of you have got to put so much plan and consideration on wedding cake when you're planning to be going to the altar, or taking a vow for life and death, but many, I believe, have got to include it on a must-list wedding preparation. Perhaps, it is some kind of entertaining style, tradition, prestigious Western-like wedding, or whatever the reasons may be, cupcakes have found its way forward and have been a certain option to be inserted on the menu of a wedding catering.

wedding cupcakes1 by ab '09

The curiosity of the delicate wedding cupcakes with the feeling of excitement and anxiety leads me to this experiment of producing wedding cupcakes for our afternoon tea. With the impact on experimenting white objects on white background as the food photography session, I feel like killing two birds with one stone. Although, I miss the excitement and anxiety a bride should feel before the important day, I go on with my own desire.

We are not really cake people, although every now and then I do make and we eat cake. Like these delicate wedding cupcakes I specially made for Tungsten Wedding Rings (Hey, they got titanium wedding rings, too!). Yes, wedding has a close knit with rings. I haven't really witnessed any wedding without rings. Even in traditional wedding in Indonesia, there are always rings to present and wear.


And rings are ultimately important! I remember when it was our final week of preparation to wed, we had to go around Jakarta to look for our 'perfect' rings. We had been to many shopping centres in the central Jakarta, the busy Sarinah Plaza, Senayan Plaza, Ratu Plaza, Sogo, and then went to Blok M, you name it, until we had to go back to Depok, West Java, empty handed. Exhausted for nothing. Do you need so fussy to choose the wedding rings, I wonder? Once, his finger was way too big for a certain ring we agreed to wear; the other time, the design on the rings are too complicated for simple people like us; the rest of it was the quality. Hey, wedding is once in a lifetime, we have to make the most of it and be the best.

The journey made our heads turned toward Singapore. It wasn't too long until we found where they were, the exact rings we wanted. Perfect size, perfect quality, and perfect timing. Phew.

Now, it is just time for us to looking back at all of the fuss we've been through, with a smile on our face, a cup of tea/coffee, and a decorative cupcake each that we did not get to enjoy on our wedding day on a lovely, lovely day.

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August 10, 2009

A De-constructive Salad for HHDH

Hay Hay its Donna Day

It was late afternoon. I and my beloved had just made a come back from two different places outdoor. He had just been spraying in the orchard, and I just came back from my little garden at the front lawn, weeding and admiring the beauty of Holyness on earth, to create such interesting shape of bulbs, and then buds, and then flowers. Our children were somewhere at their grandmother's, and perhaps were enjoying lunch with their aunt who specially visited New Zealand to come for Sarah's birthday in July last time, and who now was preparing to go back to Brisbane. So, they had their few moments left from the trip, I suppose. Every last minute counts, you know. They just love their aunty Jan.

I went to the kitchen and found nothing to eat. Of course, if the cook is busy being the gardener for all hours in the morning, how could she be able to find herself in the kitchen? I started rambling through my pantry. I spotted these crispy wonton wrappers which I had shallow-fried and stored in a jar yesterday, in case we are going to eat them to accompany fried rice or something. I thought, well, that's something for a start. I took the jar out.

Next, make my way to travel inside the fridge. I realize that it is almost our groceries shopping day again. The fridge is almost empty. We still have pears, two wholemeal buns that I made the other day, blue cheese and camembert. A jar of crispy won ton with cheese and pears and shredded buns? Uhm, why not? Then, I went to the vegetable garden, looking for what I can pick for the greens. There is a clump of New Zealand spinach, which is dark green. Its leaves' texture is crispy. Would be lovely to be mixed with oil, sea salt, and black pepper, and then sprinkled with some crumbled blue cheese. Pear can be shaved or thinly sliced. I saw rocket plants although they are still baby, I pick them anyway.

I gather them on a wooden tray, and I thought about Hay Hay It's Donna Hay event which was mothered by my dear friend Barbara of Winos and Foodies, facilitated by my dear fellow Kiwi blogger down in Christchurch, Bron of Bron Marshall back then, and now that is currently organized by Chez Us and this month's event is hosted by Akshayapaatra.

Here's my snapshot and a recipe. I think Donna has this kind of salad on her magazine and I am sure I am inspired by it, only I forgot which issue it is. You know, I am a fan of Donna, and I got a pile of her magazines (I wonder how I can't see her books in our bookstores?). I don't subscribe, but I buy every so often when I make a trip to a bookstore or a grocery store. I love her choice of photographs. She never fails to amaze me. Rock on, Donna!!

Donna's Pear and Blue Cheese Salad with Crispy Wonton
Inspired by one of Donna Hay magazine.

wonton crisps, blue cheese and pear salad by ab '09

won ton wrappers, shallow or deep fried
rocket leaves, watercress, whatever your choice
blue cheese
freshly crushed black peppercorns

We eat the salad just like enjoying canape. Crsipy wonton, smeared with blue cheese, topped with rocket or spinach, sliced pear, and sprinkled with black pepper. Perhaps you may want to wash down with wine? Up to you. We finished the salad slowly with a bite or two of shredded wholemeal buns, before having a cup of coffee, a slice of chocolate cake, and heading back to the garden. Life is good, isn't it?


Next post, I will join Trig's event They Go Really Well Together. Anybody interested? Come, join Trig!

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August 05, 2009

I Got Milk!

the promise of spring by ab '09

jonquils by ab '09 first iris of the year by ab '09

Spring is almost here. We've been receiving mild and heavy rain, interchangebly with cold breeze. And yet, Spring bulbs are readily shooting out and opening their buds. One of my yellow tulips has been peeking its little head out and displaying its colour immediately. Jonquils are showing off its dainty little flower heads. Although I dislike its way-too-scented parfume, I quite like the fact that they are readily cheering up our gray garden. My pink rodhodendron has also started opening its buds, making a little display cluster of trumpet-like flower head. Some of our fruit trees have been heavily budding and I would say, soon in early Spring, they'll be opening their first blooms! I can't wait to see it again. It is quite addictive, you see. Although it is happening each year, still it does not feel the same.

Our sheep in the paddock have also started to give birth to their little lambs. Some of them are still expecting and this is just like a waiting game. When they give birth to twins, there is a small chance for one of them to stay alive. There is always a live-or-die impact. The nature has just taught them from such a little beginning that if you can't survive the world, then you'd rather die. Although we have given our best to help the lambs to be strong, especially when they need to reach their mother's milk, very few will still be alive. When they are only days old, it is very difficult to foster them, because they will still need the goodness of their mother's milk. The colostrum is the very best nutrition fod baby lambs to get as soon as they were born.

And that is supposed to be we, human, doing to our newborn babies. I do not believe if there are any breasts of mothers that haven't got any milk for their babies, as breasts are designed to store milk, unless mothers do not eat much to let her body produce milk (and junk food is not optional). You know, some mothers are just scared to gain more weigh at postnatal phase, which is silly, for I believe breastfeeding helps mothers to gain her normal figure, in my experience. What a shame that our newborn babies are given cow's milk, instead of mothers own natural colostrum (just because of a selfish reason), which I believe is the only first goodness of food newborn babies are suitable to be fed with.

I was breastfeeding my children for 2 and a half years each, and for 5 years, I was off of coffee, black tea, and chocolate. Since my son and daughter is only 18 months apart, I did tandem breastfeeding for 6 months before my son started to wean himself and only had a little milk at a time and ate more solid food. My daughter weaned naturally as she was introduced to solid food. I cooked them rice porridge with spinach, for instance. No cow's milk involved whatsoever in their very early years.

I always find that breastfeeding is comforting. There is a rhythm of a little mouth latching on and the movement of his/her jaws while drinking milk. I can hold them close, and feel their skin on mine. I can sleep with them and cuddling them at the same time. It's so enjoyable. It's just so much love and massive bond that I would not even want to miss from such a little interaction.

When Linda announced her latest foodie event Got Milk to support breastfeeding in the world, I definitely wanted to join in. I know, I am really behind foodie events lately, just an impact from a spoilt holiday, I suppose. I am a home-school mum, too. Things are a bit hectic these days with so much reading, writing, counting, science, and craft and art projects. Kids have got so much energy, don't they, to do all of those things. Don't mind our messy house.

This is my entry for Got Milk, hosted by Linda Kovacevic of Make Life Sweeter!

caramel fudge by ab '09

Caramel Fudge
by Arfi Binsted

My husband is a sweet tooth. He loves caramel-type of sweets, while I just like to play my part as the home-confectioner.

395g sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup brown sugar (add more if you'd like much sweeter)
1/2 cup white sugar
vanilla extract
oil to grease the pan

caramel fudge2 by ab '09

Line and grease a square 19-20cm tin. Put everything in a heavy pan, except vanilla extract. Cook until golden and having that lovely caramel colour. The mixture will be thicken and when it is done, you will be able to see the bottom of the pan as you stir the mixture. Remove from the heat. Give a few drops of vanilla extract, mix well. Pour into the prepared tin. Leave to cool. Cut to your liking. Makes 25 little squares.

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