Pumpkin Pancakes

Now that winter has set in, we’ve turned our culinary sights from eggplant and courgettes to pumpkin, pumpkin, and pumpkin. I blogged about our excellent pumpkin harvest earlier this year. That post was written mid-way through the harvest–ultimately we picked nearly 200 pumpkins and other winter squash.

So w’re eating a lot of pumpkin. That’s not a problem.

Yesterday I made lovely pumpkin pancakes for breakfast. They were moist, dense, and spicy—excellent with maple syrup or redcurrant jam.

To make these delicious pancakes, start with my World Famous Pancake Recipe. Add 2 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp cloves to the dry ingredients. Add 1 1/2 cups pureed pumpkin (or other winter squash—I used kabocha squash) to the wet ingredients.

If your pumpkin is dry, you may need to increase the milk to achieve the right batter consistency.

We found these pancakes didn’t store/reheat as well as regular pancakes—they became quite fragile upon reheating (though they were still delicious).

Healthy Cookies? No Thanks …

Seventeen years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child, I tried very hard to do everything the pregnancy books said I should do. Exercise, diet, sleep … the pressure to be perfect so my baby turned out okay was something all mothers can relate to, I’m sure.

My biggest pre-pregnancy vices were coffee and sweets. Coffee was easy to forgo—the moment I got pregnant, it made me sick to even smell it.

Sweets were harder to give up. I vowed not to eat any sweets I hadn’t made myself. But that only encouraged me to do a lot of baking, so then I vowed not to bake anything. That make me miserable.

I decided to adapt my favourite recipes to make them ‘good for me’, so I could justify eating them. I started with a cookie recipe I loved that was already full of whole grains and nuts.

Following the advice for pregnant mums (which I’m sure is completely different these days), I eliminated the sugar, sweetening the cookies with fruit juice instead. I cut down the butter by half, removed the chocolate, and added more nuts.

The resulting cookies nauseated me.

I don’t think they were necessarily bad, but they were emotionally unsatisfying and difficult for my stomach—a bit wobbly already from pregnancy—to digest. I choked them down anyway.

I thought maybe if I tweaked the recipe a little bit …

The second batch made me feel sick, too.

For over a decade, I couldn’t even look at the recipe for those cookies (not even the original recipe, which I loved) without feeling a bit queasy.

I’ve recently rediscovered those cookies, and am happy to report I’ve recovered all my love for the original recipe.

This comes from Farm Journal’s Cookies. Don’t change a thing. Trust me.

Wheat/Oat Crisps

3/4 cup shortening (I use 190g butter)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
2 Tbsp wheat germ
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/4 cup chocolate chips (I actually increase this to 1/2 cup now)

Beat shortening and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, water and vanilla until creamy. Stir together flour, salt and baking soda. Stir flour mixture into creamed mixture and blend well. Add oats, wheat germ, coconut, nuts, and chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto lightly greased baking sheets. Bake at (180ºC) 350ºF for 12 – 15 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Neenish Tarts

Neenish Tarts

The Darfield Bakery is a mandatory stop for us whenever we pass through Darfield.

Our most frequent purchase is neenish tarts—little lemon tarts with chocolate drizzled on top. I’ve had neenish tarts from other bakeries and none stacks up to Darfield’s.

Not all neenish tarts are lemon—my understanding is that the ‘traditional’ neenish tart (they originated across the ditch in Australia) has a gelatine-thickened cream filling and is topped with two colours of frosting. I’m not particularly fond of this overly-sweet, bland tart. Lemon neenish tart filling is made with lemon juice, icing (powdered) sugar, and sweetened condensed milk.

My neenish tarts probably shouldn’t even be called neenish tarts, because they bear no resemblance to the ‘original’ ones, and veer off course even from the Darfield Bakery’s tarts. Still, they’re inspired by neenish tarts, and are just as delicious as the ones at the Darfield Bakery.

Make your favourite pie pastry (enough for a one-crust pie). Roll out thinly (roll more thinly for little tarts than for pie, or you end up with a tart that’s all crust), and cut into 10 cm (4-in) rounds. Line the wells of a cupcake pan with the rounds. Bake the shells empty for about 15 minutes at 190ºC (375ºF), until the edges are nicely browned. Turn out of the pan and cool on a wire rack.

While the pastry shells are cooling, make lemon curd. Combine in a saucepan:

3 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
60 g (4 Tbs) butter
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup lemon juice

Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until thick. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 tsp vanilla.

Spoon warm lemon curd into each shell and allow to cool.

Melt about 50 g (2 oz) dark chocolate and drizzle over the tarts. Allow lemon curd and chocolate to cool completely before serving.

In Praise of Parsnip

The rangy rosette of a parsnip plant.

A bit like carrots, but sweeter and starchier, parsnips are wonderful winter vegetables.

I’m not certain when I first ate parsnip, but I know I’ve eaten a lot of it. When I was breastfeeding my son, nearly everything I ate gave him colic (It took eight weeks of 24-hour-a-day screaming for me to work this out … longest eight weeks of my life). Parsnips were one of the few safe vegetables, so I ate parsnips. Lots and lots of parsnips. But I never got sick of them. Their comforting, earthy flavour only grew on me the more I ate.

I try to grow parsnips every year, but I’m not always successful. Parsnip seed has a short shelf-life, and germination can be poor, even with seed that isn’t officially past it’s ‘plant by’ date. I buy a new packet of seed every year, whether I’ve used all of the old seeds or not. Even so, I don’t always have luck germinating it, because parsnip doesn’t like to be transplanted, and needs to be seeded directly into the garden beds. In my garden, that means the seeds tend to dry out, in spite of my best efforts. It also leaves tender seedlings at the mercy of birds and slugs, which seem to enjoy parsnip as much as I do.

But this past summer the parsnips did well, like many other crops that appreciated the unusually warm, wet weather. The parsnip I picked for dinner yesterday was 15 cm in diameter at the crown, but still tender and delicious. And there are plenty more out there to harvest.

Parsnips are sweeter after the first frost, so they’re a great autumn and winter food. They store well in the ground, so there’s no need to fill your fridge with them at harvest time. When we lived in Minnesota, I used to use a pickaxe to chip them out of the frozen ground through the winter.

Parsnips make wonderful additions to stews and casseroles. Their flavours meld well with potato, carrot, and celeriac. They compliment beans and pulses. They’re great vehicles for butter and cheese. Back when I was subsisting on little beyond parsnips, we used to mash them (like mashed potatoes), braise them, and roast them, in addition to using them in stew and soup.

It’s no wonder these versatile vegetables have been cultivated since long before Roman times. They’re a great winter staple—a vegetable you can eat again and again and still enjoy.

Gluten Culture

“I’m allergic to gluten-free.”

That’s my son’s line when people ask.

In part, it’s true; he’s allergic to buckwheat, which is often used in gluten-free products. But what he’s really saying is that gluten-containing foods are a staple at our house. Our diet and our family culture would break down without gluten.

It’s been a while since I blogged about a bread day, but they still happen. Every two or three weeks my husband fires up the bread oven and bakes two dozen loaves of bread. I follow with a couple of cakes, cookies, or whatever sweets I feel like baking. On the tail-end heat, my husband might throw in some bac-un or seitan—gluten-based meat substitutes.

Between the bi-weekly gluten fests, we make pastries, muffins, scones, crackers, and all manner of other gluten-containing food.

If we took gluten out of our diet, we’d lose a protein source and a suite of family activities.

And, yes, you can bake gluten-free bread, cakes and cookies.

But they’re not the same.

There is something fundamental, something visceral about the feel of gluten—under your hands as you knead bread, in your mouth as you chew it—something that is integral to my family’s enjoyment of food.

Yes, I think we’re all allergic to gluten-free.

Mystery Burgers

Not the mystery burgers…

On Sunday, we were all busy with various projects in the yard and shop. At some point I glanced at the clock and realised no one had thought about dinner, and it was getting late.

In the fridge was a small quantity of baked pumpkin—not enough to pair with the pie crust in the fridge for a galette, which would have been easy and quick.

Then I noticed a package of tofu in the back of the fridge.

And a wedge of blue cheese.

Before long, I had concocted pumpkin tofu burgers with blue cheese melted on top. Oh my! They were delicious!

Tragically, I have no idea what I put in them. I didn’t measure, didn’t write anything down.

Aside from the pumpkin and tofu, I remember a shallot, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, ground coriander, paprika, salt, soy sauce, black pepper, cumin, bread crumbs, egg…but how much of each?

Nope. I couldn’t recreate these things. I might have been more careful had I known they would turn out so well. But I was rushing, using whatever I could find in the fridge and cupboard, going by the seat of my pants.

I didn’t even take a photo of them.

I suppose I’ll just have to make them again, more carefully. Mmm! I like that idea.

Cranberry Orange Scones

I wanted lemon scones for breakfast this morning, but had no lemons. I made these instead, based loosely on my lemon scone recipe. I can’t think why I ever wanted lemon…

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups barley flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
125 g (1/2 cup) butter
1 egg
2/4 cup unsweetened yogurt
1/4 cup orange juice
grated rind of 1 orange
3/4 cup dried cranberries

Combine the flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry knife until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Whisk together the egg, yogurt, juice and orange rind in another bowl. Toss the cranberries with the flour mixture, then mix in the wet ingredients. Once all the flour is incorporated, gently knead the dough in the bowl (just 2 or 3 turns). Divide the dough in half. On a floured board, pat each half into a round about 2 cm (3/4 inch) thick. Cut each round into 8 wedges, and arrange the wedges on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake at 190ºC (375ºF) for 15 to 20 minutes, until nicely browned.

Eat them quickly, before someone else gets to them!