What does the last of the housewives do?

Category: Thermomix

Why Aren’t You Making Muesli?

People all around me are giving up stuff. It may be Lent, though I’m astonished at how many of you aren’t aware that it actually is Lent. Stuff they really like. Alcohol. Sugar. Coffee. Chocolate. Facebook. Sometimes stuff they are more or less indifferent to, but is hard to give up, there seems to be something in the challenge. Wheat. Red meat. Dairy products. Why do you have to give it up? Have you no self control? Can’t you just have a bit less?

You know what you never hear people giving up? Chilli. Watching TV. Muesli. Also things that people like a lot, why are some things worthy of giving up and not others? Oh, TV’s OK, so long as you’re watching the boxed set of House of Cards. And chilli is macho. You can’t actually over consume muesli, too much fibre. Maybe if we added psyllium husk to wine and beer we’d solve all of those young people problems, there’d be no fights, just Generation Y clutching their bloated stomachs while lamenting the lack of public toilets these days.

I love my muesli as much as I love my coffee. Even when I’m out for breakfast I order it. I’m just as unlikely to give up either. But while I’m perfectly happy letting the experts produce my coffee, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to make my own muesli. Here’s how you do it. Are you ready? Purchase a whole lot of ingredients you’d like in your muesli. Stick in a container. Shake (make sure the lid is on properly, dear reader).

Being of the opinion that my body is a temple and I’d like it to last for quite a long time and I should at least start the day eating something reasonably healthy even if during the course of the day I end up eating a whole packet of Kool Mints, I purchase my muesli ingredients from The Source in Balmain.

I start with Five Grain mix, then add quinoa flakes, linseed, wheatgerm, sultanas and currants.

I like a bit of complexity too, so I put dried apricots and dried pears along with almonds and coconut flakes in the Thermomix to chop them into muesli appropriate size.

Toss it into the nascent muesli, then shake, holding firmly on to the lid.

See? It really couldn’t be any easier. Pour out a bowl full one night you’re feeling organised and add your homemade yoghurt and mix, then you’ve got Bircher muesli in the morning. I have actually only managed to make this once, it was a bit cold for my morning teeth, but the microwave sorted that out.

The beauty is you can add whatever you like, in whatever proportions you like. The Source actually stock those odd dry sticks you find in bought muesli, but I can’t see the point in eating them so I leave them out. If you’re going through a chia seed and Goji berry phase (and I’m not judging you), bung them in. I’ve heard of some hedonists spreading the stuff out on a baking tray, drizzling over maple syrup or honey and baking it for a bit to crisp it up. You can even eat it with milk, if you’re the hardy type that can do that sort of thing without flatulent consequences. Boil it up in water in the winter for exciting porridge.

As with many things of this type, once you’ve tried it there’s no going back.


Three Litres of Pizza Sauce

Owning a Thermomix, as I do, gives you delusions. Of course I can make that. Strawberry jam for about a thousand Devonshire teas at the school fundraiser? A mere bagatelle. Salted caramel icecream? Give me half an hour. A pair of tights with Middle Earth printed on them? Come on Kath, you know there must have been a Thermomix involved in there somewhere. So when the call goes out for three litres of pizza sauce for the school garden party one doesn’t even hesitate.

I only have the vaguest idea as to what they meant when they asked for three litres of pizza sauce. Clearly the volume is fairly straightforward. I’ve only ever put Leggo’s tomato paste on a pizza. I don’t much like the look of the Approved Thermomix recipe for tomato paste, surprise, surprise, so I thought I’d make something up.

Obviously tomatoes. For tomatoes, there is only one place to go, and that is to Frank. You can actually smell the tomatoes as you walk past his tiny unreconstructed shop. I don’t want the giant ridged ones that you slice and put on a sandwich, though they were a revelation the first time I tried them. They don’t turn your roll to slop. I got some little Romas he had packaged up as they were getting a bit soft and some small round ones that just smelled divine. Frank doesn’t seem to mind me sniffing his produce, or maybe he’s just too polite to say anything. But how can you tell if you don’t breathe them in first?

I thought some red onions might be nice too, sweeter than brown, and the garlic looked good, and some basil. To make a paste you have to get rid of much of the water in the tomatoes, and the suggested recipe involves just boiling them for ages. You know what’s better than boiled tomatoes? Almost anything. I thought I’d roast them instead. Aren’t they beautiful?

Don’t roast the basil, and don’t bother peeling the garlic cloves. I used two garlic cloves and one onion per pan. I drizzled them with balsamic vinegar and the special olive oil I bought from Fernando in Montefioralle. I sprinkled them with salt and a Tuscan salt blend I’d bought from a madly striped macelleria. As it cooked I started to suspect that what was blended with the salt was a whole lot of MSG, mmmmmUmami.

They roasted on and off for about two hours at 140 degrees. Hard to tell, there was a train station pickup and a choir pickup in there too. I didn’t want it to dry out too much. This looked about perfect.

I squeezed the garlic out of their skins, the first time I’ve ever successfully done this. I usually burn it. 140 degrees, give it plenty of time, that’s what I was doing wrong. The whole lot went into the Thermomix to blend, with a dainty covering of fresh basil.

Telling you that it made almost exactly a litre isn’t terribly helpful if I can’t tell you what weight of tomatoes I started with. Maybe a kilo. I will concentrate when making my next two litres and may even remember to tell you.

The consistency was just right and tasted divine. I’m resisting the urge to add sugar and salt, that’s what Leggos would do. There’s something else they’d do, something I hadn’t realised until I made my own. Have a look at the finished product.

It’s not the lighting. It isn’t bright red, it’s more a sunburn colour, sort of orangey brown. It tastes of sunshine and essence of tomato and I’m very proud of it. But no shelf appeal. Luckily it isn’t going on a shelf. And neither are its two friends that I’ll make just as soon as I get myself back up to Frank’s.

Poppyseed Crackers

I’m averaging about one committee meeting a week at the moment. One likes to be involved with ones community, and for me joining committees is the form this takes. Tonight it’s the choir meeting, we’ll be chatting about superannuation and to whom it is paid, and accompanists, and how much do you pay a children’s choir and are we ever going to have a website, that kind of thing. These meetings are very kindly hosted by the choir president in her beautiful home, so one wishes to bring a little something to snack on, to keep up the energy levels and to soak up the white wine. I generally forget, and grab some dried fruit or a bottle of wine as I head out the door, but today I’m organised and I’ve made crackers.

There’s generally cheese at these binges, so I wanted something fairly unassuming and a bit dry. Cracker recipes seem to fall into two categories, flaky and cheesy, and dry and plain. I took a standard recipe and did this with it.

The suggestion was for 250 grams of flour. I have a Thermomix, as I may have mentioned once or twice, so I put one hundred grams of whole wheat in the jug and Thermomixed it into flour.

I actually put in the leaves of a couple of sprigs of rosemary too, but as you can’t taste them in the finished product, ignore that. Except to say that if you want a rosemary flavour you’re going to have to use a sprig longer than two centimetres.
Then added a hundred and fifty grams of plain white flour. And a teaspoon of baking powder. Add sixty grams of Pepe Saya butter and zap it until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Pour in a hundred grams of cold water and two tablespoons of poppy seeds and mix on reverse speed about three until the dough starts coming together. Dump half of it it onto a sheet of baking paper, add another sheet over the top and roll that dough out until it’s really thin.

You could put the other half in the fridge meanwhile. Or you could not bother. Cut out lots of little shapes and put them on a baking paper lined biscuit tray. Sprinkle with salt, this is where you use your fancy salt. Do the same with the rest of the dough. You’re only doing it in two batches because it takes up so much bench space when you roll it out thin. Bake at 160 degrees for about twenty minutes, until they’re just starting to brown.

I tasted one and it was pretty much what I was after. I like the texture from the whole wheat, the poppy seeds and the ground salt. The flavour was suitably unassuming. Yet subtly moreish. I am really enjoying making cookie cutter biscuits, they look so neat!

I’m also really enjoying having a break from being a committee treasurer this year. But I believe all that will change next week, at the Womyn’s Collective committee meeting. I’m a sucker for being treasurer.

What to do with Marshmallows with Issues – Iced VoVo Slice

One of the many things we learned while camping is that marshmallows aren’t as robust as they look. We brought along a couple of jumbo sized packets to roast over the campfire, but only got through half a packet before the total fire ban overtook us. We carelessly tossed aside both the opened and unopened packets and discovered as we were packing up that the contents of both packets had coalesced into one giant, ungainly confection.

Waste not, want not. It looked to me like I was going to make Iced VoVo slice. I was a bit stymied by the children never having heard of an Iced VoVo, what with their organic home baked hemp swaddled upbringing. I explained that it was a biscuit topped with jam, marshmallow and coconut. “Sounds weird”, they said as one.

You know I’m not an easy person to deter. First to find a suitable base. I chose Tish Boyle’s sweet pastry crust, and it goes like this.
Place one and a third cups of flour and 125 grams of cold butter in the Thermomix or inferior simulacrum. She also suggests a third of a cup of white sugar, but this is going to be pretty sweet with the jam and marshmallow, so I only put in two tablespoons. Zap it until the mixture resemble breadcrumbs. Add two teaspoons of cold water and a large egg yolk and zap again. Press into a lined roasting pan and bake for twenty minutes, until just starting to brown.

What to do with the marshmallow? I think I had about 200 grams in the opened packet. I put it in the Thermomix.

I tried just chopping it, but that just made more mess. So I put the temperature up to fifty degrees, the speed up to ten and whipped it for an amount of time that escapes my memory. Five minutes? Possibly ten? I peeked in the top and stopped it when there was a light pink shiny thing going on in there, instead of multicoloured glop.

I spread the cooked slice base with the last of my first experiment with strawberry jam, the one that wasn’t sweet enough and was too acid. It has featured in a few normal jam slices, but this may be its finest hour. I squodged the warm marshmallow on top of that, it was cool enough to spread out with my fingers. There may have been a bit too much marshmallow, if there is such a thing. I then pressed a whole lot of desiccated coconut on top, I felt that it needed a lot for texture and flavour. It did sink in quite well.

You want to wait until it’s well and truly cold, maybe even refrigerated, before you cut it because that marshmallow is STICKY.

The hordes didn’t really like their first piece. Outside their experience. Five to ten minutes later they wanted another bit, just to make sure. And now it’s all gone and they’re clamouring for more. Lucky I’ve got a whole ‘nother packet of marshmallows with issues.

Lemongrass Iced Tea

Well at least I think it’s lemongrass. The leaves look right, and smell right. The flowers look about right. It’s the stalks that I’m not sure about. They’re segmented and kind of pulpy in the middle and also eight feet tall.

A friend gave them to me, pulled them out of her garden which they were threatening to overtake. I was very pleased, I love home grown surplus. It wasn’t til I got home that I started wondering about them. I chopped up some of the leaves and ran a bath over them. No scent. There was some scent when you rubbed the leaves. And the stalks didn’t look right, they are more like bamboo. “You’d better identify them properly before you kill us all”, said my killjoy husband. No sense of adventure, that man. I thought I’d experiment on myself by making lemongrass tea.

I took some leaves and snipped them into the Thermomix, they’re pretty dry and I didn’t fancy chopping them by hand or pounding them with a mortar and pestle, equipment with which I’ve never had any success at all.

I zapped that lot to get something that looked like it had been scraped from the underbelly of a lawnmower. Undeterred, I added two tablespoons of gunpowder green tea, that black stuff that looks like rat droppings.

It was very fragrant, no denying that. A bit reminiscent of lemon scented Jif, as I always find with lemongrass. I added a litre of water and set the Thermomix going at speed three on reverse at one hundred degrees for ten minutes. The result was full of stuff that I wasn’t confident my usual sieve would catch. So in a stroke of sheer genius I rummaged around in the back of the cupboard to find the coffee percolator we’d got as a wedding present that my brother-in-law actually broke on our wedding day. Couldn’t throw it out, sentimental reasons and all that. But look!

The filter fit exactly over my tea jug and did a marvellous job of removing all the very unappetising looking sediment. I added four tablespoons of honey to the hot tea and tasted. It tasted like slightly bitter green tea. I slung in a bit more honey, added a litre of cold water and stuck it in the fridge, hoping for the best.

I was called in to work the next day and my magic teaching tonsil tonic is iced tea, so I took some of my latest concoction. Much to my surprise it tasted completely different cold. Too much honey, for a start. Otherwise, light, fragrant, with a definite lemongrass aftertaste. Either that or some dishwasher powder residue. It’s good enough to make again, if I can ignore the clamouring for a return to the popular favourite of strawberry iced black tea.

Terribly Healthy Bar

You know I don’t usually do this kind of thing. The whole giving up stuff, I don’t get it myself. Can’t you just have bit less coffee, wine, sugar, white bread, self loathing? Why do you have to give it up entirely? Moderation in all things, I always say, but for many people it doesn’t appear to work. Me, if my trousers are getting a bit tight, I lay off the cake and get a bit more exercise. I don’t go out and buy a bigger size. And I don’t pick something to flagellate myself with. Don’t we all know what food is sometimes food? But I’m surrounded by people who seem to feel better if they give up something entirely, if only for a month.

I have a relative who has given up sugar, and it has been a really big thing for him, a real struggle and he has managed to lose a lot of weight this way. I’m very proud of him, because I know how much he loves the sweet stuff. I have watched him eat a large amount of biscuits at a sitting, so I guess moderation isn’t the best option for him, it’s all or nothing. So I wanted to make him something tasty that he could have with a cup of tea that wouldn’t have him falling off the wagon.

There’s a few variations of this on the webz, and I didn’t think it would hold together. You take a couple of large bananas that have seen better days. You mush them up. You mix these with two cups of oats, or in this case, five grain mix which is even better. You add in about half a cup of chopped other tasty bits and pieces, I chose dried apricots, dates, almonds and shaved coconut.

Chopped in the Thermomix, naturally. Flavours of your choice, in this case a teaspoon of cinnamon, a teaspoon of vanilla and the zest of an orange. I think the orange may have been overdoing it, but heigh ho. Press the lot into a lined square cake tin and bake for about half an hour.

Pickle me grandmother, it does actually hold together. I’d wait until it was cold before cutting it up. It was pretty good in a very hemp lined tree hugging way. Sweeter than I would have expected, that would be all the fruit. But I believe sugar from fruit doesn’t count, it’s one of those regimes with fairly arbitrary rules, based, as they always are, on the work of an American guru. I don’t think you could eat too much of it anyway, your jaw would wear out.

But the main thing was that it tasted good with a cup of tea. Mission accomplished.

Flavoured Milk

“Why can’t you just be normal and buy Nesquick?” asked the Moose. He’s been requiring a lot of fuel lately, what with the intense timetable and having to stoop so his head doesn’t poke a hole in the ceiling. He found a forgotten tin of the stuff in the back of the pantry and sucked it down with about two litres of milk. “Buy more Nesquick!” he demanded. It’s just strawberry flavouring, yes? Strawberries are cheap at the moment.

What you do is chuck a punnet of strawberries into the Thermomix, take off their hats first and give them a rinse. Half a cup of sugar and a cup of water. Varoma for ten minutes, speed two. One hundred degrees for half an hour, speed two. The Muffet caught me trying to sieve the damned stuff through a tea strainer.

“Who cares about lumps?” she trilled. So I just dumped it in the jar. It possibly would have better without them, but hey. I wanted to make chocolate syrup too, and there was much else going on, not the least an analysis of sheet music costs for the last four years for the choir. Something to put off til at least bedtime.

Chocolate syrup is also easy. A cup of finest cocoa powder, half a cup of brown sugar, a cup of white sugar, a cup and a half of water. One hundred degrees at speed three for ten minutes. I added a personal touch of a tablespoonful of malt syrup which I finally tracked down to the health section in Woolies, curse them.

It isn’t very thick, but it’s delicious and rich.

I can’t get the kids to try it though, they’re busy with the strawberry flavour.
“Do you like it?” I chase the Moose around the house asking. “No!” he says. “Well, yes, it’s delicious. But I wanted Nesquick!” I think he’s trying to tell me something. I wonder what it is?

Strawberry Iced Tea

It’s like this. No, that’s not right. It’s not like I actually went out and… Well, what with one thing and another, I appear to have a job. Only a small one, mind. But it does involve quite a lot of standing up and talking and rather gives one a thirst.

I’ve tried the sipping of water and it isn’t enough. I’m not just talking, I’m projecting. Singing a little bit. By the end of the first day what I most felt like was a glass of honey with a splash of whiskey in it. The following week I discovered that the beverage I was looking for was iced tea. Which is odd, really, because I don’t like tea. Sometimes I feel like it, or the occasion seems to demand it, and then I have it black with one. Most of the time I regret it, because it makes me feel like my tongue has been sandpapered and I get a squeezed feeling about the kidneys. But I appear to be able to drink iced tea with no ill effects. So naturally ones thoughts turn to making the stuff.

It turns out to be dead easy. In its most simple form it is actually tea diluted by its volume again in cold water and heavily sweetened. I fancied it flavoured, but the peaches you can get at the moment come from very far away. What is cheap and a plausible tea flavour is strawberries.

First make a pot of tea. I have in the collection a teapot that makes about a litre of tea.

Four scoops of tea in the mesh strainer thingy. I really must go and buy some nice tea for this exercise, because once the kids discover it I’ll be making it a lot. Then put a decapitated punnet of strawberries into the Thermomix, along with a peeled and deseeded half a lemon. You knew the Thermomix was going to come into it. Zap the fruit. Pour in the hot tea. Zap again. Taste for sweetness. There isn’t any. I have a small pot of honey that I found in my handbag last time I cleared it out, I have some vague memory of someone giving it to me. Its time has come.

I think it would be about a third of a cup. Possibly half. That took it up to the desired sweetness. I thought I’d filter it into a jug, there was a lot of pulp that I’d rather not strain through my teeth. I added a litre of water to the jug. The we have it, strawberry iced tea.

The Moose said it tasted just like Liptons, which I’m fairly sure is a compliment. I thought it was much nicer. If it doesn’t last until Friday, I’m sure I can find five minutes to make up some more. I wonder what other plausible tea flavours there are?

Spreadable Butter

Well, I can do butter. Easy. Done it at least three times now. But as the level slowly drops on the Western Star Spreadable, I know that it’s time to take the next step.

And I’ll tell why I’ve been hesitant. All of the Thermomix recipes for butter you can spread from the fridge are the same and look highly dubious to me. You weigh your butter and add the same weight of oil AND the same weight of water. Sounds like a recipe for a mess to me, and not terribly buttery. I don’t want to be able to pour the stuff onto my toast, I’d just like to be able to scrape off a curl rather than slice it from the fridge.

I’ve been putting it off long enough that one of the cartons of cream I have is old enough to fret about life and as a result is maybe a touch sour. The other pot is fine, though. What the hell, I’ll bung them both in, with half a teaspoon of salt. The sour one is a brand I haven’t used before, Country Valley, or something similarly bucolic. The fresh one is whatever I get from Harris Farm, I’ve always found it to be a little thick. So of course I get a result that’s delightfully different from the last three batches I’ve made, when there’s been no variables. It’s a much lighter colour, separated more easily and seems to be fluffier.

I still get four hundred grams of butter from six hundred millilitres of cream. Because I’m experimenting, I divide it in half. Half goes into the butter dish to be used as required in making dinner and baking.

Half goes back into the jug for a new life. I’ve weighed it, and it’s a bit under half, 180 grams. I think we’ll take this slow, so I only add forty grams of grape seed oil. I’m not going to add water because I’ve just had a whole lot of buttermilk sieved into a bowl, I use forty grams of that. I whip it at speed five for about a minute.

What we’re doing here is forcing the water and the fat to mix, with the help of the oil. It’s a bit counterintuitive, I’ve just separated the water from the fat to make the butter from cream, now I’m forcing some of it back in. You can do it with emulsifiers, or you can do it with brute force like we’re doing here. It seems softer than my butter control, so I slap it into a dish and stick it in the fridge.

And here we are after a needlessly longwinded P&F meeting, ready to have a bit of toast before going to bed. What do you know, it’s about the same consistency as the Western Star we use, needs a bit of persuading, but definitely spreadable. I wasn’t after a marshmallow foam type consistency. Just cream, water and grape seed oil, no emulsifiers, no colouring, no flavouring. Actually, you could do this with any butter you buy, cream it as if you were going to make a delicious biscuit, then before it knows what it’s about, whip some water and oil into it. Spreadable whatever you like.

Better Corn Fritters

I’ve made some Thermomix inspired improvements to the humble corn fritters that form about a monthly addition to the diet of my children. The original recipe that I seem to recall blogging about some time ago is basically a savoury pikelet with some corn added. See how far we’ve come.

I start off with buckwheat.

My source for this is The Source in Balmain, now that I’m getting less scared of parking in that fashionable suburb. You can buy buckwheat flour if you don’t have the means of grinding it, or The Source will actually grind it for you. I put a cup in the Thermomix and zap at high speed for about a minute. Add a four hundred and ten gram tin of corn (that’s an odd weight, doesn’t it sound converted from a pound? Close, but no cigar). And an egg.

I also put in a container of cheese that I’d Thermomixed for pizza, a mix of cheddar, mozzarella and Parmesan. I’m really going to have to do some kind of analysis on how much cheaper is it to do your own processing of things like pizza cheese, or making yoghurt. I’m getting the feeling I’m saving quite a few bucks. And those of you out there trying to justify buying one might appreciate it.

Also four teaspoons of baking powder. Then enough buttermilk to make a thick batter. You mix it in the Thermomix on reverse speed two and pour the buttermilk through the lid, peeking to see what consistency you’re up to. Leave it for a bit while you go and compose a riveting email to your husband about superannuation.

Heat some fat in a frying pan, I’m using some chicken fat I saved from our last chicken roast. Gosh I’m getting frugal. Put soup spoons of batter in the pan, turning when some bubbles start appearing
on the surface. You want them all golden.

They’ve got a richer, nuttier flavour than the pikelet version. It doesn’t taste wholemeal at all. The baking powder and buttermilk makes it fluffy. Don’t tell the Moose it has cheese in it, he thinks he doesn’t like melted cheese. Rubbish, of course, everyone likes melted cheese.