"A person cooking is a person giving: Even the simplest food is a gift."

Laurie Colwin

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Salty, sweet, spicy, and simply divine.

This is what I did on my term break:

Went to bed late
Got up late
Had my heart broken by Wally Lamb (again)
Went to the Grampians for Easter (again)
Ate chocolate daily
Crocheted 3/4 of a beanie/beret thing
Worried over my youngest child, away on an arduous camp
Bought an AMAZING set of cheapskate knives
Celebrated my husband's birthday
Became addicted to kimchi

Are two weeks long enough to develop an addiction?  They must be, because here I am, craving mouthfuls of crunchy, salty, tangy, spicy, stinky goodness every hour of every darned day.  And not just any kimchi, but homemade kimchi, which is like nothing you get in either restaurants or shops.  Shop- or restaurant-bought kimchi is all right, but homemade is not anything you can call "all right" – nothing you can be ambivalent about.  It is either love with a violent passion, or completely turn away from.

This term break began with the discovery of Maangchi, whom I promptly fell in love with, for her skills, knowledge, warmth, sultry voice, and her honest and earthy enjoyment of everything she eats.  And it continued with trying a few recipes out here and there.  And then it culminated with my first batch of kimchi, made in desperation out of stuff I didn't want to throw away.

I came home from the Grampians (see What I Did on My Term Break, above), and had my usual shock-horror response when I saw the contents of my refrigerator crisper, which I'd totally forgotten about before I left. Even though I'd never made kimchi before, I decided to make it out of the things that most desperately needed using: a bag of discounted coleslaw mix I'd bought on impulse, a bunch of bok choy whose outer leaves were beginning to wilt, carrots, and a couple of bunches of spring (green) onions that were papery on the outside but still had sweet and tender centres.  

Obviously not a purist's kimchi, but it was good.  Even before fermentation it was like a million plus a million times better than any kimchi I'd ever had before:  the salting process totally removed the bitterness from the bok choy, and the flavours were rounded and full.  After a couple days' fermentation on the bench, the flavours had deepened and I now had something quite complex on the palate.
So I started me thinking: can you make kimchi out of anything? The nice people in Maangchi's forums assured me you could.  I had dreams of pumpkin and broccoli stem kimchi and all kinds of weird and wonderful things, but the first thing that came my way was a whole pile of Chantenay carrots on special.  I had this image of Maangchi munching on very crunchy cubed radish kimchi (kkakdugi) and I knew my time had come.

By this stage, I had availed myself of what is probably the most important ingredient making kimchi this way:  the chili flakes.  Now… I am the queen of substitutions, but after a few tries I have to say:  there is no substitute for Korean chili flakes here.

Chili powder won't do (it has too many foreign flavours), and ordinary dried chili flakes are too potent (plus they don't – at least in Oz – have the wonderful colour).  If you're happy to go to your closest supplier of Korean chili flakes, go, right now, and make this, straight after that.  And enjoy IMMEDIATELY.

See, this is the beauty of homemade kimchi, and an experience you cannot have when you're getting it in a restaurant or out of a box:  munching on freshly-made kimchi.  Yes, yes, fermented kimchi is delicious, but freshly-made is an absolute revelation.  Times like this, Maangchi says, all she needs is the freshly-made kimchi and a bowl of rice, and I can see why.  You just want to enjoy it straight away and have absolutely nothing come between you and it, except perhaps for the comforting earthiness of steamed rice.  I had leftover Asian-style broth from last night's noodle soup, so instead of rice, I made a delicious potful of fluffy ttukbaegi gyeranjjim to go with it.

It was Heaven.  Heaven, I tell you.  Go and make kimchi now.  It's quick, it's easy, you'll never be the same again.

Here's how.

You begin by degorging the veg in salt and sugar.

Look at all the liquid that's released after just 30 minutes.  You'll be draining most of this away.

Dump the other ingredients on top…

... and then just mix the heck out of it.  Hands are quickest and easiest, but wear rubber gloves.  I don't want to hear that you mixed this with your bare hands and then tried to remove your contact lenses and thought your eyes were going to melt off.  Not that I speak from personal experience or anything.

You can eat it right away or refrigerate it, or put it into a container to ferment for a couple of days before refrigerating.  Either way, it'll be salty, sweet, spicy, and simply divine.

I used to think that kimchi was just a condiment or side dish.  Well, it is, but it's so much more than that.  Think of it as one of your essential ingredients.  Once you realise that not only can you eat it as is, but also add it as one of your special touches to whatever it is you're making, you'll never go back.

1 kg Chantenay carrots, small as you can get them
1 kg white radish or daikon
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp salt
4 spring (green) onions, chopped
1/2 bunch garlic scapes (shoots), cut into same length as carrots
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp minced ginger
2/3 cup Korean chili flakes
1/4 cup fish sauce

What you do:
1.  Cut the tops off the carrots, and place in large bowl.  (If some carrots are extra large, cut in half.)  Peel radish or daikon, and cut into sections as long as the carrots.  Cut each section into six or eight wedges, and add to the bowl.  Sprinkle over sugar and salt, mix, and allow to degorge for 30 minutes, stirring now and then.
2.  Drain vegetables, reserving the liquid.  Add remaining ingredients plus 1/3 of the liquid you drained off, and mix well.  Your hands are best for this, but please – wear rubber or disposable plastic gloves!
3.  Kimchi is ready to enjoy straight away, but you can also ferment it (in fact, you may want to do half and half).  To ferment, pack into a sturdy container, jar, or large Ziploc bag.  Leave at room temperature for 1-3 days.  Kimchi will be fermented when it begins to smell sour; it may also display bubbles on the surface.  Once fermented, store in the refrigerator.

Yumbo McGillicutty!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Vibey's Gallery of Not Altogether Useless and Rather Fun Kitchen Gadgetry

I do love me a gadget, whether electric, mechanical, or just hand-pushed.  Gadgets aren't necessary - they're not equipment, not batterie de cuisine - but there are times when you could weep with gratitude that you have them.  That olive pitter you only use once a year?  Tell me you won't want to kiss it when you have to pip 10 kilos of cherries.

But there are other gadgets.  Silly gadgets.  Gadgets that are the equivalent of toys for a person whose favourite playground is the kitchen.  When I've had a hard week, and find myself in a variety store with enough pocket money to have a good time, I will usually migrate to the kitchen section, and when the variety store happens to be Japanese, the playthings are quite something.

Wanna see?

I haven't made onigiri in decades.  But when I do finally make onigiri again, I want them shaped like a heart and a cherry blossom, dammit!

Yes, it's a squirty bottle.  But it's a squirty bottle with class, pumping out not just a single squeeze, but four fine lines with a single stroke.  Mayo on okonomiyaki, melted chocolate on sit-down indoor 'smores… the squiggles make them so much better.

OK so this why the Japanese are engineering geniuses.  We all know that you need both a spoon and a fork or chopsticks when you're having Asian-style noodle soup, right?  So why not combine the two?  Huh?  HUH?  Like I said:  genius.

The fig isn't there for decoration, it's there to show you how small this loose-bottom cake pan is.  In that best-selling book, Why Japanese People (Except Sumo Wrestlers) Aren't Fat Like Us*, one of the reasons put forward is that cakes are made in pans this size, which provide about 30 servings.  I found this size ideal for making my son's sushi birthday cake.  I also bought one that's about 2/3 this size, which also made a great-sized sushi cake to feed about six of us fat Westerners.  Finding loose-bottomed pans this size in ordinary kitchenware suppliers is hard;  when you find them, they cost an arm and a leg.  That's because they're made in Europe and the Europeans want to keep us fat.  This one set me back just a couple bucks.

This thing cuts the crust off a sandwich and encloses the filling.  The heart… the heart is to remind you that it's all worth it.  The end.

OK, so this is not a silly gadget at all.  It's actually quite cool, and I'm quite excited about having this in my arsenal.  The label tells us that "When you cook pasta and retort food, you can boil an egg or vegetables by this colander at the same time."  Yes, yes, but more than that.  If I'm making an Asian-style broth, I can actually put my slices of ginger, garlic cloves, green onion tops and dried anchovies in this thing, and just lift it out when done rather than straining the whole shebang.

Yes, it's another mould.  For rice.  This one-serve mould holds over half as much as the cake mould does, which again tells us Why Japanese People (Except Sumo Wrestlers) Aren't Fat Like Us*:  it's OK to eat half a cake, just as long as the cake is only rice shaped like a cake.

Another rice mould, this one for omurice.  I have no idea how this is going to work, unless I make a completely flat, dry, pancakey omelette, and line the mould with it before spooning in the rice.  But if I did that, then I would miss out on the ritual of splitting the gooey omelette and having it flow over the rice, and… OK, I'm taking this one back to the shop.

Because I like to have wooden spoons for mustard and other tracklements at the table.  Even if they are rubber wood.  Whatever that is.

OK, I admit it:  I have a son who expressed an interest in making his own teabags.  That is perfectly normal, right?  So the small ones are for him.  The big ones are for me, for bouquet garni and other things I want to fish out easily from a pot at the end of cooking.

Again, not silly at all.  These little natural fibre brushes are so incredibly brilliant that I bought three.  The notches on the side are to control the length of the brush fibres.  Have them long like this, medium, or short and stubby (ideal for greasing up the pan between crêpes).

This very gorgeous foil paper is used for wrapping up sandwiches and bento items.  One day, when I decide to be an exemplary mother, I will do that.  Or maybe I'll wait until I can be an exemplary grandmother.

This is such a clever idea that I don't know why no one thought of it decades ago.  Shot glasses are a standard measure, right?  So here you have a standard measure with measurements up the sides.  The measuring spoons have been feeling pretty neglected since this came into the house.

Another gadget I am excited about.  A little thingie that will grind sesame seeds for you.  I love to sprinkle gomashio over everything except my All-Bran, and this is brilliant, because as you may or may not know, if you make gomashio ahead of time, it just clumps together after a few days.  But I can fill this mill with roasted sesame seeds and sea salt flakes, and grind my gomashio as I need it.  That is, if I can make sense of the instructions:  "This commodity might change in quality by the terpene or oils and fats contained in the skin of citrus fruits such as the lemons."  "Rough of sesame can be added or subtracted to the own taste by adjusting an internal screw."  "Of beginning use it becomes easy to use when putting sesame in the container and turning the steering wheel though the rotation of the steering wheel may be tight."  Of course.

These I didn't buy. My colleague Kylie brought them for me from New Zealand.  They are for frying eggs in the shape of a cow, a sheep, or a kiwi (the bird, not the fruit).  I wonder what made her think I would use such a thing?

Surely not these eggs shaped like teddy bears, bunnies, hearts, stars, cars, and fish!  No way.

No, I didn't need another saucepan, but this isn't just another saucepan.  It isn't that it's just the right size for one or two packets of ramen, but that despite being stainless steel, it's thin with a thin bottom.    It's not meant to sauté anything:  it's meant to heat liquids up fast.  Faster than the mikey, with more even heat distribution.  My sons, who eat ramen in industrial quantities, will use this.

As will I.  Happy and satisfied after my little shopping spree, I can have a little play in the kitchen and a bit of a giggle while I eat my lunch.  Because sometimes, we all need a little teddy bear looking out at us from our noodle bowl.

Yumbo McGillicutty!

*  Not a real book title. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

50 posts, 16 years, one cake

This is my 50th post in this bit o’fun I call Yumbo McGillicutty! – my quiet and unassuming little food blog.  Fifty posts may not be much by other über-blogger standards, but it’s got me thinking about when I got into the Internet, about 16 years ago.

The Internet – even though it was far more advanced and bore little resemblance to the “first”, government- and nerd-populated Internet others knew through the ‘70s and 80s – was quite a different place then than it is now.  It was rough-and-ready, and looking back, quaint.  And it opened up the world for me.

In those days, I was isolated and lonely, raising children on acreage and holding the fort through some happy but hard days, unable to really count on a husband who worked unspeakably long and impossible hours.  Perhaps to my detriment – I dread to think how many hours could have been spent doing something constructive instead of “research” that steals hours in the blink of an eye – I turned to the Internet to draw closer to everything and everyone who was far away, and to amass and absorb information in a way that not even a mad reader such as me had been able to before.  It was awesome.  

One of the most awesome things was access to recipes.  Recipes for anything, courtesy of your favourite search engine!  Delivered to your Inbox via e-mail!  Recipes everywhere!  But they weren’t like you might see them today:  set up to food stylist standards with photography to match.  They were just… recipes.  Recipes that were sometimes backed up with lovely words that made you want to cook that thing, right now, but more often recipes by people whose judgement and taste you’d learnt to trust by virtue of their presence in a particular forum or noticeboard, where Experience and Knowledge was a beacon.

Look at me.  Getting nostalgic over the Old Internet.  But there were people who taught me so much and have been proven by time to be unforgettable.  “Limey Rik”, a teetotaller who compulsively made vats of wine from whatever he foraged each year:  dandelions, brambleberries.  Marie from Countrylife, whose knowledge of bread baking was encyclopaedic.  And Raz, whose grammar and spelling were woeful but whose every home-style recipe was guaranteed to make the people you cook for forget that things such as grammar – or even language! - “Mmm… mmm!...” – exist.

It was Raz who first posted a recipe for something called Spanish Bar Cake.  I’d never had it before, but she posted my favourite part of a recipe besides the eating:  the anthropological context.  She said it was a standard in A&P grocery stores in the U.S.  Here in Australia, I’d never been to an A&P store, much less had the cake, but even though the cake seemed nothing special to me, I trusted Raz, and I was intrigued that enough people rhapsodised about it, were nostalgic about it, and wanted to reproduce it at home.  So I made it, and understood why they did:  it isn’t a cake for sissies.  It is Serious Cake.  Very sweet, very spicy cake.  Dense cake.  Happy-to-be-home cake.  Not for dessert, but for chowing down.

Raz said, “Eat it, drink milk.  Makes a complete dessert meal.  Protein, fat, carbohydrate, pleasure.”

Yes, I wrote that down.  Now, it’s history.  When Raz first posted the recipe, it was one of just two or three recipes for Spanish Bar Cake on the Internet.  Since then, it’s been reproduced countless times in many websites, and the name of its original contributor has been lost to the virtual sands of time.  Or whatever.

But I remember.  I may be reproducing the recipe yet again, but I’m returning credit where credit is due.  I don’t know who Raz is, or was, but she shared something with me that has been part of my life now for 16 years, and part of my kids’ lives, and who knows?  Maybe my kids’ kids and theirs.  None of us in the U.S., none of us giving a damn about no A&P.  Just the cake.

A slice for you, Raz, and a nice cuppa herbal tea (although I did have a piece with a glass of milk for breakfast a few days ago), and a slice for everyone at the birth of this super information hyper highway who took the time to share a special recipe, and the reason it was special.  Because of you, the food blogosphere would not be where it is today.

This is Raz’s original recipe, almost as exactly written back in the day.  Raz didn’t include milk in the original recipe, but you may need it due to the variables in homemade applesauce:  if it’s too thick, you’ll need milk, if it’s more liquid, you won’t.  Remember, however, that this is a dense cake with a dense batter, so add just enough milk to slacken it, not liquify it.

2 1/2 cups Plain flour
1 tsp. bicarb soda (baking soda)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg, freshly grated for preference
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
Milk, as needed
1 tsp. vanilla essence
1 cup chunky applesauce, homemade is best
1 cup plump raisins
1/2 cup roughly-chopped walnuts (opt.)

For the icing -
250g. cream cheese
4 tsp. butter
2 1/4 cups icing sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice

What you do:
1. Grease and flour rectangular cake pan, or brush with Baker's Secret.  Preheat oven to 175oC.
2. Sift dry ingredients together, set aside.
3. In mixer on high speed, cream butter and sugar together.  Add eggs.  Blend well, then turn to low speed, and add vanilla and applesauce.  Add raisins, and dry ingredients.  Mix with a wooden spoon only until dry ingredients are moistened, then stop.  If necessary, add a little milk to slacken mixture slightly.
4. Turn mixture into pan, and bake for about 45 min., or until cooked when tested.  Leave to cool in pan, and cover with icing, making squiggle patterns with a fork.

*  To make icing, beat all ingredients together well.

Yumbo McGillicutty!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Turning and Two-minute Toum

We've all wasted food, but let me tell you, you know nothing about wasting food until you've been in a professional cookery class on Turned Potato Day.

For those of you who are too young to remember Nouvelle Cuisine or spent the 80s trying to master beurre blanc, turned vegetables are vegetables – usually roots and tubers – that are "turned" into five- or seven-sided barrel shapes with a turning knife (or ordinary paring knife if you're a Turning Genius).  It is not something that is relevant any more (when was the last time you saw a turned vegetable?) or something that you can learn in a few hours when you've also got another six precision cuts to learn, but still, it's in the curriculum, so we give it a go.

I show the students a video.  Then I demonstrate.  Once.  Twice.  Three times.  These kids try.  And fail.  Fail so spectacularly.  They fear cutting towards their thumbs, they fear the long continuous cut, they fear gripping the veg.  One potato looks like Headless Yoda.  One student thinks the pile of trimmings she's got is the turned potato.  I send them to get more potatoes.  The pile of potato trimmings – not peel, actual potato flesh – grows and grows.

While they try and fail, I chop up the potato trimmings and throw them into a pot for potato soup.  While I chop, I remember when I learned to turn veg.  I'd already had the obligatory lesson on turning vegetables but the turning moment, so to speak, was during a week's work experience at Mietta's in 1993, when Mietta was still alive and her restaurant was one of Melbourne's flagships.  Mietta's had a traditional French kitchen brigade (read: arrogant, tough, and properly sexist towards women in the kitchen) and a traditional French menu.  No vegetable was ever served in its original form.  Spuds were sliced thickly and then cut into rounds with a scone cutter.  Perfect baby turnips were shaved.  And carrots were turned.  So my real lesson on turning veg happened when the sous chef pointed at a 10kg bag of carrots and said, "Turn those!"  By the tenth carrot, my turning was pretty damned perfect.  (And I suffered.  That amount of turning meant that I ended up with microscopic cuts all over my thumbs from the motion of stopping the turning knife.  Not a problem, until the sous chef got me to shell 10kg of Moreton Bay bugs immediately afterwards.  Ever had an infection on your thumbs?  Not nice.)

But I digress.  I hate waste.  I use up the potato trimmings for a soup that isn't altogether a success, and while I'm putting it in the coolroom, I notice the leftover falafel from a barbeque we catered a few days ago.  They won't see another day, the students prefer the leftover sausages for their lunch, so I decide to take them home for dinner.

They're pretty good falafels, but because they were made to not offend teenage palates, they are on the bland side.  So I decide to make some Lebanese garlic sauce to go with them.

Toum, toom, or zait b'toum is the Holy Grail for garlic lovers.  It's what aioli should be but isn't since it's been discovered and reinvented for non-Spanish palates.  It is garlic extreme – there's not even a drop of olive oil to detract from the garlic flavour – and in my house, I have to stop people pouncing on it with a spoon.

For many years, I relied on my Lebanese friend Lily for it, because every time I made it, it would curdle, to the point where even though my children would still eat it, they would call it Garlic Fail.  Until the fateful day when I found Fouad's recipe and I was able to turn out an entire canister full of Garlic Win.  The family rejoiced and grabbed spoons.

Fouad's recipe is foolproof, and ideal for when you need a large amount of toum – I'll keep on using it for the rest of my life – but despite the food processor, it takes considerable care and time.  It is the only thing I make in the food processor that actually heats up the motor.  And Fouad has since posted a quicker and easier way to make toum for smaller quantities, but after a recent article on mayonnaise in Serious Eats, I suspected - sorry, Fouad! - that I could do better.

I did.  Last night's toum took two minutes flat with the stick blender - including the time it took to gather ingredients and peel garlic.  And it was full of win.  Not just garlicky, but white, perfectly fluffy and of such enviable texture that I could have cut it with a knife.  The leftover falafels went from being falafels to Those Little Round Things We Can Put Garlic Sauce on.  No waste.

No joke – this toum will take you two minutes flat, if that.  You're after a light, fluffy texture, and this recipe will give you that without any effort whatsoever.  No streaming oil in, no stress about how the emulsion will happen.  Just put the stick in and watch the magic happen.  The technique is easy, but if you're nervous, check out the Serious Eats video.  

(Makes 1 cup approx.)

6-8 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp. salt
1 egg white
1 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 cup (250ml) neutral oil (not grapeseed)

What you do:
1.  Put the garlic and salt into the canister of your stick blender (immersion blender, stab mixer – whatever).  Stab a few times to process the garlic to a paste.  Remove stick blender, pour in remaining ingredients, and allow to settle for about 15 seconds.
2.  Put stick blender back into canister, resting it on the very bottom, and switch on.  Mixture will begin to emulsify from the bottom up.  When it's 2/3 emulsified, slowly begin lifting out the stick blender.  By the time it reaches the surface, all of the mixture will be completely emulsified and fluffy. 

Yumbo McGillicutty! 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

How to do summer without sizzling like a silly sausage

Summer means barbequing.  That is, grilling.  Why?  I mean - I understand the concept of eating outside.  I understand the concept of not heating up the kitchen.  What I don’t understand is why, on a day so hot that birds are falling fully cooked from the skies, some poor sap has to lean over glowing coals and volcanic rock and flames, drip-basting meat with his own sweat, and pretend that this is the perfect way to cook in warm weather.

Think about it:  those barbeques and grills get way hotter than your standard burner, your standard skillet, or heck, even your standard carbonize-you-at-closer-than-twenty-paces wok.  OK so barbeques and grills don’t heat up the kitchen like an oven does, but at least you don’t have to lean over an oven, flipping slices of eggplant every two minutes so they don’t self-combust.

So, much as I like them, summer barbeques don’t make all that much sense to me.  My heart always goes out to the aforementioned poor sap, particularly when the poor sap is a Sap on a Mission, like the venerable Sausage Sizzle.

Despite what Hoges may have said back in the '80s, the thing that is thrown most often on Aussie barbies isn’t shrimp, but sausage.  Putting a few snags on the barbie is pretty standard – on their own, or as part of a range of grilled meats – in the home, but outside the home, a sausage sizzle is one of the most common fundraisers.

Go down the street, go to the hardware store, and chances are that your local fire brigade or primary school will be having a sausage sizzle fundraiser.  $1 or $2 will get you a sausage in bread, with lots of nicely browned onions on top, and your choice of sauce.  Yes, it’s cheap, so yes, you can afford to give up another $1 or $2 because the guy (almost always it’s a guy) has been sweating over that hotplate since 9.00am and sizzling along with the sausages because his wife is in the Parents’ Association and she’s told him he’s got to do it or he won’t get any nookie for another month and HE DESERVES IT.

At home, when it’s truly hot, my barbeque stays under cover.  But sausages in bread are expected in summer, so sausages it is, with exactly the same flavour if not better flavour as barbequed, courtesy of my electric frying pan.  No heating up the kitchen.  No working over a hotplate.  No constant watching.  No sizzling except what should be sizzling in the pan while I’m sitting on the verandah, feet on my own poor sap’s lap, chatting a little dozily while we make the ice clink in our drinks.  Barbeque schmarbeque.  Feels like summer to me.

Just three easy steps, I promise.  First, chuck everything into your pan.  (No, you're not imagining it, my sausages here are two different colours.  Half are pork and half are beef.)
All right so at the end of Step 2, it pretty much looks like a dog's breakfast.  But it'll come good.  Promise!
See?  Toldja it'd come good!  Now where are those hot dog buns?...

This is such a low-effort, forgiving recipe – fiddle with the quantities, add ingredients, make it in advance, keep it warm – that it’s perfect for those lazy summer days.  If making it advance, however, it’s best done to the end of Step 2; they are best browned just before serving.  What I like to do is keep the sausages warm in the pan, pile split buns in baskets beside them, provide ketchup and mustard, and just let everyone help themselves.

(8 servings)

1 kg. high-quality, high meat content sausages, such as pork, beef, bratwurst
1 kg. onions
500ml beer (what kind isn’t really important, as long as you stay away from the dark stuff – I actually used a non-alcoholic “brewed beverage”)
2 tbsp. seeded mustard
1 tbsp. oil
To serve:  hot dog buns or other bread, ketchup, mustard, and other condiments of your choice

What you do:
1.  Prick sausages several times.  Place in electric frying pan or a sauté pan large enough to hold the sausages in a single layer.  Slice onions very, very finely (a food processor or mandolin is the thing to use here) and add to pan along with remaining ingredients.  Stir briefly to combine.
2.  Bring to the boil with (or over) high heat.  Cover, and reduce heat to low.  Simmer until sausages are cooked through and onions are very tender – about 20 minutes.
3.  Uncover and increase heat to medium high.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated.  Keep cooking, stirring regularly, until sausages and onions are golden.  (Be careful when stirring:  cooked sausages can break quite easily.)  Serve sausages and onions in buns or bread with your favourite condiments.

Yumbo McGillicutty!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Self-raising flour: what it is, how to make it, and other questions on which the world hangs. Or not.

A bag of self-raising flour is a common sight in pantries across the UK and Australia, but the mention of it tends to send cooks elsewhere into a bit of tizz.  What is this strange and mysterious substance?  

What it is is no mystery.  Neither is how to make it.

SR flour is flour with a leavening agent added, so that whatever baked goodie you’re making won’t require baking powder or baking soda/bicarb-plus-an-acid-component to make it rise.  It’s very handy to have lying around, but if you can’t buy it, or if you run out, you can make yours in a trice.

The proportions are:

2 tsp. baking powder for every cup of flour

Sift together a few times, or if you’re a hard case like I am, just whisk it all vigorously for a minute or so.

Make it in bulk to have it ready to go when needed, or make as much as you need for what you’re making at the time.

OK, so I realise this is a piker’s post.  After all, it’s the last day of the year and I am in proper vacation mode right now.  More or less, I am:

a) not cooking, just subsisting on AWESOME leftovers
b) sitting in front of the telly watching all the DVDs I got for Christmas
c) crocheting
d) reading thick summery novels, and/or
e) any combination of the above.

So it’s like… yawn... Yumbo McGillicutty?  Whassat?

In my defense, however, this is a well handy hint, and I’ll be posting some recipes requiring SR flour soon.  So there.

Happy New Year everyone!  May 2012 be full of all good things for you and yours.