Scones

Scones with jam and dollop of cream, otherwise known as Devonshire tea, is a treat few can say no to.

They are not difficult to make, but as with all easy recipes – scrambled eggs for example – a lot of people don’t get it right. The secret is to handle the dough as little as possible and get the scones into the oven quickly. It’s not bread dough and should not be kneaded: over-handling will make them tough.

With practice you can make scones in just under half an hour – perfect for a last minute afternoon tea. Ring your friends, switch the oven on and as they walk in the door you’ll just be taking the scones out of the oven.

Sour milk or buttermilk works well in scones. They say it makes them rise more and I remember as a child if the milk went sour (which it seemed to do more regularly back then) scones were on the menu. You can also use fresh milk, buttermilk or a mixture of milk and plain yoghurt. Serve with any kind of berry jam – in the photo I used blackberry. The recipe is easy to double.

250g self raising flour (or use plain flour and 2 level tsp baking powder)
½ tsp salt
50g butter (at room temp)
1 Tbs sugar
About 1 cup (250ml) buttermilk, sour milk or fresh milk
To serve:
Whipped cream
Berry jam

Heat oven to 200°C. Sieve flour (and baking powder) into a bowl. Lightly rub in the butter with fingertips until there are no more lumps. Add sugar then milk, stirring with a knife, till it all comes together. It should all stick together, just, but don’t make it too wet.

Tip onto a floured surface and form into a ball, then pat into a circle 2.5 to 3 cm thick. Cut scones with a round 2.5 to 3 cm cutter. Gather the scraps together and cut out 2-3 more from the remaining dough. Arrange on a greased shallow baking sheet. Brush tops with some extra milk. Bake for about 15 minutes until well-risen and lightly browned.

Serve slightly warm with whipped cream and berry jam.

Makes about 8

Zucchini and Haloumi Fritters

You only need one or two zucchini plants in the veggie patch to be inundated in the middle of summer. And if you don’t catch them when they’re small, a day or two later you’ll find they’ve turned into huge marrows! Zucchini with Tarragon and Sour Cream is a good way to use up the big ones.

Zucchini and Haloumi Fritters make a tasty vegetarian meal and any leftovers are delicious cold or reheated in a moderate oven for 5-10 minutes. Serve with Tzatziki and/or tomato chutney. Use regular sized zucchini or remove the seeds from bigger ones.

500g zucchini (seeds removed if large)
250g haloumi cheese
1 small onion, finely chopped
¼ cup finely chopped mint leaves
1 egg
2/3 cup self-raising flour
Vegetable oil for frying the fritters
Tzatziki:
1 Lebanese cucumber, coarsely grated (or half a telegraph one)
1 cup thick plain Greek yoghurt
1 clove garlic, crushed
grated rind ½ lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
To serve:
Salt flakes
Ground cumin
Fresh mint leaves
Tomato Baharat Jam (optional)

Coarsely grate zucchini and halloumi. If you have a coarse grating disk on your food processor, this is a breeze. Mix with remaining ingredients. Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and cook the fritters, 3-4 at a time. Use a tablespoon to dollop the mixture into the pan and flatten each fritter into a thick round shape. Fry for about 4 minutes each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and serve with the Tzatziki, mint leaves, salt flakes and a shake of ground cumin. A little Tomato Baharat Jam, or any other tomato chutney, also goes well.

For the Tzatziki, place the grated cucumber in a sieve and sprinkle with a little salt. Leave to drain for a few minutes, then press down on the cucumber to squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Mix with remaining ingredients.

Serves 4

 

Green Vegetable Frittata with Pesto and Cheese

Frittatas are Italian omelettes. They make a delicious hot meal and any leftovers are perfect cold for lunch next day.

1 bunch asparagus and 1 small bunch broccolini
2 Tbs butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 eggs
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
To serve:
About 6 Tbs pesto (bought or home-made)
Extra virgin olive oil
100g goat’s cheese or feta cheese, crumbled

Wash vegetables and cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) lengths, discarding the tough ends. Heat butter in a 25cm (10 inch) cast-iron or non-stick frying pan. Add the asparagus, broccolini and garlic and season lightly with salt and pepper. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile beat the eggs and season lightly.

When the vegetables are cooked and starting to brown, add the eggs, pulling in the sides with a spatula as they cook, as you do with an omelette. When the frittata is mostly set, sprinkle the Parmesan over the top. Turn off the heat then either put the pan under a hot grill for a minute or so, or cover it with a lid and let it stand for for a minute or so. This is to set the top.

Mix enough olive oil into the pesto to make it pourable then drizzle over the top of the frittata. Top with the crumbled cheese. Cut into wedges to serve.

Serves 3-4 as a light meal

Asian Green Salad

This recipe was given to me some years ago by my friend Donelle. She made it with Pak Choi but today I decided to use fresh spinach from the garden, because we have copious amounts.

I’m not sure if you can buy packets of crispy noodles everywhere in the world. If you can’t find them substitute crushed corn chips. Just something to give a bit of crunch.

The pomegranate arils weren’t in the original recipe, but they add a touch of colour. Some supermarkets sell these either fresh or frozen. I keep them in the freezer and just scrape out a few as required to sprinkle over the top of salads.

Full of iron and other good stuff, this recipe is very healthy!

1 bunch Pak Choy (or substitute spinach or kale)
1 bunch spring onions, thinly sliced (use the white and most of the green)
1 bunch coriander, chopped
¾ cup flaked or slivered almonds (or substitute pine nuts)
1 packet (100g) crispy noodles
Dressing:
2 Tbs lemon or lime juice
¼ cup olive oil
2 tsp soy sauce
1 Tbs fish sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
1-2 tsp grated fresh ginger
Dash of Siracha (or other chilli sauce,) to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs brown sugar
To serve:
Pomegranate arils (optional)

Wash, spin dry and shred the Pak Choy, spinach or kale with a large sharp knife. Place in serving dish with the nuts, which have been lightly toasted in a dry frying pan over moderate heat. Add spring onions and coriander.

Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar and shake well. Mix dressing with salad and top with the crispy noodles. If liked garnish with pomegranate arils and serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

Creamy Polenta with Mushrooms

Now that there’s just the two of us we don’t eat a lot of carbs with our evening meals. Pasta, rice and potatoes were great for filling up the hollow legs of teenagers, but we find we can do without them. So most nights we have some protein – chicken, fish, beef or whatever – with a mountain of green vegetables or salad.

That regime can get a bit boring, so once a week we have a vegetarian meal and occasionally we’ll have pasta or polenta. This recipe from the New York Times caught my eye. I read through the comments people had made after trying the recipe and made a few adjustments according to their suggestions.The original recipe serves four, so I halved the polenta but not the mushrooms and it made enough for two, with a small amount left over. The original recipe includes half an ounce of dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted in boiling water and mixed in with the fresh mushrooms. I didn’t have any so I left them out. This is comfort food, good for the cooler autumn evenings or Sunday night in front of the TV.

1½ cups water
1½ cups milk
¾ cup quick cooking polenta
Salt to taste
50g butter or 4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
250g sliced mushrooms (ordinary ones or fancy ones)
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (or ½ tsp dried)
1 Tbs soy sauce
1-2 Tbs cream (sour cream or creme fraiche)
Freshly ground black pepper
To serve:
Grated Parmesan cheese
Extra virgin olive oil

Place water, milk, salt and polenta in a medium-sized heavy saucepan. Bring to the boil, whisking, then continue to stir for 2 minutes or until thickened, Turn heat down as low as it will go, cover, then cook for a further 5-10 minutes until polenta tastes ready. Add a little extra water if it seems too thick and still tastes uncooked. Traditional polenta can take up to 45 minutes, but quick-cooking polenta only takes 5-10 minutes – see what it says on the packet. When it’s ready turn off the heat, check the seasoning, add half the butter or olive oil and let the polenta sit with the lid on.

Meanwhile heat remaining butter or olive oil in a frying pan and cook the garlic and mushrooms for 3-4 minutes, until starting to brown. Add the herbs, soy sauce and cream and continue to stir for 1-2 minutes. Season to taste with pepper.

Divide the polenta between 2 or 3 serving bowls and top with the mushrooms. Garnish with grated Parmesan and a drizzle of oil.

Serves 2-3

 

Spicy Korean Beef with Rice

 

This is a good way to use up leftover cooked rice and leftover roast beef. If you don’t have either, cook some rice and slice about 300 grams of raw beef steak into thin strips. Stir fry the beef in the oil for a couple of minutes, then remove from pan, add the vegetables to the pan and proceed according to the recipe.

2 eggs
1 Tbs water
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbs oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 carrot (coarsely grated)
1 red capsicum (pepper) cut into thin strips
2 cups leftover roast beef, cut into thin strips
1 Tbs Korean chilli paste (or substitute Harissa or Sambal Oelek)
3-4 cups cooked long grain rice
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
To garnish:
Chopped fresh coriander
2 tsp black sesame seed

Beat eggs withIn water and seasoning then make a thin omelette in a small omelette pan, using half the oil. Remove from pan onto a plate and cool, then cut into thin strips.

In a wok or large frying pan heat remaining oil and cook the onion, garlic, carrot and capsicum, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add the beef, chilli paste, rice, soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir fry for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning by adding salt and pepper or a bit more soy sauce. If it’s not spicy enough, add a little more chilli paste.

Serve in bowls, topped with the omelette, the coriander and the black sesame seeds.

Serves 3-4

Glazed Fig Salad with Feta and Pine Nuts

We’ve tried several times to grow figs at the farm. Each time, despite great care (deep hole, sheltered position etc) the tree doesn’t make it. So unfortunately figs are one of the fruits I have to buy.

They’re in season for such a short time and they don’t freeze well, so make the most of them while you can. Another delicious way to serve them in a savoury dish is with Smoked Salmon.

1 Tbs olive oil
12 fresh figs cut in half, stems removed
Mixed salad leaves
½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry pan over moderate heat
100g feta cheese or goat’s cheese
Dressing:
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 Tbs honey
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large frying pan. Place figs in the pan, cut side down and cook until lightly browned and caramelised. Remove from pan. Place all ingredients for dressing in a jar and shake well. Mix salad greens with some of the dressing and arrange on a large, flat serving dish. Arrange the figs, cheese and pine nuts on top, then drizzle with more of the dressing.

Serves 4

Prawn Salad with Creamy Dressing and Herbs

This light, refreshing salad, which serves two as a main course or four as a starter, is perfect as an evening meal in the warmer months. Make it when the corn is at its sweetest.

12-16 large raw prawns, shelled and deveined
1 Tbs oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Finely chopped fresh tarragon (or another fresh herb)
2 cobs of fresh corn
3 Tbs sour cream  (or plain yoghurt or coconut cream)
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 Lebanese cucumber, quartered lengthwise then sliced
2 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
3 Tbs coarsely chopped fresh coriander
3 Tbs coarsely chopped fresh mint
Finely chopped fresh chilli, or a pinch of dried chilli flakes, to taste (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil

Lightly season prawns on both sides with salt, pepper and finely chopped fresh tarragon. Heat oil in a small frying pan and fry prawns for 2-3 minutes each side. Turn off the heat and leave to cool. Cook corn cobs in boiling water to cover for 7-10 minutes then drain and cool.  With a very sharp knife, cut the kernels off the cobs, leaving some joined together.

Mix sour cream with lemon juice. Add the cucumber, spring onions, most of the red onion, most of the herbs, most of the corn, chilli to taste and seasoning to taste. Arrange on serving plates, then arrange the prawns on top and garnish with the remaining red onion, corn kernels and herbs. Drizzle a little oil around each serving.

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter

Substitutions: use cooked, peeled prawns instead of raw ones

Salmon with Macadamia Nut Crust and Zucchini Ribbons

I made this dish when our friends Fiona and Mark came to the farm for the weekend recently. It was inspired by a meal we enjoyed in Tuscany last year. Fiona says she’s made it four times since then, so I thought I had better make it again and record it on the blog, before I forget about it.

The recipe is very quick. Quantities depend on how many you’re feeding.

Salmon portions, with or without skin (about 180g each)
1 heaped Tbs macadamia nuts per person
1-2 Tbs parsley per person
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1-2 small zucchini (courgettes) per person
Olive oil or butter
Salt and pepper

Line a shallow baking tray with baking paper and arrange the salmon portions on top. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the macadamia nuts and parsley in a food processor and pulse until chunky. Add a drizzle of oil through the feed tube with the motor running. Season to taste then spread over the salmon pieces. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Don’t overcook as the nuts will burn.

Top and tail the zucchini then cut into thin ribbons using a vegetable peeler. Discard the first and last slice which will be all skin. Steam for 4 minutes or until al dente. Drain thoroughly then add butter or olive oil and season to taste.

Arrange salmon in the middle of serving plates and surround with the zucchini ribbons.

Variations: use pine nuts instead of macadamias and use chives or basil instead of parsley, or a mixture of two herbs.

Scallops with Champagne Grapes and Almonds

We planted two grapevines at the farm, one red and one white. We didn’t pay a great deal of attention to the varieites and now discover that the black grape is what’s known as a Champagne Grape.

This has nothing to do with Champagne – either the region or the beverage – it’s just the name. The fruit of the Champagne grape is small and round and looks more like a blueberry than a grape. It’s the variety which is dried to make currants, which aren’t really currants at all. Traditionally used in Christmas cakes and puddings, currants are also known as Black Corinthian Raisins or Zante raisins.

We’ve been eating these small sweet grapes fresh for dessert or breakfast, with a dollop of Greek yoghurt. I also dried a few as you can see in the photo. Left on a tray in a sunny spot they were ready in a few days.

The last few Champagne grapes went into this recipe for scallops from a New Zealand website called Epicurious. Matthew declared it was Business Class food, which I think he meant as a compliment – something Neil Perry who plans the menus for QANTAS might approve of?

8 to 12 large scallops without roe (see note below), thawed if frozen
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbs butter
3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2/3 cup Champagne grapes (or small seedless black grapes, halved)
1½ Tbs lemon juice
1/3 cup flaked almonds, toasted
2 Tbs chopped parsley

Dry scallops thoroughly with paper towels then season with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat half the butter in a frying pan large enough to cook the scallops in one layer. Let the butter brown slightly then add the scallops and cook them for 2 minutes each side over moderately high heat, until nicely browned. Remove scallops to a warm plate and cover with foil.

Turn the heat down a bit then add the remaining butter to the pan with the shallots. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes or until soft. Champagne grapes are the size of blueberries so if yours are bigger cut them in half. Add grapes to the pan with the lemon juice and most of the almonds and cook, stirring for about 2 minutes. Add most of the parsley and any juices which have accumulated on the scallop plate, then divide among 2 plates (main course) or four plates (starter) and top with the scallops, the reserved nuts and parsley to garnish.

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter

Note: as a main course for 2 you will need 8-10 scallops and as a starter for 4 you will need 12.

Substitutions: use the white part of spring onions (scallions) instead of shallots; use dried currants, (reconstituted in some hot water for 30 minutes, then drained) instead of the grapes; use pine nuts instead of almonds.