Home made crackers

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Junk Free June in the Fig House is going quite well all in all. We’ve have had zero crisps/chips and zero shop bought biscuits woo hoo! However, the Figlets haven’t been missing out. They enjoyed the bird seed slice that I made last week, banana cake, popcorn and veg sticks and hummus. They’ve also developed an obsession with pistachio and cashew nuts. Funny because I thought they’d miss the junk but apparently not 🙂

To keep things interesting I’ve been browsing through My Petite Kitchen Cookbook which is chock full of whole food, gluten free recipes. This morning I tried the home made crackers.

Sunflower Herb Crackers
145g sunflower seeds
1 tsp sea salt
3 tsp garlic granules (or three peeled garlic cloves)
75g seseme seeds
1 handful chopped fresh thyme
1 Tbsp olive oil
Water to bind

Preheat the oven to 180c and line a baking sheet 32 x 42cm with baking paper.
Put the sunflower seeds, garlic and salt into a processor and blitz for 2-3 minutes until the sunflower seeds form a dense kind of breadcrumb.

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Add the sesame seeds, thyme and olive oil and process again. Add 3-5 teaspoons of water one at a time as you blitz until the mixture comes together as a dough.

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Transfer the somewhat crumbly mixture onto the lined baking sheet. At this point you need to cover with baking paper and roll to 5mm thickness with a rolling pin. My rolling pin is longer than my tray so I couldn’t roll any further down than the sides of the tray would allow. Therefore, you may find you need to transfer the baking paper onto a work surface to do the rolling. I also found that making a square shape was tricky because this dough is very sticky. That’s why I ended up with the shape of Nebraska…… will aim for a more square shape next time!!

Before popping into the oven, score lines across the dough, then cover with a sheet of baking paper and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Make sure you score quite deeply as this will make it easier to break them up after cooking. Leave to cool completely on the tray then break into pieces and store in an air tight container for up to 2 weeks.

I have to admit that I thought the Figlets would find these too garlicky but they loved them.

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In fact, Mr Fig and the Figlets loved them soooooo much that when I went to take a photo to blog there weren’t many left to photograph!

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Just one and a bit….. I think a double batch might be worth it next time seeing as they can keep for 2 weeks.

I’m wondering if I would be able to make a balsamic vinegar and sea salt flavour? If I have a go I’ll let you know how it turns out. One thing I am realising is that cooking with whole foods is very simple. Once you’ve got all the new ingredients it’s a cinch so don’t be put off if you need to buy a few extras from the supermarket or health food shop. Happy junk free baking!

A Sweet Idea and a Bird Seed Slice

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Although we are now plunged into the deep, dark depths of winter (probably being  a bit over dramatic here but you get my drift) there is still some new, fresh green growth going on in my garden. I have various little pots of cuttings and seeds that I just managed to germinate before the Cold Snap that had us all reaching for the thermals, but the ones I’m most excited about are the Sweet Peas. I’m growing the solstice variety at the moment because these guys are tough. They are the SAS of the Flower World. They laugh in the face of short, dark days and they not only accept the challenge to Flower In Winter, they relish it! Yes! A sweet pea in winter! This is the first time that I’ve tried this variety so I’ll report back. But whether Solstice variety or Spencer variety all sweet peas need good support. Over the years I have always suffered from saggy nets (eek!) dragged down by the tenacious, snaking stems of my sweet peas. This year it’s going to be very different because I had a Lightbulb Moment. Now, these don’t come around very often so I just had to share it. I was toying with the idea of using wire to thread along the top of the netting but I didn’t have any. Rats! As I started mumbling at the dog I noticed a pile of bamboo canes that we harvest frequently because the bamboo is a complete delinquent and threatens to take over not just our garden but the whole world. They looked very light but also very solid and long. Long enough to thread through the netting and balance on top of the posts!

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And lo! The first Bamboo Curtain Support for Sweet Peas was created (as far as I know anyway!!) All looking very neat and tidy and Well Supported!

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It’s just a case of threading the cane through the squares…..

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Mr Fig banged in a couple of nails to stop the bamboo from sliding off the posts and making me really cross. He’s thoughtful like that 🙂

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We also constructed a support outside in the vege garden for more sweet peas and planted spinach, silver beet and beetroot in front.

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From the greenhouse to the kitchen….. Not sure if anyone else is doing Junk Free June but I’ve been quite keen to Have A Go. I always feel really guilty buying up processed snacks for the Figlets. I always seem to succumb to the pressure though. I’m always really shocked at the cost of them too (especially as they’re gone in a flash as soon as the Figlets find them). I do quite a bit of baking anyway so I’ve decided to up the baking and try a few new snack ideas to keep the wolves from the door and the Figlets from lynching me 🙂 Now, I’m interpreting Junk Free as not buying processed foods so the baking ideas I’ll be using do contain sugar (we’re not saints you know). First up is this gorgeous recipe from a fabulous cookery book called Ripe named after the author’s Auckland cafe. Their philosophy is… “simple, fresh, quality, seasonal, healthy food that’s good value for money.” Couldn’t have said it better myself and here’s one of my favourite recipes.

Bird Seed Slice

150g raisins
120g unsalted butter
1/2 cup golden syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
90g smooth peanut butter
150g rolled oats
150g pumpkin seeds
150g sunflower seeds
150g sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 170c. Grease and line a 20 x 30cm tin. In a small bowl cover the raisins with water and leave for 20 minutes to soak and plump up. This helps prevent them from burning.

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Place a small saucepan over a medium heat. Melt together the butter, golden syrup, brown sugar and peanut butter stirring constantly until thick. Remove from the heat. Drain the raisins.

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In a large bowl combine the raisins with the oats and seeds.

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Pour the melted butter mixture over and stir to combine.

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Press the mixture into the tin and cover with baking parchment or foil. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove the paper or foil and bake for another 15 minutes or until golden. Cut while still warm and in the tin. Place in fridge and allow to set.

Other snack substitutes that I’m hoping will become the norm include:

Toast with honey
Yoghurts and Suckies
Home made hummus with veg sticks
Sunflower seed pate
Four Seed Crackers
Pizza Crackers
Pistachios, cashews, macadamia, brazil nut mix
Freshly popped popcorn
Fruit

Some of these we have as snacks anyway but I’m looking forward to trying the sunflower seed pate, the crackers and making my own hummus again. Always good to have a challenge. If you have any healthy snack ideas to share please do! I’ll post up the new snack recipes when I’ve tried them out. Happy gardening and baking!

 

Walnut and Maple syrup biscuits

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Sometimes only a biscuit will do and I don’t mean a shop bought one (although custard creams will do at a pinch!) A still warm biccie fresh from the oven can really brighten a cold day or a hard mornings planting bulbs (250 so far….) since it’s raining walnuts here my memory was jogged to remember this recipe for a Walnut and Maple syrup biscuit. It doesn’t contain sugar but is sweetened by Maple Syrup and Rice Syrup. You can use raisins, sultanas, cranberries for the fruit – whatever you have to hand. There’s also no rolling out to do just a quick dollop on the baking tray. It also means that I can use one of my favourite kitchen gadgets – a coffee grinder. Now, I don’t drink coffee so this must be the only coffee grinder that has never ground a single bean. However, it’s been used to grind spices, nuts and even flowers (for my homemade concoctions). A pretty happy grinder all in all. If you don’t have a grinder just use your processor and scrape the sides down until everything is dust or buy ready ground walnuts!

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Mmmmm something very therapeutic about reducing things to rubble 🙂

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Recipe

75g raisins/sultanas/cranberries
90g walnuts, ground
100g rolled oats
50g plain white flour
90g wholemeal flour
2 tsp cinnamon, ground
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp fine salt
5 Tblsp vegetable oil
5 Tblsp maple syrup
5 Tbsp brown rice syrup

Add your dried fruit to a small bowl and cover with boiling water to rehydrate them. Grind the walnuts and half of the rolled oats and add to a large bowl. Add all other dry ingredients.

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Then simply mix in the wet ingredients and the raisins and mix to a sticky dough. I always measure out the oil first. I find that the sticky maple syrup and rice syrup slip off the spoon a lot quicker – but maybe that’s just me being ultra impatient….

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Dollop dessert spoonfuls of the dough on to a baking sheet and cook at 180c for 13-15 minutes. I turn halfway through and cover with a sheet of baking paper to stop the edges burning.

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Hey presto! A yummy, chewy (really quite healthy for a biscuit) treat for a hard working gardener or those in need of a little comforting cheer….

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….oh….and a cup of tea 🙂

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One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny, Hot Cross Buns

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Hot cross buns. Traditionally eaten on Good Friday although these days you seem to be able to eat them all year round just like Cadbury’s Cream Eggs. Anyway, today is Good Friday and together with Eldest Figlet, we made Hot Cross Buns. The Christian reasoning behind the buns lies in the ingredients; the bread being the bread taken at communion, the spices represent the spices that Jesus’ body was wrapped in inside the tomb and the sign of the cross on the top. It’s very windy outside and threatening to rain so a little spicy warmth in the kitchen is just the ticket.

Ingredients

3 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup soft brown sugar
1 Tbsp yeast
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup milk
25g butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 cup currants
1 sheet ready made pastry or your own

Start by placing 1 cup of flour in a large mixing bowl together with the salt, brown sugar and yeast. Add the milk and boiling water and mix.

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In a separate bowl mix together the melted butter, beaten egg and spices. Add to the yeast mix and stir.

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Add the currants and stir again.

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Add a further 1 1/2 cups of flour and begin to bring the mixture together into a soft dough.

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Turn out onto a surface and start to knead for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and pliable. This is good for toning the upper arms! I had a warm glow about me after this little exercise.

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Glad I had some help from Eldest Figlet. Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover with clingfilm and pop in a warm place for 20 minutes. Don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t rise much. Now you need to cut the dough into eight even sized pieces and place in the greased 22cm spring form baking tin. They’ll look a bit small and have lots of room inbetween but that’s fine. Cover with clingfilm and return to a warm place until they’ve doubled in size. Preheat the oven in readiness to 200c.

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Here they are having risen beautifully looking plump and cuddly….

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Time to bake them now but first each little plump ball needs a pastry cross.

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Now I didn’t have any bought short crust pastry so I had to Make My Own. It’s not that hard and I simply halved the normal amount I would make for a quiche.

55g flour
25g butter (you can do half butter half lard to make up 25g)
Ice cold water

Simply cut the butter into the flower using a knife. Once it starts to clump up use your fingertips to pinch and rub the flour and butter together to make a breadcrumb texture. Start adding small amounts of ice cold water using the knife again. As the dough starts to come together use your fingertips to coax it into a ball of dough. Be really light and gentle with your dough and it will reward you by being light and feathery!

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Start by cutting the pastry into thin strips and then cut to size to fit the top of the bun.

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You should end up with something like this. Pop them in the oven for 5 minutes at 200c. After 5 minutes turn down the heat to 180c and cook for a further 15 minutes. I cover my buns with greaseproof paper for the first 10 minutes to prevent burning.

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Here they are in all their spicy, yeasty, wholesome glorious-ness! I sustained a mild burn injury at this point so be wise and allow to cool before easing them out of the tin…. I know it’s hard isn’t it! They smell so delish!

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Gently ease each bun apart from it’s neighbour, arrange hastily on a plate and scatter with little yellow chicks.

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Continue to irritate your family by insisting on taking photos and moving plates/flowers/butterdish 5mm to the left and then….finally…..

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….watch the steam curl in an upwards spiral as you tear open a little bun and smother with butter. Happy Days.

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Fresh Ginger Cake

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Time to spice things up a little. I spent a good part of Spring and Summer growing various spices from seed. I was therefore drawn to this post by Bangers and Mash called The Spice Trail. Each month bloggers can submit a recipe containing the Spice of the month. This month it’s Ginger and ginger has been on my mind of late. A friend of mine is growing ginger in her greenhouse and I was going to Have A Go Too. Imagine home grown fresh ginger cake! The following recipe calls for fresh ginger and it’s a lovely, light cake with a subtle, more-ish warmth.

Fresh Ginger Cake

150g butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp powdered ginger
1 tbsp black treacle
3 tbsp golden syrup
125g brown sugar
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
250ml milk
2 large eggs
300g plain flour
1 tsp bicarb of soda and 2 tsp warm water

Preheat oven to 170c and grease and line a loaf tin.

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Melt the butter in a saucepan. Once melted add the spices and stir for a couple of minutes.  Then add the treacle, golden syrup and grated ginger.

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Measure out the milk and whisk in the eggs and measure the flour into a separate bowl. At this point it’s just a case of combining the wet and the dry. Start by adding the egg mixture to the melted butter mixture and stir to combine. Then mix into the flour and finally dissolve the bicabonate of soda in the warm water and add.

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Stir everything together with a balloon whisk. It’s a very liquid batter but don’t let that put you off. Pour into the cake tin and bake for 45 minutes. I always cover my cakes with greaseproof paper to prevent burning on top and I pop the cake tin on a couple of baking sheets to prevent burning on the bottom. It’s also a good idea to check the cake after 30 mins and turn it so it browns evenly. That’s the theory anyway – my oven is a temperamental creature and tends to do what it likes.

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Mmmmmm… you’ll start to notice the fragrant spice snaking it’s way through the air way before it’s ready. A lovely warming scent to lift the spirits.

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And here it is.

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A lovely texture and subtle ginger flavour.

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Popular with the Little Figlets too! This cake can be frozen with great success. How about slicing it up and freezing individual portions to pop into lunchboxes?

This post is part of the Bangers and Mash Spice Challenge.