Homemade Tomato Paste

Q: How do you fix a sliced tomato?Β 
A: Use tomato paste.Β 

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So I managed to spill hot tomato puree all down the front of myself, my oven door and all over my kitchen floor today. But you know what? It was worth it. I’ve now got 6 months worth of homemade tomato paste put up *satisfied sigh*

Long after the last fruit has fallen from the bush, I’ll be using this paste for pasta sauces,  pizza bases and hearty casseroles. Using tomato seconds from the market (my own plants are only just starting to fruit) my six month supply has cost me around $6 which makes it cheaper than woolies. And a hell of a lot tastier than the packaged stuff!

I know because I taste tested everytime I stirred the paste *guilty*

For this recipe all you will need is:
4.5kg juicy red tomatoes
2tbsp olive oil
2tsp sea salt
1/2tsp citric acid

You will also need:
Stockpot or extra large saucepan
Sieve or food mill
Baking trays
Wooden or plastic utensils (not metal)
Jars with lids

Recipe

1. Preheat oven to 175Β°C. Wash jars in hot, soapy water, then rinse clean.

2. Roughly chop tomatoes into quarters (eighths for super large toms). Place in saucepan with olive oil and put on the heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring.

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Simmer chopped tomatoes and olive oil

3. When tomato skins begin to fall off, remove pot from heat. Push tomatoes through a food mill to extract puree. If you don’t have a mill, you can push the tomato through a sieve to remove the skin and seeds. It will take longer…and a lot more effort… but it’s worth it (says the girl who doesn’t own a mill πŸ˜‰ ). Compost the skins and seeds.

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Push through sieve to extract puree and remove skins and seeds

5. The tomato puree will look really watery. Don’t stress; it’s supposed to. Stir in the salt and citric acid, then divide the puree between oven trays and carefully (this is where I spilt mine) place the trays into the oven.

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Use deep oven trays to dry tomato puree

6. Every 30 minutes carefully stir the puree, pulling it away from the edges. When it starts to reduce combine it onto one tray. Keep stirring half hourly. In around 3-4 hours (ish) the puree will reduce by half and turn brick red. No water should separate from the puree when you stir it. And hello tomato paste! Make sure your jars are ready. Pop them into the oven to heat (hot paste in a cold jar spells disaster: cracked glass! You have been fairly warned).

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Paste is ready when brick red and reduced by at least half

7. Spoon the paste into the hot jars, leaving 3/4inch of headspace. You measure this from the very top of the jar, not from the neck. Use a plastic spoon to squash in the paste, moving it around to make sure no air bubbles are left. Wipe the rims clean and screw on the lids (secure but not too tight).

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Fill top with olive oil if storing in fridge

8. Choose your preservation method.
Waterbath: (35 minutes). Keeps for 12 months.
Freezer: Keeps for 9 months.
Fridge: Keeps for 1 month.

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Keeps for 9 months in freezer

If you are keeping your paste in the fridge, fill the space in the top of the jar with a deep layer of olive oil. Each time you use the paste, top up the oil layer to preserve the paste below. This is also a great trick to stop shop bought paste going bad so quickly. Make sure you remember to add oil and refrigerate once you start using any paste you have previously frozen or water bathed.

Finally, don’t forget to affix labels. It’s very important to keep track of dates to ensure food safety. Plus they look cute.

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Labels for safety! Plus the cute factor πŸ˜‰

Make sure you put aside a whole day when you decide to make paste. You won’t spend all of it in the kitchen yourself, but this is a slow process. It is worth it! Homemade tomato paste is a million times tastier than shop bought. Plus it is cheaper and waste free *bonus*.

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Summer in Season: Tomatoes

Here in sunny Queensland you can grow toms almost year round, but traditionally summer is the season for harvesting tomatoes. Even in Queensland they are at their best, and CHEAPEST, in the warmest months of the year. I’ve got one lot of plants just starting to fruit, and another variety of seeds all set to put in the ground…well as soon as I get my A into G and dig a new bed :-p I’m all for procrastinating in summer.
Ah, swimming and ciders on a hot day.

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While I’m patiently waiting for my fruit to be ready, and getting ridiculously excited at the appearance of these little green globes, I’m stocking up at the markets. $12 for just over 10kg of tomatoes! Bargain baby.

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But what on earth do you do with a glut of tomatoes? You get to bottling, of course! Here’s some ideas for preserving tomatoes. Why? To save money, reduce waste (no packaging waste here), and move that little bit closer to self-sufficiency. Plus it’s just plain fun. Seriously,Β  there are few things in life as satisfying as a well stocked pantry you’ve filled yourself.

So here’s a few ideas to try:

*Jars of whole tomatoes
Preserve jars of whole tomatoes to use in recipes which call for tinned tomatoes. A good use for Roma tomatoes.

*Jars of chopped tomatoes
As above, but this can save you time later if the recipe calls for chopped rather than whole toms.

*Tomato sauce
Sooooo much better than that salty, sugary mess that comes in a plastic squeeze bottle.

*Tomato paste
I hate buying tomato paste. Either you buy a jar and it goes mouldy before you can use it all (why are the jars so BIG?). Or you buy the individual sachets and have to throw away a foil wrapper or two every time you cook with paste. Plus homemade just tastes sooooo much better. Dehydrating and bottling paste is on tomorrow’s to-do list as well. Make sure to use big, juicy tomatoes for a decent yield.

*Passata
Bottle to use later for pasta sauces.

*Freeze
You can freeze whole tomatoes to use later in cooking. Personally I think this is best for cherry tomatoes.

*Pasta sauce
If you have a pressure canner (which I sadly do not), you can prepare pasta sauces WITH MEAT IN THEM and can to use later. This is not safe to do with a water bath, you must use a pressure canner for safety.

*Sundried tomatoes
Okay, okay. I cheat and use a dehydrator. Very basically, you dry your tomatoes and preserve in jars of oil. Perfect on a pizza, or on a plate of nibblies.

And just because I love you, here’s a post onΒ peeling tomatoes in bulkΒ to make life easier for you 😊

 

Those are my favourite ways of preserving tomatoes. Do you like to put away food for use later?

Old-fashioned Lemon Cordial

There’s nothing quite so refreshing as a cold glass of lemon cordial on a hot summer’s day – which is probably why there is such a long tradition of cordial making and drinking in the Commonwealth countries. Honestly, I find it shocking that other countries aren’t so fond πŸ˜‰

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The colour of the cordial will depend on the type of sugar used

Cordial waters’ can be traced back to at least Tudor times, although they were generally considered to be primarily medicinal until the late 18th Century. A warm cup of cordial with a dash of ginger still makes a lovely tonic even today. This traditional recipe, with only 2 ingredients, is an old-fashioned favourite and simple to make. A pretty bottle of lemon cordial makes a lovely gift too. Enjoy xx

Lemon Cordial Recipe

Ingredients:
8 large lemons
1kg raw sugar
Water
Optional extra: citric acid

Step 1.
Wash glass bottles in hot soapy water, rinse clean and place in oven to sterilise. 120Β°C for 20 minutes will do the trick.

Step 2.
Put a pot of water on the stove to boil while you rinse and dry 8 lemons. It’s best to use organic, especially as the rind is used in the recipe. Grate the rind of 4 lemons and set aside.

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Step 3.
Once the water is boiling, place all 8 lemons into the pot. Boil gently for 1 minute then remove the lemons and set them on a cutting board. Remove the pot from the heat and measure out 1 litre of the now lemon-infused water. You can discard any leftover water or better yet, use it in your homemade cleaners.

Step 4.
Return one litre of the lemon infused water to the pot, add in the sugar and lemon rind and bring slowly and gently to the boil over a medium heat. If you are using citric acid, add this to the water as well. Stir occasionally to ensure the sugar dissolves. While you are waiting you can juice the lemons. The juice should flow freely thanks to their earlier dip in the warm water.

Step 5.
Once the sugar syrup has reached the boil,Β  add in your lemon juice and stir well. As soon as the water comes back up to the boil, remove from the heat and pour directly into your hot glass bottles. Do NOT spill any sugar syrup or cordial unless you are really looking to make friends with ants…or just plain love cleaning sticky benches :-p Seal the bottles and set aside to cool.

Your lemon cordial can be stored either in the fridge or in a cool pantry. It should keep for 4 weeks. The addition of citric acid isn’t absolutely necessary, but can help with preservation and cutting the sweetness.

You could opt to use castor sugar instead of raw if you prefer. I think the flavour is richer with raw sugar, but you get a lighter coloured cordial using a white sugar. Traditional cordials are very sweet in order to naturally preserve the fruit juice, so keep this in mind when you are mixing your drinks. 1 part cordial to 7 or 8 parts water is my usual.

And that’s it. Simple, isn’t it! Now all that’s left to do is decide how to take your drink. Soda water with mint leaves takes my fancy today. Cheers!

A Shameful Collection: otherwise titled ‘Perfect Steamed Rice’

I have a collection of large, white, plastic spoons. And while I love these spoons and use them daily for serving dinner, it’s not a collection I’m particularly proud of. You see, each of these spoons came with a rice cooker. One. Per. Cooker.

Yes, I’ve been through more than my share of rice cookers over the years. They are cheap and (I think) designed to break within the year. Truly, they don’t even save much in the way of time and effort. And you know what- they don’t even make particularly nice rice!

I’ll share a secret with you. Steamed rice is one of THE EASIEST foods to prepare. Once you’ve done it this way, you’ll never want to use a rice cooker again.

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Measure out 2 cups of rice then put it into a strainer. Wash. Thoroughly. Hold the strainer under running water and move the rice around with your fingers to make sure it all gets washed. Wash it until the water runs clear. DO NOT skimp on the washing.

Put your rice into a large pot and cover with water. Make sure the water comes to about 2cm above the rice.  Set your pot on the stove over high heat and pop on the lid.

Now listen. Once you can hear the water boil, turn the heat down low. You are absolutely NOT to take off the lid to check. Just listen for the boiling.

Once it’s boiling and you’ve turned the heat down, start timing. 10 minutes. When the ten minutes are up remove the pot from the stove and set it on a board. You are still not allowed to take off the lid. No peeking! Time another 10 minutes.

Now your rice is done! Yes, you can finally take the lid off and look and what you’ve cooked. You are looking at absolutely perfect steamed rice. Take that rice cooker! All it needs is a little fluffing with a fork or chopsticks.

While I love my spoons, I will NEVER be adding another one to my collection.

2 cups of dry rice makes approximately 4 cups of cooked rice.
I used medium grain white rice in this recipe.

GUILT FREE Choc Chip Cookies

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These cookies are simple enough to whip up in the few spare minutes between changing the Little Beastie’s nappy, helping the Little Mathematician with his game and chasing an escaped chicken out of the radishes.

Scratch that. These cookies are simple enough for the 6 year old to whip up with minimal supervision while I change a nappy then chase a chicken. Got to love simple living πŸ˜‰

Heat the oven to 180 Β°C while you throw a cup of quick oats, 2 broken up bananas (old and soft is ideal) and a heaped tablespoon of nut butter into a food processor. Your choice, any will do, but we like to use almond butter for these at our house. Blitz on medium speed until all of your ingredients are combined.

Add in a cup of choc chips. Fold them in gently with a wooden spoon until they are evenly dispersed through your mixture. Go a little healthier by swapping choc chips for cacao nibs. You could make this dairy free by using carob drops instead. Alternatively, you could take the fun out of it by using sultanas instead of chocolate :-p

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Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto a baking tray and flatten slightly. You should get 10-12 cookies. Into the oven until they are golden, about 15 minutes or so. They should be soft and a little gooey from the chocolate *drool*

These will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days…if you have the crazy kind of self-control that allows for cookies to be kept. In summer you may want to pop the container in the fridge- because melted chocolate.

Enjoy xx

Cooking like a grandma: Roast Chicken

If you know me or have been following along on Insta or Facebook for a while,  you will probably have noticed I am OBSESSED with roast chicken. OBSESSED! In fact, in true Grandma-style I cook one every week. Not only does it make for one delicious dinner, but it sets me up with leftovers and sandwich fillers for the next few days. I’ve even been know to roast a chicken JUST for sandwiches. Screw eating it for dinner :-p

When I was growing up, my Nanna was of the mind that Sunday was roast day. 52 weeks of the year you would find a roast on the table for Sunday night’s tea. Steamed up windows, gravy bubbling away, family fights (stopping just short of fisticuffs) for who got particular cuts. Worst was roast lamb…we had to develop a rota to keep track of whose turn it was for the bone. Pack of savages, right!

Nowadays we rarely eat a leg of lamb due to both the expense and our decision to limit red meat consumption for environmental reasons. In our house, chicken reigns supreme!

So here is one of my (many) recipes for a roast chicken dinner. Enjoy x

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Take one organic, free range chicken.  Liberally coat the chicken in olive oil and massage that bird like no-one is watching. Really romance her πŸ˜‰

Squeeze the juice of a lemon all over then pop the lemon halves inside. This will hold the chicken open to ensure it cooks evenly inside. Salt, pepper, as much crushed garlic as you desire, all over the chicken and massage again. This isn’t just for kicks. Aside from ensuring your flavours are all over the chicken, massaging also helps tenderise the meat.

Now we put the chicken into a roasting pan. You can lay the chicken on a rack in the pan to make sure it cooks all over. In the pic above, I had loads of teeny weeny potatoes from the garden which I coated in olive oil and placed under the chicken to hold it up.

Into the oven at 180Β°C. On average it will take 30mins per 500g of chicken, so usually you are looking at 1-1.5hrs for your roast to be ready.

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Next up choose a selection of root veg. Whatever you have in the fridge or the garden is fine. Peel and chop roughly,  coat in olive oil. Sprinkle on some good quality salt such as Maldon flakes. Add in any other herbs you like. I often pinch a few sprigs of rosemary from the pot outside my front door. Lay your veg on a roasting pan and put in the oven on the shelf below the chicken.

Once your chicken is ready, take it out and let it rest for 10mins or so before you carve. This makes sure the juices settle into the meat so it doesn’t end up tough and dry. While you’re waiting, make the gravy!

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Homemade gravy is honestly just as easy, and ten times tastier than instant. Once you’ve made it you will never buy Gravox again. Do NOT waste all that juice and oil in the bottom of the chicken pan. PLEASE!

First make a roux using some plain flour and a tablespoon of your pan juices. This is not as fancy as it sounds. In a hot fry pan, put in a tablespoon or so of pan juice and a tablespoon of flour. Mix it round and round and it will make a smooth ball. And in more juice and keep stirring. Now just keep going until all of the juice is incorporated.

You can now add butter or milk for a richer, creamier gravy. You can add any herbs and spices you like. To thicken just keep simmering, stirring all the while so it doesn’t burn. You can add some more flour to thicken if you like. Don’t worry too much if you get lumps, just strain when you’re ready to serve.

Voila!  Leftovers for days πŸ˜‰

How do you like to use your leftover roast chicken?

Cooking like a grandma: perfect fried eggs

It doesn’t matter what day of the week you rock up on my Nanna’s doorstep, if it’s breakfast time there will be eggs in the pan. Toast, fried eggs and tomatoes, hashbrowns and bacon. According to Nanna, that is what breakfasts are made of.

I’ll confess I haven’t always been a fan of a cooked breakfast, although like my Nanna I do tend to create habits around my food. There was a good 18 months there when breakfast was always a fresh juice. In an earlier, less healthy incarnation, it was a daily spinach and ricotta pastry from the local bakery.

While fried eggs aren’t quite a daily occurance in my house, they do make an appearance a couple of times a week now, thanks to the abundance of eggs from our chooks. Obviously this means I’ve had to perfect fried eggs. Here’s my ‘recipe’, just in time for the weekend. You’re welcome πŸ˜‰

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You’ll need a fry pan and a spatula, along with some butter (or olive oil), free range eggs, cherry tomatoes, hot buttered toast and your condiment of choice.

The trick with fried eggs is to use the freshest eggs possible. Not a problem if you keep chooks πŸ˜‰ It’s also best if the eggs are at room temperature,  so take them out of the fridge a bit before breakfast time if that’s where you keep them. If you’re an Aussie, that’s probably where they are πŸ˜€

Warm your pan to a medium heat and melt your butter. If you prefer, use your oil of choice. Olive oil is fairly neutral tasting so that would be my recommendation.  When your butter/oil is warm but not bubbling, crack in the egg. If you aren’t pro at egg cracking you could try cracking the egg onto a saucer first and then sliding the egg into the pan.

Now here’s the secret to soft (not crispy) eggs with a runny yolk. Wait for it… put a lid on the pan! The lid traps in the steam which helps cook the white quicker. That way you don’t end up with uncooked white and crumbly yolk. And now you wait.

While you’re waiting, chop a few cherry tomatoes in half width-ways and pop them cut-side down in the pan. Pop your toast in to cook. By the time it’s done and buttered your eggs should be about ready. If they aren’t quite done you can always flip them over and cook for a further 30 seconds (this is what is meant by ‘over easy’). Now simply pile your plate up, season to taste and dig in!

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Don’t forget to collect your eggshells to either feed back to your hens or use on your garden.

Of course you could add more sides to make the meal more filling. Bacon or sausages is generally traditional, but meat at breakfast time is just something I can’t come at. That’s just a personal preference though, so I won’t be cross if you feel the need to get your carnivore on. A little bubble ‘n’ squeak come hashbrown type side made from last night’s leftover veg is more my thing. Whatever takes your fancy.

So I guess we all now what you’ll be eating for breakfast tomorrow, right?

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Cooking like a grandma: Stewed Rhubarb

I cook like a grandma.

When I was little, I used to plan weekends at my Nanna’s house. I’d spend some time during the week pouring over old cookbooks, making a shopping list and then come Sunday, we would COOK!

We made cakes, biscuits, Welsh rarebit, roast dinners with all the trimmings. There was custard, ice cream made from scratch, sausage rolls and vegetable soup. It was old-fashioned, made by hand and rarely expensive. The ingredients were REAL FOOD.  No packets meant little to no waste. These days with my Nanna are some of my most loved childhood memories.

As an adult, when I hear people say they don’t know how to cook, that it’s too hard or too expensive to cook real food, I feel they are really saying that they never learnt to cook like a grandma. I’m no gourmet, but I can make a mean apple pie, and I’d love to teach you some basic recipes…like my Nanna makes.

I found some rhubarb on sale this week *SCORE* took it home and stewed it. Stewed fruit is perfect for making crumbles, a fav with babies (just mash it a bit with a fork if need be), and perfectly delicious on its own. Hot or cold, just add cream πŸ˜‰

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You’ll need:
A bunch of rhubarb
An orange (juice and zest)
A quarter cup of sugar (feel free to use an alternative… or even leave it out if you don’t mind your fruit tart)
Water

Simply chop the rhubarb into roughly inch long pieces. Put it in a pot with the orange juice and zest. Sprinkle over the sugar if you are using it, just cover with water and put the pot on high heat.

Bring to the boil, making sure your fruit stays under the water. Once it’s boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the fruit is soft. Once it’s ready…EAT IT :p

Keep your stewed rhubarb in a covered container in the fridge. Storing it with its juice will help it keep without drying out, and it’s good for a few days.

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Did your grandmother teach you how to cook?

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