Chicken, Brandy and Thyme Pate

pate

Chicken, Brandy and Thyme Pate ready for the fridge ©throve 2014

I was looking for pate because I read that chicken liver was very good for you. I looked at the small print on the back of the container and it said chicken and pork livers. I think it also said about 22% chicken/pork. That made me wonder what the rest of it was. Also I didn’t like the sound of pork liver. The chicken liver only pate was slightly better at 33% liver content but it was twice the price. I thought I could do better than that. I went to the meat section and asked if they had chicken livers. They did. Chicken livers were slightly more expensive than the cheaper pate but at least I knew what it contained. Factoring in quantity, the ready made was much more expensive than the raw product.  I bought raw chicken livers. My homemade pate will be maybe at least 85% chicken liver. I like the percentages better with mine.

So what’s in chicken liver that makes me dash to the supermarket?
“Chicken livers are high in protein and a rich store of folate… Livers are also loaded with iron to give you energy and a treasure trove of certain B vitamins, most notably B12… Chicken livers are also one of the top sources of vitamin A.”*

You know when your body is telling you to buy something, you feel like the water diviner, you loiter over a certain food and you get a compulsion to pick it up. No I’m not talking about impulse buying of red wine or potato chips I mean food that is good for you. Sure red wine in moderation is supposedly good for you but you know what I mean. You may hover over avocados when your body is in need of potassium or other nutrients, antioxidants for the eyes, fibre to name just a few of the benefits of this super food.

Chicken, Brandy and Thyme Pate

Ingredients:
3-4t butter
1 onion finely chopped
2-4 cloves garlic
1 tub of chicken livers, 350g
2T brandy
1t dry thyme, or 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2-3 T sour cream
Salt and pepper

Method:
Melt the butter in a fry pan. On a low heat add the onions and cook until translucent. (About 20 minutes.)  At about 15 minutes in add the garlic.
Cut the chicken livers and add them to the pan, cook for 3-5 minutes on a medium heat.
Stir well so the liver is evenly cooked.
Stir in brandy, sour cream and thyme with the stems.
Cook for a minute.
Cool.
Purée mixture well in a blender.
Press into small dishes, cover and chill for 3 hours.
Serve with crackers or toast.
Keep refrigerated.

How long does pate last?
Keeps refrigerated for up to 3 days. It will probably be fine for longer but its best to er on the side of caution.  If you have any left over, freeze it. Pate freezes well, stores frozen up to 2 months.

Notes:
I sneaked the good brandy into this recipe. Cooking brandy was out of stock. Only the good brandy was left. What is a girl to do? :)
I used 2 cloves of garlic and would double that for next time.
I was pleased with the texture of the pate, it was smooth. There was no smell. Store bought pate has a smell to it, homemade is void of smell. The taste on the other hand was delicate yet flavourful.
The recipe is forgiving of measurements, you don’t have to be accurate. The steps are the more important point.
The recipe makes approximately 4 average muffin tins in quantity.
This recipe was a big hit.

*the guardian.com

Wheel on barrow

wheel
Sounds like an English pub name, Wheel on Barrow, a drinking establishment in Barrow-in-Furness harking back to the days of wooden carts and straw on the floor. A runaway cart carrying ale could have crashed into the pub beginning the name Wheel on Barrow. I digress. No wonder I don’t get into the garden.  Blame the barrow!

The warmer weather is beckoning me outside. The hurdle that has stopped me from getting outside earlier was the wheel on the wheel barrow. It was flat. As flat as could be. It made me feel flat. Today I got out the bicycle pump and tackled the annoying job. Did it take hours to fix? Was the tyre punctured? No and no. It took five minutes at most. Boy do I feel satisfied. It really is the small things that matter.

On with the garden tidy up so I can get the vegetable garden ready, the outdoor seating area comfortable and the weeds under control.

Now that I’m on an active streak, I will try and do a little something each day. I have a very daring female blackbird that stalks me closely when I’m pulling out weeds and sweeping up leaves. I can almost touch her, she gets so close. She is a welcome garden companion.

Did you know: Female blackbirds aren’t black!

Limoncello Recipe

lemons1
It started with lemons. Washed lemons from the tree in the garden.lemon2
The peeling began. Leaving the white pith behind.lemonpeel
The peel became a mound.  limoncello1
The peel and the vodka met in the jug. They wandered off to a quiet dark corner to get to know each other better.

This recipe is very easy to make. There are few steps. However it is a recipe of patience. The longer you leave the lemon peel in the alcohol, the better the taste. So advanced planning is required if you want to make it in time for Christmas or for a special occasion.
I am storing my limoncello in the corner of the library away from sunlight.

LIMONCELLO

Ingredients:
10-14    lemons, organic, peeled
1 1/2 – 2 bottles of vodka
2 1/2 c  water, filtered
2 c   sugar

Step 1: The peeling
Wash the lemons.
Peel lemons with a potato peeler. Don’t go too deep. We don’t want the pith, the white part.
Add the lemon peel to a large jug.
Pour the vodka over the lemon peel.
Cover.
Let it rest in a dark corner for 14 – 40 days.

Step 2: The syrup addition
After the end of step 1, make the sweet syrup.
In a large saucepan add the water and sugar. Gently bring to the boil.
Boil for 5 -7 minutes.
Set aside to cool.
Once cool add the syrup to the lemon peel and vodka.
Do not stir.
Cover.
Let it rest in a dark corner for another 14 – 40 days.

Step 3: The straining and bottling
Strain the peel from the liquid.
Stir.
Bottle the limoncello into nice bottles.
Label and seal.
Store limoncello in the freezer until ready to serve.
Serve straight from the freezer.
Buon appetito!

Easy Pizza

pizza2
Question: What do you get when you cross nan bread with cheese, tomato, salami and herbs?
Answer:    Pizza!

That’s right. I use nan as a base for pizza. I find the pizza bases at the supermarket too thick to use and prefer a flatter one. My solution was nan bread. I could always dial a pizza and have it delivered if I really wanted. I could also order online and collect it to save a few dollars but to make it yourself is better mostly always. I don’t make my own dough. I haven’t tried. I will get around to it. Sometimes you just want to have shortcuts after a busy day or you don’t feel like cooking. Once a week you need a Free Day. This is one of my Free Day Recipes.

Easy Pizza
Ingredients:
Nan bread
mozzarella cheese, grated
tomatoes, sliced
onion, finely sliced
basil, fresh if possible otherwise dried
salami, sliced
mushrooms, sliced
garlic, clove, hit once with the flat side of a knife

instant pizza sauce:
tomato sauce, enough to smear colour over the base
dash of Tabasco sauce
pinch of paprika
pinch of basil
pinch of oregano
little garlic paste (optional)

Method:
Preheat oven to fan-bake 180ºC (350ºF).
Mix the pizza sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
Rub the garlic clove all over the pizza base.
Smear the pizza sauce over the base thinly. Use the back of a spoon or a brush.
Sprinkle grated mozzarella cheese evenly over the base. As much or as little as you like.
Separate the onion rings and scatter them over the pizza.
Do the same with the tomato, mushroom and salami slices.
Lightly sprinkle more mozzarella cheese.
Add a touch of paprika and basil if dried.
Place in the oven for 10-12 minutes.
Check the oven before the timer is finished just in case your oven is hotter than mine.
If using fresh basil place on the pizza after it comes out of the oven.
When ready, cut with a pizza cutter and serve immediately.

Tip: When laying out your ingredients be mindful of where you will cut the pizza so that you get a piece of salami or tomato on each slice.

Have a pack of nan bread in the freezer so you can create your own pizza with leftovers in the fridge. Be creative with combinations. I made tandoori chicken with mushrooms and tomatoes. Another one was ham and pineapple and onions and olives. All good fun.

Is this the last ice coffee for me?

coffee
I am almost a month without caffeine. I asked my husband if he noticed a difference and I was told absolutely. For the better if you were wondering. For me I think it is a good thing to forgo caffeine. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I will never have an espresso or an iced coffee or a latte, pot of tea ever again. No it means that I will give my body a caffeine holiday.
I stocked up on coffee beans so we have four bags in the cupboard. Oh dear. With only half the household drinking coffee the rate of use has dropped dramatically. I used to make a latte every morning. That said, I don’t drink milk now either as I don’t get a chance to mix it with my espresso. We buy a 1l instead of a 2l of milk now.
Do I miss it? Not really. I like the smell of coffee though. Do I crave a latte? No. But if I see a latte served to someone else I think, oh that looks good, but I don’t feel that I’m missing out.
Masala tea would be the only thing that I might miss. I have to try milk with spices instead and see if that makes up for it. I have yet to do this.
At Chinese restaurants now I ask for hot water instead of tea. At Korean restaurants I have roasted barley tea. At cafes I order herb tea. At restaurants I go without.
I may feel differently in a couple of month’s time.

Shopping rituals

muffin
When I buy food that is wrapped in plastic in the supermarket I have been in the past known to carefully check the back for the small print and by that I mean is to find out what the heck is in the bag. If the ingredients have long names I tend to avoid them, this usually means additives that I’d rather not have them in my body. I then look at the calories and see if there is an alternative choice between what I am holding and what else is on the shelf. Of course I check the price too.  Lately I don’t bother. It’s not because I don’t care any more it’s because I tend to buy the same things. I definitely need to change my menu.
Chemical Maze
I have the app Chemical Maze that I use when shopping for a new item. It lets me know what certain ingredients really are. Whether they are good, okay or bad for my health. There are so many imported foods where the regulations are different and what is acceptable in one country is not in another. Small print often states made from local and imported ingredients which is not helpful at all. It might just as well write made from ingredients from Earth. It doesn’t help in anyway. Do they think we are that stupid? I think they do. Do they think they are being clever? I do. I do not agree with it at all.
Health Star Food Labelling Systems
A new voluntary health star food labelling system is going to be rolled out in New Zealand along the same system as Australia. A health star rating will be written on packaging. Note the word voluntary though. With the health star rating it will state how healthy a product is clearly. (Appliances have an energy rating system and the food rating looks similar.) I imagine that healthy food will display it proudly and unhealthy food will chose not to be involved. This I suppose is a clear way to navigate the supermarket aisles. The customer is not stupid. We know that eating an apple is better for us than eating a bag of chips. We really do know that. We make poor choices that is all. The fewer the poor choices the healthier we eat.
Citywide Food Hygiene Grading Systems
Auckland citywide has the excellent grade system for food hygiene here. This covers butchers, fish shops, delicatessens, bakeries, restaurants, fast food stores, anywhere that food is handled. This is supposed to be displayed in a easily viewed location, preferably in the front window.  This is not always the case. You are entitled to ask what a premise’s rating is. Cleanliness in the food service industry should be the first condition for good food. Again this is not always the case. I commend Auckland and Dunedin cities for having the rating system. I wish other cities in New Zealand would do the same.
Dunedin’s food hygiene rating search is here.
Eating Out
When you go to a cafe or restaurant they don’t have to write on the menu where their ingredients come from. Some proudly display where fresh produce come from. In season is the best. That is the only way people ate before refrigeration and low cost airline freight. They don’t have to tell you what ingredients are in the food either. Unless its a peanut, egg or other food allergy then really they don’t have to state. So all that careful checking at the supermarket for your health goes out the window when you step into a food court, cafe or restaurant. Nuts, isn’t it. Excuse the pun. You can always ask the waiter/waitress and they will ask the chef if they don’t know. Sometimes it’s up to us to hint to the owner that we would like to know the answers to these questions. The more people that ask, the better. Dining in or out is supposed to be a fun experience. If we learn something, it’s a bonus. We do have to eat daily and if we can enjoy mixing up the flavours all the better.
Entertainment Book
One more point to add and that is the Entertainment Book. For those of you unfamiliar with this book/app it is a grouping of dining and other entertainment establishments that give a discount to you for dining or using their services. The purchase of the annual Entertainment book/app runs from June each year. With each purchase of the book/app a portion goes to a charity. The book/app is city specific and can be found in Australia and New Zealand. The app is out just this year so you don’t have to clip a coupon you can just redeem electronically. Got to love technology! The thing I like about this book/app is that it suggests trying a new dining location, it allows you to eat where you might not normally and it helps you to get to know your city better. I would recommend this to anyone who is new to a city an expat returning, a local or even if you are on holiday with your family. The savings are definitely worth it.  It covers fine dining to fast food, movies to accommodation and much more.

*I do not receive any reward for mentioning Chemical Maze nor do I work for the Auckland or Dunedin councils the Ministry of Primary industries, or the Entertainment Book.

Wrap it up

wrapped1

Oshizushi Bento, wrapped in persimmon leaves

oshizushi
Do you eat the leaves or just peel back the layer and eat the contents inside? This is the dilemma that many people face when trying food that is unfamiliar to them on travels or at a local restaurant. Grape, bamboo, lotus, and banana are the more common leaves. Corn husks are used for tamales.

Whichever leaf is used to wrap food, the leaves are cleaned and washed. They are soaked for from an hour before use or up to overnight before wrapping so that folding is easier and cracking is avoided. Leaves can be bought fresh, dried or frozen.

Wrapped food adds the element of anticipation. Flavours are trapped and infuse the food, protect the food from flames or losing shape and keep in the heat, plus the outer wrappings come from nature. A perfect food or snack. While eating you can imagine people of yesteryear eating similar food with the same enjoyment.

Dolma – Baked stuffed grape leaves filled with vegetarian or with meat and various flavourings depending on the country. Found from the Middle East to Central Asia. So far I have tasted Turkish, Greek and Lebanese versions. All delicious. Cabbage leaves are used instead of grape leaves in some parts. The leaf is eaten. Small rectangular shape.

Sticky Rice (Lo Mai Gai) – Chinese steamed sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf is peeled back and only the contents are eaten. Filled with sticky rice, chicken, pork sausage, and mushrooms. Sometimes at restaurants the server will use scissors and cut into the lotus to make it easier for the customer to eat. Dim Sum/Yum Char commonly restaurants serve this steamed dish. The leaf is not eaten. Square or rectangular in shape.

Sticky Rice Dumplings (Zongzi) – Steamed or boiled bamboo leaf with sticky rice and various fillings. Found throughout Asia. The leaf is not eaten. Pyramid shape.

Pressed Sushi (Oshizushi) – Japanese vinegared rice from the west part of Japan, from Nara to Kanazawa, is sometimes wrapped in persimmon or bamboo leaves. Commonly with mackerel or saba topping. Sometimes you can buy a large flat round of pressed sushi. It is bought uncut. The leaf is not eaten. Rectangular shape or sometimes in a large round flat shape.
Tip: When cutting sushi. Wipe the knife clean after each cut and the sushi presents better.

Rolled Sushi (Makizushi) – Japanese vinegared rice wrapped in seaweed (nori). Various combinations from cucumber to raw fish. The seaweed is eaten. Log shaped.

Tamale (Tamales) – From Mexico, Central and South America the Caribbean, to the Philippines steamed corn based food wrapped in banana leaves or corn husks. Various combinations of ingredients, sweet or savoury. The leaf is not eaten. Rectangular or ball shape.

Grilled Chicken (Ayam Bakar)  – Indonesian and Malaysian spicy marinated then grilled chicken is often cooked wrapped in banana leaves for flavour and to keep the grill clean. Presentation at the table looks nice too. The leaf is not eaten. Chicken piece shape.

Baked, Grilled or Steamed Fish – From Asia to Oceania to Central/South America to Africa fish is seasoned and cooked in banana leaves for flavour and to keep the grill clean. Fish scales are removed, then it is gutted and cleaned and left whole. After cooking the fish meat can be removed to another plate after displaying if preferred. Chopsticks are best to extract the fish in my opinion. Once one side is eaten, flip the fish over and eat the rest or you can remove the spine. careful of the small bones. The leaf is not eaten. Whole fish shape.