Posted in From the Kitchen, Gardening

Gadzukes!! How to deal with a bumper crop of zucchini.

I say Zucchini, you may well call it a courgette. But by whatever name you call this most versatile of vegetables, this well beloved staple of almost every garden, it is easy to grow, quick to produce and very prolific. Perhaps a little too prolific as in the blink of an eye our gardens and kitchens can be overrun with zucchini.

If you’ve already gifted your family, friends and neighbours with your garden’s excess and are still in danger of being buried under a mountain of squash, I’ve rounded up a selection of recipes – from tried and true zucchini bread to sure to please savory dishes.

Don’t forget to freeze extra for winter when the squash patch is a dim and distant memory and you’d give anything for a carrier bag full of unloved, under appreciated zucchinis so you could whip up a batch of muffins or a big pan of soup.

Mom's Zucchini Bread

 

Mom’s Zucchini Bread –  This traditional zucchini bread is super simple to make, no fancy ingredients required, but make no mistake it is a sure fire winner.                                                                 Get the recipe for Mom’s Zucchini Bread here.

 

Citrusy Zucchini Muffins – of course you can bake any traditional zucchini bread as muffins, and I often do, but this recipe is a little different. Much lighter in taste, and without the usual spices, they are indeed a refreshing change. The recipe calls for cranberries and if you decide to include them I would suggest you use dried ones          Get the recipe for Citrusy Zucchini Muffins here.

 

Cheesy Zucchini Rice is a lovely dish for lunch and very quick to put together if you have left over rice in the fridge. Get the recipe for Cheesy Zucchini Rice here.

 

 

 

Zucchini Hummus – yes, you read that right, and not a chick pea in sight! Granted the colour can take you by surprise – a vibrant green instead of the creamy beige we are used to when we think of hummus – but the taste is out of this world.                                            Get the recipe for Zucchini hummus here.

 

Zucchini Tater Tots - a healthy, homemade side dish that's a kid-friendly recipe with some extra veggies! Gluten free. | cupcakesandkalechips.com

 

Zucchini Tater Tots are little bites of deliciousness to dip into your favourite sauce. They’re also very nice served alongside eggs or as a substitute for hash browns on your breakfast plate.                                                                  Get the recipe for Zucchini Tater Tots here.

Zucchini Crisp – Dressed up with the spices we usually associate with apple desserts, zucchini can shine on the dessert menu too.                                         Get the recipe for Zucchini Crisp here.

 

 

Zucchini Brownie Recipe

 

(Zucchini) Chocolate Chip Brownies – There is only one word to describe these brownies and that is Decadent. Yes, with a capital ‘D’. You will want to keep some frozen zucchini on hand so you cab make these brownies during the winter months.   Get the recipe for Zucchini Chocolate Chip Brownies here.

 

 

How do you cope with the invasion of the Zukes? Please share your best recipes with us x

So Much Fruit – How Many Jars?

There is something very reassuring about the process of canning. Am I the only one that loves to look at rows of cooling jars whilst waiting expectantly for the ping that tells you they have sealed correctly?

Our ‘big room’ upstairs, the one that has aspirations of becoming two bedrooms but is currently a repository for everything that we can’t find a home for anywhere else, now looks like a bomb has hit it. I’ve been going through boxes and boxes of jars and organising them into sizes suitable for jam, chutney, canned fruit etc. Those more organised than I would have designated boxes that once empty the jars can be returned to. Given the time this method would save I may make a concerted effort to implement it this year.

Right now I’m making a list and checking it twice because once the garden kicks into producing fruit and veg at a rate of knots, that is not the time to realise you are short of jars, lids and any other bits and pieces that you require to put up the harvest. Similarly, it helps if you have some idea of just how many jars you will need to contain a bumper crop of tomatoes or apples.

Here is a little chart I’d like to share with you that outlines the approximate yields for various fruits and, of course, tomatoes. Hope this helps. Happy canning!

APPROXIMATE YIELDS FOR CANNED FRUITS

 Fruit                               Weight        No. of quart/liter jars       Per quart/liter jar

Apples                              48 lbs / 22 kg                    16-19                     2.75 lbs /1 kg
Applesauce                     48 lbs / 22 kg                    14-19                          3 lbs / 1.25 kg
Apricots                          50 lbs / 23 kg                    20-25                       2.25 lbs / 1 kg
Berries                            36 lbs / 16 kg                    18-24                      1.75 lbs / 0.8 kg
Cherries                          25 lbs /11 kg                       8-12                        2.5 lbs / 1 kg
Grape Juice                    26 lbs / 12 kg                       7-9                         3.5 lbs / 1.5 kg
Grapes, Whole              26 lbs / 12 kg                     12-14                         2 lbs / 0.9 kg
Peaches & Nectarines  48 lbs / 22 kg                    16-24                        2.5 lbs / 1 kg
Pears                               50 lbs / 23 kg                    16-25                        2.5 lbs / 1 kg
Plums                              56 lbs / 25 kg                     22-36                         2 lbs / 0.9 kg

Tomatoes

Crushed                           53 lbs / 24 kg                     17-20                     2.75 lbs / 1 kg
Whole or Halved           53 lbs /24 kg                      15-21                          3 lbs/ 1.25 kg
Juice                                  53 lbs / 24 kg                    15-18                    3.25 lbs / 1.25 kg
Sauce (thin)                     53 lbs /24 kg                      10-12                        5 lbs / 2.25 kg
Sauce  (thick)                  53 lbs / 24 kg                        7-9                       6.5 lbs / 3 kg

Posted in From the Kitchen, around the homestead

The Dairy Diaries – making cream, butter and cheese at home.

Home-made Dairy Products
Home-made Dairy Products

I’m never too sure when to expect our village milkman although I can be fairly certain that, regardless of what day it is, he will surely arrive just as we will have just put our dinner on plates. All hell will break loose with our (many) dogs going wild at the sight of his dogs and whilst we sort out change and return his milk containers the cats take advantage of the ensuing mayhem and make a bold effort to scoop whatever takes their fancy from our plates . It’s the same every week.

But all that aside the milk is delicious  and a far cry from the UHT stuff that is on offer in the village shop. At one Lev a liter the price is right too.

If we are unsure of what day he will arrive we are equally unsure as to what quantity of milk he will bring us. Sometimes it can be as much as ten liters, whereas on other days it may only be two or three. But even though ten liters is an awful lot of milk to deal with, I never say ‘no, its too much’ or he thinks I don’t want the milk at all – ever.

I have tried freezing milk but without a great deal of success. I find I still need to use it fairly quickly or it separates and regardless of how much the bottles are shaken the milk refuses to return to its former yumminess. If anyone has a solution to this problem please let me know!

Bu,t as is often the way, the problem of copious amounts of milk has turned out to be the ultimate solution to one of life’s other little hiccups here in Bulgaria. I wouldn’t say problem, because the difficulty in getting ahold of fresh cream can hardly be declared a ‘problem’, not in the scheme of things. Especially as there are perfectly acceptable substitutes. But the real deal… well, if you can get it, why not?

So, with the need to use up an excess of milk, my first adventure to be recorded in the Dairy Diaries was extracting the cream from the milk. It’s fair to say that this procedure is not rocket science. As we all know that lovely stuff naturally rises to the top of the milk  but to extract as much of it as possible, well there’s a bit of trick to it.

Skimming the Cream from Milk
Skimming the Cream from Milk

After experimenting with different containers I found plastic totes to be the perfect bit of kit. Along with an poached egg scooper to lift the cream from the milk.

The milk simply goes into the plastic tote and is put into the fridge for at least 24 hours (48 hrs or thereabouts is better). Then, with the poached egg scooper or other type of slotted spoon, peel back the cream from the milk. Let the thinner, creamy milk drain from the spoon back into the milk. And that’s all there is to it! Sweeten the cream (or not) and use as desired.

Of course we don’t scoff cream all the time but we do like to use butter. As it is one of the pricier items on the shopping list I thought I’d take a shot at making my own. My first  efforts were OK but the yield was a little low. However, like everything else, once you get the hang of it and know what to look for its a breeze.

Making Butter 

If you don’t have a lot of cream you can freeze it until you amass a reasonable amount but the cream skimmed from at least five liters of milk is worth whipping into butter. As I don’t have any special equipment making a large batch probably isn’t practical for me anyway.

I wish I had a stand mixer but my electric beater does the job. I make sure the cream comes straight from the fridge and beat it on the lowest setting until the cream starts to thicken. Then I turn it up a notch. Keep beating until the cream goes super thick after which the consistency starts to thin out again.

making butter at home
making butter at home

About that time you start to think something has gone horribly wrong – keep going! Little globules of butter will start to form around the edges of the bowl and you may feel the beaters start to ‘catch’ on something.  You are nearly there! Splashing a tiny bit of cold water into the bowl will speed up the process,  but don’t overdo it.

Eventually the buttermilk will start to separate out and the butter will start to look like, well, butter. Strain off the buttermilk to use in bread, muffins, scones etc.

Now is the time to add about another cup of cold water. Squish the butter around in the water to remove any butter milk that may still remain. I use a wooden spoon at first, draining off the liquid as I go. This, I don’t save. Lastly I run a stream of water into the bowl to ‘wash’ the butter, squeezing and draining as I go until the liquid runs clear. This is important as any remaining buttermilk can give the butter a rancid taste.

home made butter
home made butter

Press all the moisture from the butter with a wooden spoon, salt to taste and pack into a suitable container. Although it sounds like quite a production, in practice, its easy enough and the end product is high quality.

 

 

 

Making Ricotta

Home made Ricotta
Home made Ricotta

Lastly, from my milk cache, I make a batch of ricotta. I love ricotta for both sweet and savory dishes and I love it most of all because making it is as easy as falling off a log. Easier in fact.

I put two liters of milk (or multiples thereof) into a saucepan and heat it to 200 F, or until the milk is bubbly and steaming. Watch it carefully because in the blink of an eye it can rise up and make an awful mess all over your stove.

 

Making Ricotta - curds and whey
Making Ricotta – curds and whey

Take the pan off the heat and add two teaspoons of salt and 1/3 cup of lemon juice, stir gently and leave undisturbed for ten minutes or so. By then the curds should have separated from the whey but if the liquid till looks quite ‘milky’ carefully stir in a bit more lemon juice and leave another five minutes or so.

While you’re waiting, line a colander with muslin or cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl.

 

Draining the Ricotta
Draining the Ricotta

Pour the contents of the pan into the colander, carefully though so that the hot whey doesn’t splash all over you. Leave to drain for twenty minutes and then check the consistency of the ricotta. If you would like firmer curds leave for a little longer. And that’s it! Add more salt if you need to, then pop your cheese into a suitable container.

The left over whey can be used to make bread, muffins and sturdy cakes or fed to the animals.

If you don’t have a village milk man you can certainly use store bought milk although I’m not sure if you would be making any great savings, it all depends on the price of the milk. Most importantly, whatever milk you choose it cannot be UHT, that simply will not work. It goes without saying that to make cream or butter you must use full fat milk, but if you want to have a go at making ricotta then skimmed is fine.

If you haven’t tried you hand at producing these added value dairy products I really do encourage you to have a go.

 

Posted in From the Kitchen

Everything Elderflower

The frothy white blossoms of the elderflower are, for me, the big thumbs up that summer is on its way. Along with the first cut of grass I don’t think there is a smell more evocative of warm sunny days than the somewhat elusive, and definitely distinctive, scent of the elderflower. This year the blousey flower heads are in abundance around the lanes of Mogilino and today I collected yet another batch. Already, I have my blossoms and lemon slices resting in a pan of simple syrup and tomorrow the resulting elixir will be strained into sterilised bottles – hey presto!, it really is as easy as that to produce a batch of Elderflower Cordial. A failure simply isn’t possible!

Of course there are many lovely things you can add to your pantry that begin with those very same ingredients and  Elderflower Champagne is on my list for tomorrow. Well, it wont be on the shelves tomorrow. It takes a few days of bubbling away before that delicate and most refreshing of summery brews will be ready to quaff, and really, if I’m honest, there’s not much chance it will spend long in the pantry anyway…

But back to the cordial. Yes, it makes the most wonderful drink, diluted with still or sparkling water or a splashed into a glass of white wine or Prosecco. I also I love it as a warm drink in the winter when its medicinal properties help chase away an impending cold. But don’t overlook the many other inventive ways it can be used! Here are six of my favourites to get you started.

Thorncroft Wild Elder Flower Cordial will do very nicely if you didn’t get around to making a batch for yourself this year! Make a note to yourself to check back later in the year to harvest the elderberries that will appear late summer to early fall, depending on where in the world you live. I will have some lovely ideas for ways in which you can use those too.

Elderflower Marshmallows.

Homemade Elderflower Marshmallows
Elderflower Marshmallows

A far cry from sickly, over-sweet, store bought creations, these delightful little puffs of yumminess are the very epitome of summer. Here is a recipe from Country Living that you might like to try.

Elderflower Marshmallows

Elderflower Panna Cotta.

Homemade Elderflower Panna Cotta
Elderflower Panna Cotta

Light and delicate, creamy and wobbly, this Panna Cotta is a lovely way to end a special meal. The following recipe is from River Cottage where they suggest you serve it with a Gooseberry coulis. I have to admit, Elderflowers and Gooseberries are a match made in heaven.
Elderflower Pannacotta

Fruit and Flower Elderflower Jellies.

Don’t be hemmed in by this particular recipe’s choice of fruit and flower petals – just be sure your flowers are edible! Or if you prefer leave out the flowers entirely. The resulting jellies are so pretty they are almost too beautiful to eat.
Elderflower Fruit and Flower Jellies

Elderflower Ice Lollies.

Homemade Elderflower Ice lollies
Elderflower Ice lollies

When the heat is on what is more refreshing than that blast from our childhood past, the Ice Lolly?! Well, here,courtesy of The Greedy Vegan, we have a very grown up version of that old friend. The addition of blossoms, thin slices of lemon, berries or perhaps sprigs of mint jazz the lollies up a bit if you want them for a special occasion.

Elderflower Ice Lollies

Raspberry and Elderflower Sorbet

Homemade Elderflower and Raspberry Sorbet
Elderflower and Raspberry Sorbet

A refreshing sorbet from Donna Hay that is a beautiful blushing pink in colour. Although it fairly screams ‘Summertime’, if you have raspberries in the freezer then it can be a very pleasant way to end a heavy winter meal.

Raspberry and Elderflower Sorbet

Sambocade

Sambocade - A Medieval Cheesecake
Sambocade – A Medieval Cheesecake

Sambocade is a real treat from the past – a medieval elderflower cheesecake made with ricotta and cottage cheese (or other curd cheese). A very nice baked cheesecake that we must thank Nutmegs Seven for bringing to our attention.
Sambocade

The Cookbook

Mogilino House in Winter
Mogilino in Winter

I arrived in Mogilino at the end of March 2013 and, so far, living here has been a wonderful experience. Sure enough the language is a challenge and having English speaking neighbours that so kindly come to my rescue when I run into problems has made me very lazy in coming to grips with Bulgarian (but I WILL make a serious effort over the winter!).

There is one thing that I do struggle with however and that is the plight of some of the animals, dogs and cats in particular. Unsurprisingly a few of the homeless are now keeping me company. There are amazing people all over the country doing wonderful work but, as well as a huge commitment of time, it takes money. Food, housing, vet bills, rehoming costs…it’s a bottomless pit.

So, as I’m nearing the completion of my current writing project I’ve decided to try to raise a bit of money to help with those never-ending costs. However, I figure it wouldn’t hurt to do something nice for ourselves too! With that in mind the first of the fundraising projects is a cookbook featuring favourite recipes, those you find yourself reaching for the most, since coming to Bulgaria. I’m hoping some of you will help the cause by submitting some of your best loved recipes too.

I’m particularly looking for typically Bulgarian dishes; recipes from home (wherever home for you might have originally been); perhaps recipes you’ve developed to make old favourites that are hard to find or expensive here; recipes that make use of the wonderful local produce.

If you would like to include a short intro telling us a bit about the dish – or yourself –  that would be great, but if you’re shy it is by no means mandatory.

All profits from the book will be donated to help animals in need in Bulgaria.

 

If you would like to submit a recipe please email it to:

Botb@gmail.com In the subject line please put “recipe submission”

Or if you prefer, use the form below.

 that would be great

Personally, I love cookbooks so this is one project I am really looking forward to!