Tomato Jam with Thyme

I did this post last week, though I thought I did.  But no one saw it, so I knew something was up.  In the meantime I upgraded to the premium plan so my site is now ourgrowingpaynes.blog.  As I was doing that I asked about this post.  Turns out I created a site page instead of a blog post!  Doh.  Hopefully now I can get this back on track.  🙂

I am really regretting removing our air conditioners.  Granted, it’s nice to have a longer growing season this year, but man, the humidity needs to go!  While we don’t like it the tomatoes seem to love this.  Which means we have to be creative is preserving all that goodness!

One of our favourite restaurants has a really good charcuterie plate and they very often have tomato jam as part of it.  It’s something my husband regularly orders there and he asked if I could make some tomato jam at home.  No idea how they make theirs but here is my version.

Tomato Jam 1 2017

I have to say, prepping the tomatoes is a messy endeavor.  But it needs to be done.  Cut the tops off the tomatoes and then cut a cross into the bottom.  Prep 2 1/2lbs/40ozs of tomatoes for this jam.

Tomato Jam 2 2017

Blanch each tomato for about 30 seconds in boiling water.

Tomato Jam 3 2017

Remove and set aside to cool.  Or you can dip in cold water.  I just let them cool.  Doesn’t take too long.  Remove the skins.

Tomato Jam 4 2017

Then it gets really messy!  Remove the seeds and coarsely chop up the tomatoes and add to a saucepan.  Add a couple of tablespoons of lemon juice and a big handful of fresh thyme.  I chopped up the thyme finely as I didn’t want large bits of herb in the jam.  Bring the mixture to a simmer.  Because I didn’t want a high sugar jam I just added 1 cup/8oz of sugar to start.

Tomato Jam 5 2017

Mix well and keep simmering.  I also use low sugar pectin to help thicken the jam.  I didn’t want to mask the flavour of the tomato with too much sugar.  I add a bit of the pectin at the time.  Hard to remove it if you go too far!

Tomato Jam 6 2017

This is really good with cheese and would be good with bread and butter.  It’s a nice alternative to the usual berry jam.  A reminder of summer when the cooler decides to finally arrive.

 

Curry Inspired Couscous

We still have tomatoes and aubergines coming out of our garden at a great rate so it is time to get creative so they don’t go to waste.  It was a crazy week last week with my husband traveling and with the kids schools stuff so I only got round to cooking a meal for the kids on Friday.  Well, I did feed them the rest of the week, not that much of a slacker!  But I stuck with the easy stuff I could do with my eyes shut.  I was in the mood for something curry flavoured and we had chicken on hand.  This could be done!

curry-couscous-1-2016

I thought it would be a fun twist to use the Israeli Couscous I had on hand.  Cook that using the directions on the package.  First I prepped the chicken with a marinade paste.  I mixed a tablespoon of olive oil with a tablespoon of red curry paste, a teaspoon of chili powder, 1/2 a teaspoon of ground ginger, 1/2 a teaspoon of cumin, and a bit of sea salt and pepper.  Mix well and spread it on the chicken thighs.

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Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.  Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet and brown both sides of the chicken.

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Finish off the chicken in the oven.  Chop up a small onion and a couple of cloves of garlic.  Add them to the skillet and cook on medium low temp.

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Slice up the aubergine and several tomatoes and bring the temp up to medium to saute.

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Add 1/2 a cup or so of chicken stock.  Add 2 tablespoons of red curry paste, 1/2 a teaspoon of ground ginger, a teaspoon of chili powder, a few dashes of garam masala, and a sprinkle of asafoetida.  As it simmers also add a few splashes of lime juice.  Stir in the couscous.

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The kids came into the dining room and said how wonderful it smelled.  I was a little jealous as I don’t have a sense of smell and the spices that go into curry can be wonderful.

 

Italian Salad and Being Exercised by the House

Negative space.  Great when it comes to artwork.  Not so much when it comes to a house.  Our house was built in 1895 and I have to say it was solidly built.  It’s still relatively square. But man, when we redo rooms or do projects we find some serious negative space.  While our kids are off on their summer adventures we redid my son’s floor.  Because the wood had been damaged we had to pull up the old flooring.  Which gave us a chance to put in new insulation.  And that is where we saw the latest example of negative space.  So we stuffed a lot of insulation in.  Our son will be quite toasty this winter.

Thankfully that is a few months off.  On Father’s Day we joined our friends in the traditional Father’s Day BBQ and I had made a twist on the caprese salad with bacon and lettuce.  I didn’t have the time to get stuff together for a blog post then but I thought I’d remake it for my husband and I but added chicken.  Because why not?

Italian salad 1 2016

In a skillet start cooking 4-5 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped up.  Once the bacon is half cooked add about a third of a cup of chopped onion and a couple of cloves of garlic, chopped.  Add a teaspoon or so of fresh thyme.

Italian salad 2 2016

While this is cooking make up the dressing and grill the chicken.  I just seasoned the chicken with sea salt and pepper as it will be dressed before adding to the salad.  In a bowl add olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.  The ration was about 1:3/4 oil to vinegar.  Whisk to emulsify. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Italian salad 3 2016

Cut up the chicken into small pieces.  Add the chicken and the bacon mixture to the bowl and toss in the dressing.

Italian salad 4 2016

Add to lettuce and top with chopped tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.

Italian salad 5 2016

A super easy, flavourful salad for summer nights.  Without leaving you feeling stuffed.

Tomato Garlic Beef Curry

There is a new Indian restaurant here in town.  We did make the mistake going on opening night.  We were getting cranky waiting for the food!  But once the food did arrive it was really good.  So I hope that they get things sorted because we would love to have a proper Indian restaurant in town.

I had ordered a spicy lamb curry with tomato, garlic and onion.  A slow cooked flavourful curry with a great balance of heat.  I had to recreate it.  I planned on doing that for my dad’s birthday but since plans got changed (for a good reason!) I decided to make it for the kids when they got back from FL as they both requested curry for dinner.  And they gave a thumbs up for adding spice.

Tomato beef curry 1 2015

This is a dish you want to slow cook, no short cuts on this on!  But other than the time it takes it is really simple.  Heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet.  Season about a pound of stewing beef or lamb with sea salt and pepper.  Brown the meat on all sides.

Tomato beef curry 2 2015

Coarsely chop an onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic.  Add to the skillet.  We have been growing Ring O Fire peppers in our garden so I harvested a couple for this.  Start off with one pepper.  It’s a lot easier to add more heat than remove it.  Again, seeds increase the heat so use your judgement.

Tomato beef curry 3 2015

Saute for a few minutes to soften the onion then add a 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer.  Freshly grate about 1 – 2 inch/2.5-5cm piece of ginger, add to the skillet.  Chop a small handful of fresh cilantro.  Then season with sea salt and pepper, 1-2 teaspoons of garam masala, and a couple of tablespoons of red curry paste.

Tomato beef curry 4 2015

Cover and keep it on a low simmer for a few hours.  Stir occasionally so it doesn’t catch on the bottom.  Half way through cooking test the heat and if you want more add more hot pepper.  Adjust for the curry seasoning with the paste if needed as well.  Meanwhile, my husband made up some incredible naan for us to enjoy.  We thought the naan would be enough so I didn’t do up any rice.

Tomato beef curry 5 2015

I was really pleased with this, it tasted close to what I had at the restaurant.  It was hearty without being heavy.

Today is the first day of school for the kids.  Our daughter started high school and our son is starting middle school.  Wondering where time is going.  But to make it a fun day I’m making pavlova and and chicken cordon bleu.  Can’t wait to hear all the stories!

Rabbit and the Need to Strangle a Cock….

4am.  Still dead of night as far as I am concerned.  Cock-a-doodle-doo!  My husband then rolls out of bed to close the ceiling window because I’m too short to reach it.  Every morning the bloody thing would go off.  And it would go all day.  There is another one down the road that answers but that is more muted.  Ours was about 10 feet from our window. I say was as this morning it’s been quiet.  I’m wondering if coq a vin is on the menu next door.  If I never hear another cock-a-doodle-doo I’ll be a happy camper.

On my list of ingredients to cook while here in France was rabbit.  So off to the market we went in search of one.  

 
We were successful.  Good thing I asked the head be removed.  An unfortunate thing about the kitchen we’re using, aside from a very anemic oven, is the knives are very dull.  We’ve tried sharpening them without a whole lot of success.  Which made butchering this rabbit quite the chore!  My MIL helped as I had to wrestle it to submission.  I ended up removing the legs and then took what I could of the remaining meat to add to the sauce.  I didn’t want to waste the rest of the rabbit so when my MIL suggested making a quick stock I went in that direction.  In a saucepan I covered the rabbit in water, added a shallot, salt and pepper, and thyme.


Bring it to a boil then let it simmer for 30-45 minutes.  Once that is done heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and brown the legs of the rabbit.

  

While that is happening, prep a small onion, a few cloves of garlic, and some fresh rosemary.

  
Remove the rabbit legs and set aside.  Sauté the onions and garlic until they soften.  Add some of the rabbit stock to simmer with the onion and garlic.

 
Add the rabbit bits and rosemary and sauté for a few more minutes.  I bought some local mushrooms at the market which were really nice.  I sliced a few and added them the the skillet.  Again add some stock.  About half a cup or 4 ounces each time.

  

Chop up a few tomatoes.  I also had a can of diced tomatoes that needed to be used.  Toss these in and add 4-8 ounces of red wine.  Bring to a simmer and add the rabbit legs to finish off cooking.

  
The tricky bit is not to over cook and toughen the meat.  In fact after simmering awhile there was still a bit of rabbit on the larger leg that wasn’t cooked through.  We still had plenty of meat to go round.  

 
The sauce with the stock was really nice.  Not sure if I’d cook a lot of rabbit going forward.  It was nice but not something I would crave.  But I can cross this off the bucket list so to speak.  

Today is packing day as we have a long journey home.  I’ll miss this place.  I’ve loved the food, the sightseeing, working on the language, and the leisurely meals.  No one rushes you and it’s perfectly fine to have a glass of wine or two with lunch.  And I could eat bread here with minimal side effects.  It’s been fabulous!  But back to reality I’m afraid. 

Spicy Sausage and Bursting with Pride

It’s been quite the week with the kids and the end of year celebrations.  Even though I’m not a fan of so called graduations at a level below the end of high school I still enjoy cheering them on.  Our son had his 5th grade recognition and received the President’s Award for Academic Improvement.  Each child had to do a mini speech about their favourite memory from school.  They did really well.  It’s not easy speaking in front of a crowd.  And the poor kid was struggling through a cold from hell.

Our daughter had her 8th grade recognition yesterday.  Somehow she managed to go four years straight without missing a day of school.  I have no idea what that is like.  I was always sick growing up.  She also achieved high honours 11 out of the 12 quarters.  We are so proud of our kids and what they have achieved so far.

It’s quite something to see how they are doing on their journey.

We had a chilly day a week ago and my son requested pasta so comfort food was on deck.  A local farm had some lovely jalapeno sausages.  Good ones too, not like the mealy ones we kept getting at the co-op.  So I’ll have to buy them as she has them!

Because of the jalapeno I wanted to go with Mexican flavours to highlight the heat.

Jalapeno sausage and pasta 1 2015

Begin by browning the sausages in the skillet with a bit of olive oil.  Brown all the sides but don’t worry about cooking all the way through.  They’ll be finished off in the dish.

Jalapeno sausage and pasta 2 2015

Set aside and add a few cloves of garlic, chopped, and a few mushrooms, sliced.  Saute until the garlic is softened.  Then add chopped peppers and scallions.  Cook for a minute or so then add a chopped tomato.

Jalapeno sausage and pasta 3 2015

Add a cup of homemade stock and bring to a simmer.  Slice the sausages and add to the mixture.  Next add a tablespoon of lime juice, a tablespoon of chili powder, a couple of teaspoons of cumin, and salt and pepper to season.  Chop up some fresh cilantro and stir in at the end. Once the sausage is cooked through add the pasta and toss well.

Jalapeno sausage and pasta 4 2015

Top with a bit of sour cream and shredded cheese.  I really liked this as comfort food.  Loads of flavour and colour.  And it chased away the chill.  🙂

Black Garlic and the Craziness Quiets Down

I feel like school is out for summer.  It was a long tax season inside and outside of the office.  But hey the 15th of April comes around the same time every year so I knew I’d be able to breath soon.  A woman I do Zumba with asked if I’ve been cooking up a storm.  I wish!  Well, it’s not that I haven’t been cooking and things but there just wasn’t time to actually blog about it.

I did this dish a few weeks ago.  My husband found black garlic and thought I’d have fun trying it out.

Black garlic sauce 1 2015It’s an interesting ingredient that has been fermented.  The flavour that comes through is balsamic vinegar, so much so I double checked the container wondering if anything was added.  But no that is what comes out with the fermentation.

In a skillet heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and add the chopped garlic.  For this dish I used two small bulbs.

Black garlic sauce 2 2015You want to cook the garlic on low to medium heat and let the flavour infuse into the oil.  After a few minutes add about 14 oz of diced tomatoes.

Black garlic sauce 3 2015While the sauce is cooking prepare the pasta of your choice.  Add it to the sauce.  Add a handful of fresh basil to the sauce.

Black garlic sauce 4 2015Serve with parmesan or asiago cheese grated over the dish.

Black garlic sauce 5 2015This simple dish has an amazing amount of flavour.  I have one more bulb of the garlic to use, oh the possibilities!

Now it’s time to catch up with all the blogs and get back into creating again.  🙂

Quick Chicken Curry

When you have to do a quick dinner be careful asking your kids what they want.  You may be tossed into the deep end!  Thursday was one of the those nights as our daughter had another concert for school.  It was also my day off so it was grocery day and I usually bring the kids with me to get their input.  Which is a safe thing because they don’t pick junk stuff.

So I asked what they would like this time.  My son piped up with Curry!  Because, you know, it’s a quick and easy dish to make.  His words.  But I do like a good curry.

And the co-op had fresh turmeric.

Chicken Curry 2 2015A sign, obviously.  What I didn’t count on was how yellow my fingers would be stained for a few days.  Very bright!

In a skillet heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil and saute chopped onion and chicken until the onions have softened.  Then add a few cloves of garlic chopped.

Chicken Curry 1 2015Add a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, chopped bell pepper, and mushrooms.  Bring to a simmer. Add a few spoonfuls of red curry paste.  Grate about an inch square of fresh turmeric and the same amount of fresh ginger into the curry.

Chicken Curry 3 2015After letting the curry simmer for awhile adjust the curry seasoning to your taste.  Then add about a 1/3 of a cup of coconut milk, a splash of lime juice, and some fresh cilantro.

Chicken Curry 4 2015Serve with rice of your choice.  I’m glad our son suggested curry for dinner.  It hit the spot.  🙂

Chicken Curry 5 2015And thank you to those that gave me some tips on how to handle the photo size in the posts.  I think I’ve figured it out now. Of course, it’s a hassle!  Ah well, what can you do?

Aubergine with Oven Roasted Tomatoes and Steak

I found myself in a bit of a produce pickle the other day.  I went slightly overboard in buying produce forgetting that the kids would be off camping for the weekend.  So I was faced with the task to get rid of the produce in meals so it wouldn’t go bad.

My son loves the zucchini/courgette flans so I thought it would be great to do a zucchini/courgette side as a treat for him.  And I bought an aubergine as the kids requested an Italian meal.

For the zucchini/courgette side I used the spiral cutter again.  So much easier with the softer produce!  Very quick.  🙂

Eggplant oven roasted tomato sauce 1 2014

Set that aside and chop up some aubergine.

Eggplant oven roasted tomato sauce 2 2014

In a skillet melt some butter and sear the steak to brown on both sides then finish off in the oven to the desired doneness.  In the skillet add some avocado oil.  Once heated add the aubergine and saute for a few minutes.  Then add some oven roasted tomatoes and a few cloves of chopped garlic.  Add a bit of white balsamic vinegar.

Eggplant oven roasted tomato sauce 3 2014

While the sauce cooks set up another skillet and heat up some more avocado oil.  Toss in the zucchini/courgette spirals.  Season with sea salt, pepper, and a few splashes of white balsamic vinegar.

Eggplant oven roasted tomato sauce 4 2014

Slice the steak and stop with the aubergine sauce.  Grate fresh parmesan cheese and serve.

Eggplant oven roasted tomato sauce 5 2014

I even liked the zucchini/courgette which is unheard of!  But I noticed my son wasn’t touching the zucchini/courgette.  Apparently the only way he likes it is in the flan.  Sigh.  Fortunately my daughter couldn’t get enough so it didn’t go to waste. Sometimes it is hard to keep up!

Kicking Ketchup

When I was little I was told the corniest joke but it cracked me up and I still remember it.  A mama tomato and a baby tomato were walking along but baby tomato kept lagging behind.  So mama tomato stomped on baby tomato and yelled “Ketchup!”  Told you it was corny.  🙂

It was high time I tried making my own ketchup.  Given that we are currently being overwhelmed with fresh tomatoes we had enough to make some.  With the experiment using the Epsom salt for the tomatoes this year I have some results.  We have a crazy amount of tomatoes this year and very little cracking which has been an issue in the previous years.  On the flip side the fruit are ripening in a weird way.  Not sure if it’s because the season is cooler than normal.  They fall off before they are ripe and then they are going off a lot faster so we are struggling to keep up with it.  I will try this again next year to see what is what.

Spicy ketchup 1 2014

I did a bit of research on ketchup recipes and figured I could come up with my own recipe without too much trouble.  I estimate we had about 6-7 pounds of tomatoes which we chopped and added it to a large pot.

Spicy ketchup 2 2014 Spicy ketchup 3 2014

In addition chop 1 large red onion, 1 medium white onion, a jalapeno, 2 Ring O Fire peppers, and 2 cloves of garlic.

Spicy ketchup 4 2014

Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, 2-3 tsps of sea salt, 1-2 tsps of pepper, and a handful of celery leaves.  Bring to a simmer stirring well.

Spicy ketchup 5 2014

Simmer until the sauce reduces by about a third.

Spicy ketchup 6 2014

Let it cool and then use a hand blender to process the ingredients.  Press the sauce through a sieve to remove the remaining solids into a clean pot.

Spicy ketchup 7 2014 Spicy ketchup 8 2014

Bring back up to a simmer.  Add a cup of red wine vinegar and 3/4 cup of brown sugar.  Simmer until the ketchup is reduce by another 1/3 and is the consistency you want.  I like it on the thicker side so it reduced a bit more than a 1/3.  If you want it thicker add a bit more brown sugar.

Spicy ketchup 9 2014

Can in sterilised jars and process for 10 minutes.

Spicy ketchup 10 2014

I am really pleased how this came out.  Certainly makes me want to whip up some burgers and fries!  Maybe some onion rings.  🙂  This has a lovely heat finish to it.

Ooh, as I write this I got a little trophy thing saying it’s my two year anniversary!  Woot!  🙂