Food & Drink

A Brew For The Rabbit And The Cat

January 19 is Brew a Potion Day. It is a fun day celebrating the magical and mystical mythology of potions. The word potion comes from the Latin “potio” which means to drink. Potions are thought to have magical properties, which can be used for healing or cursing, and are usually brewed by witches, wizards and other magical creatures. To celebrate Brew a Potion Day, concoct a potion of your own. It can be magical or non-magical, alcoholic or non-alcoholic, hot or cold. There are no rules, so have fun!

This is my first year of celebrating Brew a Potion Day and I’ve chosen to make a Bunny Mary, also called a Bloody Rabbit. A Bunny Mary is a fun version of a Bloody Mary where you replace the tomato juice with carrot juice. The spicy seasonings of a Bloody Mary can also be played around with. For my Bunny Mary I’m using Chinese five spice and garnishing it with a spring of mint.

My Bunny Mary concoction is inspired by the upcoming Lunar New Year on January 22. This year is a special one as it is the Chinese Year of the Rabbit and also the Vietnamese Year of the Cat. This means we have two animals to celebrate instead of just one! The element for this year is Water which is most appropriate for brewing up potions. The carrot juice pays tribute to the Rabbit while the mint pays tribute to the Cat as catnip is part of the mint family. To honour the Lunar New Year I’ve added Chinese five spice, as the five spices symbolise the five elements (Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, and Earth).

Bunny Mary

Ingredients (makes one drink)
50ml vodka
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice
1 cup carrot juice
good squeeze of lemon juice
mint sprig for garnish

Instructions
Pour the vodka into a tall glass.
Add the spice mix.
Pour in the carrot juice.
Add a squeeze of lemon juice.
Give a good stir.
Garnish with a sprig of mint.

If you can’t find Chinese five spice mix you can make your own. There is no specific recipe so you make one that suits your taste. This is my recipe:

Chinese Five Spice
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground fennel seeds
3 teaspoons ground star anise
2 teaspoons ground Szechuan pepper*
1 teaspoon ground cloves
Mix all the ingredients together.
Store in an air-tight glass container for up to 6 months.
*You can use ground black pepper but it won’t have the same numbing effect that Szechuan pepper has.

Happy Brew a Potion Day!
Happy Year of the Rabbit!
Happy Year of the Cat!

You Say Tahini I Say Zucchini

One of my partner’s favourite places for coffee is Patricia Coffee Brewers in Melbourne’s CBD. This quirky little shop is known for its awesome coffee but they also have the most tasty little treats. As I eagerly eyed their display case, greedily checking out the cookie selection, I chose what I thought were chocolate chip cookies. I checked to make sure I was right and was happy to hear that they were orange and chocolate chip cookies with a touch of tahini. I was so excited at the orange bit that I misheard tahini and thought she said zucchini. When I realised it was tahini I was still excited as I love tahini.

The cookies were delicious but I couldn’t get zucchini out of my head. I decided to experiment with a chocolate chip zucchini cookie but didn’t want to make a large batch just in case I didn’t like them. I’ve been meaning to try a small batch cookie recipe and this was the perfect time to do it. After finding a few recipes that didn’t have egg in them, I played around with the measurements to create a single batch cookie. The good thing about an eggless cookie recipe is that you can scale up to make as many cookies as you want!

The recipe below makes one cookie so you can make a few batches and try different flavour combinations. My first try is the recipe below, which gives a subtle taste of zucchini. I made a second cookie and doubled the zucchini but the extra zucchini added more moisture which made the cookie a bit cake-like in texture. It was still nice but I preferred the lovely balance of flavour and texture of the first one. Next I made a tasty chocolate chip and tahini cookie by substituting the zucchini with 1 teaspoon of tahini. Not only can you experiment with flavours but also cooking times as the longer you cook the cookie, the crisper it gets. My mind is bursting with all the different combinations I can try – especially with the holidays approaching!

Chocolate Chip and Zucchini Cookie

Ingredients
15g (1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon sugar (granulated)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 teaspoon grated zucchini (make sure you squeeze out any liquid)
8g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
salt for sprinkling (optional)

Instructions
Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.
Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy.
Add the vanilla and mix until combined.
Stir in the zucchini.
Add the flour and mix until combined.
Fold in the chocolate.
Roll dough into a ball and place on prepared tray.
Press down slightly, but not too far as the dough will spread.
Sprinkle with salt if desired.
Bake for 15-25 minutes or until the edges are browned and cooked to your liking.
You can eat it warm or cold.

A Beltane for Bram

Bram Stoker was born on the 8th of November 1847 making this Tuesday his 175th birthday!

This year Bram will share his birthday with a Full Moon in Taurus, a total lunar eclipse and Blood Moon. If that isn’t enough, the astronomical date for Beltane in the southern hemisphere, and Samhain in the northern hemisphere, will be celebrated on the eve of his birthday. Stoker’s most famous novel, Dracula, is a symphony of oppositions exploring life, death and rebirth. I think it is very fitting that Stoker’s 175th birthday falls on the eve of these most appropriate festivals.

To celebrate this very special birthday I decided to pay tribute to Bram’s Irish heritage by making an Irish milk punch called Scáiltín. It’s basically a spiced milk hot toddy. Milk and dairy are traditional foods/drinks used in both Beltane and Full Moon festivities which makes this a perfect drink for Bram’s birthday this year.

For the spices, I used pumpkin spice instead of the traditional ginger and cinnamon to add a bit of Halloween to the drink. If you don’t have pumpkin spice you can replace it with a 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger and a 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. I’ve also added an optional toasted marshmallow as a reminder of the bonfires that will be burning on both sides of the globe.

Happy Birthday Bram Stoker!

Irish Milk Punch (Scáiltín)

Ingredients
(Makes one generous cup)
1/4 cup Irish whiskey
1 cup full fat milk
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice
freshly grated or ground nutmeg for serving
1 marshmallow for serving (optional)

Instructions
Warm the whisky and milk in a small saucepan over low heat. (Do not let the mixture boil).
Add the honey and pumpkin spice and whisk until bubbly and combined.
Pour into a heatproof mug.
Sprinkle with nutmeg.
Top with a toasted marshmallow if desired.
If you don’t have access to a bonfire, you can toast the marshmallow by spearing it on a fork and slowly turning it over a low heat on a gas fire until it is toasted to your liking. (Be careful not to drop it as it softens).

Spring Crumble

The Spring Equinox is here again! This year it falls on Friday the 23rd of September. The Equinox symbolises balance as the hours of day and night are roughly equal on this night. After the Spring Equinox, our hours of daylight will slowly increase and the days will become longer than the nights as we head towards the Summer Solstice.

The Spring Equinox usually makes me feel like doing a spring clean. Sometimes it’s house cleaning, sometimes it’s cleaning up my emotional and spiritual state. This year I’m spring cleaning my living space! A collapsing clothes cupboard has forced me to take a look at my storage and has inspired me to do a big clothing purge.

Seeing my crumbling wardrobe made think of a fruit crumble, but rather than a sweet one I decided to make a savoury zucchini crumble. Vibrant green zucchini, combined with a light filling and topping, is a refreshing way to celebrate the Equinox and prepare for upcoming spring cleaning.

Zucchini Crumble

Ingredients
for the filling
500g zucchini, finely grated
1 tablespoon semolina
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
125g feta

for the topping
1 cup wholemeal flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
80g unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts

Instructions
Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.
Lightly oil a 24cm x 18cm baking dish.
To make the filling:
Squeeze zucchini, making sure all liquid is extracted, then place in a bowl.
Add the semolina, rosemary, salt and feta and stir until just combined.
Spread the mixture into prepared dish.
To make the topping:
Add the flour and salt to a separate bowl.
Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips.
Add the nuts and continue mixing until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
Sprinkle the topping over the zucchini mix.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the topping is lightly browned.

Sweet Tea For A Bloody Countess

August 21st is Elizabeth Bathory’s deathiversary. It’s also National Sweet Tea Day. When I realised this, I couldn’t help picturing Elizabeth sipping a sweet tea. Seeing as two of her epithets are the “Blood Countess” and “Countess Dracula”, maybe it isn’t sweet tea she is sipping.

Countess Elizabeth Bathory (born 7 August 1560 – died 21 August 1614) was a Hungarian noblewoman who was accused of torturing and murdering young girls. Bathory was eventually tried and convicted as a serial killer. She was imprisoned in her castle until her death. There is ongoing debate as to whether Elizabeth Bathory was a blood thirsty murderer or the victim of a witch hunt.

As a wealthy and influential landowner, there were many reasons to discredit her and take her land and power. This has led to questioning how the evidence brought against Bathory was gathered. Some testified that they had not seen her commit crimes but had heard stories about her while the eyewitness accounts from Bathory’s servants were mostly gained through torture. The enduring tales of her drinking and bathing in the blood of virgins to retain her youth appear to have been written after her death. Whether guilty or innocent of these crimes, Elizabeth Bathory has lived on in folklore, especially in vampire mythology.

And now onto something sweeter than blood – Sweet Tea!
National Sweet Tea Day is a day to enjoy the pleasures of a refreshing glass of iced sweet tea. The difference between sweet tea and iced tea is that sweetener is added to the tea at the time of brewing. National Iced Tea Day is celebrated on June 10.

To celebrate National Sweet Tea Day, I’ll be enjoying a sweetened Earl Grey tea. To pay tribute to the contribution Elizabeth Bathory has made to vampire mythology, I’ll be adding a slice of blood orange. It won’t be chilled either as I believe that tea, like blood, should be served warm.

Happy Drinking!

Imbolc Delight

As the wheel slowly turns toward Spring in the southern hemisphere, many are getting ready to celebrate Imbolc on August 1st.

Imbolc is the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. It brings the promise of Spring in the midst of cold Winter weather. Nights are still cold but the days are warming as nature begins to slowly awaken from a Winter slumber. It’s a beautiful time of year and one of my favourites.

One of the things I like to start thinking about at Imbolc is spring cleaning. This year I began with my pantry and found a bottle of rose syrup that I had forgotten I had. I decided to use some of it to make a rose syrup jelly (jello) that reminds me of Turkish delight. Rose syrup is a syrup made from rose water with sugar added. If you don’t have rose syrup you can use rose water but you may have to add extra sugar to get that sweet flavour of Turkish delight.

I added hibiscus tea to my jelly as I wanted to get a nice pink colour. I also find the tartness of hibiscus balances out the sweetness of the rose syrup. If you don’t have hibiscus tea, you can add food colouring or just enjoy the almost pink blush of the jelly.

Rose Syrup Jelly

Ingredients
1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 titanium strength gelatine leaf*
1 tablespoon rose syrup
1 tablespoon hibiscus flower tea leaves
cream for serving (optional)

Instructions
Soak gelatine sheet in cold water for 5 minutes.
While the gelatine is soaking, place the water and sugar in a small saucepan and gently heat until the sugar has dissolved.
Squeeze out gelatine sheet and add to the saucepan.
Remove from heat.
Stir once or twice until the gelatine has melted.
Stir in the rose syrup and hibiscus tea.
Steep for 3-5 minutes.
Strain into a heatproof jug.
Allow to cool then pour into serving bowls or glasses.
Cover and refrigerate until set.
Serve with cream if desired.

*check the strength of your gelatine leaves and use as many as you need to set 1 cup of liquid.

Some Assembly Required

National Cream Tea Day is a British food day that is celebrated on the last Friday in June. This year it was celebrated on June 24th. I didn’t get to celebrate on Friday, but any day is a great day to celebrate the delight that is a cream tea!

National Cream Tea Day was created by two companies, one that specialises in cream – Rodda’s Clotted Cream and one that specialise in jams and preserves – Wilkin and Sons Tiptree. National Cream Tea Day is a fun day that encourages people to get together over a cream tea and raise money for charities. Both companies donate cream and jam for events through their joint organisation, The Cream Tea Society.

Apart from cream and jam, a cream tea needs scones to dollop the cream and jam onto, and lots of tea to wash them down with. The scone recipe I’ve chosen is not a classic British recipe but one from an Ikea cookbook called Hey Flavours! Children’s First Cookbook. Luckily you won’t need an Allen key to assemble these scones! If you’d like to know more about cream teas, and what order you should put the cream and jam on your scone, you can go to my previous post, The Battle Of The Cream Tea.

Scones
I was drawn to these scones as they are made with yoghurt instead of milk, which sounds delicious! I’ve tested them thoroughly and they do also taste delicious.

Ingredients
1 + 1/2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
50g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup yoghurt

for serving
jam
cream
tea

Instructions
Preheat oven to 200C / 400F.
Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
Add the butter and, using your fingers, rub it into the flour.
Add the yoghurt and mix into a dough.
Place dough onto a floured surface and flatten until approximately 2cm thick.
Use a glass or cookie cutter to cut into round shapes.
Place onto prepared tray and sprinkle with a little flour.
Bake for 10 – 12 minutes.

The Halloween “Pom” Queen

Sunday the 30th of April is southern hemisphere Halloween! There are so many ways to celebrate this most auspicious of nights. This year I’ll be celebrating the seasonal coronation of Persephone as she once again embraces her role as the Queen of the Underworld.

Persephone spends Spring and Summer in the land of the living and Autumn and Winter in the land of the dead. During the Autumn Equinox, Persephone makes her descent into the Underworld. On Halloween, we celebrate the seasonal coronation of Persephone as she regains her crown and guides us through the remaining dark half of the year.

To celebrate Persephone’s Halloween Coronation, I’m making hot chocolate. Chocolate is linked to death – and not just by the dessert Death By Chocolate! Cacao has been used in celebrations and rituals symbolising both death and rebirth for millennia. You can even buy Ceremonial Grade Cacao if you’re really keen. I’m adding mint and pomegranate to my hot chocolate which also have links to death and rebirth, so they are perfect ingredients for a Halloween drink dedicated to Persephone.

Mint is a key herb herb used in funerary rites, and also an ingredient in kykeon, a fermented barley drink used in the Eleusinian Mysteries dedicated to Demeter and Persephone. Interestingly, Minthe is the name of a nymph who was the lover of Hades. Minthe said some unflattering things about Persephone and was trampled on by either Persephone, or her mother Demeter. The herb mint sprang from the earth where Minthe was squashed. That’s a pretty powerful allegory for death and rebirth!

Pomegranate is a red fruit filled with seeds that oozes blood red juice when opened. Not surprisingly they are a fruit abundant in symbology. During her first trip to the Underworld, Persephone eats some pomegranate seeds which tie her forever to the realm of the dead. For each seed she has eaten, she must spend a month in the Underworld. There is no consensus on how many seeds she ate. As her journey represents a seasonal cycle of light and darkness, six seems to be an appropriate number. Pomegranate seeds bring Persephone back to the Underworld and on Halloween she reclaims her throne as Queen of the Dead. It is this for reason I call her my Halloween Pom (Pomegranate) Queen.

Mint Hot Chocolate with Pomegranate Whipped Cream

Ingredients (1 serving)
for the whipped cream
1/2 cup cream
1 tablespoon powdered (icing) sugar
1 teaspoon fresh pomegranate juice
pomegranate seeds for decorating
mint leaves for decorating

for the hot chocolate
1 cup of milk
1 tablespoon dark cocoa powder
20g finely chopped dark chocolate buds
2 tablespoons (or to taste) peppermint cordial

Instructions
Whisk the cream until slightly thickened.
Add the powdered sugar and whisk until soft peaks form.
Stir in the pomegranate juice until fluffy and combined. Set aside while you make the hot chocolate.
Heat the milk until hot, but not boiling.
Whisk in the cocoa powder until combined.
Add the chocolate and whisk until melted and combined.
Add the peppermint cordial and whisk until combined.
Pour into a heat-proof mug.
Top with whipped cream.
Decorate with mint leaves and pomegranate seeds.

April Fool’s Day Capers

To celebrate April Fool’s Day I’d like to pay tribute to one of my favourite pranks. On April Fool’s Day 1957, the BBC’s current affairs program Panorama aired a story about a family in Switzerland harvesting spaghetti from their spaghetti tree. The family were celebrating a bumper harvest due to a mild winter and the almost total eradication of the spaghetti beetle.

photo from wikipedia

Apparently, spaghetti was not well known in the UK at that time so many were fooled by the story. Some viewers contacted the BBC asking for advice on how they could grow their own spaghetti trees! Wouldn’t it be awesome if there really were spaghetti trees?

To celebrate this foodie prank I just had to make a big bowl of spaghetti. Naturally I couldn’t resist adding capers to my spaghetti. Not only do capers add a tasty burst of flavour to a dish, but a “caper” is also another name for an escapade, joke or prank.

Spaghetti with Capers

Ingredients
180g spaghetti
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
good squeeze of lemon juice
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan

Instructions
Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente.
Drain and return the spaghetti to the pot.
Add the olive oil and lemon juice.
Toss until combined and the spaghetti is glossy.
Place into bowls and scatter with capers and parmesan.

Happy April Fool’s Day!

A Time For Corn

Monday the 21st of March is the Autumn Equinox in the southern hemisphere. It’s the midpoint between Lammas and Halloween. The hours of day and night are relatively equal on the Equinox. Following the Equinox, the darkness starts to gain ascendancy as the day slowly retreats into the dark half of the year.

The Autumn Equinox marks the second summer harvest festival. It represents the harvesting of grains and produce that can be enjoyed now and also preserved for the winter. Corn is one of the most sacred symbols for Autumn and is revered for its versatility. It can be eaten fresh, or preserved by being frozen or canned. It can be dried to make popcorn or ground into cornmeal and corn flour. The leaves and husks can also be used to make Corn Dollies, Corn Husk Dolls and other crafts.

Popcorn is one of the many ways I enjoy corn. I love it piping hot with lots of butter and a good sprinkling of sea salt. I’ve always used individual kernels but I recently discovered popcorn on the cob. These dried corncobs can be placed in a paper bag and popped in the microwave. I didn’t actually own a microwave but I bought one just so I could try popcorn on the cob!

Thankfully the popcorn was worth the investment. 🙂