Sourdough Pancakes by the Sea

As Shrove Tuesday rears its sweet head on the calendar, traditionally a day of feasting before the leanness of Lent begins, pancakes make an appearance, which means sourdough pancakes for me. Far more digestible than your average pancake, crepe or pikelet, they offer an extra bonus to sourdough bread makers who often find their sourdough starter building up in the fridge.

Dry mixture for pancakes, with recipe on the lid.
Dry mixture for pancakes, with recipe on the lid.

Before heading off to the beach camp each weekend, I refresh some sourdough starter with a little flour and water and pop it in a screw top jar. At the same time, I mix Ā and sift the dry ingredients into another jar. Half an hour before the sleepy heads emerge from their tents, the components are mixed and left to sit for 1/2 hour or more.

Celia’s Sourdough Pancakes.

The dry ingredients:

  • 1 cup plain unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • Ā½ teaspoon salt

The wet ingredients

  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 1 egg
  • 1Ā½ Ā cup whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and sifted baking soda.Ā Ā Pour the sourdough starter, milk and egg into a large mixing bowl and mix well with a whisk or electric mixer until combined.Ā Gradually scatter in the dry ingredients, mixing constantly to avoid lumps. Finally, stir in the melted butter.Ā  Allow the batter to rest for at least half an hour before cooking.

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Sourdough pancakes, cherry jam. Camping breakfast.

Getting back to Lent, a time of reflection and examination of the wrongs that need to be addressed, I am attempting to give up plastic for Lent. If you think this is easy, read the following article:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/ethicallivingblog/2009/apr/16/plastic-free-lent

Cherry Jam and cream or lemon and butter?
Cherry jam and cream or lemon and butter?

Behind the Fantasy

Dear Reader,

As my blog turned two last week, I thought it might be time to make a confession. These thoughts came to me yesterday as I was writing about Du Fu, the Tang Dynasty poet. As I spent hours indulging in the treasure trove of ancient Chinese poetry now available on the web, I came to the conclusion that I am an escapist. I spend too much time in the land of fantasy. I use blogging to time travel to past centuries or places or to recall some tasty meal I have made and was organised enough to photograph, or better still, that someone else made for me in some other country.Ā And I do so to escape from this….

An overdue renovation. Any one fforr plaster reemoval?
An overdue renovation. Any one for plaster removal?

And the day before that, I was considering making a Lent dish to be eaten in Spring, as it would be, if I only I lived in the northern hemisphere where I think I belong. I was simultaneously researching the background of one of my favourite cookbook writers, Joanne Weir, hoping to weld together a story about the history of pre-Christian Lent diets- Lent meaning spring after all – with one of her fine recipes. I made these Greek lentil and bulgur koftas. I was keen to introduce you to the recipe, but then they tasted so bland. Mr T said the Greek potato dishĀ that accompanied them made all the difference. CodeĀ for crap koftas. The story about Lent in Spring now remains idle. Perhaps it will re-surface one day.

Lentil Fritters with yoghurt and dill. Bland!
Lentil koftas with yoghurt and dill. Too bland!

And the day before that, I made another sourdough loaf, but the kids came around for a swim, someone opened a bottle of white wine and time just evaporated. The loaf over proved, IĀ shoved it in the fridge overnight, then baked it the next morning and it came out like this, tasting like a worn out shoe.

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Even the chooks might reject this loaf.

For every published post, there are 10 more sitting in the draft pile, left behind because something went wrong, or the photos weren’t up to scratch, or the recipe was a flop or they became too long. Some posts take weeks to write and research, others write themselves and come together quickly. Some are more popular than others and I’ll never know why.

The post below has had 1200 views since it first appeared. Maybe I should just stick to cake recipes?Ā I recommend it to you as the apricot season draws near. It is a reminder of my more pragmatic self.

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https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/apricot-almond-cake-with-amaretto-easy-frangipane/

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Thank you dear Reader for following, reading and commenting. Sometimes you’ll get a gem, and at other times, an ordinary little nugget.

It’s all Greek to Me. Briami Me Fetta

In Autumn, hearty Greek dishes form a harmonious bridge spanning summer and winter. Many vegetables are at their peak, particularly eggplant and peppers (capsicums) and summer vegetables, such as zucchini, still linger.

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I have noticed my Greek neighbour Anna, who loves Olive oil, kasseri and fetta, and fish straight from the Vic Market, cooks differently each Autumn, in keeping with the dietary restrictions of her church during Lent.

For theĀ Greek Orthodox Lenten fasting means abstaining from foods that contain animals with red blood (meats, poultry, game) and products from animals with red blood (milk, cheese, eggs) and fish and seafood with backbones. Olive oil and wine are also restricted. The number of meals on each day is also limited. Ā Vegetable margarine, shortening, and oils are allowed if they do not contain any dairy products and are not derived from olives.

This is a bit tough! No Olive oil or cheese? Apparently oil may be had on Saturdays and Sundays only. This dish, Briami Me Fetta,Ā ĪœĻ€ĻĪ¹Ī¬Ī¼ Ī¼Īµ Ļ†Ī­Ļ„Ī±,Ā or vegetable casserole with fetta cheese, is not in keeping with Greek Lent dishes. It includes plenty of EV Olive oil and includes a lovely topping of fetta cheese. It is similar to Ratatouille but the layering method makes for a lasagne style vegetable dish, with the potatoes and fetta adding more interest.

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Briami Me Fetta – Vegetable Casserole with Fetta ( Serves 6)

  • 500 g eggplants
  • 500 g zucchini
  • 500 g potatoes ( I use yellow fleshed ones such as Nicola or Dutch Creams)
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red pepper
  • 2 or more cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 425 g can of tomatoes, chopped, undrained
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • freshly ground salt, pepper
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • chopped herbs- parley, dill, oregano
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 250 gr fetta cheese, thinly sliced.

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  1. Preheat Oven to 180c.
  2. Cut eggplants into thin slices. If they are fresh and young, there is no need to salt and disgorge them. If they are older, sprinkle with salt and let stand in a Ā colander for 1/2 hour or so, then wash and squeeze dry.
  3. Slice the zucchini, onions, peel and slice the potatoes, seed and slice the peppers.
  4. Combine the garlic with the canned tomatoes, tomato paste and sugar in a bowl.
  5. Lightly oil a large oven dish or a heavy metal casserole, Arrange the eggplant, zucchini, potatoes, peppers in layers, seasoning as you go. Then cover with a layer of onion rings, tomato mixture and chopped herbs.
  6. Repeat these layers until all vegetables are used, finishing with tomato and herbs. Pour oil of the top and down the sides of the dish, cover with foil ( and a lid if using a heavy casserole) and bake until vegetables are tender or about 1 1/2 hours.
  7. Remove cover and place fetta on top. Bake uncovered for another 15 minutes.

    Briami served with spelt spirali and spinach
    Briami served with spelt spiraliĀ and spinach

Serve with one of the following: crusty bread, small pasta shapes, rice or bulgar pilaf.

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This dish is even better the next day.

Based on a Tess Mallos recipe, The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook.1996

Super Fast Thai Mussel Curry

I used to refer to myself as a Pescetarian, a fish loving vegetarian, but have now adopted a new appellation, Vegacquarian, to sum up my preferred regime. Ā I stole this new moniker from the lovely signorina at Napoli Restaurant Alert. Ā Mind you, I’m not too holy grailish about this diet I adopted 37 years ago after travelling through India and Nepal.Ā Mr Tranquillo, often calls me the evil veggo as, on occasion, I like to bite the end off someone’s chorizo and am rather partial to an overdone baked chicken wing, free range of course. The skinny end of a crispy bacon rasher is a wonderful hangover cure and life is too short not to have a slice of prosciutto on Christmas Day. Maybe I’ll just steal a slice of that paper thin sorpressa that I bought for the visitatori.Ā These fleeting incursions into the land of carnivore make me quite happy. Am I on the cusp of conversion? Or will my Lenten life always be peppered with pleasure from these meaty raids?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Given my partiality to flesh of the fishy kind, it can be a job in itself sourcing sustainable and cheap seafood. When a lovely bag of freshly harvested black mussels turns up, it is a happy day for many reasons. Mussels are the ultimate fast food. They are sustainable, cheap and organic. They contain omega -3 oils, selenium ( an anti- oxidant), and iodine, as well asĀ a being a source of protein and iron. Very good news for a Vegacquarian on a budget!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This simple Thai styled recipe comes from Charmaine Solomon: it’s fast and easy to prepare. Put your rice on first, as this dish takes around 10 minutes to make.

Mussels in Red Curry sauce. Serves Four.

  • 1 kilo mussels
  • 185 ml coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons Red Curry Paste ( bought or home-made)
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1-2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 red chilli, finely sliced
  • 2 spring onions, sliced diagonally.

Method. Clean mussels and de-beard them. Place in a saucepan and add 185Ā ml orĀ 3/4 cup of water. Cover and cook over high heat, shaking the pan occasionally. When the shells open (they only take a minute or so), remove them with tongs. Do not discard those that don’t open:there is nothing wrong with them.Ā Remove the top shells, then strain the cooking liquid through a fine sieve or muslin.

Heat 125 ml of coconut milk in a saucepan until oil appears around the edges, mix in the red curry paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant. Stir in the remaining coconut milk, the reserved cooking liquid, lime leaves, fish sauce, and sugar. Stir until the mixture simmers. Simmer for 5 – 10 minutes. Add the lime juice, red chill and spring onion, and ladle the sauce over the mussels. Serve with rice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Recipe from The Seafood Book, Charmaine Solomon, Hamlyn, 1993.