Autumn 2014

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TURN EGGS into great meals

Chris buying eggs from a stallI purchased my first chickens when we lived on a hill in Tea Tree. I had Speckled Hamburgs, Araucanas, Bantams and Polish hens.

When we moved house, the chooks came with us. Now I have eight, happily scratching around outside during the day and safely housed at night. They are a good backyard animal to keep, eating bugs and vegetable scraps and they reward you with fresh free range eggs.

Hens lay white or brown shelled eggs, according to the breed. But the Araucana breed, which originated in Chile, lays light blue eggs.

Of course the colour of egg shells has absolutely nothing to do with quality or taste of the contents.

Eggs are a ‘must-have’ in your kitchen, for a snack or a meal, or for baking or making sauces.

Each egg is a meal in its own package, high in protein, rich in vitamins and minerals and low in carbohydrates, a nourishing snack or main meal prepared in minutes. If you buy your eggs, at around $6 a dozen, that’s just 50c an egg – great value for the basis of a healthy meal. Your mate down the road is probably selling his free range eggs for less – just make sure they are clean and fresh! Discard eggs that are cracked or dirty.

Collecting fresh eggs from your own chooks is a satisfying experience. With your own hens, you know when the eggs are laid.

If you are buying eggs from a supermarket, the date on the packaging refers to the date the eggs were packed, not when they were laid. The RSPCA says 65% of all eggs sold are cage eggs – they are produced by hens housed in battery

cages, a farm production method not approved by the RSPCA.
It recommends you buy barn laid or free range.

Eggs have a multitude of uses – apart from being a key ingredient in cakes, omelettes, salads etc, a beaten egg keeps breadcrumbs attached to meat for cooking, and a coating of egg can give an attractive glaze to pastry.

If you plan to boil eggs or use in cooking it is best to have them at room temperature – this prevents shells cracking when immersed in boiling water, and improves the yolk for mayonnaise and the whites for whisking.

When you are cooking something that is as good as eggs, cook it in butter, not oil or margarine.

When cooking eggs be patient and attentive. Too hot a pan or water boiling too fast tends to toughen the yolks.

So, get cracking with my easy egg recipes inside!

 

FRESH IS BEST

To check the freshness of your eggs, immerse them in cold water and see how they behave in a flotation test.

A new-laid egg lies flat in the water filled container. A week-old egg has an air pocket forming on the rounder side of the egg and it tilts slightly on the bottom. A two-week-old egg has formed a larger air pocket and starts to stand on its head in the water.

A fresh egg cracked for cooking will have a compact yolk held in place by a cohesive layer of white surround. With a week-old egg, the thick layer of white becomes progressively more fluid. With a two-week-old egg, the yolk spreads out and flattens and the white thins to a watery consistency.

Eggs should be kept in the fridge, with the rounded end ‘up’. Try to keep them away from strong-smelling food – eggs shells are porous and smells can taint the eggs.

 

SET your own pace

Chris talking to TristanHello Brighton

I’ve been writing to you guys for a while now, so I wonder if my fitness tips are having a positive effect.

As I’ve said before, there is something special about the human body in that it’s never too late to change the way it functions. It is simple to get healthier and there are no secret ways to make a difference, just hard work.

One thing I haven’t discussed much is the up-and-down nature of getting healthier.

Nothing happens with a click of the fingers and, while simple, making changes to the body does take time. There are going to be periods for everyone where nothing seems to be happening.

While ‘being healthy’ is easier for me as I get to make a living out of it, I can certainly relate to being frustrated by the length of time reaching goals can take.

At the beginning of 2010 I was loving life and my athletics was going up and up. I was part of a medal winning world championships relay team and was ranked 13th in the world for the year. Then I damaged my left Achilles and had to take 18 months away from hurdling. While I’ve made the Olympics and world champs since the injury, I have never reached the times I ran before the injury.

As I’ve said to you guys, nothing worth doing is easy and I have to believe I, as with you, will achieve the goals I set and the work I’ve done will be worth it.

If you do start a routine and get bored with it that’s okay too. My house mate goes in stages from work with a mixed volleyball team, to a few swims a week to taking out a kayak. There are no rules and keeping things fun (for you or the kids) is going make it all easier.

As for specific sessions, I should really offer a few ideas on some running given it’s what I do.

My mum and her girlfriend are not athletes but I’ve taken them down to the local park a few times and given them some sessions to do. Nothing complex and it doesn’t need to be.

One of my favourites is some 80m runs with a 30-second break between them. Mum at 66 got through two lots of five of these (2x 5x80m) and if she can well then almost anyone can. It’s a good session because one can go as fast or as conservative as they wish.

Times don’t matter, it’s all about how you feel at the end. For something longer you could do a 30 seconds jog, 30 seconds walk, 45 seconds jog, 45 seconds walk, 60 seconds jog, 60 seconds walk, 75 seconds jog, 75 seconds walk, 90 seconds jog, 90 seconds walk ... and then all the way back down to 30 seconds.

That’s enough fitness talk for today.

Until next time

Tristan

 
 

Cage, Barn or free-range

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware about the welfare of animals used in food production – and no more so than where the eggs come from. These are RSPCA’s guidelines for egg selection:

Cage eggs means the hens are housed in battery cages. The RSPCA says if the housing system for hens is not specified, consumers can assume the carton contains cage eggs. Almost two-thirds of hens in egg production are housed in cages – that’s 11 million hens with less space each than an A4 sheet of paper.

Barn-laid eggs are often marketed as cage-free eggs. A well-managed barn can be just as welfare friendly for a hen as a free-range facility. The RSPCA says from an animal welfare perspective it’s a myth that barn is second best to free-range. Hens in a barn-laid production system have space to move around and forage in large sheds. They are provided with space for perching and litter for scratching and dust-bathing.

Free-range eggs come from hens that should have access to an outdoor area during the day. At night, large flocks of free-range hens are kept in sheds or barns to keep them safe from predators, while smaller flocks may be kept in moveable sheds to allow rotational use of the range area. Conditions on free-range farms vary greatly. On some farms, the range area is large, the hens have access to shade and shelter, and all hens are able to come and go from the range during the day; on others the range area is small, bare and difficult for hens to get to.

RSPCA-approved eggs have the RSPCA logo or "Paw of Approval" on the carton, which will contain either barn-laid or free range eggs. The RSPCA does not endorse cage egg production.

HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR EGGS

fried, poached, scrambled, boiled, baked . . . or perhaps an omelette?

Okay folks, let’s get back to basics. You’ve heard the saying: he (she) can’t even boil an egg. Follow my tips and anyone can boil an egg ... and do so much more, and so easily, with these little packages of total goodness.

Use my instructions as a guide – add more eggs or reduce the quantity, according to the numbers you are cooking for. I usually use two eggs per person for a main meal.

 

FRIED

To fry eggs put sufficient butter in a pan over a low to medium heat. As soon as the butter melts, crack some eggs into the pan. When all the eggs are in the pan, tilt the pan slightly and lightly baste the top of the eggs with the hot butter. To set the thick layer of whites, cover with a tight-fitting lid. The whites should set after about one minute; the yolks should remain soft and glistening.

Carefully slide the eggs on to a pre- warmed plate and season with salt and pepper. A very quick and nutritious meal, with or without some bacon on the side. You can always top with some continental parsley. My mate Jack and his wife Suzy add a blob a marmalade to a plate of fried eggs and bacon – they do, I don’t!

You can also turn fried eggs before serving if you prefer – that’s ‘easy over,’ U.S. style! Here’s how ...

Start as above and wait for the underside to set, then slide the spatula under the eggs and support as much as possible. Raise the spatula and tilt and turn it over sideways, so that the eggs slip back into the pan, yolk side down.

When cooked, slide the eggs on to a pre-warmed plate and make a simple pan-juice. Melt a little more butter and when it foams add a dash of white wine vinegar and after a few seconds pour it over the eggs. Serve at once.

An alternative for your fried egg

presentation is to heat some butter in an ovenproof dish, then crack eggs into the dish and cook for about 1 minute until the underside is set. Take the eggs off the heat and pour enough cream over them to coat the tops. Place the dish in a pre-warmed oven 180 C for
4-5 minutes. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley, season with salt and pepper and serve.

BOILED

To boil eggs, place enough water in a pan to cover the eggs and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, gently drop the eggs in and time them for 4-5 minutes according to the size of eggs.

A dash of vinegar in the water should help to prevent the egg white from running out in case the shell should get inadvertently cracked.

Soft boiled eggs should be eaten as soon as they are cooked. If unopened for too long they keep cooking.

Coddled eggs

Here’s an alternative method for boiled eggs. When the water boils, remove the pan from the stove, and immediately immerse the eggs in the very hot water. Cover with the lid for 6-10 minutes, depending on the size of your eggs. This lower temperature method creates a very creamy white also known as coddling.

POACHED

To poach eggs, use a sauté pan and bring about 5-7 cm of unsalted water to the boil.

When the water is boiling, turn off the heat, carefully crack the eggs into the water, then cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and poach undisturbed for about 3 minutes.

Lift the lid and if the whites are opaque and the yolks covered with a thin, translucent layer, the eggs are ready.

Lift them out with a slotted spoon and place them in a shallow dish filled with cold water to stop the cooking process. Lift the eggs out and drain them on a damp tea towel where you can shape them with a trimming knife to get rid of the thin edges.

Heat a dob of butter in a pan, chop some tarragon or parsley and when the butter begins to froth, turn down the heat and lower the eggs into the pan.

Sprinkle the herbs over the eggs and baste with the warm butter and leave for a few moments to heat the eggs through.

When the eggs are hot, squeeze a little fresh lemon juice over them, tilt the pan and carefully serve them on a pre- warmed plate, spooning the warm butter over them.

Eggs in ramekins

6 eggs
250 ml cream
30 g butter
salt and pepper truffle oil (optional)

You can gently cook eggs in ramekins (individual baking dishes).

Lightly butter the ramekins. Heat cream in a saucepan over medium heat. When hot but not boiling pour a little cream into each ramekin, then break an egg into the cream. Place a small piece of butter on each yolk and season with a little salt and pepper. If you are decadent, you could also add a little truffle oil to them.

In a sauté pan place a wire rack or a tea towel on which you place the ramekins. Pour in some hot water and put it on a low heat. The water should simmer, not boil, when covered with a lid. The eggs should take about 5 minutes. They are done when the whites are barely firm. Lift the ramekins out of the water, dry their bases with a tea towel and serve immediately.

SCRAMBLED

Butter the sides and bottom of a heavy pan.
Break the eggs into a bowl, season with salt and pepper, add small cubes of butter (about 30g for four eggs).

Beat the eggs with a fork until the yolks and whites are mixed together.

In a double saucepan (or create your own water bath) over a low heat keep the water just below boiling.

Use a wooden spoon to stir continuously as the butter cubes melt. Carefully scrape the bottom and sides of the pan, where the mixture cooks first. The eggs acquire more body and turn opaque.

When the eggs are to your liking, serve on a slice of toast garnished with chopped parsley, and perhaps with some smoked salmon.

Eggs basque style

6 eggs lightly beaten
6 tablespoons oil
100 g bacon
250 g peeled tomatoes
2 green capsicums grilled, peeled and deseeded
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs

Heat the oil in a fry pan, add bacon and cook until it’s brown. Add tomatoes and grilled capsicums and cook over a low heat until the vegetables are soft. Season with salt and pepper and add the breadcrumbs and eggs. Continue cooking until the eggs are set.

Serve at once.

OMELETTES

Rolled omelette

Break eggs in a shallow dish, 2- 3 eggs per person as a main course.

Add salt, freshly ground black pepper, some cubes of cold butter and some fragrant herbs like parsley, chives, chervil and tarragon, all finely chopped.

Warm an omelette pan, melt some butter. While the butter melts, beat the seasoned eggs with a fork, just enough to combine the yolks and whites.

Tilt the pan in all directions to coat the base evenly with the melted butter. When the butter begins to foam and just before it starts to get brown, pour in the beaten eggs.

Stir a spatula 3-4 times through the eggs to expose as much of the mixture as possible to the heat of the pan. When the base of the omelette has begun to set, use the spatula to lift the edge of the omelette. Tilt the pan at the same time so that any egg which is uncooked will run underneath the cooked egg and set. Repeat the lifting and tilting process around the pan’s side to allow as much liquid egg as possible to run underneath.

To roll the omelette, use the spatula to fold the near edge into the omelette’s centre. Tilt the pan and fold and roll the omelette over towards the far edge of the pan.

With the spatula, pull the far edge of the omelette back from the side of the pan over the folded section. Seal the fold by gently pressing the spatula on top of the omelette..

Keep the pan tilted over the heat for 3-4 seconds until the omelette browns slightly on the bottom.

To serve, tilt the pan and slide omelette onto a warm plate, browned side on top. Serve immediately.

Lyons onion omelette

8 eggs beaten with 4 tablespoons water
2 onions finely sliced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
45 g butter
salt and pepper
4 tablespoons white vinegar

Heat the butter in a large omelette pan on low heat, brown the onions and mix in the parsley. Season them with salt and pepper, then pour the eggs over the onion mixture and cook the omelette until the underside is brown and the top almost set. Turn it like a pancake, cook another minute and transfer onto a warm plate.

Add the vinegar to the hot pan, bring it to the boil quickly and sprinkle it over the omelette just before serving.

 

Zucchini omelette

Shred some zucchini finely, sprinkle with salt and rest. After 30 minutes wash and squeeze dry. Mix 6 eggs and cubes of butter as above, add zucchini and season. Heat butter in an omelette pan, when foaming add omelette mixture to the pan. Spread evenly with a spatula and cook for about 1 minute until the underside is firm. As soon as the omelette slides easily and all the liquid egg has been set, turn over the omelette and cook for a few more seconds, then serve on a warm plate.

 

 

 

BAKED eggs

Eggs encased in mushrooms

6 eggs
125 g mushrooms trimmed, with trimmings reserved
450 ml milk
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
salt and pepper
1⁄4 teaspoon ground all-spice
15 g butter, softened
1 tablespoon flour
125 g fresh breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons packaged brown breadcrumbs

Poach the mushrooms in 300 ml milk for about 15 minutes over a low heat. Drain them, reserving the milk. Chop up the mushrooms. Add egg yolks to the milk and cook, stirring over a low heat until mixture thickens without boiling. Stir in the chopped mushrooms and the fresh breadcrumbs, to make a mixture like a stuffing. Season with salt and all-spice.

Line six well-buttered ramekins with the mushroom mixture, leaving a hollow in each into which you break a fresh egg.

Place the ramekins in a shallow pan filled to two-thirds capacity with hot water and bake in a preheated oven 180C for 10 minutes or until whites have set.

For the sauce, simmer the mushroom trimmings in the remaining milk for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Strain the mixture. Make a beurre manie paste with the softened butter and flour, whisk it into the mushroom mixture and cook until the sauce thickens. Coat the top of each egg with the sauce, sprinkle with brown breadcrumbs and serve.

Eggs in spinach

6 eggs
bunch of fresh spinach
90 g butter
nutmeg,
salt and pepper
4 tablespoons cream

Steam spinach for about 30 seconds, then immediately refresh under cold water. Squeeze dry and chop. Melt butter in an oven dish, add the spinach and toss in the butter over medium heat, reduce heat and pour cream over the spinach. Stir the spinach and some of the cream together and season to taste with salt and pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Form shallow pockets in the spinach (with a spoon), break an egg in to each pocket, then spoon some cream over the top of each egg. Bake in a moderate oven at 180C. for about 8 minutes. Check if the eggs are cooked and serve on pre-warmed plates.

Swiss egg casserole

12 eggs – 6 hard-boiled and sliced and 6 lightly beaten
60 g fresh breadcrumbs
4 tomatoes skinned, seeded and sliced
4 anchovy fillets, rinsed and finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped basil
50 g chopped spring onions
30 g chopped parsley
500 ml cream
1⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper

Butter a casserole dish. Place a layer of some of the hard-boiled egg slices on the bottom. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with some breadcrumbs. Cover with a layer of tomatoes. Sprinkle with anchovies, basil, spring onions and parsley. Continue making layers until all ingredients are used up.

Add the cream and nutmeg to the beaten eggs. Pour the mixture into the casserole. Bake in a pre-warmed oven at 180C for about 40 minutes until the top is firm.

Tomatoes stuffed with eggs

4 small eggs
4 large ripe tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper 90 g butter
30 g parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon fennel leaves chopped chopped parsley
4 tablespoons cream

Slice off the stem ends of the tomatoes, reserve these lids and scoop out the pulp and seeds with a spoon.

Arrange tomatoes in a buttered dish. Sprinkle the inside with a little salt and pepper and pour in some melted butter. Break each egg into a saucer and slide into a tomato case. Sprinkle the top with the cheese, parsley and fennel. Pour in the rest of the butter and replace the cut-off tomato lids.

Bake in an oven preheated to 180C for about 20 minutes. The cheese should bubble up to the top and the skin should be ready to burst.

 

KALE king of the cool crops

Tuscan-kaleSome vegie gardeners seem to get grumpy as autumn progresses.

The tomato season’s coming to an end, the beans are getting a bit sluggish, the corn, capsicum and eggplant are beginning to miss the warmth ...

Some gardeners reckon it’s time to go into hibernation until spring. They’re bonkers. There’s so much growing fun still to be had in autumn.

This is the season when you can start to experiment with some of the quirkier, more interesting crops.

Think of garlic (every garden needs some of this miracle little member of the onion family), kale (it’s the trendy vegie of the moment) and Japanese turnip (much sweeter and less stringy than the normal). And of course now’s the time to plant caulies, cabbage, silverbeet and broccoli.

But kale’s the vegie everybody is talking about. It’s easy to grow, laps up cold winters, and is packed full of goodness. Americans are eating truckloads of kale chips (you can find recipes on the internet).

You can grow it curled, dwarf, in a rainbow of colours or even in the dinosaur age-like form of Tuscan or Italian kale, called Cavolo Nero (stunning in soups and stews).

Plant kale seedlings (you can also sow seeds) in a full-sun spot
that drains well while staying just a little bit moist.

Now to garlic. It’s a Tassie must. Garlic loves our cold winters.

The purple-skinned Tassie Purple is a fabulous choice and what you grow in your backyard will leave the imported stuff in supermarkets for dead. Plus, it’s a lazy gardener’s dream – a plant-and- forget crop.

Plant garlic cloves in autumn or early winter in soil that drains well and has had some blood and bone added. Plant the cloves just below the surface and you’ll be harvesting a great crop in early summer, when the leaves start to die back.

For a taste treat, try Japanese turnips. They’re not the ordinary ones, they’re special. Some call them by their Asian names of kabu or hakurei. These golf ball-size, pearly white and juicy root vegetables are yum in soups, stir-fries and stews, or eaten uncooked and sliced in salads. Grow from seed or seedlings in good rich soil and liquid fertilise as seedlings are growing.

Now I’m no cook – my wife would agree – but I’m tempted to ‘go Japanese’ and pickle some of these little beauties, just the way the Japanese do. It’s sliced finely and immersed in rice wine vinegar, with a few slices of fresh ginger, and a touch of sugar, salt and peppercorns, then kept in an airtight jar in the fridge.

Red-kale-400What else to plant? Now is a good time to grow parsley. This is the queen of herbs and no garden should be without it – and the dried stuff just doesn’t cut it. There are two main types – curly (it looks good as a border) and Italian (it screams freshness on the plate).

Grow it from seed in a deep pot (it’s from the carrot family so it has long roots) and keep it well fertilised once growing.

In folklore, they say that only evil women can grow the best parsley. I reckon that’s bunkum! I’ve known both good and evil women who have grown it brilliantly. Give it a good sun/part shade spot and a decent whack of compost and you can’t fail.

Importantly with this food-growing lark, don’t grow more crops than you can humanly look after. It’s not about quantity. It’s about having fun, while growing a few crops of yummy, health- packed vegies, fruit and herbs.