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kumquat marmalade

All in about an hour.  I couldn’t bear the amount of citrus sitting around so I found an hour this morning to make preserved lemons (on the right), lime pickles (back left), lemon cleaning vinegar (at the back), lemon vinegar (tall bottle), and at the front, kumquat marmalade.

Preserved lemons are ridiculously easy and fast, and they’re one of my pantry essentials.  A little finely chopped in couscous, marinades, tagines, savoury pancakes, yum. Lime pickles are wonderful with curries or dhal, or, in a very different direction, with cheese on crackers or a good sourdough.  Lemon cleaning vinegar is my standard (and just about only) cleaning product.  This time of year I fill jars with lemon peel and pour over cleaning vinegar (bottom shelf in the supermarket).  It goes in the bucket for floor mopping, in a spray bottle for the stove and shower, direct onto a sponge for disinfecting. It’s really effective, cheap, safe and smells wonderful.

The tall bottle is an experiment.  I found that last year’s cleaning vinegar had grown a “mother”. This is a jelly-like layer on top that has the live acetic acid bacteria (a good bacteria) that makes vinegar.

vinegar mother

I did a bit of research and found you can add the mother to basically anything alcoholic to make vinegar.  I’ve put a bit into some nettle wine that is a bit too “green” tasting to be really nice, and a bit into some home brew bottled about five years ago to make malt vinegar.  But I’ve also put a bit into a big jar of just lemons cut into quarters and covered with water.  I’m hoping I can skip the alcohol making stage and turn it into lemon cleaning vinegar.  The lemons are quite sweet and would, I think, go alcoholic on their own.  The top of the bottle has some fine cloth held on with a rubber band so it lets air in and out. So we’ll see what happens!

And kumquat marmalade.  Not much else you can really do with kumquats, but they do make the very best marmalade, and though we don’t eat a lot of jam, it makes a good gift.

My Kumquat Marmalade Recipe

I go for simple and quick every time.  So my method is:

  • Put some jars and their lids on to sterilize by pressure cooking for 10 minutes or boiling for 20. The sugar in jam preserves it from nasty bacteria but sterilizing the jars stops it going mouldy on top.
  • Slice the kumquats into fine rings in the food processor with its slicing blade.  You can also put some good music on and slice them by hand with a sharp knife, which is slow but at least you can remove seeds as you go which does save you having to fish the seeds out later.
  • Weigh them, and add an equal weight of water. (If you haven’t got scales, it’s about two thirds of a cup of water to every cup of sliced kumquats).
  • Boil in a big pot for ten minutes or so until the rinds are well softened.
  • Add an equal weight to the original raw kumquat weight in sugar.  (Ie for a kilo of kumquats, add a kilo of sugar). Raw sugar works fine but will give you darker coloured marmalade.
  • Next bit is the tricky bit.  Stir in the sugar and the mix should clear and the seeds will float (sort of).  Use a spoon to fish out as many of the seeds as you can. ( This is the price you pay for using the food processor to slice!)
  • Keep at a nice steady boil, stirring occasionally to stop it sticking, till it turns to jam.  How do you tell?  Take a teaspoonful out every so often and test it on a cold plate.  (Be careful not to take it too far or it turns to toffee – it stiffens up as it cools.) This morning’s batch took less than 10 minutes to turn, but it depends on the amount of pectin in the fruit and that varies.  It can take up to half an hour.
  • Carefully, carefully (hot jam is one of the worst kinds of burns) pour it into hot jars.  Fill the jars to the very top.  Wipe the rim with a clean cloth or paper and put the lids on straight away.

Wonderful on good sourdough toast (of course) but also good in jam tarts, or as part of a cheese platter.  Or, best of all, with a nice arty label as a gift.

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The broad beans are bearing.  Not so many of them this year and they will run out a lot earlier than last year.  I’ve made Ful Medames a few times now, and Broad bean felafels, and we’ve had them for breakfast and as side dishes.  But this  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge features broad beans as the main attraction.

Beans in general are super healthy and have a number of characteristics that are likely to make you feel good.  They’re full of low GI carbohydates, good quality protein, soluble and non-soluble fibre, and a good range of vitamins and minerals especially B vitamins, folate and iron – which all play a role in keeping your energy levels high.  They also have a range of phytonutrients like lignans and flavonoids and sterols that play a role in warding off osteoporosis,  heart disease and the kind of cell damage that leads to cancer.  But the specialty of broad beans is that they’re a good source of  l- dopa, a precursor to dopamine. Too little dopamine  is a characteristic of  Parkinsons, and of depression and anxiety, and there’s lots of research around about broad beans for Parkinson’s and some about broad beans for depression and anxiety.

But good for you and virtuously good are only two of the three Witches Kitchen goods, and I used to think broad beans failed on number three until I discovered the north African and Middle Eastern way of cooking them with lemon, olive oil and garlic. The lemon in particular just lifts them to another dimension.  This recipe uses preserved lemon and its sweet sour salty mix is a perfect match.

The Recipe:

Makes dinner for two.

  • Saute an onion with half a teaspoon of cumin seeds and a clove of chopped garlic (or more if you are not being frugal waiting for the garlic to be ready to harvest), till the onion is translucent and the cumin seeds start to pop.
  •  Add half a cup of water and a cup of shelled broad beans and pressure cook 5 minutes, or simmer for 15.  (You might need to add a bit more water if you are simmering.)
  • Add
    • 2 dessertspoons of preserved lemon finely chopped,
    • half a cup (packed) of finely chopped flat leaf parsley, mint and coriander,
    •  juice of quarter of a lemon.
  • Cook for another 2 minutes till the liquid is pretty well all gone.
  • Turn off and add a stalk of celery, chopped, a handful of chopped rocket, and 75 grams of feta in small dice.
  • It’s best served with warm pita bread, but also good rolled up in a lettuce leaf like San Choi Bau or with couscous.

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The bloke came back from fishing with three tailor, and a great big Australian salmon. Tailor are one of my very favourite fish.  They are listed as sustainable, they’re a good source of Omega 3, and they are such a good eating fish that it is a bit of a pity to do anything more to them than fillet, fry, and serve with lemon wedges and a good salad. And then use the frames for stock for a soup.

Salmon though are another matter.  Australian salmon are not a salmon at all, but a sea perch, and though sustainable, they are notoriously not a prized table fish.   If fresh caught, bled, skinned, and filleted to remove the dark “blood” meat,  the flavour is good – strong but good.  The texture is more the problem.  They are a bit chewy and soft at the same time.  Only one way to honour the life of an Australian salmon by really enjoying eating it! (Actually there’s two – they are really good smoked, but that’s for another day).

The Recipe:

This made a big pot of stew that would feed four for dinner easily.  We were greedy and ate the leftovers for lunch the next day.

Dice (not too finely)and bring to the boil in a large pot:

  • 2 onions
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 potato
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 chilis
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped herbs (oregano, marjoram, thyme)
  • 10 pitted olives
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 600 grams of fresh chopped tomatoes (or a can of tomatoes)
  • 1 piece of preserved lemon, finely chopped (or substitute 1 teaspoon of grated lemon rind)

Simmer for 10 minutes or so, until the carrot and potato are just starting to get soft, then add 700 grams of Australian salmon fillets (skinned, white meat only) chopped into large chunks.

Continue simmering for 5 minutes or so, until the salmon is just cooked. Taste and add salt to taste.

Meanwhile, make the dressing.

The Dressing:

(Does anyone know what this is called?  I’m sure it must be a traditional idea somewhere in the Mediterranean).

In a food processor, blend together:

  • 3 big sprigs of parsley, stripped from the stems.
  • 1 spring onion, greens and all
  • 1 slice of good bread
  • juice of a lemon
  • pinch of salt
  • little swig of good olive oil

Ladle the stew into bowls, sprinkle the dressing on top and serve.

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If you are new to kangaroo meat, this is not a bad recipe to start out with.  The preserved lemon is the interesting flavour in it, and kangaroo is a great meat for a tagine because it is so lean and dense.

And I also believe kangaroo is the most ethical choice for Australians. Kangaroos are truly free-range, sustainably harvested from the wild, and our gun laws and our lack of a “hunting for fun” culture both help to keep kangaroo shooting a respectful predator-prey relationship.

I’m calling this a tagine, even though it is cooked more like a stew in a pot or pressure cooker on the stove top.  It gets its tagine-iness from the richness created by holding in the moisture, and the Moroccan flavours.  And I love “kangaroo” and “tagine” in the same sentence – the idea of adding it to the melting pot of multiculturalism that gives us the fantastic modern cuisines.  It’s a permaculture idea, to value diversity and to see the “edge” where two cultures/ideas/ecosystems meet as the richest part.

This recipe is fast and easy to prepare, but it does need time to marinate, and time to cook.

The Recipe

Start in the morning, or the night before.

Using a mortar and pestle or a food processor, blend together:

  • 4 cloves of garlic,
  • 2 thumbs of ginger,
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin,
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped parsley,
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped coriander,
  • with enough olive oil to make a runny paste.

Pour it over 3 or 4 chopped onions (depending on size) and 750 grams of diced kangaroo meat in a bowl, cover, and put it in the fridge to marinate overnight or for the day.

At the same time, put  1 cup of white beans in water to soak overnight or for the day.

An hour or more before dinner time:

In a heavy pot with a tight fitting lid, or a pressure cooker, sear the kangaroo.  You will need to do this in batches – probably three – so it browns.  Rinse the marinate bowl with water and add it to the pot.  How much water depends a bit on how tight a lid your pot has – between 2 and 3 cups, depending on how much steam will escape.  You can top it up during cooking if in doubt.  Drain the white beans and add them.  Put the lid on and simmer for an hour or pressure cook for half an hour. Avoid stirring too much – you don’t want bean puree.

Rinse two quarters of preserved lemon, scrape off and discard the flesh and julienne the rind very fine.  Add to the pot and simmer another 15 minutes.  Watch the moisture level – leave the lid off if it is too runny and needs reducing, or add water if it is getting too thick even with the lid on.

At the very end, stir in 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh mint.

The recipe serves four (generously) for a dinner party, served with yoghurt and mint, couscous, and a pumpkin and green beans side dish.

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