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Since I’ve been making sourdough, over a year now, I haven’t bought bread but I also haven’t bought crispbread.  Crisp, seedy biscuit topped with cottage cheese and salad used to be a really regular lunch for me.  So I’ve been playing with a homemade sourdough based version, and it’s joined the list of things I like homemade best.

Not only tastes better, but it makes frugal sense. You can make 18 to 24 crispbreads, depending how large you cut them, about 650 grams. The seeds, bought from my local little wholefoods shop, cost me less than $2.50, the semolina about 80 cents, and the flour just a few cents.  All up, about $3.50.  The equivalent in Vitawheats would have cost me $9.50.  It only takes about 15 minutes of actual time, though like everything sourdough, that’s spread out over a whole day. Even counting the gas for cooking and my own time, it makes frugal sense.

Seeds are way up there in the superfoods list. When you think about it, a plant’s whole lifecycle is dedicated to creating seeds, with all the protein, energy, nutrients, and protection from invasion by bacteria and fungus, that they will need to germinate.  Some are spectacularly good.  Linseeds have omega 3 fatty acids, which are antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral, and good for your heart. Pepitas are a really good source of several minerals including zinc, which is important for warding off viruses among other things, and  L-tryptophan, which is important for mental health.  Sesame seeds are rich in a whole range of minerals including copper and calcium. Sunflower seeds are one of the best sources there is of Vitamin E.

The Recipe:

It starts just like my regular sourdough, except I make a smaller batch of starter:

Before I go to bed:

  • Take the sourdough starter out of the fridge.
  • Mix 1  cup of unbleached bakers flour, 1  cup of water, and 1 cup of starter.  (I use my tank water, which has no chlorine or additives in it).
  • Put half of it back in the jar in the fridge.  You should be left with 1 cup of fed starter, to put in a bowl covered with a clean cloth on the kitchen bench for the night. By morning it should be frothy, like the picture.

Next morning:

  • Mix in 1 cup of fine semolina and 1 cup of seeds. (Ooops, and I forgot, half a teaspoon of salt).
  • I used a mixture of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, crushed linseeds, finely chopped pepitas and finely chopped sunflower seeds.  The larger seeds all need to be chopped fine – the same kind of size as the sesame seeds – so that you can roll the crispbreads out later.
  • Tip ½ cup of bakers flour, on the benchtop,  tip the mix out onto it, and knead for just a couple of minutes to get a ball of soft, springy dough. Put a good dollop of macadamia (or olive) oil in a large bowl, swirl the dough ball around in it to coat, cover the bowl with a clean cloth, and leave out on the benchtop for the day to prove.

When I get home at 5.30

  • Lightly oil three biscuit trays.
  • Tip the dough out on the benchtop,  knead very briefly, and divide up into three balls – two large and one small.
  • Flour the bench well and, with a floured rolling pin, roll first ball out to very thin – 5 mm or so – basically as thin as you can get it.  Carefully transfer to the oiled biscuit tray and trim to fit.  Prick all over with a fork and cut into 6 or 8 squares.
  • Do the same with the second ball. Add the trimmings to the third (smaller) ball, knead again and do the same with it.
  • Leave on the benchtop, covered with a clean tea towel, for a couple of hours.

At 7.30

  • The crispbreads will have puffed up slightly.  Bake in a slow oven for about 40 minutes, till they are firm and just colouring. They will crispen up more as they cool.  Cool on a cake rack and store in an airtight jar.
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I remember when I was quite a small child my grandfather had a shack on Bribie Island.  Just before dusk, he would take his rod and walk down to the beach.  We kids would play in the shallows and barely have time to make a sandcastle before it was time to head back with a bucket full of whiting fillets.  My grandmother would have the batter made and the frypan ready, with never a thought of the possibility that he may not have caught fish.

We all want our children to live better, healthier, wealthier lives than we do.  Yet experiences like this are true wealth and why it is so important to think about the sustainability of the seafood we eat.  Whiting are still listed as sustainable, despite the fact that you can’t catch them like that any more.  Australian Marine Conservation Society says they are “heavily fished across much of the range but a robust, fast-growing group of species showing stable landings”.

Whiting are low fat, delicate fish easily overcooked.  I reckon my grandmother had (nearly) the perfect method.  I’m on a semolina roll lately, so I have used semolina rather than flour in the batter, but you could substitute wholemeal self-raising flour.  And I have added some herbs to the batter – not too many – you don’t want to overwhelm the flavour.

We ate this platter of fillets in our fingers, with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of salt, cherry tomatoes on the side, and a cold beer.

The Recipe:

For 500 grams of whiting fillets, I beat together:

  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup semolina
  • a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh herbs (dill, parsley, chives, lemon thyme)
  • enough water to make a batter

Tip all the fillets into the batter bowl and use your hand to mix through, coating each fillet more or less in batter.

Heat a centimetre of olive oil in a pan and fry the fillets quickly till golden.  Drain on brown paper.  Sprinkle with salt and lemon juice and eat fresh and hot.

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The local Farmers’ Market this week had apricots, from within 100 miles.  Seduced by memories of apricots I had in Tasmania years ago I bought a kilo.  Sadly it just retaught me a lesson I know so well:  eating local is not just an ethical response to the need to reduce transport of everything, by lots, but also a gastronomic choice that brings its own rewards.

Our northern apricots don’t compare with the golden, aromatic, dripping with juice things I remember from Tasmania.  Tart and thin flavoured, these ones had to be cooked, and even then, I think the recipe works better for me with nectarines  – they’re more adapted to a warmer climate.  Try it with apricots if you live south enough, or otherwise try nectarines or plums instead.

This is the second last  Muesli Bar Challenge recipe before the end of term.

The Recipe:

The Semolina Cream

In a small saucepan, bring to the boil:

  • 1 ¼ cups milk
  • 4 dessertspoons brown sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6 dessertspoons (30 grams) of semolina

Cook this mix, stirring constantly, for 3 or 4 minutes until it is thick and creamy.

Take it off the heat and allow to cool a little while you make the pastry.

The Pastry:

In the food processor, put

  • 1¼ cups of wholemeal plain flour,
  • 3 dessertspoons of butter

Blend for a minute until it resembles breadcrumbs.  (Or you can just mix the flour and sugar and rub the butter in with your finger tips). Add just enough cold water to make a soft dough.  Add it  carefully, spoonful at a time.

Sprinkle flour on your benchtop and roll it out quite thin. Use a small saucer to cut 10 cm circles and put each in a cup of a greased 12 cup muffin tray.

Assembling

Fish out the cinnamon stick and use an egg beater to beat 2 eggs into the semolina.

Fill each pastry case ¾ full with semolina cream.

Slice your apricots or nectarines into wedges and set the wedges into the semolina cream, half in and half out.

Bake the tarts for about 45 minutes in a medium-slow oven.  About 10 minutes before they are fully cooked, spoon a teaspoonful of glaze on top of each tart.  The easy way to make a glaze is to mix a couple of teaspoons of jam with a little hot water.  If you don’t have jam, make a quick sugar syrup with a couple of teaspoons of sugar boiled in a little water until syrupy.  Watch them after you have glazed as they will brown and then burn quite quickly.

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Early season peaches are just coming into season here.  I don’t really grow stonefruit – we are smack bang in fruit fly territory and it’s just too much work.  I have a couple of volunteer seedling peach trees though, and although most years the birds, possums, and flying foxes get most of the fruit,  the trees bear so heavily we get some.  All of it is fruit fly stung but good for cooking, or for eating straight from the tree, ideally shared with some chooks who fight over the fruit fly stung parts as I drop them.

There is good stone fruit growing country on the Tablelands though, within my 100 mile zone but only for a short while, so time to make the most of it.

This is an adaption of an adaption of a traditional Italian recipe.  The original original is Sbrisolona, which has a crumbly texture.  Sbrisoletta is a cake-like version invented by a “Nonna” called Rose – you can find that original here.  It was still a bit too sweet and dessert-like and too crumbly for a Muesli Bar Challenge recipe though, so my niece Rosie and I did some experimenting and made it into a lunchbox Sbrisoletta.

This cake is the most gorgeous way to use lots of stonefruit.  It has very little sugar, a bit more butter than the usual but still within the rules, and it is really easy – 12 year old Rosie made this one.  It is an unlikely kind of recipe – several bits don’t seem right – but it works.

The Recipe:

Makes about 12 squares or slices.

For this recipe you need a shallow cake pan that is 21 cm diameter, or (preferably) a similar area in a square or rectangular shape, eg 18.5 cm square, or 14cm by 25 cm rectangle. Grease it with butter and line with greaseproof paper.

Turn your oven on to heat up.

Plump up a tablespoon of sultanas, by pouring just a little boiling water over them.

In the food processor, blend together

  • 4/5 of a cup of wholemeal self raising flour
  • 2/3 of a cup of semolina
  • 4 dessertspoons of brown sugar
  • 125 grams of cold butter, chopped into pieces
  • pinch salt
  • ¾ teaspoon of baking powder

Blend for a minute until it resembles breadcrumbs – like the first stage of making pastry.

Spread two thirds of this mix over the base of your greased, paper-lined cake tin. Don’t press it down – just leave it as a loose crumb.

Over the top of this, sprinkle evenly:

  • 600 grams of  ripe, juicy peaches (about 6 medium peaches) chopped into small bits
  • Your tablespoon of plumped up sultanas (drained)
  • A tablespoon of pine nuts
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Grated zest of a lemon

Spread the rest of the dry mix over this.

Beat together and Pour Over:

  • Half a cup of milk
  • 2 small eggs (or one egg and one egg yolk)

Pour this evenly over the top of the dry mix in the cake pan.  Allow it to soak in for a few minutes. You can sprinkle a few flaked almonds on top as decoration if you like.

Bake in a moderate oven for around 45 minutes until set.

Before You Cut It Up

Cover the warm cake and leave to cool for a few hours or overnight in the cake pan.  If you try to remove it while it is hot, it will be too crumbly.  But  overnight the moisture in it spreads out and it firms up and can be cut up into squares that are robust enough for a lunch box.

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