Monday, 30 December 2013

How to make a gingerbread house


My most exciting achievement this Christmas was making my very first gingerbread house.  Every time Sylvia suggested another present for the family and I was low on energy I mentioned the gingerbread house.  It wasn't easy nor quick but it was so satisfying to look at the finished version on the sideboard at my parents' house on Christmas day and think, I made that!

I did a lot of research before starting.  Because I was nervous.  I toyed with the idea of a vegan gingerbread house.  Then I saw Charlie's elegant gingerbread house on Hotly Spiced.  It looked great and the instructions were clear.  This was my house.  With colour!  Here is what I did and what I learnt.  

Some of my mistakes were so obvious I can't believe I didn't see them coming.  First hurdle was making the dough.  This should have been the easiest part.  I make gingerbread quite often.  Foolishly I threw all the ingredients into the food processor together.  After all my regular recipe just mixes everything together.  However this dough was so crumbly it felt wrong.  I checked the recipe.  Oops.  I tried the second half of ingredients as instructed.  That means I mixed the dry ingredients, added the wet and processed for a few minutes.  Then I left the dough in the fridge for a few days before moving on.

My next stressful moment was cutting out the pieces of the house.  I read that I should make templates with firm paper so I used some cardboard.  Actually I enlisted E to cut out the pieces I had outlined.  The cardboard was great for creating a prototype of the house. However when I rolled it out, I found the mixture stuck to it.  Once bitten, twice shy.

I then enlisted E's help to recut my templates using baking paper (you know the non-stick paper you buy).  This worked far better.  Yet I was too focused to make dinner.  I handed that task to E that night.  It was a simple matter of yum cha leftovers and fudge that night.

I also used lots of baking paper because I rolled out dough between baking paper and rather than remove large pieces to baking tray, I removed excess dough to leave the piece on the paper and baked it that way.


The gingerbread had baking powder so it was slightly more puffed than the pieces I had cut out.  I saw someone suggest that you trim the pieces of gingerbread using the original templates.  I didn't do this with all of them except the doorway that suddenly seemed so much smaller than the doorway.

It was while baking that I found myself discombolbulated.  I was really paranoid about getting the texture crisp enough to hold up the house.  My main paranoia was that the house would collapse.  Some of the pieces looked smooth and perfect.  Others looked slightly mottled and I thought perhaps they were underbaked because they were from the half of the dough I made without following instructions.  I baked them more and then worried (with good cause) that they were too well done.

Next was the challenge of making the royal icing.  I am not keen on raw eggs and considered some vegan recipes.  I also found recipes which used caramel or chocolate to join the house together.  In the end I used a traditional recipe of egg whites and icing sugar.  It was easy to make and easy to pipe.  Now that I know how it works, I might try other recipes and see how they compare.  If I ever do this again.

I liked that the recipe directed to ice decoration over the walls and roof before putting up.  I find piping icing challenging but have been practising this Christmas.  After trying many sorts of devices, I have come back to the plain old icing bag.  I have a silicone icing bag that works well but it does give me a sore hand to keep the pressure up and the icing nozzles threatened to fall out, even the ones that come in the pack.

I started to pipe very small roof tiles and then I thought I would be doing it for the rest of my life.  I rubbed it off.  I figured it was on the bad burnt side of the room and I would sprinkle with icing sugar to cover it up.  It was a good decision to make the tiles bigger as we ended up sticking on lollies in the tiles.  I used a thin writing nozzle for most of the decoration and a thick one for the window frames and door frame.

To assemble the house I decided to invest in a cake board ($8 from House).  Fortunately I got the last one in the shop that was about 36 x 36cm.  Hopefully I will be able to reuse it for other cakes.

My paranoia about the house collapsing was in full flight when I assembled the house.  My expectations were low.  I didn't even have straight sided glasses so I used water bottles and coffee mugs.  E helped hold things together.  It was not perfect.  There were gaps.  The roof sagged slightly.  Enough to put fear into my heart.  The next morning I arose fearing the house would be in pieces but it held.  That was a great feeling.

When I assembled the house, I added some liquorice strip along the sides and some horrid twisty marshmallow along the roof.  It looked cute but tasted of cardboard.  I also found that the roof didn't quite overlap as much at each end as I thought it should.  I suspect I should have had the long walls on the outside corners rather than the ends.  Who knew such thing could make a difference!

Our next challenge was assembling the lollies (aka candy or sweeties) for further decoration.  Sylvia was set on candy canes.  When we went to the lolly shop to buy them, they had been sold out that day.  A few other places didn't have them.  We finally found them in the lolly shop.  I thought we bought heaps of jubes but even so, once we finished putting them on the roof there weren't many left.

I was wary of loading the house with too many lollies that would drag it down.  Yet I knew that was just what sylvia wanted.  Lots of lollies.  So did I.  At first I piped icing onto each piece to go on the house.  Then it got too slow and I found dabbing a bit of royal icing with spoon or knife worked just as well.  We didn't have a pattern and I wasn't quite sure how to put the lollies on the walls but we used up all we had.  If I had bought more I might have used them.  After all, jubes are very light.

It was looking pretty good after Sylvia and I had been working on it during the day on Christmas Eve.  I knew it needed the icicles hanging off the roof to cover up the dodgy joins between the roof and house.  It looked hard but was one of the easier jobs.  Some time late on Christmas Eve it was finished.  All that was needed was a light sprinkle of icing sugar to look like fresh snow.  (I had lost the energy to add gingerbread trees around the house - a little path would have been cute.)

The only challenge left was to transport the cake to my parents' house in Geelong.  It was too late in they day when I thought that it would be good to wrap it in clear cellophane.  Instead I made a clumsy attempt to wrap it in clingwrap and placed it in the boot of the car with very little around it.  It arrived in one piece and took pride of place on the side board.

The rascally 4 year olds Sylvia and Dash were aching to eat the cake.  They asked when we would eat it frequently.  Often they would be found with their fingers mischievously close to the lollies.  Finally on Boxing Day, I took my aunt Jacqui's advice and smashed the roof with a spoon.  It was so soft I was amazed it had not caved in.  Everyone was most impressed with the taste of the gingerbread and it went rather quickly.  (Well most of it did.  The well cooked pieces were less tasty.)

A week of the gingerbread house.  (Some people do it quicker!):
  • Friday - make dough (before night market)
  • Sunday - bake walls and roof (after yum cha)
  • Monday - assemble house (before and after seeing Christmas lights)
  • Tuesday - finish off the lolly decorations and in evening create the overhanging icicles on roof (while Carols by Candlelight on during Christmas Eve)
  • Thursday - eat gingerbread house (on Boxing Day with family)

There are quite a few things I would do next time, if I am recovered enough to try it again.  I have discovered a gingerbread house recipe in my Annie Bell book of kids cakes.  I like how it has a door on the long wall rather than the short wall.  I would like to try some different decorations of lollies on the walls and a little decoration around the house.  Perhaps a pathway or the gingerbread trees.  As it is, I am still very pleased to have made a gingerbread house. 

I am sending it to Simply Sensational's event Let's Cook Christmas Party Food.

And since this is my last post of the year, I wish you a very happy and healthy new year.  I'll be back in 2014 with a reflection on the year.

Gingerbread house
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller via Hotly Spiced

Two batches of the following gingerbread dough (I have written x2 after each measurement because I tend to glance once at a recipe for how much of each ingredient I need to have on hand, and one while I am baking it - this is my way to minimise mistakes in either glance!)

2 1/3 cups (x2) plain flour
1 cup (x2) light brown sugar
1/2 tbsp (x2) baking powder
1/2 tbsp (x2) ground ginger
1 tsp (x2) ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp (x2) freshly grated nutmeg
110g (x2) cold butter, cubed
1/4 cup (x2) golden syrup
2 tbsp (x2) treacle
1 (x2) egg

Royal icing:
4 egg whites
900g icing sugar (powdered sugar)

Lollies to decoration (jubes, freckles, smarties, candy canes, liquorice strips, marshmallows etc)

Make the gingerbread:
Place dry ingredients of the first batch in the food processor and mix lightly.  Add butter, golden syrup, treacle and egg.  Blend until the mixture comes together into a soft dough.  This could take a few minutes.  Remove from food processor, wrap in clingwrap.  Repeat with second batch of dough.  Place wrapped discs of dough into fridge for at least an hour.  Mine was left a couple of days.

Bake the walls and roof:
Preheat oven to 180 C.

Cut out template pieces of the house  (I used baking paper):
  • Side wall: 24cm wide x 14cm high
  • End wall: a 13cm wide x 14cm high rectangle with a 6cm high pitch for the roof (ie the wall is 20cm high in total)
  • Roof pieces: 10.5cm high x 27cm wide
Roll out dough to about 3mm thick.  (I did this between two pieces of baking paper and baked each piece on this paper but you can do it on a floured board and transfer to a lined baking tray.)  Use each template to cut out two walls / roof pieces.  You should have 6 pieces now.  Use a knife to cut out a door on a side wall  which you will also bake.  Using a scone cutter or serviette ring, cut a circle window out of the other side wall.  Cut two windows out of each long wall - I used match boxes to trace around.  You can make biscuits out of the remaining dough or make trees to put around the gingerbread house.

Now bake the dough for about 10-12 minutes until darkening on the edges and smelling cooked.  Cool on tray for 5 to 10 minutes and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.  I let mine cool overnight.

Make the royal icing:Lightly whisk the egg whites in a medium bowl.  Gradually add icing sugar until all used up and you have a stiff white paste.  It will be hard to stir and set fairly quickly.  I kept mine covered with clingwrap while I worked and then left in a tub with a lid in the fridge overnight.

Decorate the walls and roof:
While the walls and roof piece are flat, pipe as much royal icing decoration as you wish.  I did some edges of windows and the door, roof tiles and a few curly bits.  I also stuck a few lollies around window panes at the point.

Assemble the house:
Using a thick nozzle, pipe a generous among of icing along the base of one long wall and place on your cake board.  Let set a little with a tall glass or water bottle beside it (I had some helping hands at this point to keep the pieces up).  Now pipe icing down the side and base of an end piece and attach to the side wall with the corner of the long side wall on the outside.  Place glass or water bottle inside (and outside if needed) to keep it up while it dries.  Repeat assembling the remaining sides.  Also take the door and pile down the side and on it's base and arrange by doorway slightly open.  Leave for a few hours.

Pipe along the edges of each wall on the outside to strengthen it before removing glass or water bottles (at this point you could add lollies or liquorice strips).  Remove all supports such as glasses and water bottles.  Pipe along the top edges of the walls and place the roof pieces on top.  Pipe along the top of the roof (you can add lollies at this point) to join it together.

Decorate the house:
Add lollies for decoration, dabbing a little royal icing on the back of each.  Use them for the door knob, between the roof tiles, around the door and make little hearts with candy canes.  I wanted to make some flowers on the walls but it just didn't happen.

When lollies in place, pipe short strips of royal icing close together to hang down from around the roof like icicles.  (I used my fingers when done to push together at the edges of the house.  Don't worry if a few strips fall off - that is the way with icicles!)

Use the remaining royal icing to spread a snowy edge on the board around the house.  If you want to put Christmas trees or snowman, press them into some royal icing to stand  them up.  Now sift a light shower of icing sugar over the roof and it is finished.

On the Stereo:
Dr. Demento Presents the Greatest Novelty Records of All Time, Volume VI: Christmas

Sunday, 29 December 2013

A day out: Pancake Parlour, Frozen and Starbucks

Today we took a train to the city for Sylvia's first cinema outing.  I have been woken the last few mornings with requests for pancakes.  It seemed a nice idea to go to the Pancake Parlour before seeing Frozen.  A perfect sticky, sweet entree prior to the main event.

The Pancake Parlour is not just a place to eat.  It is somewhere that fills me with memories.  My little sister bursting into tears at the sight of someone dressed as The Mad Hatter, eating there after staying up all night after we finished Year 12, stopping at the Ballarat Pancake Parlour on a road trip and even taking E there when we came to Australia.  It still has the old fashioned 'lovely' lady and the booths but I fear I have changed.

I haven't been there for years but I still have a favourite dish.  The Cheese and Potato Pancake with salad.  Let me tell you why.  When I go there I really want a short stack with whipped butter and maple syrup.

As a child this simple pancake with hot chocolate (with marshmallows) was my idea of heaven.  I thought it a very sophisticated heaven.  The buttermilk pancakes were so large and fluffy compared to my mum's.  And I am sure this must be where I first had maple syrup.  I can't remember it anywhere else in my childhood.

But I digress.  I like savoury too.  I had an epiphany one day when I discovered I could eat half the cheese pancake with salad and eat the other half with maple syrup.  Win win.  Only I discovered that they only use maple flavoured syrup unless you pay extra.  Which is cheeky when the prices are already ridiculously high ($19.40 for my pancake and salad!)

E had the Farmers Breakfast: two pancakes, fried eggs and hash browns.  (I didn't photograph it as I had thought it was one of his usual meaty breakfasts.)  He enjoyed it though it was too filling and he thought the hashbrowns were more like rosti.  Sylvia had Alice's Wonderland Surprise: a pancake topped with ice cream, fudge sauce and sprinkled with 100s and 1000s.  She mostly enjoyed the ice cream and said I should have just got her ice cream in a cone and that she still wanted me to make her pancakes for breakfast soon because mine are different.  Kids!

Next we headed up the escalators to see Frozen.  (Above is the view from the cinema down to Melbourne Central.)  We all enjoyed it.  Beautiful icy scenery, sad family rifts, true love, a cute snowman and some amusing trolls.  E thought it a bit too long.  I worried for Sylvia's ears with the volume up so high.  Sylvia couldn't sit still but she has asked if we can see Frozen again soon. 

E wanted to try the Starbucks Christmas coffees.  He had a toffee nut frappacino but found it so full of ice he could barely drink it.  We all shared a Christmas tree biscuit.  I think he has a fondness for the place because he remembers a time when they were special in Edinburgh due to lack of any decent homegrown coffee houses.  In Melbourne Starbucks is fairly lacklustre compared to other fine cafes.

Then we had a wander through the shops to look at the sales.  Signs like these make me feel like crying.  I didn't have much desire to buy.  Our house is full to bursting and we don't have many needs.  Sylvia got some new sandals and E found a few new shirts.  I was just happy to return home to a simple meal of tomato bean stew and broccolini to counteract all the rich food of late.

The Pancake Parlour
Melbourne Central
Cnr  La Trobe St and Swanston St, Melbourne.
Level 3, next to cinemas.
(03) 9654 3117
www.pancakeparlour.com

Starbucks
295 Swanston St,
Melbourne VIC 3000
03 9663 3380
www.starbucks.com.au

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Christmas Day food, presents and quicklinks

It is some time since I had three consecutive days of family Christmas festivities.  It is exhausting.  Yet, despite being tired today, I am grateful to have so many people with whom I can share the celebrations.  Much good food and merriment was had by all.  Here is a quick recap.

We spent Christmas morning at our place.  Santa knew where to find Sylvia with many tiny and little things.  (Did she have to wake us so early to tell us?)  We shared a simple breakfast of cranberry nut rolls, cranberry sauce and swiss cheese.  Then we gave out presents among our small family before heading to Geelong to my parents' house.  (I will write more about the gingerbread house but it was at breakfast, and then taken to Geelong with us.)

At my parents' place it was the usual merry mayhem.  Heaps of presents, a big family photo and my mum in charge of an army of helpers getting Christmas dinner underway. 

To make sure no one went hungry while lunch roasted and simmered and fried, we had some appetisers while we waited.  My brother in law Fergal fried up some blini and topped them with goats cheese and beetroot caviar.  They were splendid.

I took down my Christmas nut roast (see top picture too).  It never lets me down.  This year my mum made little stuffing cups.  The flat in mine is for the vegetarian ones.  I also had roast potatoes, roast pumpkin, cauliflower cheese, peas and cranberry sauce.  Followed by plum pudding and custard and then some chocolate ripple cake.

Mum does an amazing job at Christmas.  For Christmas dinner she had twenty-two people, including a vegetarian and a couple of celiacs.  On Boxing Day she made lunch for thirty-five people and then the day after for a mere ten of us.

My sister Chris, with Fergal and Dash were here from Ireland this year.  It was a great novelty to go to the beach but Fergal and Dash love swimming so much that I don't think they just did it to say that was where they spent Christmas day.  Sadly I forgot my bathers.  Luckily my parents gave Sylvia a swim suit for Christmas.  We enjoyed coming along to Torquay with the Irish rellies and my dad.  I was surprised at how busy it was but then again it was a lovely sunny day

On Boxing Day my dad's family came, plus a few family friends.  E and I have a tradition of staying the night at my mum and dad's place and going to a film on Boxing Day while Sylvia stays with her grandparents.  This year we saw Philomena, starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan.  It is a really beautiful film but such a sad story. 

By the time we came out of the film, my parent's home was full to the brim.  The table was heaving under cold meat (nut roast slices for me), salads and roast potatoes.  But it was dessert that gave us the biggest laugh.  My mum made the caramel tart that my grandmother used to make.  Dad and his siblings dived upon it with such excitment that the rest of us did what my family does.  We reached for our cameras!  We also had my panforte (more about that later), mum's black forest trifle, pavlova and my sister in law, Erica's cute lemon meringue pies.

On the next day, my mum's sisters visited.  The leftovers were wheeled out again and we had more cold meat/nut roast, salads and roast potatoes.  Which is not to say that my mum wasn't making more dishes for the occasion.  For dessert she delighted my aunty, Liz, with summer pudding that she makes with panettone.  We even had some of my peppermint fudge.

Finally we drove home to collapse in exhaustion.  Today we had a quiet day in.  The days just after Christmas always feel a bit sad when there are no presents left under the tree and the build up has gone with the bang of a cracker.  Above and below are a selection of presents.  You can see we were well and truly spoilt.

Oh and there was lots more.  Singing "I'm getting nutting for Christmas" in the car.  Cricket in the backyard.  Ice creams on the way back from the beach.  Fran doing the girls' nail polish.  Playing at the local park.  Water bombs in the backyard.  The side fence being pulled down during Christmas lunch number 3. Cherries.  Dr Who (and Quin's excitment).  Toy soldiers.  Paper cup portraits by Fergal.  Leftover nut roast sandwiches.  A broken champagne glass.  Sylvia tottering about in her new dress-up high heels.  Below is a picture of her having fun with her cousin Dash and a sprinkler in the backyard.

Hope you and yours also had a merry Christmas and a happy holiday.  I will be back with Christmas recipes soon.  Meanwhile here are a few Christmas quicklinks I enjoyed this year:

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Fun Christmas Food: pizza, snowman sushi, crackers and pita breads

The panforte is in the oven.  (A new recipe this year that I will share later.)  Sylvia is refusing to sleep.  I still have to wrap presents and tidy the house.  Meanwhile I am taking a little break to tell you about the fun I have had with my food this Christmas.

Take lunches for instance.  They are usually rushed.  But can still be fun.  The top photo is the snowman sushi we made at lunchtime yesterday. Capsicum and cherry tomato hat, spring onion scarf, carrot nose (of course) and nori eyes and mouth.  Plus a few toothpicks to keep him up.

This lunch was a few weeks back.  A rice cracker with cranberry eyes, cherry tomato nose, pretzel antlers and a few little BBQ Shape christmas tree crackers. 

Last night I made Christmas tree pizza.  It seemed an early way to do dinner after a day of rushing about the shops and working on the gingerbread tree.  I used my fast track pizza base , some pizza sauce from the freezer, a packet of grated cheese and some little cookie cutters to make some shapes.

The pizza looked better when uncooked and the bottom looked a little like Jabba the Hut.  No matter.  It tasted delicious.  It was fun.  That is what matters!

After dinner we went for a drive to look at local Christmas lights.  I have never done this before.  (Unless you count getting lost in search of the lights on the Boulevard in Ivanhoe.)  Sylvia, rugged up in dressing gown) thought it magical.  We loved Santa in the VW combie van above.

Today I have worked on the gingerbread house, made nut roast and cranberry nut rolls.  For dinner I used some pesto (recipe below) and cream cheese mixed up, chopped capsicum (leftover from pizza), sourdough flatbreads and pretzels to make flatbread Christmas trees.  (My pesto was a little strong but worked with the cream cheese and capsicum.  For a vegan variation I suggest using tofu instead of cream cheese.)

I will leave you with a chaotic picture of my kitchen table including a sneak peak of the gingerbread house.  I still need to fix the eaves.  So far no collapse.  (The house I mean, not me!)

I hope you are having a relaxed and happy Christmas eve and wish you the best for Christmas Day tomorrow.

As the pesto Christmas trees use both an idea that I bookmarked and a recipe for vegan pesto that I bookmarked, I am sending these to Jac for Bookmarked Recipes.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago:
Christmas Eve and Festive Mushroom Pie
Two years ago: Christmas Eve reflections and a chestnut soup
Three years ago: Nut roast parcels and potato snowmen
Four years ago: Christmas Eve Pasta
Five years ago: Christmas Eve Pasta
Six years ago: Christmas dinner for two

Vegan Pesto
Adapted from Food 52 (by Gena of Choosing Raw)

1 cup (mostly packed) basil leaves
1 tsp lemon juice
2-3 tbsp nooch (3 was too much)
1/2 tsp salt (less?)
1/3 cup walnuts
1 clove garlic
6 tbsp olive oil

Blend and check seasoning.

On the Stereo:
A Christmas Ceilidh with Francis Hogarty Band and Friends

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Rhubarb and strawberry jam and decorating the tree(s)

It is pleasing to rise in the morning to eat homemade rhubarb and strawberry jam on homemade sourdough bread before decorating a Christmas tree or two.  It doesn't mean that you will arrive at the right scout hall to buy a tree or that some of the family wont skulk away to watch the cricket but it does mean you started the day right.

I made the jam on a whim.  Sylvia wanted plums.  I thought of making plum jam.  However it was the recent strawberry jam from a fete that drew my eye to the strawberries.  Then I saw rhubarb.  That was it.

I didn't know how to make my jam.  I searched the web and adjusted a recipe to what I had.  I liked the blog post about the recipe showing how burnt jam could be if I didn't stir regularly.  It was a good lesson.  I stirred it a lot.

I am getting the hang of sterilising jars.  The jam didn't seem as difficult as it has in the past.  Hurrah for blog notes that I can refer to so I remember what I did last time.  It is a soft jam that doesn't set firm.  Apparently that is the way of strawberries.

And like that I had 5 jars of jam, a batch of mince tarts and a loaf of sourdough bread.  A domestic goddess moment!  I felt good last Saturday about getting up to jam, bread and trees.  We picked up our tree from the scouts once I had found the right hall.  At home, we set it up and then I left it to go to my parents to help decorate their tree.

My mum and dad;s tree is far bigger than ours.  At our house, the decorating is my job.  At my parents' it is my dad's job.  He had to choose the tree, set it up and put on the lights before real decorating can begin.  Dad worried there weren't enough lights.  Then the tinsel got lost.  My mum told us not to overload the tree.  Then she said it didn't have enough decorations.  My sister visiting from Ireland said she didn't remember it being this way.

Meanwhile Sylvia danced with tinsel, my dad lifted Dash to put a decoration on the highest branch, baby Stella wanted to play with the decorations and Ashy took her job of decorating very seriously.  I particularly loved the angel with the big stick next to James Joyce on the tree.  Later on I read on Facebook that my brother and his little boy were in the front room watching the cricket.

We came home to our naked little tree.  As we opened up the boxes of decorations, my neighbour and her little boy arrived with a present for Sylvia.  They stayed to help decorate the tree.  Paula told me about tree trimming parties.  I felt we had our own little impromptu party.

I had a go at wrapping the jam for presents.  (You might notice on the label that I was unsure what to call it!)  Then I gave it to my parents.  I have heard they are enjoying it.  So are we.  It seems silly to say it tastes fresh and fruity.  That is how jam should taste.  Yet there are too many around that don't taste that way at all.  This jam is amazingly good.

It makes me think I should make jam more! Especially when it comes to gift giving.  For 'tis the season!  Hope your Christmas preparations are coming along well (or at least better than my gingerbread house in progress)!

Made with Love Mondays, hosted by Javelin Warrior
I am sending this recipe to Javelin Warrior's Made with Love Mondays which features made from scratch recipes.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
One year ago:
Chocolate gingernut truffles and other Christmas reflections
Two years ago: WSC Fruitcake with Chocolate II and our tree
Three years ago: Cinnamon Stars for Christmas
Four years ago: Glögi by the tree
Five years ago: Coconut ice is very very nice
Six years ago: Christmas Snowflake Biscuits

Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam
Adapted from Dinner with Julie

3 cups rhubarb (weight trimmed: 350g)
4 cups strawberries (weight unhulled: 750g)
2 cups sugar
1 and 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

Trim and chop fruit and place with remaining ingredients into a large saucepan.  Bring to the boilb over medium high heat.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 45 minutes or until there is a jam-like consistency.  Stir frequently while it is simmering.  Don't worry about the froth as this disappeared once jam was ready.

While jam is simmering, sterilise your jars and lids.  I bake mine for 30 minutes in the oven at 150 C and boiled the lids on the stovetop for 10 minutes, then dried them on a rack.  I find it easy to put all the jars in a roasting dish so I am not having to handle them invidually.

During this time, place a saucer in the freezer to cool. To test place a small blob on the cool saucer so that the jam cools quickly. Once the jam is cool, draw a finger through the blob and if the line between the blog stays clear it is done.  This jam doesn't set into a firm consistency.

When jam is ready, pour into prepared jars (I used a funnel and spoon to do this).  Screw on lids tightly (using rubber gloves if jars and lids are still hot).  Cool and use or keep in a cool place.

Makes about 5 jars (about 1 cup per jar).

On the stereo:
Winter Songs: The Albion Christmas Band

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Coburg Night Market, Fitzroy Market and end of kindergarten

Yesterday was a significant day.  Sylvia had her last day of kindergarten.  Now she is on summer holidays and heads off to school next year.  It was quite emotional.  Too important to just head straight home.  Instead we went to the Coburg Night Market to eat dinner and soak up the atmosphere.

We arrived at the market fairly early. With enough time to browse some stalls before thinking about dinner.  The handmade crafts stalls were so good I wished I hadn't finished my Christmas shopping.  I really liked the DIY craft packs from My Hoopla and the Bruce Cost Pomegranate Ginger Ale

Then we perused the food stalls before choosing what to have for dinner.  I was disappointed that Phat Brats said they had vegetarian hot dogs in the city night markets but not in Coburg.  Surely there are plenty of vegetarians in Coburg.  Though if you were going on what vegetarian food was available, you might think not. There were some noodles and falafels and perhaps some dumplings.

I decided to have twisy potato chips and then headed to trailermade food for pita bread, tzatsiki and carrot dip (see top photo).  The first was nice but nothing fancy.  The bread and dips were really nice.  I quite liked the look of their quinoa salad too.  We bumped into my friend Lanie and her little toddler.  It was nice to have a chat and listen to some music while we sat on the grass and ate our dinner.  Sylvia also had the twisty chips and E enjoyed some meaty Phat Brats though he found it quite messy.

Santa and his elf helper took time out of their busy Christmas preparations to visit the market.  Sylvia loved seeing him.  She was pleased to be given a sticker by his elf.

We headed of for some treats - a salted caramel chocolate cupcake, a pretzel and some proffertjes with nutella.

Then we had more time to look at the craft stalls.  We admired strings of lights, smiled at t-shirt designs, listened to a stallholder playing a Tibetan singing bowl, and tasted chilli jam.  We bought a few badges and felt purses for presents.  It was only after we left that we remembered we had meant to buy some ginger ale.  Sad face.

Kinder might be over but I am sure Sylvia will still see some of the friends she made there.  Today we went to the Fitzroy Market and met up with Amelia and her mum.  Sylvia and Amelia had a lovely time on the play equipment while we listened to the ukelele group.

We go to the Fitzroy Market quite often.  (I must give it a dedicated post one of these days).  E and Sylvia love having a sausage in bread.  I have been trying out new dishes recently.  Today I had vegetarian pad thai.  It was delicious.  A small serving ($6) was enough.  Lots of noodles, tofu and peanuts with a little more egg than I like.  Sylvia also had a pomegranate and lemonade icy pole.  Sticky and drippy but so yummy and not too sweet.

I love the esoteric nature of the stalls.  Today I bought a second hand vintage floral plate, laughed at a bonnet with a feather in it and rifled through some scarves.  My favourite stall was a new one.  It had beautiful hand crafted goodies.  In the above photo you can see the quilted tea set, the Cat in the Hat quilt and some quilted sushi.  So gorgeous.

As the market was closing we met our friends Chris and Yav.  We all headed off to Little Creatures Melbourne Dining Hall in Brunswick Street for a drink, chips and chocolate tart.  I will post more about it some time.  It was a very convivial way to finish the afternoon.

Coburg Night Market
Bridges Rd Reserve
(03) 9640 0028
http://coburgnightmarket.com/
15 November to 20 December 2013 (and hopefully next year)

Fitzroy Market
Fitzroy Primary School, Napier Street
http://fitzroymarket.com/
Third Saturday of each month, 10am to 3pm