An Angel in the Kitchen is a real food and family recipe blog.
A place to be able to find our recipes again & remember how we made stuff!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Earth gems: a magnificent winter vegetable

I just love my new find of the winter: "earth gems" 
also known as ulluco.
They come from South America & are said to be one 
of the lost foods of the Incas.
They are so tasty & refreshingly colourful arriving 
just in time to revitalize the winter menu.
The "Halfords" of Feilding grow them here in New zealand &
I have been buying them through the season from 
Bellatino's out in Havelock North. 
They are very easy to prepare as they are prewashed 
& there is no peeling required.
Just gently boil for around 10 mins until tender.
Some colourful vegetables lose their lovely hues when
 cooked but the earth gem seems to do pretty well ...
..the colours running right through the tuber.
Here they are served with a little butter, good salt & lots of ground
black pepper. With the texture of a waxy new potato & the flavour
 a little, of beetroot & perhaps yam. They make a tidy, colourful 
& splendid addition to a winter meal. 
The thing is that they are a winter vege so in dreaming up what to
do with them I had to consider what might go with them best &
be seasonal too. There are already plenty of roasting vegetables 
so they would probably be lost on that count.
My first mix included deep red & orange kumara
with a sprinkling of violets
   with the addition of really good olive oil
($60 for 4 litres)
or fabulous Grove avocado oil,
lemon juice, flat leaf parsley, salt,
 ground black pepper
& tomatoes. There are some very 
tasty vine NZ grown vine tomatoes 
available at the moment.
No not seasonal I know but hey!

My favourite way to use them at the moment:

 cooked earth gems..cold & cut in half
firm vine ripened tomatoes cubed
chopped coriander
a preserved lemon finally sliced
a slosh of great olive or avocado oil
good salt, freshly ground black pepper 
& a squeeze of lemon juice...divine!!

this salad is just as good the next day too!
avocado also works well with them as do prawns
or shrimp & the sango sprouts that I get at 
Countdown are sooo fabulous & very handy along 
with the best salad macro/micro mix from Clyde Potter 
at Epicurean tasty & very innovative.
Around Christmas time I still had some earth gems tucked in the back fridge, just staring to sprout, but most were still fine to use. Soon, I planted the rest of the now happily sprouting tubers
 in to a large pot with plenty of compost.
It wasn't long before they looked like this:
I have since discovered that the leaves are edible too..just use & cook like spinach.
I have continued picking the leaves all through the summer. Haven't had any problem with bugs either.
A nutritious, versatile & easily grown vegetable that has excellent keeping qualities, both the tubers & the leaves.
I'll update further soon & tell you what I ended up with in my pot when the leaves die down. 

Catherine x

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Following on from the recipe for an active, living, breathing sourdough bug, this recipe below for a standard sourdough bread could change your life. 

First and foremost: Place a bowl of hot water under the bottom rack in your oven, and heat the oven to 50 degrees celsius. This will create a lovely, warm, moist environment for your bread to grow in.

Into 1 cup of warm water dissolve half a tablespoon of sugar, and over the surface of this sprinkle 1 teaspoon of active dry yeast. Leave it to sit and begin working for about 10-15 minutes as you organize the remainder of your ingredients. Traditionally sourdough bread is made without the use of yeast, however, after numerous trial and error practice runs, and several months of making this bread, I found that using this small amount of yeast reduces the proving time by about 6 or 7 hours, gives a softer texture to the body of the bread and simply makes the process more practical.

Sift into a large bowl 750 gm organic white flour, 1 and a half heaped tablespoons of sugar, and 1 and a half level tablespoons of fine sea salt.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, into which, pour the yeast mixture, two cups of your sourdough starter, and two generous tablespoons of olive oil. Using a fork and stirring well, gradually bring the dry ingredients into the wet, trying to keep an even consistency as you work.

Once it is as combined as much as the strength of your arm will allow, turn out onto a floured bench. Begin by simply bringing all of the loose ingredients into the body of your dough, continually sifting extra flour over the bench and your dough as you work, to prevent it from getting to sticky. Knead, punch, roll, and fold your dough into and over itself for about 10 minutes, until it resembles a soft, pliable, elastic ball of dough. Rinse out your bowl, which will need to be able to hold roughly three times the volume of dough as you have now. Place the dough into the bowl and oil liberally also coating the rest of the inner surface of the bowl, then cover with a warm, damp tea towel.

Place inside the oven and reduce the temperature to approximately 30-35 degrees, and leave undisturbed for between 2 and a half and 3 hours, give or take, or until at least doubled in size. Remove from the oven and knock back the air from inside your dough, but without over doing it.

Again turn out onto a floured bench, flouring the top of the dough as you do. At this point you can get brave and creative in shaping your loaves, but I would suggest maybe for first timers a loaf tin would assist ones confidence in getting a good result. This particular recipe can either make two quite large loaves, or as I prefer; three good size loaves, or of course several baguettes or alike if you wish. Shape as you please, remembering as you do that these will again double in size. Gently place your shaped dough into oiled and floured tins or onto well floured baking trays. Score the tops of your loaves with a small sharp knife if you’d like to, (this will encourage growth in particular directions according to where you cut). Now place in a warm spot like the hot water cupboard, but not back into the oven, and leave to prove again, this time for anywhere between 1 and a half and two and a half hours, or until they have doubled in size. Once they have reached their desired size turn your oven on to 180 degrees celsius, and leave your loaves as they are until it has reached that.

Bake your loaves one or two at a time, (remember to be very gentle at this point as not to bump them or slam closed the oven door, as you’ll bang all of the air out of your loaves, which is really not fun after all the hard work). Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly coloured, remove from the oven and either brush the surface with water, or even better, with a spray bottle spray the tops with water, and don’t be too shy. Return to the oven for a further 12-15 minutes until they’re golden brown, have a thick hard crust, and sound hollow when you tap it. Lay out on racks to cool, or eat hot with lashings of butter or good quality olive oil.

Once cooled, store in recycled bread bags in your pantry or bread bin. These loaves can last for weeks and weeks without going moldy, if it ever lasts that long. Old off cuts make marvelous crostini or bread crumbs, among other things at the end of their lives. But, for the first couple of weeks having it simply toasted, or pan-fried with good olive oil and sea salt, might just be the encouragement that will have you beginning to structure life around your baking days, and everything else then just has to fit in.

To make further batches, repeat the sourdough starter recipe, adding the remainder of the last batch of starter to the new one before putting back into your jars. But please proceed with caution, as this process becomes addictive yet at the same time life affirming. It brings joy, accomplishment and outright triumphant confidence in mastering a standard loaf. Don’t be afraid to talk to your starter as you nurture it, smell it often, and remember to feed it. 
After 10 months of learning from and growing with my starter, its producing the most marvelous loaves of bread two and sometimes even three times a week. However, seeing the enthusiasm emitted from my very alive starter, I’m becoming rather concerned that one day I may just hear it knocking from inside my fridge, at which point I hope it has something rather profound to say. 

Begin with the most simple form of this bread as above, and keep your eyes pealed for interesting and unusual variations on this recipe to follow. 

Katies Kindred Cook,
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