Sweet & Savory February
Treats in the kitchen ... yum!
I feel jinxed ...
The last two times I have begun an uplifting ... ”Let’s have fun in the garden now!” ... article: the skies have dumped us with snow. Sigh, don’t worry it will leave soon after this “slurpy” phase. (It is simply an evil plan for me to stick with cleaning up my 2010 paperwork instead of playing with my fun 2011 seeding!) So aim for Sweet February with romancing all those dear to you with these latest culinary treats!
Early December I was testing new Lavender cookie recipes and off loading roll after roll of cookie dough on stressed out friends who were trying to juggle their work world, their family world & pre-Christmas consumerism with the fantasy of a homemade Christmas. They had no time for “Make & Bake” so I invented “Take home & Bake”! Hmmm…great house smells and the comfort of warm cookies.
The winning recipe for 2011 is “Tropical Lavender Cookies” with my daughter, Frances in mind, now a scuba diving teacher in Australia. And with Australia’s recent weather challenges in mind: I will stop complaining about my wimpy weather and help celebrate Australia’s treasures.
In these cookies it is playing with dried Sweet Lavender (L. angustifolia) plus; crystallized pineapple, dry roasted macadamia nuts and fancy shredded coconut. Most bakers do not realize Macadamia nuts are native to eastern Australia; “discovered” in the 1800’s and introduced around 1920 to Hawaii where they gained their fame ... Australia is the largest exporter with 40,000 tonnes each year. The world quota being 100,000 tonnes with cultivation in; yes Hawaii, plus New Zealand, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Kenya, Israel, Malawi and even California.
Two varieties are edible to humans: Macadamia integrifolia & M. tetraphylla. Other Macadamia varieties contain cyanide compounds that indigenous people used to leach out before ingesting: though all Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs.
Macadamia trees are small evergreen trees that need fertile, well drained soil with an average of 25C temperatures, growing 25-30 feet. They begin bearing at 10 years old, yet can produce for 100 years! Moths lay their eggs on the shiny leaves for food for their caterpillars and in the wild, only parrots are strong enough to crack the extremely hard protective shells. The macadamia tree’s flowers are long slender pink or white ethereal looking racemes. Macadamia trees are shallow rooted and will hate the recent flooding in Queensland, where they are commonly called the “Queensland nut”. Queensland’s pineapple capital is around Nambour where the tourists flock to the Big Pineapple restaurant and farm ... Coconuts growing mainly in Northern Australia.
OK, what is February without Chocolate! The second-runner up is a Sweet Lavender-Chocolate combo. You can get fancy and make them heart shaped for the loves of your life.
Thirdly, is a true confession ... Every Metchosin Day as a vegetarian (mainly) I enjoy the Lamb and Salmon dinner. This year the Lamb was rained out ... So the Buchanan’s gifted me some “happy” Lamb for Christmas. Here are the two recipes I made: Greek Lamb with Lemon potatoes and for “left over’s”: Lamb Biryani. Lamb good enough for “Flexitarians” ... (Please, no vegetarian offenses intended)
By the end of January I will be back on tract as an addicted Gardener! I will begin the season seeding autumn Leeks, Onions and Shallots in my greenhouse. I will use a soilless, sterile mix and not over water! Valentine’s Day I begin my Sweet peas for flowers and one set of eating Peas outside depending on the weather. St Patrick’s Day, I think of as a “Green Day” and will do my first set of “Greens”: Spinach, Lettuce, Coriander, Chard & Mesclun seed mix in a drier box bed. April 1st “No Fooling” ... I begin every thing else: even heat loving Tomatoes! WOW! There goes my Spring Fever kicked into high gear and wintery January will just be a dream. Cozy days of a woodstove, no weeding and $#@%$&*(%^$ Paperwork!
Here’s to all our Garden Dreams for 2011. Plan your layouts now, order your seeds, build your box beds and generally tidy up between the storms. Wait for my seeding article in April: it is not too late for the casual and newbie gardeners…And please don’t forget the comfort of warm Lavender cookies tasting of Summer to tide us over these wintery moments!
1) Tropical Lavender Cookies 2011
... my daughter is in Australia so our 2011 cookies reflect her tropical adventures!
1 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 TBSP vanilla extract
2 TBSP dried Lavender
1 TBSP lemon juice
100 grams macadamia nuts
100grams crystallized pineapple
Blend smoothly in a food processor.
In a large bowl add:
1 cup white flour (2 cups total*)
1 cup shredded coconut
1 tsp baking powder
Then blend in 2nd cup of flour*
Mix well with hands into smooth soft dough.
Place by generous teaspoon onto parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
Bake @ 350F for 10 minutes for a soft cookie.
... Macadamia nuts are available at Thrifty’s in the bulk bins OR Purdy’s chocolate shops ... buy about $5 worth. You can pre-toast them lightly in a hot, dry frying pan for extra flavour.
PS You can roll the completed dough into a log shape in wax paper & freeze.
To bake later: thaw slightly, then slice in ½ inch rounds & bake as usual.
2) Lavender Chocolate Drop Cookies 2011
2¾ cup white flour
½ cup good cocoa powder
2½tsp baking powder
¾ cup butter
1½ cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
3 TBSP milk
2 TBSP dried Lavender
Cream butter, sugar, Lavender & extracts in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, beat eggs and add milk.
Blend into the butter/sugar mix.
Then add all dry ingredients.
Everything should be in the large bowl now.
Combine until smooth soft dough. Chill one hour.
Drop by generous tablespoon onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake 12 minutes @ 350F
PS If you reduce the milk to 1 TBSP; you can roll out the dough on a little floured sprinkled surface & cut into heart shapes & bake. When cool, dust with icing sugar: great Valentine’s cookies! Dough can also be frozen in log shapes; when ready to bake, thaw slightly & sliced in 1/3rd inch rounds to bake.
3) Greek Lamb with Lemon Potatoes
Day 1: Dec 2010 ... 3 hours baking time
5-6 pound leg of Lamb with the bone in
2-3 cloves of garlic, cut into thin slivers
½ cup lemon juice
3 TBSP+ dried oregano
1 TBSP tarragon
1 TBSP Lemon balm or Lemon Verbena leaves chopped with scissors
Dash of Limoncello liqueur (optional)
1 large onion or 2 leeks or 3 frogs legs shallots
2 sticks of celery
¼ cup of butter
4-5 yellow baking potatoes
Preheat oven to 350F
Place Lamb in a roasting dish to fit.
Cut small slits in the Lamb & insert garlic slivers
Pour over half the lemon juice & Limoncello.>
Sprinkle with herbs.
Bake 1 hour, marinating with pan juices frequently & turning leg 2-3 times.
Add roughly chopped onions, celery rings & butter to the pan plus 1 cup of water.
Bake 1 hour @ lower temperature of 300F
Peel & quarter potatoes; place in baking dish beside the lamb, baste with remaining lemon juice and more oregano if you wish.
Bake 1 hour more; basting and turning the potatoes once. Add water as needed.
Cut the Lamb in chunks to serve with amazing Greek Lemon potatoes!
I served this with Green Peas, cooked/drained with a dash of dried mint & lemon juice in the cooking water.
Lorraine: Thank you: your Lamb is great for “Flexitarians”!!!
4) Lamb Biryani with Kashmiri Rice
Day 2: Dec 2010 ... I made this with pre-cooked Lamb but there is no reason you couldn’t start with fresh/Frozen thawed “Happy” lamb
2 pounds lean Lamb OR approx 2 cups cooked diced Lamb
3 medium onions or leeks or large frogs legs shallots
5 Tbsp oil or proper ghee
7 TBSP plain yogurt
4 TBSP Lemon juice
1 ½ tsp freshly chopped ginger
1 ½ tsp freshly crushed garlic
2 tsp garam masala
¼ tsp turmeric or pinch of real saffron threads
1 small hot pepper, deseeded & chopped finely (optional)
1 tsp salt (optional)
Fresh Cilantro for garnish
Mango Chutney as a condiment (optional)
Combine the meat, spices, lemon juice and yogurt in a large bowl.
Allow to marinate while you start the onions ...
Saute the pepper and onions in the oil until onions are transparent.
Add the meat mixture plus approx 2 ½ cups of water.
Cook over low heat for 45 mins for raw lamb, ½ hour for cooked lamb.
Check for tenderness of your meat ... you could serve it here; once your rice is ready ... OR, if you have time add another 2 cups of water & let it simmer for ages on a very low setting until the mixture thickens. Check & stir frequently.
Turn off the heat & reheat gently at serving time.
*** My favourite Taj Mahal restaurant used to cook it for 3 days! On their last open day before they retired: I ordered it. This dish melted in your mouth and tantalized your taste buds with its rich complex tastes.
Thanks to my sister-in-law Sarah in Prince George
2 cups basmati white rice
4 bay leaves
5-8 whole cloves
1 tsp turmeric powder or pinch of true saffron threads
6-8 whole pods of white cardamom
1-2 inches of cinnamon bark
Combine all ingredients
Measure 3 cups of cold water to cover rice.
Bring to a boil, stir well.
Cover with a pot lid, lower heat and simmer for 15 mins ... do not peek!
When done; remove spices off the surface of your fragrant cooked rice.
Fluff with a fork & add 1 TBSP butter.
Serve in a ring on your plate with the Biryani in the center; side dress with cilantro sprigs, plain yogurt & possibly mango chutney!
This is the best scented rice I have ever had ... thank you Sarah.
Originally published in the February 2011 edition of the Metchosin Muse