When I was learning to cook I was a slave to recipes. While it was a good way to start learning different techniques and ingredients, it did have some frustrating limitations.

Like what happens when you can’t buy a particular ingredient? And what do you do with that leftover half bunch of herbs? Or jar of sauce?

Or worse still, what do you do when you need to eat but don’t have time to search through recipes and go shopping for exotic ingredients?

Over the years, with a lot of trial and error, I began to learn to cook more instinctively, on my own.

Without other people’s recipes.

In my head, without really being conscious of what I was doing, I started thinking of recipes in general terms rather than specific ingredients.

From there, I developed a collection of starting point or ‘template recipes’. So whenever I walked into the kitchen and looked into the fridge to figure out what to cook, I had a head start.

I knew what had worked before to make that soup or stir fry and could use that knowledge as a springboard for a new dish or meal.

Why try ‘template recipes’?

Template recipes provide a stepping stone or ‘training wheels’ to help you take the first steps to freedom from recipes.

They’re designed to give you some support and structure while also providing plenty of ideas to get you started.

At the same time they are there to encourage you to think for yourself. To try new things. To experiment and develop your own recipes and style.

Like to see an example?

I’ve included a template recipe from my ‘Master Your Meal Plan‘ online cooking class below…

20. ketchup beans

Ketchup ‘Baked’ Legumes – Template ‘Recipe’

The idea behind using template ‘recipes’ is that the ingredients are listed in general terms to encourage you to think about recipes in a different way. Just look down at the ‘variations’ to get ideas for what to use for each different type of ingredient.

It’s all about building your confidence to start experimenting and cooking for yourself. Over time you’ll find yourself not even needing the templates but they act as ‘training wheels’ to get you started.

per person
takes: 15 minutes

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 aromatic vegetable, chopped
1/2 can legumes, drained
2 tablespoons ketchup (or ‘tomato sauce’ for the Aussies!)
1 teaspoon spice, optional

1. Heat a medium fry pan on a medium heat. Add butter and aromatic veg and cook for 5-10 minutes until the veg is soft and lightly golden.

2. Add legumes, ketchup and spice.

3. Stir and simmer for a couple of minutes to make sure everything is hot. Taste & season.

Variations

butter alternative / dairy-free – any oil you normally cook with.

aromatic veg – onions are my favourite but celery or carrots would be good instead..

legumes – I’ve used cannellini beans in the photo but any canned or cooked legume will work. Try butter beans, borlotti beans, black beans, chickpeas or lentils. Note: a standard can is 400g (14oz).

no ketchup? – I really recommend getting a small bottle to try with this dish. I’m not really a big ketchup fan but I adore these legumes. Otherwise try tomato paste and a big pinch or three of brown sugar. A good BBQ sauce will also work.

spice - first choice smoked paprika. Next choice other paprika, dried chilli (you may like to reduce the quantity if really hot). Coriander seed or cumin would be interesting. And curry powder would work if you’re in the mood for a curry.

higher protein – Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) while the onion cooks. When the legumes are done, make a small well in the middle and crack and egg into it. Bake for about 10 minutes or until egg whites are set and yolks still runny.

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Would you like to learn to cook without recipes?

Then check out my ‘Master Your Meal Plan‘ online program which is starting at the end of this week!

For more details, go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/mymp15/

Big love
Jules x

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ps. Wondering if the template recipes in ‘Master Your Meal Plan‘ will work for you?

I’ll be honest. The program isn’t for everyone…

If you’re happy with your current meal planning system, then it’s probably not going to add much value. Unless you’d like to learn to cook more freely and creatively.

But if planning your meals each week causes you problems, then more than likely, the Master Your Meal Plan system will help you.

Just like it’s already helped these people…

Anna, Master Your Meal Plan Owner.
“The biggest change is that I don’t follow recipes to the T anymore – I am substituting different ingredients based on what I have on hand – a big change for me. I am wasting far less food.”

Karen, Master Your Meal Plan Owner.
“Everything has changed for the better. I actually cook all of my meals now. I’m able to throw together meals with simple ingredients that are healthy in a short period of time. I have learned to use the fresh vegetables that are in my refrigerator and what’s in my pantry to cook excellent meals. MYMP is just the thing I needed to get me over my fear of cooking and get me started with eating whole foods.”

Kate, Master Your Meal Plan Owner.
“The whole system was very useful to me. I learned better planning of meals for a week and, besides that, to improvise with ingredients. Preparing food ceased to be stressful factor and became a joy!

MYMP 2015 square logo

Daphne, Master Your Meal Plan Owner.
“After MYMP I’m much more relaxed about mixing things up or using alternate ingredients when I don’t have exactly what’s called for.”

To join us go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/mymp15/

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The most radical shift in my meal planning process happened at a very specific time in my life. I was working as a young winemaker in the beautiful Barossa Valley. It was vintage, the busiest time of the year, so my life pretty much revolved around working and sleeping.

There wasn’t much time for ‘luxuries’ like eating and bathing. So as you can imagine, sitting down to figure out a meal plan and write a shopping list was out of the question.

As luck would have it, my one ‘treat’ was a weekly pilgrimage to the Barossa farmers market. I’d grab a coffee and a bacon & egg roll and then take my time buying my produce for the week.

It was heaven.

Because I didn’t have a plan or a shopping list, I was guided to choose what looked best. Sometimes I’d know exactly what I was going to make with my bounty. But more often than not I wouldn’t. So each night I’d walk into the kitchen, open the fridge and decide what to cook then and there.

Sometimes I’d look up recipes but mostly I’d make it up as I went along. Just trusting my instincts and cooking from the heart.

I should mention that this was completely new territory for me…

Before my Barossa days, I always consulted a recipe. But my limited time circumstances meant I had to try another way.

Mostly the results were delicious, or at least edible. There were the occasional ‘disasters’ which meant, I’d use my backup plan of cheese on toast and take it as a ‘learning experience’. But over time these happened less and less frequently.

These days, I pretty much follow the same approach to meal planning.

Apart from the weeks when I’m testing out one of the meal plans for my Soupstones Meal Plans done-for-you product, or I’m making a meal for the Jules & David project, I head to the markets. Buy whatever catches my eye. Then decide what to cook on a day-by-day basis.

Sound like a place you’d like to get to?

Well the good news is you totally can!

In fact, now is a great time because I’m going to be starting the 2015 edition of my ‘Master Your Meal Plan’ program at the end of next week…

MYMP 2015 square logo

This will be the fourth year I’ve run this online class and it’s really my favourite. I love helping people ‘reverse’ the meal planning process so it not only takes hardly any time, but it’s super flexible to fit in with changes to your schedule – perfect for modern life!

And I really love helping people learn to become instinctive, creative cooks who aren’t slaves to recipes any more.

If any of this sounds interesting, you can learn more about the program over at:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/mymp15/

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Bangers & Beer

Bangers & Beer

I was inspired to make this after reading Jennifer McLaggin’s brilliant book called ‘Bitter’. Well worth a read. It’s one of those meals which just happily cooks itself in the oven, freeing you up to do other things. But the best bit is the wonderful smells it generates. As the beer cooks down it fills the house with wonderful bready, yeasty, baked goods smells… Its almost worth making just for the aromas alone. Almost.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, ‘bangers’ refers to sausages. And I should note, when cooking with beer, it’s super important to be generous with the salt when you season so it balances out the bitter flavours. Some beers can be quite bitter and can overpower the finished dish if you don’t add enough salt.

enough for: 2
takes: about an hour

450g (1lb) thick sausages
350ml (1.5 cups) beer
3 carrots, halved
2 onions, quartered
2 bay leaves
mashed potato or cauliflower + green salad to serve

1. Preheat your oven to 200C (400F). Place carrots and onions in a roasting tray and drizzle with a little oil. Bake for 20 minutes.

2. When your timer goes, add the sausages and beer. Season generously and return to the oven, uncovered for another 20 minutes.

3. Turn the sausages and give the veg a stir and cook for another 10-20 minutes or until the sausages are browned and cooked through and the beer has reduced to a sauce.

4. Taste and if too bitter for you, add more salt. Serve on a bed of mashed potato or cauliflower with a green salad on the side.

Variations

different beers – I’ve tried this on different occasions with Corona and Coopers Green and while quite different, both were lovely. But pretty much any beer will work, just be mindful that the stronger the flavour of your beer, the more intense it will be in the finished dish.

no beer? – replace with cider, white or red wine. Or if you want to keep it alcohol-free use stock or even water.

vegetarian – I can imagine this tasting amazing with mushrooms!

onion-free – just add extra carrots or replace with celery or one of the veg below.

more veg – feel free to add other root veg like parsnips, sweet potato, turnip, beets or potatoes. Just chop them into sizes that will cook about the same time as the carrots and onions.

more summery - use summery veg like zucchini, peppers and eggplant.

And while we’re talking meal planning, what sort of planning method do you use?

Are you a traditional work it out in advance planner? Or more of a ‘wing it’ person like me? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Big love,
Jules x

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ps. Not sure if this program can help you?

Heres what Nic and Nichole said about their experience..

Nic, Master Your Meal Plan Owner.
“I used to spend ages planning all my meals to still feel like I didn’t have anything to cook. I felt undisciplined as I didn’t stick to my menu & wasted food cause I didn’t feel like whatever I planned. Now I can just make want I want, with what I have, with whatever time available. It makes u a more confident cook.”

Nichole, Master Your Meal Plan Owner.
“I am able to cook dinners that my family truly enjoys as many nights a week as I need to without repeating the same 5 dishes over and over and without buying a bunch of groceries that ultimately go to waste because our schedule changed.”

To learn more go to:
www.thestonesoupshop.com/mymp15/

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Recently there was an outbreak of Hepatitis in Australia that stemmed from people eating contaminated frozen berries.

Since I’m a bit of a hermit, I wouldn’t have known about the berry recall if it weren’t for my news-savvy Irishman.

Fortunately we didn’t have any problem berries in the freezer. Which was unusual but it’s been peak berry season here so I’ve been making the most of the abundance of fresh berries at the farmers market.

Anyway it got me thinking about my freezer and how much I love it.

I’m always teaching my online cooking students the value of a well stocked pantry. And I firmly believe your pantry isn’t just for shelf-stable ingredients. Your fridge and freezer are equally important.

So today I went and had a good poke around my freezer. Here’s what I found…

7 Things I (pretty much) Always Have in the Freezer

1. Ice Cream.
In our house we usually only have dessert on a Saturday night so we like to go all out! My favourite is vanilla ice cream because it goes so well with pretty much any dessert AND you can customize or ‘pimp’ it to suit your mood.

2. Peas.
I’m so glad that Fergal doesn’t take after his mamma when it comes to peas. I’m not the biggest fan but he LOVES them. His dinners often start with ‘parmesan peas’ – frozen peas defrosted in a frying pan with a little butter and served with some grated parmesan. I also have some corn and broad beans but these are less frequent inhabitants.

Until I read the GMO comments on my blog post about edamame, I had them on high rotation but am currently reconsidering. Am planning a blog post to fill you in on that story.

3. Cooked Rice.
I don’t always have cooked rice in the freezer but since Fergal loves the fried rice recipe below, I’m keeping it more and more. I also often have cooked beans or chickpeas frozen in zip lock bags because it’s easier to soak and cook a big batch.

4. Meat.
The biggest drawer in our freezer is usually full of different meat because I like to shop less frequently. There’s usually some sausages, steaks, a larger piece of meat like brisket or ribs and some sort of chicken.

I also keep a ziplock bag for bones for stock that I fill as we go. I used to think it was too much hassle but every time I make the stock, I feel so virtuous for not wasting all those bones that it’s become a habit.

5. Bread.
We don’t eat much bread. It’s usually a Saturday treat for my Irishman. So I slice his sourdough and keep it in a ziplock bag. For Fergal and me I keep a sliced loaf of Deek’s gluten-free bread made from quinoa.

6. Egg Whites.
I love love love home made mayo on my poached eggs in the morning so I make a batch about once a fortnight. Which generates a lot of egg whites. Sometime I eat them as an egg white omelet but usually I pop them in the freezer in a ziplock bag. Apart from these potato rosti and my mum’s pavlova, I’m a bit short on egg white recipes, so if you have one, please share!

7. Yoghurt Starter Culture.
It’s hard to beat home made yoghurt! Most times I use the previous batch to ‘seed’ my new yoghurt but I keep my freeze dried starter culture in the freezer for when I forget to save some. I’ve had it for almost 2 years and it’s still going strong.

What about you?

Anything you always keep a stash of in your freezer? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below…

egg & pea fried rice

Fergal’s Egg & Pea Fried Rice

Like a lot of toddlers, Fergal has a healthy distrust of anything green. Fortunately he’s a fan of peas so I’ve been keeping a stash in the freezer. I also keep some cooked rice so I can whip up this dish when I need a quick dinner for him. I should mention it’s one of my Irishman’s faves as well so a good one for keeping the whole family happy!

Enough for: 2-3
Takes: 15 minutes

3 eggs
3 cups (360g / 12oz) cooked rice
2 handfuls peas
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 green onions (scallions), chopped (optional)

1. Heat a large frying pan on a medium high heat. Whisk eggs in a bowl.

2. Add a splash of oil to the pan and then the eggs. Cook for about 30 seconds and then stir. Cook for another 30 seconds and stir again. Keep cooking and stirring until the eggs are almost set. Put egg on a clean plate.

3. Return the pan to the heat and add more oil. Stir fry the rice and peas until everything is hot and the rice is just starting to brown a little.

4. Remove from the heat and add the soy sauce. Taste and add more soy if needed.

5. Stir in the egg and green onion (if using) and serve hot.

Variations

low GI - use basmati rice or cooked quinoa or see the paleo option.

to cook the rice – bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add rice and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain well then cool. Refrigerate or freeze until you’re ready to use.

hot – add some chopped red or green chilli with the peas or serve with chilli oil or your favourite hot sauce at the table.

more veg – feel free to add chopped red peppers (capsicum), snow peas, sugar snap peas, carrots, corn kernels, green beans, or asparagus. Anything that works in a stir fry is good.

vegan - replace egg with a few generous handful of roasted peanuts or cooked lentils or beans.

carnivore – brown some chopped bacon before adding the peas and rice. Or toss in a few handfuls of cooked chicken.

paleo – replace rice with grated raw cauliflower (about 1/2 cauli).

herby - serve with coriander (cilantro), mint or basil leaves on top.

Big love,
Jules x

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ps. Have you seen my print book, ‘5-Ingredients 10-Minutes’?

For all the details go to:
www.5ingredients10minutes.com

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Almost a year ago, my little family made the big leap to life in the country when we bought our tiny farm.

As I shared when we first moved in, it’s been a dream of mine for the longest time to have a little house and some land to grow veggies, raise chooks, plant a little orchard and hopefully some sort of vineyard so my wine making skills don’t lay dormant forever.

As with any good dream there have been some surprises along the way…

Like having not one but two tiger snakes in two days turn up on my kitchen step… Like having to catch a cute little green tree frog in our bedroom one night… Like getting used to waking up and seeing kangaroos just outside our bedroom window most mornings… Like planting my fruit trees in the boggiest patch of clay on the whole farm and having half of them decide to die…

All part of the fun of country life!

Anyway I’ve had a few requests to share what’s growing in my edible garden. Something a little different!

But before I do there’s a disclaimer. I’m new to this whole big garden thing. While I love spending time in the garden, especially picking things for dinner, I’m definitely a long way from being a green thumbed expert. So I’m not sure how helpful this will be…

garden tour

My Herb Garden

This is the closest to my back kitchen door and I just love being able to pop out and get a sprig of rosemary or a handful of basil whenever I need them. This year I’ve had the most amazing basil so we’ve been eating a lot of pesto. And for the first time ever I’ve even got extra pesto stashed away in my freezer.

I’ve also got flat leaf parsley, curly parsley, Greek basil (not as good as the regular stuff), tarragon, coriander (cilantro), chives, chervil, sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon thyme, sorrel and stevia. One of the biggest attractions for me is being able to grow things like sorrel and stevia that I never see in the shops or farmers market.

I love having a few leaves of super lemony fresh sorrel to enliven a green salad. And it’s amazing in pesto (recipe below). The stevia I’m not so sure what to do with so if you have any ideas please share them in the comments below!

garden tour-2

My Salad Garden

This garden bed is slightly larger and had been pretty good at keeping us in salad leaves most of the year. I love not having to buy bagged salad any more because it’s so expensive and perishable.

When I’m rushed for time, I do sometimes lament the fact that I have to go outside and spend a few minutes picking leaves. But as soon as I’m in the garden, I’m always thankful for those little moments of peace.

Rocket (arugula) is my all time favourite salad because I love the peppery flavour and the fact that it’s so easy to grow. I also have a new found respect for good old butter lettuce and cos which I just pick a few leaves at a time and they keep on growing.

I do have some radishes which I’m still trying to love. If they weren’t so easy to grow I wouldn’t bother. But I strongly believe that it’s just a matter of finding the best way to prepare them!

Silverbeet or chard is something I’ve come to love because of its easy-to-grow nature. Mostly I sauté it in butter and garlic in a covered pot until it’s just wilted down and finish it with a squeeze of lemon and a generous pinch of sea salt.

I was late planting tomatoes this year so we have lots of green tomatoes and nothing ripe. Yet. Fingers crossed we’ll get something before the first frosts come.

garden tour-3

My Salad Garden Part2

This bed contains my most recent plantings. A mix of lettuces and Asian greens like tatsoi and mizuna. They’re mostly new to me so I’m excited about finding new ways to use them.

I should also report that since I’ve stopped being a ‘slacker’ on the salad washing front, there haven’t been any more incidents of diners finding caterpillars at my table!

garden tour-4

My Raised Veggie Beds

I had these in our old rental house in Cooma. And while I did have to bribe my brother to help me move them, I’m so glad they didn’t get left behind. If you’re renting (like we used to) or if you have poor soil (like we do now) raised veggie beds are the way forward!

At the moment these have carrots, beets, loads of garlic (just planted so won’t be harvested until next Summer), zucchini and some self-sown parsley. I did plant some spaghetti squash seeds and delicata pumpkin both which I’ve read about but haven’t ever seen or eaten. Only one plant has survived and because Fergal loves to play with my labels, I’m not sure which one it is. Looking forward to having that puzzle solved later in Autumn!

sorrel pesto-3

Fish with Sorrel Pesto

Sorrel is one of those annoying ingredients I see referred to in cookbooks from time to time but never see in the shops. It wasn’t until I planted some seeds and grew my own that I was able to experiment with this super lemony fresh-tasting herb. Don’t worry if you don’t have a herb garden full of sorrel. There are plenty of substitutes in the variations below!

enough for: 2
takes: 15 minutes

2 fish fillets
2 handfuls sorrel leaves
2 handfuls grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic
1 handful pine nuts
extra virgin olive oil
green salad, to serve

1. Heat a medium frying pan on a medium high heat. Rub fish with a little oil and season with lots of salt. Cook fish for 3-4 minutes on each side or until cooked to your liking.

2. Meanwhile, for the pesto, whizz sorrel, Parmesan, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor until finely chopped. Add a good pinch of salt and add some olive oil with the motor running until you have a saucer paste. Taste and season with more salt if needed and some pepper.

3. Serve fish with a big dollop of pesto on top and salad on the side.

Variations

no sorrel? – basil or flat leaf parsley are the best substitutes or try mint or coriander (cilantro) for something a bit different. A big squeeze of lemon can make the pesto taste more fresh and lemony.

dairy-free – replace Parmesan with an extra handful of pine nuts or different nuts like almonds, cashews or Brazil nuts.

vegetarian – serve pesto with pan fried eggplant ‘steaks’ or some cooked quinoa or other grains. It’s also really lovely with poached or fried eggs or as a fresh topping for a simple omelette dinner.

carnivore – replace fish with chicken thigh or breast fillets or a good quality pork chop.

more substantial – serve with mashed or roast potatoes. Or serve fish on a bed of cooked grains such as quinoa, brown rice or farro.

What about you?

Are you into growing your own food? Got any tips on veggie growing or veggie garden design you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you! Just pop a comment below…

And I recently made my last David Tanis meal for the Summer! You can read all about the latest installment in the Jules & David Project OVER HERE.

Big love,
Jules x

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Don’t you hate it when you buy a new ingredient to use in a recipe only to end up with a big jar of ingredient cluttering your fridge? Me too.

I’m a little obsessive about keeping the random jars in my fridge to a minimum… Or at least keeping them ‘quarantined’ in the fridge door.

When I get a new ingredient, I go on a ‘mission’ to find ways to use it in other meals, easily, and with lots of tasty discoveries… my type of mission.

So when I got the following ‘request‘ from Beth last year, it reminded me that I had been neglecting a rather large tub of miso paste myself…

Hey! I was wondering if you had any dinner recipe ideas for Miso paste. I have tried putting it is a pot with tonnes of vegetables and making a stir fry, then serving it with some rice noodles – it is totally delicious. However I have had this meal a lot (and still have a giant pot of miso paste in my fridge), and I can’t think what else to do with it. Your recipes are always so creative and simple, I was wondering if you had any ideas?
Thanks, Beth

What is miso?

It’s a fermented paste made from soybeans. I read somewhere that miso and soy sauce were invented by Japanese monks to add savoury (also called ‘umami’) flavours to vegetarian food. So it’s a super useful ingredient for adding loads of flavour.

7 Delicious Ideas for Miso Paste

1. Salad dressings.
Miso adds a lovely savoury complexity to a vinaigrette. For a salad for two, whisk together 1 tablespoon sherry or wine vinegar, 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and 1 scant teaspoon of miso paste. Or try the recipe below!

2. Onions for burgers.
A super tasty way to take your burgers to the next level. I pinched this idea from fab Sydney chef Dan Hong.

Cook your onions in a little butter until soft then remove from the heat and stir in a little miso to season. About a teaspoon or 2 is usually enough… Let your tastebuds guide you.

3. Main course soup.
Miso soup is probably the first thing you think of when it comes to miso. The traditional form is a light broth usually with some seaweed and a few cubes of tofu. But miso soups can also be lovely meals in their own right…

Heat 3 cups stock to a simmer then stir in 1-2 tablespoons white miso. Then add veg, protein and/or noodles to make it more substantial. Enough for 2.

4. In marinades.
To get all those savoury flavours really embedded, use miso in a marinade. Don’t feel like this needs to be an overnight affair. Even 5 minutes can make a difference.

A good place to start is to combine 6 tablespoons white wine or mirin or Chinese Shaoxing wine with 2 tablespoons miso. Marinate enough chicken, beef or lamb for 2 people. Pan fry it or BBQ.

5. As a seasoning alternative to salt or soy sauce.
Because miso is salty it can be a great way to season and add even more flavour than you’d get from just salt.

6. In a sauce to serve with pan fried meat or fish.
I got this idea from Nigel Slater’s latest (brilliant) book called Eat. Cook the meat or fish in a little oil. Remove the pan from the heat and place protein on serving plates to rest. Stir in a tablespoon of wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons white miso and a tablespoon of hot water in with the pan juices and drizzle over your meat / fish to serve.

7. In stir frys.
As Beth mentioned, miso is super tasty in stir frys. Because it’s a bit of a delicate flower, best to cook your stir fry and remove from the heat before adding the miso.

Which miso should I buy?

There are loads of different types and to be honest I haven’t tried them all. I find that the paler the colour, the milder the flavour so I usually buy the whitest one. Also called ‘Shiro’ miso. But any miso can be used in the ideas above, you just may need less if using a darker or red paste.

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corn & miso salad-2

Corn & Miso Salad

If you’re in Oz, make sure you make this before corn season ends! It’s lovely on its own but also super tasty as a side to some BBQ salmon or other fish. If you’re in the northern hemisphere, frozen corn will also work but you may need a little more miso to tone down that super sweetness.

Inspired by the Lovely Emma Knowles from my favourite food mag – Australian Gourmet Traveller.

Enough for: 4 as a side
Takes: 30-40 minutes

3 cobs corn
1 bunch radishes
2 tablespoons miso, preferably white
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon tahini
1 bunch coriander (cilantro), torn

1. Preheat your oven to 200C (400F). Pop unpeeled corn on a tray and bake whole for 20-30 minutes or until corn kernels are hot and cooked.

2. While the corn is cooling, scrub radishes and finely slice into coin shapes using a mandoline if you have one or a sharp knife and a steady hand.

3. Mix miso, vinegar, tahini and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large bowl. Taste and season with salt or extra miso as needed.

4. When the corn is cool enough to touch, peel away the husks and ribbony silks. Cut kernels from the cob and toss in the dressing. Discard the husks.

5. Toss in the radishes and serve with coriander on top.

Variations

different vinegar – use sherry vinegar, white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar. Apple cider vinegar will also work.

frozen corn – pan fry about 2.5 cups corn kernels in a little butter until warm then toss into the dressing.

different veg – frozen peas or broad beans will also work. Sliced snow peas make a crunchy alternative to the radishes.

carnivore – toss in some crunchy bacon or serve with roast or grilled chicken.

different herbs – if you hate coriander try mint, basil or flat leaf parsley or any combo of these.

more substantial – you could toss in some cooked noodles to make it more of a meal or try adding some steamed basmati or brown rice or cooked quinoa.

no tahini – you could use almond butter or another nut butter or leave it out of the dressing and serve the salad sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Big love,
Jules x

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Have you ever ended up with lots of odds and ends of leftover wine and thought to yourself ‘I really should make some vinegar?’

Well until recently, I hadn’t either. I was happy keeping our little leftovers in the pantry to use in risottos and stews.

I think my lack of enthusiasm for home made vinegar stemmed from the fact that back in my wine making days, one of our biggest fears was accidentally turning a barrel of delicious wine into vinegar.

But when I was pregnant and there was only one wine drinker left in the house, we started to accumulate a reasonable stash of ‘cooking wine’ that was too past it to drink. And since I didn’t have a barrel shed of wine to risk spoiling, why not give home made vinegar a try?

And so I did.

It took a while but most of that time I had forgotten about my vinegar project until last year when we were moving house. Without much hope, I took a tiny sample from my jar to taste.

What a surprise!

Delicious, winey and vinegary – in a good way. More along the lines of sherry vinegar (which I adore) rather than commercial red wine vinegar (which I find way too harsh).

It’s now my favourite vinegar. And I’m actually finding myself happy not to finish the bottle at the end of the evening and save the leftovers for my vinegar stash.

So making vinegar can be good for ones liver as well! Who would have thought?

vinegar

Wine Vinegar

I’m giving you a recipe here but really it’s just a rough suggestion to get you going. This isn’t the only way so I really encourage you to experiment and do whatever works for you. Remember the acetic acid bacteria naturally want to do their job so you have nature on your side.

If you’re not a wine drinker you could buy some wine for the sole purpose of making the vinegar. Since we’re going to be oxidizing the wine and basically spoiling it, no need to get anything fancy.

makes: 1 bottle
takes: about 6 months

wine
1 large bottle or jar to store

1. Collect your wine. It’s fine to just designate a bottle and pour your leftovers in as they accumulate over the weeks or months. I think a mix of white, red and champagne makes things more interesting but just one type will still be amazing. The more air that goes into it the better so feel free to shake it as often as you think about it. I keep a lid on so I don’t end up with any flies. But keeping it open to the air with a cloth on top will speed things along.

2. When you’d got enough wine to fill your chosen storage bottle or jar about 3/4s full, it’s time to get serious!

3. The aim is to add enough air to the wine to ‘use up’ any sulfur dioxide remaining in the wine because this preservative will prevent our acetic acid bacteria from doing their job of turning the alcohol into vinegar (acetic acid). The best way to do this is to pour the wine from one vessel to another as many times as your patience allows. A funnel or a jug can make things easier but you could just use two wine bottles.

4. When you’ve had enough (try to do at least 5 pours), pour the wine into your large jar or bottle (the wider the neck the better for air transfer). Cover with some cloth or something that will keep flies out but allow air in.

5. Leave in a dark place until it tastes like vinegar. You can stir every few months (or transfer it out of the jar and back again a few times) to add more air and speed things along if you think about it. Or just do what I did and completely forget about it for 6 months.

6. When you’re happy with the flavour, transfer most of the vinegar to a clean bottle with a lid and start using it! I like to keep some to ‘seed’ my next vinegar batch.

Video Version of the Recipe

Watch on YouTube

Variations

different alcohol – technically you can make vinegar from anything that contains alcohol such as beer or cider and the method is pretty much the same. The only thing is with high alcohol beverages like vodka, you would need to dilute to get the alcohol content below about 15% because otherwise the bacteria won’t be able to grow.

wine aerator – if you have one of those wine aerators like I do, they are great for helping to get the air into your wine. And the more air, the quicker you get rid of your sulphur and the quicker your acetic acid bacteria can grow. See the video for a demo of mine.

faster – the best way to speed up the bacteria is to get more air into the wine. Warmer temperatures will also help.

using a mother – The first time I made vinegar I just used wine, so no mother like I’ve described above. But using a ‘starter’ or a vinegar that has little floaty bits in it, also called the ‘mother’ to ‘seed’ your new batch of vinegar can help get things happening quicker…

organic – if you use organic or low sulphur wine, you won’t need to aerate as much. But you can’t really over-aerate so err on the side of more.

What do you think?

Did you enjoy this post about making vinegar? Would you like to see more on home made ingredients or do you prefer recipes for meals? I’d really love to know what you think so please share your thoughts in the comments below.

And while I’ve got you, I recently completed another menu in the ‘Jules & David Project‘. You can read all about ‘Menu Nine: Yellow Hunger’ over here.

Big love,
Jules x

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