Friday, July 29, 2011

You Take The Credit Dinner Parties

With the rise of shows like Come Dine With Me, it has come to the attention of Nothing But An Apron that many households would love nothing more than to throw a fancy gourmet dinner party for all their friends and bask in the glory of their loved ones.

Steak Au Poivre, grilled vegetables and a Waldorf Salad

That's why we provide a new service called You Take The Credit Dinner Parties. From decoration to baking to cooking, all you have to do is warm up (and plate) the meals we provide you so when your guests arrive you can take all the credit. You worked hard, you deserve it! We decorate your table, provide plates & silverware if necessary (for later pickup) and even provide a detailed instruction list, with ingredients, so you can pretend you did everything and plate it up like a pro!

Starting at $200 for a two course dinner party for four, including sides, instructions and decorating (flowers add another $50), it's a good way to do none of the work and receive all the glory.

For further details call 0421 9 APRON or email me at elizabethbinary at

Remember, you didn't hear it from me!

Monday, July 25, 2011

I really hope I don't pack the chocolate before I need it.

Hello again, naked readers!

Sorry for the lack of updates and explanations of what's been going on around here lately, I have been moving - whilst simultaniously getting this blog updated for upcoming events and sales! We also have a new printout of business cards so be sure to pick some up at the Joel Salatin workshop on the 5th of August.

Don't worry, is staying right where it is, it's just the owners are moving. We will be renting a commercial kitchen until our new kitchen is approved, don't you worry.

I also got myself a job at the lovely and local Food Connect recently. A small job but I am hoping the connections and feel-good vibes at this place will really last a lifetime. For those that don't know, Food Connect is an awesome local-food-only CSA provider in the Brisbane area and one of my main contacts for last-minute produce.

For those of you that don't know, I get my produce direct from farmer at a fair price - sourcing all my produce by hand. Food Connect makes this slightly easier by having a larger variety and more sources on hand than I do and selling to me when I run short. They also provide me with my weekly CSA box, which I absolutely adore for my style of eating.

When eating from a CSA you can't always (aka never) pick what you get unless you get extras. This makes your first venture into CSA from a 'normal' diet quite difficult. Not only do you find odd pieces of food you don't know what to do with (kohlrabi seems to be the fun one - that, and yakons) but you also have to suddenly learn how to work with what you have. Gone are the days of buying at the shops what you need per meal - instead you have to work out how to change virtually every recipe to adapt to what's in the fridge so it doesn't go off. For beginners, this can be quite difficult.

When I first started this venture, I used Epicurious for my needs. I love love love cooking gourmet (NO SHIT SHERLOCK, for my next trick I'm going to invent the broom) so Epicurious was a *perfect* match for my style. It also has a nifty habit of being searchable by ingredient, food type (seeing as I'm kosher and all that) and meal type. I find, for beginner CSA-ers, this is an excellent choice to start. Especially if you really want to expand your cooking horizon.

Once you start becoming more familiar with ingredients and your own personal style (I was once referred to as 'country gourmet') then you can really begin to have fun with the CSA and, in turn, save a lot of money. Once you get in the habit, CSA becomes more of a really tasty lifestyle than a chore (which, admittedly, it can start out as).

Some useful tips for first-time CSA-ers:

Replace things in recipes with what you have on hand. This does not mean spinach is a perfect replacement for potatoes, but it does mean you can waver on *perfect matching* a recipe and actually have something that's more personal to your tastes. You might not even know what you personal tastes are yet as you try new things! A few things: onions can replace onions. SHOCKING, I know - but you can use any onion to replace any onion. Instead of going by cooking time, go by appearance (as, say, shallots will caramelize quicker) and remember flavour will change slightly (but, honestly, it may improve your meal as opposed to destroying it as some seem to think).

Replacements for potato can be sweet potato, jerusalem artichoke, even kohlrabi root, once peeled, taste good in potato-esque dishes. I find eggplant and zucchini almost perfectly replaceable by weight, minus the differences in flavour. Both taste excellent. Both can be pretty much in the same exact dishes, from noodle-less lasagne, to fried and even to baked. If grating, zucchini has slightly more water so do account for that (or simply squeeze it out).

When in doubt, stir-fries are excellent things. You can use just about anything and in general, all you have to do is throw the tough stuff in first, let it soften and then add the soft stuff. Pumpkin (which is also a good potato replacement), zucchini, eggplant, corn, cabbage - chuck it all in the wok with a tablespoon of water (maybe sesame oil) and some grated ginger, garlic and a touch of soy sauce (or what you like), serve with rice and suddenly you have an extremely healthy meal that uses up all those random veggies. It also helps you learn cooking times and delicious food combinations. Plus, you can pretty much never fail. I like to throw cooked udon noodles into mine at the very end with sesame seeds for a nice crunchy noodle-box type meal.

Use seeds and nuts. It's amazing how dishes transform into gourmet spectacles when you use a seed or nut. Pumpkin tastes surprisingly good with pumpkin. Pepita is the name for a usually roasted pumpkin seed. It has to be the only Mexican Spanish word we use in Australia. Ever. Minus jalepeno, which no Aussie can correctly pronounce. (But it's okay, I still can't figure out the proper pronounciation of have in this country - does it have an h in it or not?!) Sesame with Asian dishes, linseed with veggies or ground in fruit smoothies, pecan and walnuts with sweets, and almond goes on just about anything, provided it's flaked. Why it tastes different chopped than whole, I don't know, but it does.

Bake. Everything. I'm not kidding. If it's new, bake it. Unless it's a lettuce, then don't do that. Grill lettuce! Not actually joking here, grilled lettuce is delicious. Almost everything reveals it's true (delicious) flavour when baked or roasted (which is about 40 degrees higher than baking). This can give you a real feel for the flavours of your food, plus it almost never tastes bad.

When you have leftovers, figure out what you're going to do with them. This is key to a good relationship with your CSA box. Whether you intend on compost, preserving or chook food; you really need to figure out what to do with what you don't eat or you're going to disappoint yourself with your waste (which will gradually wane as you become familiar with CSA eating).

At first you will waste slightly more than you used to because you will go out and buy more to fit in with what you have. You needn't do this. If you work with what you have instead of buying more (I conceed to things like meat, lentiles, legumes, beans, bread, etc) you will slowly reduce your waste to nearly nothing. For preserving, remember you will most likely be working with small amounts so jarring is not practical. However, there are neat things like preserving in oil, which requires little prep and can be added to as you get more - as with mushrooms. If you have a container of preserved mushrooms, you simply add more mushrooms and flavourings to your desires and then fill over the top with more oil. Lemons can be preserved with salt. Eggplant and zucchini can both be grated on a mandolin and dried for an almost chip-like snack that'll keep a week or two in the pantry. Admittedly, I've eaten some after a few months back there. They were delicious. Making ice cream is also an excellent way to preserve food and, bonus, you have an excuse to make and eat ice cream.

You can also make veggie stock out of just about any veggie. The basics are carrot, onion and celery and even those are replacable. I've made delicious stocks out of eggplant, kale and corn cobs before. You really can use anything. So it's not 'proper stock' or whatever the chefs will tell you - it's still delicious, salt free, and works. Pop it on the stove, covered with water, boil twenty minutes, allow to cool and then strain. Use the soggy leftovers for chickens (except the obvious, like corn cobs and onion skins) or compost (except the obvious like corn cobs and onion skins).

Bread. Corn bread. Zucchini Bread. Pumpkin Bread. Bread with peppers and bits of corn in it. Bread with cheese and onions. Potato bread. Bread has the added bonus of being freezable as well.

Avocado and banana can both replace egg in cakes and breads. 1/2 avocado or 1 whole medium banana per egg. Both taste excellent with chocolate and here at Nothing But An Apron chocolate is a food group (and so is butter), so eat plenty!

This is just a couple basics to help you on your way; I will probably do a more in-depth report on CSA eating to reduce wasting and expense and increase health, but not right now... I've already shirked packing for long enough.

See you on the other side of the fence!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Henrieta is a Cockrieta or How To Not Buy Poultry or How Many Jokes About Cock Can I Make In One Post?

Long have I wanted a beautiful fat white sussex hen to lay my eggs. I daydreamed longingly to my husband, "Oh wouldn't it be nice to have a beautiful fat white sussex hen to lay my eggs?" So he bought me one. I loved her from day one! I named her Henrieta because that's so passe it's cool (in my world, anyway).

Henrieta is a cock. A cockameme cock. A cock-a-doodle-do. A wing. A wang. A cock.

Henrieta is crowing. Now, see, where we lave we have these limit things and well, my limit is two little tiny roosterlets, one of which I named Princess, because he is. His favourite things are purple and running from bugs. Princess. He is a he. Henrieta is not a she. Thus, we have to choose between two very big long fat cockameme choices. To pull out or to give her up for adoption.

We chose to leave before it was too late and the rooster made damn sure we weren't welcome back. I love my little Henrieta, what can I say? She's the best damn cock I've ever had. She doesn't attack or try to spur you. Plus, she's half white and half black and you know what they say about that? She's purebred.

So now our little cute $30 laying hen has turned into a $1200 moving trip, provided we stay around what we want to spend for our new place - but it's not looking like it. Remember, I need a commercial kitchen. (Or at least commercial-able) That makes houses with land in my pricerange a tad scarce.

So, thank you Henrieta, for being such a cock.

Friday, July 15, 2011

How to Create Sourdough Starter

Let's lay this shit out like it is. Sourdough starter is so simple yet the directions for it are so incredibly long, complicated and confusing on the internet and/or in books that you don't even want to bother! So here's what you need:

Nothing But An Apron


Using a clean jar, fill with 50g water and 50g flour. Stir. Cover.


dd 50g water and 50g flour. Stir. Cover.


Add 100g water and 100g flour. Stir. Cover.

Add 200g water and 200g flour. Stir. Cover.


Discard all but 200g of your starter. You can use this to make pancakes if you want, but it will be weak.

Every day after this for another three weeks, take away half the starter (100g) and add back the same amount in new feed (50g water, 50g flour). Whatever you take away, you can use!

If you want to keep it longer after the initial 3 weeks (by which time it should be insanely bubbly and gobble up your food) put it in the fridge and take out the night before you wish to use it and give it a feed then. You'll only need to feed it once every week or two when it's in the fridge this way. You can also dehydrate it as a dried yeast.

If you get a layer of water on the top, put it in a warmer place and add a tablespoon of flour, mixed well.

If the starter fails to start, retry with a two inch long piece of rhubarb in the jar with the original mixture and throw out on Day 2. Yeast feeds on acids so that'll kickstart the process.

You can start cooking with it by day 5 when you throw out the large batch, but it won't be the texture you're familiar with. The quality will be slightly lesser than an older yeast. Don't expect miracle bread at this time but do expect a nice bread anyway. Even a poor beginner starter is nicer than most commercial ones. I recommend using the first starters for pancakes and waffles, so you're not relying on the natural yeast as much.

If it smells sour, it's still good, you just really shouldn't use that batch in baking. Compost it. A refeed should clear that smell.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Insert Witty Title Here About Friday and Weekends and Updates

So - a whole heap is going on at the Main Headquarters (HeadQuarters?) of Nothing But An Apron that it's almost impossible to keep up. Except it's all happening to me, so if I don't keep up I'm a little screwed. Buggery.

First and foremost I booked a couple tickets to see Joel Salatin in Beerwah on the 5th of August, for any of you who have also planned to attend this full day workshop. As I was booking the tickets I noticed the cutest sentence ever, "If you are coming to this workshop as someone who produces the kind of food products that this workshop is all about, you are welcome to bring some of your produce along for others to try." And I thought to myself, "Wow, I'm coming to that workshop! Wow, I'm someone who produces food this workshop is all about! And wow, I can bring my produce along for others to try!"

So now you, too, can be the lucky taster of Nothing But An Apron cookery as well as get a good stern talkin' to by Joel Salatin. It's like two gifts in one!

This picture has nothing to do with what I'm saying but nobody reads blogs without pictures.

As an added bonus it looks like we might be getting local flour here in our kitchen very very soon. Which means our pastas, raviolis, pies, and other floury goods will be 100% Brisbane local. Awesome. Screw this 'Made in Australia' (Packaged in China) honkey - you won't be able to get fresher than that. Just imagine how bread made of local flour will taste! Nice fresh wheat. Yumm-o!

So, citrus is still in season and I've got over five litres of gorgeous indian pickle coming into deliciousness which will be selling at markets for $6 for a 250mL jar. This pickle is special because it uses all types of local lemons - including our native bush lemon. Those buggers have thorns so picking them isn't easy, which is why they're not a more marketable crop. Plus they have slightly thicker skins which means the pickle takes longer to soften the rind - which again means lost money in bigger agricultural ventures. However this translates to you being able to get it from me. Sweet. Well, spicy actually.

The chickens here at HQ (I have always wanted to call it that - River Cottage is going to sue me) have been going on strike but managing to lay *just* enough to keep my cooking afloat. It's like they're saying "*bok you*" to our personal larder though. I'm not sure if chickens can even be malicious like that but they also eat chicken, so who can trust them? I think a goose is making a nest but in the tiniest spot it's never going to fit into ever. Yet - pile of goose feathers. Remember these are the same birds that start screaming because they lost each other around the effing corner of the house. For real.

Winter means it's been extra nice for roasts, what with getting 10kg of potatoes the other day (right from the farmer, who was plowing the field as we arrived). Chickens broke into the veggie patch once more and eaten all my ripe tomatoes because if they're going to stop giving me eggs, they're going to take my tomatoes with them. Australian Brekky is looking decidedly unbalanced.

All in all it's been a fantastic week - lots of new recipes to write down for our upcoming cookbook. Lots of teasers being written up for you to try from our blog. Lots of public appearances and tastings planned for the near future. Plus, we have cake.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sourdough Lavender Chocolate Cake

This cake has only been in my production line for roughly two weeks and it's already my biggest hit to date. Within the first day of offering it, I already had to quadruple my production of it in anticipation of the future sales. Quite possibly one of the easier cakes to make as well; if you have sourdough starter on hand, that is.

First, you do need to have a sourdough starter for this cake, which is what makes it so moist and fluffy and really brings out the chocolate flavour. Making sourdough is, I will admit, both way more difficult and way more easy than people make it out to be. It's difficult in the sense that if you don't know what you're doing - you think you've failed when you haven't. Seeing that layer of water on top of your starter is enough to scare the pants off any new baker - but trust me when I say that doesn't mean it's dead! It just means it's cold or needs a touch more flour in it.

Sourdough starters are easily enough made but the first two weeks are crucial. You can begin making bread after a week but the truth is, the older your sourdough, the better the bread (and cake, and pancake). This cake REQUIRES at least a 3 week old sourdough to create the effect of crumb, texture and flavour you want. I will post a recipe on how to make sourdough starter in the very near future but until then here's a link.

The reason sourdough needs to be a bit agey for this recipe is simple. A good starter will react to the bicarb in the recipe and create a fluffy but moist cake and provide a great deal of rise when the cake bakes. Sometimes it's risen to 2 or 3 times it's size! The older your starter, the less batter you'll need to pour into your prepared tin. I've gotten four cakes out of a triple batch before instead of the expected three!

Sourdough Lavender Chocolate Cake


1 cup sourdough starter (fed one hour prior to baking, make sure it's gotten lots of volume in the jar before beginning)
1c milk
2c flour
1c sugar (I actually infuse my sugar with lavender for this cake so I get a double hit of lavender-y goodness without having to over-use the buds themselves. If you do not have infused sugar, double the lavender)
2tbs lavender buds
1tsp vanilla bean paste
1c vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
3/4c cocoa powder
2 large farm free range eggs

Combine starter, milk, flour, sugar and lavender into a bowl and allow to sit for about an hour or until a good reaction starts bubbling away. I put the lavender in early so it infuses with the sourdough and makes the taste strong but not bath-tubby as lavender can sometimes be. You can let it sit for up to 8 hours before the reaction stops, which infuses the lavender flavour even more. It really depends on how strong you want it, or how thrifty you're feeling with your lavender, which can be a tricky ingredient to get if you don't grow your own. I've gotten away with one tablespoon lavender (and lavender sugar) for two cakes letting it infuse for 5 hours.

Preheat oven to 160c fan forced, 180c regular, 320f fan forced or 350F regular. Gas mark people can take care of themselves, damnit.

In a mixer (or with a bowl and wooden spoon if you're not as lazy as me) with the bubbling 'sponge', as bakers call it, add the last of the ingredients except for the bicarbonate and salt.

Sift the bicarb and salt in a small bowl and set aside while you prepare your pans. The reason for doing this is sourdough grows from bicarbonate and expands immediately and salt kills yeast so you do not want to put it in before this if you want your cake to rise nicely. If you're going for a denser cake, put the salt in sooner.

This recipe should be held in a 23cm (or a 9.05511811 inch pan for you Imperialists) nicely but if your sourdough is older you're going to want to line the pan with parchment up the sides to prevent overspill (alternatively: use two pans and make a double layer cake). The pan itself does not need parchment and I find that it sticks a little more than just regular ol' oil spray (but really really don't use the cheap supermarket brand. That creates so much watery moisture it kills the cake - find a decent spray or, better, put a few drops of oil in the pan and swish around. The cake shrinks a little from the edges when fully baked so it doesn't need too much help here.)

When everything is prepared, mix in the last two reserved ingredients well and place in the oven for about 35 minutes. When you stick a cake tester in it and it comes out clean and the edges have started to pull away from the sides of the pan, you know you're done. Wait until mostly cool (because, honestly, can anyone wait until 'completely cool'?), cut the top flat and invert onto a pan so the bottom becomes the top.

Frost. I used a combination of sugar, butter and honey for this frosting - and I find the honey accents the lavender and chocolate excellently, but you do what you want and like best. Admittedly, I'm not a frosting fan and I will eat the cake as-is. But the majority of people fill ripped off if they don't get a giant dollop of frosting on their cake.

Now what to do with all those cake-tops I keep cutting off......

At the markets:

1 slice - $6
1 slice + coffee - $8
Whole cake - $35

Monday, July 4, 2011

A rant about citrus. And recipes!

I am driven by productivity. I can't call it a day unless I can say I was productive. I think it's all that Jewish guilt I didn't get as a child finally catching up with me.

I will moan to my husband, who is covered in grease and G-d-knows-what-else, "I am so upset! I did nothing today. Like, I did 2 loads of laundry, baked three cakes, reorganized the pantry and paid all the bills but that was LIKE IT. Other than that, I sat on my ass." And he's not really sure what to say. I'm sure he wants to yell at me and say, "You moron! I am covered in diesel fuel because I worked all day on my feet and didn't even get a lunch and you complain because you DID NOTHING?! I want to smack you!" Instead he says, "Aww, it's okay honey. You always do a lot. You can do more tomorrow." Which is just weird. But exactly what I need. Which is why we're married, probably.

So today I find myself with just an ever-so-slight surplus of citrus.

I have no concept of restraint.

Do you know what you can do with citrus? Well. NOT FUCKING MUCH. There, I fricken said it. Why are there not more posts on "TEH INTARNET" about this? I see, over and over again, some poor sad soul bemoaning their lemon, lime and/or orange tree asking for recommendations of what to do with their glut and the replies they get are from people who clearly have no idea what a 'glut' is or just how many G-DDAMN FRUIT a tree produces. Let me put it in perspective. Each tree will produce about a thousand fruit in one season. People tend to have about THREE OR FOUR trees if they have one. This box of fruit? This PILE of fruit? Is not even 1/10th of what was currently ripe on one tree.

So when people ask for recipes and someone replies with, "Why don't you put one in a chicken!?" You just kinda wanna smack them. One, you probably already thought of that and two, what the ever loving crap do you do with the other 4000 fricken lemons you have? Make 4000 roast chickens?

Marmalade, you say? Marmalade? Okay... about 5 lemons produce a jar of marmalade. How much marmalade do you eat? Suckiest thing for me is I dislike marmalade. I don't like that I dislike marmalade because citrus season is just so. damned. productive. I wish I loved marmalade. I wish I could eat it out of the jar with a spoon. But the truth is - I just end up with 40 jars of marmalade leftover every year I sell in the markets or to greedy friends. And I feel weird (very weird) selling something I don't even like. Everyone seems to love it, at least. But it's a dirty secret of mine, "Here, buy this jar of stuff I don't eat! People say it's delicious!"

This is why I love Indian people. Hello there, random logic jump. Come with me. There are these amazing things like this amazing lemon pickle from Indian Food Rocks (and they have lime too!). I found an enlarged version of the recipe that asks for forty lemons. Forty! Now that's what I'm talking about, people. Plus - it's a fun rare treat that can be spicy, sour, salty and just plain amazing. And I love me some spicy food. And Indian people. You see where I went with that?

This recipe only asks for 4 oranges but it also only makes 6 cups of orange (which includes the liquid which you probably aren't skulling like an alcoholic). Bloody delicious, if you ask me. Like winter in a jar. But you can eat it in summer! I would make a quadruple batch of this if I were you so you can tuck it away until summer when you really want an orange and, like me, don't buy out of season from the markets.

See, the main problem I have with citrus-y recommendations is they are so boring. Orange cake. Done it. Marmalade. We discussed this. Eat one whole. Not even remotely helpful, people. The other problem is the rest of the recipes, like candied peels, are a fricken nightmare when you're doing it to 400 fruit. 5-10 is easy enough. Peel. Peel. Peel. But after about 7 or 8, your hands start to wrinkle and then, after about 15, you're pretty sure you've managed to pickle your fingerprints. Wear gloves, you say? Well, you wear gloves while peeling oranges with a tiny filet knife. See how exact you are. Yeah, I thought so. But hey, at least I can commit crimes and not get caught now, which'll totally help my business.

Then, there is this holy grail of "I can't believe how delicious this is and yet, how random it is we don't make it in the Western World because we're too afraid to try new things." Fifty lemons, people. FIFTY. Now that's a recipe. Oh yeah, and this shiz is fricken delicious.

And there's the classic preserved lemons. Anybody with a lemon tree should know about this, as it's simple, delicious and uses a good amount of lemons (and limes, and oranges, to different effect).

And of course, just to be a dick about the whole thing, some recipes I want to try I can't even read.

So when my husband asks if I did anything, I will say no. Because I "Only made 200 lemons into 5 different varieties of spicy Indian pickles and preserved them for future use for the next millenia." and he will feel sorry for me.