Tuesday, February 8, 2011

In the Kitchen....

I've recently been enjoying a renewed interest in back-to-basics cooking: learning to make everyday things from scratch.  After getting a bit lazy over the holidays, we're back to making our own bread, and I'm making yogurt again.  This weekend, I felt like I was in the kitchen for entire afternoons.  A bit ridiculous, considering how insanely hot it was.  I thought about the women of our great-grandmother's generation and how they would have spent long days preserving and making sauces and jams in the late-summer heat.  I was lucky to be in shorts and not a long Victorian skirt, no?


At any rate, two of my new ventures were making homemade crackers and tomato relish.  I'd never experienced tomato relish in the States, but in New Zealand, it seems to be a pantry staple.  You can use it on crackers with cheese, in pasta sauces, or anyplace you would use ketchup.  Believe me, it is soooo much better than ketchup.  Heinz is out.  Tomato relish is in.


Our family's lovely auntie talked me though the final steps, and in the end, I felt quite proud of the joint effort (Jake for growing the tomatoes, me for preserving them, and Auntie Shelley for teaching me how.)


And crackers -- really pretty easy.  I've become aware recently of how many ingredients even the healthiest crackers have, and in the interest of simplifying and eating fewer preservatives and additives, I think homemade crackers are the way to go.  Hopefully I'll have the patience to keep these going -- they were delicious and felt like much more of a special treat than store-bought crackers.

I used the recipe from Alison Holst's "Dollars and Sense" cookbook -- one of my best and most often used purchases from the flea market.  She calls for two cups of white flour, but I used half white and half wholemeal (wholewheat) flour and that worked fine.


Homemade Crackers
1 cup white flour
1 cup wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
25 g cold butter
1 Tbs golden syrup or malt
about 1/2 cup water (I used more)

Mix dry ingredients well.  Rub in cold butter.  Mix the golden syrup with the water and add in slowly until the mixture is damp enough to form a roll-able dough.  Roll out thinly, using flour to keep the dough from sticking.  Cut into shapes with a cookie cutter or knife.  Prick each cracker in a few places and bake on a lightly greased tray for 10-15 minutes until golden.  Cool and store in an airtight container (if you don't eat them all first.)

And finally, I found myself out in the studio a few nights ago really and truly intending to do some serious work.  But I was confronted by my stack of thrifted plates and some leftover paint that would have dried out had I not used it immediately (I swear!).....so I played around a bit more, with better results than the first time.  Rather than fight the tacky, quick-drying texture of the paint, I just avoided layering all together. I have to remind myself that complicated doesn't = good.  Sometimes (meaning usually) simple is best.


I hope your week is off to a good start. x Jen