Sunday, 22 March 2015

Home Cooking with Mustard and Chicory


Have you ever wondered how to make mustard from mustard seeds?

Black and yellow mustard seeds
If not and you eat mustard, you might be surprised to learn that you can make your own whole grain mustard.
Not only is it easy and cheap, but you can play around with different flavours and make yourself a gourmet mustard.
Let’s start the lesson on making your own mustard. I'm talking with herb expert with Ian Hemphill from

There are three types of mustard seed-brown (Brassica juncea) , white (Brassica alba is actually yellow) and black-(Brassica nigra.)
Brown and yellow are normally used for culinary use.
The heat in mustard is released on activation of enzymes which create the myrosinase.
When you fry mustard seeds until they pop, the enzymes are killed off.
Useful for cooking without the heat of mustard but just the nutty flavour.

To make your own wholegrain mustard.
Step 1: Soak the mustard seeds (yellow or brown seeds) in cold water to activate the enzyme.
Step 2 : After 15-20 minutes add vinegar which will stop the enzyme reaction.
Mustard seed mixture and red wine vinegar about to be added

Step 3: Give this mixture a little bit of a grind with a mortar and pestle-just enough to crack the seeds so they take up the moisture.
Step 4.Add dried herbs, or chilli
Step 5: Let that set for a few weeks for the flavour to develop.
Step 2 alternative-white wine vinegar or verjuice are alternatives to  plain white vinegar.

You can buy "make your own mustard" mix from Herbies Spices in Rozelle.
This mix is what I used and contains brown and yellow mustard seedsm green peppercorns, allspice, tarragon, sugar, ajowan seeds and salt.
It's already been pre-cracked so the vinegar gets soaked up immediately.

Alternatively you grow Brassica juncea in your home garden. These are mustard greens and have plenty of heat in the leaf to give you quite a bit of punch on your ham sandwich.
A mustard stone mill is out of the reach of the domestic market so don't be disappointed if you like the smooth mustards, because you won’t be able to get it quite as smooth as the ones you can buy off the shelf.
It will still be pretty good because you made it yourself.
There’ll be a little graininess still left.
If you have any questions about cleaning your garden tools or a photo of some tools that you want help with, send it in to or write in to 2RRR P.O. Box 644 Gladesville NSW 1675.


Chicory! Cichorium intybus
Have you ever eaten chicory?
What do you do with it other than give it to your chooks-apparently the leaf chicory is very good for them?
Did you know that there’sactually two types of chicory, both of which I consider a vegetable.
There’s the leafy type and the one where the tap root is used more.
But let’s begin with some interesting facts.
Chicory comes from the daisy or Asteraceae family, and like dandelion, chicory has been grown since ancient times as a pot herb.
A pot herb is one you put in a pot along with your meats and vegetables and cook together for a while-usually a long while.
Chicory is most likely native to the Mediterranean region and it’s an interesting plant because it’s been used in coffee substitutes and additives where the roots were baked and ground.
You probably didn’t realise that Chicory used as a coffee substitute during the Great Depression in the 1930s and during World War II in Continental Europe.

Do you realise that if you’ve ever drunk a coffee substitute, like Caro, then you’ve drunk roasted chicory root?
Some beer brewers even use roasted chicory to add flavour to stouts.
Some other beer brewers have added it to strong blond Belgian-style ales, to add flavour to the hops, making a "witlofbier", from the Dutch name for the plant.

So how come chicory can be used as a coffee substitute?

Chicory contains two polysaccharide, inulin and fructose.
When these are roasted, inulin is converted to something called oxymethylfurfurol, and this gives off that coffee-like aroma.
Did you know that the first person to grow and process chicory in Australasia was Edwin William Trent (1839 - 1883)?
Eddy or Edwin, operated a steam coffee mill in Nelson in New Zealand, and later moved to Christchurch where he established the first steam coffee mill in Australasia in1863.
How it worked was by coke fired furnaces in kilns producing hot drying air.
This hot air passed up through the chicory roots which had been cut into small cubes and laid on floors of perforated tiles.
The steaming chicory had to be turned every two hours and five tons of green root were needed to produce one ton of kiln-dried root.
After the drying process was over, the chicory was taken to where the roasting and grinding was done and the chicory blended with expensive coffee imported from the West Indies, South America and Africa to make the coffee and chicory essence.
Did you also know that Chicory, or Cichorium intybus, was grown as a crop on Phillip Island for nearly 100 years from the 1870s?If you’ve visited Philip Island you’ll see some unusual small brick towers dotted about the island.
These are chicory kilns, once used in drying chicory dock.Are you thinking, I’m not going to bother drying and roasting the chicory root, what on earth do I need to grow this ahem, vegetable?
Chicory is actually a nutritious food.
The leaves of the chicory plant can be eaten in salads to add flavour and crunch. It can also be lightly roasted in olive oil.
You can buy seeds of Chicory “Red Dandelion: this plant has red stems with deeply cut frilly deep green leaves.
As a microgreen or ‘baby leaf’ this variety adds great flavour to salads and it’s a colourful addition to any mesclun mix.
If you get the red variety,  it’s one of the few red leafy vegetables that keeps the crimson colour when cooked.
Chicory ‘Red Palla Rossa’ is a small heading chicory, 8 - 10 cm across .The bright red, very tight heads have prominent white midribs. It has a slightly bitter, tart taste.
As a ‘baby leaf’ they add great flavour to salads.
There’s also the coffee chicory plant or Chicory Coffee 'Magdeburg' which also has the same botanical name of Cichorium intybus.
This chicory is also a frost hardy plant but with a long taproot topped by a  whorl of oblong, broadly toothed, milky-sapped leaves.
The flowers are on top of 1 ½ metre tall,  zig-zagging flowering stems with a few sparsely placed leaves and lots of sky-blue to purple flowers.
Flowering is mostly in summer and the 50 cent-sized flowers open at the beginning of the day but close as the heat becomes intense.
Chicory plants flower for several months and the flower looks quite a lot like a purply-blue dandelion flower.
Like dandelion, the seeds are spread by wind. Also, like dandelion, the leaves are concentrated in a whorl, just above the soil surface.
If you really wanted to you could dry and roast the roots then grind them for a coffee substitute.
The leaves and young roots can also be cooked as vegetables.
The roots can grow up to 30 cm long and weigh as much as 1 kg.
The one I have in my garden has been there for over a year so I’m guessing that it’s going to have a heavy large underground root.
Chicory is a hardy vegetable and frost tolerant but does wilt a bit on hot days.
It’s a useful cool season crop to add interest to winter salads.
To grow the leafy Chicory, for sub-tropical areas, April to June is the time to sow,  in Temperate areas March until May, for Arid areas June to August, and Cool temperate districts, sow late summer to mid-autumn.
In all cases sow the seeds directly where they are to grow.
So to grow Chicory you need a well drained, deep soil.
Chicory will also grow on heavier soils as long as they’re not likely to get waterlogged for extended periods.
If you’re wondering where to buy the seeds of coffee chicory, there are some stores that sell them if they carry an Italian seed line otherwise online seed suppliers do so as well.

If you’re growing the coffee chicory, the fleshy taproot of the first year’s growth is dug up in winter, dried, ground and roasted.
(Roast the roots on low heat (around 250 C) until crisp, then grind with a little roasted barley (around 400F or so) for a wholesome coffee substitute.
It contains no caffeine and just adds bulk to coffee, although its bitter flavour can give bland coffee a bit more "bite".)
Here’s an interesting fact: Coffee is readily available now in all types of strengths but until the 1960s, before instant coffee was invented, coffee and chicory essence was a popular alternative to using roasted coffee beans.
Do you remember that thick black liquid with a very distinctive attractive aroma and sold in squarish bottles with a blue label?
It was often drunk with sweetened condensed milk

Why is Chicory, or Cichoricum intybus good for you?
One of the major functions of chicory is to increase the body’s ability to absorb calcium.
The leafy greens of chicory are a good source of calcium and vitamin K;
They also contain folate and like other green vegetables chicory contains good
amounts of potassium.
Chicory is also good for the digestion.


Rooftop gardens in Granada, Spain. photo M Cannon
with landscape designer Christopher Owen
Rooftop Gardens-pt2

So you want a rooftop garden maybe on your garage or on your house even, because it’s got a flat roof.
What practical considerations are involved?
What materials will be right for up there for your plants to grow in?
What plants won’t work up there?
Let’s find out some more….

There are all sorts of products like drainage cell instead that you can use instead of the heavier aggregate that you would normally use in a raised garden bed.

Irrigation and taking the water off the roof when there’s too much is of utmost importance.


with Karen Smith from and Jeremy Critchley, owner of

Do you like Petunias but they grow too lanky for you and you keep forgetting to pinch of the dead flowers so new flowers can grow?
This plant of the week is like a petunia on steroid
Calibrachoa Aloha Sweet Cherry, photo Jeremy Critchley
s but with smaller flowers that are self-cleaning.

Yep, when the flowers finish they fall off themselves.
With trade names like Superbells, million bells, cherry chimes – this plant sounds like it’s something you need to have at least one of in your garden.
Let’s find out about some more…..

Calibrachoa is a genus of plants in the Solanaceae (nightshade) family.
They are evergreen short-lived perennials and subshrubs with a sprawling habit, with small petunia-type flowers.
In fact they’re closely related to Petunias.
These flowers are native to South America as are petunias; mainly from southern Brazil across to Peru and Chile, growing in scrub and open grassland.
While Calibrachoa ‘million bells’ ‘cherry bells’ and so on, might be a fairly new species, this dazzling little plant is a must-have in the garden.
Its name comes from the fact that it has hundreds of small, bell-like flowers which look like miniature petunias.
Its trailing habit makes it perfect for use in hanging baskets, containers or as a small area ground cover.Flowering -Early spring to late autumn in warmer climates.


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