Monday, February 28, 2011

Harvesting...

One day's harvest from the garden, I love the way it is a little bit of everything and not too much of one thing.

Potatoes, beetroot, corn, tomatoes, eggs, zucchini, beans and silverbeet
Our lebanese cucumbers are also starting to arrive, some of which I'm looking forward to pickling. We're also harvesting kale, which has made a comeback from the assault of the white cabbage moth caterpillar and we are still collecting small amounts of strawberries every few days.

These are a few things that we've been enjoying eating with the produce lately:
Minestrone - with everything!, fresh corn on the cob (SO good!), tomato feta  & basil salads with balsamic dressing, satay hokkien noodles with stir fried vegies,  zucchini slice,  pickled beetroot  and margherita pizzas made with roasted tomato passata and fresh oregano.

I'm off to pickle some more beetroot and make up a pot of chicken and sweetcorn soup.

Happy Monday :)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Roasted Tomato Passata & Tomato Jam

Earlier this week I processed those ripe, fresh tomatoes that had come our way. I decided that a roasted tomato passata and some tomato jam would be the best way to use them up. Just a small quantitiy of each, but enough to keep me satisfied until the next appearance of tomatoes makes it's way here...


Roasted Tomato Passata

To start off with, my tomatoes (2kg) were placed on a lined baking tray, along with a few cloves of garlic and then drizzled with olive oil, sea salt and pepper. They were roasted on 180c for around 50 minutes, until the skins were shrivelled and they were starting to blacken.


I turned the oven off and opened the door to allow them to cool a little while I got breakfasts ready and dropped kids off at school....

Back home again, the tomatoes were loaded up in small batches into the food mill and sieved using a medium disc. I think next time I'll use the finer disc as quite a few seeds got through and I couldn't be bothered changing discs! The garlic was also squeezed out of the skins and added in with the tomatoes.

Remember to scrape off the tomatoey goodness from underneath the food mill and don't forget to feed the skins and seeds to the chooks or add to the compost.

After pureeing:

The passata was then placed into jars and processed in the Fowlers Vacola, with half a tablespoon of lemon juice added to each jar to raise the acidity (for storage safety). The taste of the roasting really comes out in the passata and I'm  looking forward to using it as a ready made sauce on homemade pizzas!

Tomato Jam

I had a 'thing' in my head that I wanted to make some Tomato Jam..the kind of delicious condiment to go along side scrambled eggs on toast, savoury fritters, barbequed meat and so forth. I'm not sure what makes a jam different to a chutney..if someone can tell me I would be most appreciative! Is it the addition of sultanas that make a chutney a chutney? I'm confused! Anyhow, I'm calling this one a jam because that's where I'm at with it...

Ingredients
(this is what I had on hand and what my tastes prescribed, you are welcome to adapt the recipe to suit your own tastes)
1.7kg fresh, ripe tomatoes, *skinned seeded and chopped
1 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 - 2 tsp ground cumin
1/2-1 tsp ground chilli, or fresh if available, to taste
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbs finely grated ginger
200ml malt vinegar
200g brown sugar


*Skinned and seeded tomatoes - remove cores and score skin. Blanch briefly in simmering water and refresh in cold water. Slip the skins off with a paring knife, cut tomato in half and squeeze out seeds. Feed the seeds and skins to the chooks or add to the compost.
In a pot place the tomatoes, garlic, ginger and a pinch of salt. Simmer for around 30 minutes until the tomatoes have cooked down a little.

Add the vinegar, brown sugar, spices (which could be dry fried first if you are organised, unlike me), and simmer for another 40-60 minutes until mixture is thick and rounds up on a spoon. Place into sterilized jars and process. Again I used the Fowlers unit although a 15 minute water bath for both the passata and jam would also be fine.

Tomato Jam - or is it a chutney?

Can be enjoyed straight away, although flavour will improve if left in a dark cupboard for a couple of weeks for flavours to mellow and mingle together. Store in the fridge once opened.

Yield: Passata 3 x 425ml jars, Jam 3 x small pesto jars

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spinning Yarns...

Sometime ago a seed was planted in my inner craft being. It grew and grew until now I feel almost ready to explode unless I harvest it (I told you it grew!). Something in me has magnetised and I am finding myself being pulled towards fanciful ideas of spinnning yarn into cosy items of knitting and crochet. Perhaps it was the friend up the road who talks about knitting clothes with her own wool..or the Yarn magazines I've been borrowing from the library lately filled with pictures of gorgeous homepun yarns..or ideas of keeping an animal..any kind of animal (a goat, rabbit..anything!), solely for the purpose of using their fibre. Crazy? Quite possibly!

How far will a person go who has no clue on anything to do with spinning?

She will buy 7 enormous bags of Alpaca fleece from her friend without even seeing it, not knowing that alpaca is one of the most trickiest fleeces to spin..and most definitely not for a beginner! tsk, tsk!

She will be up late, late at night when she should be tucked up cosily in bed, searching YouTube videos on primitive ways to spin because her heart is still palpatating since she discovered the price of spinning wheels.

She toys with the idea of using that alapca fleece..because that is what she has on hand. 7 bags full!

She stares into space and ponders deeply when loved ones ask "are you really going to spin on a chopstick?"


Homemade top whorl spindle, price - under $1.

"Well...as a matter of fact...Yeah!!" You know why? It works! It really does!!

Raw sheep wool, a crude attempt at two-ply.
Spin two long lengths of 'single' yarn together and suddenly we have 'plied' yarn. Just like from the shops! Well, in my case, not quite how it comes from the shops. But you get my drift...

A primitive yarn
See...up there.. the little twisties in my *ahem* alpaca yarn? Chopsticks really do work! Try it, if you too have been entertaining ideas of sitting by a sunny window, spinning away an afternoon with the gentle meditative motion that (apparently) spinning brings, but don't have a spinning wheel anywhere in sight.....


USEFUL LINKS:

More info:
Types of drop spindles

Getting started:
Instructables - Make an Awesome Drop Spindle

What next:
How to spin on a drop spindle (YouTube)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Small Chubby One

I found this little guy growing in the garden recently. I watered him well and watched him grow. I've never grown an eggplant before (I always thought the climate here was too cold), the warm, humid weather of late agreed with him and he swelled up nicely.


A fine specimen. But what to do with him?


He was just as handsome on the inside as he was on the outside...


A concoction of delicious spices, garlic and ginger. Some fresh tomatoes and coconut cream, oh and of course some toasted, shredded coconut. Lastly some kaffir lime leaves fresh from the tree..

Simmer away, oh delicious one.


 Oh, yes, simmer away...

Coconut Epplant Curry with homegrown eggplant, tomatoes, garlic and kaffir lime leaves

Our Small Chubby One did not dissapoint. For quantities and method, pop by Cityhippyfarmgirl
 and take a look at Brydie's  Coconut Eggplant Curry recipe.

My only changes were to use 600g of chopped fresh tomatoes, some crushed fenugreek which is my curry spice of choice lately and a little chilli ;)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Happy Weekend!

A few pictures of what's been occupying my mind lately..

Four kilos of homegrown tomatoes from a fellow gardener, what to do with them?

What to do....?

The 11yo has started a roadside stand with her (my??) homegrown plants and today we placed some eggs out the front..they were gone in half an hour!! Her second customer has just driven away as I type..


Along with a bunch of fresh herbs and a strawberry plant and some more eggs (plus a tip! Who leaves a tip for eggs??), she has made herself $11.00 pocket money today! As you can imagine, she was positively beside herself with excitement!!

The plant stand - $2 a pot or two for $3.50

Would you believe that one of the ducks below is from the eggs that were hatched late last year?


It's so hard to tell the new one apart..I really struggle now!

A tunic top for the 9yo - very quick to put together (a little on the wrinkly side as it just came out of the wash).

McCalls Easy stitch'n'save - M6009

There is a bit of a ric-rac theme happening here lately...I confess to becoming addicted.

I've pulled out the knitting needles this week and started work on a 'Man Vest', but it's for no man...nope this one's for me!


This is the first time I've tried changing colours while knitting...I had always put it off thinking it was too complicated but it's actually really easy - just carry the different coloured yarns loosely up the sides..that's it!! See, easy! It's a good one to knit while watching telly in the evenings because I don't have to really look at what I'm doing.


Hope your weekend has been a good one! What's been happening in your world?  :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Bedsheet Dress and Hat

A week or so ago, a friend's daughter was having a birthday. I couldn't resist hacking *gasp* into my beloved bedsheet from when I was a small girl that mum still had in her cupboard! When my girls were younger I used to love making them little outfits and to be honest, I probably got more joy out of making the clothes than they ever got wearing them...although occassionally I would seem to strike a winner which would be in the wash basket every couple of days..

I wish the pictures were a little brighter..it's been really overcast here lately, ahh well...


I couldn't decide on what colour trim to use and in the end took the 11yo with me to the shop where she chose bottle green rick-rack (kind of hard to see in the pic).


I was thinking it would be a stressful experience the moment  my scissors met the bedsheet of my childhood, but it was surprisingly liberating..kind of like shedding a skin not being used anymore. I'm so glad I've pulled it out for another life. I hope she likes it!

Monday, February 14, 2011

The February Garden - show & tell

It's been a bit of a while since I've posted some garden pics...it has really gone crazy in the last few weeks!


Our corn is cobbing up and we wait patiently for them to ripen. This bed also has some volunteer tomatoes and potatoes growing, along with nasturtiums and sunflowers (from the poultry grain).


Rhubarb is slowly getting bigger and stronger. This was a cutting from a friend's garden and apparently it only grows red stalks! It's pretty tasty, I have even found a rhubarb eating buddy in the youngest..she loves it!


Pumpkins are starting to form small fruit. The one above is actually a volunteer that popped up from the compost - no idea what variety it is...

Pumpkin - Qld Blue
 This little guy is a Queensland Blue pumpkin, which I have planted a couple of out the front in mounds to capture the majority of the sun.

The bean party - nothing like a bamboo trellis and some rain to get the action happening!
The beans I direct sowed in the fenced off vegie garden have really surprised me! It must've been the weather..we've never had luscious growing beans like this before..especially considering that they're growing right under some water hogging cyprus trees!


Dwarf butter bean, a dwarf purple variety and I could've sworn I planted some Blue Lakes, but I guess they're a little late coming to the party...

Zucchini - Gold Rush
Yellow Zucchinis are all systems go. We have been picking them for a couple of weeks now.

Potatoes in the greenhouse - the latest I've tried growing them...we'll see!
With my previous (and completely unexpected!) success with potatoes this year, I've decided to plant another bed in the hope of harvesting some in the colder months. This lot are in the greenhouse..not sure how well they'll cope once we have some frosts but a persons gotta try, right?


Tigerella tomatoes - a great all rounder!

And finnnallly, we have tomatoes-a-ripening! Again, mostly volunteers, which I'm not complaining about - they seem to be hardier and more vigorous than the pampered seedlings I always try to get going. These ones are Tigerellas - so abundant and a nice size too - not too big and not too small..good in a salad and also big enough to slice for sandwiches. Red fig tomatoes are also ripening, which look like a little bell, and slowly slowly the Romas are coming along..

What's happening in your patch this month?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Green Thing

That's what the hubby asked if that was what I was wearing today as he saw it sitting on the bed whilst I went off to have a shower. "U-huh" was the affirmative that came his way.  I'm not sure if he thought that was a good thing or a bad thing, but that's beside the point. The Green Thing. Nothing beats that for a title, I have to say!

The Green Thing  -  back

Over the holidays I saw THE CUTEST little crochet top on someone while I was out and about. I just had to try and make one for myself and it was certainly a whole lot of fun to find a pattern and have a go at making one! It's a little on the wonky side and nothing like the one I saw (which has become SO hard to remember)..but it fits! Yay, it fits!!

The Green Thing  -  front
After trawling my way through Ravelry, I came across this pattern and decided to give it a go. What I liked most about the pattern was the way it was written..in a conversational style with instructions to make it to fit the body that is going to wear it..instead of stating precise measurements that never seem to match mine.  It grew so quickly and only took a few nights to complete, the shells being super quick to create. So much fun!

Shells on The Green Thing
If I was to make it again, I would perhaps make the top part a little narrower, and maybe try a different yarn. This one was made in Bamboozle (a 70% bamboo/30% cotton combo from Lincraft - 5 balls approx) which is luxuriously soft although a little on the heavy side..I'm slightly worried about the weight on my thin little straps there. It wears fine though, is very comfy and for my first real garment..I'm pretty happy with it! :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Walking

Some pictures of the road I live on...

The paddocks are still green - very unusual for this time of year..



Water damaged road

Highland cattle (bull)


Heading home...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cherry & Chocolate Muffins

I made these muffins last week and thought I really must try and make some more, they were pretty darn good! I usually stick to bananas, apricots or apples when adding fruit to muffins but I found the cherries were a great addition.. plump, juicy and delicious! If fresh are not around, pitted jar cherries will be just fine...

Chocolate cherry muffins - they're a little bit Black Foresty - just add cream and you're there!

Ingredients (makes 24):
115ml light flavoured vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk

450g self-raising flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
210g sugar
60g cocoa

1 1/2 cups pitted cherries or drained sour cherries from a 680g jar (Aldi in Aus has such a jar ;) )

Preheat oven to moderate 180c. In a medium bowl, whisk the wet ingredients together. In a seperate bowl, sift dry ingredients together. Gently add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing gently with a wooden spoon until just combined. Add the cherries and stir gently. Scoop the batter into greased muffin trays and bake for 20-25 minutes until well risen and a skewer inserted into a centre muffin comes out clean. Best eaten while still warm!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Potato Gnocchi

After returning home from a camping trip and being confronted with a pantry full of homegrown(!) potatoes,  I thought it might be a good idea to finally make some gnocchi again...especially considering the weather wasn't too hot...

Homegrown potatoes harvested a week or so ago, unknown variety although I'm thinking Spunta...?
(The small long waxy ones are kipflers)
Turning to my beloved Cooks Companion,  I followed Stephanie's quantities to make gnocchi, although I chose to double the suggested quantities to freeze some for another day. Having everything ready before hand seems to be the key to good gnocchi (and an 11yo on hand to help doesn't hurt either!)...have the water at a simmer, the sauce on the back of the stove bubbling away and a buttered dish on standby to place into a warm oven as the gnocchi comes out of the pot. "Phew! You mean to say I have to actually think ahead??"  Yup! Don't worry, it will be worth it!

The quantities I used were:

2kg potatoes (floury, not waxy)
650g plain flour
generous sprinkling of salt

The peeled potatoes were gently boiled in salted water for around 20 minutes until tender and then drained and passed through a food mill on a small-medium setting. If this is anything like a potato ricer, now I know where they got their name from...my girls really did think it was rice underneath!!

The 'rice' in the bowl
Working quickly, the hot pureed potatoes were placed on the bench and sprinkled generously with salt (don't be shy, I think I slightly under-sprinkled in the name of healthy eating and the gnocchi was slightly on the bland side..). The flour was then sprinkled on in small batches and incorporated into the mashed potatoes with my dough scraper by 'cutting' it into the mixture. A light knead with the heal of my hand in between scrapings also helped introduce the flour into the potatoes.

The dough was then divided into balls and rolled out into long logs, about 1" in diameter.


These were then cut into 2cm pieces


The gnocchi was then cooked in small batches in gently simmering, salted water for a couple of minutes until they rose and floated to the surface. Using a slotted spoon they were scooped out and placed into the buttered dish and into the warm oven while the remainder were being cooked.

We enjoyed ours with a simple napoli sauce made with homegrown garlic and oregano. What a shame we are still waiting on our tomatoes as these would've been lovely to include as well!


Nothing beats homemade.

 Bon app├ętit!
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