Sunday, May 29, 2011

Spicy Green Tomato Pickle

After staring at our green tomatoes for the better part of a week, I finally got cracking with them this weekend and made them into chutney...although I have a complex about the word 'chutney' so have taken to calling it a pickle!

Several of the tomatoes had started to ripen in the basket which had been sitting in our warm kitchen/living area...

The tomatoes were washed and sorted - red/green. Any squishy ones were placed into the chook's bowl.

We ended up having a total of 3kg of green tomatoes. These were sliced thinly along with 780g (5 largish) brown onions and placed into a large bowl and sprinkled with about 3 tbs salt. After mixing the salt through as best I could, the bowl was covered and placed into the fridge overnight. The food processor did a fantastic job of slicing the vegetables, cutting the preparation time down considerably!

Salting the vegetables beforehand draws out excess liquid, which results in a firmer pickle with more crunch.
The next morning, the tomato/onion mixture was rinsed briefly in a colander and squeezed well to remove excess moisture. They were placed into a pot along with:

2 tbs seedy mustard
2 tbs garam masala
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste. Ours had a definite presence of spice but not overpoweringly so... probably too much for fussy young kids though)
2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground tumeric
4 cups vinegar (I used 3 cups apple cider and 1 cup white)

Simmering gently before adding the sugar
This was allowed to simmer for around 15 minutes or so and then 4 cups (raw) sugar was added. The mixture was left to simmer gently for around an hour until cooked down and golden. It was stirred every so often during this time.

At the end of simmering time, I used a small amount (2tbs?) of cornflour to thicken the pickle to my liking. This was mixed with a scoop of the cooking liquid in a separate cup and added back to the pot and stirred well.

Nearing the end of cooking time... nice and thick
The hot chutney was ladled into clean and sterilized jars and sealed. Yield was ten assorted kitchen jars.

Spicy Green Tomato Pickle
I do have to add that previously I had reservations about making a green tomato chutney as we are not a big chutney eating household...ALTHOUGH! I can see us consuming this pickle easily...I was getting into the scrapings of the pot after the jars had been filled and it is really good! Sweet, tangy, relishy and pickley all rolled into one...sublime on roast meat sandwiches, as hubby will attest!

Roast beef, cheese and green tomato pickle on Turkish bread
I also have to thank Jen who provided  a couple of recipes for me to peruse, one which got me on my way with salting the vegetables, which I have no doubt I would've forgotten to do otherwise!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Baskets, a banneton, balls of wool and bulbs of garlic!

So...carrying on from yesterday, this is the youngest's 'nest' from the weaving demonstration at school:

She just loves it! She wanted me to write that she wove the dried grass through the nest and then lined it with the fleecy wool to keep her birds nice and snug :)

At the end of the session, there was quite a supply of plant material left over, some of which I took home and played with...

It's teensy-tiny and would only hold a couple of eggs. I'm thinking of using it to hold the wrinkly egg we had laid last week..the perfect containment!

Once I started looking around, I discovered we have many plants on our property that could be used for weaving play. I started eyeing off the willow tree and though the pickings were slim, still managed to scrounge a few 'whippy' branches for this rustic offering:

I'm loving the look of scraggly branches/twigs arranged into something useful. Like order out of chaos..

When I got home from my usual Friday goings on today, imagine my surprise when I found this delighful package on our front doorstep from the ever generous Celia!

A beautiful, spirally smooth, round banneton! For little old me!! She really is so sweet and I have to say I can not wait to start shaping bread in it. Oh, and inside the little tin are some very handy book darts for marking lines/pages. These will be most useful. Thanks so much, Celia!

In the end, the rest of my multi-coloured Bendigo fleece spun up like this:

..again, 8ply/dk weight. I seem to be developing a comfortable rhythm for this size wool. Goodness knows what will happen when I decide to try something different!

It turned out differently to how I was expecting and I'm still deciding if I actually like the colour blend. In the meantime though, I will attempt to make it into some sort of garment for the youngest.

I also noticed this week that our homegrown garlic was all starting to sprout and needs to be planted out. Quick!

So that is what I will be up to tomorrow, putting the cloves in the ground in between the daughter's netball game and visiting with family. What's happening in your parts?

Thursday, May 26, 2011


I don't often post about it but each Thursday I go off to my children's school to help out with Junior Landcare, an environmental program that engages kids in growing vegetebles, preparing food with fresh produce and crafting from nature. This week a visitor came to do an exciting talk on basket making and I just couldn't resist racing back home to grab the camera so I could take a few snaps... (Yes, I was pretty excited!)

A beautiful display of all things baskety greeted the children. The bag in the centre front is an Aboriginal made bag used for carrying foraged food.

The basket weaver refered to the free form egg-shaped baskets below as 'wild baskets' as they follow no formal rules of structure. I just love the look of these!

There were woven items from several different countries including Canada, North America and Papua New Guinea.

The weaver enjoys using all sorts of vegetation when basket making including rampant vines, long strappy grasses, straw and even discarded corn husks and leaves!

Pine needle 'crumbing down' brush
And there was twine! Twisted yarny type twine!! This was made with dried flax or other grasses that had been allowed to dry out (to shrink the fibres), then moistened overnight in a damp towel. Being damp, they are much more pliable and don't snap and break with the twisting, which is all done by hand.

I can't get enough of  those variegated effects!
After the presentation, the kids were encouraged to make a birds nest with small creeper vines, weaving some of the damp grass through the nest and lining the inside with soft wool.

There were even tiny little 'birds' to go into the nests...
So cute!

The youngest was so proud of her nest but we ran out of time for a photo. I'll try to post one tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Slow Living, defined.

I was browsing aimlessly online the other night and happened to come across a definition for Slow Living!

When I first started this blog I knew what it was going to be about and how I was choosing to live, which (in my mind) was 'slow living' but when it came to finding the words to actually explain my thoughts I admit I found it a challenge.

Of course there are no doubt a gazillion other people out there choosing to live a similar life like me (just take the number of blogs focused on this subject for starters). This is comforting for me after being in contact with people who don't get it, I can enter the blog world and connect with others of similar thinking.

Homegrown timber. Hubby's been hard at work with the new wood splitter

As I read the Wikipedia page I was nodding and saying "Yes, that's it! This is Me. This is what I'm all about!"

The timber keeps us warm over winter.

I could just never find the right words.

What hit the spot for me most were The Qualities of Slow Living (Yes, actual Qualities, hooray!):

Holistic – taking into account as many areas of life as possible, including the personal as well as the social, and both short and long term consequences

Elegant Sufficiency – having enough for fulfillment, while avoiding waste and excess, valuing quality over quantity.

Savoring – taking the time and directing awareness to fully engage with your experiences in ways that are enjoyable and life enhancing.

Distinctive and Tailored – valuing the unique characteristics of each place, person and moment, and fostering this uniqueness in your own life.

Environmentally Sustainable – being conscious of the environmental impacts of your choices and actions and seeking to reduce harm and enhance restoration. 

Slow Living borrows from the earlier and related lifestyle approaches including Voluntary Simplicity and Simple living which emphasize consuming less and being more self-sufficient. However, Slow Living emphasizes building relationships with local producers over self-sufficiency, and puts a greater value on enjoying life and psychological well-being. (source: Wikipedia)

It creates cosy fires that one doesn't want to move away from.

This is IT, in a nutshell! To veiw the page, click on this link.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday, wild and windy

We had a freak thunderstorm this morning, followed by a loud hammering of hail on the roof. The pyjama-clad tweens raced outside to try and catch some of the icy deliveries but of course it had virtually stopped by then!

Still, there were a few pickings to be had from the ground.... the seven year old asked if she could rinse the hail off and eat it? Sure, why not? (Wouldn't it melt under the tap though? Hmmm...)

The dyed wool from last week spun up like this:

I'm quite pleased with it although the only problem is I don't have enough for the project I had in mind! I've been looking for something else that I can use it is just under 300 yds at around a dk thickness...

Windy, haily days are best kept indoors, warm and dry. Sometimes one even gets requests from smaller people to heave out the old Singer... (no need to ask twice, any excuse I'm happy for it to be out).

While the nine year old got busy making a 'dilly bag' to store her camp utensils in, I went ahead and picked up that pattern that had been hovering in the kitchen for the past couple of weeks.

Perhaps I'll never get the chance to make the whole ensemble, but for now the hat is enough...

Holly Hobbie! She brings back so many memories for me! It was fortunate I had an op-shopped sheet to play with.

It's also time to start looking for green tomato chutney recipes. I filled this basket yesterday while having a good clear out in the garden. Apparently the green tomatoes can be kept inside for a couple of days as this improves their flavour.

I have to admit, I've never made a green tomato chutney before but the recipe I'm eyeing off contains all things good - onions, cayenne, mustard seeds, turmeric and garam masala. Do you make green tomato chutney? What are your favourite additions?

Happy Sunday, I hope you're keeping dry and cosy whatever you are up to!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Small comforts but no apple pie..

I had my favourite recipe of apple pie photographed, ready to post here and when it came time to write up the ingredients I realised that I hadn't written down my quantities, like I usually do! Oh, how frustrating. Of course it was made a few weeks ago so whatever data had been stored in my head has been completely blown out the window by now.. too bad, it is such a favourite although I'll remember to make notes next time I make it!

So. In the meantime I have some more yarny pics to share and we will have to be content with a hearty Spanish rice dish recipe that we munched on for dinner this week..

The bag of fleecy goodness that I had picked up from the Bendigo Woollen Mills a couple of weeks ago is slowly being emptied. The first lot was spun up like this, all lumpy and bumpy:

I ended up with two skeins, one of which I used to make up a warm hat for the 7yo to wear on cub camp. Originally I thought it would be an adult's sized hat as that is what sized pattern I was following but I guess my homespun yarn here was slightly thinner than the one used in the book as it just fits her! The 'gumnut' at the top and the ear flaps are my own touch, the ear flaps (which were crocheted on later) to keep her ears cosy and the gumnut stalk mainly because I just wanted to see what would happen if I didn't reduce the stitches like the pattern said to!

Oh, and a crocheted flower for the front, which I'm becoming quite fond of making. They are so quick and fun to whip up. And easy too, once the 'holes' are figured out!

The wool I was playing with earlier in the week dyed up like this:

I was aiming for a uniform purple colour but the dye took to the wool differently to how I was expecting. It ended up with some parts blue and others purple - the very purple I was hoping for. I am really liking how it spins up though..all mixed up and tweedy looking.  I picked up some ancient crochet magazines in the op shop yesterday and am contemplating making the 7yo a little tunic top/dress out of the spun yarn.

So, now to our dinner, will you be happy with a spicy Spanish inspired risotto? I hope so! I guess if you didn't stir it all all it could be called a paella, but when there is a pot on the stove and I'm in the kitchen pottering, it's virtually impossible to keep me from stirring, so risotto it is...

Spicy Spanish Risotto
Serves 4

4 (400g) spicy chorizo sausages
1 onion
1-2 garlic cloves
1/2 capsicum, sliced. Red or green - whatever you have lurking in the fridge
2-3 tsp good smoked paprika (or more, to taste)
1 400g tin crushed tomatoes
white wine..dry if possible..the leftovers that are hiding at the back of the fridge (1/2 cup)
1 1/2 - 2 cups arborio rice
stock (hot), vegetable or chicken (I used chicken boullion cubes x 2 w/boiling water from the kettle)

From the garden:
2-3 stalks silverbeet, chopped (stalks removed - can chop stalks and add to the pan along with tomatoes if desired)
flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
leeks, if substituting for onion

Cook the chorizos in a pan over medium heat with little olive oil while you start preparing the other ingredients.

Chop the onion, mince the garlic and slice capsicum. Add to a large pan over med heat with a tbs of olive oil. Saute gently until onion is translucent and tender, being careful not to burn garlic. Add paprika and dry fry for a few moments until smells are wafting. Add the rice and stir well to dry cook for a few moments. Add the tomatoes and white wine, stirring well. Now add a little of the hot stock and stir.

By now the chorizo sausages should be cooked, remove them from the pan and slice into 2-3cm chunks. Add these to the rice pan and for the next round of stock, pour the liquid into the chorizo pan to pick up all of those caramelised flavours that have stuck to the pan. Add this deliciousness to the rice pan and repeat until all the goodness has been removed from the chorizo pan. Keep adding a little hot stock to the rice every few minutes, stirring at the same time.  It will take about 20 minutes for the rice to be fully cooked and tender to the bite.

Towards the end of cooking time, add the chopped silverbeet. Add smaller quantities of stock as the rice reaches completion.  Just before serving stir through parsley.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Weekend travelling, a dyepot and possibly the weirdest egg you've ever seen...

It's COLD out there..

Camp craft.

After a busy weekend, I'm spending the day inside, nice and warm, playing with some fleece and a pot of dye. What better activity could there be for a chilly, grey day? Besides baking..which I might get to a little later on...

Cochineal and blue food colouring w/vinegar. Interesting how the blues and reds separate in areas.

Handspun wool dyed with a brown onion skin dye. Both out of the same dye pot, the two on the left were dyed with aluminium while the two on the right had the addition of iron (horseshoe) to the pot.

Could this be the weirdest egg you have ever seen?
Older hens can sometimes lay wrinkled eggs. We have several 'aged' ladies in our flock..

One of our chooks laid it over the weekend and it freaks me out everytime I look at it! Kinda scared to crack it open, to be honest. Although in saying that... I am tempted to gently blow out the contents and save the crinkled shell for a freakish Halloween decoration...

Thursday, May 12, 2011

In the garden..May 2011

Wow, the weather has really gotten cold this past week! Yesterday the weather reporter even thought it might snow in our area..although it didn't, at least not this far down the mountain.

A few pics of what's been happening in the garden lately...

The 11yo cut out and sewed the bunting flags together from vintage sheets and then got busy with the fabric paint to 'advertise' her goods
The 11 year old's plant stall is still going.  We got down to business and injected some homomade love into it over the holidays. It was very embarrassing as a friend dropped by and insisted on taking a look, with the bulk of offerings wilting and drying out. Of course, being such a good friend, she was adament that she was buying something..eek! The daughter has made a few sales since the love injection, with a few being from naughtly ladies from my Friday veggie group.  (Naughty, Naughty!!) The reappearance of some regular rain is helping with the watering of the plants out there.

I'm loving the colours on our Japanese Maple this year. It was a cutting given to me by a dear friend and has settled into it's permanent spot. Just beautiful!  Thanks, Em.

Japanese Maple.
Last week it was my turn to have our weekly veggie group  here. Lucky the garden had been neglected and there was lots for them to do (but hopefully not too much!). The team of 9 pulled up our finished zucchinis and planted garlic, removed the bean trellis and planted brassicas along with sowing a bed of carrots and weeding AND mulching the berries. Such a relief not to have to tackle all of this on my own! Thankyou, ladies. Of course we still managed to find time for the important things like eating, coffee and talking.

The berry area, happy with some new mulch and a newly planted garlic bed
Brassicas - broccoli and cabbages
Over the weekend I pulled up the remaining pumpkins. Another one had split and so had to be used straight away. I roasted the peeled pumpkin pieces and these were turned into a big pot of pumpkin soup yesterday.

Pumpkins: Queensland Blues, Butternuts and Buttercups.
Now to hunt for containers to pack the soup into the freezer with! I wonder what causes pumpkins to split? Too much rainfall near harvesting, perhaps?

Earth Star Puff Ball  fungi, found on my garden wanderings
This year I am trying a different potato chitting method. I have just been placing any potatoes that are too small to cook with outside, under the verandah in an old tray. The light seems to stop the shoots from getting too long and while the skins do turn green, this is ok as we don't eat these potatoes - they are just used for seed, to grow more plants.

So far, so good.

Lastly, I have to share this gorgeous mobile that a dear, faraway friend sent to me a while back. I have hung it up outside our kitchen area and can admire it while sitting at the table.

So sweet!