Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Week in my Kitchen...

The week in my kitchen starts on a Sunday, with hubby's weekly 'special breakfast'. He likes to cook up some eggs, bacon, tomatoes if we have any, know, the obvious candidates for a breakfast without the weekday rush factor. Seeing the eggs from our feathered girls being used up satisfies me no end..

Sour cream is made, lately by using regular thickened cream and adding cultured buttermilk to it and letting it sit for 24 hours. No heating whatsoever! Nice and simple, just the way I like it..
The finished cream is soo thick, much more so than when made using commercial sour cream as a starter. Wow, there really is some punch in this buttermilk business! (which as an aside is also getting made now in the same way as our homemade yoghurt with good results).

Sourdough is back! After retrieving my starter from the freezer which had spent the summer there, it has been revived with the assistance of some dried fruit and rye flour. Bubbling and activated, the starter has provided us with a handful of loaves so far. 
Yum! It's so nice to have sourdough back in our kitchen again. 

I love having a daughter who's specialty is pizza! Our 13 year old cooks for the family one night a week and while some weeks the meals are very...basic, I get quite excited when she decides to make pizza because she really does make a damn fine one! Especially by adding ingredients for others that her tastebuds won't go near..ever!!

A feel good purchase in the form of a locally raised, organic lamb for the freezer took place. The lamb was bought through these lovely people and is absolutely delicious!

For weeknight dinners in a flash, we love a stir fry. It's so nice to bring in broccoli and pak choy from the garden and use up some of our homegrown garlic in the wok! A quick toss with some oyster sauce and a scattering of cashews and the meal is done. Too easy. It's the perfect fast slow food!

The aforementioned pizza making teen loves to bake within the sweet sector. She recently made a chocolate loaf cake and around two dozen chocolate cupcakes following a recipe from this book which called for using up homemade buttermilk. This recipe is definitely a keeper - the cakes came out so moist and fluffy.

Finally in my kitchen this week...
Sprouts are back! Hooray for sprouts!! 

Do you grow them? Eat them? Maybe even dream about them? While the garden is pretty quiet over winter, having sprouts on the kitchen bench fulfills my harvesting needs/wants/desires. Fresh, healthy, live food that is so good for you! Sprouts are such fun to grow and such fun to eat!!
(Picture - left: alfalfa, right: mung beans)

Linking up with the lovely Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. Pop on over to see what's been happening in other peoples kitchens. :)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Winter Warming Lentil Soup

 I Love Soup.

Yes ma'am, soup has a big fan in me. I love it as a clear broth with little vegetables cut up in it, sometimes floating alongside delicate noodles. I love it offered in a rustic way with hearty chunks of tasty vegetables, herbs and pasta goodness or quite simply, at it's most basic, creamed and whizzed. Any way is absolutely fine by me, because I believe over winter, one can never have too much soup! Of course, it's an entirely different story once those first days of Spring hit, but while Winter is here, I am Enjoying My Soup!! Thoroughly!

This week it has been of the lentil variety. Such an easy soup to prepare with minimal time spent at the bench chopping. If you're organised, the lentils can be soaked overnight in a bowl of cold water, otherwise they will do just fine with a mere three hours or so soaking time in recently boiled water.

As with any homemade soup, much of the taste and nutrition comes from the base. My favourite base for soups is a good, hearty homemade stock. It doesn't have to me meat based, vegetable stock is fine too! We just happen to prefer ours chicken based most of the time.

Another option instead of stock is to substitute whey leftover from cheese making as a soup base. I feel it would be an enormous shame to whey'st this nutritious liquid! If you've been experimenting with homemade ricotta or similar, you will have a significant amount of whey needing to be used up and soup and bread is the perfect partnership. I love it when things slot together so neatly! Every piece of the jigsaw puzzle neatly in it's place, just as it should be. :)

Winter Warming Lentil Soup

2 cups green lentils (dry), soaked
2 onions, chopped
2-4 cloves crushed garlic, depending how strong you like it
1 litre homemade stock
any leftover whey you have to hand, 1- 1.5 litres is ideal
dried herbs - thyme is especially nice in this soup
1/2 cup thickened cream
sour cream to garnish
olive oil, salt and pepper

1. Rinse the soaked lentils in plenty of cold running water and allow to drain.

2. In a large pot, heat a little olive oil over low heat and gently saute the onions and garlic. Once they are transparent, add the stock, whey, lentils and herbs, topping up with water if needed to cover the lentils generously. Allow to come to a boil and then reduce heat. Cover and simmer gently for around 45 minutes to 1 hour, checking the liquid level occasionally to make sure it isn't getting too low.

3. Once the lentils are tender, remove the pot from the heat and whiz the soup with a stick blender until smooth. It may take a while - those lentils can be incredibly stubborn at times! Keep persisting though - smooth is the key word here.

4. Return the soup to a gentle heat, stir through the cream and herbs and season to taste. Adjust to your favoured consistency by adding a little more stock or boiling water to suit. Ladle into bowls and serve with a dollop of sour cream and a scattering of your favourite herbs. Enjoy :)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Stick damper

Step 1. Light your fire. Campfire, brazier or chiminea..the choice is yours.

Step 2. Mix the dough; 3 cups of self-raising flour mixed to a dough by adding buttermilk.

Step 3. Attach portions of dough to stick. The messier the better, however it may want to fall off in the fire if it's as moist as ours. If you don't enjoy living with an element of risk, feel free to add more flour!

Get it on there nice and good. It will stick..eventually. 

If it doesn't, a good smoosh with both hands will no doubt bring it home ;)

Step 4. Place dough stick in hot fire. 

Rotate until done. 
Step 5. Eat. Preferably while still hot and  burning fingers. SO good!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

'tis the weather for it..

 Sheesh! Hasn't it gotten cold? I find it interesting to observe how the seasons guide our activities.. be it warm or cold, there always seems to be something to do that fits in perfectly with the current weather conditions.

Take my good gardening friend, for example. She knows that the very best way to enjoy a cold, drizzly day is to toast some chestnuts over a small campfire. It's truly a tonic to warm the spirit! And they are sooo delicious, too. The bonus being that they are a very effective handwarmer!

Me? I like to rug up and take a brisk walk on a frosty morning. There is a feeling of promise for the day to come in a fresh, early morning icy walk. As long as my head, hands and toes are especially warm, I'm good to go. Our little pooch never seems to complain, either.

The youngest on the other hand ponders over where to hang her new purchase with her own saved money; an angel called 'Fyre' bought recently from the Castlemaine Artists' market. We mistakenly called it a fairy and she very soon corrected us that in her eyes it was an Angel! Tsk, tsk, how silly were we!
Angel made by etsy maker: Felt and Grain
 With constant wet weather, I finally had a chance to make that top that's been calling out for months. Some rayon op-shopped fabric was put to use and New Look 6871 was lengthened to create a tunic top that covers my behind. I always feel more comfortable when my tops are longer! Are you the same?

Our first ever art purchase!
Blue Wrens by Lyn Cooke
What is it about having a piece of original art in the home that feels one's heart with joy? Just walking past and stopping to take it in, the fine detail, what the artist was thinking whilst they were working on it and the colours chosen humbles me in a way I've never felt before.. 

Hot breakfasts are back!

This week I was extremely lucky and gifted two large containers of farm fresh jersey milk from a good friend which I enjoyed experimenting with in the form of homemade mozzarella. Yummm! I have never seen milk this thick and creamy before..even from my teenage years on a dairy farm when my parents milked friesians.
I do believe I am in love with the milk from a jersey cow!

The whey leftover was also extremely creamy and I had a go at making ricotta--the real kind, but perhaps I missed something because it didn't curd the way (whey?) I thought it would although it still made an unbelievably rich, creamy pumpkin soup! With plenty more to use up, too. Bread is suddenly bleeping on my  radar.
Cheesy experiments in a warm kitchen are a sure winner to keep the coldness away..

 And do you know what else? Someone has even thought that a lone tree in our area was feeling the cold and thoughtfully wrapped it up for the season..

Don't you just love a random yarn bomb sighting?!

Enjoy the weather out there people, be it warm or cold! :)

Monday, June 10, 2013


We organised ourselves to go out for the day. We decided where to go after seeing a snippet in the newspaper. It wasn't too far to go. Glimpses of sunshine greeted us as we arrived.

We visited a market with the most wonderful displays. Local artisans in a quaint brick garden setting.
Fiber-ey, felty goodness at it's most loveliest. We lunched in the park. We browsed through an overflowing book shop. We wandered through an art exhibition, soaking up the displays.

We bought art! ART! Our first ever!!

We forgot to take the thermos but promised ourselves we would remember it next time. We would even have a bag with the makings for tea and coffee at the ready for next time a day out came calling.

Coming home to steaming cups of tea, an excited dog and a warm fire, we mulled over where exactly to hang our first art purchase. Art! Such a HUGE decision, we want to get it just right! :)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

In the garden - June '13

 Over the past week we've had an unbelievable dumping of rain and our first proper frost for the year. Some days I have had two fires going inside in an effort to keep both ends of our house warm - when did it become a luxury to have dinner in a warm kitchen? I don't really know but it's ooohhh, so nice!! I sometimes recall the days when we lived in a house with central heating and how we regulated the warmth with the press of a button. Did we appreciate the instant warmth as much as we should have? Probably not, but gee, if we had it again now, I can be certain we would!

Outside, the ground is wet and the air is cold. Here is a glimpse at what's happening in our garden..

Little chooks are happy, two silkies and two hatchies from over summer - I can't believe my luck - I think the two hatchies are both hens! Small hens, but hens nonetheless. The black and tan two tone hen was originally all black and has changed colour as her feathers have grown. She was originally called Midnight, but with her change of colouring, I have been thinking of her as 'Eclipse' of late. 

Garlic is up!

And self sown silverbeet always seems to be around. We love it in a curry or frittata and any excess gets torn up and tossed to the chooks..

Our comfrey is on the way out for the season. Such a great addition to the veggie patch, being a plant tonic, compost activator and natural healer for bumps and bruises.

Something has been eating my kale!
 I have a feeling it's the three pesky swamp hens that have been hanging around lately, they have even demolished the kale in the hugulkultur bed way out the front. I hope it comes back!

Perennial leeks are calling out to be thinned and replanted. I know that with a little bit of growing room they will fill a gap in our garden over winter and provide us with virtually maintenance free offerings for soups and casseroles.

 The broccoli (in said bed waaay out front) are going amazingly well. I am very impressed with our harvests this year, which I'm putting down to the hugelkultur bed and timing the planting right..

Cauliflower on the other hand is taking much longer, as expected. I'm a little worried that the recent rains have spoiled the developing heads.

Rocket is always welcome and this is the season it grows so well. I love it when my girls race off to pick some while making their lunch, they just love to stuff it into chicken and salad wraps! Me? I just love to munch it any old time in passing..

Call me the chicken girl who chickened out. Delaying our home harvested chicken dreams for now (after the processing facility closed down!), I gave away our two excess roosters that hatched over summer, leaving us with one handsome Barnevelder fellow and a hen to add to our flock. There were no shortage of takers for the roosters, all of which I assumed would be heading to various pots but assured they would be going into enhancing flocks! Maybe one day I'll be brave enough to tackle home chicken processing....maybe one day..

With frosty mornings comes glorious sunny days and rolling the sleeves up to catch the sun is a must! Even if it's cold out there!

 I hope you manage to catch a little sun this weekend! 

What's happening in your patch?