Saturday, September 24, 2011

Veg Every day

My fantastic new birthday gift, River Cottage Veg Everyday cookbook. I love recipes that put vegetables front and centre. Too often they are just the side dish. Not in this book. No meat, sometimes a little dairy or eggs and some recipes are totally vegan friendly. I'm not a vegetarian by any means, I farm sheep afterall, but someone like me who grows a lot of vegetables it is a great book. It would also be good for someone who wants to jazz up their vegetable portions.

Asparagus are right here, right now vegetables. They don't last long and if you let them go too far, that's the end for the season, they put on their feathery leaves and it's no more for the kitchen. Consequently when we came home from our trip, I picked 450grams for one meal for two. Last night it was another 300grams for our pizza. The recipe is on page 185 and is delicious and simple. A lovely dough, a couple of onions sliced and sizzled until brown, asparagus, mozzarella, a little parmesan and a hot oven.

No asparagus tonight. Snow peas and coriander are calling and I want a curry.


Friday, September 23, 2011

On My Mind- Celebrations

I'm joining in Rhonda's On My Mind postings this week. What has been on my mind? Celebrations.
A trip to Sydney with a birthday celebration on Tuesday thrown in for good measure. I don't usually get to spend my birthday with my sisters so it was a special treat made even more special by my new nephew, Mal. My sister made me a great piano cake straight from the pages of the Australian Woman's Weekly Kids Birthday Cake Book. I remember making this cake for her when she was little and it is still a great book to refer to for a party cake. I think a lot of Aussie kids have grown up with birthday cakes from this book.

Yesterday we celebrated my son's last day of school. An assembly during the day and the formal dinner dance last night. Now all of the end of school festivities are finished, he is knuckling down to some serious study for his Higher School Certificate exams in October but not until tomorrow, we are all too tired.

Tonight is the first night the whole family will be together since last Saturday so we are having one last celebration for my birthday. Dinner, cake and I will finally get to open my presents. Then it will be over for this year and life can settle back into routine.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Gardening while away

Wherever I go, I like to visit gardens and nurseries too. I had a great time on Sunday at the Mount Annan Botanic Gardens. The gardens are vast and more than can be seen properly in one visit. It is certainly a busy place though most of the people seemed to be in the cafe or in the open grass areas rather than looking through the plantings. With free entry though, it is probably a nice Sunday afternoon outing with the gardens as just a backdrop to family fun for those who live locally.

The gardens are 100% native plantings. I know many think of our natives flora as a little plain but it can be anything but plain given the right planting combinations in the right place. The planting above would never work where I live because of our frosts but here it looks great with plenty of colour and interest.

White waratah

The white waratahs were in bloom and simply gorgeous. I have a red one planted in a sheltered spot and it does look like it is going to bloom so I am even more hopeful after seeing these lovely specimens.

Sturt's Desert Pea

The Sturt's Desert Pea is a real showstopper. The foliage is a bit drab and belies the vibrant flowers. A definite favourite. I got plenty of ideas and inspiration from our visit and I am ever grateful that I have a family that enjoy doing these things with me.

Bunya at Mount Annan

It seems that we always seek out the Bunya Pines on our travels too. I never took any notice of them until my interest was peeked by the tree opposite Tim's workplace. Now I see them all the time. They were always there of course but I just didn't know what they were. The Bunyas at Mount Annan are very healthy and lush. Mostly the big old trees I see are a bit more sparsely covered. These ones looked a lot like huge Christmas trees albeit very spiky Christmas trees.

Grace and me

My favourite part of the garden that I saw anyway was the Fruit Loop. Just a small walk planted with native edibles. The finger limes were stunning and much bigger than my young tree. I am now after a few more native edibles to grow here at home.


Friday, September 16, 2011


Tanks, you will be painted next week.

I do not like leaving home. Never have and I doubt that I ever will. Not even for holidays. But I am away for a few days this weekend. Some of us a travelling to Sydney for a visit. When I go away, I always make myself a monumental list of things to-do before I leave so I don't have as much to do when I get home. So today on top of a hair cut and some shopping, I have been vacuuming, mopping, washing, ironing, folding, baking and the list goes on. No wonder I don't like going away, I make it too hard on myself.

Now I have outed myself as a bit obsessive, I will embrace the moment and finish packing and enjoy a brief sojourn. I will try anyway. I am truly looking forward to visiting my sisters and their families and also seeing a few sights with my girls. I hope everyone has a nice weekend just like I plan to.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Nettle Pasta

A basket of nettles freshly picked and no stings. Things were going well until I picked up a stray stalk in the sink and I'm still tingling over twelve hours later. Nettle pasta was worth it though. As I have one household member who has aversion to most things green and good, I made regular pasta too. It was actually good to have the two side-by-side to notice the differences. Not too much in taste really. Texture yes. The nettle pasta is moister and slightly softer. This could be due to my preparation or maybe it is always the way.I can't say, I have haven't eaten nettle pasta anywhere else but at home. Anyway, on to the recipe.

Nettle Pasta


250 grams pasta flour (plain flour is fine)

85 grams semolina

165 grams blanched, drained and pureed nettle leaves (try to squeeze out extra moisture)

1 egg


Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix with hands until it comes together as a dough.

Knead the dough for about 5 minutes on a floured surface and then leave to rest.

Roll the dough in a pasta machine or as thin as possible with a rolling pin and cut into desired shape.

The dough can now be left to dry slightly before cooking.

The nettle pasta took abut 4 minutes to cook in boiling water.

The water left over from blanching the nettles is great in the compost or even added to chickens mash.

Spinach or chard could be used instead of nettles and would no doubt be just as vibrant and deicious.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Harvest Festivals

The northern hemisphere gardeners are abuzz with harvesting and our turn in the south will come but I would really like to go to a harvest festival or two. The T-shirt offered by Beekman 1802 was on my wish-list for a birthday gift but unfortunately my sister couldn't have it sent to Australia. I just loved the slogan, Making Farming Fabulous. Never mind.
Farming has been pretty fabulous today. Fabulous but not glamorous. I "harvested" a barrow of compost and then moved the other two bays worth across. Now bay number one is ready for a fresh batch. The winter compost is slower in the making but now with warmer weather, compost production should pick up. There is never too much compost.

These lavenders were really enticing today. I love lavender, always have. I haven't found a variety that I don't like. I planted out 13 new lavender plants along the driveway this morning along with some nasturtium seeds in the orchard.

This bee was not one of the escapees from yesterday. They are currently secured and awaiting their new hive to arrive a little later. The new hive will be situated a little closer to the house than the other two hives and near the vegetable garden. That should keep the bees happy as there is always something to forage in the garden.

Although it is by no means a harvest festival, tonight we will be eating the last of the turnips which I harvested today and a ragu with nettle pasta made with the nettles which I am harvesting from the pesky nettles that pop up all over. So it will a harvest festival of everyday proportions.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday in town

Today was earmarked as a town day for a week or so as my car needs a new CV joint and I was prepared to make the most of it right up until I drove out the driveway at 6:30am this morning. Hope noticed a swarm of bees, our bees in the fork of a tree limb and there really was nothing I could do about it. Nothing except worry about what to do and what it means to the hive. Tim who is more pragmatic and actually has more bee knowledge than me was not perturbed so I'm not either. Is it really that things happen when you are unprepared or in a situation where you can not do anything about it or do we just feel that way when things we don't want to happen occur? A little bit too philosophical for a mere bee swarm maybe but it does make for some wondering.

I am glad to have tomorrow at home with not a single place to be other than where I want to be most of all. I have been suffering a bit lately from some negative thinking which is not my usual style and I am determined to be rid of it forever. My blogging friends are a great encouragement and I am grateful to everyone who leaves a comment or sends an email. They are appreciated, thank you.

I am blogging from the town library with its wonderful free, fast internet and using old photos on a cd I found in my bag. I have had a lovely walk in the most delightful of spring sunshine and I'm excited about seeing all of my nieces and nephews on the weekend, especially the newest, Mal born on 1st September. I haven't held a tiny baby since his brother was born four years ago so it will be lovely.


Thursday, September 8, 2011 way

Harira is apparently the soup of Morocco. It is a traditional and famous dish and is served during Ramadan and would definitely be welcome and nourishing during a fasting period. Anyway, this is my version which of course is not traditional nor authentic but it was delicious none-the-less. I do find soup a difficult thing to take pictures of. The picture never gives a true indication of how good the soup is. Harira


250grams lamb, cut into cubes

2 onions, diced

4 cloves garlic, crushed or sliced

olive oil

4 tomatoes, roughly chopped

4 sticks celery, sliced

300 grams yellow split peas, rinsed

2 dried chillies, chopped finely

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 litres water

a bunch of coriander


Brown the meat in a small amount of olive oil.

Add the onions and garlic and saute for a few minutes.

Add the water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered for 30 minutes.

Add the spices, chillies, celery, tomatoes and split peas and simmer for another hour.

Stir through the coriander to serve and if desired a small amount of lemon juice can be stirred through too.

I used two of the tiniest dried Black Pearl chillies and they certainly have some bite. A little goes a long way and in a mild winter this chilli survives. Not this year though. I will be replanting from seed. If any Australian readers would like some Black Pearl seeds, just email me(the address is on my profile) and I will happily share some.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Weeding on Wednesday

I filled and emptied a few wheelbarrow loads of weeds today. After pedalling away on the bike this morning it was good to have an upper body workout pulling out mostly kikuyu runner which had been working their way under the mulch towards the light of day. Even though I have heard rumours that poultry can be helpers in the garden, I have my doubts.

Hugh, our Wyandotte rooster.

My birds are truly lazy. They don't bother scratching and digging over a weedy area, they wait until it has been weeded and the soil is prepared for them for easy pickings.

Hugh doesn't help much in the garden. He is of course named for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall whose latest book I ordered this morning. It will be a birthday gift for me so hopefully it arrives before the big day on the 20th. I'm sure the new cook book will get a work out especially since we are coming up to prime vegetable season.

Now it is cooking time. Harira for dinner. Which I haven't made before but sounded so tempting it is on the menu. Some baking and then ironing.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lunch Time Inspiration

A little bit of inspiration at lunchtime today. I am home alone so I read while I ate, usually I am a little less anti-social. I have Kate Herd's book Kitchen Gardens of Australia and it is a delight. If you are interested in peeking into the gardens of others which of course I am it is great. The gardens are many and varied with ideas for just about anyone who wants to grow for their kitchen. I'm just sorry it a library book and I don't get to keep it.

And what was for lunch? A runny poached egg(sorry to my sisters who both dislike runny eggs) and asparagus. I probably should apologise to Tim for eating the asparagus while he is at work and can't share but I'm not sorry. I loved every mouthful. I'm sure we will have an asparagus date sometime in the next few days and I will let him have the lions share then...maybe. Anyway it was a perfect kitchen garden type of lunch with only a few minutes between picking and egg collecting and eating.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Bloomin' Busy

It is that time of year (I think it always is really) when it seems busy. Thankfully I am not busy with things that I don't love. It is a busy time planting and sowing and I could not keep up with the eggs which are coming in even if I baked and cooked all day. At least one meal a week is dedicated to the not so humble egg. Even if for the non-egg eaters it is disguised as crepes and the like.

Chinese Witch Hazel

It is simply lovely outdoors now. The spring sunshine and the blooms. The weeds are not forocious and I have been making the most of the early mornings with a bike ride each day. I don't ride far, only about 10km but I really love it. I will probably rethink my love when I see a snake on the road.

Grape hyacinth
Most of the spring bulbs are putting on a show. The Dutch Iris are yet to flower but it is nice to have a staggered display so there is always something to look forward to and something to enjoy right now.

Spring Star Flower


I love the jonquils. To me their scent is lovely and pure. If I was a bride I would happily carry a bouquet just like this one.