Thursday, March 28, 2013

Why autumn is great

The weather for one is fantastic. My only complaint is that we really need rain. The countryside is quite dry but the days are just so nice and clear. It is also the time whe nthe garden puts on a last hoorah before winter. That means it's time to preserve the bounty for later.

In my weariness, I have been a bit lax in the garden and apart from watering and a little pottering it isn't getting much attention at all. That is why the zucchini above are so huge. I just didn't get around to picking them in time. Not to worry, tomorrow they will begin their journey to pickledom. I've actually got a fair bit of pickling to do on Saturday.

 Spicy zucchini pickles, capsicum jam, green tomato and mustard pickles and something with chillies.

Bhut jolokia fruit

Probably some sort of chilli jam or sambal. All I can say about the Bhut jolokia chilli is that it did deliver in the heat rating. The claim is that it is the world's hottest chilli and it is definitely the hottest in my garden this year with the habanero coming in second place. The first one I picked a while back had no heat at all but they have developed and a full glass of milk was in order after a just a taste. I am a sook when it comes to hot and spicy but Tim concurs with me and for him the hotter the better.

Sunny Corner Farm toasted muesli

I didn't get around to making my creamed honey yet but a few days won't make much of a difference. It is a slow food after all in that it takes a while from the initial making for it to become what is recognised as creamed honey. But I did make something quick and everso easy with honey today. Toasted muesli.To make it I just mixed 800 grams of rolled oats with 1 cup of honey and 1/3 cup brown sugar and roasted/toasted it in a slow-medium oven with the fan on for 40 minutes. Allowed it to cool then added the fruit, nuts and seeds. The nuts and seeds could have been roasted along with the oats but I forgot at the time. In my mix today are oats, honey, brown sugar, cashews, almonds, sunflower seeds, sultanas and cranberries. It is plenty sweet enough for me but I can assure you that Tim will drizzle honey on his for breakfast (or even dessert tonight).


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

In the slow lane

I'm not talking about my driving even though I am the type of driver who generally uses the slow lane, I'm talking about how I am feeling generally. I am a blood donor and on my most recent visit, I was unable to donate due to low iron levels which would go someway to explaining my lack of energy of late. The low iron levels also meant a trip to the doctor, my first since Hope was born 11 years ago (I really am quite healthy) and no surprise, more blood tests done. Now it is just a waiting game and I am due back to discuss the results next Wednesday though I have been assured that it isn't too urgent. Which isn't reassuring at all. In the mean time, I am doing what I do, slower and with a lot less enthusiasm.
Today I made Rosella Jam. Making jam is very much a slow food process especially if you grow the fruit first. On this occasion, I did not grow the fruit. I got to chatting with someone from Grafton about their rosella flowers (my plants didn't enjoy the conditons here this summer) and next thing, I am in possession of a rather large bag of rosella. I don't need any for tea right now and these were luscious and just perfect for jam making. The eight finger limes I walked away with too were even more of a highlight.
Most of the jams I make are simple fruit jams that don't require too much more than the fruit and some sugar. Rosella jam does take a bit longer than say blackberry jam but it does have a slight tartness to it that is pleasant and is definitely worth the effort. It is also a jam that you won't find everywhere perhaps only at market stalls or in more gourmet stores. I'm fairly sure it isn't available on your regular supermarket shelf.

Rosella Jam
To make the jam, the first step is to wash the fruit in cold water.
Then separate the calyx and the seed pod.

The red fleshy part of the fruit is the calyx and can be peeled away from the green seed pods. The seed pods go into a saucepan and are covered with water and simmered for about 10-15 minutes until translucent and soft. This releases some pectin to help set the actual jam.
The strained liquid from the seed pods is pored into a saucepan with the calyces and simmered until they are very soft. Measure the pulp and add sugar on a 1:1 ratio. That is 1 cup of sugar for every cup of pulp.
Stir the sugar pulp mixture over a low heat until the sugar dissolves and then bring to the boil. Allow to boil until the mixture reaches setting point.
To test for setting point, chill a saucer in the freezer and then when the jam has been boiling for about 10 minutes, place a teaspoon of the jam on the saucer. After it cools, push your finger through the jam and if it makes a clean line throught the jam, it is most likely set. (Although what is happening is very much a result of science and chemical reactions, home jam making is definitely no science and there isn't any guarantee that what happens in one kitchen will work in another).
Once the jam has reached setting point, bottle it into hot sterilised jars and seal.
Make some scones, whip some cream and enjoy.
Creamed honey is next on my slow food to do list.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


 Hi there, I am back again having not been away at all. Just too busy driving about as Grace's chauffeur and then too tired to look at a computer screen when I had the time to do so. Early morning starts I can handle and in fact, relish in but those late night finishes after a musical performance really mess with me. I am usually in bed by 8:30pm so driving home at 11pm night after night is not something I want to repeat for quite some time.

The poultry are glad to have the people at home properly because it means their days are spent roaming. I confine them to their rather large pens when I can't be around because predators will take any chance they can get.

Very happy to have some autumn strawberries ready to pick. The strawberries were a bit disappointing earlier in the season so hopefully these last minute ones make up for that. One of my wishes would be to be a better fruit grower.

Climbing Iceberg
The roses really are putting on a fine autumn display too. I think it is  their way of showing thanks for the heatwaves being over. This Climbing Iceberg never gets much of a chance to run rampant because it is growing along the fence which borders a sheep paddock. The sheep don't bother too much with the stems of roses but the flowers and leaves are fair game.

I'm planning on a much quieter week this week but you know, anything could happen to change that. I'm also thinking a trip to visit my boy in Sydney will be on the cards soon too.

Have a great week,

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tomato Tart

Fairly easy, super tasty and not too bad for the body either. My son, Tom, would go nowhere near this dish with those tomatoes so front and centre and Hope would proabably rather some sort of junk food but hey, I'm the head cook here.

Tomato Tart
2 sheets of puff pastry
1 cup ricotta
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 tbsp parmesan cheese
a handful of fresh herbs, chopped (I used thyme and basil)
enough sliced tomatoes to cover the pastry
olive oil for drizzling
Preheat oven to 200 deg C.
Lay the pastry sheets on top of each other on a lined baking tray and then cut into quarters.
Score the pastry about 1.5 cm in from the edge (this makes the edge).
Bake for about 10-15 minutes until lightly golden.
Mix the ricotta, Parmesan, garlic and herbs together in a bowl.
Remove the pastry from the oven and spoon the cheese mixture into the centre of the pastry and spread evenly to cover the base.
Place the tomato slices on top of the cheese mix.
Return to the oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes.
Once out of the oven, drizzle with a little olive oil if desired and sprinkle on some fresh basil and thyme.
I served it with a salad of cucumber, pearl couscous, pasrley and a little lemon juice. But a green salad would be just as nice.
I also didn't have ricotta in the refrigerator and living 50km from the nearest supermarket does involve either substituting some times or quite often DIY. I made a small batch of ricotta, just 1 cup which is what was needed here. It is simple enough to do.
To make 1 cup of ricotta type cheese, heat 1 litre of full cream milk to 90 deg C while stirring, stir in 15mL of white vinegar and the milk should separate. Drain through some cheesecloth. In a bowl, add a pinch of salt to the curds and there you go, ricotta.

No pastry? Then I think it would work pretty well on some toasted crusty bread too.

Now if I could just sort my insomnia out so easily, I'd be happy.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

It's a jungle out there today

 It is that autumnal time in the garden when everything is taking off. The weeds and grass and garden plants too are looking like a jungle. I think it is the vegetable plants ploy to hang around as long as they can. I mean how can I pull them out to make way for wintery goodness when they are still going so strong? I can't. I have a few empty beds now so today I have planted some more radish , weeded three beds and spread compost. All in a mist that gently fell. 'Twas lovely.

The fungi have been proliferating in the wet weather. Some only last a wee while but some hang around and become giants. There was even a cute fairy ring in the driveway but I was not ready with the camera while it was still cute.

 The bees are really making the most of any break in the rain. They aren't returning to the hives when it is misty rain, only when we have a downpour. Too busy to be indoors I guess.

The flavour of the day for them is the rosemary. I kind of like it too and will pick some (flowers and all) for our tomato tart we will have for dinner.

School lunchbox baking now.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The best days

Today is turning into my favourite kind of day. A little rainy and cool with some dry periods to let me spend some time outdoors too. I have been running around a little too much for my liking and there is still another week of it but this weekend is free from to-ing and fro-ing.

 Last night we had a wonderful dinner with fresh picked vegetables. The girls wouldn't be happy if it was just vegies on the menu so I made a creamy chicken and tomato dish to go with some pasta along with a vegetable tian. The tian is a delicious way to serve different vegetables and easily adapted to include whatever is in season or in the crisper. I didn't take a picture of the finished product (too busy eating) so I won't put a recipe up until I make it again. I always like to see a picture of what I am cooking.

Grace, the musican, spent the morning in the kitchen making panna cotta for dessert tonight. Dessert isn't often on our menu but it will be nice for a change. Unfortunately her cooking involvement ends before clean up. SHe does assure me though that when she cooks at school she washes up.

The basket in the picture above, is loaded with tomatoes which this morning became sauce. This is an easy sauce which can be used straight away or frozen for later. It doesn't have any preservatives like sugar or vinegar so it isn't suited to beng bottled. But, it is delicious nonetheless.

I used about 1kg of tomatoes which I sliced up and placed in a baking tin along with four cloves of garlic, salt and pepper and some herbs (thyme and oregano today). Drizzled with olive oil and baked in a 180 degree C oven for 45 minutes. We enjoyed some straight away with bread and the rest was strained and frozen. This amount of tomatoes gave me two containers for the freezer which can be used in pasta sauces or soups/stews when there are no fresh tomatoes available.

The other reason I like days which are cool and moist is because I can get a bit of sewing done. I have a few things to make and send away so today is just right. Well it would be if it wasn't so windy.