Eggplant chips...

28 March, 2013

I'm not saying these are a healthy way of cooking eggplant, but too bad. Life is short, and these are delicious.

Just for you Liz, here's how you make them.

Take your eggplant and cut into chip size pieces -  chunky chips would work best,  I don't see these working as fries.

Then coat in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. But here is the key - you MUST use panko breadcrumbs. Don't stress if the coating doesn't properly stick to the skin.

Now you may fry your crumbed eggplant in shallow oil, or put on a tray and spray with spray oil then bake in a hot oven. I do think the frying method gives better results, but the oven method is not a deal breaker and is easier.

After I cooked the eggplant chips I then headed back into the garden to make pickings for a side salad. In addition to some pre-picked cucumber and tomatoes I grabbed some spring onions, parsley and a few other toms that probably are getting close to their use-by date.

Finely chopped and added to some leftover rice I now had eggplant chips and rice salad.

Though I am slightly embarrassed to admit it, I do think the eggplant chips also go very well with the time honoured traditional accompaniment to wedges - sweet chilli sauce and sour cream.

I'm also contributing this to Veggiegobblers Thursday Garden Gobbles.

Zucchini Tuesday...

26 March, 2013

Running out of zucchini recipe ideas and needing to use up food, today I settled on a Thai style curry. Thank goodness zucchini is a great vegetable for taking on flavours and adding veggie bulk and texture.

Having both duck (not my own) and curry paste which needed to be used up, I headed into the garden to see what else could be scrounged in addition to the always prolific zukes.

This is what I came back into the kitchen with:

The zucchini, tomatoes and purple capsicum went into the curry. The cucumbers will likely star in tomorrows work lunch, and I have a feeling eggplant chips will be on this weeks dinner menu. But anyhoo, back to the zucchini.

The veggies got dry fried off with the curry paste, then coconut milk was added and simmered until the veg was cooked. Meanwhile the duck cooked off in a separate pan (otherwise its hard to render enough of the fat off, and I don't particularly like fatty meat) and the rice cooked itself in the thermomix.

20 minutes later, dinner was on the table.

Not an authentic Thai dish by any means, but tasty and there is no food needed to be unnecessarily thrown out and wasted. Win!

Thanks as always to Louise for starting these Tuesday celebrations of the humble Zucchini.

Saturday Spotlight... on Sunday

24 March, 2013

I'm contributing this to the Saturday Spotlight series started by Liz at Suburban Tomato.

I do love trialling many different varieties of plants and today's is one that is really hitting its peak at the moment. Eggplants.

Now I must now confess I'm not very good at growing eggplants. I've only ever had crops starting in around March, while I know other Melbournian veggie gardeners have crops much earlier. However, I can wholeheartedly recommend the variety Prospersa - as even I can grow it and it has survived where 6 other varieties I tried to grow this year failed.

Plus, its gorgeous. The lurid purple-ness is no photography trick - it really is that pretty.

This is the stalwart plant. 

I've had two eggplants off it so far, and one is close to being ready to pick.

There are probably three more on the way.

It is still flowering, so I'm hopeful for more.

But as well as being pretty, it's a very tasty eggplant. It has a lovely dense but flavourome flesh, and the skin retains a little of its purple hue on cooking (which I find so many eggplants don't - they go grey. Grey is not a delicious colour.)

I bought these seeds from an American seed company last year (Territorial Seeds from memory, and they were ok to import into Aus then), but I don't know if there are Aussie seed companies selling them. Either way I'll definitely be growing them again!

Comfort food...

21 March, 2013

As autumn finally hits and the days and nights start to get a little colder and a little darker, I start to move away from salads and grills and bring out the casserole pots and fire up the oven for some slow cooking.

The first of these meals for the year is one of my favourite eggplant dishes, and luckily I had a prime example in the garden.

Add some basil and homemade passata and mozzarella, and I had all the ingredients for baked eggplant. Its so simple it barely needs a recipe. Slice your eggplant into centimetre thick slices and layer slices with slices of mozzarella, sloshes of passata and a few basil leaves. Repeat until you run out of ingredients. Top up with any leftover passata until you run out, or the casserole dish threatens to overflow. Bake in a hot oven (around 200 degrees C) until you can stick a blunt knife in and have no resistance.

Serve. Eat.

Admittedly its not the prettiest meal to be seen, but this one is substance over beauty.

I'm contributing this to Thursday's Garden Gobbles. Thanks VG!

A year's worth of pasta sauce...

16 March, 2013

Today I got my Italian on and made passata.

I had been saving tomatoes as they ripened for a few weeks, and by now had a good few plastic bag fulls in my freezer waiting for a day of suitable temperature for passata making. And finally, today was a day under 30 degrees C and so passata making was the order of the day. Thank goodness for that, as just last week I used up my last bottle from last years batch.

I learned the sacred art of passata making from an Italian friends' parents. In fact, I went to her house and made passata with her extended family while she was mysteriously absent. I don't quite know how she did this as her mother is formidable. But anyway, this was many years ago and since then every year I have made passata as they showed me. But this year, for the first time, I made it with all homegrown tomatoes.

Here is the recipe, which keeps me in pasta sauce for about  two years, so I only made a half recipe this time. Note you will need a massive jam pot or similar, mine is about 40cm across at the top and about 50cm deep. I got it from a wholesale kitchen supplier and really only use it for passata or jam.

2 cases tomatoes (roma type, but I used a mix from the garden)
8 large carrots
1 stick of celery
2 bunches of basil
2L olive oil
3 handfuls of salt (yes, handfuls - I'd say about 3/4 cup = 1 handful - ish)

Chop all tomatoes into 2cm chunks, with the stem bit cut off (but only just, as being a good Italian you don't want to waste any!),then chop the carrots and celery into similar size chunks and put it all into a massive pot. Throw in the bunches of basil and salt then mix well - hands work best. Get in there son!

Once it its mixed well, add the olive oil. Then slowly bring to the boil and let boil for about two hours, or until reduced by about half. Make sure you stir the pot fairly often so it doesn't stick on the bottom and burn. Not tasty.

Once you have a well reduced pasta sauce, either press the sauce through a sieve to get out the skins and make a smooth sauce, or use a vegetable strainer machine. I have one that attached to my Kitchen-Aid.

This makes the job so much easier, in that I just put ladlefuls of passata into the top part and it strains the sauce into the red bowl while the skins, seeds and other refuse are piped into the white bowl. I want to see if I can make something from this, but that is a task for another day.

This sauce is then put into bottles and preserved in the Fowlers-Vacola unit.

I ended up with 10 small beer bottles (a perfect size for 3-4 meals) and 8 small Mason jars (perfect for one meal but could be stretched to two.)

Of course there was just a little left that didn't make it into the preserving jars. With the house smelling wonderfully of passata for the better part of the afternoon I just had to have pasta for dinner.

Just as we had it at my friend's house, passata with chilli flakes and plenty of parmesan. Delicioso!

Morning meander...

11 March, 2013

Yay for public holidays! In the state of Victoria, Australia today is Labour Day, which ironically means we don't need to go to work.

So I got to have a lazy meander around the garden. Joy.

Strawberries are back on the menu - they weren't fruiting due to the heat I think.
Also being produced are lots of runners. Need to think of a new strawberry bed space to plant these into.
Artichokes are reshooting.
The melon bed is looking lush.
There are melons on the way.
Here's another.
And hopefully even more to come.
I just love how the dew sits on the edges of the leaves.
The well protected brassica bed is doing well.
Here's an inside view. Some seedling thinning is in order though.
The recently very severely cut back perpetual spinach (a relative of silverbeet) is sending out lots of leaves.
The Huonville Crab is being weighed down with fruit.
The three sisters arrangement has fallen down under the weight of the bean plants. Must rethink this strategy for next year. Maybe poles to help support the corn plants are in order...
The two zucchini are continuing to prosper.
Must pick these before they become monstrous.
Cucumbers are almost outgrowing their frame.
I really like this arrangement for easy picking, and will definitely do it again next year.
Watermelons almost ready for picking.
Baby ones on their way.
The newest addition to the garden, a dwarf banana, is in the pot (hiding behind the massive rhubarb leaf). I'm not sure if bananas grow well in pots but I'll try it for a while and see how it goes. Next to it is the mango which is putting out lots of new leaves.
Many, many lemons.
The eggplant doesn't look like its doing much from above.
But underneath there are fruits almost ready for picking - this variety is Prosperosa.
Sedum is looking lovely, and attracting lots of (camera shy) bees.
The trained tomatoes are drying out but still with lots of fruit - this one is Garden Peach.
This one is Gardeners Delight.
The columnar grown potatoes are not looking too happy. I've been noticing half eaten though stems, and this one seems to be attacked too. Anyone know what bug does this?
Oh so many figs.
Too many to pick so lots are dropping to the ground which is a sad waste.
And lastly, the three remaining ducks enjoying a swim.

Fruit of passion...

09 March, 2013

I have had my passionfruit vine for three or four years now. I can't quite remember exactly, but it was one of the first things I planted. It was originally around where some of my espaliered apples are, but now resides in the back yard where I have been attempting to train it to cover the ugly-old-half-falling-down timber fence. Of three plants that I bought this is the only one that has survived.

This passionfruit is a grafted one (a panama red or yellow from memory, but I'm not sure which this is). Now in all of those years the passionfruit has not lived up to its name and even come close to fruit. Lots of passion-leaves and more than a few passion-rootstocks cropping up about the place. In fact, I had been thinking about poisoning the whole thing and then ripping it out, but it was nice and green and covered the fence so I left it.

Maybe the plant had sensed my sentiments and knew it didn't have long to prove the worth of its existance, as for the first time it has flowered.

And lo and behold from those flowers (around 8 or 9 all up) there has formed precisely one fruit.


Between you and me I might have been inclined to keep the plant purely for the flowers as they are gorgeous! But the plant doesn't need to know that, let it produce its fruit in the hope that it may be saved.

But, having never has a passionfruit before, do I need to protect it from wildlife? Given all the hard work the plant is doing I wouldn't want it to be lost to a marauding possum or bird. If so, any suggestions for protection strategies used by those growing passionfruit would be very much appreciated.