Thermomix jam success...

31 January, 2014

After my previous jam making epic fail, I have hesitated to use the thermomix for jam. Not because it isn't extremely easy, but because I do like jam to be jam, not sauce, and the Thermomix doesn't quite get to the rolling boil that a pot of jam on the stove does, hence the lack of achieving temperatures high enough to gel the jam. So to speak.

But with the blackberry haul from the weekend sitting in my fridge saying "do something with me you fool before we go all mouldy and/or ferment, and all the scratches on your arms will be wasted", obviously action was required.

So I manned up and put my 800g of blackberries (original haul was around a kilo, but of course some have to be sacrificed to quality control, and I froze some in this method for baking) into the thermomix with a whizzed up lemon and 600g sugar. To this I added 50g i.e. one packet of Jamsetta, which is double the suggested quantity for my weight of berries.

I cooked this for 100 degrees C, 30min, reverse, speed 2.

Then I tested for gel.


So away I poured the delicious blackberry-y concoction into pre-sterilised recycled jars.

I like how there is an even distribution of seeds throughout.

 That is a good sign.

So now I am letting them cool, and listening for the pops of the lids as they concave, and enjoying the feeling of satisfaction of having made a good foraged, homemade food.

Home grown on holiday...

26 January, 2014

I'm currently typing this sitting on a deck looking out a at a beautiful view of the Mount Beauty region. I'd show you a photo but none of the one's I take do it justice. You'll just have to imagine a gorgeous green valley and bush covered mountains in the distance.

In the great tradition of public holiday weekends, my family have headed out into the Victorian countryside to get away for the 3 day long weekend and have rented a house in the great alpine region. As much as I love my family, I was a bit sad to be away from the garden for a few days.

But luckily I've managed to bring the home grown to our holiday, with the assistance of various family members.

On our walk into town, we found three plum trees with ripe fruit.

I may or may not have piggy backed on my 6 foot tall brothers shoulders to pick them. (Edit: My brother would like it to be made known that he is in fact 6 foot 2 inches tall. Yes that is how petty my family is. :) )

Also pick-able and in great profusion is that pest and delicious treat blackberries.

We picked some this morning and added them to our breakfast pancakes. They were so good they did not last long enough for a photo. This is all that was left.

I will be picking some more before we head home tomorrow to make jam with.

I hope you are enjoying your Australia Day, wherever you are, even if you aren't an Aussie.

And are eating something home grown and delicious.

Peach protection bonus...

21 January, 2014

My Anzac peaches are finally ripe! Yay.

These are a white peach of particular deliciousness. Now while I am quite happy to share with the local wildlife a few strawberries, a tomato or two, and as many figs as they like, I will not share these peaches. Not until the tree produces more than I can eat. Which is a while away yet.

My tree is 3 years old, and this year produced 31 fruits which I protected with individual net bags.

While this is a bit of a fiddly process, and I wouldn't relish doing it for a whole tree with hundreds of fruit, this has proven to be a worthwhile activity. Not a single fruit (touch wood) has been taken.

But even more excitedly, not only does this strategy stop fruit theft, it also stops fruit spoilage.

When ripe fruits drop, they are caught in the net bags.

This means fruits that would usually fall and get bruised and wasted now are saved.

So I can eat them.

Not exactly philanthropic, but anyhoo. Its how a peach would want to go.

These were two fallen fruits I picked today. (The other three I picked got eaten treeside. Yum.)

Some of the very soft extra ripe fruit got a little marked by the net bag, but others were totally fine.

These I will do my best to hold off eating, and keep for my lunch tomorrow.

Now there are only 24 Anzac peaches left. Hopefully this way I will get each and every one.

Recipe Repertoire 2/52...

18 January, 2014

In my quest to expand my culinary horizons, I am attempting one never before tried recipe from my recipe book collection each week.

This week, after the monstrous heatwave (4 consecutive days of 40+ degrees C = pain) experienced my many across Australia, I have barely felt like cooking. I had in fact earmarked this recipe for sometime this week, but the idea of adding to the heat by turning on my oven was simply not going to happen.

So now that the cool change has hit us and we are no longer sweltering, I felt ready and able to tackle a new recipe in the kitchen.

This weeks recipe comes courtesy of fabulous cookbook Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

Genuinely, this book is BRILLIANT. It not only gives some fabulous recipes, but discusses the intricate history behind the culinary traditions influencing the city, and while it doesn't hide away from the historical and political happenings, it very much focuses on the people and stories of the city.

The recipe I had earmarked to try was the Saffron Chicken and Herb Salad.

Now what intrigued me most about this recipe, was that to make a sauce/dressing for the salad you cook a whole orange with saffron and honey and just enough water to cover for about an hour.

Then you blitz it rind, pith, flesh and all, into a paste. (Thank you Thermomix.)

Now other than this part, I differed slightly from the recipe, as I am wont to do. I used chicken drumsticks and baked them in the oven with a duccah spice mix topping, for a bit of extra flavour. I also swapped the fennel for celery, and added parsley to the herbage listed, and added half a tomato I had left over from my breakfast BLAT (bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato for those who are interested).

Et voila.

Overall, it was nice, but not amazing. I think the fennel would work better with orange, but I'm not sure the extra work of cooking and blitzing the orange was worth it. Something to keep in the back of my mind, but I doubt I'll be making this regularly.

What new culinary adventures have you been having lately?


16 January, 2014

My garden is not coping. Really, I couldn't expect it to. 5 days of 40+ degrees C is just crazy.

This is the worst of the damage:

Corn looking a bit dry.

Beans ditto.

Some melons are managing ok (front) others barely surviving (rear).

Cucumbers looking a bit sad and droopy.

Don't think I'll be eating these blackberries.

Very sun damaged tomatoes.

Zucchini looking a bit parched on the side that gets the late afternoon sun.

New banana leaves just not coping, although the older leaves are ok.

DIY potpourri.

Anyone for stewed apples?

Evergreed blueberry looking a bit crisp.

Heck, if the indestructible agapanthus is not coping, something MUST be wrong.

Are you brave enough...

14 January, 2014

... to eat roadkill?

Note: this post (not surprisingly, given the first sentence) contains discussion of and pictures of dead animals. Do not read if this will cause offense. 

Or its close second; pathkill.

Let me explain.

Recently, while biking along the path that runs along the creek near where I live, I came across the above pictured dead rabbit. I frequently see live bunnies along the path, running for their lives when disturbed, with their fluffy white bunny tails bobbing along. They are cute, but I confess: more than once I've thought it would be great if I could catch a couple for dinner.

I am no stranger after all to killing an animal for the table.

But this time, no killing on my part was required. I came across this poor dead rabbit on the bike path. The first thought that came into my head was "poor rabbit". The second was "I wonder if its still good?".

So yes, I stopped, picked up the rabbit (good, no rigor mortis) and had a good look (good, no wriggly bits) and a good sniff (good, no smell) and then packed it up in one of my spare plastic bags, put it in my bike bag and took it home.

When I got it home I had another good look at it. It had a small wound on its side about half a centimeter wide. My best guess was that it was chased and briefly mauled by a dog, as many people walk dogs along that path and let them off the lead.

My next task was to figure out how to skin and gut it. For that I turned to the trust book 'Practical Self Sufficiency' by Dick and James Strawbridge. It contains, amongst lots of other very useful info, a very detailed description of how to gut, skin and butcher a rabbit.

It took me a little while to get the hang of it, but it was actually quite easy. Gutting it was a bit unpleasant, but taking off the skin was easy. The description of it being like "taking off its pyjamas" (I wish I could remember where I heard/read that) is really quite apt.

I then had a lovely clean rabbit carcass.

Looks just like the one's in the butchers.

Now here is where my courage failed me. I was besiged with doubts. What if it wasn't mauled by a dog, but bitten by a snake? A spider? Some other poisonous creature? What if it ate poison? Or was sitting there for hours developing some sort of smell-less bacterium which will kill me?

I'm sure most of my wonderings were just plain ridiculous. But I couldn't nay-say the fact that I didn't know exactly how the rabbit had died, and how long it was lying there.

So in the end, after all that, I piked. I didn't eat it.

But I figure at least I now know how to skin a rabbit.

Would you have been brave enough?

Morning meander...

12 January, 2014

It being a somewhat cool Melbourne morning I headed out to do a bit of preemptive watering for the hot week ahead (it's forcast to hit 41 degrees C on Tuesday, with high 30's for the rest of the week). As I practice deep watering this gives me a lovely opportunity between moving the soaker hoses to meander about the garden.

Step-over apples are coming along nicely.
Also on the fruit front - Anzac peaches are nearly ready.

I FINALLY have a yellow zucchini, after 3 years of failed plants. Never give up!

My sole remaining fennel plant. From about 300 seeds planted. My resident bugs must like fennel.

Onions ready for harvest. Most of the plants have 'fallen over' indicating they are ready to be dried and stored.

Cucumbers are growing well.

First cucumbers almost ready.

Ditto this one.

Gifted tomatoes (thanks Tim!) are leading the tomato race, but still ages away from ripe. I'm growing these with peppers/capsicums and basil, though these have also been slow growing.

The from seed tomatoes are WAY behind. The tallest on the right is 'New Yorker' and on its left 'Patio' are the only ones which survived from my early July sowings. All the others are from re-sowings in October.

But the passata tomatoes are looking pretty good. I'm not staking these, but am experiment with letting them ramble. They are in the orchard in amongst the early apples.

The only tomato to fruit so far: this one was bought from the nursery (I think it's called 'Tumbler' from memory) and has a sprawling growth habit. I've never grown a tomato in a hanging basket before but its going well.

Blackberries are ripe...

...with more on their way.

Melons are growing well.

Climbing beans have finally hit the top of the arch.

Corn shouldn't be too far away.
And lastly, the ducks are changing their feathers. The boys (in the back left and right) are losing the green feathers around their heads.

Recipe Repertoire 1/52...

07 January, 2014

Welcome to the first installment of Recipe Repertoire, where new and exciting recipes are attempted and hopefully are wildly successful, thereby adding joy and excitement to kitchens and dining rooms. Feel free to join me in blogging about trying a new recipe to expand your own Recipe Repertoire, and of course please leave a comment to let me know you've done so, and I'll add a link to your post in my next Recipe Repertoire post.

My first cookbook off the shelf from which to expand my culinary experience is Donna Hay's 'Instant Entertaining'.

This was a gifted cookbook, and while I like some of the styling, I typically find her recipes a little too basic to be inspiring to me. I don't believe I've actually yet cooked a recipe from this book.

But no longer.

I browsed the pages and found two recipes I liked the sound of:

Breadcrumb Zucchini, and

Haloumi in Vine Leaves

As I have yet to get a zucchini from my 6 plants (but I reckon I'll have some in the next week, so Breadcrumb Zucchini here I come), but I have both haloumi and a grapevine, Haloumi in Vine Leaves it is!

So out I went to pick some vine leaves. I also picked some beans and basil for a small side salad.

At this point I briefly read the recipe, then put the book aside. I like recipes, but use them more as a guide than an absolutely-must-not-deviate-from-the-recipe-or-the-sky-will-fall dictatorial rule.

I blanched the vine leaves (as I learnt when making dolmades) by dunking them in just boiled water. When they are pliable, but before they go horrible and grey looking I took them out and laid them on my chopping board.

They then got brushed with olive oil, then topped with a hunk of haloumi, some preserved lemon (the recipe said lemon rind, but whatev's), a sprinkle of oragano and a twist or two of cracked pepper.

Then the slightly fiddly folding of the vine leaf around the haloumi was done.

All were laid on a tray and baked in a 180 degree C oven for 10 minutes (as per the recipe directions).

This gave me just enough time to whack a couple of potatoes in the microwave and make my bean and basil salad.

10 minutes later, dinner was done.

I have to say I liked the flavour of the vine leaves with haloumi, and the lemon and oragano was a delicious addition.

I would be cautious of not cooking them longer than 10 minutes, or in a higher temp oven, as the edges were a little bit dry and crackly, which wasn't pleasant.

However, it was a very nice meal, and the vine leaf wrap is something I think would work well with chicken or fish too.

Yay for an addition to my Recipe Repertoire. Hopefully future recipes will be as successful.