Weekend Wrap-Garden, Sustainable Living, Sourdough

I always feel as though I’ve taken the easy way out when I use ‘Weekend Wrap’ as a post title, but it really does sum up everything quite accurately for this post. I’ve touched on a little bit of everything this weekend, in the garden, sustainable living, sourdough bread and cooking.

Garden Wrap

We have several compost bins strategically placed around the yard, so that when they are full the contents can be spread easily. This, in theory is good, but because the wicking beds in the veggie patch needed a good topdressing, I had to use compost from the bin in the veggie patch as well as raid some from the bin in our Easterly garden bed.Compost-Geddye binThis compost bin sits  hidden (almost) and I used most of its contents topping up the wicking beds in the veggie patch and then spread the rest over this bed. We have relocated the bin a little further up the bed for the process to start over and will do the same again next year.Compost readyNeed a little something to quickly fill this fence space! I love the way the compost just oozes new life into the soil.Compost spreadThis is a barrow full of compost from the bin within the veggie patch. Sorry, the light is a bit harsh! The 4 barrows from this bin went to the rhubarb, potatoes, asparagus bed and garlic bed which will house the tomatoes in a few weeks. img_9353The potato bath filled up.img_9371Rhubarb that looks like it could take over the world!Make a caption!And the very obvious evidence as to why we should avoid single use plastic rears its head. This shows just how plastic stays intact in the process of composting. I try to avoid single use plastic, but it still sneaks into my life, sometimes invisibly. Interestingly, a fair chunk of this comes from ‘eco’ coffee cups.img_9380After shovelling all that compost I needed a little ergonomic break, so the hammock had its first workout for the season. It was a stunning day yesterday and everything was glowing in the garden.img_9384 img_9391 My brother-in-law gave me some native orchids last year and I was thrilled to see how this Dendrobium is settling in. I love these orchids and do a little ‘happy dance’ every time I look at the beautiful flowers stemming from it.img_9393

A bit of sustainable living.

I try to avoid single use plastic as much as possible and as hard as I try, I find it quite difficult getting local retailers to fill a BYO container or bag. I was thrilled when visiting the Yarragon market yesterday that the lovely people at “The Nut Bloke” were more than happy to accommodate me and put my purchases into my bags that have now been going for about 6 years with no signs of failing yet.Plastic free shoppingWhen we first started planting the garden out four years ago I put in a blood orange tree. Well this tree has struggled and struggled and I’ve kept up the vigil with TLC and lots of chook poo as a bonus. Well, this year we had a harvest, yes, a harvest. Might only be 1 orange but it is juicy, well-shaped and it has some ‘specks’ of blood in it. img_9410 Unfortunately, I think the tree will have to be moved due to a change of plans with the garden bed its in, so I celebrate this harvest in a completely appropriate manner. img_9417I can highly recommend blood orange in a glass of bubbly!

Sourdough Bread and Baking

For a long time I have read about using sourdough discard from feeding starter to make sourdough crackers (dry biscuits to me). I finally gave it a crack using the recipe from the King Arthur Flour Website. I collected discard for a couple of weeks (Kept in fridge), and as simple as mixing 1 cup flour, 1 cup sourdough discard, 1/4 cup butter, pinch salt and 2 tablespoons herbs we had wonderful crackers/dry biscuits.

img_9400I added finely chopped rosemary and would HIGHLY recommend giving this a try. I can see so many variations popping up in my mind for flavour variations of these.sourdough crackersMy bread bakes today was a high hydration/low inoculation (%starter) white loaf. Had to rush a bit to get into the oven but it was great. Light crumb, great crust (forget I dropped it from the oven at the halfway mark!). The loaf on the left is a little under-proofed due to the rush, the loaf on the right is a little over-proofed (and dented) because I had to go out.img_9404Crumb shot of the slightly under-proofed loaf. Still good enough to go with the plate of ‘nibbles’ we put togetherRainy Day Loafcrumb The weather had turned from Spring Glory back to Winter, so for the first time during the day this year, we lit the fire, sipped the bubbly with the blood orange fruit added, and feasted on the sourdough crackers (dry biscuits), soft sourdough bread, some King Island Brie, some French Blue, cheese, home-made pickled onions, some delicious prosciutto from Stellas Pantry in Warragul (they also fill BYO containers), a leftover grilled chorizo sausage sliced up and some Mersey Valley Tasty cheese. CompostAnd I didn’t even nod off after this indulgence! How was your weekend?

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Knockin’ up Some Gnocchi

I cannot believe how I coped for so long with our lack of decent cooking facilities. I’m starting to come out of the zombi zone and realise what I can start doing again. There was no way I would have contemplated making gnocchi in the old state of affairs. It worried me putting a big pot on the butane camping stove would end with an explosion. I could have done it on our heavy duty gas ring that I used for passata making etc, but really…..Well, worry no more! Tonight I made some potato gnocchi with a Napoli Style sauce. It was delicious. Gnocchi was light and fluffy and the sauce had a great depth to it as I’d let it simmer for a few hours. Shaping GnocchiFor the gnocchi I mixed together:

  • approx 1 kg Gippsland Gold potatoes that I’d baked in the oven. Peeled and put through the ricer (I turned the peels into baked chips by adding some oil and salt then returning to the oven to bake until crisp)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 200g OO flour
  • nutmeg- about 2 teaspoons
  • Salt & pepper
  • Mixed herbs

All gently incorporated until it came together in a nice ball, not too sticky, not too wet, just right! I sectioned the dough and rolled each section into long strips about as thick as a pointer finger and then cut it into small pieces about 1.5-2cm long. I don’t have gnocchi rollers/boards and I find making the traditional line marks with a fork both time consuming and awkward for my dodgy hands, so I leave it plain. Once cut, I rested the pieces on a semolina floured board until ready to go in the pot.

For the sauce I put 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped carrot, 1 stick chopped celery, 2 bay leaves, 1 litre home made passata, parsley, S&P, a splosh of balsamic, a generous 1/2 cup of olive oil and about 700 mls water into a stock pot, bought to the boil with lid on then removed lid and let it simmer and reduce for a few hours. Lovely concentrated flavour and a silky feel as the oil had emulsified though the sauce. Served with some chopped parsley and parmesan shavings along with some fresh sourdough to mop up the excess juice.

Gnocchi with Napoli Suace

Ear Ear! Ere’s this weeks bread.

More practice with the new oven and I think I’m getting there. The oven is really hot and holds its temperature so well that I’ve needed to take that into account. This loaf is 20% rye at 70% hydration. Best colour I’ve had so far cooking in the new beast.

Rye sourdoughIt’s still raining here and it’s not likely to stop in the immediate future so I might get the chance to do some more training with the beast.

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Catch up post. Kombucha among other things.

Well it was time to do the taste test! My first batch of kombucha had been bottled for a second fermentation which I had read creates better carbonation, 2 bottles with some ginger added and 1 plain.

KombuchaI had read that kombucha can be pretty explosive on opening, so I decided to do this outside. Good decision!img_9281This is the trail of exploded KB over the side path. Haven’t seen something like that since the kids were home and had partied hard! I probably should have taken heed of the people who recommend refrigerating the bottles before opening. I’ll take that on board for the next batch.kombuchaThis what remained in the bottle after the explosive opening.Ginger kombuchaI can say though, I loved the flavour. The slight ginger overtones were wonderful and it was bubbly and refreshing.

For a wander through the patch.

It feels like an eon since I’ve played in my veggie patch, probably because it is. We are opening again for the food gardens section of Gardivalia this year so I had better pull my finger out and get things in order.

AsparagusThere are signs of life coming from the asparagus bed,Crimson broad beansthe crimson broad beans my brother-in-law gave me look so pretty,Broad beansand the normal ones are in flower too.coriander growingWhen I was sorting out moving stuff from the temporary kitchen to the new kitchen I threw some old coriander seed into this bed and hopefully it will keep growing. I don’t have much luck with coriander so fingers crossed.De la mal maison roseThe souvenir de la mal maison climbing rose I planted last year near the green house is in bud. I can’t wait to see these bloom, one of my favourites.leaf mold compostI spread one of the  leaf mold towers we had breaking down for the last 12 months over this bed, I now need to choose a spot for the next one to be placed. So easy just removing the wire and spreading the lush conditioner over the bed.

BREAD

I’m finally getting a handle on how the new oven operates and made some oat porridge bread. Here is the oats cooking (on a real stove top!) waiting to cool to add to the dough.Oat porridge breadThis one of the 3 loaves I made. I used the recipe from the delightful Maurizio’s site and although once again, it’s not as pretty as his. I’m quite happy with the result. Oat Porridge sourdough breadCrumb shot! Not as fine as Maurizio’s but I didn’t mind.Crumb shot oat porridge sourdough.With spring in the air and me officially finishing work I hope to be able to get a bit more in control and do some finishing off of all our half started jobs.

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Lunch at King Island

Last year for Mr ATMT’s ‘special’ birthday celebration we had organised  to spend the weekend in Melbourne with all the family  sharing an apartment, going out to dinner with a close-knit group of friends and then heading off on a hot air balloon ride over Melbourne at dawn. Well the apartment and dinner went well, but the balloon ride was cancelled due to being too windy. A voucher was issued that could be used within 15 months on any number of activities. Because we had done the AMAZING balloon ride in Turkey, we didn’t think one over Melbourne would have anywhere near the WOW factor so he chose flying to King Island in a DC3, having lunch and doing a mini explore of the area around Currie in the South West section of the island. King Island is a small island located in Bass Strait about halfway between Victoria and Tasmania’s main island. We headed to Essendon Airport which is about a 2 hour drive but being Sunday morning it didn’t quite take that long. Here is our transport for the day. DC3 “Gooney Bird”  a beautiful plane that first flew in 1935.

DC3 Gooney BirdThe interior complete with vinyl quilting and ashtrays in the seats.Inside the DC3King Island is renowned for its high quality dairy products, fresh seafood,  green pasture where cattle graze and fatten into quality beef and more recently a thriving kelp forestry/harvesting industry. Apologies for the following photos. It never works well taking shots through bus/plane/train/car windows, the weather was awful and I am struggling with a terrible ‘Man Flu”. Wonder I got out of bed to make the trip really! Sometimes though, you just get carried away with the moment and keep snapping away regardless and expect everyone else will have the same appreciation for your enthusiasm. Like here, where along with 3/4 of the wing you get a glimpse of Melbourne from about 1500 feet.DC3 over MelbourneOr here, where we are heading towards Port Philip Bay, the safe shipping harbour for freight entering Melbourne from overseas and where Melbournians spend many recreational hours at the safe beaches along the shoreline. IMG_9165 Or here where we have passed over “the Heads” and entered Bass Strait territory.Out the headsAt this point we hit quite a bit of cloud and didn’t have much to view until we landed at King Island.

One of the more recent industries to develop on KI is kelp harvesting. Apparently kelp is used in the food, textile and agricultural sectors. I don’t know a lot about this industry but the appeal to me is the sustainable and organic concept. I will be doing some reading to find out a bit more. This is a shot of some kelp that has been hauled from the beach drying in readiness to be put into a ‘chipper’ to make little kelp bits that are exported to wherever they need to go.Kelp harvest curing An example of some of the rugged beach near Currie.Currie Coast King Island with some pretty little coastal plants holding onto the banks.IMG_9235 King Island is renowned for its lobster, oyster and prawn quality. Some lobster pots near the harbour.Lobster pots This cute little boat house is known as ‘The Restaurant with no food’. Apparently it is available for parties, community use and anything else that is self-catered for. It sits beautifully overlooking the harbour.Restaurant without food After lunch, we headed off to the the King Island Cheesery and I was pleasantly surprised that they sold the cheeses at about half the cost of what we pay retail. So often you go to a direct outlet and it is so expensive it doesn’t warrant the hassle of carrying it, but that was not the case here. King Island Cheese selection You may wonder why there is no detail about the lunch that to us was to be an integral part of this day. Well in honesty it was awful. I suspect there may have been something going on in the background that led to things like canned chicken soup, tinned pudding, packet custard, store bought mayo and 1000 island dressing and gravox on the roast beef. I had only heard good things and seen good reviews about the restaurant so I’m going to be gracious and not do any naming and shaming here.  We did however have a lovely bottle of Pipers 9th Island Sauvignon Blanc and the oysters and prawns were fresh and lovely.

On our flight home, Mr ATMT paid a bit extra to sit in the ‘jump’ seat for our landing back at Essendon airport.

IMG_0742He got a birds eye view of the approach over the city and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.CockpitWe had a lovely day, the old DC3 is beautiful and I love the sound of the thump, thump, thump, throbbing of the engines. I found it extremely comfortable and would highly recommend it in a heart beat.

If however, you are hoping for a quality gastronomical experience, do some research first. Very disappointed. Once I have communicated with the organisers I will decide whether or not to comment on the establishment.

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Putting things together.

We are very close to the finishing stages of our kitchen and exteno project. IMG_8852I’m in the process of moving everything from the temporary kitchen, the old dentist room, the shed and the spare bedroom into our new kitchen. So far all the bits are fitting in beautifully and I will have oodles of space to store everything. I’m being ruthless and items not thought about, used in 12 months or damaged are going straight to the op shop pile or tossed.  We still haven’t got water and gas connected in the kitchen but we do have it in the laundry so we have been able to clear the plastic table and babies bath out from the bathroom and can wash dishes in the laundry. This has been the greatest challenge I’ve faced with this whole experience. I really didn’t like having a loo in the dishwashing area!IMG_8848We can now work on plans for renovating this bathroom. The part with insulation is where we have extended the wall out from the existing room. Love the drapes? 2 shower curtains that do the job well enough. We still have to do a few jobs but it is certainly well on the way to completion and the space is working extremely well.IMG_8887 IMG_8859I’m still using the 2 butane gas camping stoves and hope this box of butane cans is the last I will need to buy for home use. They are an excellent product and you can cook everything on these cookers, I suspect there may even be times when I take one outside to the verandah to cook with.  IMG_8904We had friends around for tea last night and I felt like doing something ‘Asian’ so went to the gorgeous Dumpling Sisters website for some inspiration. My first exposure to the Dumpling Sisters was when Celia posted about their fantastic home made dumplings and I made the wrappers from scratch. Their dumplings are great and the wrappers are oh so easy! Anyway, for this meal I made their Mapo Tofu, well, it was improvised based around what I had and what I couldn’t get locally. I didn’t have chilli bean sauce so I used black bean sauce and added some chilli sauce and some of my home made chilli paste. I couldn’t get soft tofu, so I used hard but fried it off first to give it a nicer texture. I used veal instead of beef as I had taken some out of the freezer earlier to make  dumplings with. I added fresh beans, omitted the black beans and served with chopped red capsicum and spring onions. It was delicious!IMG_8863Next  up was their ‘One Pot Cauli Satay’. I’m not a huge fan of satay but I love cauliflower and really enjoyed this meal. I added a chicken thigh fillet, halved the curry powder (Keens) and also added peas. This was great! Glad I cut back on the curry as I was concerned that it would be too hot, but with using half it turned out to be just right.IMG_8864For desert (very unusual for us) I made lychee and orange sorbet. This was absolutely delicious, served with our freshly picked oranges that had been segmented and sitting in their own juice for a couple of hours. I only made half the recipe and it was more than enough for the four of us. We still have some in the freezer for when I need a hit. This would have to be one of the easiest and lightest of deserts I have ever made. It was perfect for finishing off the chinese style  dishes and cleansing the pallette.IMG_8870Today I bottled my Kombucha, I added ginger to 2 bottles and left one plain. I believe this will now do a 2nd fermentation in the bottle resulting in a bubbly beverage. Fingers crossed. I made a fresh batch with the scoby and a fresh batch of sweet black tea. Like the reflection on the bottles!IMG_8898I love my soda stream,  I have had one since they were first released and came with small glass bottles. I love the concept and my main reason for using one is to avoid all the plastic bottles soda water comes in. We usually use fresh fruit or lime cordial that you can buy in glass bottles for flavouring. I wasn’t really happy when I read this on the side of one of their new style bottles. Why on earth would these have such a short shelf life? Some research is called for here, but I suspect I might be going back to an old fashioned soda syphon that come with metal gas bombs and a steel carbonation chamber. IMG_8892I’m working on getting better results with baking bread in my new oven but I must say, the Sunbeam Pizza Bake N Grill is hard to match! Still a way to go but it does taste great.IMG_8874My capacola is doing what it should be doing. Not smelly, no blowflies, no mould and it actually smells wonderful. I’ll watch the conditions carefully and if it starts to warm up I’ll take it our daughters house which has a very cool and humid underfloor area.IMG_8856We’ve been picking oranges and amazingly Rene has been laying eggs. She is over 4 years old and we thought she’d lost it but it appears we were wrong. This equates to pretty much one a day. IMG_8851I’m impressed!

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Corn, Kombucha, Crochet, Capicola and Cactus back. Part 1

So what’s been happening?

Kombucha

As part of my commitment to trying to live as sustainably and waste free as possible, I’d explored and seen a lot of discussion around the traps about something called Kombucha, or fermented sweet tea. I was a little negative and hesitant as my only experience with fermented products (apart from beer and bread) was kaffir and I hated it. I read a post from Tammy at Gippsland Unwrapped about making Kombucha for everyday drinking and also for fermenting for a longer time to create vinegar for home use (cleaning etc) and I was hooked. I had to give this Kombucha thing a go! Tammy very graciously offered me a SCOBY to use as a starter for creating my fermented tea, and the lovely people at String & Salt in Warragul were gracious enough to act as our exchange point. I really love it when like minded people and businesses can work together and create a hub of support so we can share and learn new things.

So this is what a SCOBY looks like.

Kombucha SCOBY

It’s weird. I’m not going to go into explaining all about it, you can get that detail by visiting Tammy’s site at Gippsland Unwrapped , you may even pick up some great tips about living without waste while you are there.

I did some extra googling to try and get my head around the steps involved in turning this weird beast into a usable product and I was amazed at how easy it seems to be.

First up I made a batch of sweet black tea,

Kombucha black tea

Black tea for KombuchaLet it cool, then added the SCOBY,

Adding SCOBY to the teacovered the concoction and while I’m still quite unprepared for what the outcome will be, set it in a dark spot to do its’s thing. Milton the Monster anyone?

Kombucha fermentationIt appears to be behaving, I dipped my finger in and I am quite excited about the end result. In a couple of days I’ll decide if I do a second fermentation or not. Interesting indeed.

Corn

Last seasons corn harvest was stored differently than previous years. Rather than remove husks, de-silk, blanche, cool, wrap, I simply removed the silks, wrapped the husks back around the cobs, wrapped them well in foil and bunged them into the freezer.

IMG_8780IMG_8783  Always the sceptic, I cooked some the other night expecting to be disappointed. I certainly won’t waste my time doing the blanching process again. The corn was great, almost as good as freshly picked. Olive oil, freshly cracked black pepper, mmmmm….

Capicola

For my first attempt at processing some charcuterie, I decided on Capicola. I apologise in advance for those who disagree with my spelling, but there as many versions of spelling this meat as there are of how to process it, so I’m sticking to Capicola. A cured meat product made from the pork neck. I stupidly (so the store told me) selected in store pick up rather than posting of the collagen skin (even though I’d paid postage) so the neck was sitting in the salt brine longer than I had anticipated. Let’s just put that down to experience.

Capicola in brine After salting the pork was rinsed with in red wine while I prepared the other ‘bits’.Capicola rinseI made a rub of cracked black pepper, chilli, sweet paprika, fennel, salt and I’m sure something else….. and rubbed it over the pork.

IMG_8838Emergency situation at hand as far as the wraps went so I improvised by buying some fake salami skins, soaked them, cut them open into a flat piece and used them to wrap the pork. Not real happy about having to do that but we will see what develops.

IMG_8831I wrapped the pork in the skins then put it into elastic net ready to hang and hopefully cure into a delicious cut. CapicolaIt is a little late in the season to be doing this but I’m game.

Well, seeing as it taken me 3 hours with internet and photo issues to get this far, I’m breaking this post into 2 parts. Hopefully tomorrow night will be more successful.

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Turkish Cooking Class, in Warragul!

Whenever we travel, I like to do some sort of cooking class or have a hands on session with food in some way. I love the memories the experience brings and it is a fantastic way of learning more about a local culture as food is usually an integral part of any country’s history and social make-up. Unfortunately on our recent trip to Turkey I did not get the opportunity to participate in a local class due to the fact tourism has been so rocked by recent events, there were not sufficient numbers (2) to hold a class. I had registered interest with 4 different places and had a good window of opportunity, but it just didn’t get off the ground. Due to this, I did not even blink when my favourite business, String & Salt  in Warragul, West Gippsland announced they had 2 last-minute places available for their ‘My Turkish Table’ cooking session last Saturday. In 2015, S & S’s Michelle, participated in an 8 week vocational and cultural exchange to Turkey, and shares her cultural experiences and demonstrates making the Turkish dishes wish such passion  and enthusiasm you can’t help but be swept away and enjoy the whole experience.

String & Salt Turkish TableAlong with the 10 or so dishes we made, there was a great little set of detailed notes that covered things like spices, cooking styles, essential ingredients and sourcing them, information about some local drinks and when they are served and some basic Turkish phrases. Everyone at S&S has the same infectious, positive attitude. This is Chef Anne preparing a smoked eggplant which will become part of the eggplant mash the lamb stew (Sultan’s Delight) was served on.String & Salts AnneSome of the other dishes we covered were, gozleme (I was so involved I forgot to take photos), Hiro’s Boregi, a beautiful pastry dish made with of layers of pastry, greens, spices and a egg/yoghurt custard.

Hiro's BoregiThe baked result! This was one of my favourite foods in Turkey.Hiro's boregiThere was also a variety of salads,   carrot dip (look at that focussed attention!),Turkish Carrot dipSultan’s Delight  or lamb stew cooked on the stove top and served in a traditional Turkish Clay pot.Sultan's DelightSkewering the marinated chicken,Chicken kebapswhich was cooked over charcoal in the back alley. The charcoal imparts such an authentic flavour, not to mention the ambiance it creates!Charcoal chicken kebapOnce everything came together we sat around the communal table and shared String & Salt’s sensational Turkish Table Feast.My Turkish TableOf course we had to finish with a delicious and extremely easy version of rolled almond and pistachio baklava. Definitely a repeat to be made of this.Rolled baklavaString & Salt is where we purchased our brand new Falcon oven so it’s  fitting that on the same day as this class I baked bread for the first time in the new oven. Few things to learn after using a pretend oven for so long but I don’t think there will be any issues by the look of these!IMG_8622Thanks everyone @stringandsalt sensational!

 

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