Hangin’ in the hammock. Spelt, flowering gums & books.

What an absolute cracker of a weekend  it’s been weather wise! Autumn is my favourite season, but  I especially love it when the weather has been as lovely as the last couple of weeks. We’ve had cool, almost balmy nights, sunny days ranging from 18-30 degrees with just a slight breeze, promises of cooler nights advancing by the dew that’s on the grass and cars in the morning and the golden tinge of colour change in the leaves of the trees. Perfect camping weather, hope it holds for a few weeks.

I was not going to miss the opportunity to enjoy this weather while I could, so in between all the weekend chores and jobs I took time to retreat to my beloved hammock and have some ‘smell the roses’ time.

If I was asked to make a short list of my favourite things to do, reading, camping and hanging in my hammock would be top of the list. If I can do all at the same time I’m in heaven!

I recently borrowed a book from the local Mobile Library and although a very different genre to my beloved crime mystery I thoroughly enjoyed it. The book was ‘The Briny Cafe’ by Susan Duncan and it is a nice story based around some Aussies who live off shore from the mainland and have a strong community  that they cherish and we get to share their lifestyle. I loved the tone of Susan’s writing and have since read the sequel, Gone Fishing which I found just as delightful. So, on to reading her ‘memoirs’, Salvation Creek which I have also enjoyed immensely. Close to my heart, we all are or have friends in the same places she has been and I felt it a very honest and light-hearted approach to disclosing her unbelievingly difficult experiences. Close to the end of the book, I was in between stretch and folds of my bread dough, stirring of the tomato and plum sauces so I treated myself to a stretch in the hammock with a ‘coldie’ (aka chilled beer), my book and a relaxed attitude. Heaven!

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Coming back in between tasks, I picked a few things to go in our dinner that I hadn’t planned. Lemons, lemongrass, capsicum, zucchini and some potatoes. Found some chicken in the freezer  so we had a chicken, lemon, lemongrass, capsicum, zucchini, thyme and potato bake. Threw in some small tomatoes to add sweetness and served on rice cooked with lemongrass and some star anise. Wasn’t a dribble maker, but it was fresh, tasty and hearty.

IMG_0407 IMG_0411My sourdough bread bake this weekend was a 50% spelt flour mix, in a 68% hydration dough. We bought this flour at Callington Mill in Tasmania last September, its best by date has passed but it looked ok, smelled ok and performed well in the loaves.

IMG_0449While lying in my hammock I was positioned so I could keep peeking at this beautiful flowering gum. We had to remove a large flowering gum tree when we moved in and I hated doing it. This one is a smaller grafted variety and the shape of the leaves, buds, flowers and I presume  the resulting gum nuts are so beautiful. Not usually a pink kind of girl! First time its flowered, beautiful.

IMG_0427As I’m putting this post together there is a leg of lamb in the slow cooker laced with 2 heads of garlic, lots of rosemary, a cup or so of balsamic vinegar and a bit of brown sugar and stock. Smells beautiful! Will let you know how it goes.

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Ahhh, love Autumn.

 

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Dumpling week.

Seems my inner self has been in need of dumplings recently. Is it because the seasons are changing and dumplings are a halfway dish between summer and winter food? Is it because I haven’t travelled for a while and dumplings represent in one form or another every nationality and culture possible. I may be hankering to experience some new ways to have dumplings. Can’t think of any country that doesn’t have a dumpling dish of some sort. Even us Aussies have the great ‘GSD’, Golden Syrup Dumplings, if cooked well are a lovely dessert treat.

My humble attempts this week were pretty PP really. Didn’t make my own wrappers just grabbed a pack from the Supermarket. Having said that, it is a massive step forward that they were actually stocked at the Moe major. Won’t hold my breath for the local supermarket stocking such basics, they seem to be reducing their range of products rather than offering more.

Anyway, Sunday night was pork, ginger and zucchini wonton style dumplings served with a traditional asian dipping sauce. This style of dish is one of my favourites. Easy, reasonably healthy and can be tweaked so you can use whatever is at hand in the filling.

Pork Dumplings

For the filling I used 500g minced pork, 1 grated zucchini (juice squeezed out), 2 crushed cloves garlic, 3 spring onions chopped finely, generous teaspoon of sesame oil, pinch of salt and about a tablespoon of finely grated ginger. All into a bowl and really mix it well. Squeeze it through your fingers and make sure it is really well mixed.

Place a spoonful onto each wrapper, (packet had about 30) then moisten edged and bring sides together to seal. I usually use round wrappers but it was nice for a change to see a different shape.

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Popped them into the steamer on the what I now believe to be the perilous gas cooker.

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While dumplings were steaming I mixed up the dipping sauce using:

  •  1 small finely chopped red chilli with seeds removed,
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 5 tablespoons (100ml) light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine (shaohsing)*
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 crushed garlic clove

When dumplings seem cooked, (about 10 minutes) place onto platter, scatter with chopped spring onions and drizzle some of the sauce over. I found these wrappers not as nice as usual, bit glassy but they tasted ok. Tended to stick more than I’m used to. Filling and dipping sauce was lovely!

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Potato Gnocchi

My next dumpling fix was potato gnocchi. Hadn’t made gnocchi for a long time and it is one of those dishes that should never be purchased in packets and only ordered out if you know it is light and fluffy as it should be and not like marbles that are chewy and tough. I microwaved a couple of potatoes (600 ish grams), mashed them lightly and then let to cool. Mix the egg through the mash first to make it smoother and easier to add flour.

Potato gnocchi

I added about 100g flour, a pinch of pepper and salt and gently mixed it all together. Don’t overwork it, just enough to hold together. Turn out onto a floured board and rolled into play dough type snakes. Have a large pot of boiling salted water ready. Cut bite sized pieces off the snakes, if it is for a more formal occasion you can shape them with little marks but for our casual meal I didn’t bother. Toss the cut gnocchi pieces into the boiling water and when they float they are ready.

Potato gnocchi

I must admit I let the side down with the sauce for this dish. Just some tomato passata, onion, zucchini and eggplant which should have shone but I didn’t do too well with developing the flavour. Nice but lacking oomph! Didn’t take a photo, didn’t think it worthy!

Phoenicia-Fantastic and Flying!

The sourdough starter I got from the lovely Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial has developed beautifully. Phoeny is extremely resilient and has a bit more tang to the taste than my Vessie. I made 2 loaves of basic white at the weekend and they were both tremendous. Thanks Celia!

Sourdough bread

20150315_194522A batch of tomato sauce and that will probably see the major crop of tomatoes done. Can’t believe it’s still only March and they seem to have stopped. Hopefully a few stragglers will continue, enough to keep us in tomatoes on sourdough breakfasts for a while.

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Their Smiles Say It All @ Thorpdale Potato Festival

This weekend we visited the Thorpdale Potato Festival (Spud Fest) for the first time in 12 years. The Potato Festival had been a huge local event for many years until ridiculous costs and conditions were imposed by insurance companies making it nigh on impossible to comply. This led to the demise of a wonderful annual event that funded community groups and was responsible for some great sporting facilities being developed in the town of Thorpdale. Many community organisations right across the country had to curtail their community events due to the high cost of public liability insurance and the increased red tape that was a huge burden for volunteer committees to manage. But it’s back! Boy, is it back! Great day indeed.

Thorpdale Potato Festival

When we first moved to Trafalgar about 25 years ago our local Apex club worked as parking attendants at the Spud Fest and this raised great sums of money that went straight back into the community. Every year Mr ATMT would have to do his allotted time slot on parking duty so we would all head up to the Festival to watch competitions in picking and bagging spuds, see some cooking tips and most importantly hope that the kids didn’t get flattened when mob mentality kicked in as an aeroplane dropped packets of potato chips over the crowd. That was scary, but the kids loved it! Very fond memories of those festivals.

 

Our older son lives in Melbourne and had mentioned to friends about the fest making a come back so they made a weekend of it by coming down, staying at our place and doing the Spud Fest. It was  a delight spending time with them all. We had forewarned them that an hour might be the maximum time the fest may take up before they were bored stiff, but we got there just before midday and left just before it closed at about 4.00. Following are some photos of the day. Congratulations to the organisers in bringing this event back and huge accolades in the way it was organised. I think they were caught short with having enough food vendors to meet the need but that just goes to show that people came out in loads to support this event.

HERE WE GO!

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Champing at the bit to get in!

First up some refreshment from a local brewery.

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Grand Ridge Brewery from  Mirb

 

Then off to watch the stunt motor bike.

IMG_0235On to watch the ladies packing race. Had to fill the box with spuds then load the box onto a pallet. Gee these girls can move. Found the perfect place to watch the event, a pile of spud sacks of course!

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IMG_0261Then a walk around looking at historical machinery, some market stalls and a very quick glimpse at the line dancers. Some words of wisdom on display.

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The mashed potato eating competition. Everyone who entered this was laughing and smiling. Great to see all ages getting on board.

IMG_0268 IMG_0278Fashions on the Field, all made from hessian which is the fabric used make potato sacks. Some were creative and artistic,

IMG_0300Some were serious and quite stunning.

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And some were just plain silly! A very important component indeed.

IMG_0317Back to the event area to watch the mens potato packing competition.

IMG_0255The ‘kids’ were very excited to have their photo taken with ‘Chippy’  the mascot for the festival.    ‘Chippy’ even speaks english you know!

IMG_0241Oh, the excitement of being photographed with ‘Chippy’!

IMG_0245We missed a few events like the dog trials, the sack race, shearing and more but the ‘kids’ vow they are coming back next year to catch everything. We will be more than happy to have them too! Great weekend. Thanks to the organisers, well done indeed. What community events and festivals do you enjoy?

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Seasons are Turning. GSC March

I’ve missed doing a post for a few Garden Share Collectives (GSC) recently, just can’t seem to make the deadline! Thanks to Lizzie at StrayedTable  for co-ordinating all of us home growers showcasing what is happening in our plots.

Harvests at the moment. What else? Tomatoes, tomatoes and yes tomatoes! I say that bit it has generally been a pretty average season. Also capsicum, cucumbers, grapes, zucchini and mini eggplant. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to planting full size eggplant. The ‘finger’ variety suits us well. There are a couple here left, centre.

Tomato harvestThe capsicum crop has been the best in years, yet I haven’t had much success with chillies that  are usually mounting up by now.

IMG_9815I discovered what an invasion of white cabbage moth on the capsicum growing in the greenhouse so a dose of Dipel was in order. Dipel is an organic pesticide derived from Bacillus thuringiensis. I’ve used this successfully in the past and I must admit I love seeing the little critters fall to the ground!

IMG_0116Yet again the value of using exclusion bags on crops as they mature has been proven. This shot shows tomatoes, some in the protective exclusion bag and one that didn’t have the protection. See how the birds ruined the tomato? Little buggers are even attacking green tomatoes this year!

IMG_0110I’ve started seed for kale, broccoli and brussel sprouts and cipollini onions. Hope I haven’t left it too late for the sprouts!

IMG_0124Time to gear up in preparation for the onslaught of autumn leaves that have already started to shed from our English Oak. This is a massive task. Will need to spread the 4 different compost piles I did last year and reset them ready to fill this year. This photo was taken last year and I love it. Quite look forward to seeing these pretty colours!

IMG_4643Head over to the Garden Share Collective and see what other gardeners are doing.

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Posted in Broccoli, Capsicum, Compost, Cucumber, In The Garden, Sustainable Living, Tomatoes, Uncategorized, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

In My Kitchen-Be warned, Red everywhere!

What’s in my kitchen this month? Tomatoes, tomatoes and yes, more tomatoes. Thanks again Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for giving us this opportunity to share and have a glimpse into kitchens all around the world. Yep, with tomatoes, you cruise along for a few weeks harvesting at leisure and using beautiful tomatoes one by one for your salads and breakfasts and then bang! Glut time. All at once you become overloaded with these beautiful ruby red, purple, black and pinky orange delights.

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I usually start by sorting them into 3 separate piles, those that I can leave to ripen a bit longer, those nice now and over the next few days and those that must be used now or they will be destined for the chooks! The nice now and for a few more day ones are going onto my pretty new blue plate/bowl.

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I spent this morning making some tomato pickles.

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This pickles is great with meat, eggs and anywhere you would use tomato sauce.

I knocked up a ‘tart au tomato’. I just used some puff pastry as the base, spread some Dijon mustard over and topped with sliced tomatoes, olive oil and thyme. Smells pretty good,  might be lunch this week I think.

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I also made a tomato ‘quichey’ pie dish. First up, a pastry base into which I spread the bit of tomato pickles that didn’t fit into the jars, then came pan-fried tomatoes, zucchini, onion and capsicum with some olive oil, thyme and oregano. IIMG_0181 grated the zest of our first kaffir lime into the mix  too. Gee I love the smell of kaffir lime, it is so heady and aromatic. Oh, there was some chorizo I found in the fridge when I cleaned it out, so that went in as well!

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I dug out my favourite rolling pin to roll out the pastry. I bought this in an op-shop in Tassie about 20 years ago. Kauri pine and beautiful to use. The ‘quichey’ pie looks good and today’s white sourdough loaf  have kept my ‘toy oven‘ jam packed. Two loaves of 50% rye yet to go in today!

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On an exciting note, I have a new sourdough starter, Phoenicia. Celia graciously offered me some of her starter saved from “Priscilla”. How could I refuse? The starter arrived last week and it was only this morning before I’ve had a chance to give it the kiss of life. I’ve named her Phoenicia in honour of the great Phoenician bakers, apparently unrivalled. So now I have Phoenicia, Vessie (after Vesuvius) which are both a white starter and ‘100% rye’ (must think of a name for that! Only a couple of hours in and already signs of life.

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In my kitchen is a very handy bucket. When we were camping our trusty old bucket came to grief and I refused to pay $4.00 for one that looked about as good quality as a chinese food container.  I went into the local bakery and asked if they had any spare fondant buckets. $5.00 later we came out with 2 large 10 litre buckets and this handy little one which is ideal for doing my preferment of bread dough in.

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Well, that’s about all that’s going on In My Kitchen this month. I now have to go and find my passata making equipment as I think that will definitely be a job that needs to be done in the next week or so. But first, some sourdough french toast with a dollop of tomato pickles for lunch.

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Sailing on the Gippsland Lakes!

How lucky are we? We have been fortunate enough to share a beautiful weekend on board the yacht of some dear friends. And what a great weekend we had!

Their yacht is moored at Paynesville, which is the gateway to the Gippsland Lakes in eastern Victoria. A series of channels, inlets and small protected harbours separated from the ocean by dunes and hills create a boating mecca and a wonderful environment for birds to take up residence and breed.  The bird life is sensational! Pelicans, parrots, gulls of all species, swallows, terns and black swans. It is reputed that habitat for up to 20,000 water birds is within the Gippsland Lakes.

The weather was sensational as was the company and the whole experience. Here are a few happy snaps from the weekend.

MooringOur overnight mooring. Snug as bugs securely tied up. Went for a walk to check out the ninety mile beach. Beautiful!

90 Mile beach

Back to ‘camp’ for some R&R, prepare dinner and await the sunset. We did also imbibe in some (much) wine to help pass the time.

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Dinner was curried chicken, salad, spinach and ricotta croquettes, some baked tarts and oven roasted vegies.

Sated, we settled in to watch the skyline.

IMG_9959Weren’t disappointed with that, stunning indeed! The turning point, when you know you are definitely being transported from day to night.

IMG_9935 Sunset Gippsland LakesThere is something magical about being on the water, no mechanical noises, birds tittering, lapping of the waves and mother nature puts on a performance of beauty and wonderment. There was much discussion about moon phases and astrological patterns though out the evening. Everyone is an expert at these times of course! Unfortunately we didn’t have the equipment to shoot good photos of the moon waxing or is it waning? Is it a ‘d’ or an ‘o’? Long story that’s no where as interesting without a few bottles of wine to help.

Gippsland Lakes Junk

Many different water craft on the lakes. Thought I was back in Asia for a bit.

There were lots of jellyfish wherever we stopped. I find these stunningly beautiful and very elegant. I love watching them dancing through the water. Was it the Nutcracker or Fantasia that started my fascination with these creatures?

JellyfidhBirds everywhere.

IMG_0068IMG_0034Back to the mooring feeling extremely relaxed and happy to have been able to share such a wonderful time with our wonderful friends. I just love being on and around water, even more so with those we love! What makes you happy?

 

 

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Introducing Phoenicia!

When I started this blog I had intended it just be a diary account of renovations we did to this old home and what we were establishing in the garden and vegetable patch. Throw in a bit of preserving and foodie stuff and that was it. I had no idea it would lead to “meeting” some amazing people from right across the globe and learning so many different things from other bloggers who offer so much. It’s really like one big fat support group for whatever you do!

One of these delightful people is Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. Celia’s blogs covers a wealth of subjects, some food related some not. She turns out amazing bread and meals like a machine (but they look and I bet, taste) way better than a machine had created them. She shows great compassion for those experiencing hard times and has a slightly wicked sense of humour from what I’ve gleaned.  Celia has been generously sharing her sourdough starter ‘Priscilla’, Queen of the refrigerator (named from the movie  Priscilla, Queen of the desert) to people and giving them advice on how to activate, maintain and use the starter to make bread. Well guess who’s a lucky old recipient? Yep, moi! Celia graciously offered me some and I wasn’t about to miss out on such a great opportunity. I’m keen to see the difference between starters. Here is the treasured packet of granules just waiting to be resuscitated. Not only is there starter, but also a detailed set of instructions for kicking life back into it ready to bake some bread.

Dried sourdough starter

One of Celia’s requests is to name the starter so the family lineage of Priscilla can be tracked. Now this was tricky….

My first thought was to use a name that tied back to the movie but all I could come up with was “Ping Pong”. Please don’t ask me to explain! I was a little concerned this could be a bit controversial so I’ve decided to name her Phoenicia (long lost relative of Priscilla) in honour of the ancient Phoenicians who are considered to be responsible for the first breads.

The following was taken from The History of Bread.

The Egyptian grammarian and philosopher Athenaeus, who lived in the third century A.D., has handed down to us considerable knowledge about bread and baking in those days. He wrote that the best bakers were from Phoenicia or Lydia, and the best bread-makers from Cappadocia. He gives us a list of the sorts of bread common in his time-leavened and unleavened loaves; loaves made from the best wheat flour; loaves made from groats, or rye, and some from acorns and millet. There were lovely crusty loaves too, and loaves baked on a hearth. Bakers made a bread mixed with cheese, but the favourite of the rich was always white bread made from wheat. In ancient Greece, keen rivalry existed between cities as to which produced the best bread. Athens claimed the laurel wreath, and the name of its greatest baker, Thearion, has been handed down through the ages in the writings of various authors. During the friendly rivalry between the towns, Lynceus sings the praises of Rhodian rolls. ‘The Athenians’, he says,

Thank you Celia, I will nurture her lovingly.

 

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