Foraging fun in West Gippsland.

Well, I have had the loveliest day! What better way to warm the cockles of your heart than to spend the day foraging for fungi and other edibles with a group of like minded people trudging through paddocks and over hills in West Gippsland?   Following the hunt, we returned to S&S HQ and shared the most wonderful dishes created from our finds. Thank you so much Michelle and Dave at String & Salt, and to chef Trevor Perkins for making this event so enjoyable.

String & Salt sharing the harvestAnyone who knows me knows that I love mushrooming, or more importantly that I love making the most of using anything that is freely available! I can remember when, as a child we would be driving along the road and dad would pull the car up, grab his bucket and boots out (Niblicks boots of course, they were always in the car ready to don in these moments) and we would head out across paddocks in search of the perfect ‘shroom. I can also remember mum sitting in the car rolling her eyes and sternly saying “Stanley, one day you will get shot for trespassing!”. Well he never got shot, and I have happy memories of him teaching me all about what makes a good mushroom. I think this is also where I learned to appreciate cow dung and not to worry about handling it. Back in those days, field mushrooms or canned mushrooms (Edgell ?) in sauce were the only mushies on our menus. Little did we know what culinary delights of the fungi world were being kept from us, yet another example of how being multi-cultural has helped us grow and expand our pallet.

String & salt offered this day as part of their 2016 cooking series and once again they have delivered the goods!

We began the day with a nice cuppa and greeting at the shop in Warragul and were then bussed around to a few different locations of West Gippsland close to Warragul. Today also helped me to remember that we need to celebrate and appreciate our local area, I hadn’t looked at it through ‘visitor’ eyes for ages and it was a nice reminder of how beautiful this area is. The day was drizzly but not cold or windy. Beautiful!
West GippslandOur first stop was to collect some walnuts, at first glance it didn’t appear there were to be many for the taking, but somehow you eventually start to actually focus on what you need to see. At this point it was quite wet which didn’t make it easy. The walnuts looked a bit bedraggled when collecting, but that was not the case once we cracked them open later. Gold!Collecting walnuts, foragingNot a bad a walnut harvest here!WalnutsNext, there were a couple of stops to hunt for an assortment of fungi including saffron milk caps and slippery jack mushrooms, as well as some education on what to look for, how to err on the side of caution and to be aware of the potential toxicity of many varieties. Trevor explained a few techniques for testing and again re-iterated not to eat unless really sure of what you have.IMG_0055 Don’t go here!IMG_0050 Sometimes you need to look carefully to find these treasures. We also collected some wild greens that went into a salad later.MushroomIt was amusing watching everyone and seeing their focussed attention on the hunt. ForagingEveryone celebrated each others success when a discovery was made with a whoop of delight. Our walk back to the top of the hill was met with Dave serving the most wonderful chai. This chai is a blend they have at String and Salt and it went down so well after our hike in the wet. Dave demonstrated his adeptness in cooling and frothing the chai in the traditional manner! ChaiThere were also “chestnuts roasting on an open fire”…………no jack frost nipping at our toes though!Roasting chestnutsNext we were  off for another search,IMG_0054then back to S&S HQ, we did stop along the way to collect some wild apples from the roadside. These apples were similar in appearance to a golden delicious, taste was not too tarty nor too sweet and it held up well in the galette that Michelle made later.IMG_0070Once back at S&S HQ, Trevor, Dave & Michelle along with some very damp assistants prepared the bounty while sipping on some wine and enjoying a beautiful dukkah. These are a few of our discoveries. The orange ones are saffron milk caps and on the left are field mushies, there are some slippery jacks mingled within along with some brittle gills.IMG_0092Some of our other finds, apples, wild fennel and greens.IMG_0095Never having been brave enough to eat anything other than field mushrooms or the shiitake I grow, it was great getting to experience the different varieties. They are so meaty and didn’t break down when cooked. We thoroughly enjoyed the mushroom risotto, wild greens salad and apple galette (forgot to take a pic of that) that we shared. The galette was served with vanilla cream and was delicious.Muchroom risottoThankyou to everyone involved for such a great day!

Other catch ups.

Sourdough bread this week was an experimental bun bake. I used my basic sweet sourdough and made fresh pomegranate, walnut, cinnamon and sultana buns. Topped with a caramel glaze they were a great success. These are the buns before proofing,Bun dough rolledThis is  the final result. Baked in the oven at work, they went down extremely well.Buns cookedFinally, our bench tops are under construction. How beautiful is this timber? I am so pleased we decided to re-incorprate some of the almost 100 year old timber we removed during demolition into the new exteno. Getting very excited that I will soon have a ‘real’ kitchen!bench tops from reclaimed timberHappy mothers day to all the mums out there, hope you had a day as lovely as I have had.

 

Posted in Mushrooms, sourdough, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Peas & Pomegranates In My Kitchen

In My Kitchen this month we have been chipping away at the exteno and things are progressing nicely. A few of the cabinets are in place,

IMG_6905 and we have delivered a trailer load of timber which we removed from the old section of the house, to our  bench top man. These lumps of timber will hopefully be transformed into beautiful timber bench tops, that are full of character and it’s nice to think we’ve put a little of the old house back into the mix.IMG_1116-2After a busy day and when you don’t feel like cooking much, it’s great to reach into the freezer for some easy goodies. I made and froze this tomato soup following the guidelines from Francesca at Almost Italian and it is terrific. Easy peasy, heat, serve and slurp!Tomato soupIn My Kitchen is sourdough Banana bread. I made this banana bread using Teresa L Greenway’s recipe from her Northwest Sourdough site. If you are a keen student of sourdough, you can’t do better than learning from Teresa. I have been referring to her work for many years and she has become something of a celebrated guru in all matters of sourdough. Teresa now offers online tutorials through Udemy and they are an excellent source of information. Her success is very well deserved! I used half the recipe for a loaf and the other half for individual ‘muffin’ style banana breads. The crumble is a lovely addition and they are very light and fluffy. Mr ATMT said he didn’t really like banana bread, then I served this up……IMG_6916Oops, overfilled this tin. That smelled good for a while while it burned off the element!IMG_6908Roast veggies with a twist.

As I mentioned before, we have been looking for quick, hassle free meals at the end of the day and tonight I did a simple roast vegetable dish with a little twist. I roasted, sweet potato, eggplant, parsnip, a couple of onions and Dutch Cream potato in a recycled foil tray. These veggies were sprinkled with sumac, salt and olive oil and roasted for about an hour. I added the cherry tomatoes to roast for the last 15 minutes or so and at this stage I removed the eggplant and mashed it with some black pepper and lemon juice, setting it aside until serving time.

IMG_6918 Onto the plate I stacked, the eggplant mash, quickly cooked peas (so they retained their bite), then the assorted roast veg with cherry tomatoes laid across the top. I sprinkled the lot with chopped coriander then drizzled the last of the magnificent Bill Granger Caramel Vinegar Sauce (left over from our pork belly feast) over the roasted vegies. This was then crowned with pomegranates, I love these fruits, the fresh popping of these seeds is delightful. Fresh and tasty, the coriander worked so well with the sauce. Delicious!

IMG_6935That’s all for In My Kitchen this month, why don’t you pop over to Maureen at Orgasmic Chef  and see who else she has hooked together this month.

 

Posted in Baking, Bread, Fruit, In My Kitchen, Renovation, sourdough, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 27 Comments

Catching up.

Well, what a cracker of a weekend weather wise. How could anyone want for any better than we have experienced this weekend in West Gippsland? I’ll start my little catch up post covering how we spent today in the back yard enjoying the most wonderful sunshine and balmy weather. I did say this year was going to be busy and yep, it is!

Menu for lunch today was: (With limited photos, too nice a day!)

Pork Belly which was a marriage of Bill Granger’s Crispy Pork Belly with Caramel Vinegar and Annabel Langbein’s Crispy pork belly. I had never eaten nor cooked pork belly before today, in fact I never used to eat pork at all. I think I suffered from that condition where you are fed crappy quality food as a child and the memory of how awful it was sticks forever. I would always say pork smelled like a pig sty and all but gagged when it was cooking, but I never get that anymore. Anyway, I was quite nervous at the prospect of cooking this so I went for using Bill’s Caramel Vinegar Sauce to serve and Annabel’s method for cooking. With my not so reliable cooking equipment, I liked the idea of cooking the pork in the milk bath. What a great result. I cooked it in the gas pizza oven, after I had carefully scored the skin and blow dried it with my hairdryer. Annabel said it is important for the skin to be very dry so I dug around in a cupboard to find the hairdryer for this job.

Scored pork bellyIt was baked in the gas pizza oven at 240ish for about 40 minutes, I then added enough milk to the roasting pan to cover most of the meat section, being careful not to cover skin. This went back in the oven turned down to low (I had to occasionally open and close the door to maintain a low temperature) for about 2 hours . I then removed from the oven and let it rest for about 20 minutes. I wish someone had offered the tip that it is easier to cut if you actually remove the bone plate first! I eventually got a system going and we were off and running. Crackle was wonderful and the meat was sticky, juicy and beautiful.

Pork bellyI roasted some potatoes and pumpkin in the barbecue, spuds were the beautiful Dutch Creams form Wendy and Tony at Thorpdale Organics. Yes, they are as good as Wendy always tells us. I par boiled them first and let them completely dry before roasting after applying a light dressing of olive oil. You can also get these potatoes and much more great organic produce at The Trafalgar Spud Shed. Remember to take a bag and save on plastic waste.BBQ Roast vegetablesI baked a herb and chilli loaf in the barbecue as well. No chance that stayed around long enough for a photo. My youngest son just devours this when he sees it.Herb sourdough loaf I also served my now favourite, freekah with roast tomato, hazelnut  and capsicum salad along with some green beans. The caramel vinegar sauce of Bill Granger’s was an absolute knock out. Asian overtones, syrupy, sticky and decadent. Definitely a do again recipe.

IMG_6888 Dessert was very light, slow cooked quince which I’d cooked with sugar, star anise and cinnamon and topped with greek yogurt, crumbled ginger nut biscuit and grated lemon zest. Some fruit and chocolate nut bread thinly sliced to mop up the quince juice and it was surprisingly good. It looks a bit strange in the photo as the crumbled ginger nut and lemon zest is a bit clumped.IMG_6896The feeding frenzy in the sun, beautiful day, family and friends. Perfection!IMG_6880

A couple of bread bits.

I made an experimental loaf of bread using dates, figs, a couple of prunes, macadamia nuts, skim milk powder and using Chad Robertson’s standard Country Loaf recipe (well almost). IMG_6875I must say I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome, it looks a little dry in this pic but it wasn’t. I sliced it thinly and served it with our slow roasted quince dessert but I think it would be beautiful if toasted and served with a mashed banana on top.

IMG_0403Along with the chocolate fruit and nut bread, the herb bread and our weekly bake, I made a couple of loaves for our guests to take home. These were just basic white sourdough loaves which always go down well and I like offering them as a gift.

IMG_0404When you bake or create something it is always recommended that you record how and what you did so that if you need to recreate you can, or if you have problems you can possibly work out what may have contributed to the problem. When I was making a lot of cheese at home I was pedantic at recording every single step I did. I find I don’t have the same discipline with bread making. I do make an effort and sometimes I manage to record everything including ambient and dough temperatures but more often than not I end up with a little scribble that looks like this. Hope I never need to know what the 500g in the prune and cocoa mix is for (it is flour but I didn’t get that far). I also haven’t recorded that I added dates, figs, prunes, macadamia nuts, I think some cranberries……see I should be more committed.

IMG_0405I must admit I have Maurizio envy, look at his entries recording his bread making. I can only aspire to as good as he with both baking and recording. Sigh………

theperfectloaf-mybestsourdoughrecipe-3The exteno

We are both rather ‘over’ the reno at the moment, what’s that thing athletes go through when they are close to the end of an event and find it hard to continue? I think we are at that point, along with just being plain tired (which leads to doing silly things like busting sinks) and in need of some R&R. All is going well apart from the hiccup of busting the new sink.

IMG_6868IMG_0392Working when tired makes you do stupid things like topple tall cupboards over before they are secured. I like to think this sink actually saved me from injury as I was working below the cupboard that fell and the sink broke its fall. See the new wormy chestnut floorboards peeking though? Not showing any more yet!

Posted in Bread, Quince, Renovation, sourdough, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Exteno update and pumpkin seed bread.

Well it is well and truly all systems go here. I may as well just talk you through some shots of what’s been happening.

We have floor boards!

IMG_6797These were laid last week and it is thrilling to now be able to actually see the room as a unit.  You can just see on the left  a couple of doors on the passageway. These doors were originally at the front of the passage and divided the home from the doctors ‘business end’ of things. They really suit this spot and I love the fact we have put them back into the home. Wiring is all roughed in and light fittings will be fitted later next week.IMG_0349 This is a pic of what will be the laundry which is part of a second bathroom, the laundry bits will be hidden in a cupboard. This was taken yesterday and we have since done 2 coats of paint. The tiler is supposed to come tomorrow so we have tried to cover as much as possible before he starts to avoid dropping paint over the new tiles. We are notoriously messy painters!IMG_6822This pic is of the ceiling in the new spare bedroom. I really love whacky angles and think this will be a really cosy room.IMG_6824 This is taken from the door of this bedroom looking back out to the family/kitchen room. There is a storeroom off to the left and when you turn right (where the paint drop sheets are), you come intoIMG_6825 this passage that the bathroom/laundry, are off. There is also another toilet and a store cupboard in this area. IMG_6821In the shed is a divorce waiting to happen! After much research and investigating we have opted for a DIY kitchen. My son and D.I.L did theirs and their kitchen looks sensational, better than most of the displays we looked at and a hell of a lot cheaper. We have been spending way too much and because I want to have the benchtops made from the timber we took from the old parts of the house, we really needed to tighten the belt a bit. I’m really excited to see it come together.  We survived putting up a greenhouse so I think we can survive some cupboards! IMG_6826So that’s where we are currently at. After waiting sooooooo long I can’t believe how well and how quickly its coming together.

Pumpkin seed sourdough.

I thought I’d try a few loaves over the next few weeks that have extra seeds and grains added . This weekends bake was a simple country loaf dough made of 90% bread flour, 10% Callington Mill Whole Wheat flour, 72% water, 25% white starter (100% hydration), 2% salt, and 150g pumpkin seed (.075%).

IMG_0295 Love seeing such an active starter doing its thing!IMG_0298-001I went back to using my Falcon Enamel roaster to bake these loaves as I’m struggling with sore hands and the cast iron pots are having a little break for a couple of weeks.IMG_6840Crumb shot of the loaf below.IMG_6848Happy with that!IMG_6842Can’t wait to see what next week delivers with the exteno!

 

Posted in Bread, Renovation, sourdough, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

In My Kitchen-April Already

Thanks to Maureen at Orgasmic Chef for hooking up fellow In My Kitchen bloggers who participate in sharing their own and peeking into each others kitchens each month. Why don’t you head over and check a few out? Thanks Maureen, I always learn new things each month.

I refuse to bang on again about the reno this month. I am over it and as we are closing in on completion, I want to keep things under my hat a bit. I must admit it has been interesting trying to come up with ideas to share this month, but as always, once you start you can usually dig out a few!

In My Kitchen were Sourdough English Muffins

I was wanting to try making something different with my sourdough starter, so I decided to try making some sourdough English Muffins.

Sourdough English MuffinsI made these and was very pleasantly surprised with the way they turned out. Being basically lazy, for the first couple I made them square rather than round as I have no idea where my crumpet sized rings are. I actually think I’ll stick to the square shape in the future, easy to handle and fit better into the pan. These were the slightly rounder ones cooking.

Sourdough English MuffinsI really liked the texture and gobbled one down for breakfast with butter and Vegemite. I highly recommend this recipe, although I did cut back on the sugar as I find with most recipes, they are too sweet for my liking. These would make a great breakfast addition for when you have guests stay and you enjoy a leisurely brunch. It can all be prepared a day or two ahead and you could cook them on the barbecue in bulk quantities.

Sourdough English MuffinsIn My Kitchen, an oldie but a goodie-Fried Rice.

Fried RiceI hadn’t made fried rice for ages and it just seemed to fit the bill for an easy Easter Meal. I think the secret to good fried rice is cooking the rice well in advance and letting it really dry out well before using it in the dish. I’ve tried to record how I make our fried rice, Mr ATMT said this was the best he’d had over the years. Click this link for MAREE’s Fried Rice recipe

This years planting of garlic

In My Kitchen is a little less garlic. Last week I planted out what will hopefully yield  enough harvest for the following 12 months. This is the first season in a long time where I have used garlic from my own harvest for planting. For years I have been supporting Simon at Garlicworld and buying from him but I wanted to see how mine went.

Garlic

 

 

In My Kitchen is a jar of honey. A special jar of honey!

Last time I went to the Warragul Farmers Market I bought this jar of honey from a very special stall-holder. The Bunyip Beekeeper is spreading some wonderful knowledge about bees and bee keeping. They offer a huge range of services including leasing of hives, training and education about beekeeping and they do some amazing swarm and hive removal/relocations. I find bees to be fascinating and they are under some heavy duty environmental threats worldwide so need all the help they can get. I love seeing someone with such passion and knowledge sharing it with others. Apparently this is one of the stronger flavours of honey they supply. Might have to make some more muffins!

Bunyip beekeeper honeySo that’s about it for this month in my kitchen, thanks again Maureen for hosting.

Posted in Baking, Bread, In My Kitchen, In The Garden, Recipes, sourdough, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 30 Comments

Converting Tomatoes.

In between having a lovely (although short), overnight Easter camping get together, I have been converting tomatoes into pickles and soup and making stock from scraps from the soup and what I had saved in the freezer.  I was delighted last week to find when I got home, a large box of Periform Abruzzo tomatoes sitting on my verandah. Two years ago, I gave George from Tarra Valley Foods  some of this variety and he saved some seed and has had wonderful success saying the yield has been great. How lovely of him to pass on some of his harvest back to me. If ever you are heading east on the Princes Highway and go through Rosedale, call in and sample (and buy) some of George and Jenny’s beautiful preserves. They also enjoy a chat and would make you feel most welcome.

So these tomatoes were converted into:

Tomato Pickles.

This Tomato Pickles Recipe was given to me a couple of years ago and it has turned into a family favourite. I rarely make tomato sauce anymore as this pickle can be used in so many ways we prefer it and you can knock some up pretty easily. Tomatoes and onions chopped and brined overnight (this is a double batch).IMG_6722 Hopefully this will be the last season I’ll need to resort to this method for cooking. Actually I can guarantee it will be the last, coz if I don’t have the new kitchen next year I won’t be making anything! Brown vinegar, sugar and spices cooked with tomatoes and onions. When cooked for about 40 mins I added a couple of tablespoons of cornflour (real, not wheat) to maintain its gluten free title.

Gas burner verandahThe pickle is then bottled. I did cut back the sugar content by about a third and we find it still quite sweet but not too much so.Tomato Pickles

Tomato Soup

I read on Francesca’s blog a couple of weeks ago about her ‘Moulin Rouge retro Tomato Soup’ and it really appealed to me so on went a batch of that. Francesca used a Mouli to press (puree) the cooked ingredients but I used my tomato passata processor and it worked well. Happy, mine isn’t as pretty as Francesca’s but it tastes lovely and we now have quite a decent stash of ready to go meals in the freezer.

Here are the veggies cooking and the last of my home-made stock going in to the pot.

IMG_6738I ran all the cooked goodies through the tomato mill a couple of times to get the maximum flavour possible extracted.IMG_6748Then into freezer containers (reclaimed take away meal boxes) for a rainy day. When I cook/reheat this I will add some fresh basil and white pepper before serving.

IMG_6749As I said, not as pretty but I was very happy with the taste. We added a dollop of greek yogurt and it was a nice balance.Tomato Soup

Stock

With the end bits of what went into the soup, a few of the onion skins and tops and tails from the pickles plus having used up the last of my stock in the soup, it was time to make up some more stock. This is so satisfying and I haven’t bought stock for years now. It is so easy. As you prepare dishes any trimmings or bones etc just get tossed into a bag or container in the freezer and you add to it every time you have some. when the bag is full, pop the whole lot into the slow cooker (not the bag!) with some peppercorns (I don’t add salt) and let it simmer away overnight.

Slow cooker stockI notice this bag also had a chicken carcass in it from a roast chicken.

IMG_6737I now have about 5 litres of beautiful stock that I know what is in. The chook has had a great feed of pickings and the remainder of the cooked matter will go into the compost. Win, win all round!

Dehydrating

Years ago my friend bought a dryer and I have used it most seasons since to dry something or another. I usually do tomatoes then store them in Spanish olive oil with garlic and chilli and we eat them as a snack. This year though I am making tomato powder. I did this years ago and it was quite good. You dry the tomatoes really well then blitz in a processor and store the powder in a good air tight container and use it for seasoning as needed.

Drying tomatoesThe tomatoes after 6 hours in the dryer.

IMG_6755I love doing this with bananas. Buy them when cheap, slice and dip in lemon juice, dry and munch, munch, munch!

Last but not least-Seed saving

I put all of the dodgy bits of tomatoes and rough tops and bottoms into a bowl. There were loads of seed in some of them so I filled the bowl with water and will let them ferment for a few days then I will separate the seed from the pulp and dry and store the seed. Once the seed is removed the rest will go into the compost and the whole cycle begins again.

IMG_6760Next week or so will be passata time! Now that’s a fun thing to do in a limited kitchen. What are some of your best tomato saving tips?

 

Posted in Preserving, tomato pickles, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Our hard work is becoming evident.

We are at a major turning point in our exteno. My emotions are mixed, I love the new works but I also love the old, original parts of the house that add quirkiness and character (along with some interesting odours!) to the personality of it. I really believe we are marrying the best of both periods to the home. Keeping as much as we can to stay true to the character of the house, while, still being practical about what works with our long term plans.

I was quite emotional when now tonight,  I can really begin to see the efforts of all the hard work coming to fruition. I’m not talking about the exterior, that is different, I mean the space inside that will become the warm hub of the home where people meet, food is created and lessons are taught to others. Drinks and eats around the table, laughter and probably tears. This is what I greeted me when I came out from the makeshift kitchen (see below) and it moved me. The plaster is well under way which means the last of the old black, 3ply ceiling is about to be hidden. The chimney brickwork is looking beautiful and the hours of work on removing the paint from that are proving to be worth it.

IMG_0247It was after I had spent a few hours tonight making some mini quiches to take to work tomorrow for a morning tea that it struck me for the first time just how arduous its been actually getting anything cooked. I think I must have a bit of ‘just suck it up and get on with it mindset’.  It isn’t until I try and turn out bulk quantities of food that it really gets to me. Do you have any idea how long it takes to turn 1 packet of puff pastry into mini quiches when you can only cook 6 at a time? Bloody ages is the answer.

IMG_6682 Mini quiches

But you do get there. While the quiches were cooking I put together a few loaves of bread that I will bake at work.

There is the herb, chilli and feta cheese loaf which comprised 400g  40% rye sourdough gently pulled out and spread with freshly picked herbs, feta cheese, a little cheddar (left over from quiches), and some hot chilli flakes. I’ve rolled this into a batard shape and will prove overnight and bake tomorrow.

Herb, feta chilli sourdough loaf breadNext was the walnut, cranberry, sultana and apple loaf. Chopped some walnuts, spread out 400g white sourdough and spread, walnuts, cranberries and sultanas that I had soaked in a little juice to rehydrate over it. I then sprinkled, brown sugar, dutch cinnamon and a grated Granny Smith apple (ours) which I had squeezed the excess juice from  and spread over the nuts and fruit.

IMG_6695then rolled the dough into a bun/scroll shape. This will also be baked at work tomorrow.

IMG_6697It’s nights like these I get extremely excited about being able to cook in a much more relaxed and organised manner. It really is quite an effort continuing the way we have been. I know everyone has been telling that, I just chose to ignore it and make do.

The final tweaking of the kitchen layout is done! It may have resulted in me having a MAJOR panic attack but we got there. That gap on the left is the chimney space.

IMG_0242It really does look like I’ll fit a bit more than I thought into the space. Can’t wait!

Posted in Bread, Home, Renovation, sourdough, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 15 Comments