Another one bites the dust!

Well that’s another Christmas that snuck up far too quickly done and dusted. I had not really thought too much about it this year and quickly had to do some mind resetting to come to terms with time frames. Luckily we are not into the present thing too much, our priorities are definitely about making an effort to be with family and friends and to relax and enjoy great food, drink and company. This we did manage to achieve tenfold.

Christmas Eve Food

It has become a bit of a custom that we host a little gathering on Christmas Eve for our closest friends. I really look forward to cooking for this as I don’t get much of an opportunity these days to cater for a crowd. We keep it relaxed and casual and welcome with open arms anyone who can manage to turn up. While planning the menu for what I was going to serve, it struck me as to how much exposure to different cultures, races and technology has influenced our eating and cooking. I think back to when I was a little kid when savouries, Hors d’oeuvres (affectionately called Horses Doovers) and appetisers comprised things like cabana and cheese (fake) cut up into cubes and stuck on toothpicks which were inserted in an orange as well. Good old Savoy or Jatz biscuits (Australian owned and made then) with sliced tomato, vol au vents with tuna mornay or chicken and corn filling. If it was really grand, out came the canned asparagus which was served in bread that had had the crusts removed, folded like a Bunnings snag and tooth picked. It was no wonder I hated asparagus for many years! My husband keeps throwing extra items at me as I write this, none of them offering much flavour.

With no working kitchen to speak of this is what I served.

  • Smoked trout thanks to Wayne the Great at Trafalgar Butcher Shop. I have had a lot of smoked trout over the years and this was by far the loveliest I’ve ever had. Simply served with mini toast and lemon, dig in and help yourself!IMG_2512Some tiny little pancakes made in the morning, spread with lemon cream cheese, topped with a little smoked salmon and a sprig of dill. Yummy!Smoked Salmon with creamed cheeseMushroom Bruschetta. I had planned doing an Annabel Langbein recipe but decided to wing it. I find mushrooms are great cooked in the microwave. I finely sliced mushies and cooked for about 10 minutes. When cooked I added some olive oil, garlic and parley to mix, stirred and let sit till needed. I had earlier made some bases by thinly slicing a day old bread stick and drying in my ‘toy oven’ (gee, that took forever only managing about 10 slices a pop). When serving, a light spread of goats cheese onto toasts, topped with mushroom mix and more parsley sprinkled over.Mushroom BruschettaI mentioned earlier the difference having exposure to different cultures and technology has made to us. Two of the items I made Christmas Eve came from the marvel of sharing resources. Annabel Langbein’s Roast Capsicum Pesto and from Lisa over at The Gourmet Wog, her sensational  Garlic Toum both came from the internet (I have since bought Annabels books because I just love her style). The way so much positive information can be shared over the internet is astonishing. Keeps our minds expanding, learning and developing.IMG_2503Spring Rolls-A couple of years ago I purchased a little deep fryer just for these occasions. I cannot for the life of me understand how people fry things (even shallow fry) regularly. I reckon it stinks! This little fryer does do a great job, I set it up in the laundry and made both these beautiful spring rolls with pork again coming from Wayne the Great. Mix mince pork with some finely shredded cabbage, a good dose of grated ginger and a splash of soy. Mix REALLY well and roll into rice paper sheets. Keep covered to prevent drying till cooked.Spring RollsAnd the highlight of the menu, some Indian Pakoras. Golly these were beautiful, I used cauliflower, carrot and peas as the vegetables. Nearly didn’t happen as I couldn’t find any chickpea flour down here and had to get my son to bring some from Melbourne. So glad he did. The pakora were served with a mint sauce made from a spice blend we brought back from India earlier this year and greek yoghurt. Mmmm, Mmmm. So much nicer than canned Asparagus in soggy bread!Cauliflower pakoraChristmas Day.

I am a lover of traditional Christmas dinners, love the roasts, the veg, the pudding and everything in between.  Due to the lack of kitchen I was thankful we own a Weber kettle cooker, although with only 7 of us, all was easily managed.

Prior to Christmas day I planned and organised as much as I could, including:

  • making of gravy (no Gravox thanks very much) roasted vegetables, added stock and apple cider and reduced till ready. Blasted with the Bamix, sieved and stored ready to go.
  • Prepared the veggies, par boiled the spuds, shook them to roughen up their outsides so they crisp up nicely when roasted. Pumpkin and sweet potato cut up and ready.
  • Turkey stuffed. I have the easiest and most flavoursome stuffing that I use for any chicken or turkey. Into the food processor throw in 1 green capsicum (roughly chopped), enough bread for however big your bird is (for a chook I use 3-4 slices), 1 egg and salt and pepper to taste. Blast till pepper is chopped but not minced. Done. I put this into turkey breast cavity, covered with foil and tied the foil on. Into Roasting bag in fridge till Next day.
  • Picked up Pork and ham from butcher, yep Wayne again! Pork was beautiful, stuffed with apricot and macadamia. Ham was and still is amazing. Smoked by Wayne who supports local producers ASMAP!
  • Made the crumb topping for my tomato and onion casserole which to me IS Christmas Dinner!
  • Set up the boiler in the laundry for the pudding

All that was to do on Christmas morning was light the weber, put the pudding on to boil and assemble the tomato & onion casserole. When Weber ready, throw in the meat and the veg was roasted in the BBQ with the lid closed. Also of course, priority was to have a few laughs and set the table.

Didn’t take any photos, was too busy enjoying the day. We did however sadly miss doing something that has been a tradition for many years. Smashing the gingerbread house! Not sure why or how we managed to miss this but over the years there has been some very innovative ways used to bring about its demise. Stay tuned for what evolves!

Gingerbread house 2013

Thankyou to all the fellow bloggers out there who have given me great ideas and been inspirational in so many ways. May you all have a great festive season leading into a wonderful 2014.

 

 

First bite of the cherry!

The cherries I have been eagerly awaiting to ripen seem to be ready for picking, so tonight I had a shot at the first target.

IMG_2087

IMG_2100

IMG_2101

Just lovely!

Missing my kitchen 😦

It’s coming up to a year since we moved into the ‘new old house’ and I am really struggling with not having a kitchen. Not so much from an appliance point of view but I am going nuts not knowing where things are. Several different boxes in many different places and it’s frustrating the life out of me. With it being time to doing the Christmas Puddding and no stovetop to use I set up a gas burner in the laundry,

IMG_2071Mixed up the beautiful recipe of my mum’s (without raisins, thanks to bloody Coles). Which went into pudding bowls andIMG_2068

IMG_2070because our numbers are low for Christmas lunch this year I put some of the pudding mix into my Fowlers Vacola Pudding jars. Here the jars are sterilising in my majestic oven! All turned out well. IMG_2065While the puddings were bubbling away in the laundry I was caramelising some onions for an onion and goat cheese tart I was making the following day. This was happening in the lounge room on the camp cooker while watching a DVD.IMG_2073

Last of the garlic harvested.

IMG_2074

Great crop of garlic this year. plenty for us and for using as gifts. Smells fabulous!

 

Facing my fears!

One of the things I fear most is being personally exposed or of failing. Consequently I only ever do things that I know I will excel in and once mastered I usually move on to my next mission.  For my whole life I’ve established a veneer around myself avoiding anything that would expose my shortcomings and leave me open to criticism or ridicule. This comes, I believe from a  range of issues I had in my formative  years and I have been working towards gaining acceptance and trying to develop some confidence for many years.  I would probably be considered as a high achiever by most who know me in the workplace because I always strived to reach the top and make certain I was in the lead position.

A few years ago, I was promoted, committed to a full time job and decided that with the extra income I would do something for myself that had been a smouldering desire in me since I was a child. MUSIC! My two choices as a child were cello or piano, I was never allowed to study playing a musical instrument of my choice, (I was bought a guitar and just baulked so that was the end of that!) and on the basis it would be a five minute wonder, no further discussion was entered into.

 My new mission- learn to play the Cello.

Fed up with watching people play music and wishing I could, I was continually hearing that you can’t learn as an adult, only kids succeed, and from those who know me, it won’t last long! I was sure it was too late to start and when a good friend who is multi-talented said “Just do it, its all about practice” I thought why the hell not? At least I would have tried rather than just whinged forever that I didn’t get to try.  The following day after her assurances, I Googled adult cello teachers and actually made contact with someone who said she supported adult learning and could fit me in. Shit, I had to follow through now!

Living in Gippsland I had to go to Moorabbin for my first lesson, fear factor set in but I went.  Oh shit, what am I doing here? Mid fifties,  hands that have had joint fusion on arthritic joints, no hope in hell. Breathe, breathe, breathe……I had to sing to see if I had any concept of pitch…. ..god more exposure, hyperventilating I did it and got through that. OK we’ve started!

My teacher said she hired instruments, I said OK and hired one for 10 weeks,  promptly came home,  dropped the cello breaking the bridge (didn’t know that’s what it was called then!) and had to spent $100.00 having the instrument repaired. The bridge is the bit of timber the that suspends the strings. Lesson 1-lay cello on side and don’t stand upright, they fall over!

I kept going back, again and again, I was really proud of my commitment, not so proud of how I was playing. I do NOT do things I am not good at, so it surprised everyone that I continued. I would still not let anyone hear me play, not even practicing if family were near. No way would I ever let anyone hear me because I knew I sounded crap. I was however, really enjoying the process though!

Now a few years down the track, I was getting bored with practicing by myself and knew if I wanted to continue I would have to expose myself to play with others (bare in mind, I wouldn’t even practice in front of family).  My teacher thought it was a great idea but I was scared to the bottom of my socks. I had heard somewhere about community orchestras set up so beginner players have the opportunity to develop their skills. Back into Google again searching for community orchestras, surprised I found the Francis & Latrobe Orchestra in Traralgon (which is not too far from me) and with extreme hesitation I sent through an email enquiring about joining. I did point out that I was a hesitant beginner but wanted to grow. I can be a victim of panic attacks when I am really out of my comfort zone and already my mouth was dry and palms sweaty. Oh dear, what have I done?

Much rescue remedy on the tongue, hyperventilating and extremely anxious I went along determined that I would just watch. Everyone was very supportive and encouraged me to take my cello out of the case. Bad decision! Lessons and practice in the safe environment of my lounge or with my teacher don’t come any where near preparing you for what goes on in an orchestral environment.  Not being able to read music well, I didn’t even know what page they were on and I was just freaking out generally so I don’t think I coped too well. Do or die! I knew I had to extend myself if I wanted to continue playing or give up.

Vote 1 – continue, so suck it up and press on.

With some amazing support from my wonderful cello teacher, a couple of other players and  the conductor of the Francis & Latrobe Orchestra I pressed on and set the end of year performance as my goal to make my debut. I did, and I didn’t cry or run away. Didn’t even have a panic attack! My goal now is to continue with the orchestra, continue my lessons and just get better. Sometimes when I hear all that beautiful music going on around me, I’m wondering what the hell I’m doing in the middle of it. I stop and think that this is the most amazingly, beautiful thing in the world, and I’m part of it. I know I’ve still got a long way to go -but I’m on the way. Oh, and I don’t do photos either, so this is a double whammy of disclosure!

IMG_3464

IMG_3473

Thanks Meg, Thanks Keryn, Thanks Richard, Thanks Geoff.

Not normal for me to post on a Monday, but this is good

Garlic harvest time!

Should I, shouldn’t I, should I, shouldn’t I???? I’m sure at times everyone is overwhelmed with advice about planting, maintaining and harvesting their crops. I have grown garlic for about 30 years and still every year I struggle with when I should harvest. Added to my confusion is the fact I am appalling at keeping records (hence the blog) and 12 months between events is a bit too much for my brain to contend with remembering finer details like dates harvested. Combine the fact this is the first year in our new garden and climatic conditions have been very different. Ahhh, what we gardeners have to contend with! My garlic crop seemed to be going well and I knew last year I harvested in time to cure and plait ready for Christmas gifts. Tonight I took the plunge and pulled half the crop and I think its not too far off the mark as far as ready. Ill leave the rest in until next week and make a comparison.

IMG_2049

1/2 the harvestQuite happy, most are good sized bulbs but there are a few runts too! Next couple of days are supposed to be hot so I am interested to see how the ones I pull next week turn out.

What on earth is this???

What's this?

This interesting growth is forming on the base of my bamboo stakes in the greenhouse bath. Looks fungal but not too sure. Has appeared since Friday night, really spongy and when touched has a smell I recognise from somewhere but can’t recall. Any ideas gratefully received.

Liberty!

 

LibertyWe haven’t been letting the girls out since they developed quite a partiality  to our neighbours place. They have been confined to their magnificent chook house for a couple of months and I took pity on them tonight after our first 34 degree day and thought they might like some respite. Good decision, although since being fed grain they just don’t seem to have the passion for slaters they did have. Might isolate feed for a while before they come out next time!

Foggy froggie!

We get a bit excited now that it is quite obvious that what we are doing is increasing the wildlife  depending on our garden to establish  a safe living environment. When we moved in last  January we only had mynah birds, occasional wattle bird, slugs, slaters and snails. No spiders, bees or anything else at all! With diligent planting, some hand feeding to encourage native birdlife (will lessen as environment becomes more developed) and water placed strategically we are gradually seeing a massive change in the  birds and animals. Haven’t seen an Indian mynah for weeks and we have a great cacophony of various native birds sorting out their pecking order at the feed station.

We were very excited when we saw this froggy! Very blurred but I was too excited to worry about finer details!

 

 

 

 

FroggyNext goal is to see a lizard and maybe even a snake!

What exciting native wildlife do you have in your yard?

 

 

The one I forgot!

In last weeks post I mentioned that in the garden I had a special thing to show but had forgotten to take a photo. I’m proud, excited and really looking forward to seeing what these taste like. I attended a grafting workshop 2 seasons ago and grafted  this cherry myself. Supposed to be a smaller rootstock so overall tree won’t get too large. So happy to see such jewels  appearing. IMG_2011

IMG_2008These exclusion bags have proven to be very handy. I’ve used them on tomatoes, mulberries, mandarins and now cherries. I have also put some on the heads of plants that are setting seed and will see how they go as seed saving bags.

Heronswood

Its been a busy weekend travelling all over the place for family functions so there’s not much to report. I did have a lovely day today visiting the historic homestead and magnificent organic gardens of Heronswood, the headquarters of Diggers Seeds.  Diggers Seeds is a company that supplies heritage and organic seeds and plants and they are active champions for seed saving and keeping our food chain free from GM produce. They have subscriptions you can pay for in order to get detailed seasonal catalogues and be eligible for members discounted prices. I wasn’t going to renew my membership but because I really like their commitment to the cause and the amount of work it would take to maintain both the gardens and property which is a vital part of Melbourne’s history, I did renew. Well worth a visit if you are on the Mornington Peninsula and worth going seasonally to see how things change through the year.

Heronswood

Wrong, wrong, wrong! In  more ways than one.

I’m sorry Mr/Ms Coles, but what you are selling as Raisins are in fact Sultanas!

Raisins that aren't

Not very impressed when I opened the packet of ‘Raisins’ to add to my other Christmas Pudding  fruit soaking in port. Lodged a complaint Monday have had no response back. I believe some parts of the world do classify sultanas as raisins but here in Australia, raisins have been big, fat, juicy fruits since I was born and I’d reckon a hell of a long time before that! Is this another example of American indoctrination that we have to contend with?

Need to rest up from a busy social weekend so hopefully there will be more to report next week!