Christened my new toy! Indian Karahi.

When we were in India last March, I was smitten when I saw some heavy cast iron pans that resembled asian woks but were much heavier,  being used by street vendors wherever food was made or sold.  These pans were sitting on little charcoal or clay stoves and people were cooking all varieties of things from curries to sweet treats and everything in between. I was keen to acquire one but didn’t have the opportunity (or luggage space) while we were away  but made it a goal to source one on our return.

Indian KarahiI occasionally go to the Dandenong (or Springvale or Footscray) Market to stockup on items that are hard to almost impossible to source in our local shops. I made a trip to Dandenong a couple of weeks ago and managed to find an import shop that stocked some of these pans. Not sure where I would store it in my non existent kitchen, I justified my purchasing it with no basis at all and paid a whole $25.00 for a ~3ml thick cast iron karahi.  I also bought a cast iron chapatti pan that is just waiting in the wings for its first outing!

With the decision to try Annabel Langbein’s South East Asian Curry that is in her Free Range Cook Book as the base for a vegetarian (with some chicken!) curry. I had today harvested some eggplant, beans and zucchini which are all good for use in a curry and it meant I could christen my Karahi as well. Although mine is not quite as heavy as the ones I saw in India, it is pretty darned thick and takes me back to the streets of Jaipur, Delhi, Varanasi and all the other cities we were lucky enough to see.

Karahi on BBQ

My oh my! This curry was so good I was  blown over with the flavour! I followed the recipe pretty much exactly but halved quantities and skipped the shrimp paste as I didn’t have any. The karahi was just gorgeous to use, even heat on low simmer and I can’t wait to come up with another reason to use it. As with most cast iron cookware, it is not going to get a huge scrub, just a rinse and wipe out, a smear of oil to prevent oxidation (rust) and it will be great.

Shame I’m not a food photographer because then I could create a photo that captures the spectacular flavour of this curry! Thanks again Annabel!

A.L. Asian curry paste base

Crispy Pork Spring Rolls

I got a few requests from other campers while we were away wanting to know the recipe for my pork spring rolls. It piqued their interest when I was preparing them while having my afternoon glass of wine, so when cooked I handed a platter of them around and it was a unanimous 10 out of 10 score sheet when the empty platter was returned. I think the things that make these just a bit more special is the real mashing, pounding and mixing of the filling and the fact I use rice paper wrappers rather than flour based spring roll wrappers. You can mix fillings to suit by adding coriander and chilli or using chicken or a blend of pork and chicken etc. Whatever you fancy. Click on the link below for the recipe.

Rice Paper Spring Rolls

Crispy Rice Paper Wrapper Spring Rolls

Restore, renew and respect!

We have just returned home after being on holidays for close to 3 weeks….. I must admit that as much as I like being home to take stock of what is happening in the garden I am not at all happy about facing the prospect of returning to work next week!

While we were away enjoying blissful days of 25-30 degrees, gentle breezes, great surf, swimming and eating decadently, the temperature at home was hitting 43-47 degrees over a 4-5 day period. No garden is able to cope without stress and some form of damage with these conditions so I was very concerned as to what we may find on our return. I was also concerned about how our precious chooks would cope. My concerns were largely unfounded and I was pleasantly surprised I must say! A combination of good  planning and management prior to leaving, wicking beds that surpassed all expectations in keeping moisture supplied to the root systems of my plants, and a son who was checking that some precious newly planted trees were watered paid dividends.

Preventive measures undertaken before we left were:

  • Mulched, fed and deep watered all fruit trees and newly planted garden beds.
  • Made sure all wicking beds reservoirs were full and surfaces mulched.
  • Strung some shade cloth strategically over chooks, corn and raspberries.
  • Set up a couple of timers to water the greenhouse crops and potted plants.

Filling the main wicking bed to capacity.

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Some shade cloth on corn bed along the side where the hot afternoon sun hits, hopefully pollination wasn’t hampered. Signs of baby corn developing so fingers crossed.

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I hung some shade cloth on the west-facing side of the chook house to give them some relief. Tomatoes in bed got a little fried but not too bad.

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Restore

I was more than happy to spend my first return hours in the garden refreshing the beds and restoring any damage the heat had caused. We have also had forecasts that there is likely to be another surge of heat next week, so prevention of stress and protection of crops is utmost in my mind.

Couple of things showing signs of heat damage are:

The raspberries that didn’t have shade cloth protection are showing leaf burn but no die back.

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Don’t underestimate the value shade offers!

We thought that someone had been in with a sprayer causing die back on the new grass that had been planted in the back yard. Was a bit baffled as to what could have caused this one section to die.  This is the only section showing severe damage, the rest of the grass gets shade over many parts of the day so we wondered if it had been due to frying in the heat. Don’t underestimate the value shade offers! Look at the burnt grass line and look at the shade line. It is almost an exact line. Don’t think that is coincidental! AMAZING!

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The lemon tree is showing signs of leaf burn. I will put some shade cloth protection around it for the remainder of the summer.

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My ‘Snow White’ dwarf apple that went into the ground earlier this year (thank goodness) after being in a wine barrel for several years has some burning on the fruit. This is the first year it has fruited and it tastes darned good!

IMG_2564I’ve got so many things I need and want to list here but I have run out of puff tonight, time to pour a glass of wine and pretend I am still back at Pambula Beach (this photo is at Narooma though) enjoying the great Australian Landscape.

Narooma Sunset

Ahhh, holidays.

We are enjoying a well-earned relax after a very busy year. Camping at one of our favourite spots on Australia’s NSW east coast-Pambula Beach. After heading up the coast for a few days investigating potential future camping spots we have happily settled into our little bush site quite satisfied  to just swim, sleep, eat, drink and observe the other campers. We are finding that these days we cannot cope doing both happy hour and then dinner so I have tried to meld the two together, similar to how  ‘brunch’ came about. Can’t come up with a combined ‘happy hour’ and dinner label though. Any ideas out there? I must admit I am feeling a bit lost with such limited access to phone and Internet, I am a bit of an Internet junkie I think. Tonights ‘happy hour’/dinner was a feast of home made chapatti, grilled veg, roast capsicum and tomato with garlic, basil & olive oil, grated beet root with goat cheese, chicken, lime, ginger and coriander skewers (will have to write how I did those, beautiful!) And a serving of garlic, lime and coriander aioli. Not complaining at all!

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It is summer isn’t it?

Another lovely summer day, not! At this rate we will not be seeing many tomatoes, pumpkins or much else that likes a bit of heat. Too yucky to work outside so took a pickie of todays harvest. Zucchini, thyme, parsley, asparagus, lettuce, strawberries, ONE raspberry and an egg. Asparagus just about finished as are the raspberries. If I could only grow one thing it would have to be raspberries. LOVE them!Not quite summer harvest

First jobs for the New Year – and the last of the last years!

I must admit to having a very lazy day today. Not from over partying the seeing in of 2014  but just because it felt right. I am going back into the office tomorrow which doesn’t fill me with glee. I have been really busy since school finished and it was the first time it just felt right to stop.

Some of the jobs I ticked off over the last couple of days in readiness for the new year are:

  • Mulching the citrus trees with manure and topping with spent hay to keep cool
  • Feeding citrus
  • Getting my espaliered pear tree a bit under control and headed the way I want it to.

Before                                                                                             AfterEspaliered pear before TLCEsp Pear after TLC

  • Succession planting of leeks, cucumbers, radish, lettuce and beans
  • Cleaning up the perennial cottage garden bed
  • Get the holiday herb pot going. A few years ago my sister mentioned they took a pot with lettuce and  herbs away with them and I must admit I thought they were bordering on senility! A few camping trips ago I had a glut of basil, parsley, lettuce and something else, so threw them into a pot to take with us. guess what I have been doing every camping holiday since! It’s amazing how much difference a few sprigs of fresh herbs can make to a camp dinner or breaky. Especially some fresh bruschetta with basil. Mmm, mm, mmmm. These should be ready for our trip in a couple of weeks.Camping salad herb pot
  • Mulching, feeding and deep watering the raspberries. I topped the beds up with bags of manure, compost and some pea straw. Rejigging the placement of the strawberry pots so we can actually get into the berry house is an improvement. Really happy with these raspberries in their first season. Adding all this feed now to boost resistance to drying out and to get root system really well developed.Berry house
  • Sorting out the worm farm and harvesting some worm castings to go onto the surface of strawberry pots above.
  • Pruned, tied and generally tidied up the 40 tomato plants I have planted. That seemed to take forever and it appears harvest will be late this year. Not a lot of young fruit developing yet. Plenty of flowers, so I am hand pollinating hoping to get better sets. Zucchini are not setting male flowers so I hope they get working soon or I won’t have any. I attempted pollinating zucchini with a male pumpkin flower yesterday, so that will be interesting!

    Big Beef (I think)
    Big Beef (I think). Name tags a bit muddled.
  • Yesterday I got onto the roof of the old stables in the hope I could pick some ripe mulberries that the birds had missed. Not a hope! But while up there I did take a couple of shots of how the yard is progressing. Things look so much different from above. Not bad seeing this garden is only a few months old!Aerial viewIMG_2287
  • I can remember reading or hearing somewhere that laterals removed from tomatoes can be replanted and they would grow new plants. I put this to the test a few weeks ago and voila! Really healthy, strong, new plants created. I might do this towards the end of the season and get some fresh plants for the greenhouse overwintering.Tomato lateral growing

Today I set about creating a better system for storing and tracking what seeds I have. Do I really have seed of 11 tomato varieties? How did that happen? I can now record what I get and when planting I can make sure I use the oldest first. I am going to set it up with an auto colour/shading formula so I will be alerted to old or approaching past best by times.

Seed Tracker

A lovely time watching the pretty little poppies dancing in the breeze today. Can even see some pollen flitting around on this one. Happy New Year everyone!!

Poppy pollen