Sunny Saturday.

What a bottler of a day! Not too hot, not too cold, not too windy, just right. The kind of day where you’d be nuts if you stayed inside. It was also our state election in Victoria today, which I must admit I feel very ‘ho hum’ about. I used to take my politics very seriously and stress over how I was going to vote, but these days I think they are all pretty much ‘tossers’ and put their ego well before commitment to leadership and democracy. I do feel though, that you need to cast your vote seriously or you don’t earn the right to complain. But that’s enough of that!

As in the iconic Aussie Bob Hudson Newcastle song where he sings “don’t you ever let a chance go by” this week I did just that. We had been advised that Vicroads were going to remove the tree on our nature strip (verge to those outside Australia), so I taped a bloody big sign around it asking the tree people to leave us any mulch and if possible the wood from it’s removal. Didn’t think anything would come of it but lo and behold- 2 great big piles of beautiful wood and a great big pile of mulch that we can put to really good use under this pin oak. IMG_6546 Bit of a work out for Mr ATMT as a fair amount of it had to be chain sawed into smaller lengths and we will need to split it into good oven sized bits at some stage. IMG_6561While he was working on the wood I began fitting the posts to our large wicking bed. As well as giving me somewhere to tie my tomatoes to (cordon), these posts also make it easy to bird proof with netting or add shade cloth when it gets too hot. I suspect that may be the case this summer! I didn’t take a photo but this is what they are like on the other beds.IMG_2297I had a lovely time ‘pottering’ around in the garden today. I picked some Elder flowers and I’m going to have a go at making some Elder Flower Cordial. I have never tasted, seen or been told what this should be like so it will be interesting. They are however the prettiest flowers so worth having just for that.IMG_6550 Elder flowersI got into the greenhouse and had a tidy up and hung racks so the tomatoes in there can be trained and supported. The sweet potatoes on the right here are going berserk.IMG_6572 IMG_6570It was nice to sit back and like what I saw in the ‘patch’. It’s really starting to look like it’s been there a while, not only the 1 year it’s been.  The garlic is about ready to harvest,I’ll do a separate post about that.IMG_6568The grapes are getting bigger,IMG_6573and the magpies tried to beat me to the hammock.IMG_6564A lovely tea of snow pea, broccoli, chicken and ginger pasta to top off a lovely day.

Off to the zoo tomorrow, I’m excited.

Thanks to Lizzie at strayed table for hosting the hookup for the monthly Garden ShareCollective.

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Indulgence!

Due to MR ATMT having an allergy to any kind of seafood/fish, I very rarely prepare fish at home because it is a pain having to remember to be meticulous with separating anything that has had contact from the fish for fear of causing a reaction. He’d better not upset me!

I was lucky enough to be given a couple of freshly caught fish and decided I’d treat myself to cooking it  using the asian smoking method. I pretty much followed a recipe I found at Feasting at Home and it worked really well.

First up was to make some 5 spice blend to go in the marinade. That’s nice and easy.

Five Spice Recipe:
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 teaspoons fennel seed
2 whole star anises
2 teaspoons peppercorns

Toast all in a skillet over medium heat until just fragrant, 1-2 mins only. Grind in a coffee grinder until smooth.

IMG_6422IMG_6428

Then to make the marinade:

4 cloves garlic whole

3 Tblspns fresh ginger- sliced

2 tsp Five Spice (store bought or make your own… see below)

¼ Cup neutral oil

4 Tblspns soy sauce

2.5 Tblspns brown sugar

1 orange (¼ C fresh orange juice and zest, divided )

Put the whole lot into the blender and whizz until all smooth and processed. Place the fish into a container and cover with the marinade. I left mine overnight.

I dragged my Indian karahi out from under a pile of ‘stuff’ on the verandah to make the smoker. Lined the base with 4 sheets of foil, and added:

3 Tblspns of rice

2 Tblspns loose leaf black tea

2 Tblspns sugar

2 Dried red chilies

Stir these together to get an even mix, place a cake cooler over it ensuring there is some clearance between the smoking ingredients and the steamer or whatever you use.

IMG_6435 IMG_6439 IMG_6436

Put the marinated fish into your steamer, (I placed a bit of baking paper under them) put the lid on and place the wok over a fairly high heat until a good amount of smoke appears. Turn the heat down and continue for approx another 5 minutes, turn down again and then another 5 minutes. Fish should be cooked by now. It may have taken a bit longer for mine as I was cooking outside and the breeze was playing with the heat! I then placed it on the grill for the shortest time, just to colour the outside.

IMG_6441I made a little concerned that the smoke flavour may have been a bit on the strong side but it wasn’t. As Goldilocks would say, “It’s just right”.

I picked some lettuce, snow peas and thai basil and chives. Cut up a cucumber and tomato, making a stack piling everything on top of each other. I then placed pieces of the fish on top,  sprinkled with some chopped thai basil and chives  and then added a squeeze of lime juice. Some grilled sourdough that I had spread some feta cheese onto and it made the most beautiful lunch.

IMG_6442I took spoonfuls of the salad and placed it onto the bread and savoured every mouthful. It was delicious.

IMG_6449Now to VERY carefully clean up my trail of fishy stuff, unless of course Mr ATMT upsets me!

 

 

The joy of sharing – Cinnamon meringues and steak and chips

One of the things I enjoy most about blogs is that you get so many inspirational ideas from other people, you can store them in a little pocket in your head (or on your C: Drive) for when they might just come in handy. Much easier than the bottom kitchen drawer and shoe boxes full of clippings like people used to use in the “olden days”.

The other night I saw just such a recipe on a post from Almost Italian for cinnamon meringues. These were served with some poached cherries and they looked beautiful. We had friends coming last night so I thought this would be a good, easy dessert. That is until I googled ‘cinnamon meringue’ and came across a recipe from Nigel Slater. I made these using half quantity and that made 6 just the right sized meringues. Makes it easier to manage in my ‘toy oven’. I also put cream on top before placing the berries in place. Drizzled the chocolate and they were done in a flash. Nice, slight chewy texture yet still light. Guess Francesca’s recipe will go in the flagged box for next time. It does sound really good! That buzz of cinnamon certainly gives the meringue a lift.

Nigel Slater cinnamon meringue

Nigel Slater’s Cinnamon Meringue (half serve)

  • 140g/5oz caster sugar

  • 3 free-range eggs, whites only (no yolk at all please)

  • pinch of cinnamon (good quality)

  • 350g/12oz raspberries (1 punnet)

  • 50g/>2oz dark chocolate

    • Preheat the oven on to 140C/275F/Gas 1.
    • Pour the sugar onto a lined oven tray and bake to warm it for 20 minutes. If using a small oven like mine, drop temp a bit to avoid top element browning the sugar.
    • Whisk the egg whites till ‘firmish’ then keep whisking/beating while adding the warm sugar. Whisk well until the whites form a hard peak shape when the whisk is removed.
    • Line an oven tray with baking paper.
    • Spoon mounds of the egg white onto the baking tray in rough shapes approximately the size of a tennis ball.Meringues
    • Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes.IMG_6410
    • Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a simmering pan of water or in microwave
    • When the meringues are cooked and cooled, flatten (bang with a spoon gently) the tops down. Place a dollop of whipped cream or even yoghurt on. Evenly distribute the raspberries or selected fruit on each one.
    • With a spoon or fork, trickle the melted chocolate over the meringues and leave to cool until the chocolate is solid before serving.
    • Nigel Slater cinnamon meringue

      Steak and chips with a yummy sauce.

I can’t remember the last time we had steak  for dinner. It’s such a rare event, no particular reason apart from not really enjoying being overloaded with red meat. Find it a bit heavy to process! It did seem however, to be a good thing to serve as a quick meal for our friends. Home from work, made the meringues, my healthy style chips prepared, mushroom, roast capsicum and brandy sauce made and a salad thrown together. Easy peasy!

My healthier (and tastier) chips.

I like these because I can prepare them in the microwave and finish them off in the ‘toy oven’. With space at a minimum I need to keep things as freed up as possible.

You need, potatoes (how ever many you think depending on number of people) I used 5 small fist sized spuds for 4 people.

  • Wash thoroughly, no need to peel, cut into fat chip sizes, more about the size of wedges but really whatever you prefer. Not too small as they will fall apart.
  • Put into a microwave suitable container with only a couple of spoons of water. Put lid on and microwave until just starting to cook through (still some crunch in centre). Mine took about 6-7 minutes. Can just boil in a pot if preferred.
  • Strain and let dry out on a tea towel or in the colander/strainer.  Preheat oven to 200-220 while potatoes are cooling.
  • Put potatoes into a bowl and give them a light sprinkle with olive oil and the seasoning of your choice. Gently toss them around so they are covered with the oil and seasoning then place onto baking tray that has been lined.
  • Pop into oven and let go for about 35 minutes then shake or turn till cooked till your liking.

Sauce that I hope I can remember how I made, because it was yummy!

Ingredients: (this is where I fall in a heap because I don’t really measure anything),

  • Mushrooms-couple of handfuls, sliced thinly
  • Olive oil, couple of tablespoons
  • 1 ish, tablespoon of butter
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 500 ml stock (preferably homemade or light on salt)
  • 1 roasted capsicum peeled and sliced. see below*
  • a bloorb of brandy (probably about 1 generous tablespoon). You know, open the bottle tip a bloorb in and that’s how much!
  • Cracked black pepper. I used about 1 teaspoon, but just taste and tweak as you go.
  • 1 Tablespoon light sour cream (optional)

 

Place oil, butter, garlic, black pepper into pot/pan and heat. When hot add mushrooms and cook off well. Add ml of stock and half of the sliced roasted capsicum. Simmer away until reduced by at least a half and starts having some body to it. Check seasoning. Add the brandy and sour cream, stir through, turn off and let sit until just before serving.Mushroom gravy

Throw a salad together, if you are lucky like I was, you can pick most of it from the garden, chuck the steaks onto to barbecue (don’t cremate them!). Check your chips. While the steak is resting reheat the sauce until the thickness you like then serve all together. Garnish with the remaining roasted capsicum. We loved it!

Steak & Chips Mushrrom sauce

 

 

Happy Birthday Warragul Farmers Market!

The weekend started magically with me having my monthly visit to the Warragul Farmers Market to stock up on some of the sensational organic and locally produced providence that is showcased there.

Wgl Farmers Market

The market celebrated their 1st birthday this weekend and it has just grown from strength to strength since its inception. I always think a good market not only offers great produce, but it creates an emotional link within the community. People develop relationships with traders and other community members, they come together to chat, relax, share stories and take home some wonderful things. A feel good experience! This market offers all of this, set in a beautiful location, music by local artists, activities for the kids and some of the best produce Gippsland has to offer!

Warragul Farmers MarketI really look forward to my visit to this market to see what will jump out and ask me to take it home. Some of my favourite and highly recommended traders are, Thorpdale Organics, Gippsland Mushrooms, Mirboo Pastured Poultry, the Apple lady (I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know from where but I always buy her apples!), and after tasting Jindivick Hydroponics tomatoes they are up there too.  Although I didn’t buy  as much as I normally tend to, I came home with some lovely tomatoes, lettuce, mushrooms, apples and a warm heart. Some of these went into a carbonara style pasta using our home grown broccoli, snow peas, broad beans and herbs, added some of Thorpdale Organics eggs into the sauce and voila, a fresh, mostly organic and made with love dinner. Thanks Warragul Farmers Market!

Carbonara

Flour woes

I reverted to using the ordinary old ‘organic bread flour’ in my sourdough this week and it just cemented how good the flour I brought back from Callington Flour Mill in Tasmania is. Dough hydration was 75% but this flour just doesn’t have to ‘guts’ to cope with that much water so it’s a very wet dough.  I used a portion of the dough into a ciabatta style loaf and will just keep my fingers crossed for what I expect to be a very flat loaf with the rest. Looks OK, smells great but it’s too early to cut to check if I’ve got those lovely big ciabatta holes in the crumb. Time will tell. It is amazing how much variation there can be with flour and protein levels, water absorption and general structure. Back to the Callington Mill flour next week!

Ciabatta sourdoughWe spent most Sunday at the Traralgon Poultry Auction. That was a new experience indeed, not sure if I’d relive it, but it’s something new I can say I’ve done! My son and his fiancé wanted a couple of chooks to include in their backyard so off we went thinking an hour would probably knock it over. WRONG! Finally, a long 4 hours later, they did manage to secure 2 lovely little chooks, not sure of variety but I think there is some Rhode Island Red mixed with maybe some Australorp in there. They have obviously settled into their new home well as I got a message from D&A with a photo of 2 eggs. Pretty impressed and happy they are! I get a real sense of calm knowing that all 3 of our children, grow things, cook things and love fresh unadulterated produce.16112014Got the fence around the veggie patch fully painted/stained, I’m really pleased the way the stain has made the fence blend in with the old hard wood. Bit hard to see here cause of the shadow, but the patch and chicken coop are now really looking integrated.IMG_6372

IMG_6375 Nice weekend indeed. Hope you enjoyed yours too!

Lucky I like parsnip!

I pulled the entire parsnip crop on Sunday because I needed more space for tomatoes. I am really chuffed with the results, most are a pretty good shape and a decent size. They probably should have stayed in longer to develop some more, but, oh well…………….

IMG_6189 The oddly shaped ones will go into one of my favourite childhood foods. Carrot & parsnip mash! Just boil carrot and parsnip until mashable, drain well add salt and pepper (I like heavy on the pepper) and a good dollop of butter. Mash or give it a stick blender whizz and it’s done. The better shaped ones here will go in with the roast lamb I’m cooking from the recipe posted by Kylie over at  Town Mouse Country MouseParsnips cleanedOnly problem is that It’s hard to fit the joint and the veg into the ‘toy oven’ so I cooked the veg on the barbecue on a cast iron pot.Roast lamb Jamie OliverWorked out OK but unlike Kylie I wasn’t that thrilled with the gravy. I was having a bad day and even spilled olive oil on my keyboard while reading her recipe! Presentation is pretty ordinary too but the lamb tasted great! Our parsnips, our broccoli, our thyme and parsley in the rub.  All clean, fresh and full of flavour. This is why we do these things!Roast lambOther weekend jobs in the garden were, pulling the first of the garlic to make room for even more tomatoes. Looking great, another couple of weeks will really make it shine I think.Italian garlicThe berry house was out of control! First time I’ve been in there since the spring growth started, boy, things had gone ballistic! IMG_6173I found some baby grapes on the grape-vine. This variety is a slip grape we got from a man who used to supply Mr ATMT with winemaking grapes and it also makes a great table grape. First time its fruited so I’m a bit excited really.IMG_6175 Couldn’t see or get to the strawberries because of the growth of the raspberries. A bit of jute, a couple of bamboo stakes, some judicious trimming and its back in control in there.IMG_6178 As I was collecting the trimmings to go into the compost I realised I was about to waste a great resource-vine leaves. Fresh, organically grown and no blemishes at all. Gold! I will use these to make some dolmades and there will be enough to preserve a few as well. Glad I came to my senses before they hit the compost!IMG_6204

Not this year birdies! These blueberry plants are about 7 years old and I think we’ve picked about 10 fruit at the most. We have however been tagged as an easy target for the birds who love them. Not any more, tonight I covered several with my exclusion bags in the hope they will ripen and we will reap the rewards.IMG_6220 IMG_6236Today is remembrance day in Australia, a time to reflect and remember our soldiers from all the wartime conflicts we have sadly been involved in. The Flanders poppy is a symbol of remembrance day developing from its association with poppies flowering in the spring of 1915 on the battlefields of Belgium, France and Gallipoli, this vivid red flower has become synonymous with great loss of life in war.

I didn’t plant that variety but I did grow from Diggers seed “Poppy Ladybird” and it’s very pretty as well as fitting to watch and reflect on remembrance day.Ladybird Poppy

Lest we  forget.

Garden Share Collective. Cup day in the garden.

Holy Moley, 2 posts in one night! Mr ATMT is away so I am not doing much after coming in from  the garden once it was dark. Love daylight saving, we can spend so much more time nurturing our souls watching things grow and tending to them.

This months Garden Share Collective (Thanks Lizzie), is based on how I spent the day in my garden on Cup Day, the day we usually plant tomatoes in Victoria. I only got 6 tomatoes in but it’s a start! Many more to go.

I started painting the fence we have installed around the patch. I hated the look of new treated line so I am coating it with the same stain I used on the chicken coop. Intergrain Natural Stain Charcoal. Really happy with the look and the way the greenery just jumps out with the dark backdrop.

IMG_6243 Here are the first of the tomatoes, 6 in this bed, hopefully when I pull the garlic it won’t disturb the roots too much. this variety is German Johnston.IMG_6214 Broccoli is doing really well, this succession crop is being harvested. Now, where to find space for the next lot! There are also beetroot and lettuce in this bed with snow peas that are flowering at the end.IMG_6213I planted a succession planting of snow peas on the end of this bed. Butter beans are thriving and the beautiful miners lettuce and chervil I got from Herbalicious Nursery have  (are) performed incredibly well. The last couple of leeks are on the left. I also stuck in some eggplant ‘fingerling’ which did really well last season.

IMG_6210 These are the snow peas about to from pods. Can’t wait!IMG_6207Did some tidying up in the greenhouse, planted some cucumbers in there and in the wicking beds outside. So much more to do and what I should report on, it’s so rewarding seeing this stuff grow and harvesting it.

 

In My Kitchen. Golly how did it get to be November?

What a busy time it is at the moment! We have just celebrated the engagement of our son and his beautiful partner. Joyous time indeed and a lot of creating food for the celebration.  So in my kitchen is:

10424268_1563188050563163_5140644749713191810_n Some of the leftovers of the magnificent cake my daughter made for the event. Ready to pack to put in the freezer for later use. It was beautiful and looked amazing as well as tasting sensational. She is VERY talented!IMG_6254I made some vegetable pakora, they looked much better on the serving platter, see my previous post!IMG_6185

Cauliflower pakora

I cooked up some VERY spicy tiny sausages and meatballs. These were a great hit.IMG_6179In my kitchen are a few beautiful roses, this one is  a week old in the photo and still holding up well.IMG_6186 These beautiful ‘Jude the Obsure’ blooms are from a bush our daughter gave us after her wedding. Very precious to me.IMG_6206 In my kitchen are 2 heads of broccoli freshly cut waiting to go into our tummies.IMG_6230Sadly, I have to say goodbye to the last of last seasons garlic. This bag was chockers and has lasted really well. Only a couple of weeks till new crop is ready I think.IMG_6233 In my kitchen is a leek, broad bean and mushroom risotto made from freshly picked veg. It was beautiful!IMG_6237 Some of the broad beans, nearly finished for the season so enjoying them while we can.IMG_6248In my kitchen is a smoked trout. We are so lucky having such an excellent butcher who makes his own small goods and they are sensational. Thanks Wayne from Trafalgar Butcher Shop. Such an easy appetiser, trout, some bread or crackers to serve it on and your done!IMG_6257 Another local producer who grow the most amazing organic vegetables with love. Wendy and Tony go out of their way to make sure their produce is first rate and their service is exceptional. Wendy delivered these beautiful lettuce and daikon and some other goodies to me at work. Love shopping that way! It is nice knowing that the food I served for the after party BBQ has been grown with so much love and care. Check out Thorpdale Organics, it’s worth it.IMG_6260

Didn’t get to take a photo of the view from the kitchen window but it’s looking pretty good!

Thanks Celia from Fig Jam & Lime Cordial for giving us this opportunity to see and share kitchens from around the world.

Long weekend that was-for some! Family celebrations are fun!

Amazing to think that a whole country can come to a halt based around a race horse, but yes, here in Australia we can. I have traditionally been a great Melbourne Cup Day celebrator, but this year there has been so much happening that I didn’t even give it a thought! No sweep tickets, no TAB bets and not even watching the race. Hang my head in shame! The Melbourne Cup is always run on the first Tuesday in November and it is a public holiday for the people who live in the state of Victoria. It has turned into a time when many take the Monday off creating an extra long weekend. Not so for me.

Our son and his fiancé celebrated their engagement with a rather large party on Saturday night and you could not have asked for more disastrous weather conditions. After a beautiful Friday of 28, no wind and balmy conditions the cool front confronted with avengance. Temp slid down to about 13-15, rain was horizontal and the wind was just horrendous. All the planned outside arrangements were put on hold and thankfully our gracious hosts opened their home so the celebrations could continue inside. No mean feat for about 130 people! I had been cooking at every available opportunity for the party and it all went down well, especially the spicy (very) small sausages and the Indian pakora I made. IMG_6179 Just love this Indian pakora recipe of Annabel Langbein. I’ve made it a few times and always served them freshly deep fried but this time I made them ahead of time and reheated before serving. Wasn’t sure how that would go but it was fine. Batter wasn’t as crispy as when fresh but flavour was still good. IMG_6181Served with a minty yoghurt sauce.Cauliflower pakoraThe beautiful couple, though I think Dave may have had a beer or two by now!

IMG_6195Our daughter has a great sense of design style and does some beautiful cake decorating, she contributed this lovely 3 tier chocolate fudge cake decorated with little daisy flowers. Looked lovely and I must admit we are munching on it as I write this post!10424268_1563188050563163_5140644749713191810_nIt was a great party and a great reminder that it is so special having these happy times and celebrations with those we love.