Priorities.

Last night when I was having a hissy fit, chucked a wobbly, cracked the shits and generally behaved like a spoiled brat, (polite description) because in the space of a few hours, I’d burnt the chicken casserole, stuffed the raspberry meringue layer cake and then when I’d chosen to make a lemon tart to replace it, dropped the dutch oven into the middle of the tart just as the curd was setting. I was not happy and had thought for a moment my world was just crap because I couldn’t present magazine perfect food to our guests who were coming on Australia Day. For god sake, get a grip, it was only a BBQ. Having said that I like to make sure whatever I do is done well. This morning I had to (no, chose to), make focaccia, throw a couple of sourdough bread sticks into the BBQ because the ‘toy oven’ was full of focaccia and then throw in a loaf of bread for us for the week. I think the strain of returning to full time work, not having sold our property that will fund my new kitchen and reno and just  generally being out of sorts had built to pressure point and I lost it. My dear old dad used to say I was like a pressure cooker, build it all up then explode and then its all calm till the next time. Never really understood what he meant until times like this. Thankfully it  doesn’t happen often! Happy birthday for yesterday Stan, miss you more every year.

Well the explosion has been and gone and today we had a lovely day with friends just chillin’  and enjoying the day. No one gave a crap about how the food looked (and for that matter tasted) laughs, wine, relaxing and appreciating what he have is a far better priority to focus on. We used the holiday for Australia Day as an excuse to get together. We haven’t had many opportunities to host gatherings at this house yet but I hope we have many more opportunities in the future. It was a great chance to see how far we have come with establishing the back yard landscape. 2 1/2 years ago this was what we hadIMG_4480.

A bungalow filled most of the back yard, no fencing, no design form and in this shot 7 or 8 trees had already been culled. This next photo was taken today from pretty much the same spot in the yard but things are in leaf. I’d say we’ve made headway! That’s the mulberry tree back right. Vegies and chooks on right.

IMG_9484Our  Australia Day food included Chad Robertson’s potato and thyme focaccia with rosemary instead of thyme. I was thrilled with this.

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IMG_9546My beautiful daughter is trying to resurrect the lemon tart in this shot. Golly, I’m so proud of her, she has grown into the most beautiful woman and I greatly appreciated  the help she gave today. She also made a pavlova, which she will tell you is the best you’ll get. I disagree, mine is! There is also the rest of the Annabel Langbein’s Pork Rillette that I froze before we went away along with some cottage style cheese with lemon and thyme I made last night (that wasn’t a train wreck!). My little small rye sourdough loaves are hiding in there behind the cheese. Knife placement says it all about mood!

IMG_9537Em’s pavlova.

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And here we are just chillin’ in the newly established area where a couple of years ago there was a bungalow, rats, wasps and rancid soil.

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Our lamb sausages were good but it didn’t matter. The best bit of today was just enjoying friends, laughing and sharing some fun times.

 

 

AUSSIE SNAGS…..

Today we made sausages in readiness for a BBQ we are having on Monday to celebrate Australia Day.  It has become a bit of a tradition over the last few years, (mostly due to a highly successful marketing campaign to sell more), that we cook lamb on this day. I took advantage of a great sale price for legs of lamb and used this meat to make our so-called Aussie Sausages. I was a little surprised to see the ingredients in this “Aussie Sausage” were:

3-lbs ground lamb, 2-sun dried tomatoes, finely chopped,8-oz feta cheese, crumbled, 3-tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped, 1-tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped, 1-tbsp minced garlic, 1-tsp salt,1/2-tsp freshly ground black pepper. Combine all ingredients, mix well & stuff into hog casing.

I had expected more lamb with rosemary and maybe mint sauce! Maybe even some peas and mash thrown in for good measure. I might have to have a crack at that, doesn’t sound too bad. I quite liked the sound of the combination though, so on we went. My deboned lamb weighed in at 2.1 kilos so I adapted the quantities of the other ingredients (roughly) to suit that meat total.

First up was to debone the leg of lamb, quite easily done by following along the bone with a sharp knife and because it’s sausages, you don’t have to be too neat.

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Meat was cut into portions about an inch (2.5cm) square. I added some pork fat (10%) as the leg meat was so lean.

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The shank and the bones I removed are going into the freezer for another day. I’ve changed the way I label things in the freezer, I never can seem to be able to read what I’ve labelled so now I wrap some reno tape around the parcel and mark it nice and big. God, I hope that doesn’t mean I have to start borrowing large print books at the library!

IMG_9467The meat, feta and herbs were fed through the mincer,  a small pattie was cooked to check for flavours and seasoning. We added some extra pepper but everything else seemed ok.

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Next was to stuff the mix into sausage casings. We used the ‘stuffer’ we bought after our visit to Tasmania last year. It makes a job so much easier when you have the right equipment.I buy our sausage casings online from The Casing Boutique. They sell quality, natural casings and have been super quick with delivery, these ones are hog casings.

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The hardest part about the whole process is getting the casings onto the stuffer!

IMG_6160All done! We now have a nice big batch of “Aussie Lamb Sausages” ready to hit the BBQ on Monday. I quite like the fact these sausages include ingredients representing a few different nationalities and cultures. After all, that is part of what has made Australia such a diverse, exciting and wonderful place to live!

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Weekend wrap.

While I’ve been busy playing with bread dough and cleaning out cupboards Mr ATMT has been doing some back breaking work to make the front yard look a bit more attractive. A couple of months ago I posted about how we did the initial marking out for the front yard layout and now it has been well and truly locked in! Brick edging set on place around the pathway and toppings added to create a new look completely. There is not a lot we can do because of the big pin oak so we aim to just fill the entire area with low maintenance, bird and bee attracting yet pretty and very tough plants. We are also on the look out for a suitable centre piece or water feature for the centre of the circle . Nothing too fancy or glitzy, just tasteful. Got any recommendations?

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Toppings in and partly mulched some of the area that will be planted. No cupids or statues of David allowed as the feature.

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Our own little Downton Abbey with a crunchy gravel entry to the front door.

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Foccacia take 2.

Last night I posted about the Peter Reinhart foccacia I made and tonight I made up the other half that I had kept in the fridge since yesterday. Tonight’s topping was olives, sliced up stuffed with feta capsicum, garlic, olive oil, sea salt flakes and cheese. Tick to this recipe, so light, silky and easy. I rarely wrap up my own food too highly but this is a winner!

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So that’s it for the first weekend wrap of 2015. Back into the office tomorrow, but hopefully I will get things sorted in record time and not have to stay too long.

Peter Reinhart’s foccacia.

Go me!

I took a step outside my comfort zone and had an attempt to make a different bread other than the Chad Robertson basic sourdough loaf. I was feeling reasonably comfortable (not cocky) about managing the starter, proving and bakers percentages etc so I thought it time to branch out. I chose to try Peter Reinhart’s  foccacia. Good choice!  I’m not going to re-invent the wheel and post the recipe here, that’s in his book “Artisan Breads Everyday” along with many others bloggers posting their take on making this bread, just google it! Reinhart’s instructions cover making this over 4 days but I’m not that patient. With the heat and humidity we are experiencing I took a gamble. All I can say is if this bread is best after 4 days it must be amazing as I found it incredible in just 1 day. I made it to serve with pasta but at serving time I left the pasta and ate the bread. That says it all. The following is just a series of shots over the day as the dough progressed. Refer to the recipe if you need more explanation. I was really happy with it! 🙂

Dough out of fridge after a series of stretch and folds. Look OK.

Foccacia dough

Into the oiled pan, first dimples and oiling about to take place.

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1st Dimples seem to be going OK, oil is flavoured with chilli, rosemary, garlic, bay and roast capsicum juice.

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Second dimpling and oiling is doing just as Peter said it would. See how its filling the pan a bit more.

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Ready to start adding the topping I think. Here the chopped parsley, thyme and rosemary and a little more of the flavoured oil.

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Then comes the roasted capsicum and a sprinkling of sea salt flakes.

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Had to stop and play pick up sticks when I dropped the pasta. Excuse the floor, that’s what comes with renovations! It is actually clean!

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Not the best shot but this tasted amazing! HAPPY, happy, happy with how it has evolved.

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It’s had some time to settle since dinner, I just had another piece and it’s just getting better. Smug smile on face! 🙂 What food takes you out of your comfort zone?

In My Kitchen-January 2015

Welcome to the new year everyone! Thanks again Celia from Fig Jam & Lime Cordial for being our conduit for IMK. With the festive season now well and truly  wound down, things are getting back to normal. The decorations have been packed away so they can be dragged out again next year. Recycling bin emptied of many wine bottles and stubbies and there is room once again in the fridge! Not loads to report this month but in my kitchen there is (was): A couple of sourdough loaves I made NY eve. One to take to our friends home and one for us. sourdough load ears

Ours is just about finished because of things like me having it toasted and topped with goat cheese, smoked salmon and capers. Mmmm! IMG_9133

I bought myself a Christmas present of a new Turkish hand painted plate. Just love the design and colour. IMG_9137

I’ve cured the garlic, cleaned it and strung it up. I bagged the loose heads in an exclusion bag, these are handy for all sorts of things. I’ve stored some incredibly hot chillies by threading them onto a piece of string. I also bagged up some shallots into another exclusion bag.
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IMG_6884I made stuffed mushrooms to take NYE and unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of the finished product because they were really good, even of I did leave them in the oven a bit too long. I made a filling of olive oil with some roast pumpkin seed oil blended in (love the colour of that), S&P, mixed in some crushed garlic, grated parmesan, a chopped hot chilli and added enough sourdough breadcrumbs to make a stuffing. Mushrooms were filled with this then baked until done and crumble was crispy (in my case a bit more). I served them with some feta cheese finely grated over them and a thin slice of red capsicum on top. They went down well at our NYE gathering!

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I also made some samosa which I wasn’t at all pleased with (pastry mainly)  but they were all eaten enthusiastically. These were served with spicy hot peach chutney, that went on the platter where the black lid is. IMG_6885

I finish this post with the video of our annual family smashing of the gingerbread house. I know it looks wasteful but I just love it. The cumin that is mentioned in it was used to hold up one of the walls until the royal icing set. I forgot to take it out, finished the house then went nuts later knowing I’d seen the cumin but couldn’t find it. Sent son to shop to get some more. This video is the second attempt, first try didn’t do it. This is what the house looked like before the demolition. Decos are removed before we ‘do the business’. IMG_6762

Let the fun for 2015 begin!

PS: I forgot to mention that I made Maureen’s mango ice-cream for Christmas day and it was great. Might just have a serve now on this very hot afternoon. Wonder if we have any ginger nuts that I can crush to put on top?

Farewell to 2014. Hello 2015.

I must admit, I don’t really ‘get’ the hype that many have in relation to celebrating New Year. To me it is just another day, but I don’t mind any excuse to spend some time with those we love and to indulge in just a bit more food to well and truly top of the festive season.

My last weekend of 2014 was spent…….

Preparing the vegie patch to cope as well as possible during the anticipated hot spell (36c tomorrow and 40c Sat). With a camping trip coming up I like to leave things pretty well self managed as much as possible. First up was to offer the chooks some extra protection from the overhead and hot westerly sun by installing some shade cloth on the coop. I also added an extra water source that is in the shaded part of the coop to extend the water availability and it will be cooler there. Chooks don’t like hot water!

Chicken shadedBecause the summer sun is so much higher, it means the shiitake and pioppiono mushroom logs are exposed to a bit too much sun. I’ve rigged up a temporary shade cover that will do until I get a chance to make a more permanent structure (I hope). I’ve also put the plug into the bath they are stacked in to maintain the humidity to a higher level. I don’t anticipate harvesting anything from these logs for quite a few months yet, but I want to maintain the best the conditions I can. I am considering installing an automated misting system here, but it is not high up on the very long list of priorities!

Shiitake shade coverMulching of all the beds has been done in earnest. The ability to keep surface roots cool and minimise evaporation by mulching has proven to be extremely effective. I use organic sugar cane mulch just because its easy and readily available. I’ve mulched the asparagus bed, tomatoes, the potatoes growing in a bathtub, the wicking beds in the greenhouse and I will do the last couple of wicking beds over the next couple of days. The photo below is of the wicking bed in the greenhouse where I have had to heavily cut back the sweet potatoes (on right) because of their vigorous growth that was threatening to overtake all the strawberries. I doubt whether I will get tubers and as I only use the tops for greens in stir fry it doesn’t present an issue.

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One of the compost bins and the worm farm need a little more sun protection.  Some shade cloth and a piece of carpet should insulate the worms. They seem to hold their own pretty well if they have a deep place to dig down into.

IMG_6896This is what’s happening in the greenhouse. I’ve rigged up the gravity fed ‘auto pot’ watering system for the tomatoes (on the left). The old olive drum is full of nutrient made from an organic mix and it syphons into the pots when the water level drops to a specific point. It can go for several weeks without extra watering. There are cucumbers (yellow flowers) capsicum, lemon grass (gangbusters!) all doing well and the tomatoes I have trained along bamboo stakes have been maturing since mid November. I am now starting to harvest larger varieties which we welcome very much.

IMG_6901I planted up our camping herb planter box. By the time we head off, these lettuce, basil, coriander, chives and parsley will be a good size for adding to our evening meals. These little touches add greatly to our camping meals and saves buying large quantities that end up wasted. Not to mention how I can avoid having plastic packaging when I buy supermarket herbs.

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The exclusion bags I put over the blueberry fruit have proven to be excellent! I now need to go in and pick these luscious beauties. Some are as big as marbles. Hope the taste is big too!

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We spent New Years Eve with friends and their lovely guests and I have some interesting reports to make on the food I took to share. That will be covered in my IMK post tomorrow.

I wish everyone a happy 2015 and look forward to learning more from the wonderful bloggers I have hooked up with in 2014. It is such a fruitful and rewarding way to share knowledge and learn so much more than you would normally.