Quince

I feel I little like the queen, never see or hear from her for a year and then the Christmas message appears. Well this is my Easter message and it all about quince, not corona, not isolation, not bread (well maybe a Hot Cross Bun), just quince.

When we first purchased this property, I had plans to fill the lane way with all sorts of fruit trees, herbs and other plants that could be shared within the community. I have sadly only managed to plant a quince tree and some geraniums that I relocated from other spots. The few apple trees I planted just didn’t make it. The quince tree did not perform at all well the first few years and I now think I have been pruning it too hard, as all of this fruit was on branches I probably would have have trimmed off in previous years. So these combined with a few my daughter had on her young tree are being converted into quince jelly and quince paste.

I follow the same method up to a point and then use the ‘mash’ left to make the quince paste and the liquid for the jelly.

Start by washing all the fuzzy down from the quince, cut out any dodgy bits cop the rest into chunks and put in a pot with plenty of water covering them and simmer until really soft. This can take an hour or more.

Once the fruit is soft it needs to be strained to separate the liquid from the solid. It is VITAL that this isn’t rushed or forced as you will end up with cloudy jelly. I use some calico tied to an upturned stool or chair, dump the mash into it and have a bucket underneath as a catcher.

I left this overnight to let it do it’s drip, drip, drip, ever so slowly into the bucket. The next day I measured the liquid into a pot, added equal parts sugar, a squeeze of lemon and let it slowly come to setting point. As this happens, the most magical transformation to a beautiful pink is taking place. Once setting point is reached it can be bottled as you would with any jam.

For the quince paste it is a matter of converting the leftover mash after straining. This is what was left from the juice straining. Looks a bit like vomit doesn’t it!

I don’t like a really gritty paste, so I do one separation using a larger gauge mesh to remove all of the chunky bits, seeds and core fibers, then run the remaining fruit pulp through a finer gauge mesh. This leaves a lovely fine pulp. The bits removed will be chook fodder and they love it.

Now at this point, for anyone who has ever attempted quince paste, you will undoubtedly recall the amount of mess making this can create. Well, not with this baby. The magic weapon is to use your slow cooker. The paste can simmer away there for hours until it hits the desired consistency without a spatter on anything. This is the fruit pulp with ~3/4 cup of sugar to each cup of pulp mixed in and ready to simmer away.

I turned it off overnight as I am not really a thrill seeker and just turned it back on the next morning. Once it reached a thickening stage I placed a t/towel over it between the paste and the lid and left the lid slightly off so moisture wouldn’t fall back into the paste. I let this simmer until I was happy with the consistency. It looks very dark but it is no way overcooked.

The paste was then poured into some jars, some suitable to remove slabs from for serving with platters etc.

And that is how simple and easy it is to convert some ridiculously weird fruit into something delicious.

Seeing as it is Easter, I’ll wish you all a safe and not too lonely time. I hate not being able to get together but hope we will see our new grand-daughter at her 21st. Cheers witha sourdough Hot Cross Bun and a glass of pink sauvignon blanc to match the pink quince jelly.

 

 

 

 

Elderflowers and pomegranates.

Well this first pic has absolutely nothing to do with pomegranates or elderflowers but I always get excited when I play with compost. We are starting to sort out the area down the west side of the house where the clothesline is and up until now I’ve had one of my 6 compost bins there. This needed to be moved to make way for a couple of garden beds for espaliers and so we can put toppings on the ground. This is the area I mean. The espaliered pear on the left is the one I planted in 2012 before we moved in. This is the thumbnail pic of way back then. So anyway, compost out of the way, now Mr ATMT could get busy building beds and shovelling crushed rock. Just about tamed this area now and the soil certainly smells a whole lot better than it did when we started out. It doesn’t look anywhere near as ‘nursing home’ as this in reality! Trust me.

This is the area when we purchased. No sunlight had touched the house for years and everything was mouldy, damp, smelly and even though it had that ‘old world charm’ feel to it it was pretty gross. We also had fencing installed between us and our immediate neighbour.

So on to elderflowers and pomegranates!

One of the first things I planted was what I had bought as an elderflower plant. The goal was to screen and offer protection from summer afternoon sun to the chook house and to create wonderful cordials and beverages. Sadly this plant has only reached one of these objectives. It has worked extremely well protecting the chook house but sadly not one berry to be had and the cordial I made from the (very pretty) flowers tasted of freshly chopped grass. Time to rethink me thinks.

I’ve started the cut back here so the winter sun can reach the chook house. This plant shoots back amazingly well.

This pic shows the floret remains where berries should form, or so I think. These are the very pretty flowers that adorn the bush prolifically but according to some lovely visitors we had at our food gardens open day, they didn’t have the right fragrance. They were quite experienced in elderflowers apparently so I’ve started to wonder if we actually have a legitimate variety. Further investigation to take place now as I love the idea of elderflower champagne.  I planted a little pomegranate bush near the doors of the greenhouse last season and it is just going nuts. I absolutely love everything about pomegranates, and will be beside myself if we actually get to harvest a homegrown one. The bush has been continually in flower for a  while so Ive been giving the flowers a tickle with a little paint brush between male and female flowers in the hope pollination will be more successful. Well, lookie here! I do believe we may actually have a baby pom in the making. I’ve found another 2 now so these are going to be watched closely to see what evolves. I have such fond memories of fresh pomegranate juice at all the roadside stalls throughout Turkey.

And a couple of tag alongs!

The coriander I have been drying to save seed from is now ready to be thrashed to separate the seeds. I always feel a little bit clever when something so easy takes place. I get better results growing it for seed than I do as a herb as it just seems to bolt quickly. The grapes in the berry house are turning in colour. These grapes taste of passionfruit and are absolutely delicious. Just need to make sure there are absolutely no little points of access for the birds who think they are delicious too. Then there is this! I planted some pumpkin seeds I had saved from a perfectly normal looking butternut pumpkin and this is whats growing. I’m going to let it continue and see what evolves, it may be something stunning. We’ll wait and see. So that’s the little catch up, if you have any knowledge about elderflowers varieties, pomegranates or dodgy looking pumpkin plants I’d love to hear from you.

In My Kitchen-For the first time in a while!

I was having a look around my kitchen to see if there may be anything of interest to post and realised it is exactly one year since I moved from the temporary kitchen into our new lovely space. I posted about having a new oven installed at the end of July last year. Twelve months on and I can honestly say I am thrilled with my Falcon oven. Not too thrilled though that it threw a door seal the other night, will have to get that sorted pretty quickly. There has not been one moment when I haven’t been thrilled with this oven and its performance. So back to what’s to share In My Kitchen this month. We now have Sherry from Sherry’s Pickings doing the linking up of fellow IMKer’s, thanks Sherry!

Here I have some sourdough croissants that look suspiciously like crumbed chicken. I finely chopped hazelnuts and almonds to sprinkle over the top and it makes them look crumbed. Glazed with a rosewater glaze they were a great success with the kids arguing over who got how many and some whinging that they “always” miss out. The recipe for these completely sourdough croissants is from Shipton Mill, I have made it a few times and it always goes well. I made these smaller as a mini croissants which were cut to about 7cm wide X 15cm long. They should have proofed another couple of hours but it had already been 24hours and I got impatient! Here are definitely the last tomatoes for this season. I picked these from the greenhouse today and to be honest I was quite surprised to see them. Mr ATMT has been working his ‘not quite as young as he used to be’ body out laying brick paving in the area outside the kitchen. These bricks are reclaimed from a local demolition company and look really great. The orange tree we moved is coping really well so far and the overnight temperatures that have been down to -4 haven’t knocked it much at all.  Now to get some fence screen planting in. I think lots of citrus will do very nicely.I love fruit cake but we never have it as I am the only one who eats it. My sister gave me this boiled fruit cake and I am looking forward to working my way through it with my cup of tea each day. My girlfriend brought me back these napkins from her overseas trip. I hope they don’t say anything offensive, feel free to translate for me! I have a new bread knife In My Kitchen, crusty sourdough bread can be a challenge for cutting and I love this Opinel bread knife. I have 2 new books. I bought the Bien Cuit bread book because I love the pictures and it is a nice book to have on the coffee table (which we don’t have!) and the Culinary Adventures  of Marakesh was kindly given to me by a neighbour. I have only started delving into this and I think it will be quite an enjoyable read. Is anyone else familiar with this book? Lastly for this months’s IMK post is a picture of our classic winter Saturday or Sunday wake up snack. A cup of tea with some toasted sourdough, here it is fruit loaf with raspberry jam on one and quince jelly on the other. Bloody lovely! Now off to have a look at the other “In My Kitchen” posts.

 

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Remember me? Lots to report and plans afoot.

I keep wondering why I have had so much trouble getting to writing posts and I have come to the conclusion that when I was working I was looking for a form of escapism and regular blog posts were like therapy to me. Since having left work I am continually doing things that I enjoy, am busy all of the time and just don’t seem to have the time to sit and focus on writing a post.  We also spent a month in New Zealand that I haven’t worked out how to write about as I’m still not sure how I really felt about it. Whoever said they didn’t know how they had time to go to work was right on the money. So what’s been happening?

The new Courtyard Taking shape.

This area is out from the kitchen and up until recently has been mainly a utility area. The blood orange tree was planted against a wall but left freestanding after we rotated the ‘dentist’ room.  The area will be paved, have some kitchen garden plantings and be a great outdoor eating area. We took a gamble and using some great tips from a lovely Instagram friend, moved the orange tree (thanks @minipermaculture). It actually looks like it is doing better now than it was where it was moved from. We trimmed it back, planted it in a large hole that was full of compost, worm castings and other goodies, gave it a drink of very weak Seasol and sprayed the foliage with this solution as well. We are now making sure it is protected from the extremely harsh frosts we are experiencing and keeping everything crossed. The water feature is my leaving gift from work and once it integrates to lots of greenery it should ‘disappear’ yet be a focal point at the same time.

Seems to be doing well so far! Fingers crossed for us. This is the area with recycled bricks waiting to be laid by the very weary Mr ATMT who has been working his butt off. As well as the courtyard area, we are working towards getting the driveway edging and toppings done, but we had to run power and water to the courtyard first which meant making some mud. We hired a little digger and plumber son did a great job running the trenches for pipes and cables.

He got a bit of help with this little cutie. What is it about machinery that is so appealing?It’s coming together nicely and I am pleased to say we have just about lost all of the leaves  from the oak. I haven’t managed to accumulate much in the way of leaf old so far but they will still be waiting for me to collect and mulch up so there is no rush.

Some exciting plans.

I had always said I would convert the ‘dentist’s  room’ into a preserving or food related area and have made the decision to fit it out as a registered kitchen so I can have approval to sell  my bread. This is the white room on the right and I am currently working through all of the necessary red tape to satisfy council requirements. My plan is to only sell by pre-order of loaves I enjoy making and keeping it manageable and most importantly, enjoyable. We have so far stripped it out and are getting the electrical and plumbing sorted out so I can plaster, tile, fit out and get things on the road. I am really excited about this, its not planned to be a big commercial operation, just me making something I love doing, on my own terms. This is what it was like inside before I started gutting it. As well as working towards registering the kitchen I am planning on holding some workshops for people interested in learning how to make sourdough. I had a lovely group of ‘guinea pigs’ come at the weekend so I could get an idea of how the format I had in my head worked in real-time. We had a lot of fun and I have tweaked quite a few concepts of how to present and once we have the council tick I will offer some workshops. It is a really good way for me to think about how things are done and improve my skills as well.We hd a little set back with the new bathroom/laundry that was part of the exteno. I posted that I was thrilled that we finally had a finished room, and then KAPOW, poor Mr ATMT was wiping out the shower and came up under the tiled-in soap shelf.Luckily no damage to him, (I did ask!)and we have decided to replace that shelf tile with 2 single tiles as it is highly likely that this would happen again. Back to the suction cup rack but comfortable that it will be safer.Out in the garden I have some broccoli heading up, the bok choy and leeks are doing really and I still have a couple of capsicum hanging on in the greenhouse.

  

Here is an assortment of my Friday family & friend bake. Some multigrain, some flaxseed loaves that are using the excellent recipe that Francesca over at Almost Italian  posted and some light rye loaves. I love the way the kids are so keen to collect their bread on A Friday night or Saturday morning to get them through the week. Finally I just have to share this gorgeous video of our grandson experiencing milling flour for the first time. It is especially precious to me, as I would have had welts in a few places if I’d been caught sitting on the kitchen bench like this. I am going to let him sit and participate with me as much and as often as possible! I love it.

 

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Farewell to My Sunbeam Toy Oven-Pizza Bake N Grill Winner!

When we moved into this “new old house” in January 2013, it meant we didn’t have a real kitchen and had no idea it would take almost 4 years before we would  For all this time I have managed to create some pretty amazing dishes thanks to the little 19 litre capacity $80 or so Sunbeam Pizza Bank N Grill Oven which I affectionately have referred to in my posts as my ‘Toy Oven’.Sunbeam pizza bake and grill ovenI decided to buy this just in case it took a little longer than anticipated to do our renovations, I would have been burnt at the stake as a witch in mediaeval times, it took so much longer than anticipated. This little oven along with 2 butane gas camping stoves, our hooded BBQ  (Sunbeam as well as it turns out), a larger gas ring for big jobs like preserving and tomato passata, 2 slow cookers and we haven’t missed out on anything, even making our own sourdough bread very week.

New gas cookerWell, now that I have my beautiful new Falcon double oven with 5 gas burners, I can bid my ‘Toy Oven’ a fond farewell. I haven’t yet decided whether or not to keep it to take when we go camping (if there is power supply) or to piff it but that seems wasteful when it still works (and oh so well!). Unfortunately the poor thing is in such a preloved state that it isn’t up to scratch to offer to someone or donate to charity. It may even become the mud pie oven for when kids are in the back yard.

I cannot believe how well this little oven has performed over these few years, my only negative comment is that I could only make a couple of things at a time, so large quantities when required of biscuits, muffins, party foods like sausage rolls and mini quiche had to be made at my daughters place or at work. Luckily those times were few and far apart so not too much of an issue.

Thought I’d honour this little ‘Toy Oven’ recapping and revisiting some of the food it has churned out for us over the last few years.

My first bake in the oven was spinach and ricotta muffins, tick.Spinach ricotta muffinsSome mini pavlovas served with brandy snaps and fruit. See, only 6 at a time can be cooked.Mini pavlova Mini Pavs in tin

Many small roasts and meals where the meat was cooked in the slow cooker and the veggies roasted in the little oven have been made. This was Dorper lamb we bought in South Australia cooked in the slow cooker and veg in the ‘toy oven’.Roast Dorper Lamb I even sterilised some jars prior to preserving food. These were used for bottling some Christmas Puddings, very successful!Sunbeam Pizza Bake N GrillMany batches of potato, kale and feta rolls.Kale, Potato and Feta rollsThe most amazing slow cooked quince I have ever tasted, this was delicious!Slow Roasted Quince Quince RecipeSometimes fitting cookware in was a challenge. This slice tin was made to fit with the aid of a spanner or such.Making tin fitand you couldn’t quite fit the Dutch Oven in with the lid on.Dutch Oven in Toy OvenSometimes I had to split cooking methods, like here where the meat was done in the ‘Toy oven’ and the veg in the BBQ.Roast lamb Jamie OliverSome more meringues but I was getting better at fitting in more than 6 in a muffin tray. I got  7 in by using the pizza tray.Nigel Slater cinnamon meringueI still managed to bake the pieces that I use to assemble my Christmas gingerbread house in.Gingerbread house 2014 Gingerbread house piecesMany different varieties of foccacia.Peter Reinhart foccaciaTarts, this is a blood plum tart.Blood Plum Tartand my all time favourite, lemon tart. alice-medrich-lemon-tartPies or in this case, piesties.Piestiesand of course my passion, sourdough bread.Barbecue breadEven with only having had this little ‘toy oven’ I managed to turn out 2-3 loaves, sometimes more, of sourdough bread every week. I would not have believed this unit was capable of being such a great unit until I tried it. There has been white, wholemeal, rye, fruit, grainy, pumpernickel, hot cross buns, baguette, pizzas, bread sticks, flat breads and more. The only way I could bake in this toy oven was to use a Dutch Oven, this reduced the exposure of the dough to the heating elements thus reducing the likelihood of it becoming toast before it was even cooked. I also faced the challenge that the lid didn’t fit in because the handle/knob just made the unit too large for the baking chamber. I remedied this by removing the knob and filling the hole with some bread dough. Every now and again I would replace the dough and it worked extremely well.

Dough plug Dutch OvenThere are so many more great things that have been churned out by this little oven and I have really enjoyed revisiting the relevant posts. I am so appreciative of the beautiful space and equipment I have now, it is hard to understand how I managed to create anything really.

There were a few times when I was taking bread to a party or we were entertaining here that I needed to resort to using the Sunbeam barbecue for baking bread. I got the method pretty well down pat after a few attempts and would happily bake this way again if necessary. I will admit though, it has knocked the poor old barbecue hot plates and grill around. I might end up keeping this unit just for bread. We’ll see.Sunbeam BBQ Bread Sunbeam BBQ BreadWell, the poor little old ‘toy oven’ is nowhere near as pretty as she was a few years ago but by goodness, what a run she has had! I don’t think these units were designed to get quite the workout that this one has had. I think the price is now up around the $120.00 mark but if you need a unit that is versatile, reliable and fun to use I can’t recommend this highly enough. Thanks, my little ‘toy oven’, it been fun.

sunbeam-pizza-bake-n-grill

A quick whip around the patch.

I haven’t done a post for a while on what’s happening in the veggie patch/garden. This is most likely because I haven’t really been doing much out there. With us now being into the third season of establishing the garden, we are finding that it is much more about maintenance rather than building new areas. We are still working on developing paths, contemplation spots and have yet to start tackling the front yard so it won’t be all sit back and relax for a while yet.

Peeking into the greenhouse.

I have a couple of sugar baby watermelon seedlings that appear to be happy and growing well. These may just take over the entire greenhouse!

Sugar baby watermelon
Sugar baby watermelon

One of last years capsicum has over-wintered well and is throwing flowers with some baby caps appearing, this is much earlier than usual.

Capsicum flowering
Capsicum flowering

I have taken some cuttings from the perennial Rocoto chilli and these seem to be quite successful. I’ve used the method similar to planting laterals that are removed from tomatoes that grow so well.

Rocoto cutting
Rocoto cutting

There is a flower on the mature Rocoto Chilli. It was very rude and wouldn’t look at the camera!

Rocoto flower
Rocoto flower

Out in the Patch

The flowers on my Souvenir de la malmaison rose have suffered badly from the excessive amounts of rain we have experienced but it is growing nicely.

Souvenir de la Maison Rose
Souvenir de la malmaison Rose

I have however, had some good results from the roses in the laneway but I didn’t get a good photo. The lilac is magnificent! First time flowering this year and I am in love.

Lilac
Lilac

This years garlic crop is looking terrific.

Garlic 2016
Garlic 2016

The shiitake mushrooms are giving the best yield in quite a few years. I think the high rain and humidity is just what they demand.

Shiitake
Shiitake

I have some baby figs, YAY!

img_0045and some baby apples.

Apple babies
Apple babies

This button lettuce is proving to be a lovely variety. It is working well as a ‘pick as you need’ lettuce and bounces back quickly. The silver beet and kale behind it is all that remains from the last planting. I need space for tomatoes!

img_0059In the berry house, the raspberries, loganberries and thornless blackberries are all flowering profusely.

Berry house
Berry house

and the grapevine is starting to cover the climbing frame on the roof well with lots of grape clusters evident.

Grape vine
Grape vine

I have some pretty little daisies that bees and hoverflies just love and it is making me smile every time I see it.

Happy daisies
Happy daisies

All in all, it’s looking pretty good.

img_9909I trimmed a lot of the parsley stalks that were threatening to seed, picked some lemons from our new tree, found some beetroot I didn’t know about (too woody for roasting but I think it will be ok as a dip), some new potatoes, some self sown garlic, mint and herbs and we had enough to throw into a salsa verde for tea.

Harvest pickings
Harvest pickings

A  peek in the new bedroom.

I have decided that I will now continue working in one room at a time and it will be completely finished before I move onto the next (please remind me of my pledge when I stray). We always seem to fall into the trap of saying “we will get back to that” and it takes a very long time to get back, but no more. I am absolutely going to follow through on this! This is the new spare (guest) bedroom that was part of the exteno. Painting is almost finished, carpet is booked for laying,

img_1023We have rehung the old kitchen door on this room and that needs to be repaired and painted. Mr ATMT did the skirting in the robe space this afternoon so that now needs painting. I absolutely love this colour. The walls are Taubman’s Raincloud and the ceiling and trim is Dulux Classic White. img_1024 I have almost finished painting the window and it is looking great. The radiator that was in the old room before demolition has been cleaned and polished. This was pain, one of those jobs where you use a knitting needle with a cloth over the end to get into all the little nooks and crannies but worth it.img_1022I am already becoming aware while I write, that there will be one unfinished part of this room and that is internal fit out of the wardrobe. We will use a set of the shelving units we had in the temporary kitchen  I think. They are really good and will leave some options for the final design.

What jobs do you leave until you put the house on the market?

Putting things together.

We are very close to the finishing stages of our kitchen and exteno project. IMG_8852I’m in the process of moving everything from the temporary kitchen, the old dentist room, the shed and the spare bedroom into our new kitchen. So far all the bits are fitting in beautifully and I will have oodles of space to store everything. I’m being ruthless and items not thought about, used in 12 months or damaged are going straight to the op shop pile or tossed.  We still haven’t got water and gas connected in the kitchen but we do have it in the laundry so we have been able to clear the plastic table and babies bath out from the bathroom and can wash dishes in the laundry. This has been the greatest challenge I’ve faced with this whole experience. I really didn’t like having a loo in the dishwashing area!IMG_8848We can now work on plans for renovating this bathroom. The part with insulation is where we have extended the wall out from the existing room. Love the drapes? 2 shower curtains that do the job well enough. We still have to do a few jobs but it is certainly well on the way to completion and the space is working extremely well.IMG_8887 IMG_8859I’m still using the 2 butane gas camping stoves and hope this box of butane cans is the last I will need to buy for home use. They are an excellent product and you can cook everything on these cookers, I suspect there may even be times when I take one outside to the verandah to cook with.  IMG_8904We had friends around for tea last night and I felt like doing something ‘Asian’ so went to the gorgeous Dumpling Sisters website for some inspiration. My first exposure to the Dumpling Sisters was when Celia posted about their fantastic home made dumplings and I made the wrappers from scratch. Their dumplings are great and the wrappers are oh so easy! Anyway, for this meal I made their Mapo Tofu, well, it was improvised based around what I had and what I couldn’t get locally. I didn’t have chilli bean sauce so I used black bean sauce and added some chilli sauce and some of my home made chilli paste. I couldn’t get soft tofu, so I used hard but fried it off first to give it a nicer texture. I used veal instead of beef as I had taken some out of the freezer earlier to make  dumplings with. I added fresh beans, omitted the black beans and served with chopped red capsicum and spring onions. It was delicious!IMG_8863Next  up was their ‘One Pot Cauli Satay’. I’m not a huge fan of satay but I love cauliflower and really enjoyed this meal. I added a chicken thigh fillet, halved the curry powder (Keens) and also added peas. This was great! Glad I cut back on the curry as I was concerned that it would be too hot, but with using half it turned out to be just right.IMG_8864For desert (very unusual for us) I made lychee and orange sorbet. This was absolutely delicious, served with our freshly picked oranges that had been segmented and sitting in their own juice for a couple of hours. I only made half the recipe and it was more than enough for the four of us. We still have some in the freezer for when I need a hit. This would have to be one of the easiest and lightest of deserts I have ever made. It was perfect for finishing off the chinese style  dishes and cleansing the pallette.IMG_8870Today I bottled my Kombucha, I added ginger to 2 bottles and left one plain. I believe this will now do a 2nd fermentation in the bottle resulting in a bubbly beverage. Fingers crossed. I made a fresh batch with the scoby and a fresh batch of sweet black tea. Like the reflection on the bottles!IMG_8898I love my soda stream,  I have had one since they were first released and came with small glass bottles. I love the concept and my main reason for using one is to avoid all the plastic bottles soda water comes in. We usually use fresh fruit or lime cordial that you can buy in glass bottles for flavouring. I wasn’t really happy when I read this on the side of one of their new style bottles. Why on earth would these have such a short shelf life? Some research is called for here, but I suspect I might be going back to an old fashioned soda syphon that come with metal gas bombs and a steel carbonation chamber. IMG_8892I’m working on getting better results with baking bread in my new oven but I must say, the Sunbeam Pizza Bake N Grill is hard to match! Still a way to go but it does taste great.IMG_8874My capacola is doing what it should be doing. Not smelly, no blowflies, no mould and it actually smells wonderful. I’ll watch the conditions carefully and if it starts to warm up I’ll take it our daughters house which has a very cool and humid underfloor area.IMG_8856We’ve been picking oranges and amazingly Rene has been laying eggs. She is over 4 years old and we thought she’d lost it but it appears we were wrong. This equates to pretty much one a day. IMG_8851I’m impressed!

Making do in the kitchen! Hot air balloon flight-Tick!

I have not been that motivated to do much since we returned from our holiday in the balmy summer warmth of the Mediterranean. I’d never understood why people head to warmer parts over winter, but I can now see why.  One bright and sunny thing we have going on is that our oranges are ready for picking to give us a daily serve of juice. These oranges are sweet but with a degree of tartness which I like to give you a bit of a zing.IMG_8488With the imminent move into the new kitchen, I’ve been trying to avoid shopping for much, as we will soon have to move everything from the makeshift kitchen to the new kitchen (never thought it would happen!). This means the fridge and freezer will need to be cleaned out and defrosted and all pantry items sorted through and some culled. So there has been a few “make do” meals happening rather than throwing things out. Breakfast today was sourdough pancakes with maple syrup, lemon and sugar, fresh juice and a lovely cup of tea. Didn’t use much in the way of pantry surplus, but it did mean I could use the sourdough starter that would normally be discarded. These pancakes are always so light. To make the batter I use approximately 1 cup 100% sourdough (SD) starter, about 3/4 cup of SR flour, a generous tablespoon of sugar, one egg and enough milk to mix to whatever consistency you prefer.IMG_8491Our first breakfast in the almost finished new family room. The pancakes look a little wonky but were fine.IMG_8493As I work through using (or chucking) anything in the freezer that should go, I’ve found that the ‘toy oven’ put on a very low setting is a great place to start the defrosting process. The item then goes back into the fridge to avoid contamination as it completes the defrosting process. I have some lamb chops defrosting on the top of the oven here. I also ran out of my normal bread flour so I am using up whatever is to hand. This Italian flour was used to make a loaf scored to resemble a sunflower about to open.IMG_8480It is quite pretty, not necessarily like a sunflower, but pretty. Sunflower loafThe chops were grilled with a pomegranate molasses glaze. I served them with leftovers of a dish I made earlier in the week. Stuffed eggplant (vegetarian), a red pepper burgul salad and some obligatory mash. Sadly the chops were as tough as old boots! The rest however was  delicious.IMG_8495 It is that time of year where we are inundated with oak tree leaves falling. This is one of the collection points from last year where we had added manure, grass clippings and other organic ‘stuff’ throughout the year. What is in the barrow is the result, beautiful black, crumbly compost. I emptied this bin and re-assembled it for collection of this years leaves. Once it stops raining I can start re-filling it. I do run the mower over the leaves to  hasten breaking down.IMG_8478

Holiday snaps – Hot Air Balloon flight, Goreme Cappadocia.

I had thought that on our return I would be very organised and would carefully put together a series of posts in correct sequence of our journey across Greece & Turkey but I just haven’t, so I’m randomly putting up a few shots. These are a few of our hot air balloon flight across Goreme Cappadocia. It took quite a lot of self-help to get me onboard and I am thrilled that I did. Being among 90 hot air balloons up in the air at the same time was amazing. I was fine once I had clipped the safety harness on, which alleviated my fear of jumping out. Over at Almost Italian, Francesca has just posted about preferring to look up rather than down. I know we’ve touched on heights before but I am so pleased (and chuffed with myself) that I overcame the doubt and fear.

IMG_2649Sunrise in the sky at 4000 feet.IMG_7283Capadoccia hot air balloon IMG_7212 IMG_7225 IMG_7242 Landing. These guys actually pull you in and ‘park’ the basket on the back of the trailer. Skill levels and brawn that would astound you!IMG_7294I think I took about 400 photos during this flight. It is still too amazing for me to sort inside my head to work through which ones are special and why.

I may still get to doing a series of better constructed posts, I hope so for my own sake.

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.

 

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!