Paneer Jalfrezi-With Raab! Yum.

Dinner last night was a take on Rick Stein’s paneer jalfrezi a recipe from his “getting better with every recipe I try“, ‘India’ cook book. This recipe is basically an indian curry stir fry of peppers and tomatoes but as there was a shortfall of peppers in our kitchen I added extra green capsicum and some broccoli raab. Funny, I hadn’t heard of ‘raab’ until I read Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial‘s post today and she mentioned broccoli raab in her post. It looked  suspiciously like what I was growing and had picked to use in this dish. I had planted and grown seed labelled as Broccoli ‘Sessantina grossa’, guess what? Yep, broccoli raab. I’m much more excited about it now, just thought it was a scrungy variety of broccoli until I researched it more closely.

As well as adding the ‘raab’ I also had some pre soaked yellow split peas that were prepared for another dish, I ran out of puff for that, so they went into the pan too. I cut back the chilli powder in the recipe by half and the curry flavour was beautiful, just right. Served with steamed rice, but I would love to have tried it with some fresh naan or flatbread.  That can wait until next time when I make it with more peppers and tomatoes when they are at the peak of their season. I love any dish with indian  paneer cheese (similar to a heavy cottage cheese) in it and the split peas added a nice textural change. Worked out well and tasted delicious.

Paneer jalfrezi

Goat Curry, Pulled Pork, ganache and….

I haven’t ever cooked goat before, so when we were at the Dandenong Market last week I could not pass up buying some ‘goat curry’ cuts when I saw it. I knew I wanted to try it either as an Indian curry or as a middle eastern tasting dish so onto the internet. The first recipe I found when I googled was Rick Stein’s Goat Curry so that was that settled. I love Rick Stein, haven’t made many of his dishes but he just seems like a delightful man.

We weren’t disappointed at all. I thought the flavour might be a little light on because there is minimal spicing in the recipe but no, it was delightful. Served with rice, greek yoghurt and some of the leftover flour tortillas from Fridays Lunch.

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Friday’s Lunch

Let’s just say one of my better lunches! Pulled shoulder of pork made with a rub of salt, cumin and Garam masala, . Before I went to bed Thursday I chucked it into the slow cooker on low with a cup of stock, some onions, garlic and star anise. Removed from slow cooker about an hour before serving. I served this with a simple tomato salsa made of tomatoes, capsicum, black pepper and spring onions and an asian flavoured slaw salad that was really nice. Some Annabel Langbein flour Tortillas that were used as wraps, some plum sauce and tomato pickles on the side as well. Was really lovely, tasty and light.

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Dessert was not so light! Brandy snap ‘shells’ with chocolate ganache, quince that had been slow roasted for about 7 hours with sugar, cinnamon and star anise. A plop of double cream on top, yummo.

Quince brandy snaps

I resisted having another serve of this for breakfast so I compromised,

Banana, ganache sourdough

Sourdough toast spread with ganache and mashed banana. That is better for me isn’t it?

Hangin’ in the hammock. Spelt, flowering gums & books.

What an absolute cracker of a weekend  it’s been weather wise! Autumn is my favourite season, but  I especially love it when the weather has been as lovely as the last couple of weeks. We’ve had cool, almost balmy nights, sunny days ranging from 18-30 degrees with just a slight breeze, promises of cooler nights advancing by the dew that’s on the grass and cars in the morning and the golden tinge of colour change in the leaves of the trees. Perfect camping weather, hope it holds for a few weeks.

I was not going to miss the opportunity to enjoy this weather while I could, so in between all the weekend chores and jobs I took time to retreat to my beloved hammock and have some ‘smell the roses’ time.

If I was asked to make a short list of my favourite things to do, reading, camping and hanging in my hammock would be top of the list. If I can do all at the same time I’m in heaven!

I recently borrowed a book from the local Mobile Library and although a very different genre to my beloved crime mystery I thoroughly enjoyed it. The book was ‘The Briny Cafe’ by Susan Duncan and it is a nice story based around some Aussies who live off shore from the mainland and have a strong community  that they cherish and we get to share their lifestyle. I loved the tone of Susan’s writing and have since read the sequel, Gone Fishing which I found just as delightful. So, on to reading her ‘memoirs’, Salvation Creek which I have also enjoyed immensely. Close to my heart, we all are or have friends in the same places she has been and I felt it a very honest and light-hearted approach to disclosing her unbelievingly difficult experiences. Close to the end of the book, I was in between stretch and folds of my bread dough, stirring of the tomato and plum sauces so I treated myself to a stretch in the hammock with a ‘coldie’ (aka chilled beer), my book and a relaxed attitude. Heaven!

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Coming back in between tasks, I picked a few things to go in our dinner that I hadn’t planned. Lemons, lemongrass, capsicum, zucchini and some potatoes. Found some chicken in the freezer  so we had a chicken, lemon, lemongrass, capsicum, zucchini, thyme and potato bake. Threw in some small tomatoes to add sweetness and served on rice cooked with lemongrass and some star anise. Wasn’t a dribble maker, but it was fresh, tasty and hearty.

IMG_0407 IMG_0411My sourdough bread bake this weekend was a 50% spelt flour mix, in a 68% hydration dough. We bought this flour at Callington Mill in Tasmania last September, its best by date has passed but it looked ok, smelled ok and performed well in the loaves.

IMG_0449While lying in my hammock I was positioned so I could keep peeking at this beautiful flowering gum. We had to remove a large flowering gum tree when we moved in and I hated doing it. This one is a smaller grafted variety and the shape of the leaves, buds, flowers and I presume  the resulting gum nuts are so beautiful. Not usually a pink kind of girl! First time its flowered, beautiful.

IMG_0427As I’m putting this post together there is a leg of lamb in the slow cooker laced with 2 heads of garlic, lots of rosemary, a cup or so of balsamic vinegar and a bit of brown sugar and stock. Smells beautiful! Will let you know how it goes.

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Ahhh, love Autumn.

 

Seasons are Turning. GSC March

I’ve missed doing a post for a few Garden Share Collectives (GSC) recently, just can’t seem to make the deadline! Thanks to Lizzie at StrayedTable  for co-ordinating all of us home growers showcasing what is happening in our plots.

Harvests at the moment. What else? Tomatoes, tomatoes and yes tomatoes! I say that bit it has generally been a pretty average season. Also capsicum, cucumbers, grapes, zucchini and mini eggplant. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to planting full size eggplant. The ‘finger’ variety suits us well. There are a couple here left, centre.

Tomato harvestThe capsicum crop has been the best in years, yet I haven’t had much success with chillies that  are usually mounting up by now.

IMG_9815I discovered what an invasion of white cabbage moth on the capsicum growing in the greenhouse so a dose of Dipel was in order. Dipel is an organic pesticide derived from Bacillus thuringiensis. I’ve used this successfully in the past and I must admit I love seeing the little critters fall to the ground!

IMG_0116Yet again the value of using exclusion bags on crops as they mature has been proven. This shot shows tomatoes, some in the protective exclusion bag and one that didn’t have the protection. See how the birds ruined the tomato? Little buggers are even attacking green tomatoes this year!

IMG_0110I’ve started seed for kale, broccoli and brussel sprouts and cipollini onions. Hope I haven’t left it too late for the sprouts!

IMG_0124Time to gear up in preparation for the onslaught of autumn leaves that have already started to shed from our English Oak. This is a massive task. Will need to spread the 4 different compost piles I did last year and reset them ready to fill this year. This photo was taken last year and I love it. Quite look forward to seeing these pretty colours!

IMG_4643Head over to the Garden Share Collective and see what other gardeners are doing.

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Weekend wrap.

Christmas thoughts.

I’m pleased to say that even though Christmas is about to hit us, all is calm, peaceful and smooth sailing  down here. I consider one of the best decisions we have ever made was to avoid the hype and marketing that goes with Christmas. We focus on friends, food and fun. I must admit that I am not a religious person and for a long time I struggled as to why we even have to acknowledge Christmas when we are non believers. I found it just too hard trying to explain to many of our ‘just because you should’ extended family, so I came up with my own justification that I use the Christmas period to celebrate family and friends and to reminisce. I am also a big fat sucker for pretty lights and I like nothing better than sitting on the floor staring into those sparkly delights. IMG_6682We decorated a tree this week and it was quite emotional. No kids live at home any more and they have pretty much cleared out all the tree ornaments with them. That’s OK, my plan was that they get a new decoration each year, then when they left home they would have enough to do their own tree. We are left with lots of broken balls, baubles without hanging hooks and tinsel that has lost most of it’s sparkle. We do however, have some beautiful memories, cards the kids made from kinder and early school years.20141214_194754books that were lovingly read in the lead up to Christmas and ornaments made with love from family and friends. Little knotted christmas bells that my sister gave me when our daughter was born 15th dec 1986, they went on her hospital crib and jingled around the ward for a few days. A decoupage egg ornament my niece brought back from America, a lead light decoration made by a family friend who has had long-standing mental health issues and I have no idea where  or how she is now. Especially nice are the few ornaments we bought way back when we were as poor as church mice and the only thing we could afford when we went to buy some decorations were pencil sharpeners. Important not forget how far we have come and the obstacles we have tackled to get where we are now.

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We went down to Monbulk yesterday morning to have a lovely catch up with friends and also managed to visit the Monbulk Market. Small market, but big on quality from what I could see. Our favourite organic vegetable growers Thorpdale Organics were there so I was able to thank Wendy and Tony for their ever consistent quality produce and outstanding service and wish them a happy festive season. I also got to sample some preserves from Grandmas Delights. Quite nice they were too!

We continued on to the Dandenong Market and returned with some pork ready for the next sausage making adventure, some turkish bread and mangoes. Summer is here for me when I start gorging on mangoes and this began in earnest today!

Outside wrap.

We (well, mostly Mr ATMT) finished fitting out the last wicking bed with its four poster poles. I can now train the tomatoes up the climbing twine and will be ready to fit shade cloth in preparation for the summer swelt that is bound to hit.

IMG_6695The plot where corn was  planted but had been decimated has had the chooks in there a few times this week to cleanse and I decided to put some diatomaceous earth in the drills with the new seed. DE is an organic product used for organic pest control management in livestock, poultry and agriculture. DE is a really interesting product and it would take far too long to cover its reputed benefits in this post so I recommend you do some research.IMG_6685Starting to get some decent harvests now. First tomatoes and capsicum were picked tonight, I also picked some very young butter beans. These went into a pasta dish along with some of the last of the broccoli, some snow peas, nasturtiums, asparagus and herbs.IMG_6703I made a pasta sauce out of sour cream, lemon juice, sage, S&P and some delectable pumpkin seed oil. This is an interesting oil that has the most amazing dark green colour and it adds a nutty overtone to the dish.IMG_6706 IMG_6708

Quite delicious really!IMG_6718Please take the time to enjoy your family and friends rather than get carried away with commercial activities this Christmas!

 

 

 

Mulligatawny Soup & Slow Cooker Roast Chicken

If anyone had asked me what mulligatawny soup was, I would have replied “something Scottish I reckon”. Wrong, mulligatawny soup as it happens is a Tamil dish from India. There are many variations of how it is prepared but I tried the recipe that is in the book, The Apple Orchard’ I mentioned last post. My first impression was that it tasted like liquid chow mien, but once it had cooked for a while and mellowed out it was just a straight out nice curry flavoured chicken soup. Was perfect tea for in front of the fire after the wet, cold and generally miserable Saturday we had. Served with sour dough croutons, greek yoghurt and chopped chervil. Very nice. Click on the link below for the recipe I used.

Mulligatawny-Apple OrchardMulligatawny Soup

Slow Cooker Roast Chicken

On My last visit to Warragul Farmers Market, my purchase from Mirboo Pastured Poultry was a whole bird but quite a bit larger than the usual size, apparently 10 weeks old rather than the usual 8 weeks. Ilan asked for feedback on this chicken so here it is.

I cooked this chook whole in the slow cooker. I made a rub of butter, lemon zest, S&P and tarragon and put some of this mix into breast between the skin and flesh, then rubbed the rest of the body with it and sprinkled with salt. I stuffed the cavity with my favourite stuffing. This is made by mixing breadcrumbs, chopped green capsicum and an egg all together. Love this stuffing and stick to all the time now. I lined the base of the slow cooker with some sliced potatoes to act as a trivet keeping the chook off the hot base. I threw in 8 smashed garlic coves and 1 lemon cut in half. Some of Wendy & Tony’s beautiful Dutch Cream Potatoes from Thorpdale Organics  went in the pot too. I was going out for the afternoon so I knew everything would be ready  for dinner on my return. I zapped some dutch carrots ready to do a last minute heat and glaze for serving, picked some broccoli florets and beetroot from the garden. I roasted the beetroot in foil while I cooked the bread this morning and planned on putting this with some feta in to heat with the spuds before serving. When I got home I put the chicken and potatoes into the ‘toy oven’ to brown off, took some juice from the slow cooker, added some orange juice and a little sugar and boiled the daylights out of it to reduce it making  a nice jus. I zapped the broccoli for app 1 min 30 secs, reheated the carrot and threw into a pan with butter and chervil. I put some feta in with the roast beetroot and threw that in with the crisping spuds to heat and melt. Dinner was ready to serve.

Slow cooker roast chicken

Roast chicken slow cooker
Dutch carrots with chervil glaze, broccoli, roast beetroot and feta, chicken with orange jus.

Chicken was stunningly juicy and moist. Skin crisped up beautifully with a little zap under the grill element. Considering it was all done and only tweaked after returning from being out for the afternoon it was great. Just can’t work out why anyone would still buy supermarket poultry. I think I would use sage instead of tarragon in the butter rub though next time!

Beginnings and ending crops.

Last weekend I picked the first broccoli of the season and knew I would have to get back out there in the next few days to pick the next lot while at its peak. Didn’t get out there until after work tonight, I have been so busy that I almost haven’t thought about the     ???…..??? (area where I grow my food) mmmm, I need a name for my veggie patch. Back to that later! Tonight I picked two good heads of broccoli, basil, last little eggplant, a good capsicum and some tomatoes from the greenhouse that are almost finished.

Autumn harvestI’m hoping to stretch out these tomatoes a bit longer so I can boast that I was still picking tomatoes in June! Every time I get home from work and go straight into the ???….??? I feel all the stresses from a usually busy, full of crap day just easing their way out and clearing my head. See those little critters in the front? Yep, Autumn raspberries!

Broccoli & Autumn Raspberries

I was very gracious and shared them (well 1) with Mr ATMT, to which he was VERY grateful. I must admit they don’t have that lush, sweet, full of flavour taste of the summer variety, but nevertheless I was happy!

So I need to come up with a name I can use as a reference when talking about where I grow things. Things like, ‘the patch’, the plot’, ‘the allotment’ have all been used to death and Mr ATMT suggested ‘The Tink Tank”. Sort of works for me, my name is Tink and it is like having a therapy session when I’m out there, I often come up with all sorts of ideas and plans whilst working away. What do you think?

 

Preparing for the onslaught.

Very soon, all of these leaves will hit the ground with no concerns about me wanting to maintain some level of order.Oak leavesAdd to this the dropping leaves  from the ‘Faraway Tree’ size Pin Oak in the front yard and we will be smothered. Not complaining, I do love them but there are so many it can be overwhelming. Relentless! Last year we decided not to try to keep the yard orderly and wait until all had fallen and then do a major clean up. This worked pretty well but there were areas where leaves seemed to naturally congregate, so rather than collect and move them to the far end of the yard into awaiting compost bins (should say leaf mold bins) I am locating bins strategically so we can just mow and toss right into the bin. All part of sustainable design!

I’ve put the first bin in the little space where what used to be the visiting dentist’s room is. You can see there already some leaves settling in.IMG_3326I can get the mower in, mulch all the leaves up and chuck straight into the bin. The leaves take forever to breakdown if they are not chopped up first. Mixed with lawn clippings and other greens it helps hasten the process.IMG_3328

My first ever kale experience.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have never tried kale before and had no idea really on what to do with it. Decided to just pretend it was like spinach and wing it. This is the result and it looks darn good if I must say. Kale, potato and feta rolls.Kale, Potato & Feta rollsKale, 2 large potatoes, 1 onion, our first rocoto chilli to go into a meal, some feta cheese, 1/3 tspn of both cumin and coriander powders, S&P (not much salt because the feta is salty), 1 egg and 3 sheets of puff pastry (only because that’s what was to hand).IMG_3331Peeled and diced the potatoes and microwaved for about 6 minutes, soft but still firm. Chopped/sliced onion, rocoto chilli, removed spine from kale, chopped it into fine shreds and cooked all together in pan in a smidge of olive oil. When soft I added the cumin and coriander and cooked it out for about 2 minutes. Threw the lot into a mixing bowl that already had the potatoes and crumbled feta in it, mixed all together and added an egg to bind. IMG_3340Divided into thirds and placed a third on each sheet of pastry, folded pastry over, glazed with milk cause I’m too lousy to waste an egg on this sort of casual meal. Into the ‘toy oven’ for about 40 minutes (probably wouldn’t take this long in a real oven!).

Served with some lovely tomato pickles and home made tomato sauce. Tick to eating kale, happy to do so again. Yep, just like spinach in this dish.

PS: The rocoto chilli was a pleasant surprise, I would describe it as a red capsicum with attitude. Not too hot, in fact if you love chilli flavour I think you’d be disappointed. As a crop that is likely to supply a large harvest I prefer this it stays on this side of the scales. Rocoto Chilli

 

Red!

Finally after weeks of waiting, the first ripe Rocoto chillies can be seen in the lower part of the bush. IMG_3238 These chillies are a perennial variety that can keep producing for years. I planted a cutting in early spring and the bush is now about 5ft high and masses of flowers appear continually. I have been hand pollinating with a tiny paintbrush to ensure good fruit set. Even with our bee attracting plants we aren’t seeing many around. If this goes well I don’t think I will bother planting other varieties to save using precious bed space Plantings this week have been parsnip, succession broccoli, garlic, strawberry runners separated from main plant and potted up. I did try and prestart some parsnip seed quite a few weeks ago and although I used ‘guaranteed’ fresh seed, nothing has appeared. For the last few seasons Ive been getting garlic from Simon at garlic world  and I am so impressed by the quality of his bulbs I just can’t stop myself. I don’t really need to buy planting stock anymore, I could use my own, but I just love his reasoning as to why he does what he does so I like to support his ethical business. Californian and Italian garlic. IMG_3237 Harvests this week have been tomatoes (the last few growing in the green house), basil, spring onions, beans, eggplant, jalapeños, lettuce, kale, strawberries, thyme, silver beet and a couple of lonely asparagus spears. I used the last of last seasons compost to fill the garlic bed and desperately wish I had more. Think I will be calling on locals with horses for some stable manure! IMG_3253 I had to trim the thyme in the patch that is planted near the water feature so into an exclusion bag went the trimmings, hung up to dry in the shed. It shall not be wasted! I just love these exclusion bags. Drying thyme We are still working on the floor boards and with luck we can ‘move back in’ next weekend.

Long Weekend

 

I love having a bit of extra time to be able to address tasks that are calling. With this weekend being an extended one, we have been able to go to Melbourne and catch up with my son and his partner, go to the Footscray market to stock up on asian cooking basics and go to some specialist shops sourcing some items that will go into the reno. All this and still home in time to do some work in the backyard where the sun is actually shining for a welcome change.

I find it very difficult getting quality supplies for asian cooking locally and the Footscray market offers a little feel of being back in Vietnam along with having great asian grocers and the most amazing fruit & veg and meat stalls. It takes a lot of willpower to not buy so much more, but experience has taught me that I end up overloading and not being able to use all the fresh things I buy, particularly now we are empty nesters! I did buy a stack of red capsicum at $3.00 kg and will have a go at roasting and storing in olive oil for future use.

Asian groceries

Spud bed finished.

The chooks have had a lovely time scratching through the compost I added to the new bed I made last weekend so I added some soil, manure and rooster booster fertiliser and planted some Dutch Cream and Kippfler potatoes. Topped off with some bird (chook) proofing and hopefully we will see some action in a few weeks.

SpudsFinished spud bed.

Manadarins

Last year I planted a mandarin tree and we have had a grand total of 4 fruit. I wasn’t going to bother testing them as they were the size of a tom bowler but today we cracked them and oh what a blast of juicy flavour! Just beautiful, I cant wait for next season.

Golf ball mandarins

The fruit

Some more edging.

Hans finished the first section of garden edging today. Really starting to see the final shape taking place, tomorrow will be planting quite a few shrubs into this bed.

Garden bed edging

The Icing in the cake!

Finally have our garage started. Frame up, roof and roller doors are on. We will be filling in the walls in a style to match the main house either rendered or a blend of render and weatherboards. Still deciding which. The main benefit of having it in situ is we can now make definite decisions on where the raspberries, garden shed, compost and chooks will have their permanent place. Very excited about that!

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Tomorrow will be busy with planning layout of vegie patch and utility area, planting trees and shrubs and cooking up some of the mushrooms I bought at the market. I read somewhere risotto works well in the slow cooker so I will give that a go. Will update on the results later.