Sledging the kitchen. Osso bucco and Asian style Chicken Soup

I couldn’t stand it any longer! After spending most of my ‘free from paid work’ Monday out in the garden, I was itching to come in and start getting rid of the stinky old cupboards in the kitchen. I’m doing this in stages, no hurry as we haven’t locked in any start date for the build. I just have to see them gone! So out came the sledge hammer, wrecking bar and normal hammer. The tiled bench top was first to go, very satisfying smashing that!

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Then it was a matter of methodically working through dismantling the rest of the framework. Things were built so well when this was made, the size and quantity of the nails is amazing! I was pleasantly surprised to find that behind this cabinet is some beautiful baltic panelling that is still in great nick. How could anyone cover up this with that awful cabinet?

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The hole in the floor is the access point to the old brick, butter cellar. I’m still working out how to integrate this into a usable asset in the new kitchen.

Butter cellar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That was very satisfying! Little by little I’ll keep chipping away!

Weekend food wrap.

On Saturday I participated in a Middle Eastern Vegetarian cooking class at Relish Mama in Cheltenham.  I thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon, chef Tony Chiodo was a great source of information, the venue is set up beautifully and it was just nice to be in a real kitchen with things like having water connected, clean floors and a real cooktop. Aaaaaah, heaven. I got a few design tips too, added bonus.

Tony Chiodo- Relish Mama
Waiting for the fun to begin!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Sunday night I made an Osso Bucco style stew. If mammoths still roamed the earth, I imagine that their shanks would be about the size of these cuts I bought at the Dandenong market. I only used 2 and it would easily have fed 6 people. Served with mash and broad beans cooked in olive oil, garlic and lemon. A bit of sourdough to mop up the juices. Can’t beat it!

Osso Bucco

Chicken and No Corn soup.

Tonight I felt like I needed an asian style soup to warm me through. I didn’t really feel like having noodles or dumplings in it, so I just went with using some of the asian style stock I made a few weeks ago using chicken feet as the base. To this I added some finely diced carrot and celery, chilli, grated ginger, black pepper, fish sauce, a bit of water to extend the volume and 3 chicken thigh fillets. The chicken fillets poached while the stock simmered away and when cooked I shredded them, stirred in some finely shredded, freshly picked kale and 2 eggs to thread through the broth. Just what I needed, not a big fan of corn in soup anyway!

Asian Chicken Soup

 

 

Piesties, Sourdough, Pain & Shit Shuffling

Please forgive me for the expletive in the post title, but there is no other way to describe things so accurately. With the back half of the house about to be removed (so I can have my long-awaited kitchen), we have a shed full of ‘stuff’ that will surely be used some day, and lots more ‘stuff’ that came back here from the property we sold at Fish Creek, I decided all we were doing was shuffling shit to different spots. OVER! Time to make decisions and get rid of ‘stuff’ that is most probably never going to get used by us. So now that we have the new little shed up,

Black Shed

and are shuffling stuff about, it is time to seriously cull anything we are never truly likely to use. Three different piles are being created –

  1. Get rid of by using either free-cycle, buy/swap/sell sites, op shops or tip
  2. Definitely should keep, in which case these items will go into the new shed
  3. Need to sort out and decide. This section includes tools and things we have acquired from others. I decided we didn’t really need 6 painting extension poles, so into the scrap metal for them! Most of this pile will probably go to the mens shed and tip I think.

It’s very exciting to know that we might actually be moving forward with this reno but I’ll hold my excitement in until it actually is underway.

Piesties, not a pie or a pastie.

I’ve given my Sat night dinner this title, it came about by starting to make shepherds pie from leftovers from our last lamb roast, I had cut the lamb up and stored it in a zip lock bag in the freezer.

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I’m not a big fan of Shepherds Pie as I like meat with a gravy to be encased in a pastry shell, or served on toast. Out of the freezer came a couple of frozen pastry sheets. I mixed the chopped lamb with onion, carrot, peas, rosemary, mixed herbs and a little (shut your eyes and skip this bit!) Gravox powder, purely as a thickener with colour, it is Sat night after all! I cut the pastry into squares that would fit into my tapas dishes and filled the pastry with the lamb mix.IMG_1525

The pastry was overlapped and at this point I decided to name them piesties as it looked more like a pastie than a pie.IMG_1527

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now here is the interesting bit! Yesterday, when I went to our great local fresh fruit and veg supplier  which we all affectionately call ‘The Spud Shed’, I got some purple potatoes (spuds).

Yes, purple. This not beetroot, it is a potato.Purple potatoes

I was keen to see how they cooked up and wondered if they kept their purple colour once cooked. I’ve grown purple beans and they turn green when cooked but had no information about how purple potatoes behave. I had an inner giggle when I pictured having purple mash on top of our Shepherd Piestie so thought I’d give it  a go. But guess what?

Purple Mashed PotatoPurple potato stays purple when cooked! I made this mash by boiling the spuds as usual and when cooked added some goat cheese, S&P and milk. I loved  it but Mr ATMT preferred the standard white mash in top of his Piestie. I sprinkled finely chopped rosemary on top and served with tomato relish. Beautiful flavour.

IMG_1532Pain-too much of it.

To all of the people I care about  who are dealing with awful situations (and there are just way too many) including death, long term physical impairment, diagnoses that are not positive and loss. I wish I could offer you a magical way of just washing all the pain away but sadly I can’t.  I can only offer support, love and a helping hand if you need it. Please ask,  it is sometimes a tonic to us both to be able to help.

Sourdough

I think I have just about worked out the idiosyncrasies of my new gas Pizza Oven. This weekend I tried 2 different styles of sourdough. One was Josey Baker‘s hearth sourdough but I used rye rather than whole wheat starter. This loaf was the first one I cooked in my new Sassafras La Cloche bread baker. Very happy with the result too.

I also made Chad Robertson’s basic country loaf. Im finding this is becoming a well loved staple. I make it using 80% bread flour & 20% rye flour mixed to about 68% hydration. Just always seems to work! I like that. The photo below shows from L to R Chad loaf, peek of the ‘La Cloche; behind the Josey Baker Hearth loaf and on front another loaf of Chad’s.

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I have a few issues with the bottom of the loaves getting a bit overcooked but I think I have a solution to that. Stay tuned!

This week, my first phase of cutting back on my work commitments begins. Mondays are now MINE! I have reduced my hours and will continue to do so as some very exciting times are ahead of us.

 

 

 

Meat & 3 veg-A rarity here!

We made a trip to the Dandenong Market on Saturday so I could stock up on a few essentials that are hard to get locally. I find if we can get them locally, the prices are ridiculous and the quality nothing like what the market has to offer. Things such as spices, especially Indian ones, bulk sized bags of bread flour, affordable meat of out of the norm cuts, dried fruits, nuts and just to enjoy the ‘vibe’. I now keep a running list of what I need on my phone so if we happen to be in the area I know exactly what is to be sought.

My daughter had asked me to grab some chicken feet for making stock if I happened to see any. So 2 kgs of feet and 1 kilo of necks later, that was ticked. I also bought 2 pork shoulders, 6 loin lamb chops and 4 lamb shanks, $40.83 for the lot. Happy with that but wasn’t sure what the chops would be like. All packed up and into the freezer for this lot! (Sorry, phone photo is a bit dodge!)

Meat for freezer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We probably have lamb chops once or twice a year and I buy them from our excellent local butcher, they are usually well into the high $25.00+ range so it is a real treat when we do get them. These chops looked good, were nice and thick and at $11.00  a kg I was happy to take a punt. Tonight was the night! Lamb chops, mashed potato, broccoli raab that was boiled first then sautéed in garlic and olive oil along with mushroom, chilli and a chopped tomato. Some of my favourite tomato pickle relish on the side and I can only say that I will be getting some more of these chops, beautiful! I did over cook the raab a tad and next time will avoid using the mature parts as they were a little stringy. Flavour was good though and we love anything with mushrooms and garlic in it.

Chops and mash

The chops were cooked on my new cooking range! Luxury.

Portable induction cooker.

Since all the hoo ha and recall of the butane gas camping stoves I needed another option for cooking the everyday things. This little portable, induction  cooker is quite good, it’s lucky my preferred cookware is cast iron! Sorry, another dodgy phone photo next!

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Today I played around with baking in my new gas pizza oven to try and get a handle on the temperature management. Loaf on the right could have been a bit hotter, and the one on the left was pretty good (don’t let the issue of me dropping the dutch oven on it come into the equation!). I don’t think it will take too many goes to get it close to right. Interestingly, the fitted oven thermometer says one thing and the one I put inside to compare, registered about 30 degrees more. I’ve had a bit of experience with ovens with no thermostat so it is just part of the learning curve.

Just a quick trip back to the chicken feet. I did a bit of searching about making stock with them and found a great post on a site called Nourished Kitchen. The post was really informative about how to deal with the feet whether they come from the store already prepared or straight from the chook yard or paddock. There was also a nice little recipe for an asian style stock base which is almost identical to the one I use as a base for Pho. Some of the comments people left about the post were quite entertaining too! I’m sure I can remember pulling chicken feet tendons and making the claws turn up when I was a kid!

 

I am currently on school term break (well, I am in there for a short time tomorrow, Thursday & Friday) so I had better get cracking on with some real jobs getting done rather than pfaffing around with bread dough!

 

Sourdough Pizzaccia, or is it Focizza?

Inspired when reading a lovely post about winter by Francesca over at Almost Italian, I was feeling a bit peckish, it was late for dinner so decided to literally throw together a pizza style meal. Francesca’s looked so good sitting on the hearth of her fire it really struck a chord. At 7.20 I said to Mr ATMT I was going to have a crack at making something out of nothing, so set into the kitchen to see what evolved. Ta-dah!pizza

I put the china mixing bowl into the sink and filled with hot water to warm it for a few minutes then dried it off. Into this went 1 cup bread flour, about a 1/3 cup sourdough starter,  a very small pinch of instant yeast, 1tblspnish of olive oil and enough water (about 1/3 cup) to mix altogether into a soft dough. I mixed the ‘dough’ together for about 1minute and put it back in the warm bowl with a lid on it. It sat for 1/2 an hour while I watched Shane Delia in Turkey on SBS. Back out to the kitchen between Shane and Luke Nuygen to prepare topping and bake.

I put the dough onto some baking paper and pushed it out with oiled fingers into a pizza shape. Topping consisting of : approx 1/4 of a potato, 1/2 a small onion, about 8 small mushrooms, all sliced thinly, I drizzled Olive oil  over the dough then I just spread all the topping ‘stuff’ over the dough. On top of this I sprinkled sea salt, ground black pepper,  some grated paneer cheese, finely chopped rosemary and another drizzle of olive oil. Into the ‘toy oven’ for about 15 minutes and it was ready. Although the dough could have been proving longer and the oven could have been another 20 degrees hotter this tasted really nice. Even better was the pleasure of taking it into the snug and enjoying it in front of the fire with a nice glass of red.

Potato pizza

Yes, a lot to be enjoyed in winter!

 

 

Logs into firewood, flour into bread. A weekend of conversions.

A couple of months ago I mentioned the gum tree from our front nature strip was removed by VicRoads and I managed to have the wood and mulch from it left with us. The mulch was a drop in the ocean to what we need but the quantity of logs was much more than I had anticipated. We have been looking at this pile of logs since we moved them to the backyard and this weekend was the weekend to split them. I hired a log splitter and Mr ATMT spent Saturday turning this,

Flowering gum wood

into this.

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The wood then had to be stacked away to let it dry, which in itself was a huge job. Well done Mr ATMT!   Don’t worry, I did contribute, not just observe. My job was to move all of the wood we had stacked against the back fence after we had trees removed when we took over the property. All the wood is now in one place, stacked, split and ready to be used however we choose. While splitting the wood we noticed a couple of the logs had fresh ‘blood sap’ in the core. This looks amazingly like blood and I could have been fooled if Mr ATMT had wanted to stir the pot and tell me he had injured himself. Quite bizarre seeing this, it is quite common in gum trees, apparently those that are not well.

Gum Tree blood sapI took advantage of the magnificent balmy winter day and planted a couple of hundred bulbs I had ordered from Garden Express. There was a variety of freesia, daffodils, ranunculus, anemone, iris and ixia. A couple I can’t remember too!

Garden Express

Now that the screen fence (the one made from old greenhouse shelves) is in place I was able to plant a range of plants that had come either from my sister or rom our Fish Creek property  before we sold. These included, geranium, native orchid (Dendrobium), violets, ferns  and Clivia. Of course the girls were on hand to help and supervise!

IMG_1154The bread I made this weekend was Ken Forkish’s ‘Pain de Compagne’ (Country bread). I’m really enjoying making a new bread every weekend and it is very interesting to see how the different bakers methods compare. This photo is of the dough going through what is called ‘bulk fermentation’. That is after is has been mixed and stretched and folded (form of kneading without kneading). I love watching the dough go through its changes until it is ready to shape and do a final proving before it is baked.  The black line on the bucket is where the dough started out when I put it in there.

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This loaf is a winner! Forkish doesn’t normally slash (score) his loaves, he places them in to cook with the seam up and they do a natural eruption at that point as it is a weak spot.   I however like to play with  razorblades!

Pain de Compagne ForkishSweet potato happiness.

Today was the day! I’ve been eager to see what sort of result, if any, I was going to get from the sweet potato I planted in the greenhouse. This was grown from a sprouting I did last year and I would not have been surprised if I had no success. But Look!

Sweet Potatoes Melbourne

2 Whole kilos of beautiful, mostly good sized tubers. I did a little happy dance at this result! The one at the front is going back in to the wicking bed along with some tip cuttings, it looks healthy and has some good roots so we’ll see. I can see a personal  challenge happening with these. What have you has success with growing that you didn’t expect to achieve?

 

 

Playing with new friends-Julia Child, Ken Forkish and Richard Bertinet

Dare I say it? I had never heard of Julia Child until recently and once I had, her name kept cropping up everywhere. Famous (apart to me) for being responsible for bringing classic french cuisine to Americans with her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  My 2nd new friend is Ken Forkish an artisan baker from Portland Oregon USA. I’ve read many good reports about Ken’s breads from a range of different sources so I was interested to learn more. I had reserved both Julia’s ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Ken’s bread book Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast at the local library and they were in, just in time to sample with this being a long weekend.

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I quite like the look of Julia’s book and it seems like it would be handy as a reference for the technical understanding of food and basic techniques and fundamental recipes.  I made 2 dishes from the book and I’m sorry to say either of them were anything special. I chose 2 that we often eat and that were a good comparison to what I usually serve. These were potato and leek soup and Carbonnade de Bouffe or beef in beer. I found both of these quite flavourless and we decided we preferred my way of making the dishes. Cudos to me!

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This was Julia Child’s potato and leek soup served with bread made using Ken Forkish recipe for Harvest Bread which is a wholemeal yeasted loaf made using a poolish (preferment of part of the dough).

I am thoroughly enjoying reading Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast and will play with quite a few of the recipes. The toast above was from this loaf, not quite proved enough but it was OK.

Forkish harvest

I was also keen to try some of Richard Bertinet methods, Bertinet is an acclaimed French baker and he has quite a different style to kneading from the ‘stretch and fold’ method that I’ve been using. More like a slap and tickle approach and it was fun  to try. The dough was beautiful and I will certainly research some more of his technique.

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This is a crumb shot of the loaf. I served this grilled with garlic and olive oil to accompany our ‘Clean out the Fridge Soup’.

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The beef in beer required about 6 cups of onions so I took the opportunity to make some slow cooker stock from the onion scraps, these plus what I had in the bag in the freezer collected over a couple of months and some of Mirboo Pastured Poultry’s chicken bones some celery, carrot and peppercorns  and it was into the large slow cooker for an overnight simmer.

Slow cooker stock
Slow cooker stock
Stock trimmings
Trimmings saved in freezer until enough to make a batch of stock.

 

 

 

 

 

Thank goodness for the slow cooker! I don’t know how I would get by without the 2 that I have.

The Julia Child recipe for beef in beer was OK,  but I prefer this Boeuf Carbonnade recipe. Julia’s just didn’t have much going for it, quite bland. I served it with mash, broad beans that had been cooked with olive oil, garlic and salt and pepper and some of the carrot from the stock pot. Photo not great but the mash and broad beans were good!

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These are the 4 loaves from yesterday L to R Ken Forkish harvest loaf, 2 of my normal Chad Robertson artisan loves and the Richard Bertinet loaf in front. Not burnt, just well caramelised!

4 Breads

Some other weekend highlights.

The freeloading chooks have begun to earn their keep again, very welcome indeed.

Eggs

Mr ATMT started repurposing some steel greenhouse shelves that I had tried to sell but had not luck doing so. We are creating a screen behind the mulberry tree so the shelves have been secured to make a curved screen and will be planted with a climber to create a green wall screening the utility area.

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We had a delightful breakfast of sourdough pancakes with mushroom, bacon, egg and maple syrup. Yum, yum!

Sourdough pancakes

There is an area near the front fence that is rather spooky due to the large and overgrown camellias, sweet pittosporum and oleander. One camellia in particular is beautiful (white one) and has been smothered by the other growth, so I am thinning out the area and hopefully the star will be able to shine as a feature tree. I envisage we will plant a rosemary hedge along this front fence.

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Quite a busy weekend and as I do this blog I am listening to howling winds whipping around everywhere. Hope all stays secure! How was your long weekend?

 

Don’t be fooled-Winter in the garden is busy!

It’s been many moons since I last did a Garden Share Collective post. I just don’t know where the time has gone, I blink and another month has passed me by!

We can no longer kid ourselves that summer has gone (didn’t really have one), and Autumn too is racing out the back gate being replaced by what appears will be a cold winter. As the sun shines and sparkles on these icy cobwebs in the early morning I revel in the changing seasons.

IMG_0722A couple of things to share this month:

A new bed and repositioning of the spud bath. The bed beside the chook house that had corn in it over the summer has been fed and garlic is planted in it. The bath across the back previously took the spot where the stepping stones are and I have moved it to make this area a little more attractive and easier to access and use. I can now get to the worm farm and one of the closed compost bins much more easily. There are a couple of small  spaces that I will fill with bee attracting flowers. Love that camellia!

IMG_0780I must admit I love winter in the garden, the feeling that everything has stopped kicks in and you then turn something over or see the cool climate crops return a harvest and you realise just how much does continue on. The sweet potatoes in the greenhouse are starting to die off and I’m eagerly awaiting to see how many and what size sweet potatoes I get.

IMG_0838The broccoli heads are starting to form and the garlic in this raised wicking bed is well and truly on track.

IMG_0852There are a couple of plants I’ve had to put some frost protection in place for. This is a Davidson’s Plum, the other is a tamarillo that I thought I had lost last year but it came good over the warmer seasons.

IMG_0824The couple of beds that you walk through on the way into the veggie patch are slowly showing signs of the seasonal changes. The nectarine on the front right is resisting yet the yellowing plant rear left is a cherry that has just about dropped completely. There are bulbs and irises poking up through the mulch, exciting. No eggs from the free loading chooks ATM though!

IMG_0903The last of the grapes harvested and slipped into the mouth with a sigh of appreciation.

Grapes

Looking forward to having a bit of time over the next couple of weeks to plant more, tidy up and plan for the spring. I’m looking forward to reading the other GSC posts.

http://www.strayedtable.com/grow/garden-share/

 

Hokkaido Milk Toast (Japanese style), Lentil Curry and Lamb Momos

I was a little selfish this weekend, (yes, it’s all about me)!  Although I was conscious that there was plenty to be done  with our reno and in the garden, I opted to do a little cooking. I was in need of a change from the normal weekend sourdough bake so I made some Hokkaido Milk Toast (Japanese style) bread that looked interesting.

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This bread is reputed to be soft and fluffy, suitable for sandwiches and more typical of the supermarket fluff on shelves in the major ‘not so super’-markets. Very interesting method used to make this dough. You create  some tangzhong, which is exactly like making glue from a bit of flour (50g), 5 times quantity in water (250 ml) and cook over heat until 65 degrees or lines form when stirred. This is then cooled and added to an enriched yeasted dough, kneaded by machine and shaped, proved and baked. The result was not disappointing even though I misread the recipe and added the entire amount of tangzong. A bit of tweaking with some extra water and turned out OK. The bread had a distinct sweet aroma while baking and I thought this would prove to have a sickly sweet flavour but no, it was fine. Will definitely try this again, it was a nice change and my occessional hit for some vegemite on fluffy bread was satisfied!

Milk toast dough Vegemite bread

Lamb Momos with Tibetan Chilli Sauce.

I’ve borrowed Rick Stein’s India cook book from the library, so I’m test driving as many recipes as I can before it goes back. This way I can see if I like it enough to invest in buying it. I don’t buy a lot of cookbooks these days unless I know the food is going to be good and that I can go on a bit of a journey when I read it. This book certainly takes me on a journey. The photos put me right back in India and I can hear the crazy sounds and noise of the buses and traffic. The colours are stunning and I remember the smells and hustle & bustle that is everywhere in India. I made the Lamb Momos (Nepalese Dumplings) with Tibetan Chilli Sauce last night and tonight the Spicy Lentil Soup with Squash (pumpkin) tomato and green beans. Golly those Tibetans must have a strong constitution! This sauce was very fiery but also had a really good flavour. The momos dough was beautiful. I loved these but I think I’ll cut way back on the chilli next time!

Lamb momos

Momo Yum!
Momo Yum!

Tonight I made Rick’s Spicy Lentil Soup and once again it was beautiful. I had to make a few comprises as I couldn’t get either fenugreek or asafoetida anywhere locally. Will put those on my list for my next trip to Dandenong Market. I opted to leave off the tarka topping due to lack of fenugreek, but it didn’t detract from it’s delicate flavour. I served this with rice but I think it would be good, (although not traditional) with cous cous or even cooked with pasta in it.

Rick Stein's Spicy Lentil Soup

Zen with our brunch!

As I’ve mentioned before, we really enjoy our Sunday morning brunches, especially when we can eat outside. Today just made it into that category and I got to cook some pullet eggs I bought at the Warragul Farmers Market. What are pullet eggs you ask? These are the eggs laid by chickens who are just coming into laying age, the “P” plate chook you could say. Not as big as normal eggs but don’t be deceived by that! The flavour, colour and creamy texture of these eggs was beautiful. Free range farmed at local Willow Zen Farm,

Willow Zen Pullet eggs.
Willow Zen Pullet eggs.

I look forward to having them as a regular brunch item. I poached the eggs and served them on my sourdough toast along with mushrooms that were cooked in butter/olive oil with a  small chilli finely chopped and in the pan. Some chopped coriander, ground pepper and a dash of white wine vinegar stirred through before serving. Look at the colour of those eggs!

IMG_0882 Poached eggs

Out in the garden.

I discovered a few hidden bunches of grapes in the berry hut this week. This variety is a slip grape, put the grape near your mouth and slip it out of its skin! With a  lovely hint of honey flavour, it was indeed a pleasant discovery!

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The other exciting discovery was in the greenhouse. I didn’t think I would have any success with growing sweet potatoes. Yes, I’ve had plenty of green on top but getting tubers is difficult in this cool climate. Well lookie here…………………

Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes

I might just have some success this year!

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Roundup-Spicy soup and reno update.

We have so much on the go at the moment we don’t know our arses from our elbows! With having finally sold our Fish Creek Property,we’ve been working to empty and clean there ready for impending settlement this week (everything crossed!). Both of us are really under the pump at work and finding it heavy to handle, might have to review that very soon I think!

We have also felt a bit like the reno has hit a bit of an impasse, so we made a concerted effort to do a few jobs. Mr ATMT started painting the snug and I have been hanging the wallpaper to the bottom of the walls. Coming together nicely, the bottom colour will be a matching tone of the top colour but lighter. Think dark blues and mustard seed tones for drapery and accessories. It actually looks more a coffee colour than it is in the photo!

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We have been searching on Ebay for ages waiting for a suitable sized gas log fire to go into the lounge room fireplace. As much as it breaks my heart (kidding) to remove the lovely white bricks that are circa 1960, we will get over it. This is the fireplace with the modern brickwork. I know,  gorgeous, why would we want to remove it?

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We finally managed to secure a gas log fireplace in an as new condition for a couple of hundred dollars. Much better than a couple of thousand! We opted for gas log (this unit has faux coal) in this fireplace as we already have 3 other wood fires. It’s a welcome option on the nights when it’s not really cold but you need some warmth and a sense of fire. Now to source a mantel fitting to the era of the house. The unit included a cast iron insert that the burner will  sit into. This photo just shows the burner with the faux coals. As these fireplaces were built more for coal than wood it should fit the style of the house really well. Bit excited really!

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With the cooler weather setting in, especially at night, it is soup season. We could live on soup I think. We are very partial to potato and leek soup but on checking the supplies in the cupboard and the harvest from the morning I opted to make a potato, onion and red lentil spicy soup. This was delicious and so easy.

Spicy Potato, Onion & Red lentil soup for 2 plus.

4 potatoes, 4 medium to large onions, 300 ml stock (I used home made veggie), 1/2 tspn cumin, 1/2 tspn garam masala, 1/4 tspn chilli powder (or more if you like a bit more kick), 4 garlic cloves, 1/3-1/2 cup red lentils, S&P and extra water. I also added a couple of shiitake mushrooms I’d picked in the morning.

Peel and roughly chop potatoes, peel and slice onion, peel and roughly chop garlic. Heat a little olive oil in a pot and add onion and garlic, cook till clear then add spices, cook a few more minutes then add potatoes. Mix around then add the stock, lentils and enough water to cover the lot. Bring to boil then stir and turn heat down to a gentle simmer. Cover and let simmer until the potatoes are cooked and start breaking up. I served this with parmesan, chopped thyme and some sourdough croutons. Mr ATMT managed to make the croutons! Simply cut the bread into the size of crouton you want then place on a tray in the oven at about 160 until they are dry and crisp. This is a great way to use stale bread of any description. Hearty and warming for 2 tired souls on a cool night! What’s your favourite soup?

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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.