In My Kitchen-April

As the seasons change so does what goes on in my kitchen. We have had a couple of days cool enough to run the heating and we’ve had a couple of days hot enough to sit outside under the trees for their cooling relief. Alas, I do think the warmer days are over, snow today on Mt Baw Baw.

In my Kitchen this month is my entire onion harvest for the season, save the drum roll, no need whatsoever. Also in my kitchen is something quite dear to me. About 23 years ago we were meant to go camping, but all three kids had the chicken pox and that was too testing even for me to endure in a tent. I managed to find a farmer who had an old farmhouse that he let people stay in (usually backpackers) and he said it was available. It was a wonderful old house on a beautiful farm in Leongatha and it had a wood fired stove, fireplaces in the main bedroom and lounge, a fig tree out the back and lots of chooks. He was thrilled that he had someone stay who actually knew how to use the stove and the next day he turned up saying his mum used to bake bread with yeast she had made herself so he had taken the time to dig out the recipe for the yeast or as we would now call it ‘starter’. It looks like it came from an old PWMU cook book but I’m not sure. I’m really pleased I still have this and I may even attempt to make the yeast from hops one day. I picked most of the fruit from the rocoto chilli bush and decided to see how it goes freezing it. I have read this works well, we will find out. I have put small quantities into ice block trays and frozen them then put into a container for easy access. A bit left of field with this one. I found this fur jacket at the op-shop in Warragul and just had to bring it home. It is like brand new, has no smell and has the most beautifully detailed buttons. It came from the Myer emporium furriers and it has made me question the whole concept of why shouldn’t we use fur. I’m not sure what is worse, polluting us and the environment with all the synthetics or if done in a responsible and humane way using animals. Whole big can of worms in that question, one I’m not ready to ponder too deeply on yet. Not sure how, but this is the last pickled onion in my kitchen. I usually make sure I have a good supply on hand but somehow I slipped up. Better make sure I do a batch next week! This is a sandwich of my freshly milled barley and whole wheat bread with ham, pickled onions and cheese. Haven’t indulged myself in something like that for a long time. We are  very excited that it is now cool enough to have fired up this little Nectre bakers oven/wood fire. This replaces the wood fired stove that was in the chimney, it was very inefficient, offered no ambience and took about 4 hours to preheat. I am thrilled with this unit, just right for sitting in front of on a miserable day while at the same time you can use the heat to cook. Tonight we are having Moroccan style meatballs with roast veggies. I put some eggplant and a head of garlic in to roast earlier which I will make a little side dish with. I see lots of enjoyment coming from this little fire.  And finally in my kitchen this month is this little cutie who has decided he LOVES grapes. I picked a bunch from the berry house and we sat on the back lawn doing the suck, spit swallow which he worked out very quickly. These are the grapes that taste like passionfruit and even though they have fairly thick skin and large pips it didn’t stop him working his way through almost an entire bunch. Got quite a good rhythm going after the first couple!Thanks to Liz over at BizzyLizzysGoodThings for being the conduit for linking those who share a peek into their kitchens each month.

Posted in In My Kitchen, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 22 Comments

End of Summer season in the patch

I take my hat off to all our dedicated food growers, especially those who are committed to growing organically. It’s when we have seasons like this I can’t help but wonder how this nation ever got off the ground at all!

As the summer season comes to a close I’ve been trying to sort out the veggie garden to have it ready for some serious, more dedicated growing throughout the year.

I started by moving the 2 compost bins that were in the area where we have just moved a small outbuilding from. This area will become a courtyard and I don’t really want to look out the kitchen window to the bins. The bin made from wire and lined with weed mat contains last seasons leaf mulch and it’s not quite ready to use. I need to work out where this years leaf bin will go. This area does become a natural collection point for the english oak leaves so it can’t be too far away. I will have to move the little blood orange that you can see in the front. This was being espaliered on the wall of the building we moved, so it may end up against the fence.I have previously mentioned how when you clear the compost you discover insidious bits of plastic that you didn’t know you had. Here you can see the remains of a spinach box. I bought it in a box thinking it was plastic free, but as with so many packaged items the plastic is hidden. GRRRR!You can also see here that the paper vacuum cleaner bag still has a bit of decomposing to do. I will just put that into the relocated bin. I am cutting back needing to use bags in the vacuum as I now have a barrel unit that can be emptied directly into the compost (unless it has bits of glass etc in it). The big vac with bags will be used much less frequently.From these 2 compost bins I got enough compost to top dress the big 6 meter long wicking bed and the 3 smaller wicking beds as well as give the orange tree a really good top-dressing.As  always, our last chook Rene was on hand as oversee to the works!

Last men standing.

I removed all of the tomato plants that were passed it and their remains have been put on the bed that will be where corn will be grown next summer. I really should remake this box as it was put together as a temporary bed when we first moved in, but it still has another season in it I think.The remaining tomato plants in this big bed, have had exclusion bags put on the last fruit and I will be planting a green manure crop of mustard seed and assorted seeds that are well beyond their prime and that I am unlikely to plant here. I keep  saying I will rest this bed for a season, but space is just too precious. I guarantee I will still end up using half of the bed for something!I have had marginally more success with pumpkins this season, but they are still not what I would have a hurrah over. The plants that were not going to give any return have also been pulled and put on the pile with the spent tomato plants and I’ve let the ones still performing in, hoping that they will develop and mature some more.There are quite a few small ones still developing but I don’t think they will develop enough  before the cool weather hits. They are pretty though!Remember my experiment of trained versus free range tomatoes? This is a couple of pics of the issues I had with free ranging tomatoes. I don’t think I’ll try that again!

The big success this season is our grapevine, this is performing really well and these grapes are delicious! Although it is a slip grape, supposedly for winemaking, it tastes like passionfruit and we use them just for nibbling on. They do have a few pips but I don’t  mind that.

There are still a few jobs to do but I really enjoyed getting back out into the garden and claiming some thinking time as I worked.

Sourdough

This is a pic of my rye dough that decided it wanted to take over the world. I thought the overnight temperature was going to be quite a bit cooler than it turned out to be, so I gambled on leaving it out on the bench overnight. The lid was nearly at right angles before I removed it! Fortunately I saved it in time and managed to produce some lovely loaves of 50% rye and 50% organic Laucke T55 white flour. The tang in these is amazing!So now I have to decide on what my next ‘get back in control’ jobs will be in the garden. Well, everywhere I think!

Posted in Baking, Bread, In The Garden, sourdough | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

In My Kitchen-March

I really should try to get my blogging mojo back I think! I miss the time focussing about what to write, planning ahead for what needs to happen and putting the ideas together to string some form of ‘story’ together. I’m finding that I’ve fallen a little into the trap of using Instagram (IG) or as I am now renaming it “Instant Gratification”. This is OK but it doesn’t really give me the same satisfaction as writing a post. Thank goodness for ‘In My Kitchen’, a forum where bloggers put up some snippets of what is in their kitchens each month. All of these blogs are linked to a common point by the wonderful Liz over at Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things. Go and have a look at some of the great things going on.

Not a lot this month In My Kitchen as we went camping for nearly 2 weeks. I did manage to still bake bread while we were away but this time I cheated somewhat and used the oven in the camp kitchen. I baked in a pasta pot we have in the camping kitchen and it was a great success.

img_2012We brought some great bacon back from the butcher at Merimbula. This bacon is beautiful, they also had some nitrate free bacon which really appeals to me so I got some of that too. Down side is that it is packed in cryovac plastic packaging. This is a shame, but sometimes when weighing up the options an outcome that is not ideal is the result. My delight in getting good quality over what is available at home that would still be in plastic won over.img_2117Also In My Kitchen is some sourdough starter I am dehydrating. I have shared quite a bit so needed to replenish my stock. This is my original ‘Vesuvius’ starter that I began about 10 years ago.img_2112 I have been making some potholders. I am using an old woollen blanket that is beyond its useful life as the thermal filling in these. I am also using up scrap cotton I had in my cupboard for the covering but I have bought a couple of extra pieces. Next week I’ll scout the op shops for suitable garments I can re-purpose.img_2113 This years glut! NOT! Nowhere near any previous seasons harvests, very disappointing. I’ll be buying a couple of boxes for making passata I think. Not a lot, but the flavour is really good this year. My experiment of having half the tomatoes staked and laterals pruned and the other half just doing their thing without attention has bombed. I have not had one tomato that hasn’t been eaten even when very green in the free range plants. img_2118 Finally In My Kitchen this month is a pic of todays wholemeal bread I made and tested out a couple of different baking methods. The top 2 loaves were cooked in the cast iron dutch oven, the pumpkin seed shaped loaf was baked in a clay cloche and the bottom one was baked in my Falcon enamel roasting pan. All work well but I prefer the cast iron.img_2136So that’s the little peek into my kitchen this month. Are we going to get a peek in yours?

Posted in Baking, Bread, In My Kitchen, sourdough, Sustainable Living | Tagged , , , , | 31 Comments

In My Kitchen February 2017

Well we are back and rearing to go! A shout out to Liz over at Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things for taking the time to hook us all up. Head on over and have a peek at some amazing kitchen happenings from around the world.

So what have we got going on this month? Bread, bread and lots more bread I’m afraid. I have become quite obsessed with trying as many different grains, methods and styles as I can. I have set up a Facebook Page too hoping to get more ‘local’ sourdough lovers to share their stories, learn more about making sour dough and offering tips for local suppliers of baking supplies like flour and equipment. If you are interested or have a friend who is interested tell them to come and join in. Sourdough Baking Australia & New Zealand is a closed group so people need to ask to join or be invited by Members. Some of my recent baking highlights have been; barley bread,barley breadSome home milled wholewheat blend.bestand I’ve been working on mastering the making of sourdough croissants. sweet-starter-croissantsThe finished croissant.Sourdough croissantsWhile doing some research on dough lamination, I stumbled across this youtube video  where the chef uses what he calls a ‘tarp’ for rolling his pastry. I had never heard of this concept so off to the Google Research Centre and I discovered some really interesting information about the benefits of using a pastry cloth to toll pastry on. Seemed too good to be true, so off to Spotlight for fabric and using these basic instructions I made a couple of pastry cloths. I found them to be everything they were touted to be and I love the fact many mentioned that they had their family ‘hand-me-downs’ from mothers and grandmothers tucked away in their drawers. I made a double layered large one and 2 smaller single layer ones, but after using them I think the double is much better, so I’ll just fold the smaller ones when I use them. I only dusted flour twice while rolling out these croissants. No sticking whatever. pastry-clothOf course I had to have croissant for breakfast didn’t I? Here are a couple of the finished items along with a cup of tea made in the delightful cup with a china infuser and hat that I was given for my birthday. The spotty pots are a couple of my favourites too.tea-croissants The little cap on the infuser acts as a drip tray when you remove the leaves from the cup and as a lid for the cup when not in use. I love it.infuser-cupWe have finally been able to hang some pictures that were stored and this photo is one my nephew (who is a very talented photographer) had at his exhibition. She is a peanut-seller at the market in Vietnam and he really captured the essence so well it came home with us. Unfortunately my photo doesn’t do it justice at all!peanut-lady When I left work our Parents & Friends Association very kindly gave me a voucher for my favourite shop in Warragul, String & Salt.  String & Salt  have an excellent selection of quality homewares and cooking equipment, they run some incredible cooking classes and they also sell Falcon Ovens which is where we bought ours. The key factor to being a delight to deal with, is their level of service, not easy to find these days and they shine. Anyway, I used my voucher to get this gorgeous little Burgon & Ball Trug. We are starting to get a run of tomatoes coming in, not much else I must say, I know I’ve not been as attentive this season but things just seem sparse. Neighbours and friends are all saying the same so I’m glad it isn’t just my neglect.Burton Ball TrugThen finally In My Kitchen this month is something a bit different. I’m finding undoing the car seat, high chair and pram clips are causing excruciating pain to my dodgy fingers so I went back to the Google Research Centre and found this little thing called a buckle bopper.  You rest it in the palm of your hand and the knobby bit pushes in the clip and releases it.buckle-bopper It was ridiculously expensive for what it is and there are no Australian sellers so postage was also up there but if it reduces pain levels it’s not too bad.

So that’s my lot for “In My Kitchen” this month, I’m popping over to Liz’s now

for a peek into some of the others.

Posted in Bread, In My Kitchen, sourdough, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Lots of Up-cycling going on here.

Now that we have pretty much got the main components of the exteno done, we can focus on sorting through all of the things that have been in the shed, in the ‘Dentist’s and in boxes throughout the house. As we cleared through each area I insisted we be ruthless and tag things to go, repair or keep if they had a good purpose. Determined to minimise landfill, we eliminated quite a bit through a local buy/swap/sell site and the couple of items left from that will probably go to the op-shop. We placed a couple of bits on the nature strip and they miraculously disappeared, the op shops have received a large amount and we are left with the things that needed to be repaired. All of these have been moved into the room we used as the temporary kitchen and I’m working through them one at a time. Fly-screens, piano stool, old wooden train, cupboard, a toy cradle and a few other bits and pieces. This chair is a folding directors chair that Mr ATMT’s grandfather made. It is beautiful, comfortable and very special to us. I’ll re-glue the joints, paint it and make some new covers. These original covers were made complete with hessian backing and I am excited about giving life and purpose to it. We also have a couple of card tables made by Grandpa hiding in this pile.

grandpas-dir-chairFor my first repair task I tackled this cute little cupboard which I believe was a chamber pot cupboard. It has been in Mr ATMT’s family for years, he can remember it being at their holiday house in Sorrento and moved to the replacement house at Blairgowrie where it was used for toiletries in the bunk room bathroom. I forgot to take a pre photo but it was pretty awful. Stained mustard yellow, rusty latches some ply wood missing. I wasn’t prepared to invest a lot of time or energy on it, so a sand, some filler and a couple of coats of paint and I think it will serve as a bedside table well.  I couldn’t bring myself to straighten the latches!potty-cupboardI found this old woollen army blanket that certainly looks like it has seen better days but the area out from the centre is quite good so I’ll make some pot holders from it. Wool is a great thermal barrier so I’m hoping they will work well for the hot, bread baking pots. The scrap will go into the compost or somewhere in the garden that needs some weed suppression. moth-eaten-blanketI had a cake stand that the stand had separated from the base so a bit of glue and it’s as good as new. This is it having a bit of ‘gentle weight’ applied while the glue dries.

img_0694Then there was Mr Squiggle, Mr Squiggle is one of Australia’s iconic childrens TV programs that aired for many generations.  This Mr Squiggle was a much loved toy of our older son and  now that we need to have a few things on hand to entertain our grandson, I thought I’d see how he came up with some surgery.  He was in a sad and sorry state, legs off and his innards suffering a serious prolapse, his head attached by a thread and he was generally in need of some TLC.

img_1801mr-squiggle-pre-surgeryimg_1802

With some stitching (I’m telling myself is as good as a Japanese embroiderer), a bath, a hair cut and a rubdown he is back in action. I should do a red tie just to finish him off. You know I’m not going to let him anywhere near the toy box now, don’t you!mr-squiggle-post-surgery Here are a couple of items not in our room of repair but acquired from the op-shop.

A Phil & Teds stroller (I’m told that is a good brand). It makes life easier for everyone not having to unload and transport half the house when we have Charlie so I went to the op shop on the odd chance and bingo! $20.00 later, a good go over with the pressure cleaner and we are set. A little bit of sun fading but everything else is fine. This came complete with a baby carrycot, extra seat so you can fit another child in, rain cover, sunshade cover, bag and it is great to handle. Thank you to whoever took this to the op-shop.

strollerI also stumbled on this book at the op-shop. What are the chances? Our grandson is Charlie and their dog is Baxter. Spooky…………had to get it!

baxter-book

baxter-charlie-book

Then there is the most dramatic up-cycling of all. We have moved the room affectionately know as ‘The Dentist’. It was either move it or lose it, as you looked directly out to it from the new kitchen window. By moving it we can create a courtyard area than we can access from the kitchen verandah, keep the history and still get to use the room for whatever we want.

dentist-after-move That concrete in the middle is the original steps into the room. It has opened up the space wonderfully and I am thrilled. future-courtyard       A couple of chains, a couple of jacks, a few logs, someone who knows what they are doing and snap!

img_0654 img_0659

We have managed to dispose a lot and thankfully not to landfill. If any of the repair jobs become bigger than I envisaged they will be re-assessed and dealt with accordingly.

I am delighted with being able to keep the dentist room. I can see this being an integral part of the landscape and not just a room in the wrong place!

Now, if only I can come up with a use for THAT crystal.

Posted in Renovation, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

New FB Sourdough Support Page.

Just putting it out there that I have started a Facebook Closed Group for anyone wanting to learn, share and chat about sourdough bread and other sourdough baked goods. I find that the big overseas groups are brilliant but it is difficult when ingredients and equipment they discuss are not available locally. Seasons and use of fahrenheit too is also a challenge, we are always arse about (or they are).

So anyway, I plan to try to post some weekly tips for anyone starting out, put some links for really good reliable information and have people share their baking results and ask questions. Although target audience is Australia and New Zealand, others are welcome to request to join. So, if you know of anyone who may be interested in learning more or sharing knowledge please pass on my link.

 

Facebook group is Sourdough Baking Australia and New Zealand, link is https://www.facebook.com/groups/SDaustralia/

bestThanks, Maree.

Posted in Baking, Bread, sourdough, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Trifle. Or is it just a cake in a glass bowl?

It all started a few weeks ago when I was clearing out cupboards and posted on Instagram and Facebook a call for ways to use some old crystal bowls I have and am never likely to use for a number of reasons.

CrystalThat horrible dilemma when you really don’t like something, you can’t imagine ever using them again but they do have sentimental value and aren’t worth anything to sell. Some have been wedding or engagement presents and  have emotional ties.  If I gave them away I would prefer they go to someone I know or who is part of the family. I don’t usually have any issues discarding things I cannot see value in keeping, but these have worked their way into and under my skin. I think it stems from being brought up thinking these things were ‘the good’ stuff only to be used for special times and they demonstrated we weren’t poor when people came to dine.

I had many interesting responses on what to do with them or how to repurpose them, ideas such as creating some garden ornaments similar to these,

crystal-garden-ornaments

or a bird feeder like this,

crystal-bird-feeder

or even as pretty vessels for burning tea light candles in.

crystal-tea-light-holder

There was even a suggestion some could be used as the missile for the annual smashing  of our Christmas gingerbread house (cheers Stuart). That, I wasn’t going to entertain! Glass in the grass is not good when you don’t wear shoes.

Then came the trifle ideas, many voted that the larger bowl was definitely a candidate for trifle to be served in. My niece is a really good cook and sent me a couple of links for some nice sounding recipes, one was a limoncello one that looked pretty good. Celia reminded me she had a recipe on her blog that was easy as well as delicious and Francesca said she had a whole book dedicated to trifle and would like to send it to me. The selection in this book has to been seen to be believed, I will revisit this in the future I think.

img_0678I’m not convinced about trifle, childhood memories still make me gag at the thought. I hate custard, not the good stuff like creme pat, but the packet or store-bought goo labelled as custard. I also have memories of soggy peaches stuck into horrible, grainy  cake that tasted like sawdust. I do remember though that I liked the jelly and cream, especially if it was a nice dark jelly like port wine etc. Convinced by my cheer squad that a good trifle is great and I should go for it, I decided that my quest was to create a trifle to share with guests at our Australia Day BBQ. The research began and I must have looked at 100’s of recipes but could not decide on a finalist. I started to see the pattern of ingredients emerge so I winged it, convinced we would end up with yet another soggy, grainy mess.

Basically I was making a black forest cake in glass bowl.

This was my concept,

  • Layers of chocolate cake which had been sprinkled with booze which is traditionally kirsch in a BFC.
  • Thin Layer of  chocolate mousse
  • Layer of cherry jelly made using the juice from canned cherries and a splash of booze
  • Layer of black cherries
  • layer of whipped cream

Pretty simple  really. So this is how I did it, I made a jelly using the juice from the 2 cans of black cherries thickening it with corn flour and throwing in a splash of rum.

I made a simple chocolate mousse but thinned it down slightly so it wasn’t too thick. This was the alternative to custard part of the creation.

Annabelle Langbein’s Ultimate Chocolate Cake was baked  in 2 small round tins rather than one big springform tin.

Cream whipped, what can go wrong?

My cake was cut and ready to start assembling the layers in the bowl  but not unexpectedly, I had not been able to get Kirsch at any of the bottle shops. My next option was Cherry Brandy but no, not available either. I considered making cherry juice but gave that a miss. I took a leap of faith and decided to use some white rum as we had a supply of it in the cupboard. So here we have my Black Forest Rum Chocolate Trifle.

But look at the bowl………………..please ignore the creamy smudge. I know you wouldn’t notice it if I’d used the cut crystal but that’s karma I guess.

Chocolate Black forest Trifle After all of that I just couldn’t bring myself to use the crystal. I just don’t like it but I do think it might make a nice bird feeder! This was a winner with all of our guests, people could take a small spoonful portion or dig in and take as much as wanted. The rum was an absolute winner and I think that will be repeated if I make this again. There was no graininess, just boozey, chocolatey, creamy, rich yumminess. Now, a couple of days later the flavour and texture has improved even more. Verdict by Mr ATMT is that it was a cake in a glass bowl, a delicious cake in a glass bowl, but not a trifle. My internal psyche must have overruled I think.

Here are a few of our Australia Day BBQ snaps. Beautiful afternoon, great people and some great food for sharing. As well as my Black Forest Chocolate Trifle I made a Pavlova and peeking in the background is a lammington roll that a friend brought along.DessertsI baked a selection of sourdough breads. From L to R, baguette, baguette, sesame loaf, tomato paste, thyme and feta, baguette, caramelised onion and parmesan loaf (DELICIOUS) and a roast tomato focaccia. I believe the focaccia was great but the vultures devoured it too quickly to sample.img_2247 I was going to say we are so lucky to have such a beautiful area to share these events with family and friends, but it is mostly due to some very hard work on our part to create this space. Australia Day 2017

All worthwhile and we are lucky, very lucky.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Baking, Bread, In The Garden, Recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments