Mystery solved!

I posted about the extremely ugly pumpkin that appeared in my veggie patch forgetting that I had planted seed for a Japanese pumpkin. While going through my box of seeds I found this.

The penny dropped and I remembered I must have planted some of this seed. A quick google search led me to this site about Japanese food culture which quite clearly explains my monster to a tee. I’m glad I discovered this and will now have to check out how it tastes. Sounds interesting.

What discoveries have you made with interesting or strange food growing?

 

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Groundhog day dinners.

I used that title based on the movie of the same name making the assumption that Groundhog Day meant just repeating the same thing day in, day out. Apparently it stems from some poor little critter sticking his nose out of its burrow everyday to do a quick weather forecast as to whether winter is over or not. Well for this little critter, winter is obviously getting closer as the summer season in the garden is over. It’s been a mixed season, great tomatoes and capsicums/chillies but that’s about the best we’ve done. No pumpkins, well one and that’s quite scary. No corn, limited beans, limited zucchini (that’s not a bad thing), cucumbers have been ok and I didn’t have much else in. Time for some serious work to boost our gardens nutrition I think. Anyway it means at about 5.00 I think maybe a quick pasta dish would do and it has been ‘doing’ far too often!

Dont get me wrong, I love pasta but because these throw together meals have been done without much thought I was sick of picking out tomato skins and not really having any depth of flavour. Tonight will be different! I chopped up zucchini, onion, 4 different capsicum varieties and some chill and did a very quick fry off in garlic oil. I then chopped up the tomatoes and cooked ever so slowly for about 45 minutes with lots of garlic oil, garlic, some sulca biber (pepper paste), chilli and S&P. I then actually pressed it all through a sieve to remove the skins etc.

A toss of the veggies through the pasta with chopped basil and oregano, drizzled with some more garlic oil, can’t go wrong. this was much better that the ‘quickie’ I was getting so sick of. I find I’m adding pepper paste to many dishes now just to add a bit of zing!

 Now, as for our one and only pumpkin!

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In My Kitchen-At Home & Camping

I’ve been doing all sorts of things over the last month. We had a couple of weeks camping at Depot Beach on the South Eastern NSW coast and when the rain persisted just a bit too much to maintain comfort, we headed inland to explore our Nation’s Capital, Canberra for a couple of days. We’ve had Easter and mixed in to all of that an obvious change of seasons leading to some very necessary jobs in the vegetable garden (I’ll be doing a separate post about those after this). A big thank you to Sherry from over at Sherry’s Pickings for linking bloggers who are happy to share what’s going on in their kitchens each month. So first up I’ll let you have a peek at our holiday/camping kitchen, some of which is what we ate along the way.

We both love pies, it’s always a necessity to check out bakeries at towns as we pass through to see the calibre of their pies. This heritage bakery in Milton was great to see for the historic building but that’s about where it stopped. One interesting thing was that this is totally cashless. I don’t have a problem at all with this concept but gee it slows down the service lever when the staff spend so much time explaining to the many customers who did seem to challenge their reasons. It also added to confusion when the EFTPOS  system wasn’t working. As I said, nice building!

At the opposite end of the spectrum we bought a pie at Poppy’s on Wallace at Braidwood. These would have to be the best pies we’ve ever bought. Mr ATMT said he never wanted to eat another pie again unless it was as good as this one.  Sorry, the pic was purely a grab as we ate walking down the street.

Back at camp we all know how much I still need to bake while on away and I played around with a new technique for baking our bread. I guessed that the camp oven fitted nicely into the top of our Ozpig and it worked really well.

The first loaf hit the top of the camp oven so I improvised and used a saucepan as a lid for the second loaf. Worked a treat! Before we headed off to Canberra I used up all the last bits and pieces to make a lovely camp stew. Left over roast lamb, bacon, vegetables, tomatoes, red wine and of course sourdough for soaking up the juice. While in Canberra we went to the massive farmers market at the racecourse on Saturday. What a wonderful market! Silly for us to buy fresh produce, so I had to make do with these delicious bombolini (doughnuts).  Don’t ask how many I managed to taste test! I also picked up a couple of souvenirs of freshly milled flour. This year I want to explore and understand more about grains and whole-wheat. These are a starting point. Then we came home to Easter! Roughly 16 dozen sourdough hot cross buns churned out in one bake. Might go away for Easter next year! Our daughter limits how much sugar the little fella gets, so we had a go at making some dyed Easter Eggs. I was really happy with the brightness of these. Simply a matter of boiling the eggs and rolling them around to crack the shells a little then they soaked in water with food colouring. Put in the fridge for a couple of hours and hey presto! These went into our picnic lunch on Easter Sunday.   I bought myself a little treat at the War Memorial in Canberra as I couldn’t resist the beautiful poppy design.  lovely china mug with infuser and what I think is beautiful artwork of my favourite flower, the poppy.What’s been going on in your kitchen? Pop over to Sherry’s and add a story for us to have a peek at.

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In My Kitchen – March

As  another month rolls over (far too quickly), I wonder if there is anything I can share with the other IMK’ers over at Sherry’s Pickings that isn’t just a rehash of previous posts. Sherry has links from lots of fellow bloggers who are generous and let us have a peek into what’s going on their kitchens each month. Amazing what you can learn and share! Thanks Sherry!

Good old Bangers & Mash

Mr ATMT is rather partial to a feed of bangers and mash. Instead of doing a heavy, flour based gravy, we usually make a sauce by frying off onions and adding a bottle of tomato passata to the pan and let it simmer away to thicken and flavour up. We had so many lovely fresh tomatoes, I just added some of them to the pan to slowly cook down and thicken. Yes, I did burn the container!

The mash had a face lift too by adding the dregs of the bottle of infused garlic oil which also had the macerated garlic cloves in it. It was time to start a fresh batch of garlic oil so these from the existing bottle didn’t go to waste!

Rich, fluffy mash with delicious tomato and onion gravy on the snags and good old frozen peas on the side. Mr ATMT was very happy!  I have been making a lot of sourdough crackers using the King Arthur Flour recipe  and I admit was getting bit sick of parmesan and dried rosemary as the flavouring. I had run out of dried rosemary so chilli parmesan twists were created instead. Same basic recipe, but I added 2 frozen chilli cubes and a ‘splodge’ of sweet chilli sauce along with some grated parmesan. Instead of cutting into cracker shapes, I cut long strips then twisted them and baked. Big hit! The long sticks on the right of this platter is the baked result, served with some roast tomato and garlic focaccia and baguettes. There was also a sourdough fruit slab here. I’ve been playing with different formulas and the baguette on the left is a normal sourdough baguette but the chia and saffron ciabatta on the right is made using fermented fruit water instead of a traditional starter. Recipe credit for the ciabatta with saffron recipe (in part) to Sylvain from Gourmetier which I adapted somewhat! Sylvain’s food photography and styling is spectacular! Wonder what he could have done with this lot? I initially found this concept of using fermented fruit water a bit bizarre, but I really like the outcome and the theatre of fermenting the fruit is pretty good fun too. Who remembers their mum’s ginger beer exploding?  Shades of that with the fermenting fruit if you are not careful.

Removing the bone from my leg of lamb.

Of course along with every other most other Aussies, I have tomatoes in my kitchen. This year I cut back on how many I planted and it’s been a nice steady supply with just enough for eating and a few extras to make tomato pickles with. Couldn’t wait to top these sourdough loaves with a few slabs of tomato, cracked pepper and labne cheese. One of the joys of growing your own produce is the ability to cook meals based on what you have to hand. For a recent family dinner I butterflied (de-boned) a leg of lamb I’d had in the freezer and coated it with pesto made using basil, parmesan, garlic, macadamia nuts, mint and lemon juice. I then cooked it in a pan on the bbq and served it with a salad from Sandra’s blog, Please Pass the Recipe. What a delight this Na’ama’s Fattoush dish was, a great way to use some excess tomatoes, old bread, cucumbers and herbs. Will repeat this recently I think! Thanks Sandra! I served the lamb and Na’ama’s Fattoush with extra pesto, some pumpkin roasted with black and white sesame and pumpkin seed oil, freshly picked beans and flatbread. I added some boiled potatoes to stretch the ability to feed everyone. Can’t do better than that!So that’s about it for In My Kitchen this month, what’s going on in yours? Would love to peek, so go and link your story in to Sherry’s blog and share.

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Zero waste wayside stops.

Today as I was sewing the handle back on this bag, I thought it might be nice to share how we are always ready and able to stop and have a cuppa anywhere we feel like it. Well, anywhere when we are on the road driving, can’t say this would be ideal on a tram or a bus! Zero waste,  always at the ready for road trips. We keep this little bag (that was a token gift to Mr ATMT at some function) packed with a little butane gas stove, a windshield for the stove, a billy, tea, sugar, a set of cutlery, plates, scissors, a first aid kit, sunscreen, a wine bottle full of water and a small bottle that we fill with milk and wrap in a chill pack before leaving. The mugs were being washed when I took this but we do pack those too. There is also a very old plastic bag we first got in Tassie about 5 years ago incase we need it for some reason. Sometimes we will add a nibble or two such as nuts, dried fruit, lollies or bickies as well.We usually find it easy to refill the water bottle along the way as well as rinsing out the cups ready for the next stop. The bag has a compartment at the bottom which has two little folding stools stowed inside it so we don’t even need a table and chairs available for our refreshment stops.The whole bag is quite compact and we leave it in the boot just making sure we have fresh water and milk packed before we leave home.It really doesn’t take much to think a little bit ahead to avoid visiting those horrible service centres that rob you of seeing the landscape and usually make you leave loaded up with waste.

PS. I should have taken the needle out from my mending job before trying to zip it up. Did a nice slice through my thumb which added a few decorations to the bag!

What do you do to minimise waste and to make your road trips enjoyable?

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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.

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In My Kitchen

Well another month has disappeared and I’ve yet again been a slack old thing and missed doing the couple of blog posts that did flutter around in my head. Oh well, thank goodness Sherry over at Sherry’s Pickings keeps us motivated by hosting In My Kitchen where we can both share and have a sticky beak at whats going on in all the kitchens out there.

It was time to process some more pickled onions so I purchased a large bag of pickling onions that appeared Ok on the outside, but much to my chagrin as I started peeling them it was obvious the majority were rotten in the centre. I was left with about a quarter of the bag and started the brining process using the lovely little weight I brought home from Turkey to keep the onions immersed. After a day of soaking, these onions went into the compost too. I was thrilled (not), it really hurts preparing onions, even more so with no result to be had. The clay weight worked a tree though! I can’t remember where I spotted this Disney cake to give credit, but I think it’s a ripper! My daughter didn’t accept the challenge to make it, wonder why? My last post was about how we were going to have our garden open as part of the Baw Baw Sustainability Network’s Creative Harvest event. We had a sensational weekend, talking all things food gardens with 117 people, had some lovely artists working in our space promoting the Arts side of the event and lots of laughing. This platter I served while they worked away under the mulberry tree. Every now and again they got ‘plopped on’ by falling mulberries! Here we are in between visitors coming  through. After the 40 degree day the day before, it was a bit of a struggle on so we welcomed these little gaps! I made some mulberry jam for the first time since we took over this place. Other years we have not been able to compete with the birds but the tree has been absolutely loaded so there has been enough to share.  I have also frozen many berries whole to be used as needed throughout the year. This is a great way to be able to throw some food to the little fella without filling him up on sugar. They can be thrown into pancakes, tarts and pies and slowly cooked until they make a lovely natural syrup. A couple of jars of jam is enough for us for the year. I made a couple of hundred dumplings for my son’s birthday and because pleating so many  would take ages as well as hurting my fingers,  I invested $1.50 in this dumpling press. I also used bought wrappers which fitted the press perfectly and I have to say I was very impressed with the result. Glad about that, didn’t want it to only be used as a play dough tool. I had a lovely Instagram friend come to collect a grapevine cutting I had started for her and she rewarded me with this lovely little lot.  In front are some Luisa Plums and I am smitten. They change from this colour to deep red as they ripen and the taste is unbelievable. I think one of these will be finding a spot here next season.The beans and cucumbers went into a salad along with some of my tomatoes, spring onions, with an Asian style dressing, fresh mango on the side and pork rolls in rice paper that I made after I ran out of dumpling wrappers and still had filling. Had to do quality control for the party food of course!So that’s it for In My Kitchen this month. Thanks Sherry for the opportunity of sharing.

I had decided not to pick any more mulberries this season but then I thought I should make the most of every opportunity, albeit small, as you never know if you’ll be around for the next season. An important reminder by a lovely man who sadly won’t be able to pick mulberries next season.  R.I.P. Shane.

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