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

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

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

 

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Food and fun.

This weekend has been lovely. Almost tea with my son and his girlfriend at their new home (no dinner because all the take-a ways were closed!). They are doing a great job giving a sad old post war weatherboard home a makeover. Three weeks in and it’s amazing what a difference some cleaning, pruning (major) and TLC can do to a house. Lovely seeing them looking at things from a different view as owners rather than taking everything on face value as normal. We then spent some time on our property that we are still trying to sell at Fish Creek and re-instilled some love there.   Hopefully enough to trigger a sale, but things are so slow over there I’m not holding my breath. Think I may have to re-assess how we manage that!

Re-kindle India.

While in India, we had the fortunate experience of tasting ginger tea at breakfast while staying in a hotel in Delhi. It was purely accidental that we poured from this particular pot as the ‘western tea’ had not been served at that time. I love accidental discoveries and after some lengthy interpretation with the staff we vaguely got the gist of how it was made. Googling answered my questions and it is a common beverage in many Indian households. I had a go this morning at making it and yes, it was sensational. I followed the recipe on ‘Show me the Curry‘ website and was very happy with the result. Nice start to the day indeed. Sorry but photo is a bit fuzzy!

Ginger tea

PHOT!

Not Pho, not hot pot but an attempt to marry the two. I had wanted to make pho but didn’t have bones for stock. Thought about a hot pot (or as Cam would disrespectfully say, Ho Po) but didn’t have a clay pot that would fit into our mini oven, so I tried to marry the the two together. Marinated chicken as per the recipe at recipe.com added some extra stock and put the whole lot into the slow cooker and let it go. 2 hours before tea I added some chopped bok choy and then served with fresh spring onions, rice noodles and finely chopped spring onions. I would add some star anise and chilli next time but it was very, very nice. I can really understand how these meals based on rich stock with, lovely spices and fresh vegies are soul food for so many. So fresh and healthy too!

 

The ‘Phot’ required Shiitake mushrooms and I realised that since we have been away and not tending the logs too well, my shiitakes had actually dried on the logs!

Shiitake dried on log

What the heck, cut the dried ones from the logs, reconstituted in hot water, sliced and added to the slow cooker. They were sensational!

Shiitake reconstitutingFingers crossed!

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All good! This was a really nice dish. Broth was flavorsome from the shiitake and other spices and seasonings.

Jobs I didn’t get to!

Had a master plan this weekend to plant the onion bag full of bulbs that I took from the last house and to install the auto-openers on the greenhouse windows. Don’t you love it when you have a list and manage to work hard but don’t see one item from the list completed? Started out with the goal to plant the bulbs, went to compost to get some planting mix and realised that the open bins are struggling due to encroaching tree surface roots. I have never had much success with open compost bins, they dry out, roots invade and I find them difficult to turn. I am a fan of the ‘Geddye’ style bin. Easy to use and turn with a curly compost turner. Easy to manage moisture levels and worms seem to love the environment. Ahh, the bulbs will have to wait till next week!

 

 

 

Back in town.

After a few confronting weeks in India and some time to ponder the obvious troubles over there, we are back and attacking the reno with gusto. If only the tradespeople we book would do the same! We locked in to have our hydronic heating system installed before going to India and pressed the need to have a fixed date arranged. With the weather about to change we didn’t want to be left out in the cold and anticipated installation would be as soon as we returned. Turns out we are left in the cold and things are starting get that slightly damp feel to them, we are getting the “we’ll definitely be there next week” story. That’s now been four weeks and I am getting quite peeved. I just wish people would at least ring to say they won’t be there as stated. Luckily we have a nice cosy little open fire to sit in front of on these increasingly chilly nights , not too pleasant when we leave that particular room though!

Cosy Open Fire

Feel like we have done nothing until you think……………………….

Hmmm, let me do a run down of what we have and haven’t achieved so far this year. It has been slowed down by moving, weather too hot, out for a month house-sitting for our daughter, overseas trip followed by two weeks camping. The have achieved are: good supply of tomato passata and tomato sauce in the pantry, new Sproutwell Greenhouse is up (one of those processes when divorce seems good, similar to selecting paint colours!) and nearly fitted out, possibly have found a builder who is going to be good to work with, our neighbour demolished their brick garage so we are now the proud owners of approx 1000 reds which will be used for paving and garden decos. We have come up with a final design for the garden and extension which has been no mean feat. I have ordered our chicken mansion, shed/garage under way with permits and planning lodged could start anytime. Holland roller blinds ordered for every room, front door measured for leadlight design and quotes being sought. Helped our son and his girlfriend with purchase of a house and subsequently moving out (YAY!). Have some beautiful carpets we bought in India on the floor in several rooms. The mantel clock that was a wedding present of my mother in law’s has been put in for restoration. Booked plumber to install heating. We have bought 20 Camellia sasanqua ‘Asakura’ thanks to our friend Mark from ‘Plants R Us’. Many, many years ago we ran a garden design business at Gardenworld in Springvale and Mark was one of the nursery staff who helped us tremendously. These camellia will be planted to form a strong, base structure of planting around the back yard as well as possibly forming an espaliered area outside the master bedroom and bathroom. We also learned how to appreciate and respect this wonderful country we live in.

Greenhouse
Greenhouse up and running, beautiful camellia (original) flowering. It is just beautiful!
Camellias side garden
Some structure starting to take shape!
Camellia Planting
More framework.
Strawberry flowers
Strawberries in greenhouse looking very happy.

New kitchen goodies!

Now that the weather has turned to being a bit too cool to be using the BBQ I invested in a new gas range.  A whole $13.80 at Bunnings for a Butane gas camping cooker and I’m off and away! So nice to have somewhere to boil a pot, use a wok or throw on the frying pan.

New gas range.
Looking forward to firing up the combustion stove!

Did a great job of cooking up some Singapore Noodles for dinner tonight!

Singapore Noodles

Christmas upon us…………

I am not a religious person, but I love the way the Christmas period enables us to merge families and friends together to celebrate and share each others company. I am a chronic lover of certain traditions of which Christmas is one. I love seeing the sparkly lights on the tree, the smell of once a year foods being prepared and the planning to make sure everyone is sated and comfortable.

Sadly as families grow and develop into  their own independent units we find ourselves at a turning point where we must compromise to make sure we catch up with as many as possible and not necessarily all be  together for the ‘BIG’ bash on Christmas day.

As we welcome new family members and say farewell to others, some things will stay the same. These are and as long as I’m able to are:

  • Make a Christmas Pudding using only Australian grown dried fruit.
  • Make a gingerbread house, which I have done since 1982 before the ghastly things that now appear everywhere were available! The ‘smashing’ of the house is now a much loved tradition.
  • Ensure as many of us that are able, will spend some time together
  • Only have a real tree-Ours is quite bare of decorations these days because I made sure every year, we had the kids pick an ornament at our annual Christmas trek to the city, so that when they left home they could decorate their own trees! Lovely idea, but a little sad when we pull out the old dud ones remaining that no one else claimed as theirs when they left!
  • Attempt to refrain from the commercial hype that is so often the case.
  • Endeavour to encourage people to keep it small (gift wise), and to not spend money on ‘stuff’ that just gets thrown into the garbage after the event.

This weekend I made the Christmas puddings, one to eat at home, one to take to my sister-in-laws and one because I just love ‘pud’ and wanted to be able to have more for me to eat! I really feel let down when we celebrate Christmas elsewhere and I don’t have any leftovers to indulge in for days after.

My mum was a fussy pudding maker so I use her recipe, soak the fruit in alcohol in the basin/bowl she used for many years, mix the pudding with Great Grandma‘s beautiful old, worn down by years of stirring, wooden spoon, and use my MIL’s pudding bowls.

pudding mix

I always reminisce about these people while preparing the ‘pud’ and it is a lovely time.

I always get very nervous that the ‘pud’ will be a failure because you cant see the final product, but so far so good!

Birthday cheer.

With my daughters birthday this weekend we had an easy lunch of warm chicken salad and enjoyed a few glasses of bubbly with my ‘new best friend’ Wild Hibiscus added to the glasses. This product is just beautiful, the most glorious cheery colour of a hibiscus flower in syrup added to your glass and it not only tasted great it just looks sensational.

champers

Didn’t get to do too much done in the garden but spent a fair amount of time moving the old greenhouse to the ‘new old house’ to use as a temporary shed under the mulberry tree.IMG_0671

This old greenhouse served my sister and her husband well for many years and us for many more. It may even have another life as a shade house in the future!

Weekend with the lot!

This weekend was jam-packed with a variety of things. Had a great cello lesson (practice does pay off), got home to find my husband had made great progress with painting the lounge-room, I opted to work outside because it was such a lovely day and he was also listening to the cricket (I am probably the worlds most avid hater of sport in any form!).

Went for Dulux curd full strength for the bottom section to add a little more tone to the room. Happy about that!

In the afternoon I started putting together my new Sproutwell Polycarbonate Greenhouse, after a few technical hitches (mainly due to my approach) I was underway. This construction will take shape over a few weeks as I have to fit it in between other more pressing jobs.

Now to get these to turn into one of these !
Should be a cinch!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I managed to assemble the sliding door and window components, as well as the base so we can check whether we have to make some adjustments to where it is going to be located (and we do!). Next step is to get foundations set up properly and then it will be plain sailing till the final completion.

I often like to have a wander around our backyard (at the house we are selling) on a Sunday morning looking at all the bits and pieces in the garden and remember how far we have come with developing this back yard. I hope to be able to do this soon at the ‘new old house’.

Plenty of mulberries developing this year, such a beautiful fruit, tree and colour!

Time to do some bird protection!

Blueberries are becoming nice and fat and I can’t wait for them to ripen.

I have two varieties of blueberry, this is a much fatter fruit than the other. Shame I’ve lost the tags!
The smell of this transports me straight to tropics! Citrussy, Frangipani-ish, gardenia-ish and just beautiful-shame it doesn’t flower all year round!

 

Picked the last of the broad beans and a couple of beetroot. Not sure when I’ll get to process the beans!

I then moved onto the ‘new old house’, took a trailer load of scrap metal to the tip but also came home with an old frame from a sun shelter or such. The poles from these frames make good garden stakes and I just can’t see something go to waste!

I haven’t tried using beer snail bait traps for many years as when I used to put them out our dearly departed ‘Cossie’ the dog would quickly gobble up the beer. Poor old Cossie is no longer with us, so I’ll give the traps another shot. The snails and slugs in the potato bed are the worst I’ve ever encountered, I may have to think about borrowing a duck for a few weeks.

Probably should have used beer from a not so great batch of home brew rather than bought stuff!

Inspiration! Sat under the Mulberry Tree and had a beer!

Approx 30 years ago I moved from Melbourne to the West Gippsland, Latrobe Valley region and I have still not come to terms with the lack of fresh produce available. The wonderful movement that is gaining momentum across many regions with  farmers markets, fresh is best and limited food miles has been painfully slow in reaching here. The produce stocked in our local supermarket is disgraceful and it says a lot that people don’t demand better! As for stocking anything organic or that is produced by locals, forget it.  I only venture in there when absolutely desperate and tonight I wanted to add some zing to the hot potato salad I had planned and thought some nice chorizo would be ideal-should have known better!

Home made my giddy aunt! Who keeps that chemical stuff in their pantry?
Beetroot, broad beans, garlic, garlic stem, spuds, herbs, lettuce, silver beet. Bring it on!

Anyway, we ended up having a really nice dinner of a hot (warm) potato salad type thing. Part of the harvest  I picked today and needed to use was-some nice young spuds, silver beet, garlic stem, red onion, broad beans and some mint. I also had the amazing ‘homemade’ chorizo I purchased.

Method- Put chorizo on griddle/BBQ to cook, par boil spuds till a bit underdone, while cooking, chop up some red onion, green capsicum, mint, slice garlic stem, and finely slice some silver beet or spinach. If the broad beans need double peeling blanche and do this too (I don’t worry apart from really big ones). Put the onion, garlic stem, mint, capsicum into serving bowl ( I also had some ricotta spare so I threw that in too) and when spuds are at the ‘not quite cooked but very close stage’ turn off the heat and bung the beans and silver beet into the hot water with them so they just barely cook. Slice the chorizo,  drain the spuds, beans and silver beet and add to the serving bowl, top the salad with the chorizo and some more chopped mint if inclined, grind some salt & pepper and drizzle some good olive oil over (I used Splitter’s Creek Olive Oil). Serve with some sour cream on the side.

Very nice indeed!

I had planned to do a post on my 5 favourite garden tools but forgot to take any photos. Will keep that one for another day.

 

Day of reflection.

With the high level of energy I have been expending trying to keep 2 houses that are on the market in control, renovating to make the new old house reasonable enough to move into when we do finally sell our home and getting the vegetable garden basics in place ready for this years planting, I felt a little turmoil rolling around in my head.  Today I have done absolutely nothing apart from wander around the garden at our existing home reflecting on how much we have done here over the years both in the garden, in the house and in raising our three delightful now adult children. When we moved into this home 23 years ago it was a big empty square with a lovely acer negundo planted slap bang in the middle of the yard, an old wood shed and lots of ivy and blackberries. Over the years we have gone through 2 dogs, about 20 chooks  (the last died a couple of months ago aged 17!) many lovely meals from the garden, happy times with friends and family and many water pistol fights. Here is a little of springs offerings.

 

 

Broad beans appearing!

Nice restful day today after my heavy duty day yesterday. The weather also was not conducive to doing much outside, even though the sun came out at about 3 o’clock the wind is horrible.

I did some more research on which greenhouse I am going to buy and think I have settled on the Sproutwell Prestige 3m X 3m one. I would dearly love one of the traditional looking ones you see in British movies or those murder mystery shows like Midsomer Murder (the gardens are usually the best content) where there are  beautiful manicured gardens and usually have a quaint little gardener with a limp potting up terracotta pots with bits and pieces but they are incredibly expensive and I will not have the time to build one. Compromise!

Did a check on the broad beans at 51 (ATMT HQ) and there are signs that I may not have to wait too long.

These beans have been planted 2 weeks less than the ones at home, have less sun and are covered with bird netting. The ones at home still do not have any showing, plenty of flowers though.

Snow peas growing in my greenhouse are coming in at a rapid rate.

The lemon grass I cut right back is shooting away. Big sigh of relief!

I am attempting to grow some ‘Rosella‘ plants as I was fortunate enough to have some champagne with a Rosella flower which had been preserved in syrup placed in the glass. Was quite delicious and I believe it makes great Jams too. Think it will have to stay in the greenhouse to keep conditions warm enough to achieve flowering.

Back to the DVD player now for a dose of Luke Nguyen in Vietnam I think.

Let The Sun Shine In!

For the first time in quite a long time, here in Gippsland  we had a Saturday where the sun managed to shine for most of the day. This was delightful, it always makes you feel a little bit better in winter to have some warmth on your back when you are working outside. I actually ended up in short sleeves for a short time!

The area that is currently an old wood and briquette shed is where a greenhouse is eventually going and  I have been waiting patiently for our plumber son to remove the old tin from the framework. We hope to keep the frame and use it as a growing support for a Japanese wisteria (I much prefer the softer look about these than the chinese variety) which will run across the top front of the greenhouse and give a nice visual appearance from the drive. There has been a jasmine and a wisteria growing here for decades and they are so out of control I will replace them. With some work I could get them to hang beautifully but there has been some major torture committed to their trunks over the years and I really want them to be esthetically pleasing even at ground level. Luckily climbers are quick to establish! Grapevines have been planted on the north facing side and if the greenhouse gets too hot in summer we can run some shade cloth over the top of the frame to protect plants from sweltering inside.

If anyone has any ideas about how to disguise the brick wall behind I would love to hear them!

See the Mulberry tree on the left?

 

Aspiring Asparagus!

My newly purchased Mary Washington asparagus crowns were showing signs of shooting so it was time to get them into their permanent(ish) home. Last week I marked out a bed with temporary edging and am now planting the asparagus and a couple of grape vines. This bed is alongside where I plan to put a greenhouse at some later stage. There should be sufficient sun for the grapes and once I have removed the tin from the roof of the old shed the timber can serve as a framework for the vines and in turn shelter the greenhouse in the heat of summer. As grapes are deciduous there should also be enough sun to heat the greenhouse in winter. Fingers crossed please!

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I attended a grafting workshop last year and had a go at grafting a cherry that is supposed to be a smaller variety than most. This has been sitting in a bed all year and appears to have taken well, so today we planted it into the new vegetable area. I have no idea how it will go or how much it will impact on the rest of the area so we will just have to wait and see.

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As an added bonus I picked the first bunch for the season of cheery bulbs and some hellebore (winter rose). I just love having a vase or two flowers on display in the house!

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Preparing for warmer weather.

I always like to have plenty of tomatoes to harvest for making passata, tomato sauce, drying and of course to enjoy the incomparable taste of just eating them.

There is something quite tantalising about watching a tiny speck turn into a two meter high plant that produces such an abundance of juicy, beautiful bounty.

Planting usually happens in late July into Jiffy Peat Pots which I buy in bulk. I like these because they are made from a waste product and create a complete environment for the tiny seeds to germinate and commence their life cycle. Because we will have a much bigger area to plant in this year I am increasing the varieties (past couple of years I have only grown bottling tomatoes and a few eating varieties) that I plant. Along with my favourites of San Marzano (bottling and sauce), Gross Lisse (eating) I will be planting some Cerise (cherry size on trusses), Purple Russian and Buddia(?) which is apparently a heritage variety that I have saved seed from but can’t find much information about.

The pots are put into my greenhouse on a heat mat and an old frying pan I have improvised as a heat bed and when they are big enough I pot them up into a larger container until ready to plant out. There has been noticeable lack of sun this year so even the greenhouse is not really getting warm enough to kick-start the germination so the extra warmth from underneath the pots will help.