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.

A quick whip around the patch.

I haven’t done a post for a while on what’s happening in the veggie patch/garden. This is most likely because I haven’t really been doing much out there. With us now being into the third season of establishing the garden, we are finding that it is much more about maintenance rather than building new areas. We are still working on developing paths, contemplation spots and have yet to start tackling the front yard so it won’t be all sit back and relax for a while yet.

Peeking into the greenhouse.

I have a couple of sugar baby watermelon seedlings that appear to be happy and growing well. These may just take over the entire greenhouse!

Sugar baby watermelon
Sugar baby watermelon

One of last years capsicum has over-wintered well and is throwing flowers with some baby caps appearing, this is much earlier than usual.

Capsicum flowering
Capsicum flowering

I have taken some cuttings from the perennial Rocoto chilli and these seem to be quite successful. I’ve used the method similar to planting laterals that are removed from tomatoes that grow so well.

Rocoto cutting
Rocoto cutting

There is a flower on the mature Rocoto Chilli. It was very rude and wouldn’t look at the camera!

Rocoto flower
Rocoto flower

Out in the Patch

The flowers on my Souvenir de la malmaison rose have suffered badly from the excessive amounts of rain we have experienced but it is growing nicely.

Souvenir de la Maison Rose
Souvenir de la malmaison Rose

I have however, had some good results from the roses in the laneway but I didn’t get a good photo. The lilac is magnificent! First time flowering this year and I am in love.

Lilac
Lilac

This years garlic crop is looking terrific.

Garlic 2016
Garlic 2016

The shiitake mushrooms are giving the best yield in quite a few years. I think the high rain and humidity is just what they demand.

Shiitake
Shiitake

I have some baby figs, YAY!

img_0045and some baby apples.

Apple babies
Apple babies

This button lettuce is proving to be a lovely variety. It is working well as a ‘pick as you need’ lettuce and bounces back quickly. The silver beet and kale behind it is all that remains from the last planting. I need space for tomatoes!

img_0059In the berry house, the raspberries, loganberries and thornless blackberries are all flowering profusely.

Berry house
Berry house

and the grapevine is starting to cover the climbing frame on the roof well with lots of grape clusters evident.

Grape vine
Grape vine

I have some pretty little daisies that bees and hoverflies just love and it is making me smile every time I see it.

Happy daisies
Happy daisies

All in all, it’s looking pretty good.

img_9909I trimmed a lot of the parsley stalks that were threatening to seed, picked some lemons from our new tree, found some beetroot I didn’t know about (too woody for roasting but I think it will be ok as a dip), some new potatoes, some self sown garlic, mint and herbs and we had enough to throw into a salsa verde for tea.

Harvest pickings
Harvest pickings

A  peek in the new bedroom.

I have decided that I will now continue working in one room at a time and it will be completely finished before I move onto the next (please remind me of my pledge when I stray). We always seem to fall into the trap of saying “we will get back to that” and it takes a very long time to get back, but no more. I am absolutely going to follow through on this! This is the new spare (guest) bedroom that was part of the exteno. Painting is almost finished, carpet is booked for laying,

img_1023We have rehung the old kitchen door on this room and that needs to be repaired and painted. Mr ATMT did the skirting in the robe space this afternoon so that now needs painting. I absolutely love this colour. The walls are Taubman’s Raincloud and the ceiling and trim is Dulux Classic White. img_1024 I have almost finished painting the window and it is looking great. The radiator that was in the old room before demolition has been cleaned and polished. This was pain, one of those jobs where you use a knitting needle with a cloth over the end to get into all the little nooks and crannies but worth it.img_1022I am already becoming aware while I write, that there will be one unfinished part of this room and that is internal fit out of the wardrobe. We will use a set of the shelving units we had in the temporary kitchen  I think. They are really good and will leave some options for the final design.

What jobs do you leave until you put the house on the market?

Tasmania Top Bits

Just some last highlights of our Tasmania trip. From Tarraleah we headed to Richmond and parked the camping trailer in a great bush site of the Richmond Caravan Park for a week doing day trips around the island. We covered Hobart, the capital, Bruny Island which is the most magnificent island south-east of Tasmania. It had been 20 years since visiting there and although much more developed it is still beautiful. There are boutique food production places dotted throughout Tasmania, many doing some wonderful things with cheese, cider and preserves.  There are many wonderful historic sites of both convict days and early settlement. I’ll continue the tour using the photos!

Hobart Botanical Gardens

One of the places I did insist on going to was where they film the ABC Gardening Australia vegetable gardening segment (commonly referred to as ‘the patch’). This was great to see, it will be so much better now that I have offered ‘my two bobs worth’ (for those outside Australia this means my opinion) to the head gardener.  IMG_3645They have a rocoto chilli planted there that is amazing! Fully laden with fruit, no sign of frost damage and he reckons no protection was offered to it. IMG_5999I have my doubts about that. This is my rocoto after winter frosts and it had carefully and lovingly protected from the heavy frost. Hopefully it will re-shoot!Rocoto chilli frost damageThe Japanese Garden, just beautiful.IMG_6012 Now this is a Mulberry tree! IMG_5989  Just making sure he’s got things sorted before we head off! All looks good. Carry on.IMG_3644Entally House – a beautiful historic mansion (although it is showing signs that funding for restoration and repairs may have been cut). IMG_4002 I was very impressed that it has what is believed to be the only surviving Victorian Glasshouse in the country. Now that’s a greenhouse!IMG_4005 Hows this for a water filter? It must have taken weeks for about a cup of water to filter through and come out the bottom.IMG_4016 This is a cracker! They planted grapes in the garden outside and trained the vines into the glasshouse where they grew along rods ensuring fruits were protected from birds and weather extremes.IMG_4031We accidentally stumbled upon ‘Woolmers‘ a world heritage listed convict site. I wish we’d planned a bit ahead for visiting here. All I can say is if you are in Tasmania and you like history you MUST visit this place. There have been 6 generations of the Archer family living here since it was settled in 1817 and everything they lived with, worked with and played with is still in place. Too much to relay, check it out! I’m going to have to build this in the garden, what do you think it is?IMG_4035 Bet you didn’t pick it is a smoking room! Not sure who would be the grog getter these days.IMG_4033Some pig food! It was great coming back to camp in the afternoon and firing up our Ozpig. We are absolutely thrilled with the way this little beauty performed over the week. Some of our fare was: Vegetable soup with a pork sausage in it of course!IMG_5903 A quick fire up in the morning for breaky and a cuppa.IMG_5907 Moroccan styled chicken and rice.IMG_5985And the highlight I have to say, was the pot-sticker dumplings I made from the leftover pork belly from lunch at the Kettering pub.

IMG_39771907898_10152738994429455_6160625857188099297_o

It is with a heavy heart I write this post as our dear friend who lives in Tassie, that we unable to catch up with as they are travelling the mainland, passed away suddenly while they were in the red centre. Love ya Mick!

IMG_5941
Sunset at Richmond

 

Rueben’s Rubies

I know that’s a bit of a corny heading, but with the ruby colour these quince turned out it just seemed to fit. It still amazes me how such ordinary fruit can become so beautiful and tasty after cooking.

A couple of months ago we had the pleasure of joining some friends at a degustation dinner at a great eating establishment in Mt Evelyn. Billy Goat Hill Brasserie is well worth a visit if ever you are in the area (even if you’re not, go for a drive!). Along with some great menu choices, Reuben the chef and other staff are great hosts and go out of their way to make your experience a positive one. There is an obvious passion and commitment to good wholesome food and sustainability which is evident from before you even enter. Part of our dinner included some sensational quince and I cheekily asked Reuben of he would share his secret and he very graciously obliged. Just have a look at these beauties!

IMG_3395

These were Reuben’s instructions-Peel and core into 8, bring the peelings, cores and some lemon rind to boil with about 20% sugar to quince (that’s around one cup to every five quinces), simmer for about 10 minutes then strain the liquid over the peeled quince in a baking tray. The water should cover the quince, give them some room… put foil over the top and place in a low oven until soft (about two hours). Take the foil off, bring the heat up and get some colour on to them. After another hour or so, give them a shake once or twice and yum! Good luck!

Served with Annabel Langbein’s 3 ingredient chocolate mousse and some pure cream it was an extremely rich dessert but heavenly. The sweetness of the quinces syrupy juice with the strong chocolate meant I had to virtually lick my plate clean! Thanks Reuben! Can’t wait till we are back down that way again.

Quince RecipeChilli Jam-not so chilly!

Our harvest of chillies, both jalapeño and rocoto is starting to reach it’s peak, so yesterday I thought I’d make some chilli jam for using as a marinade, dips and all sorts of things. These jalapeño are from just one bush and I have another 3 to go! Any tips as to good preserving recipes much appreciated.

ChilliesI used Annabel Langbein’s (yes, again!) Chilli Jam recipe as a base and all went according to plan. Her recipe uses 8 long red chillies so I had to have a guess at how many of our chillies were the equivalent. I also cut the sugar back a bit and when the paste was processed I weighed it and used the equivalent weight of sugar. Cooked up really well but boy it has a kick to it!

IMG_3381Slow Cooker Roast Chicken-Asian Style

I had planned on doing a plain, normal old roast chicken in the slow cooker but was keen to try the new chilli jam on something so I reconfigured my plans.  The chicken went into the slow cooker with some sliced ginger, a chilli and some coriander. I rubbed the outside with sesame oil and cooked on high for 3 hours then turned down to low, basted with the juices.

I soaked some rice noodles so they would be ready at serving time, prepared some vegetables for stir frying, broccoli, carrot, snow peas, bok choy, green capsicum and spring onions. I microwaved these for 1 minute and left covered until serving time when I tossed them into the wok with some ginger, sesame oil and a small amount of stock. I shredded the chicken and had kept it hot by wrapping it in foil and leaving in the slow cooker until serving time. All of this worked well as it meant everything was ready to go when our son arrived and there were no deadlines to worry about.

To serve I placed some rice noodles onto the plate, topped with the stir fried vegetables then the shredded chicken. Garnished with spring onions and added the chilli jam on the side so we could use as desired or not. I was a bit nervous about the jam being too hot so also served a bowl of plain chilli sauce for those not quite as partial to hot flavours. The heat intensity actually diminished quite a bit when eaten with the other ingredients. All in all very nice.

IMG_3400Thanks to Mirboo Pastured Poultry for such flavoursome chicken once again it was so juicy and tasty. Need to restock now, that was the last of it.

 

Red!

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

Baby steps but getting there!

With the addition of 3 new wicking beds in the area allocated as the produce garden we can start to see how the final area will look and how workable it will be. I’m REALLY excited that I have more much-needed space to plant all the things I want to grow. The first filling has been placed between the pavers and will be topped with a lighter coloured gravelly mix soon. A water feature has been added that will allow  lizards and bees to rehydrate and is soothing to listen to while in the garden. The only jobs left to do in this area is fence it, get some espaliered fruit-growing on the rear fence, build compost bays, put permanent edging on asparagus bed and build a spot for my shiitake mushrooms to live. The area is proving to work well in its layout with good sunshine, plenty of space between beds and it is reasonably protected from strong wind (this has been tested well and truly with the weather of late!).

Productive Garden layout
Fence and gates will be along the area where the brick edging finishes. Hoping to build a really rustic gate as entry and a climbing rose (or grape) will be planted to cover an arch.

 What a beautiful day!

Saturday would have to have been the nicest day weather wise we have seen for ages! We had planned on getting stuck into doing some work finishing off the bedroom but you could not possibly pass up an opportunity to be outside on such a day.

I had 3 Big and dirty jobs that needed doing, sorting out some of the compost, cleaning out the chook house and removing one layer of worm castings from the worm farm. The leaf mold I started in June has progressed much better than last years efforts! This year I chopped the oak leaves with the mower and lined the wire ‘bin’ with black plastic. Today I turned the ‘cake’ into one of the Gedye bins and I wouldn’t be surprised if its right to use in a couple of months. I got 2 big bins full of chicken muck which is going to be composted separately and used on the citrus trees. The worm farm was well overdue for a cleanse and I now have a very large bucket of lovely worm castings which will be used in my potting mix and around seedlings.

Leaf mold 'cake'

 

Our efforts at attracting more birds and bees to the yard seems to be working. We have noticed wattle birds, many different parrots including lorikeets and crimson rosella coming in. The flowering callistemon always seems to have a visitor in it!

Rainbow lorikeet Wattle bird

 

Lots of spring flowers are appearing and I love seeing their cheery faces. Rose buds are forming and my Souvenir de la Mel Maison climbing rose is in flower. Cant wait to see it climbing over the arbor entry to the vegie patch!

Souvenir de la Mel Maison rose Granny's Bonnets

Poppy Pansies, lobelia, herbs and SLMM rose in bud.

Harvesting and planting at the moment.

We are starting to get strawberries, lots more forming so thats exciting!

IMG_1493I’ve been picking coriander, silver beet, beetroot, lettuce, asparagus (which seems to be slowing down), oregano and mint. I have planted (with all that new space) beans, both dwarf and climbing, zucchini, radishes, eggplant, corn, snow peas, capsicum,black cherry tomatoes and in the greenhouse, rockmelons also known as cantaloupe. I have planted a couple of tomatoes in the greenhouse but will hold off for another week or so planting out the main crop. It is traditional to plant tomatoes on Melbourne Cup Day in Victoria, but mine might go in next weekend.

IMG_1571Baby radish seedling coming through in one of the new wicking beds. Love seeing seeds come to life!

Rocoto Chilli.

My husband was given a seedling from a workmate of a Rocoto Chilli. I had never heard of them but apparently it is a perennial chilli and can keep producing fruit for several years. I did some googling and it sounds too good to be true, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes.

Rocoto chilli

 

This is why I keep chipping away!

Vegetarian pasta

Vegetarian pasta with my asparagus and herbs. Mmmm, mmm.

 

 

Drained!

For some reason we both feel incredibly physically and emotionally drained this weekend. Although I would argue that I didn’t do much, on reflection quite a lot was achieved. I had a lovely time on Saturday with my daughter accompanying me to my cello lesson and we then went on a nursery hop through the Dandenong’s looking for those ‘just perfect plants’. Unfortunately the bad weather forced us to concede defeat earlier than hoped but we both made a few purchases, in particular some roses and came home keen to get into planting mode.

We got a call from the agent handling the sale of our property at Fish Creek and finally after 3 years on the market we may have a buyer. I think this has knocked us a bit as we both love the place but it is just not viable to continue managing running another property when we have so much to do here.

Outside

The new garage/shed is coming along nicely with the cladding and weather boards fitted. I had a bit of an ethical dilemma with this as the cladding is a James Hardie product and I would prefer not so support their business due to their disgusting handling and cover up of known issues with asbestos but we could not find a suitable alternative. I just hope some of our purchase funds ends up in the victim support account.

Shed making progress Workshop window

Now waiting for the roof plumber to come back and finish the capping, spouting and downpipes, on with a coat of paint, wire up the power and it will be, dare I say it-Finished!

In the garden

Nothing better than on a cold bleak day, spending some time in the greenhouse! It was just lovely having the sun on my back as I worked away planting seed. I have been getting staff at work to keep their take away coffee cups for me as I thought they would make good planting containers. We’ll see how they shape up over the next few weeks. I have made my own seed raising mix this year using coconut fibre, worm castings and sifted potting mix. I’ve made about 60 litres for the cost of 2 bags of commercial seed raising mix (approx 4 litres). Put mix into an old rubbish bin, on with the lid and rolled it around to mix it all together. Mix was lovely to work with and the flower seed I started last week are looking quite happy!

Seed raising mix

Seed Raising Mix in recycled coffee cup ready for planting

Poppy Seeds

California Poppy seed peeping out. I just love it when seeds come to life!
Potted Coffee cups

I’ve sown a few different varieties of tomato seed, hope the coffee cups hold up! So far I’ve planted black krim, san marzano, grosse lisse, black cherry, roma, mini yellow roma and another I can’t remember! I try and plant quite a few to sell at a community day in October and for staff at work.

There were a few old desks being cleared out at school so I grabbed one and have set it up as a work/potting bench in the greenhouse. So far it is great, room for all sorts of goodies under the desktop, good height (adjustable) and room for bins of potting mix etc underneath.

Potting bench

Harvests

I’ve managed to pick some asian greens, parsley, coriander (from the hydro one I planted out), the first picking from the oregano I transplanted from the old place and some absolutely delicious oranges. The first year we owned this place there was no sign of fruit at all on the orange tree. A good prune, a couple of very big feeds and we have a bumper crop. I sectioned the orange, drizzled with a small amount of honey, a pinch of cinnamon and let it soak for a while. Most delicious indeed!

Orange

Chicken Cacciatori…..ish

Good old slow cooker to the rescue yet again. I managed to remember to take some chicken fillets out of the freezer before going to bed Sat night and thought it had been a while since we had cacciatore so before hitting the yard I literally threw everything into the slow cooker. Couple of improvisations were made but the end result was very satisfying and tasty. Didn’t have any olives, so capers were substituted, didn’t have any white wine so used red. I also added a ‘Rocoto’ Chilli,

Rocoto

these were given to my husband by a colleague and apparently are a perennial. Taste was great in the dinner, not too much but enough to notice. We have been given a seedling of one so I am keen to see how it goes.Could have been cooked a little longer to thicken more but wasn’t really an issue. Soul food served with mash, just great after a busy day out in the cold.

Chicken Cacciatori...ish