Converting Tomatoes.

In between having a lovely (although short), overnight Easter camping get together, I have been converting tomatoes into pickles and soup and making stock from scraps from the soup and what I had saved in the freezer.  I was delighted last week to find when I got home, a large box of Periform Abruzzo tomatoes sitting on my verandah. Two years ago, I gave George from Tarra Valley Foods  some of this variety and he saved some seed and has had wonderful success saying the yield has been great. How lovely of him to pass on some of his harvest back to me. If ever you are heading east on the Princes Highway and go through Rosedale, call in and sample (and buy) some of George and Jenny’s beautiful preserves. They also enjoy a chat and would make you feel most welcome.

So these tomatoes were converted into:

Tomato Pickles.

This Tomato Pickles Recipe was given to me a couple of years ago and it has turned into a family favourite. I rarely make tomato sauce anymore as this pickle can be used in so many ways we prefer it and you can knock some up pretty easily. Tomatoes and onions chopped and brined overnight (this is a double batch).IMG_6722 Hopefully this will be the last season I’ll need to resort to this method for cooking. Actually I can guarantee it will be the last, coz if I don’t have the new kitchen next year I won’t be making anything! Brown vinegar, sugar and spices cooked with tomatoes and onions. When cooked for about 40 mins I added a couple of tablespoons of cornflour (real, not wheat) to maintain its gluten free title.

Gas burner verandahThe pickle is then bottled. I did cut back the sugar content by about a third and we find it still quite sweet but not too much so.Tomato Pickles

Tomato Soup

I read on Francesca’s blog a couple of weeks ago about her ‘Moulin Rouge retro Tomato Soup’ and it really appealed to me so on went a batch of that. Francesca used a Mouli to press (puree) the cooked ingredients but I used my tomato passata processor and it worked well. Happy, mine isn’t as pretty as Francesca’s but it tastes lovely and we now have quite a decent stash of ready to go meals in the freezer.

Here are the veggies cooking and the last of my home-made stock going in to the pot.

IMG_6738I ran all the cooked goodies through the tomato mill a couple of times to get the maximum flavour possible extracted.IMG_6748Then into freezer containers (reclaimed take away meal boxes) for a rainy day. When I cook/reheat this I will add some fresh basil and white pepper before serving.

IMG_6749As I said, not as pretty but I was very happy with the taste. We added a dollop of greek yogurt and it was a nice balance.Tomato Soup


With the end bits of what went into the soup, a few of the onion skins and tops and tails from the pickles plus having used up the last of my stock in the soup, it was time to make up some more stock. This is so satisfying and I haven’t bought stock for years now. It is so easy. As you prepare dishes any trimmings or bones etc just get tossed into a bag or container in the freezer and you add to it every time you have some. when the bag is full, pop the whole lot into the slow cooker (not the bag!) with some peppercorns (I don’t add salt) and let it simmer away overnight.

Slow cooker stockI notice this bag also had a chicken carcass in it from a roast chicken.

IMG_6737I now have about 5 litres of beautiful stock that I know what is in. The chook has had a great feed of pickings and the remainder of the cooked matter will go into the compost. Win, win all round!


Years ago my friend bought a dryer and I have used it most seasons since to dry something or another. I usually do tomatoes then store them in Spanish olive oil with garlic and chilli and we eat them as a snack. This year though I am making tomato powder. I did this years ago and it was quite good. You dry the tomatoes really well then blitz in a processor and store the powder in a good air tight container and use it for seasoning as needed.

Drying tomatoesThe tomatoes after 6 hours in the dryer.

IMG_6755I love doing this with bananas. Buy them when cheap, slice and dip in lemon juice, dry and munch, munch, munch!

Last but not least-Seed saving

I put all of the dodgy bits of tomatoes and rough tops and bottoms into a bowl. There were loads of seed in some of them so I filled the bowl with water and will let them ferment for a few days then I will separate the seed from the pulp and dry and store the seed. Once the seed is removed the rest will go into the compost and the whole cycle begins again.

IMG_6760Next week or so will be passata time! Now that’s a fun thing to do in a limited kitchen. What are some of your best tomato saving tips?


In My Kitchen

Golly, it’s nearly too late for this month’s IMK post, a blogging forum graciously hosted by Celia at Fig Jam & Lime Cordial.

I’ve been house sitting for my daughter while she was away and taking advantage of having a ‘real’ oven. See my post “A quickie” to see how I coped with that!

So, in my kitchen this month,IMG_5361Is a vase of lovely spring flowers, and my new cast iron dutch oven. Is it wrong to buy a pot because it matches the tablecloth I bought in Sumatra?IMG_5363Is a big pot of stock simmering in the slow cooker. Smells great! I’ve found this is the best way to make stock and we never run out any more.IMG_5334Is a big basket of freshly picked oranges, kale and broccoli. It is just about the end of the crop for all three so I’m making the most of them. Tonight’s dinner will be leek, broccoli and mushroom risotto. The broccoli have been absolutely sensational this year. Harvesting from next planting is still a few weeks away yet.IMG_5365On the fridge is the next page of the list of instructions we found left by Sheila for the housekeeper. We think circa 1960, first time I’ve ever heard of spare keys being kept in a pin cushion!20130630_142902In my kitchen is an old cheese/butter cellar. This is built under the floor of the kitchen. It’s about 500 deep and 400 wide, there is a hole covered by mesh on the lower section where cool air from under the house enters into the cavity keeping things cool. You access it by lifting a bit of wood on the bottom shelf of a base cupboard. I’m hoping to incorporate this into our new kitchen design by using it as the bones of a cooling cupboard. This was very common way of keeping perishables apparently before refrigeration was commonplace.IMG_5368This months view out to the oak tree. Amazing that the new leaves are so well established in such quick time. It’s almost as the last autumn leaf falls the new ones pop out. This tree is a great haven for birds of all kinds. It is hilarious watching the pecking order. First come in the lorikeets, then the corellas, rosellas, then galahs push their way in and then back to the lorikeets. Today, I caught a couple of Corella lovebirds up there preening over each other.  I just couldn’t live somewhere where there were no trees!







Coming together and enjoying the harvest.

More blooming concrete!

More concrete!We purchased three established cut leaf silver birch trees to fill a gap behind ‘the patch’ and while Mr ATMT was digging holes to plant them he came across MORE  concrete down about a foot from the surface. This is what we have been using as the pavers in the pathways. Wish we knew what the original purpose of this was! The area leads into what was once stables and it is too consistent and level to be fill. With this house having once been the doctors residence and with a neighbouring house being the original hospital we wonder whether there was a linking path or drive between the two. The concrete isn’t very thick so wouldn’t have heavy use to cope with unlike our driveway that you land a jumbo jet on!

Can see it taking shape…..happy with that!View from drive

View from drive way into back yard. Reclaimed concrete become pavers leading into ‘the patch’, new grass seed has had first hair cut.IMG_1617 View from top of last shot showing the mulberry tree, the newly planted cut leaf silver birches and our keepers of the gate.IMG_1628

View from rear of yard back to driveway. Couple of chairs under the mulberry tree, a fence will be installed around the vegie patch making this a quiet haven of tranquility once planting is established. IMG_1646

I moved 2 compost bins full of compost and leaf mold which nicely mulched this bed around the new trees. Very rewarding indeed.


Lawn area. In total we have moved in about 25 meters of fill and topsoil to make this yard level. Lawn seed now sown and we anxiously await its appearance.

Waiting, waiting, waiting……. Oh so patiently.


First cherries forming. I’ve never grown cherries before so am really excited to see these little cherubs appearing. I am even more chuffed because this tree was one I created when I attended a grafting workshop year before last. Supposed to be on a dwarf (or smaller) rootstock than normal.1st Tomato

First tomato fruiting. This plant is one that has kept going in the greenhouse since last autumn. I cut it back and fed it well and it isn’t far from harvesting.

Bean attacked!

Bean attack! The first sign of beans I posted last week has been cut short (pardon the pun!) by some munching critter. Not sure if its earwigs or something else. My potato crop foliage is being decimated by earwigs and none of the usual traps are working at all. Anyone got any suggestions?

RaspberriesFirst sign of raspberries producing. Don’t tell the earwigs.

This weeks harvests.

First spuds

First bandicooted spuds (potatoes), shallots, asparagus, parsley, silverbeet, coriander, mint, lettuce, thyme, oregano, beetroot leaves for salad and some good old faithful lemons. Getting more and more all the time.

IMG_1669I also picked my first bunch of roses at this house. Stunning! The dark pink one is called ‘Blue River’, massive flower and nothing like the tag but it is beautiful.

In the kitchen.

Slow cooker stock

The sharing of knowledge, tips and hints available to us now because of the internet is quite mind-blowing. I spend a lot of time reading others blogs and posts and I have to say the best tip I’ve learned is how to make stock in the slow cooker. I read this post and it ‘just made such damned good sense’ that I have been doing it ever since. I had run out so on went the slow cooker full of stuff I’d collected in the freezer and a bag of chicken carcasses I bought last time I went to the Footscray Market. Freezer fully stocked up again (ooh, another bad pun!).

Goats cheese and asparagus tart.

Asparagus and goat cheese tart

I’ve been reading a lot of Annabel Lanbein’s recipes lately and her common sense style really appeals to me. I found her recipe for asparagus and goat cheese tart and made a few adjustments so I didn’t have to go to the shop. Basically the only things the same as her recipe was that I used some goats cheese, asparagus and some eggs. Everything else was pretty much substituted for what was at hand.

I used puff instead of shortcrust pastry, ricotta instead of cream cheese, sour cream instead of cream, left out the parmesan to keep a bit lighter, added a slosh of milk to compensate for thicker sour cream and oh, I did also use parsley! Served with a hot (warm potato salad) made from our freshly picked potatoes (microwaved for 4 minutes) to which I added some S&P, lightly fried off shallot, mushroom, capsicum and snow peas. I then stirred in about a tablespoon of sour cream and it was beautiful. A couple of bits of lettuce and some beetroot leaves with chopped tomato and it was a lovely dinner. So satisfying putting together food you’ve grown.

With the left over tart mix I thought it may make good muffins so I added some grape-seed oil, a couple of handfuls of SR flour, a handful of grated cheese, some finely chopped shallot and a bit of milk to thin mix. I sprinkled a bit of parmesan over them in the last couple of minutes. This was a winner! Really  nice, light and tasty.

asparagus and goat cheese muffins

Covered a lot this weekend. Looking forward to a day off on Tuesday and spending it with my family getting together, having a few champagnes and bets on the Melbourne Cup! Hope I back a winner!