Putting things together.

We are very close to the finishing stages of our kitchen and exteno project. IMG_8852I’m in the process of moving everything from the temporary kitchen, the old dentist room, the shed and the spare bedroom into our new kitchen. So far all the bits are fitting in beautifully and I will have oodles of space to store everything. I’m being ruthless and items not thought about, used in 12 months or damaged are going straight to the op shop pile or tossed.  We still haven’t got water and gas connected in the kitchen but we do have it in the laundry so we have been able to clear the plastic table and babies bath out from the bathroom and can wash dishes in the laundry. This has been the greatest challenge I’ve faced with this whole experience. I really didn’t like having a loo in the dishwashing area!IMG_8848We can now work on plans for renovating this bathroom. The part with insulation is where we have extended the wall out from the existing room. Love the drapes? 2 shower curtains that do the job well enough. We still have to do a few jobs but it is certainly well on the way to completion and the space is working extremely well.IMG_8887 IMG_8859I’m still using the 2 butane gas camping stoves and hope this box of butane cans is the last I will need to buy for home use. They are an excellent product and you can cook everything on these cookers, I suspect there may even be times when I take one outside to the verandah to cook with.  IMG_8904We had friends around for tea last night and I felt like doing something ‘Asian’ so went to the gorgeous Dumpling Sisters website for some inspiration. My first exposure to the Dumpling Sisters was when Celia posted about their fantastic home made dumplings and I made the wrappers from scratch. Their dumplings are great and the wrappers are oh so easy! Anyway, for this meal I made their Mapo Tofu, well, it was improvised based around what I had and what I couldn’t get locally. I didn’t have chilli bean sauce so I used black bean sauce and added some chilli sauce and some of my home made chilli paste. I couldn’t get soft tofu, so I used hard but fried it off first to give it a nicer texture. I used veal instead of beef as I had taken some out of the freezer earlier to make  dumplings with. I added fresh beans, omitted the black beans and served with chopped red capsicum and spring onions. It was delicious!IMG_8863Next  up was their ‘One Pot Cauli Satay’. I’m not a huge fan of satay but I love cauliflower and really enjoyed this meal. I added a chicken thigh fillet, halved the curry powder (Keens) and also added peas. This was great! Glad I cut back on the curry as I was concerned that it would be too hot, but with using half it turned out to be just right.IMG_8864For desert (very unusual for us) I made lychee and orange sorbet. This was absolutely delicious, served with our freshly picked oranges that had been segmented and sitting in their own juice for a couple of hours. I only made half the recipe and it was more than enough for the four of us. We still have some in the freezer for when I need a hit. This would have to be one of the easiest and lightest of deserts I have ever made. It was perfect for finishing off the chinese style  dishes and cleansing the pallette.IMG_8870Today I bottled my Kombucha, I added ginger to 2 bottles and left one plain. I believe this will now do a 2nd fermentation in the bottle resulting in a bubbly beverage. Fingers crossed. I made a fresh batch with the scoby and a fresh batch of sweet black tea. Like the reflection on the bottles!IMG_8898I love my soda stream,  I have had one since they were first released and came with small glass bottles. I love the concept and my main reason for using one is to avoid all the plastic bottles soda water comes in. We usually use fresh fruit or lime cordial that you can buy in glass bottles for flavouring. I wasn’t really happy when I read this on the side of one of their new style bottles. Why on earth would these have such a short shelf life? Some research is called for here, but I suspect I might be going back to an old fashioned soda syphon that come with metal gas bombs and a steel carbonation chamber. IMG_8892I’m working on getting better results with baking bread in my new oven but I must say, the Sunbeam Pizza Bake N Grill is hard to match! Still a way to go but it does taste great.IMG_8874My capacola is doing what it should be doing. Not smelly, no blowflies, no mould and it actually smells wonderful. I’ll watch the conditions carefully and if it starts to warm up I’ll take it our daughters house which has a very cool and humid underfloor area.IMG_8856We’ve been picking oranges and amazingly Rene has been laying eggs. She is over 4 years old and we thought she’d lost it but it appears we were wrong. This equates to pretty much one a day. IMG_8851I’m impressed!

Sourdough sharing, garden and exteno update.

It has been great to be able to share some sourdough loaves with our friends at their social gatherings over the last couple of weekends. Home-made bread always seems to go down so well!

After being away for 5 weeks, it took a couple of days to re-invigorate Phoenicia (my pet name for my starter) into action by feeding her twice a day, she was back in form and rearing to go after 3 days. Good sourdough culture is pretty resilient and strong and can easily be revived after quite a long time if it has been kept refrigerated. IMG_8423-002With this dough made of 80% bread flour and 20% rye flour, I made an assortment of loaves to share and 2 loaves for ourselves.IMG_8433 I have quite a few people ask how I manage to bake the bread in a barbecue. It has taken quite a bit of experimenting but I seem to be coming up with some fairly consistent loaves these days. This cold weather does mean a lot of watching as there is a massive amount of heat loss in the barbecue. It then leads to over-tweaking which can lead to easily burning. It is usually only baguette style loaves I do in the barbecue as they just won’t fit in the ‘toy oven’.

I shape the loaves and prove them on a couche (heavy linen cloth but you can use a T-towel) until about 30 minutes before baking. Barbecue is then turned on, I light the two outside burners on medium and the 2 centre burners on low. I have a large floor tile over the hot plate and grill rack to diffuse the heat and an old cast iron pan with hot rocks in it which will be used as a steam injector when baking. These 2 loaves are ready to be slashed/scored and baked.

IMG_8442 They then go into the barbecue on a little rack to lift off the really hot base and I pour about a cup of water over the hot rocks to create steam then close the lid. The 2 middle burners are now turned off, just the 2 outside ones remain on. These 2 loaves were cooked for 8 minutes then turned and the outside burners turned to low, then cooked for a further 15 minutes.IMG_8444This is the Sunbeam barbecue I use, it’s been a great workhorse for about 10 years.IMG_8443 Finished loaves included, an olive, chilli and cheese loaf, a rosemary baguette which I sprinkled sea salt on top of mimicking Carol Fields’s ‘panmarino‘ yeasted loaf which I baked last year. 2 plain baguettes and 2 crusty 900g loaves. This is the basket of goodies ready to take to a party.IMG_8450Things obviously didn’t stop growing while we were away! This is my garlic bed which has had self-sown poppies decide to take up residence. I thought I eliminated these last year but obviously not.IMG_8418-002 Now that’s more like it!IMG_8421I found a couple of giant celeriac which I’m yet to cook. I hope they aren’t too woody, they may end up frozen and used as stock flavouring if they are.IMG_8419-001In the greenhouse I was greeted with loads of cheery rocoto chillies so these along with  a couple of red capsicum, were turned into some Turkish red pepper paste. I’ll let you know how that goes later!IMG_8414 I was very concerned that my precious oyster plant had croaked it but I notice some new little shoots appearing. This must be a perennial, I can’t find much info on the internet so if anyone can share their expertise I would love to hear from you.

IMG_8416The eucalyptus caesia (silver princess) turned on a beautiful show for our return. The wattle birds are loving this tree.IMG_8412-001and what a delight seeing some cheery jonquils in flower.  IMG_8408It is nice to be home and to get back into the exteno for its final stages. Floors are now done so kickboards can go on, bench tops in this week, architrave and skirting boards ordered, painter booked and most exciting part is I can organise for the oven to be delivered. Ironic isn’t though, our son, who is our plumber left the week before we got home to go on his 12 week honeymoon. One day the planets will align.FloorsIt is lovely to be home!

Catching up.

Well, what a cracker of a weekend weather wise. How could anyone want for any better than we have experienced this weekend in West Gippsland? I’ll start my little catch up post covering how we spent today in the back yard enjoying the most wonderful sunshine and balmy weather. I did say this year was going to be busy and yep, it is!

Menu for lunch today was: (With limited photos, too nice a day!)

Pork Belly which was a marriage of Bill Granger’s Crispy Pork Belly with Caramel Vinegar and Annabel Langbein’s Crispy pork belly. I had never eaten nor cooked pork belly before today, in fact I never used to eat pork at all. I think I suffered from that condition where you are fed crappy quality food as a child and the memory of how awful it was sticks forever. I would always say pork smelled like a pig sty and all but gagged when it was cooking, but I never get that anymore. Anyway, I was quite nervous at the prospect of cooking this so I went for using Bill’s Caramel Vinegar Sauce to serve and Annabel’s method for cooking. With my not so reliable cooking equipment, I liked the idea of cooking the pork in the milk bath. What a great result. I cooked it in the gas pizza oven, after I had carefully scored the skin and blow dried it with my hairdryer. Annabel said it is important for the skin to be very dry so I dug around in a cupboard to find the hairdryer for this job.

Scored pork bellyIt was baked in the gas pizza oven at 240ish for about 40 minutes, I then added enough milk to the roasting pan to cover most of the meat section, being careful not to cover skin. This went back in the oven turned down to low (I had to occasionally open and close the door to maintain a low temperature) for about 2 hours . I then removed from the oven and let it rest for about 20 minutes. I wish someone had offered the tip that it is easier to cut if you actually remove the bone plate first! I eventually got a system going and we were off and running. Crackle was wonderful and the meat was sticky, juicy and beautiful.

Pork bellyI roasted some potatoes and pumpkin in the barbecue, spuds were the beautiful Dutch Creams form Wendy and Tony at Thorpdale Organics. Yes, they are as good as Wendy always tells us. I par boiled them first and let them completely dry before roasting after applying a light dressing of olive oil. You can also get these potatoes and much more great organic produce at The Trafalgar Spud Shed. Remember to take a bag and save on plastic waste.BBQ Roast vegetablesI baked a herb and chilli loaf in the barbecue as well. No chance that stayed around long enough for a photo. My youngest son just devours this when he sees it.Herb sourdough loaf I also served my now favourite, freekah with roast tomato, hazelnut  and capsicum salad along with some green beans. The caramel vinegar sauce of Bill Granger’s was an absolute knock out. Asian overtones, syrupy, sticky and decadent. Definitely a do again recipe.

IMG_6888 Dessert was very light, slow cooked quince which I’d cooked with sugar, star anise and cinnamon and topped with greek yogurt, crumbled ginger nut biscuit and grated lemon zest. Some fruit and chocolate nut bread thinly sliced to mop up the quince juice and it was surprisingly good. It looks a bit strange in the photo as the crumbled ginger nut and lemon zest is a bit clumped.IMG_6896The feeding frenzy in the sun, beautiful day, family and friends. Perfection!IMG_6880

A couple of bread bits.

I made an experimental loaf of bread using dates, figs, a couple of prunes, macadamia nuts, skim milk powder and using Chad Robertson’s standard Country Loaf recipe (well almost). IMG_6875I must say I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome, it looks a little dry in this pic but it wasn’t. I sliced it thinly and served it with our slow roasted quince dessert but I think it would be beautiful if toasted and served with a mashed banana on top.

IMG_0403Along with the chocolate fruit and nut bread, the herb bread and our weekly bake, I made a couple of loaves for our guests to take home. These were just basic white sourdough loaves which always go down well and I like offering them as a gift.

IMG_0404When you bake or create something it is always recommended that you record how and what you did so that if you need to recreate you can, or if you have problems you can possibly work out what may have contributed to the problem. When I was making a lot of cheese at home I was pedantic at recording every single step I did. I find I don’t have the same discipline with bread making. I do make an effort and sometimes I manage to record everything including ambient and dough temperatures but more often than not I end up with a little scribble that looks like this. Hope I never need to know what the 500g in the prune and cocoa mix is for (it is flour but I didn’t get that far). I also haven’t recorded that I added dates, figs, prunes, macadamia nuts, I think some cranberries……see I should be more committed.

IMG_0405I must admit I have Maurizio envy, look at his entries recording his bread making. I can only aspire to as good as he with both baking and recording. Sigh………

theperfectloaf-mybestsourdoughrecipe-3The exteno

We are both rather ‘over’ the reno at the moment, what’s that thing athletes go through when they are close to the end of an event and find it hard to continue? I think we are at that point, along with just being plain tired (which leads to doing silly things like busting sinks) and in need of some R&R. All is going well apart from the hiccup of busting the new sink.

IMG_6868IMG_0392Working when tired makes you do stupid things like topple tall cupboards over before they are secured. I like to think this sink actually saved me from injury as I was working below the cupboard that fell and the sink broke its fall. See the new wormy chestnut floorboards peeking though? Not showing any more yet!

Picnic bread.

Today was our annual Long Table Lunch Picnic Day. This happens to be one of my favourite days of the year, a group of us pack a picnic, wine, chairs and nibbles and spend the day on the bank of (and usually in) the Latrobe River just outside of Moe. We set up our tables, spread with the fare to share and sample each others offerings. I usually take lots of photos of the day, but this year I just kicked back and relaxed. I didn’t even get in and have a swim, first time ever that’s happened.

I made a few different breads to take, this pic is of me trying to juggle dough in my makeshift kitchen. This is my entire bench space! Left to right shows walnut, apple & cranberry dough. This was made by pulling dough into a rectangle and spreading it with chopped walnuts, cranberries that had been soaked to ‘fluff’ them up, a grated apple and a sprinkling of brown sugar, cinnamon and mixed spice. I had thought I would make a twist from this but it evolved differently. Back left is dough that is going to become herb batard, plain batard and baguettes and on right are 2 loaves of normal family bread. The herbs in front went into the  herb loaf along with a finely chopped chilli and some grated parmesan cheese.

Sourdough provingThings change! I decided to put the two pieces of the walnut dough together to even out how the nuts were distributed and this turned into a big roll. I curled it up and put into a tin.

Sourdough walnut, apple and cranberry loaf.

This went into my ‘toy oven’ with a dutch oven lid over the top for about 25 minutes then without lid for about 25 more minutes until internal temp hit about 105. Wasn’t at all confidant that this would work………

Not to worry! I iced the bun and added finely grated lemon rind zest. This was a winner!

IMG_6383 Everyone  at the picnic loved it and I asked for feedback about what to change, we decided that maybe just a clear bun glaze with the lemon might be better. It was very divided between icing or no icing, but all agreed it was lovely.IMG_0813These are the other loaves after baking. All in all a good bake considering the baguettes and batards were cooked on the gas barbecue. The herb bread was a winner again and I have a couple of people wanting me to make them some on a regular basis. That’s  lovely’

SOURDOUGH BREADI did some more paint removal on the chimney before we headed off to the picnic and it is ticking away nicely. Slowly, but nicely. Very happy indeed with the PeelAway product.

Brick chimney paint stripping Peel AwayGuess what tomorrow’s job is!

Extended autolyse sourdough trial

Sourdough loaves using extended autolyse.Someone in one of my training classes (eons back when I was a Training Officer), once made the comment of “Geeze, the more you learn the more you realise you don’t know”.

This is a little how I feel about bread baking. The more experienced I become, the more I realise there are still millions of options as to how to create a loaf of bread that you are happy with. I think that’s the ultimate goal, finding a method and a recipe that gives you what you are happy with. Once you know the basics you can experiment with flours, different levels of hydration (how much water) so that the dough is more dense or has a more open crumb, add extras such as seeds, nuts, fruits, chocolate, spices, colours, it goes on and on. Of course the journey to get to find a loaf you are happy with can be a very long one indeed.

For our day-to-day bread, I am happy with a dough made from about 30%rye, 70% bread flour, 72% water, 20% starter and 2% salt. This is loosely based on Chad Robertson’s Tartine County Loaf and I’ve been really happy with it.

I have been reading a lot about the virtues of ‘extended autolyse’ recently. This is a method where the flour and water (or a fair portion of it) are mixed together before the starter and salt are added. This mix sits for a few hours which allows the flour to take up the water really well and gets the gluten  developing really well. It is purported that it can really help with ‘heavier’ doughs that are a high or total percentage of whole wheat flours. I tried this method when making  these loaves today. Flour and water were mixed together at about 6.00pm, I did a few stretch and folds before  leaving the mix on the bench overnight. In the morning I added the starter, then 1/2 an hour later the salt and did hourly S&Folds over the next 5 hours. Bulk ferment for about 3 hours then divided, preshaped, rested for 20 minutes before final shaping and into the bannetons. These two loaves were left out to proof for 2 hours before baking and another loaf has gone into the fridge for overnight proofing.

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The results were great, excellent crumb, smells delicious and they feel really light and airy. I’ll be interested to see how the one in the fridge shapes up tomorrow.

 

Dumpling week.

Seems my inner self has been in need of dumplings recently. Is it because the seasons are changing and dumplings are a halfway dish between summer and winter food? Is it because I haven’t travelled for a while and dumplings represent in one form or another every nationality and culture possible. I may be hankering to experience some new ways to have dumplings. Can’t think of any country that doesn’t have a dumpling dish of some sort. Even us Aussies have the great ‘GSD’, Golden Syrup Dumplings, if cooked well are a lovely dessert treat.

My humble attempts this week were pretty PP really. Didn’t make my own wrappers just grabbed a pack from the Supermarket. Having said that, it is a massive step forward that they were actually stocked at the Moe major. Won’t hold my breath for the local supermarket stocking such basics, they seem to be reducing their range of products rather than offering more.

Anyway, Sunday night was pork, ginger and zucchini wonton style dumplings served with a traditional asian dipping sauce. This style of dish is one of my favourites. Easy, reasonably healthy and can be tweaked so you can use whatever is at hand in the filling.

Pork Dumplings

For the filling I used 500g minced pork, 1 grated zucchini (juice squeezed out), 2 crushed cloves garlic, 3 spring onions chopped finely, generous teaspoon of sesame oil, pinch of salt and about a tablespoon of finely grated ginger. All into a bowl and really mix it well. Squeeze it through your fingers and make sure it is really well mixed.

Place a spoonful onto each wrapper, (packet had about 30) then moisten edged and bring sides together to seal. I usually use round wrappers but it was nice for a change to see a different shape.

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Popped them into the steamer on the what I now believe to be the perilous gas cooker.

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While dumplings were steaming I mixed up the dipping sauce using:

  •  1 small finely chopped red chilli with seeds removed,
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 5 tablespoons (100ml) light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine (shaohsing)*
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 crushed garlic clove

When dumplings seem cooked, (about 10 minutes) place onto platter, scatter with chopped spring onions and drizzle some of the sauce over. I found these wrappers not as nice as usual, bit glassy but they tasted ok. Tended to stick more than I’m used to. Filling and dipping sauce was lovely!

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Potato Gnocchi

My next dumpling fix was potato gnocchi. Hadn’t made gnocchi for a long time and it is one of those dishes that should never be purchased in packets and only ordered out if you know it is light and fluffy as it should be and not like marbles that are chewy and tough. I microwaved a couple of potatoes (600 ish grams), mashed them lightly and then let to cool. Mix the egg through the mash first to make it smoother and easier to add flour.

Potato gnocchi

I added about 100g flour, a pinch of pepper and salt and gently mixed it all together. Don’t overwork it, just enough to hold together. Turn out onto a floured board and rolled into play dough type snakes. Have a large pot of boiling salted water ready. Cut bite sized pieces off the snakes, if it is for a more formal occasion you can shape them with little marks but for our casual meal I didn’t bother. Toss the cut gnocchi pieces into the boiling water and when they float they are ready.

Potato gnocchi

I must admit I let the side down with the sauce for this dish. Just some tomato passata, onion, zucchini and eggplant which should have shone but I didn’t do too well with developing the flavour. Nice but lacking oomph! Didn’t take a photo, didn’t think it worthy!

Phoenicia-Fantastic and Flying!

The sourdough starter I got from the lovely Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial has developed beautifully. Phoeny is extremely resilient and has a bit more tang to the taste than my Vessie. I made 2 loaves of basic white at the weekend and they were both tremendous. Thanks Celia!

Sourdough bread

20150315_194522A batch of tomato sauce and that will probably see the major crop of tomatoes done. Can’t believe it’s still only March and they seem to have stopped. Hopefully a few stragglers will continue, enough to keep us in tomatoes on sourdough breakfasts for a while.

In My Kitchen-January 2015

Welcome to the new year everyone! Thanks again Celia from Fig Jam & Lime Cordial for being our conduit for IMK. With the festive season now well and truly  wound down, things are getting back to normal. The decorations have been packed away so they can be dragged out again next year. Recycling bin emptied of many wine bottles and stubbies and there is room once again in the fridge! Not loads to report this month but in my kitchen there is (was): A couple of sourdough loaves I made NY eve. One to take to our friends home and one for us. sourdough load ears

Ours is just about finished because of things like me having it toasted and topped with goat cheese, smoked salmon and capers. Mmmm! IMG_9133

I bought myself a Christmas present of a new Turkish hand painted plate. Just love the design and colour. IMG_9137

I’ve cured the garlic, cleaned it and strung it up. I bagged the loose heads in an exclusion bag, these are handy for all sorts of things. I’ve stored some incredibly hot chillies by threading them onto a piece of string. I also bagged up some shallots into another exclusion bag.
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IMG_6884I made stuffed mushrooms to take NYE and unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of the finished product because they were really good, even of I did leave them in the oven a bit too long. I made a filling of olive oil with some roast pumpkin seed oil blended in (love the colour of that), S&P, mixed in some crushed garlic, grated parmesan, a chopped hot chilli and added enough sourdough breadcrumbs to make a stuffing. Mushrooms were filled with this then baked until done and crumble was crispy (in my case a bit more). I served them with some feta cheese finely grated over them and a thin slice of red capsicum on top. They went down well at our NYE gathering!

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I also made some samosa which I wasn’t at all pleased with (pastry mainly)  but they were all eaten enthusiastically. These were served with spicy hot peach chutney, that went on the platter where the black lid is. IMG_6885

I finish this post with the video of our annual family smashing of the gingerbread house. I know it looks wasteful but I just love it. The cumin that is mentioned in it was used to hold up one of the walls until the royal icing set. I forgot to take it out, finished the house then went nuts later knowing I’d seen the cumin but couldn’t find it. Sent son to shop to get some more. This video is the second attempt, first try didn’t do it. This is what the house looked like before the demolition. Decos are removed before we ‘do the business’. IMG_6762

Let the fun for 2015 begin!

PS: I forgot to mention that I made Maureen’s mango ice-cream for Christmas day and it was great. Might just have a serve now on this very hot afternoon. Wonder if we have any ginger nuts that I can crush to put on top?

Sausages, sourdough and sealing drafts.

We have our son’s engagement party coming up next weekend so I’ve been madly baking savoury goodies whenever I get the opportunity to use an oven. There are lots of family staying locally so we have extended an invitation to come to our place for a BBQ lunch on Sunday. Keeping it simple, as I probably will be quite tired from the party the night before. Just planning on some home made sausages, some nice steak, a vegetarian option and some fresh salads and potato salad (I make a mean potato salad I’m told!). First batch of sausages since we did our sausage making class at Tarraleah last month. Very nervous but I reckon a couple of shots and it will be quite easy. I chose a pork, caramelised onion and apple recipe as a first trial. Cut the pork into chunks and removed all the scrappy bits.

IMG_6116Calculated 15% of pork weight and measured that amount in pork fat.IMG_6117IMG_6119 Got Mr ATMT onto caramelising the onions in balsamic vinegar and brown sugar while I peeled and grated some granny smith apples. Picked some parsley and oregano and chopped finely. Put the pork and fat through the meat grinder using the large size cutting plate.IMG_6135Added the caramelised onions, apple and herbs and garlic, mixed really well then put it back through the grinder with the medium size cutting plate this time. Ready to stuff, so far so good. At this point I did cook up a couple of small patties to check flavour for seasoning and taste. I had called into the Yarragon market just before it closed and they were selling the last of Cannibal Creek’s Sour dough at half price. Couldn’t resist buying a loaf so I could compare how mine stacked up. Cannibal Creek is a bakery I must get to visit, fully renovated Scotch wood fired oven and I really like their philosophy on how they do things. My bread’s on the left, CC’s on the right and mine is a week old – looking mighty fine I think. I will concede though that the Cannibal Creek had a much more complex flavour to it and was a better crust. Bet if I had a big wood fired oven instead of a Sunbeam bake N grill it would help a bit! IMG_6137 The sample sausage patties cooked up beautifully and were eaten on toast for lunch with my pickled cucumbers and the wonderful Thorpdale Organics lettuce and some home made tomato sauce. Beats a Bunnings snag anyday!IMG_6147All ok to proceed with this sausage mix so here it gets exciting! We bought a sausage stuffer machine while sitting around the campfire in Tasmania and it was on the verandah on our return. Love shopping like that! Now, how to manage the natural sausage casings?They come packed in salt,IMG_6114 You need to soak them in water to reconstitute and soften before using.IMG_6115 Mr ATMT on the job! This was actually the hardest past of the whole process.IMG_6167Success! Couple of little air pockets and only one burst casing. IMG_6164 A few twists, left overnight to dry out and settle and they went into the freezer. It’s a great feeling knowing we can serve these up and I know exactly what has gone into them.IMG_6169Sealing drafts

While working on the hall I was quite aware of the breeze coming up from under the house through some rather large gaps. We will eventually be insulating under the house but I didn’t want the skirtings put back in place with such massive entry points for breezes. Cut some insulation bats into strips and ‘caulked’ up the gaps. Every little bit counts!IMG_6172

A Serene Spot to Sit.

Mr ATMT is working on paving a nice little spot out the back under the mulberry tree. We find we tend to naturally gather ion this spot on a hot day. It will also fit my hammock beautifully, that’s important!IMG_6150

A before and after.

The work we have been doing in the hall is starting to come together. We have removed wall mounted strip heaters, replaced plaster on the ceiling, painted, had the timber floor boards replaced where necessary and polished. Removed swing doors from the entry foyer and also the glass window that was above them replacing it with some simple fretwork. A large 1960’s boring cupboard has been removed from the small alcove section which is now a highlight of the passage. All the channels in the old timber panelling have been filled, sanded and smoothed. Anaglypta wallpaper has been hung and painted. Jobs still to do are, finish rejuvenating the timber on the architraves and front door, design and install a leadlight window for the front door and choose and install light fittings.

Passage before IMG_6176

Getting there I think, I certainly hope so!

 

 

 

 

Can’t think of a title for this post!

I was trying to come up with a catchy title for this post but it just didn’t happen. I had toyed with Friends, food and ….mmmm, got stuck, fun, friends and ……. stuck again. SO here it is, the post without a title! We had a lovely evening at a friends home in the Dandenong Ranges on Saturday night. There is something soulful about getting together with people who you can relax with, share ideas with and most importantly, have so many of the most wonderful belly laughs that it hurts! I wanted to take an offering so with the batch of sourdough I was working on I decided to make a couple of sourdough bread sticks to take. Should have proved a little longer but it just had to go on due to time restraints. As most of you know, I have limited cooking facilities so these were baked in the outdoor BBQ with the hood closed. I was very happy with these, the crust was crunchy, the crumb soft with a good flavour, sort of came out with a ciabatta style structure. This was sliced and we ate it slathered with beetroot relish and brie cheese. Very nice! My friend had made some Georgian cheese bread which is similar to puri and it was lovely, rich, but soft and full of flavour. Sourdough ciabatta bread sticksThe bay tree I’m working on establishing as a ball top with a straight stem needed some straightening so I bound it up with soft tie and cleaned any side shoots off. It’s at the right height now so I pinched the top out and will keep trimming to get the desired result.IMG_5622 Mr ATMT started extending the veggie garden path to where it will finish at the old stables. Neatened things up and now just need to infill the pavers with toppings.IMG_5627My garlic is going really well, This lot is planted in a separate box in the garden,IMG_5629 And this lot is in the asparagus bed. I’m a little concerned that the asparagus hasn’t yet started showing and I have read that garlic and asparagus shouldn’t be planted together. Waiting game now to see what eventuates.garlicThe succession planting of the broccoli is coming on nicely,IMG_5647 I pulled the last scrappy beetroot and will make some relish from these as they aren’t pretty enough to serve whole. Couple of baby parsnips here too that I pulled to see how they are progressing.IMG_5650 IMG_5632I put an old sewing machine base in the vegi patch and plonked a surplus sink onto it. This is proving to be a great asset as a workbench, potting bench and I can chuck stuff into the sink and hose it off before bringing it inside. I’m considering adding a foot pump or caravan sink type water tap to it to add to its use. IMG_5648 I’ve bagged the kale seed heads to keep the seed,IMG_5637 Such a lovely afternoon the workers downed tools and enjoyed the sun too!IMG_5635The backyard is shaping up nicely. Mt ATMT top dressed a few patches in the grass and put down some new lawn seed. Last time he’s says, it will have to fend for itself now. Let’s wait and see how that pans out!

BBQ’d Bread and other stuff.

With both myself and Mr ATMT being out of action due to injury and surgery, it is very frustrating sitting at home looking at what should be done and can’t be. We decided to make a trip to the Springvale and Dandenong Markets because I needed a few staples for Asian cooking that we just can’t get here in Gippsland. I also love the feel of the places, different cultures, great variety of foods and busy, busy, busy people everywhere.

I bought a couple of new Kiwi knives, these knives are the absolute best value in the universe. I’ve mentioned them before but I am still in awe of how good they are. I bought this lot, total price $12.00ish. The one in the middle looked like it would be great for scoring bread dough. Didn’t disappoint me which I’ll cover later in this post.

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Tomato season begins in earnest:

IMG_5154It is time to plant up some of the tomato seeds that have germinated. This is the first lot, 75 in total, another 200 or so to go. I am in desperate need of more coffee cups, milk cartons or similar to plant into. I put a request in the school newsletter last week so with a bit of luck I’ll get some donations this week. Once potted up they are going into the greenhouse for developing.

BBQ’d bread.

I’ve been bored and frustrated trying to create really nice bread in the ‘Toy Oven‘ so today I thought I’d have a crack at baking bread in the BBQ. I gave my sourdough starter a bit of a workout this week as it seemed a bit weak, (that’s the only thing able to have a workout here at the moment)! I cooked the loaves in cast iron pots, one camp oven and one pseudo Le Crueset.  Boy, I’m glad I had this idea. This bread looks great, has great crumb and crust is beautiful. Only downside is there are a couple of hotspots where crust has burnt, but not badly. A bit of tweaking and I think this will a regular way of baking our bread. The added bonus of being able to cook 2 full size loaves at the one time is great.

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Favourite soup-Pho

I had planned on making gyoza dumplings for dinner but we had some for lunch at the Dandenong market. Plan B in place! I just love Pho soup. I made this last night using the stock I made on the wood oven top last week and it hit the spot on a cold, wintry night. Irony was, we couldn’t find bean sprouts anywhere at the asian markets or big supermarkets. I actually found some at the local fruit shop and what was most surprising is they were fresh. Just have to have bean sprouts on ya Pho! Check out he beautiful clarity and deep colour of this stock.

Pho