The Joy of Little Things – Day 23 NaBloPoMo 2015

Today’s post will be very brief, I’m in the midst of writing an exegesis for a uni assignment.

I know it’s just a little thing but it gave me a tremendous amount of joy. Today I went to Oak to have lunch with my friends before doing a music session with them. I took a salad, as I often do, but today absolutely everything in was grown, made or raised by me – I knew where it all came from ūüôā

Eggs from my feathered beauties, sprouts I grew in the kitchen, plus rocket, spinach, basil and kale from the garden. Even the cheese was a feta made a few weeks ago with real milk. And it was all delicious ‚̧

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Making Room – Day 22 NaBloPoMo 2015

Just a short post today, I’m tired tonight!

Because we have relatively mild summers here in Tasmania, I grow chillies and basil in pots in the greenhouse so I get the most out of them. When I first moved here six years ago, this was run down shed, full of weeds and cherry tree suckers and it took six months to get it into a workable state. All of the shelving is timber salvaged from the old shed.

I’ve been doing yet another clean out of the greenhouse the last couple of days, in an effort to make more room. It’s something I go through every spring as it tends to become a storage space in winter. But this year I’ve got more chilli plants already in pots – and a lot more on the way!

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So this is what it looks like after today. This is the front half, with a wonderful view to the outside and the main raspberry bed. Inside, there’s Sweet Basil in pots that I’ve already started cropping and two more punnets of Basil seedlings ready to be potted up. The area out of shot holds my eight very productive strawberry plants¬†a storage shelf for plastic trays, tags and toilet roll grow tubes and further left is a bench where I can sit and work.

In this photo there’s also vegetables sizing up for planting out in the next few weeks, including zucchinis, beans, various salad vegetables and about 50 Asparagus seedlings.

At the far end on the top shelf is a tray with approximately eight different varieties of chillies that need to potting up – so many plants!

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Following around are mini cucumbers in a tub on the wood chip floor, Garlic Chives about to go out into the garden and my permanent chillies, a Rocoto (Capsicum pubescens), which has beautiful purple flowers and large, very hot fruit and a Scotch Bonnet (Capsicum chinense).  On the lower shelf are three pots of watercress, one of my favourite salad plants.

 

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The top shelf here is more chillies Рdid I mention my family love hot, spicy food? РCayenne, Jalapeno, Habaneros and Thai and the last of the vegetables to be potted up. The lower shelf in this photo will eventually be filled with Mammoth, Lettuce Leaf and Thai Basil. Out of shot to the right is a shelf and small cupboard that might end up being more shelving for chillies!

So, that’s my greenhouse – probably my most productive space in the entire garden ūüôā

What’s the most productive space in your garden? Do you have a greenhouse? Please leave a comment.¬†

 

 

 

 

 

Sunny Saturday – Day 21 NaBloPoMo 2015

I had a really lovely day today. It wasn’t too hot, there was a gentle breeze through the yard and there was lots of gardening to do. Who am I kidding – there’s always lots of gardening to do!¬†Admittedly, I didn’t do a scrap of uni work today but I had such a busy week, I felt I deserved a day off.

It’s wonderful to watch everything grow and change this time of year. In the space of a few short weeks, we’ve gone from buds to flowers to fruit forming on the cherry, apricot, plum and nectarine trees. The strawberries have been delicious and reasonably plentiful despite having only a handful of plants. But this morning we picked and ate the first raspberries of the season.

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It was quite a momentous occasion, I think it always is for people who grow their own fruit. When I was a child in South Australia (a far more Mediterranean climate than here in Tasmania), we would pick the first stone fruit – usually early apricots – and my mother would cut it into equal pieces for us all to share and she insisted we make a wish on the first of the harvest. It’s a ritual I’ve continued to this day with my family and whoever happens to be with us when it happens.

This afternoon I started cleaning out the other side of the greenhouse in preparation of the main Basil and Chilli crops. Because the climate here in Hobart is on the cool side, I always grow these in plastic pots¬†in the warmest spot I can find. So far I have all the common Sweet Basil (Ocimiun basilicum) potted up, about 40 plants this year.¬†But there’s Thai, Mammoth and Lettuce Leaf (my favourite for pesto) plus more varieties of chillies ready to go now and nowhere to put them at the moment!

I’ll get it finished tomorrow. Meanwhile, tonight we had the first of the free range¬†pork that arrived yesterday with a salad from the garden, featuring home made feta cheese I made about a month ago. It was a winner all round ūüėČ

What are your favourite family rituals? Leave a comment below. 

Pork Brawn Recipe – Day 20 NaBloPoMo 2015

I’m going to start again with a disclaimer. This post is all about pork and the preparation and cooking of a free-range pig’s head and trotters and does contain photographs. I have absolutely no desire to offend any of my vegetarian friends so if this isn’t your thing, come back tomorrow when I’ll be likely talking/writing about music, vegetables or home made cheesecake ūüėČ

Home made Blackberry Cheesecake from last summer

Home made Blackberry Cheesecake from last summer

Today I had a delivery from my friend Paul. He and his partner Trudy own Elderslie Farm, just out of Hobart. We met when I was searching for a local, low food miles, free-range meat producer and I can’t praise their produce enough. It’s flavoursome, tender, butchered and bagged to my needs and delivered to my door! The bonus is we’ve made new friends in the process.

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I got a side of pork earlier this year from them and, perhaps I was feeling some childhood nostalgia, agreed to have the head and trotters included so I could make Brawn. My grandmother used to make this along with various other dishes that used every part of a beast, where nothing was wasted. When I was little, my job was to pull the cooled cooked meat apart with two forks and I think it’s still my favourite job in this quite long process.

It went so well, I’m doing it again and right now the kitchen smells amazing – there’s a pork head simmering in the slow cooker with a head of fresh garlic and various spices. It’s so big I can’t fit the lid on properly!

For this post, I’m using photographs from the Brawn I made¬†earlier in the year.

Pork Brawn

Ingredients:

Pigs head, cleaned and de-haired ¬† ¬† Pig’s trotters, cleaned thoroughly ¬† ¬† Stock powder¬†(optional)

1/2 cup Marsala or sherry   1 onion, peeled and halved    1 head of garlic 2 or 3 Bay leaves  2 or 3 dried Chillies

Spices to taste in a cheesecloth bag (a few cloves, allspice berries, cardamon pods – whatever takes your fancy)

Water to cover

Method:

Start by preparing your cheesecloth bag with the spices. I sometimes put sprigs of thyme or sage in plus cloves, cardamon, peppercorns, star anise or whatever takes my fancy. Tie it up with some kitchen string and leave a tail to tie it to the handle of your pan. Put the clean head in a large pan or slow cooker. Then add the Bay leaves, chillies, halved onion, stock powder (if using it), pour over the Marsala and cover with water.

IMG_20150419_185456Cook covered on a very low heat for 4-6 hours or until the meat is falling off the bone. This will depend on the size of the head. I’m cooking mine in a slow cooker on a low setting for a few hours tonight. I’ll switch it off and leave it there overnight and check in the morning to see if it needs more cooking time.

It should look a little like the picture left – basically a pork soup. (Note the string that I tied to the slow cooker handle).

Once it’s cooked, it’s time to get into the messy part of this dish! Make sure you’ve got plenty of room to spread out and I suggest getting all your implements ready before you start lifting this around – it’s heavy!

Get a large clean pan and set it up next to the pork. Use a nylon strainer or a sheet of cheesecloth tied over the clean IMG_20150419_192017pan and start ladling the rich broth, straining the liquid. I find it best to do this stage when the broth is still warm but not scalding hot. Remove the spices in the cheesecloth and and large bones and skin as you come across them.

You should end up with a delicious smelling pot of stock, something like the picture to the right. It will be full of gelatin from the bones too, which will make your  brawn set.

Put this on a low heat uncovered to reduce the stock.

Meanwhile, the pot with the head and trotters are now ready to work on. IMG_20150419_192004My family like things spicy, so I usually leave at least one of the chillies in with the meat to chop up and go in the final dish.

Take it piece by piece, (the cheeks are particularly delicious) and on a clean board start shredding the meat with two forks. Put the meat into a bowl as you go. Continue stripping the head and if the tongue is still in the skull I chop that up finely and put it in too. (My gran used to do this separately as pressed tongue in aspic but I prefer it mixed in the brawn).

You can also chop the onion halves finely and as many cloves of garlic from the head as you like and add them to the meat mix as well.

By now, the stock should be reduced. Take it off the heat, cover and allow it to cool. Refrigerate it if the weather is warm. Cover the shredded meat mixture and refrigerate it until you’re ready to assemble the brawn.

While the stock is cooling, prepare some small ramekins or cups by lining them with plastic wrap. Pack the meat mixture into the ramekins.

Skim any excess fat off the cooled stock and ladle enough of the liquid carefully over the meat mixture. Leave it a couple of minutes for any air bubbles to escape. Then carefully fold the plastic wrap over the top. (Any excess stock can be frozen for later use in soups or stews).

Stack the ramekins on top of each other or put a weight on each and refrigerate.

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Finished turned out Pork Brawn

The finished product will set naturally from the high amounts of gelatin in the bones and trotters. There’s no need for any extra gelatin. Serve turned out on a plate with¬†slices of fresh crusty bread and with a green salad makes a lovely lunch.

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The Joy of Flowers – Day 19 NaBloPoMo

Hi everyone,

I’ve got a really busy day/night ahead (it’s gig night with Cassie O’Keefe tonight) so I’m going to offer you all some photographs from my garden this week. All these gorgeous flowers are edible or the precursors to edible fruit. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do ūüėÄ

IMG_20141005_164143I particularly love salad greens and grow a large variety throughout the year. One of the most cold tolerant plants I’ve ever come across is Corn Salad (Valerianella locusta aka Lamb’s Lettuce or Mache) and it grows particularly well here in Tasmania as a winter green. In fact, I think (like Kale) it tastes better for a good frost! It’s one of those plants that’s been in cultivation for hundreds of years that is coming back in fashion again and it really is quite delicious and very mineral and vitamin rich.

As soon as spring comes, it¬†produces lovely, tiny flowers followed by masses of seed! It self-seeds now throughout my garden but it doesn’t transplant well.¬†Fortunately, the chickens love it and I weed out any unwanted plants for them.

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Beautiful and delicious Wasabi Greens

During winter, I bought a random punnet of vegetables to fill a spot in the salad garden. It’s been a real winner in every respect. Wasabi Green (Brassica juncea¬†aka Wasabi-na) is an Asian mustard, bred for its hot, wasabi-like flavour. It spiked up my winter salads and even the flowers were lovely addition to the bowl. An added bonus was they were flowering when the bees first came out at the very end of winter.

I also¬†managed to save seed from it in early spring before the other Brassicas started to bolt, and I’ll certainly be planting more in the autumn.

IMG_20151116_173836Speaking of bees, one of my favourite edible flowers is also a favourite of the bees, Common Sage (Salvia officinalis). Although the flowers are starting to look a little shabby now, I pick stems to brighten up a vase in the kitchen – as well as brightening up salads and marinades.

Recently, we had a roast leg of lamb and I placed a long stem of Rosemary and Sage (both in flower) underneath the joint. Delicious and very pretty when pieces of the flowers appeared in the sauce we made from the pan juices!

Last year I planted Scarlet Runner Beans (Phaseolus coccineus) quite late but still managed to get a quite reasonableIMG_20151116_174026 crop of beans from them. A couple survived our unusually harsh winter and they are already in full flower. Unlike ordinary beans, Scarlet Runners are a perennial vine and are also called Seven Year Beans by some gardeners.

These gorgeous flowers are not only bee attracting but also bring native birds into my garden – absolute bonus! The beans are lovely to eat whole when they’re young but get very fibrous very quickly and are then only good for the beautiful multicoloured beans that I love to dry and use in soups and stews through winter.

And finally there’s the flowers that are the heralds of spring and summer fruit. My family are especially fond of Boysenberries and currently it’s a mass of quite large, white flowers, which the bees also adore!

Boysenberry

Boysenberry

What are your favourite edible flowers? Please leave a comment!

 

 

Lemons, Life and Things That Matter – Day 18 NaBloPoMo 2015

Well, it’s been an interesting 24 hours. I had another couple of reminders from the universe about maintaining focus on the things that really matter in life.

Yesterday, I supported a dear friend through something of a personal crisis. She has decided to leave Hobart and move to Melbourne. Partly, (as she readily admits) this is running away from small town nonsense but sometimes it’s better to move on that to stick around for more pain. As much as I know I will miss her dearly, I fully support her decision. ‚̧

While she was here, we talked in the kitchen – the soul of any home – and I finished making Moroccan Preserved Lemons with the last of the fruit from my friend Sara.

IMG_20151117_135250This is one of those recipes that I’ve adapted from several different sources but it mostly resembles Hassan M’Souli’s recipe on the SBS site. I soaked them for a couple of days in lukewarm water to soften the skin. Then I split them lengthwise without cutting right through the end of the lemon. I find it best to do this over a bowl, to catch every drop of lemon juice. Some people recommend taking out all the seeds but I don’t bother unless they fall into the bowl.

Next, the lemons are packed with cooking salt and put in a sterilised pickle jar. I used about a cup of salt for six lemons and added a few cardamon pods, two dried chillies and two bay leaves.

The final pickle looks lovely in the jar but I’m going to have to wait until Christmas to open them up and use the luscious fruit in a chicken or lamb Tagine.

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Last night was the monthly ASA¬†gig at The Homestead, this month featuring keyboard player, singer/songwriter and generally lovely person, George Begbie. It was great seeing him really take command of the stage and put¬†out a fabulous performance. I was reminded of the quite nervous young man who first turned up about 10 years ago to the ASA and it was truly heartening¬†to see how far he’s come in that time. It was also wonderful to see a new performer do her first ASA and a regular who is really starting to come into his own ūüėÄ

And on a sad note, I found out that well-known Tasmanian media identity Tim Franklin died suddenly. When I first arrived in Tasmania back in the 80’s, Tim was one of the first people I met. At that time, he was working as a DJ at a nightclub in Hobart and a local commercial radio station. Later, he went on to set up his own company, Radar Promotions and redefined marketing in this state.

While we didn’t always share the same taste in music, Tim was incredibly generous to me when I was new in town and supportive of the band I was in, Wild Pumpkins at Midnight. I will always remember him fondly for that, and my heart goes out to his family and many friends.

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Vale Tim

 

A Quick Gig Update – Day 17 NaBloPoMo

Hey everyone

A quick reminder for southern Tasmanian folks that tonight the monthly ASA show is on at The Homestead in Elizabeth Street, starting with the wonderful Cassie O’Keefe at 6:30 pm. I’ll be coming along to have dinner, catch up with friends and cheer everyone on, in particular the feature act, George Begbie.

And Thursday night, (19th November) I’m playing a show with Cassie, again at The Homestead from 7-9 pm. This should be a fabulous night with one of the best young up and coming talents around town ūüôā

One of my beautiful Seagull guitars

Hopefully, I’ll get time to do a longer post later, but we’ll see – it’s going to be a busy day I think!

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