Super Saturday – Day 25 NaBloPoMo 2017

Oh what a day!

The Superstars played a set at today’s Christmas Lunch for OAKPossability participants and I was very proud of us all. We played a selection of our favourites, that showcase people’s skills, a few festive numbers and a couple we’ve written. And ended up doing encores of audience favourites!

Playing in a band is quite a tribal thing, and it’s evident that we’ve made connections with each other that are lasting. This was particularly clear today. Two of our group, Kathryn and Sally have been away sick for a few weeks and turned up today with their families – ready, willing and able to perform. As a professional musician, I couldn’t have asked for more commitment than these people gave ❤

Me and my lovely friend Sally (aka “my gorgie one”)

Although we’re a month early, it was a lovely festive function and we had heaps of really excellent Xmas food to eat. (So much, I couldn’t eat dessert!) It was a very warm, muggy day but we finally got some brief respite with a thunderstorm and a little rain this afternoon.

All round, I think I’m a very lucky woman – I live in a lovely part of the world, I’ve clean water and good food to eat, and work that sustains me, letting me work with dedicated staff and fantastically talented participants ❤

Friday Night Chicken – Day 24 NaBloPoMo 2017

Before I left for work this morning, we decided on chicken breast for tonight’s dinner. We really weren’t sure what to do with it but we wanted it to be easy – it’s been a busy week and the weather’s still very warm!

I’d been to our local deli on the way home and picked up bacon (among other goodies) so we thought we’d stuff the breasts, wrap them in bacon and bake them. But what to use as a stuffing?

Well, when I was a kid, things wrapped in bacon and grilled were a bit of a fad. Angels on Horseback and Devils on Horseback (oysters and prunes respectively) were really popular as hors d’oeuvres – and I still have a jar of prunes from last year’s plum crop 🙂 As I mentioned last week, the early garlic harvest has been less than wonderful but it tastes wonderful and even though it isn’t properly cured yet, we decided to start using it.

It was really very easy and the results were delicious! Here’s the recipe:

Garlic & Prune Stuffed Chicken Breast (Serves 2)

 

2 skinless chicken breast, butterflied

4 dried prune halves

1/4 cup Marsala or dry sherry

2 full rashers of bacon

4 cloves garlic, chopped fairly finely

2 tabs butter, softened

Herbs/spices for topping (we used a Moroccan-style mix with some chilli – but use what you prefer)

Method: 

In a small bowl, soak the prunes in Marsala for at least a couple of hours – the longer the better. Once the prunes are plump, drain and chop them roughly. Put them back in the bowl and add the garlic and softened (room temperature) butter.

Open the butterflied chicken breasts and spoon the prune/garlic butter mixture down the center. Close them and press down lightly to seal the edges. Sprinkle with herbs and spices of your choice. (If you like to add salt, this would be the time for a sprinkle)

On an oven tray, lay 2 rashers of bacon diagonally and lay the chicken breasts across them. The tails of the bacon should wrap across the top of each breast.

Bake in a moderate oven until the chicken is cooked through (20-25 minutes).

I made a very quick couscous with vegetables as a side.

It was absolutely delicious and a lovely quick dinner to make together at the end of another frantic week. The chicken was succulent, fragrant with garlic and the bacon was lightly crisped on top. The Marsala soaked prunes pieces added some sweetness without overwhelming the dish. Couscous was the perfect companion to this – light, fluffy and full of garden herbs and vegetables.

 

We’ll be making this again for sure ❤

Tomorrow The Superstars are performing at an Oak luncheon. Hopefully, there’ll be some photos too 🙂

Shortcuts & Syrups – Day 23 NaBloPoMo 2017

I resolved to have an indoor day today, trying to survive this Tassie heatwave, and decided to get some kitchen jobs done.

Realising I was all but out of yogurt early this morning (enough to change my breakfast plans) I decided to do what I call a shortcut jar, and it couldn’t be easier. I have an ancient EasiYo passive yogurt maker I bought new about 20 years ago. It’s probably one of the best purchases I’ve ever made as my family go through a lot of yogurt! Although EasiYo sell sachets of starter, I generally use a dollop of the last batch and refresh it with new starter culture every few months. My preferred starter is plain Greek style.

To save having to go to the shop for extra fresh milk, I took a favourite shortcut, and used powdered full cream milk. It’s a great thing to have in the pantry cupboard in case I run out of real milk, and I also use it to enrich sauces, puddings – and yogurt! For my 1 litre tub, I use 1 1/4 cups of milk power mixed thoroughly with about 500 ml cold water. Filtered or rain water is best for this, as tap water additives can inhibit the culture.

Once the milk powder is well incorporated, I add a generous half cup of yogurt from the last batch

Mix thoroughly and top up with cold water if necessary.

Then it’s just a matter of filling the maker with boiling water, making sure the trivet is the right way up, and putting in the yogurt jar and screwing on the lid. Leave it for 8-12 hours, depending on how sharp you like your finished yogurt. I generally leave mine 9 hours but a little longer if I’m making cheese from it.

The finished product is really lovely, creamy and tangy. Perfect with fruit, making smoothies and using for dips and dressings.

Once the yogurt was out of the way, I juiced a bag of oranges that were past their best but still good, and about 10 grapefruit I was given by friends a few weeks ago. I used the same standard recipe I have for lemon syrup and it made about two litres.

Finally, I bottled my stash of spring grapevine leaves (close to 50), destined for dolmades later in summer. After cleaning them all and removing the stems, I blanched them in a strong boiling brine, plunged them in a pot of icy water and (once they were cool enough to handle) rolled them up in bundles of 10. I put them in a small preserving jar and covered them with boiling brine and 1 teaspoon of Citric Acid. Then I processed them along with the bottles of syrup for 15 minutes.

It was hot work, but totally worth the bother. The syrup is sharp and sweet, perfect in iced water as a refreshing drink – even better with plain soda and a dash of vodka for the adults – and makes a very interesting ice cream topping.

The vine leaves always lose their bright green hue but are wonderful. They apparently keep very well in this acidulated brine – but they never last longer than a few months here! Now the grapevine is starting to take off, I feel better about doing more jars through the season 🙂

So, now I’m sitting happily watching the cricket, (the Ashes series has started!) and I’m waiting for it to cool down enough to feed the animals, water and pick salad for a late dinner. I might have to make a yogurt dressing 🙂

See you all tomorrow, and Happy Thanksgiving to all my US friends ❤

Too Much Too Soon – Day 22 NaBloPoMo 2017

I thought it was unusually warm for this time of year but apparently it’s a record-breaking heatwave for Tasmania. The forecast for tomorrow has been upgraded to 31 C (about 88 F) and hopefully a thunderstorm in the afternoon.

Despite all the mulch I use and regular watering, things are looking a bit dire out in the yard. The chickens and rabbits have good shelter – the bunnies even have their own umbrella – and plenty of fresh water and greens, but I always think this is the hardest time of year for them.

This evening when I went down the yard to feed everyone and water the garden, Boudica our British Giant doe was stretched out next to her water bottle and demanded to be hand fed her fresh grass ration. As you can see, she’s a dreadfully vicious creature – not!

Although I’ve been at work, I’ve had a week off from study and was hoping to get a lot of gardening done, but all I’ve managed to do so far is pull some garlic and try to keep things alive.

As I write at 10:40 pm, it’s still 18 C (64 F) and very hot in the house. I hope we get the forecast thunderstorm tomorrow. This is too much too soon for my taste!

 

Atomic Blonde – Day 21 NaBloPoMo 2017

Atomic Blonde 2017. Directed by David Leitch.

I only watched this for the first time a few days ago – it had quite a short run at my local cinemas – and I was expecting something of a spy-romp, in the vein of Modesty Blaise (1966). It was a surprisingly taut and very stylish spy thriller but I found the narrative (based on a graphic novel “The Coldest City”) a little on the light side.

The cast are universally excellent, from Charlize Theron leading the pack as the MI6 agent, Lorraine Broughton, James McAvoy at his sleazy best as the Berlin MI6 agent, and Sofia Boutella as the French agent, Delphine. They are ably supported by three of my favourite actors – John Goodman, Eddie Marsan and Toby Jones. And look out for baby-faced Bill Skarsgard who recently starred as Pennywise in It (2017).

There’s a couple of editing choices in the action scenes that I questioned but generally, this is where the movie shone. Unfortunately, the script is pretty flimsy and if it weren’t for Theron’s incredible and insightful performance as the world-weary spy, this probably would’ve collapsed in on itself and totally bombed. It’s yet another case of a really fine cast of actors having little to work with.

Having said that, this is a perfectly serviceable first feature from David Leitch, a well-known stuntman and stunt coordinator (he’s been Brad Pitt’s stunt double in something like five of his films). Leitch has worked a lot with the Wachowskis and was an uncredited director on the surprise hit, John Wick (2014). I look forward to seeing how his directing career progresses – apparently his next film will be the Deadpool sequel.

Nevertheless, Atomic Blonde is another perfectly fine popcorn movie and (despite narrative issues) a solid start for David Leitch.

The Woman in Black – Day 20 NaBloPoMo 2017

The Woman in Black 2012. Directed by James Watkins.

This is quite an interesting film in several respects. Firstly, it was based on the wonderful novella of the same name by English writer, Susan Hill. Despite its Edwardian setting and reading like a period Gothic horror, it was originally published in 1983.

Secondly, it was part of the re-emergence of Hammer Film Productions, that most famous British horror studio. In the 60’s and 70’s Hammer was the spiritual home for so many people like me, who grew up watching Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing.

Thirdly, it was the first bona fide adult screen role that Daniel Radcliffe took on post Harry Potter. And despite the fact (to me at least) he looks almost impossibly young, he really brings a lot of heart to the role of Arthur Kipps and undeniable star power to the whole film. And he pretty much carries the movie. I particularly enjoyed his scenes with Ciaran Hinds, and by the end, found myself genuinely caring about poor Arthur.

Despite being a fairly standard tale in many respects, this is a genuinely fine old-school horror film, with good measures of tension, scares and pathos. It also caused quite a stir in the UK when the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) decided to rate it a 12A instead of a more appropriate 15. The producers offered to cut a few scenes in order to get the lower rating – and capitalise on Radcliffe’s huge box office appeal to young audiences.

Nevertheless, this is still a good and very entertaining film. I think it’s worth a watch, if only for Radcliffe taking his first steps to shake off the shadow of the boy wizard.

Apples! – Day 19 NaBloPoMo 2017

Spring is such a busy time around here. There’s so much to do – planting, weeding and watering are starting to take up a lot of my time – apart from the daily routines (aka playing with the bunnies and talking/singing to chickens) and making sure the greenhouse doesn’t dry out. And there’s always lots of eggs and plenty of salad greens to eat.

Berry fruit is starting to set and I think we’ll have a good crop of raspberries again this year. I was incredibly heartened to see my grape vine is setting fruit. It’s a pretty common Thompson’s Seedless table grape, but I planted it about 18 months ago to climb up over the chicken’s run and give them some shade through summer. It’s really thrived after I pruned it back in early winter and I’m hoping the fruit will make it to maturity. I’ve got a couple of other varieties that I bought in very small pots and I’m growing on. Hopefully, they’ll be ready to plant out at the end of autumn next year.

The vine is strong enough that I’ve been harvesting the biggest, most perfect leaves to preserve in brine and make dolmades, one of my favourite snacks. I’ve got enough now to make up a 1 kg jar (about 60 leaves) and I’ll do that sometime this coming week.

I’ve been experimenting with wicking boxes and barrels the last few years to cut down the amount of watering. This system uses a water reservoir that I fill up through a poly pipe and run off outlet just below the soil level so the plants don’t get inundated. I’m having a lot of success growing fruit trees on dwarfing rootstock by this method. In particular, the apples I planted in winter 2016 are doing incredibly well. I bought a Pomme de Neige (aka Snow Apple or Lady in the Snow), Sturmer, McIntosh and Royal Gala (all bare rooted from a local grower). They’ve all thrived in their wicking barrels and after taking all the embryonic fruit off last summer and light pruning this winter, they’re developing into healthy and strong small trees. I’m going to let them bear this time and I’m especially thrilled with the Royal Gala, which will be the first to harvest.

Baby Royal Gala

Now that we’re past the windiest part of spring (fingers crossed!) I’m going to thin the fruit soon – the Pomme de Neige is particularly laden – but I’m very happy with their progress. Despite living in Tasmania (traditionally called the Apple Isle), it can be hard to find good apples and difficult to know if they’ve been sprayed. It’ll be fabulous to have some home grown beauties! ❤

 

Previous Older Entries Next Newer Entries