Surviving the Storm – A Sunday Night Recap

Well, it’s been quite a week! I’m not sure where it disappeared to, but I’m rugged up on the couch and it’s Sunday night here in Hobart.

At the moment, Tasmania is in the path of a series of westerly fronts, bringing much needed rain but some very damaging winds. There was some respite yesterday so I took the opportunity to spend some time in the garden, rearranging mulch, repairing torn bird netting and salvaging what I could of the broccoli crop.

And of course, I got to spend some quality time with the chickens and the now month old rabbits ❤

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Earlier this week I processed the rest of the chestnut crop, which was pretty poor this year due to very little rain in summer and no water to spare for the trees. But I find them so delicious and useful that every little piece has become precious to me and my family. I’d never really paid much attention to chestnuts until I moved here, with a mature tree in the backyard that provides several kilos of nuts every autumn with minimal care.

For any of you interested in how I process them, I did a post here a couple of years ago.

On Friday, I got a parcel in the post from a woman I met through Facebook, who lives in northern Tasmania. In it was a self addressed post bag for some chilli seeds – and two beautiful, handmade beanies.

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The photo doesn’t really do them justice, they are really a very dark black and a luscious purple – my favourite colour 🙂  Fran is also a blogger and you can find her here. I finished packaging her seeds during the week, I’ve been drying them slowly on paper.

IMG_20160513_210229Like most repetitive tasks, I think there’s something incredible meditative about sorting seeds. For me it’s akin to weeding or planting but a little more demanding, particularly when you’re trying to keep track of numbers and sort out obvious broken or dud seeds – much easier with peas and beans!

Nevertheless, it’s one of those jobs that I really enjoy doing on a cold night with some good music or a favourite movie on.

One thing I should’ve done though is wear gloves. Despite using broad head tweezers, I still got enough capanoids on my fingers to sting!

Once sorted, I put the seeds into paper packets I make from old (preferably heavy weight) paper. The recent batch for all my seeds this autumn came from some old (and quite dreadful) music books I found in the local tip shop. Although I revere books, I’ve recycled these so that no innocent child is ever forced to play those songs again – they are truly dreadful!

 

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I think the finished product looks rather nice and I hope Fran and her family enjoy the produce. One day we’ll meet in person I’m sure 🙂

The rain and wind came back with a vengeance today, so I took the opportunity to catch up with my current studies at Griffith University. I’m doing an online degree and this unit is Television Studies. My head is still full of textual analysis and particularly David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. For something most of us take for granted, television is really quite a complex and surprisingly demanding area of study – and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning some of the history and depth of the medium. This week I have to finish drafting my major essay on the enduring appeal of Doctor Who which has meant I’ve had to watch quite a lot of it (mostly David Tennant) in recent weeks.

Seriously, I love my life 😀

Stay well and be happy wherever you are ❤

Smoke and Lemons

I’ve had a stomach bug since the weekend and today was the first time I felt safe to move more than a few steps away from the bathroom. I haven’t done any gardening since Saturday afternoon and had to cancel a gig on Sunday, which I hate doing. But I’m definitely on the mend, as I got into “making mode” this afternoon. Most of Tasmania has been wreathed in smoke for the last few days and that in itself makes me a little restless.

As I write, it’s hazy in Hobart and there’s a distinct smell of bush smoke through the open window. There are at present, approximately 80 fires burning across Tasmania, mostly started by lightning strikes last week on the less populated west coast. Nevertheless, this afternoon, it spread up into the north west, putting property, livestock and potentially lives at risk. My thoughts and best wishes go out, not only to friends who live in the areas affected, but also to state fire services, who are pretty much at their limit right now.

Yesterday, my lovely neighbour traded a box of lemons from her boss for a dozen of my eggs – I love bartering! After moping around the house yesterday, I decided to get creating some healthy lemon-based goodies that wouldn’t be too harsh on my tender tummy right now and pickles that will be ready in the months ahead.

First, I decided I needed the sweet, comforting tang of old fashioned Lemon Curd, something I haven’t made in years. This versatile cream doesn’t keep very long but I understand it freezes quite well so I’ve got half (about 250 ml) in a plastic container, ready to freeze. The recipe is very simple.

 

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Old Fashioned Lemon Curd (Makes approximately 500 ml)

Ingredients:

zest of 4 lemons    3/4 cup lemon juice     3/4 cup white sugar   4 fresh eggs     125g butter, cubed

Method:

In a heat proof bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar over a simmering pot of water. When the sugar is dissolved, add the lemon zest, juice and continue whisking until the mixture becomes creamy. Add the cubed butter and continue mixing until it’s thoroughly absorbed.

This tangy delight is wonderful as a base for lemon mousse, spread over a pie base for simple lemon tart, mixed with whipped cream and a little home made yogurt for Lemon Fool or just used as spread on toast. Tonight, I’m having it on pancakes as a treat.

The other thing I made was another jar of Pickled Lemons. I don’t think you can ever have too many jars or variations of this most wonderful condiment. For this batch I reverted back to my old recipe I’ve been making for nearly 30 years. Measurements are fairly arbitrary – it depends on how big a jar you’ve got handy and how many lemons you want (or need) to pickle! Also, experiment with adding different spices throughout the jar. I particularly like bay leaves and chillies – something I’ve got plenty of at the moment.

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Deb’s Pickled Lemons 

Ingredients:

Lemons    preserving salt   Optional spices – bay leaves, chillies, cinnamon quills, mustard seed

Method:

Start with a scrupulously clean jar, preferably a sterilised preserving jar. I used one with a swing top lid and a good rubber seal. Put a tablespoon of salt in the bottom of the jar and a little of the spices and put it to one side while preparing the lemons.

Wash the lemons in plain hot water and remove any diseased fruit, stem pieces and cut out any blemishes that might spoil the finished pickles. With a sharp paring knife carefully quarter each lemon almost to the base. (See the photo above). I recommend cutting them over a bowl to catch any juice that can be poured over the finished pickle.

Put a generous spoon of salt into each cut. Again, do this over the bowl, it can get a bit messy!

Now, put the salted lemons into the jar, layering with more salt and any spices you want to use. In this jar I used a cinnamon quill broken into pieces, a few bay leaves and two fresh cayenne chillies that I poked a few holes in to let the lemon juice and salt in. Use a wooden spoon (even the handle) to really cram the lemons in and release their juice. This, combined with the salt preserves the fruit. Close the lid and leave the jar on a shelf for a month, shaking it every day.

Use a little as a condiment with curries, chopped up very fine in marinades or stuffing and in recipes such as Lemon Chicken.

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