Oh Beautiful Friday!

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My life is a little bit insane at the moment, hence the lack of blogging (sorry!)

I’m as always, up to my eyeballs with uni (getting a portfolio of poetry together this time) and work has started again at Oak Tasmania. This year, I’m doing my musical things with The Superstars and we have some big plans for 2017 but I’ve also started tutoring a Food Gardening group two mornings a week. It’s been hectic!

In the space of a couple of weeks, we’ve started doing experiments with growing carrots in pots rather than in traditional garden beds, resurrected the worm farm, started a vegetable and herbs seed bank, done quite a lot of weeding, cleaned out the small greenhouse that’s on site, potted up some basil and eggplants and planted some lettuce seedlings that are already up and running 🙂

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Future salad!

Eventually, we want to grow enough to pass on to the kitchen and provide the cooking courses with fresh, clean produce to turn into salads, soups and encourage better eating among the Oak staff and participants. I’m also hoping some of the seedlings will go home with the gardeners, most of whom are very keen!

This week we spotted a very old dinghy around the back of the site and we’ve decided to appropriate it. Our plan is to bed it in securely, fill it with sheep poo and some good loam and plant it out. The drainage is good – she came with lots of holes! – and we’re thinking about an experiment with some seed potatoes we discovered to begin with. Although they’re very late, in a raised bed we should get a crop and I think we should dress it up and name the old girl something like “The Good Ship Spudalicious”. (Photos are coming!)

Meanwhile, at home it’s a bit overwhelming with nectarines just finished and plums coming in and I’ll be getting the dehydrator out this weekend to turn most of the plums into prunes for the winter months. And I did get my one apricot off the new tree! A few months ago I cheered that there was one solitary fruit and it ended up perfect and utterly delicious ❤

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The maincrop bush tomatoes (San Marzano and Principe Borghese) are just starting to size up and ripen but the Debarao are still flowering and a little behind the Polish Giant Paste that are very green but already very big! Undoubtedly, the best cropper so far has been the bush Roma’s that were an unexpected bonus. I’ve been picking them just as they’ve started to colour and I’ve got a couple of kilos off them already that I plan to bottle in the next few weeks. Everyone’s tomatoes in southern Tasmania seem a little late this summer, but while the rest of the country’s been in a devastating heat wave, Tasmania has been relatively mild and surprisingly damp this year.

Principe Borghese Tomatoes

Principe Borghese Tomatoes

Last week I picked enough perfect grape vine leaves to put in brine for making Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves)

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At least I got the year right even though it’s February now!

and this week I put up two bottles of Pickled Nectarines. This is really simple and relatively quick. All I do is put halved and pitted nectarines into sterilised jars with a cinnamon quill, a star anise and piece of dried Habanero chili in each (totally optional!) and covered them with a heavily sweetened apple cider vinegar (the ratio is 1:1) while it’s still hot. Covered with sterilised lids and put the jars through a water bath for 15 minutes, these nectarines are wonderful with ice cream as a dessert or sliced with game meats. Just leave them for a few weeks for the flavours to develop.

And Wednesday, I had a great time playing a gig at Irish Murphy’s in Salamanca. Because of everything that’s going on in my life at the moment, I haven’t been playing as many solo shows and it was so good to play some songs and catch up with lots of friends 😀

Because I’m working more, I decided to make a mega Zucchini and Ham Slice to freeze and take for lunches – it’s a great way to use up some of the zucchini and egg glut! I used 8 eggs, three grated zucchini, a 1/4 cup of flour, a few left over boiled Nicola potatoes, some cubed ham (about 2 cups) a little fresh sage, thyme, marjoram, a couple of finely sliced Cayenne chilies and a grate of nutmeg. After I’d beaten all this together, I added about 1 1/2 cups of grated Colby cheese and about 1/2 cup of grated parmesan and baked it in a greased deep pan for about 45 mins in a moderate oven. I ended up with 7 generous serves that will make work lunches a lot easier!

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But now, it’s Friday night and I’m beat! All I’m good for is watching the cricket on television and drinking cups of tea. I keep looking across at the pile of clean washing and wish it would fold itself up……..

 

 

Chinese New Year – Spicy Plum Sauce

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, it’s been quite chaotic! As we glide into the back end of summer here in Tasmania, I’ve been busy planning beds for winter vegetables, planting for autumn harvest, cropping the summer bounty, making feta cheese, dispatching the most recent rabbits (filling the freezer again!) and making sure our second doe (the beautiful Bella) is pregnant with another litter for autumn eating. My cupboards are full of cordials, flavoured oils, vinegars, dried fruit, and even home made Furikake, thanks to a brilliant crop of green shiso in the greenhouse this year. (Leave a comment if any of you are interested in a recipe for this).

Since the corner of shame has been revived, ready for a beehive later this year, the plum tree has loved all the extra attention and yielded a decent crop. As I write there’s three huge trays of plums in the dehydrator becoming prunes for use over winter and a couple more big bowls to do things with. Chinese New Year is coming up on Monday so I’ve decided to make Spicy Plum Sauce with 2 kilos of fruit.

I only make this every couple of years as my household aren’t big sauce or chutney fans but it’s a wonderful addition to stir fries, a marinade for barbecue chicken or rabbit and is fabulous as a dipping sauce with spring rolls, dumplings or just about anything! Also, we are all chilli lovers, so if you’re not as keen on the hot notes, adjust the number of chillies, remove the seeds, try a milder variety or even omit them altogether. Some of my treasured Habanero chillies got sunburn in the greenhouse while still green a couple of days ago, and this seemed an ideal use for them. I personally feel it’s important to make any recipe your own, rather than following someone else’s to to absolute letter. So this is my take on Spicy Plum Sauce this year – go and make it yours 🙂

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Spicy Plum Sauce

Ingredients:

2kg plums     1/2 cup soy sauce      1/2 cup Chinese cooking sherry   2 cups cider vinegar or white wine    1/2 cup brown sugar    1 red onion, finely diced    1 tab grated ginger      3-4 cloves garlic      6 habanero chillies, finely chopped

In a small square of muslin:  1 cinnamon quill    1 star anise     2-3 allspice berries   1 tsp cardamon pods   1 tsp coriander seed

Method:

Tie the spices in the muslin and hang off the handle of a stockpot. Halve and pit the plums, add them to the stockpot with the sherry, onion, ginger, garlic and vinegar or white wine. (If you like the sauce sharp, use vinegar).

Simmer it all together, stirring occasionally. Once the plums are starting to soften add the chopped chillies. Cook until the plums are falling apart. Allow to cool (I left mine overnight) and remove the muslin bag. If you like your sauce smooth, pour into a blender jar and blend thoroughly. If you like your sauce chunkier, use a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon.

Reheat and pot up into sterilised glass bottles (or jars if it’s chunky) and process in a water bath for extended shelf life.

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Meanwhile, have a wonderful Chinese New Year wherever you are 😀