Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The sound of clicking...

I am meant to be in bed, tucked under my warm blanket with a good book but here I am sharing something very exciting with you all. Yesterday morning this sight greeted me when I arrived for my walk on the nearby green belt. And then today the rain has steadily drizzled down all day. What a pleasure to not have to water the garden and God waters like no other - into all the places that the sprinkler misses! But here I sit with the sound of the rain and the most joyful, delightful, exciting sound of little frogs clicking away IN MY GARDEN. They have made their home here, yes we introduced them, but they have chosen to stay! Click away little are welcome here!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Blueberries and panecotta

When Superman and I went to London in 2007 for a short 6 day stay, I arranged for us to have a meal at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen. It was here that we tasted the gentle flavours of a panecotta for the first time.

I have tried to make panecotta once before, but I never allowed enough time for them to set. This time it worked!

Warm 600ml of milk with the contents of one vanilla pod and 200g of castor sugar.

Put 4 leaves of sheet gelatin into some cold water to soften.

As soon as the milk begins to bubble remove from heat and stir in the squeezed out gelatin. Stir to dissolve, set aside to cool.

When cooled completely add 200ml of plain yoghurt. Put into moulds. I used silicone muffin trays. Allow to set in the fridge for 4 hours.

I have lots of frozen blueberries so I made a light syrup with blueberries, lemon juice and castor sugar. Once the panecottas were turned out I put a tablespoon of the blueberries around them. Delicious!

Friday, March 25, 2011

On my mind...

"On my mind" is a Friday photo feature started by Rhonda Jean at Down to Earth.

We committed to knitting squares for the Knit a Square project in winter last year. Our goal was 100 squares. We are just short of it, but we are sending our squares off today as winter is coming fast here in the Southern Hemisphere.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Making stock

On the weekend I decided to make some stock. I am reading Nourishing Traditions and enjoy her take on food and nutrition. I normally use stock powder unless I have some bones left from roast chicken, but I have never been a big stock maker.

I made a chicken stock using our own celery. We have about 6 plants of celery which I use for pasta sauces, juicing, salads etc but there is lots of celery so I was glad to use a lot of it.

Chicken stock has chicken bones left from a roast, 4 carrots, 2 onions, 4 stalks celery, thyme, whole peppercorns. Cover with water. Leave to simmer for 4 - 8 hours.

Remove chicken and strain the rest through a colander into a bowl. The liquid then should be refridgerated for the fat to solidify on the top. The fat is scraped off and the stock bottled in the fridge for use that week, or frozen for later.

I deboned the chicken, spiced it up and made pie. The bones and veg went to the dogs.

For the beef stock, I roasted 1kg fatty beef bone until browned. I put them and some shin into my slow cooker. 1/2 cup of vinegar and the same veg as above. I left this on low overnight until the bones were soft.
I again strained through a colander and allowed the fat to solidfy and then poured
the beef stock into jars for use this week. The dogs were delighted with the left overs.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Thoughts on food security...

I have been thinking about food a lot over the last week. I have a tendency to "live in my head" as Superman says, but I feel like I have a tendency to live in the kitchen actually! I seem to always be cooking or preparing a meal for my hungry hordes.

But the thinking has been more about food security and what it means to here are some of my random thoughts....

Because we make our own bread I know the grain is organic and full of nutrients. It is not empty calorie bread with ingredients on the labels that I do not understand.

I know that our vegetables are grown without artifical fertilizers and without harmful pesticides.

This means I am happy that we are not putting harmful things into our bodies which could outweigh the goodness of the food.

I am secure knowing that I can make whole nutritious food for my family whether it is pasta, jams, bread, salads, sauces...not much comes from a can or packet in our home these days.

If I needed to, we could probably eat from our pantry, freezer and garden for another 2 weeks before needing to pop out to the shop for some basics. I would like this to be pushed to 4 weeks, but with the change of season, a lot of the main summer vegetables are coming to the end.

I know what is in season through the year so I can eat from, and store up, these things for when they are out of season.
Eating seasonally, and locally, means I need not stretch my budget unnecessarily. This year we went without avos until we could get them locally and even though I eyed them out many times, the "IMPORTED FROM SPAIN" keep me form buying them.

I am secure knowing that the water that we now drink is pure, free from heavy metals, flouride and other nasty chemicals from the municipal water cleaning process.

I believe that the time and effort put into sourcing or growing organic foods will save us on doctors bills. The old saying: "pay the doctor or pay the grocer" is foremost in my mind.

I know that we were started on this path for a reason, I am not entirely sure what the end purpose is, but I am truly glad that we are teaching these simple skills to our children who are sadly being raised in an instant gratification culture and this which we impart to them is from a slower wiser era.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Eating from what we have

Things have been a bit "tight" this month with unexpected expenses - 2 cars breaking down, a minor medical procedure for me, extra kids sport costs...and so they tally up.

I decided to challenge myself to only plan meals for the next two weeks from what we have in the garden, pantry and freezer.

Today for lunch I took my inspiration from Jane's Delicious Kitchen and improvised on one of her salads.

Not having gorgonzola, walnuts or lettuce, I went with haloumi, pine nuts and rocket.

On a bed of washed rocket add sliced avo, fried haloumi, toasted pinenuts, quatered figs.

The dressing was equal parts mayonaise and yoghurt with a teaspoon of sweet chilli sauce and a good handful of chopped chives.

Served with our sweetcorn it was a filling satisfying lunch.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

And they're off....

Much excitement this week as our seeds have reared their little heads....






Now I just need to keep them safe from the chickens!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Inside and outside today.

My list for the garden was quite long today so we attacked it nice and early again. The biggest things were pruning the grape vine. Sadly we got no grapes this year as it was attacked by a fungus. I need to look into the treating of this vine...I was a bit negligent with it.

We also harvested some more corn, the last beans, some chillies and lots more green peppers. We have loads more corn to go...really happy about that.
The potatoes we planted in December have died back, and it was a nice, but not near what I expected, harvest. We have all sizes to enjoy over the next little while. In this bed we dug in compost and planted broad beans.

We also transplanted some sweet potato vines, banked another set of potatoes, planted out chard stated in newspaper pots and did a general tidy up.

Inside - I have been convicted for a while about heating up the oven for daily bread and am trying a new thing - I made 4 loaves of wholewheat bread, 3 of which I will slice and freeze for the week. One will be used tomorrow.

While the oven was on my daughter made butter rolls for lunch and I made Rhonda's whole orange cake. It won't last long as it is scrumptious.

I also made an upside down apple cake - that's for teatime later.

Now it's time for a lie down!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sung to the tune of....

"What shall we do with the drunken sailor?"

What shall we do with all this basil?
What shall we do with all this basil?
What shall we do with all this basil?
Early in the morning?

Make basil pesto, oh so quickly,
Make basil pesto, oh so quickly,
Make basil pesto, oh so quickly,
Easy easy easy!

I made loads of pesto this week as I decided to pull 5 of 6 basil plants up as they seemed to be interferring with my beloved asparagus that I have been nursing for almost 3 yrs now.

I keep one big jar in the fridge and use it for toasted cheese sandwiches or for a quick pasta dinner...or even pizza!

The rest I freeze in iceblock trays and then place individual blocks into ziploc bags and keep frozen. I use a block here and there as I need them for recipes through the winter.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A few favourite recipes.

We are eating from our garden daily. Corn is gracing our table most nights and after last years flop we are so enjoying large perfect corn on the cob. Here are a few recipes from this week.

My "killer" butternut soup:

1 large or 2 medium butternuts, peeled, seeded & cubed
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled & cubed
2 large potatoes, peeled & cubed
1 onion, chopped.

Melt some butter and olive oil in a large pot. Brown the onion in the butter, add vegetables.

Add 1 litre chicken or veggie stock, 1 tablespoon cumin and 1 teaspoon salt.

Cook until soft, then blend with stick blender. Add either 250ml cream or 2 round crumbled feta cheese and blend again.
Serve with hot rolls.

Savory rice:

3 or 4 green peppers, seeded and chopped
2 or 3 ripe tomatoes, diced
1 onion, chopped
1 pkt bacon, sliced
1 punnet mushrooms, chopped
500ml rice

Melt some butter and olive oil in heavy based pot, add bacon and onion, fry until browned. Add rice and allow to fry stirring all the time.
Add the rest of the ingredients and 1.5l veggie stock. Allow to simmer until cooked. Serve with chives and corn on the cob.
As figs are in season and are a huge treat we made this pudding:

1 fig per person and a few spoons of ricotta.
Melt 125ml sugar slowly in a pan

Cut the fig top down almost all the way to the bottom and open up the fig.
Drizzle the sugar over the fig and ricotta cheese.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Sunday in the garden

Yesterday before the sun was out of it's pajamas Superman and I hit the garden. The kiddos were still asleep and we savoured the time together before the heat set in.

We picked what was ready and we are so pleased with the corn from the newest is big and strong and perfectly formed. We then cut down the remaining sunflowers around the pond and put them in a basket to dry. I am so thankful for Superman who is really picking up a lot of my slack now that my back is not working properly.

When the kids woke up they got busy too and helped clear out the spent corn, tomatoes and marrow plants. We dug in compost from our own heap (which is now depleted) and in the beds below sowed turnips, beets, peas, red onions and chard.

Where the marrows have been, we dug in compost and planted loads of broad beans. These were a mainstay last winter and we hope to fit in at least 3 consecutive plantings.

By then it was 10 a.m and too hot to be outside. We will need to keep these beds watered daily until the seeds germinate....and somehow keep the chooks out!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The 3 stooges!

This year we have had a great butternut harvest. These are 3 of the first 4 we harvested. We got another 3 today and still have some beauties growing in the garden.

Last night I made butternut gnocchi with one, and served it with a sage-butter sauce and a green salad. Yummy.
The basic recipe is 1 part roasted mashed butternut to 1 part flour to 1 egg. I had 3 eggs so we had a lot of dough. I also added salt, pepper and a cup of grated parmesan.

You roll it out in potions into snakes and cut off little dumplings.

Then boil it in salted water until they float. Drain and quickly pour the butter over. Top with grated parmesan.

Friday, March 4, 2011