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Garlic

Garlic

Picked this at the correct time of December 21st.  Finally we have a breed of garlic that will love our tropical climate and have done well this year with next to no attention at all. 

So this lot will definitely carry over until next April as seeds for the next year of garlic.  Hopefully we can end up with a breed that doesn’t mind these conditions.

Eggplant. Why?

Eggplant. Why?

I mean, seriously, why?  Eggplant seems to taste like nothing on a good day and on a bad day, its bitter.  But my lovely neighbour grew them so I will persevere.

All sorts of cooking techniques are used to make it eatable but my favourite eggplant dish is deep fried in batter with guacamole dressing.  Obviously, I like deep fried batter and guacamole.  I’ve also used this technique on choko which is another vegetable that tastes like nothing but sort of in a good way, especially roasted with beef.

So above you see in the jam jars (recycled) eggplant which has been bottled with pepper, chilli, bay, thyme and preserved in good olive oil.  Behind in the vacola jars is the eggplant which is processed in apple cider vinegar and sealed for shelf storage.  To the right is the eggplant which I’m about to put in the dehydrator to make eggplant chips.  These chips can be rehydrated by boiling in water for five minutes.  And to the left, some bottled tomato sauce, as referred to in the earlier post – just to show off.

After about a month to season and age the eggplant preserved in oil, we will test it.  But I’m betting that they will all taste like what I put in the bottles.  Maybe I’m missing the point and the purpose of eggplant is to carry flavour or bulk out a meal.

Whichever, I’m nearly done with them unless the dehydrated works like a charm. 

Leftover Pie

Leftover Pie

My new triumph – leftover pie.  Made with layers of chicken, turkey, roast veg and some added onion and herbs. 

It looks very much like the photo but a close look would show that this is a photo of a cherry pie – not leftover pie.

This is because I always mean to take photos before I eat but I guess that I’m just not that kinda gal.  I’m just happy to get food on the table at about the right time and stopping to take photos really isn’t my bag.

Pastry, either savoury or sweet, is super easy.  It just takes a bit of mucking around to roll it out and it makes leftovers a bit more special.  Served with potato mash and green beans, it has disguised the fact that we have been noshing down on the same leftovers since Christmas day.

Seriously though, I now have leftovers of leftover pie and I’m totally confused as to what to do with that.  Logically, there must be an end to leftovers sometime.  Its not like they are student cooking of curried veg. 

Did you ever live in a student share house where they do a big pot of curried veg, eat several serves, add some water, add some veg and go around again?  The best student foods have been handed down from occupant to occupant for probably generations.  I figure that they are an encouragement to graduate and move out.  So the poultry will have to become acquainted with xmas leftovers at some stage.

Lock the gate

Lock the gate

Lock the Gate!  Yes, I know this is originally about the anti-fracking movement. 

But I have reworked it to be an inspiration to every person who has been led to believe that any domestic focus is unfair to themselves and a burden to others.

Full employment, especially of women was espoused after World War 2 when western governments realised that they had spent an awful lot of money on making the world safe for democracy and that expanding employment, especially to women effectively doubled their tax base.  As a result, the Women’s Liberation Movement, in particular wanting equality in the workplace, played right into their hands and the subtle brainwashing of society to demean domestic employment started.

I totally support the ability for people to chose whether they are in paid employment or not.  But there has to be a choice.  Not overt encouragement to book your unborn child into daycare before due date and scurry back to the 9 – 5 because of some tenuous career ideal.  People who have one of a couple working full time in the domestic sphere are now considered to be a) oppressed b) wealthy or c) incomprehensible.  And I frequently hear girls saying that they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if they didn’t go to work.  Well, you could relax a little and consume a bit less maybe as well as be available in the many care roles that someone in the community has to fulfil.  And support your partner.  Swap roles maybe with a couple of years at home and a couple at work for each partner.  Or some other imaginative solution that honestly takes into account the needs of both the adult and the children.

I am lucky to have some space at my place which encourages projects of all sorts.  But I would like to institute my “lock the gate” campaign where I stay within the property boundaries for a set time, say six or twelve months.  Just to prove that existence is just as meaningful as one where I am running out the door and down the road five days out of seven.

Let me know what you think.

Best Christmas Ever

Best Christmas Ever

Is this shaping up to be the best Christmas ever or not?  Definitely yes

A friend of a friend was giving away their (obviously) 1970’s Fowlers Vacola bottling outfit, complete with bottles, thermometer, lids and seals.  How wonderful was it that they scored it thinking that I would want it and YES absolutely I want it.

Aside from the attractive burnt orange décor, it is a stovetop model, not electric element controlled.  Which means that it can be used even in the event of a lack of power.  It is a slightly different set up from the little vacola model which is sold in hardware stores, doesn’t have any temperature control and is only suitable for preserving fruit in sugar syrup.  It uses slightly less water.

And the super score of the whole thing, a ’70’s issue vacola instruction book which tells me all about preserving lots of things that the food safety laws say I’m not allowed to preserve now.  It is a great addition to my 1950’s vacola book that a wonderful colleague copied and sent to me a couple of years ago.

I would like to point out to the man in the hardware shop that a vacola kit is NOTHING at all like a vergola shade system.  I need to tell you this due to the fact that you tried to send me down the road to the vergola people.  But don’t worry – I just drove to another hardware shop and bought one from the lady who had a faint idea what I was on about.

Apparently there are lots of bottling systems available to preserve food, for instance the English mason jars.  But they all need replaceable rubber seals and I tend to favour the Australian vacola most because you can often pick up the bottles at garage sales and in the op shops.  The old bottles are fantastic because they were made in lots of different shapes and sizes.  I believe more variety than exists today but I’m happy to be corrected on that.

Now off to think about what I can put in bottles with my new improved recipe book.  And loads of thanks to Pete and Prue for remembering that I’m just a mass of hobbies and passions.

One tree crop

One tree crop

And the final half hour of the garden walk involved picking blueberries off the one bush that grows them successfully.  There was nearly two kilos (some went at lunch time) and a few cherry tomatoes were popped in at the end as I walked past them.

The berries will be fridged in the hope that they will last.  They will – if they don’t get eaten.  They last extremely well.  A lot of the rest of the tomatoes went into the frittata for lunch.

I enjoy blueberry Danish so I make it with an apple crumble recipe but I add lots of butter and nutmeg and cinnamon to the crumble mixture to make an imitation Danish.  And BAKE!

A quick walk in the garden

A quick walk in the garden

I just popped out of the house to pick some lemon myrtle leaves.  I really didn’t want to pick them, I was going to pick elderberry flowers to make champagne but the other decision maker had a brainwave to make cordial out of lemon myrtle.  I’m not absolutely sure how I’m going to do that and I may have to do a bit of study to make sure that decoction of lemon myrtle is not going to kill us, but that was the reason I ventured into the big wide grassy world.

And then things just snowballed.  We dug one potato garden and picked a sack full of snake beans as well as chokos.  I’ve lined some up on the kitchen table.  Strangely, our tables just seem to hold projects and we tend to eat on our laps.  This could be a viable alternative lifestyle for consideration but at least the projects are well accommodated.

Eventually (sooner rather than later) I’ll sort and dry brush the potatoes for storage.  I dry brush them because I figure that the dirt is mine and I had to make all that dirt so none of it should leave the property or go down the drain.  I have plastic food buckets well lined with newspaper and pop the potatoes into them and keep them in the dark little pantry.  I take out any that have been spiked by the garden fork and any tiny ones.  The tiny ones I throw into a pile in the hope that they will eventually sprout and I can use them for seed. 

Once you have potatoes in your garden, they will always be there, sprouting back years later just when you don’t want them to.  But at least they are handy to have for an easy feed.  I have had potatoes flower and come to seed in the garden and then found them growing through the lawn.  Must have been where the seeds fell.  There are always tiny tubers that stay in the soil, avoiding the digging and they will pop up again next season.

Ours seem to do well in fresh ground.  Once I’ve put a few seasons of crops through the soil, they don’t do much good at all.  This must be the reason why traditionally potatoes were planted over last years long drop trench after it had been filled in and over wintered.  I haven’t tried that yet but never say never.

The snake beans or yard long beans love the hot weather and represent a fantastically abundant green veg option through the summer months when all the other green vegetables get very mushy from the heat.  They pick all through Christmas and New Year just when you think you will expire from heat and humidity, the other plants get sick and the candles melt in their holders.

In the Garden … Area 51

In the Garden … Area 51

This is like one of those super fuzzy alien autopsy videos.  And the subject is fairly alien as well.

If you look past the bad focussing, you’ll see that the subject is a tomato which is just blushing ripe and it was so heavy it was hanging down to the ground as we didn’t get around to staking up the plants.

So I picked it and brought it into the kitchen.  A while later when I looked, we had a visitation from a lifeform – which was actually some kind of caterpillar who was living inside the tomato and had a network of tunnels and holes like a little caterpillar subway and it was scooting around the tomato and generally having a great time.

So I just left him there.  There are probably very good reasons why I should do that and if I liked tomatoes better, I may have committed bugicide but for the moment, he is living a blessed life on the kitchen bench.  And tomorrow, I’ll consider my options.


In the kitchen … Paddock to plate

In the kitchen … Paddock to plate

This yummy pumpkin was picked in April this year.  So it has been stored for  ten months.

Initially, I stored it on its side in a sheltered outside area on the verandah.  On the side because any water sitting around the stalk area causes rot to set in and it rots through to the middle of the fruit.  And outside because I like the winter air to get onto the skin of the pumpkin.

Usually, hard skin pumpkins are the best for keeping but the Jap pumpkin is more truly a squash.  And I believe that they ripen as they sit.  This bright orange certainly looks like one of the most ripe pumpkins I’ve cooked with in a long time.  Which is a relief because the ones I see in the shops often look too green and I wouldn’t really like to eat them.

Once the weather turned a bit wet and hot, I brought all the pumpkins inside to store.  Occasionally I lose one which rots but not as often as you might think.  The beauty of that is that you can store and use pumpkins all year with only one crop per season.

While the Jap is universally enjoyed for its flavour and easy cutting, I have some small Queensland blues and this year I am experimenting with some other varieties.  Stay tuned for a run down on which become an efficient addition to your self sufficient garden.

Reflections

Reflections

The willy wagtails are back in the tree that I can see from my office desk.

They were there last year and we kept each other company through the storms and rain and bright days.

I have a particular esteem for the urban birds – the sparrows and pigeons, wagtails and swallows that quite happily exist and rear young in the middle of the city in any little spot.  They are such game little things, adapting to people and traffic and not only surviving but thriving.  I know where their nests are and I stop and talk to them when I am doing my work jobs.  Luckily, where I work, it is not strange to see people standing around the street talking to the sky with no real reason behind that.  I just blend into the background.

But I think that my love of these birds are because they give a living example of how the highest talent is surviving in any situation and learning to make the best of it.  What is the point of living in gated communities or taking to the hills of Nevada in a bunker when you have this example of survival to keep us inspired everyday.

And pigeons, I know where you nest.  And you look yummy.