Sunday, January 29, 2012

A beautiful, dusty old piano

We are lucky enough to have recently inherited an old piano.  Nobody in our household can play or read music but I am hoping this will change.  Armed with some basic books from the library I have found Middle C, reading music may take a little longer to master!

Already there is something comforting about having a piano in the house.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Letting go of sourdough

As some of you may know I have spent the last two years baking a weekly batch of sourdough bread for my friend Terese at Thom, Dick and Harry's in Broken Hill.

When I started experimenting with bread Terese was generous enough to make some space on her beautiful shop counter for my loaves and has continued to patiently support my venture ever since.  Over this time I have worked on my technique, accumulated some better equipment and learnt many things along the way about baking, small business and everything in between.

My weeks to some extent have revolved around the bread.  Each week begins with activating the starters then on to chopping olives and fruit, mixing, folding, dividing, shaping, proving, scoring, baking, cooling, packing and delivering.

2012 is the start of my daughter, Annabelle’s home schooling through School of the Air and I will be teaching her.  After much reflection I have decided my regular bread bake is going to be too much of a commitment.

So for now I am letting go of something I love and rely on as part of my weekly routine.  I will continue to keep my sourdough starters alive and plan to bake regularly for ourselves and for some one-off events when I can.  One little chapter of life is going on hold…another big chapter is about to begin! 

OK, so everyone is doing the Saltwater sandal photo...but I still love this mother and daughter shot!

Monday, January 16, 2012

A box full of dreams and schemes

I have often considered the idea of selling vegetable boxes from my garden.  I am inspired by businesses such as Hilbarn in Tasmania who pack seasonal, locally sourced fruit and vegetables into boxes and distribute them to their subscribers on a regular basis.

Currently I pack vegetable boxes on a very tiny scale for a small group of customers (really they are friends!) depending on what is prolific in the garden at the time.  I get immense satisfaction from this and it is fun to share my excess vegetables with people who share my passion for food.

Anyone who has grown vegetables will know that it can often be a case of feast or famine.  One week I might have 5kg of excess cucumbers and the next week the patch can be a bit bare.  Variety and consistency is perhaps one of the biggest challenges in the vegetable garden.

On Sunday morning after I packed this box I once again considered the idea of Shady Yards Trading  vegetable boxes…another plan for the future perhaps.

Monday, January 9, 2012

In My Kitchen January 2012

Welcome to In My Kitchen, something new for my blog.  Through Celia's lovely blog foodies share monthly glimpses of food and other good things!  Enjoy and take a look at other In My Kitchen posts at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

A batch of sourdough coming out of the oven...just because some days I simply must bake bread.

Vegetables from the garden.  Summer perfection!

A little reading material for inspiration both in the garden and the kitchen.

Black turtle beans soaking that I recently made into a healthy side dish served with a tomato and cucumber salad, topped with natural yoghurt and coriander.

This is my first attempt at seed saving from my current tomato crop.  I will have to wait until next tomato season to see how successful I have been.
What is looking good in your kitchen this month?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The passata project

I have just made my first batch of passata for the summer with my surplus tomato crop.  I am certainly not an expert in this area but every year I adjust my technique slightly and learn little tricks along the way.

Traditionally Roma tomatoes would be used but I always grow a mixture of varieties and put them all in together.  This can be a messy job and I find it easier to set up a little temporary kitchen in our shed using a heavy duty gas cooker for the boiling.  I also find it easier to manage in smaller batches, about 10kg of tomatoes at one time.  This will depend on your equipment, space available and time.

This has been loosely adapted from a recipe by Rob Pirina that was published in the Advertiser on 16th March, 2011.

You will need the following:
Tomatoes – the amount depends on how much you wish to make.  1kg will make approximately one 650ml bottle.
Clean, sterilised bottles with clean lids.
A tomato extraction machine, available from large food stores and wholesalers.  (I have a “Master” Tomato Press which I bought from Gaganis Bros in Adelaide for about $50.00)
A few big pots and bowls
A funnel
Step 1
Wash tomatoes and then cut them into halves or quarters depending on the size.  Put the cut tomatoes into boiling water for around 3 minutes.  This helps to sanitise them and also makes it easier for them to pass through the machine.  Strain tomatoes and discard water.

Step 2
Pass the tomatoes through the extraction machine to separate the seeds and skin.  I pass the seeds and skin through the machine a second time, this results in a thicker sauce.

Step 3
Put a basil leaf in each bottle.  You could substitute the basil for a garlic clove or a chilli.  Fill each bottle with a funnel leaving a 3 or 4 finger gap from the top.  If you are using beer bottles you will need a beer bottle sealing machine.  It is fortunate we have an extensive selection of home brew supplies!

Step 4
Fill a very large pot/drum with clean water.  Wrap each bottle in a clean towel/tea towel and lay them in the pot.* Once all the bottles are laying in the pot bring the water to boil and boil for 30-40 minutes.  Turn flame off and leave for 48 hours.  This allows the sauce to cook and pasteurise.  Remove bottles carefully and use the sauce on practically anything.


The final product
*Wrapping each bottle in a towel is something I have experimented with this year to prevent the bottle from breaking if they move around while they are boiling.  It may not be traditional but it has worked well for me so far.