Saturday, February 25, 2012

Summer in the vegetable garden

Welcome to a little tour of my vegetable garden.  February is probably the most difficult month of the year for the garden at our place.  Soaring temperatures and dry conditions test out even the toughest plants and vegetables.

This is my main vegetable patch, completely un-styled!  Currently it is an unruly tangle of zucchini, pumpkin, watermelon and cucumber vines with eggplant, kale, capsicum, rhubarb and asparagus all jostling for space amongst the big vines.  I have young pear, quince and apricot trees growing along the fence.

My friend Sarah recently gave me this beautiful okra pod which was dry and full of seeds.  I have not grown okra before and after Sarah telling me it is a great match with lamb I couldn’t wait to plant it out.  Four days after sowing the seeds directly into the ground they had popped up, impressive!  I look forward to watching them grow and then experimenting with them in the kitchen. Do you have any experience with okra, either growing or cooking?

I recently harvested these pumpkins.  The smaller pumpkins are Queensland Blue and the larger ones are Blue Hubbard, I believe.  The biggest Blue Hubbard weighed in at 13kg and I am definitely going to need assistance to cut it.  As with most of my vegetables, I purchased this seed in a mixed heirloom pack from the Diggers Club.

A cook can never have enough basil and this one I purchased as Greek Basil.  It has survived the summer well and I have used the sweet little leaves mainly in salads or scattered over pizza.

This is my lemon grass plant.  It is a hardy clump of razor sharp leaves with the fragrant lemon scented stems found wrapped within the leaves towards the base of the plant.  You can smell the refreshing lemon the moment you cut the leaves.  This is something I don't use as often as I should...taking this photo has reminded me to use some in my next stir fry.

This hammock swings in the shade between a mulberry and an olive tree at the bottom of our garden.  In reality the kids have spent more time in it than me but it looks very restful and is a great place to escape to on a hot afternoon.

My tomato crop has almost finished.  From early December through to mid January I picked approximately 52kg of tomatoes, made up of a mixture of varieties.  I was quietly happy with those results. 

What is happening in your garden at the moment?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Making ice cream

I was recently chatting amongst foodie friends about making home made ice cream, just for fun but also to avoid the additives and preservatives in most store bought ice cream.  Some recent hot weather and an abundance of fresh eggs tempted me to launch into an ice cream making session.

Years ago I tried this recipe from the  Donna Hay Holiday issue, 2002.  This was the launch issue of Donna Hay magazine and I still have that issue and love it.  Armed with some simple ingredients I decided to try it again. 

This recipe is actually semifreddo which I believe means “half-frozen”.  The beauty of this recipe is that it does not require an electric ice cream maker.  The end result was a rich, creamy treat which was not at all difficult to make.  Next time I might try adding some nuts to the mixture…pecans perhaps?

Do you have an electric ice cream maker?  Do you use it?
Do you have any ice cream making tips?  

I hope you are having a lovely weekend!

Vanilla Bean Semifreddo
3 eggs
2 eggs yolks, extra
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped and reserved
½-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup castor sugar
1 3/4 cups cream

Place the eggs, extra yolks, vanilla seeds, vanilla extract and sugar in a heatproof bowl.  Place over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk the mixture for 4-5 minutes or until heated through and frothy.  Remove from the heat and beat with an electric mixer until pale and thick.

Beat the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer until very soft peaks form.  Gently fold the egg mixture into the cream until just combined, using a metal spoon.  Pour the mixture into a metal bowl or cake tin.  Cover the bowl or tin with foil and freeze for 4-6 hours or until firm.  Serves 6-8.  

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Op-shop fun

I love a visit to our local Lifeline workshop.  The various second hand wares are spread throughout a few sheds and the people who run it are real characters.  Nothing is priced, it is simply a matter of pointing out whatever has caught your eye and you are given a price on the spot.

I recently picked up this pretty little tin tray, the cheerful colours caught my eye and I thought it would look at home on my outdoor table.

These solid Fowler’s preserving jars were also bought from Lifeline for next to nothing.  I have put some little beeswax candles in them and I just love the way they create a pretty glow.

 Another recent buy was from Ebay.  It is an addition to my slowly growing collection of old toy caravans.  This little van wasn't necessarily a bargain but I couldn't resist the well loved appearance and the 60’s styling.

Lastly, I picked up this rather rough but interesting collection from a paddock on our property after recent rain.  The old cow bell and enamel cup and candle holder must have been buried in the dirt for many years.  They are a reminder of the past and much tougher, yet simpler times living in rural Australia.

Have you found any treasures lately?  

For more fun vintage finds link up with Sophie at Her Library Adventures.  

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Goodbye to the holidays

Today I am sharing a few photos from the last few precious moments of the school have you spent your weekend?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

In My Kitchen February 2012

Welcome to a little tour of some of the things in my kitchen...

I recently made these free-form ratatouille tarts from Donna Hay's Simple Dinners cookbook.  They were a delicious combination of freshly picked summer vegetables wrapped in shortcrust pastry on a creamy ricotta and basil base.

The simple ingredients of bacon, cheese and tomato on buttered toast make a hearty morning smoko for my husband, Terry after a busy morning out and about on the farm.

This is my own blend of homemade muesli with plenty of nuts and organic dried fruit, served with natural yoghurt and a sweet slice of rockmelon.  This is my favourite way to start the day.

Beautiful fresh eggs from our chooks, I refuse to bake with anything less!  My willing little helpers, Annabelle and George are always happy to collect the eggs and play with the chooks.

Join in the fun, go to Celia’s blog, Fig Jam and Lime Cordial to look at what other people have in their kitchens around the world.  What is in your kitchen this month?