Thursday, February 28, 2013

Late summer in the vegetable garden

February in the garden has been a month for planning, researching and soil replenishment.  It has mostly been too hot for too much gardening, apart from watering and basic maintenance. 

30mm of rain has fallen on our property in the last fortnight which has washed the dust off everything and proven to us that it can still rain.

 My family have kindly assisted in collecting several large trailer loads of sheep manure from underneath our woolshed to top up my depleted vegetable beds.  Armed with rakes, buckets and a wheelbarrow this has proven to be a perfect Sunday morning family outing.

This beautiful book was a thoughtful surprise from my Valentine.  The Little Veggie Patch Co's guide to Backyard Farming is presented in a month by month format.   Each chapter contains a list of vegetables, fruit and herbs to plant and harvest as well as extra activities, tasks and recipes relevant to the month.   For me this format is easy to follow and encourages forward planning in the garden.  At times I struggle to remember critical times,  particularly for vegetables such as asparagus, beetroot and rhubarb and this books makes finding this information a breeze. 

If you need a little gardening motivation in an attractive, informative and humorous book I recommend this is a great resource. 

Last Sunday the children and I filled this old saucepan with bits from the garden.  I couldn't help but smile at the colour and texture in this little harvest. 

We have just enjoyed this season’s first pumpkin and the same vine is still flowering. 

The tromboncinos are vigorous and producing enormous zucchinis when left to their own devices.  Here you can see them almost growing vertically and starting to tangle with my asparagus ferns.  It is going to be a big task to get rid of this vine when the weather cools off.  A clean up at the end of the season always feels good though.  

My two quince trees have set their first small crop.  These trees were planted in 2011 and I am very happy to see them starting to set fruit. I dream of the day I bring this furry fruit into the kitchen.

This terracotta birdbath provides a welcome dip for the birds in our garden on a hot afternoon.  Native saltbush and other native shrubs have popped up around the edges   giving this corner of the garden a natural feel.

Are you looking forward to Autumn?
What is happening in your garden? 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Guest Post for Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things

Hello friends

I am fortunate enough to have made a guest appearance on my friend Lizzy's blog.  In this post I have shared a lamb recipe, photos and thoughts about our life on the land.  Thank you Lizzy for giving me this opportunity.  

Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things is bursting with many other food stories, photos, recipes, events, market people, book reviews, a seasonal produce guide and more.  Lizzy is also currently running a very generous competition, call in and take a look.

I hope you are having a happy, restful weekend whatever you may be doing.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Class in the caravan

As some of you know my daughter is home schooled purely for geographical reasons. 

For the last two years school has drifted somewhere between our home office, the kitchen table and the satellite computer that connects my daughter to her teacher.  While this has been adequate it has not always been a perfect learning environment.

Some of you will also know that last year I bought a little old caravan with a vague plan  to restore it at some point in time.  Right at the end of the school holidays my mum suggested moving our classroom into the caravan and the next day we did.

The school year has commenced with lessons in the cosy, burnt orange surrounds of my little Millard van.   So far, so good and if we feel like a change of scenery we can simply hook up and move to a different spot.   We can see our chook pen through the  slightly temperamental louvre windows and a cool morning breeze floats through the flyscreen door.  Occasionally a curious sheep dog wanders by to say hello while we are reading in the shade.  We take regular short breaks and the kids run down to our creek and back.  

It may sound rather idyllic and sometimes it is.  Other times it is just like any other classroom complete with frustrations and inattention.  Reading is our favourite subject and a book always restores order and frayed nerves. 

We may not have classes in the caravan forever but at the moment it feels like an adventure and this is helping us through our home schooling journey.

Are you on a journey or an adventure? 
Do you sometimes do whatever it takes to get through the school year?
I hope the school year is treating you well if you are on that path.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Ricotta and basil zucchini flowers

Is life too short to stuff zucchini flowers?  I am not sure but they taste delicious.

Anyone who has grown zucchini knows that they are incredibly productive and as my friend Shell recently commented, you only have to turn your back on them and they are enormous.  This summer I have picked quite a few zucchini flowers and stuffed them with a mix of ricotta and fresh basil.  

If you make these please ensure there are no ants, bees or other insects in the flowers.  I have had to carefully coax a lot of little critters out of the flowers before cooking with them.

Ricotta and basil zucchini flowers
1 ½ cups ricotta*
A good handful of basil leaves or alternate with other fresh, soft herbs
Salt, pepper and olive oil to taste
Approximately 10 zucchini flowers

Preheat oven to 160°C.  Gently combine all ingredients except the zucchini flowers.

Holding each flower open, gently spoon in the ricotta mixture, pushing it down into the base of the flower very carefully.  Leave a little room at the top of the flower to prevent the ricotta mixture from spilling out.

Repeat until all flowers are filled.  Gently twist the top to hold the stuffing in place or push the petals together.  This does not have to be exact.

Place the flowers on a baking tray and cook until the flowers are softened and slightly golden and the ricotta is firm.  Season with a little extra salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.  I have served these flowers with fresh bread as part of a light lunch.

*I use homemade ricotta, if you are interested in the recipe please let me know and I am happy to share it.

Do you stuff vegetables?  

Friday, February 1, 2013

In My Kitchen February 2013

The hot January weather and school holidays have meant that this month as a family we have enjoyed a lot of outdoor cooking and eating.  We have cooked yabbies by the shores of a local lake, enjoyed morning smoko on the verandah with friends and tested our skills cooking in the wood oven.  

Firstly, a jar of homemade relish, an enormous home grown onion and a bunch of gum tree flowers all given to us by a thoughtful friend and her family.

My first batch of pita bread cooked in the wood oven.  I am slowly starting to understand the rhythm of cooking with fire and have learnt that the entire key to success is patience.  

A fresh Silver Perch caught by my Dad on an Australia Day camping trip.  We cooked this  simply by coating the fillets lightly in plain flour and frying them in a little olive oil with salt and pepper. Fresh fish, caught locally is really the best fish to eat, in my opinion.    

These small tomatoes are the Thai Pink variety which I had not heard of before Jodie kindly sent me the seeds.  The fruit (in my case) was small but tasty and the plants have been very resilient.  My photo has not truly reflected the beautiful, pearly pink colour of these little gems!  

Some generous visitors recently left us with a bucket of these amazing peaches and suggested I might give them to my chooks!  Instead I sprinkled them with ground coconut palm sugar, vanilla and ground cacao before roasting them slowly.  Sorry chooks.  

Lastly, a batch of scones straight from the wood oven.  Feeling the squishy scone dough come together in my hands before watching it rise quickly in the oven made me very happy.  In my excitement I forgot the egg wash, do scones need egg wash?  
My friend Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial  hosts this fun tour and makes it possible for us   to catch a glimpse into some very interesting kitchens around the world.  Why don't you join in the fun.

What is happening in your kitchen this month?

*the sprinkle for the peaches came from Beach Organics.