Friday, March 22, 2013

Friends and sharing

I am lucky enough to have a lovely friend who is married to a cousin of mine, so she is also family.

We share a love for cooking, vegetable gardening, books, markets, country living (but also a little city living when the time is right) and pursuing balance and happiness for ourselves and our families.  Due to school routines and outback distances we only see each other occasionally. 

Instead of a shared weekly coffee or lunch we have started a package swap which happens every fortnight or so.  At a mutually agreed location we drop a package for each other to collect.  Over the last year we have swapped seeds, plants, relish, cuttings, homemade artwork, a pumpkin, tea, hand-me-down children’s clothing and always books or magazines.

Sometimes we might write a handwritten note which is normally just a hello, a brief description of the goods or a little shared news.   I don’t think either of us have bought anything specifically for our swap.  It is always handmade, home grown, something from our pantries or books and magazines that were bought to share eventually anyway. 

I have grown to love this swap.  It is about generosity, sharing and building friend ship.   Every package is a little surprise and it always brightens my day.

Do you swap bits and pieces with friends?

Do you make friends easily?  For me it takes time. 

Happy Friday blog friends. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Festa della Vendemmia

We arrived early at Festa della Vendemmia .  I was eager and hungry and we had travelled 300 kilometres to be there.  Regardless of our early arrival we were given a warm welcome and I knew immediately we were in for a special evening.

Festa della Vendemmia is a “feast of the grape harvest” promoting the International Slow Food philosophy of ‘good, clean, and fair’ The dinner showcased a range of produce grown and manufactured solely in the Sunraysia area, including local wines and beers.   The dinner was a friendly degustation on long tables set beneath high trellis vines on the Garreffa family vineyard in Irymple, hosted by Slow Food Mildura

The evening air in the vineyard was hot, humid and perfectly still. We enjoyed a cold local beer while we watched two ladies expertly make zeppoli right before our eyes.  Soon we were devouring these traditional Italian pieces of fried dough, stuffed with anchovies or dried fruit.  Just don’t tell your heart specialist about these incredible pre dinner treats!


Over the next 5 hours we enjoyed 6 courses of magnificent food including aged free –range prosciutto, Murray Cod, handmade canneloni and goat slow cooked in camp ovens.   The finale to our main meal was a delicate pistachio frangipan tart served with fresh figs from the Garreffa’s own tree. 


It was after midnight when we emerged from beneath the grapevine canopy only to discover even more delights.  A massive wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano sat on top of a wine barrel surrounded by muscatels.   Upon a neighbouring wine barrel sat a generous pile of whole wheat sourdough crostini.  Although we were absolutely full it was hard to walk past without tasting just the tiniest morsel. 

Before we boarded our bus the contented crowd gathered to collect generous goodie bags and a freshly made affogato with Frangelico, home-made vanilla bean ice cream and a slice of handmade crostoli.  Every bus trip should involve a perfectly made affogato I have decided. 

This was the most memorable evening.  We were paying guests but it felt like we had been invited into a special family gathering.  

This event has left me in awe of what can be achieved when a group of passionate, like-minded people put their heart and soul into sharing their knowledge and skills with the wider community.  Congratulations to all involved, we hope to return again next year.  

I did some research while writing this post and decided to share some descriptions with you.      

A traditional Italian fried dough stuffed with anchovy or dried fruit in this case.  

Meaning “little toasts”.  Toasted slices of crusty bread.

Sweet crisp pastry that has been shaped into thin ribbons, deep fried and sprinkled with icing sugar.

Espresso coffee accompanied by 1-2 scoops of vanilla ice cream served in a cup.   Can  include a shot of liqueur.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

In My Kitchen March 2013

Welcome to another tour of my kitchen.

I recently had a good reason to scrub my kitchen from head to toe and while it was looking so shiny I took some photos.  Please note this is the uncluttered, child free version of my kitchen.  In reality, it looks like this perhaps once or twice a year.    

Apples from my garden.  This is not exactly a bumper crop but I don't think I have ever been so excited about picking fruit.  Growing vegetables is certainly rewarding but picking  home grown fruit has taken my love of growing food to a whole new level.  

I am continually amazed at just how adaptable my standard white sourdough recipe is.   Over the years as I have gained more bread making confidence I have started to turn this dependable dough into several different forms of bread.  Bubbly, crisp pizza bases are a favourite.  Whenever I make bread these days I freeze several balls of dough to have on hand whenever the need for pizza arises.   Impressively, once thawed the dough literally bounces back to life.

Sourdough grissini topped with sea salt and rosemary has been a recent bread experiment.  These crunchy sticks are the perfect match for a cold beer and some chunky dip.

I have been dreaming of pesto bread ever since fellow blogger and baker Mel shared a photo of her pesto bread on Twitter.  Inspired by Mel, I created these sourdough scrolls filled with homemade basil pesto.  The pesto turned a little brown in the cooking process but it did not lose that distinctive pesto taste.  

This delicate but pungent little leaf is from my curry tree.  I have not cooked a lot with it yet, but it has an incredible aroma.  Do you have any cooking suggestions for curry leaves?  

Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial hosts this fun kitchen tour.  Please visit her blog and explore other kitchens from all around the world.