Sunday, January 26, 2014

Family foraging

We do not get to the ocean nearly enough.  But when we get there we make the most of it rain, hail or shine.   We recently escaped to South Australia for a few days to visit family before the school year starts again.

After a relaxing wander through the beautiful Willunga Farmers Market it was time to get down to the serious business of foraging for cockles or pippis.  We are cockling novices but we had two experts leading the charge so we followed them with great enthusiasm.

It wasn't long before we were digging around in the soft sand at Middleton filling our buckets with these shelled creatures.  The water was mild and families, surfers and walkers were all enjoying the beach.  The cockles were sorted and counted as we discussed some different ways to cook our catch. 

Afterwards, the Hotel Elliot seemed the perfect place for a cold beer and lunch as we savoured the quickly diminishing holiday moments.

We purged our catch firstly in bran and then in salt water.  After seeking some advice from Christina we probably could have skipped the bran and gone straight for the salt water.   This is valuable knowledge for next time. 

The chef of the house cooked the cockles in an Asian style loosely based on this recipe.  A generous handful of fresh Thai basil stirred through at the end lifted this simple dish.

So, now we have been cockling.  Foraging for food as a family proved to be a perfect day out.

Do you eat cockles or use them for fish bait?

Do you call them pippis?

Are you savouring the final moments of the school holidays?  

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Long summer days

Just like so many other places in Australia at the moment, it is scorching in our part of the world.  For the kids and I this means early mornings looking after the animals and garden followed by quieter afternoons hiding from the heat. 

This week we spent some time in the cool of the morning exploring the deep, dry cracks in the bottom of this dam and dreamt of it once again filling with water.

By late afternoon we load up the dogs and the swimming paraphernalia and head to our house dam to cool off.  The dam is a bit muddy underfoot but the calming effect of the water is good for everyone and adds a little sparkle to our day.

My vegetable garden is mostly in survival mode.   I am grateful for a few brave plants that are battling on including a tough little cucumber, snake beans and woody herbs like thyme, sage and rosemary. 

Although cooking in a wood oven sounds like hot work in this weather, for us it is a good way of keeping cooking heat out of the house.  These sourdough focaccia loaves emerged from the darkness of the oven in time to share with our neighbours last weekend. 

How are you surviving the extremes in temperature, either hot or cold depending on where you are?

Stay safe friends.  

Thursday, January 9, 2014

In My Kitchen, January 2014

Hello friends and welcome to my kitchen for another year. 

Just before Christmas my friend Paula gave me a baguette tray that she and her husband picked up at an auction, as you do.  I get very excited about proper bread equipment and couldn't wait to experiment with a batch of semi-sourdough baguettes from the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook.  This was my first attempt and I was pretty happy with them.  My technique needs a little fine tuning which is a perfect excuse to make another batch.

A little rockmelon from my garden alongside a chook egg, just for scale.  These rockmelons are a miniature variety, raised from seed.  Although I didn't expect them to be quite this small they smell and taste magnificent.

I am having mixed success with garlic storage so have decided to experiment with freezing whole cloves.  So far so good and an unexpected bonus is that the individual cloves are much easier to peel straight from the freezer.

Homemade nectarine and peach ice cream topped with honey and flaked almonds.  This is a simple and healthy ice cream option adapted from this recipe

 Lastly, a little paper bird that my daughter, Annabelle, gave me for Christmas.  I love the fact that she chose it herself and was so excited about giving it to me that she spilt the beans weeks before Christmas.  Bless her.  

Every month Celia hosts this kitchen tour through her blog Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. Celia's blog is full of information on food, gardening, good living and so much more. Just recently I turned to Celia for advice on upgrading my food processor.  So much valuable knowledge can be gained from the blogging community, it continues to amaze me.

What is happening in your kitchen this month?
Are you cooking or experimenting or taking a break? 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A new year and a few old memories

We spent New Year on the property where I spent most of my childhood.  Part of my family still live there but for a variety of reasons nine years have passed between visits.   Honestly, I am not sure where those nine years have gone. 

So many memories surfaced from our visit that when we eventually arrived home in the stifling heat on the first day of January I shed a few tears.  Tears because I felt grateful for what I have now; a devoted husband who makes me laugh everyday, two incredible children and a beautiful home.  

I shed a few tears also for the memories of the past.

The unmistakable clink of the back gate.
The white and navy placemats that have been on the contentious kitchen table for at least twenty years. 

The smell of the storeroom with its big green meat safe, creaky floorboards and well stocked shelves.

My childhood footsteps retraced by my children’s footsteps.

The tough old grapevines growing on the verandahs. 
Young love and not so young love.

The elaborate dinner parties hosted in an era that has past, replaced by cold beer and yabbies at the shed. 

The reassurance of ornaments, furniture, art and pieces of family history that have never, ever been rearranged in my lifetime. 

My seven year old daughter asking completely relevant questions about sheep and farming as we drove over the dusty tracks of my adolescence.

My eyes looked at the old buildings and the outback light with a completely different perspective on this visit, perhaps I have photography to thank for that.  Or is it just that I am older?

I have not made any bold resolutions for 2014.  I just want to live each day a little more gently.

What is happening at your place? 
How is 2014 looking so far?             
Do you ever reminisce at this time of the year?

**This post is a little more personal than usual just because life is not all sourdough loaves and freshly picked vegetable.  My first post for 2014 seemed like an appropriate place to let a few thoughts flow, I am sure you understand.