Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Water, water everywhere - much too much to drink

More eggplant pictures - you'll be glad when summer's over wont you!
  • lots of chillies
  • 1 cucumber
  • enough beans for two for dinner
Lots and lots of rain, more to come (it's forecast till Sunday!). The frog pond is at its limit, our city's water supply dam is going to overflow and my private tank is already overflowing into the storm water. Perhaps we should have got two tanks! 

The veggies continue to drain well however, after a day of constant wetness and even the little new seeds that have sprouted and that are still at dicotyledon stage are not waterlogged. I am a little worried that the snow peas will ahve already rotted in the soil though. But in general I am feeling very pleased with my soil development. 

Last night David excelled! Two curries with brown rice ( I love brown rice) a chicken one and this yummy eggplant one.

Curried eggplant * from the garden

olive oil
vindaloo curry paste (or any other paste you like)
cherry tomatoes*

Cut eggplant and cook in quite a lot of olive oil to soften. You might want to drain some of the oil off.  Add onion and cook and then add all other ingredients and a little water. Cook till eggplant soft and all flavours melded.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012


Plenty of those lovely spiders that live in curled leaves.
Back at home.  Phew!  Survived the retreat without saying or doing anything embarrassing.

After greeting the man, it was into the garden to survey, prod, determine progress, revive. Here are some things I found.  All is well with the universe!

And the big round spider is in its usual little nook on the eucalypt.

The lambertia is flowering (some might know them as 'mountain devils')

Laurie (or is it Keats?) still dropping in.

The radish and the rocket I planted in seed form on Saturday are already up! - this is the radish.

A cucumber is ready to pick

Monday, 27 February 2012

I'm missing you my garden!

Picked - nothing

Here I am in a hotel room up the coast from Sydney at a work 'retreat'.  But my real retreat is my backyard, my lovely husband and cat.

This is not restful at all, hotel beige, the over cholrinated pool sting to the nasal mucous membranes, the impossibility of letting your guard down after 7 hours cause you are still technically at work.

No post-work revive by walking thru the garden, no Harriet pat, no man cuddle, no therapeutic chopping.

And no picture to add to the blog.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Growing, cooking, sewing

Marrickville fresh spring rolls
  • radish seeds -  in the ground
  • rocket seeds -  in the ground
  • fennel seeds -  in the ground
  • snow pea seeds -  in the ground
  • lettuce seeds -  in seed trays
  • basil seeds -  in seed trays
Pulled out
  • tarragon
Busy day in the garden and at the sewing machine. A bit like funkbunny, I grow, cook and sew.  I promise not to bore you too much with my sewing - perhaps just the occassional entry.

But garden first.  It was a beautiful day in Sydney town - the kind of day we  have been hanging out for. Sunny and hot enough to get up a sweat in the garden.  I put in some quick crop seeds - radish, rocket, basil and lettuce and some others that will be staples over the winter - snow peas and fennel. It 's the kind of weather that, if you listen carefully, you can hear the seeds swell and sprout.

I also decided to take the tarragon out.  It is a lovely plant and a tasty herb but I seldom use it and over several years it has spread far and wide.  I decided I could use the space more productively. Then onto maintaining the non-vegetable garden with a massive amount of weeding, transplanting of ferns, pruning the lilli pilli and mowing.

Baby bunting
If that wasn't enough busy-ness, I also made bunting!  A work mate is having a baby girl soon and thought that this would make a nice present.  Here it is! Shhhh! Don't tell her, it's supposed to be a surprise.

Some of the material was left over from making a summer cotton frock (that's the paisley) the rest I bought from one of the many fabric shops in Marrickville (I got a discount cause I am a regular!). 

Dinner is Marrickville fresh spring rolls.

Marrickville fresh spring rolls

I call these Marrickville spring rolls because it wouldn't be right to call them Vietnamese fresh spring rolls cause they are my version.  Sometimes I put prawns in them, often fried tofu - you know made a little crunchy. You can really put anything in these but tonight's version has the following. * from the garden

steamed beans* - steamed whole and cooled
cucumber* cut into batons
Vietnamese mint*
vermicelli rice noodles -  soaked and drained
beansprouts -  rinced
chicken thigh meat cut up into long thin slices and cooked and cooled
rice paper 

Prepare everything ahead, one by one soak the rice paper and lay out. Don't leave the paper in the water too long, I just dip it in and then take it out.  It starts off a little firm but soon softens and by the time you have put the filling in, its soft enough to roll. Place filling on the rice paper and roll tucking in the bottom.  I leave the top loose.

I made this Thai-style sauce to go with it.
Rice paper

3 cloves garlic
3 green chillies* split and seeds removed
3 coriander roots
3 shallots
2-3 tablespons palm sugar
juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons fish sauce

Wiz all ingredients, taste and adjust the sweet, sour, salt balance according to your taste using the palm sugar, lime juice and fish sauce. While this is a good sauce, I am not convinced  that it was a good idea to have it with the rice paper rolls. (Never mix 2 different Asian food  styles perhaps?). Does any one have a good sauce to use? 

Friday, 24 February 2012

A glut of chillies (4)

Pickled chillies (2), this version with wine vinegar
  • chillies
  • beans
  • eggplant
  • lemons
Second week in a row Friday afternoon  post-work cooking therapy is required. I decided to pickle more chillies - quick, easy and able to be done before dinner. Last week I did just the same but made a Chinese rice wine version.  Today I decided to use red and white wine vinegar (only cause I didnt have enough of either one to use only one type and so mixed them!).

Pickled Chillies (2)

vinegar  -  I used white and red wine vinegar
olive oil

Cut up the chillies -  I left the seeds in this time! Take the skins off a couple of cloves of garlic. Prepare a saucepan with vinegar and olive oil to about 1/4 of the vinegar.  Bring to the boil , add chillies and garlic and cook for a minute or two. Put into sterilised jars.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Summer summary - '11-'12

Always grow sunflowers
With summer drawing to a close, here are some of my reflections on the season.

On La Nina
  • It was unusually wet and cool for a Sydney summer, it came as a huge shock after many many years of drought.
  • Dorathea McKellar knew about El Nino and La Nina long before  they had terms to describe them (I love a sunburnt country a land of sweeping plains, of ragged mountain ranges of droughts and flooding rains...).
  • La Nina is to be celebrated -  it saves my skin from added skin cancer risk and more freckles and  it fills the tank and means that you dont have to get the hose out and water!
On paying attention
  •  My oft commented upon eggplants have been a slighly lighter colour purple this year and have had a soft light and fluffy flesh with few seeds.  I wish I had paid attention to their particular variety -  I want to grow them again. Or was their fluffy seedless flesh because of the plentiful rain?

On pest control  
zucchinis are not pests
  • Eradicate the stink bugs when they are green babies and destroy them imediately! Even better, search your citrus for their lovely clear eggs and smash them before they can emerge.This way you might have a lime crop.
  • Wear goggles when destroying stink bugs I got sprayed in the eye late last year and had to go to the optometrist to make sure I wasn't in some serious trouble. Tip -  irrigate your eye imediately if you get sprayed and you will save your eye.
  • Hosing the aphids off the backs of the leaves of your cucumber works!  It uses a lot of water but it's better than spaying with other things and it's a La Nina year so I have lots of water.
  • I now know what red spider mite looks like. I dont know what to do about it...
  • Silvereyes (they are very sweet little birds) are great early season pest controllers in your tomato patch.  They search your tomatoes for green grubs and feed them to their babies. They also sometimes take a little nip.  Welcome them with open arms. Even if they nip your fruit. I can share with lovely birds.
  • Glue traps work for reducing fruit fly. I love them!
  • No matter how many glue traps you have, you will still have fruit fly.

On zucchinis
  • Plant one zucchini and one zucchini only. Pick them young and eat them quick while they are at their best and have a miriade of recipes.  I have really enjoyed the ones I have used this year and no longer consider the zucchini a pest.
On tomatoes
  • Pick your fruit before it rains lest it split!
  • Learn how to eat split fruit in a La Nina year.
  • My brown berries are more fruit fly resistant than the red varieties.
  • Give up on growing large tomatoes in Sydney -  fruit fly is too much of a problem.
  • make lemon tarts
  • Prune your plants a little in a La Nina  - this will help to ripen the fruit.  Don't prune  in a El Nino, your fruit will get sunburnt. Same goes for your skin really!
On chillies
  • Grow them, love them, preserve, pickle, freeze, jam and eat them. They are one of life's great pleasures.
  • Next year grow padrons, pick them, fry them and eat them with salt washed down with fino.
On lemons

On parsley
  • curled parsley doesn't like La Nina as much as Italian.

On beetroot
On sunflowers
  • Always grow sunflowers, always.
On frogs
  • They like La Nina better than El  Nino.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

A garden meal in a flash!

tonight's herbs

  • basil
  • chives
  • parsley - Italian
  • lemons
I got home a little late for my daily ritual of post-work garden adoration. Instead I cracked on with dinner.  What better to deal with the remaining tomatoes and the prolific herbs than version 2 of Tomato Herb Pasta. Here is oven roasted version 1.

Tomato herb pasta 2
This recipe is one of my favourites.  It is my version of a recipe from June 1999 Gourmet Traveller  page 61 and in that publication is called Fusilli with herbs, black olives and cherry tomatoes. * from the garden

pasta -  fusilli or bows or similar pasta
olive oil
a big pile herbs*  -  a mix of soft ones -  I used basil, parsley and chives
Kalamata olives  - pitted and sliced
 Tomato Herb Pasta 2 
cherry tomatoes* - cut in half
2 cloves of garlic -  chopped
1 fresh chilli*  - chopped finely
a few anchovies

Cook pasta until al dente, drain. Toss with olive oil and half the herbs and the black olives.

In a frying pan, heat olive oil and add garlic, anchovies and  chilli,  infuse the oil with the flavours. Add tomatoes and remaining herbs until heated through. The anchovies kind if disappear and just give you a little saltiness. If people dont like then, don't tell then they are there. It's a secret you and I can keep.

Top the pasta, herb and olive mix with the tomato mix.

Not sure that flash photography makes it  look very nice but it was delicious!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

After heavy rain

two of the lovely big brown berries
  • chillies  - they just keep coming!
  • tomatoes - just brown berries now but gosh they are lovely!
  • 6 spring onions - all used in dinner
Despite three days of some pretty heavy rain and flash flooding in some parts of Sydney, the garden is looking great!  It is draining nicely,  I must be doing something right.

broccoli seedling
The broccoli seedlings didn't suffer at all (I thought they would have drowned) in contrast they are booming along.

The spring onions are nice and firm and the beans have started to produce -  I keep picking and eating them in the garden so far none have made it inside.

new spring onions
Amazingly the brown berries didn't split with the rain.  Why is that? When I had the yellow currant ones and the sugar lumps in - they split.  Maybe the soil is better draining under the brown berries? That's my theory anyway.
new baby cucumber

More eggplant on the way -  I will save you from more eggplant pictures today... And, I think I have managed to beat the aphids on the cucmber with my 'spray the blighters off with the hose' trick. And the heavens helped too with a couple of torrential soakings and by filling up the tank after my wasteful use of water pest control method.

Tonight some of the eggplant will be used up in the often cooked Chinese Spicy Eggplant dish.  We cook it so often but am I bored? Not one bit.  David is the  chef!  Mmm can't wait.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

The last of the zucchinis

some of today's eggplant pick
  • 8 eggplant
 Pulled out
  • 3 tomato plants
  • weeds
  • 1 cucumber plant that was too aphid-covered to save 
  • potted up the finger lime
  • turned in the sugar cane straw that mulched the three tomatoes and added 1 bag of manure
  • hosed off the aphids from the cucumber plant that wasn't so infested
I pulled out two sugar lumps and one broad yellow ripple currant tomato plant today -  they were getting sad as previous posts said.  The space left had few weeds due to a good mulching and I dug the sugar cane mulch in along with a bag of manure. I will let it sit for a while before planting -  probably fennel and a quick crop of radish and rocket?  We will see what I feel like when I get to it. I have plenty of seeds of both of these anyhow.

I also decided to try to do something about the massive aphid attack on the cucumbers.  One plant -  the older one -  was too far gone.  The other, a younger plant I deemed savable and used a technique I read once in a Jackie French book -  hosed the damn things off from the underside of the leaves.  This is something I wouldn't normally do... but I don't normally have such an aphid attack.  Perhaps it is as a result of La Nina? Lots of sappy growth to tempting for aphids to resist?  In which case then La Nina is the solution as well -  use the plentiful  tank water  to give them a blast!  Let's see if that improves things.  Where are all the lady beetles when you want them?

The extra heat and sun of the day pushed 8 more eggplant into pickability. It will have to be a serious week of eggplant eating to get thru the stash that is occupying  the crisper draw of the fridge.
The last of the season's zucchinis were eaten last night in a summer salad that I love. I didn't take a photo of it so you have to look at yet another picture of my eggplants!  I cant resist their purple plump beauty.

Zucchini and fennel salad
This recipe comes from Gourmet Traveller Annual Cookbook 2011 page 171.  I haven't put the exact amounts here for the vinaigrette, I rarely use them anyway going with my palate instead. * from the garden.

plump purple perfection
3 zucchini* (I used 5 small ones)
1 young  fennel bulb
1 spring onion* (the recipe says two but I think one is enough)
fennel seeds
Ligurian olives (I have tried this with other olives but the Ligurian have just the right flavour for this salad)
chilli flakes
olive oil
red wine vinegar
lemon* juice

Dry roast the fennel seeds and chilli flakes and then lightly pound in a mortar and pestle. Put in the salad bowl and make a vinaigrette that suits your taste with the oil, lemon juice and red wine vinegar. Add the vinaigrette to the bowl and mix.  Take a mandolin and thinly slice the fennel bulb putting it in the vinaigrette as soon as you can, toss thru.  (I am having a bad week with my hands -  I manged to slice my thumb open while using the mandolin! That added to the chill burns of earlier in the week... I should be banned from the kitchen.) Thinly slice the zucchini and add it to the bowl along with Ligurian olives, torn parsley and spring onions. Toss and serve. This is yummy -  enough to get enthusiastic about zucchini.

We had this with some fillets of my favourite fish in the world -  Flathead.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

A glut of chillies (3)

Some of today's chilli pick
  • red chillies and the odd green one- about 300gms
  • big pile of eggplant
  • some yellow-green chillies
Another sublime day of sun and zephir breeze. All is well with the universe.

I don't normally weigh my pick but as I intend to make what I call, 'rocket fuel' today, I need to know what I am playing with.  Rocket fuel is a chilli paste or sauce I guess but this chilli paste could easily also be called, 'Devotional chilli paste'. You will see why  below - I need to crack on. The newly picked 300gms of red chillies joins two containers of chillies that have been in the freezer from picks earlier this season.  Total - 600grams!

Rocket fuel chilli paste
Today's pick
A friend of mine gave me this recipe some years ago now.  It was given to me as a photocopy from a cookbook and I can't say which book it was from, I give you the original amounts here. The original recipe calls this 'chilli jam', but it should be called what it is -  rocket fuel - its powerful and not very jammy.

A few jars last you forever - or last me forever. The last time I made it was three years ago and we only just finished the last of it a few months ago.

My Malaysian work mate gets thru a jar pretty quickly and says it reminds her of an authentic chilli sauce that goes with such and such a Malaysian dish, I will have to ask her which one and will have to pass her a jar as well.

The 600 gms of chillies makes for an easy calculation - divide by three.

1.5 kgs large red Chinese chillies*, chopped
300g red bird's eye chillies*, chopped
(I use whatever chillies I have) 
8 brown onions, chopped
15 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1 litre vegetable oil
300 mls tamarind liquid (get some tamarind paste and soak it in water until it breaks up and remove the large seeds)
125 g palm sugar, shaved
extra vegetable oil for sealing

Blend chilli, onion, garlic and oil into a smooth paste in a food processor. Be careful when opening the lid in case it splashes into your eye. The smell can be pretty overpowering to, so be careful of your nasal mucous membranes (and other sensitive bits too!).

5 jars of rocket fuel
Cook paste in a wide and heavy pan with a solid base over a very low heat until it turns dark red. This can take some time - the recipe says 12 hours, but from memory I gave up earlier than this the last time I made it and the result was fine.You will need to stir occassionally so it doesnt stick. After 12 hours (or when its redish and you have had enough!) stir in tamarind liquid and palm sugar and cook for another two hours. Spoon into sterilised jars cover with a film of oil and store.  Pop in the fridge when you open a jar. The recipe says it stores for 3 months in the fridge.

What do I use this with? All sorts of Asian meals and I also put just a tiny  little bit into tomato-based pasta sauces.  It adds real depth to the flavour without necessarily being hot.

So here is the result.  After 7 hours cooking I had had enough and popped it into jars. I tasted it and it is just like it was before. Not sure what it would taste like after 12 hours - I guess I will never know!

So far this season, in addition to this recipe, I have preserved the chillies in:

Friday, 17 February 2012

A glut of chillies (2)

As a Friday evening salve to a week at work, I decided to pickle some of my green cayene chillies. I am sure you feel similarly?  Cooking and gardening are like sedatives, calming tonics and antidotes to the rest of the world. And I when you can combine both, there must be an added bonus, right?

Pickled chillies
I used 14 of the 24 long cayene in the freezer to make two small jars. Here they are!

But... I have hot little hands suffering from chilli burns.  The recipe calls for you to remove the seeds.  But the pictures that accompany the recipe are of lovely round sections of chilli. So, following the recipe (or at least the picture) I cut the chillies crosswise into lots of round little discs and then tried to remove the seed. Bad idea! After removing seed from the first 4 cut up chillies, I gave up on the idea of lovely round discs and slashed the side of the remaining chilles and opened them up to remove the seeds.

Pickled chillies

This recipe comes from but I put my version here as well.

10 long cayene chillies (that's what I used but use what you have, the recipe called for 4oz - I didnt weigh)
Chinese rice vinegar - enough to top the chillies when they are in the jars
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
1 cup boiled water

Prepare the chillies by de-seeding and cutting crosswise.  Place in a bowl and blanch by pouring on  boiling water and steeping for 10 minutes. Drain and discard water. Add to the bowl the salt sugar and vinegar and mix. Stir and then transfer to sterlised jars.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Stake it!

6 long cayene lying on the ground
On this evening's  post-work garden sojourn, I  found another broken branch on my long cayene. A branch with 6 fabulously long chillies snapped clean off. I now have a total of 24  long chillies in the freezer!  I am obviously not vigilant enough with staking, I think I have learnt my lesson now.  Next year when I grow these beauties I will stake, stake, stake.

I think I am going to have to make some pickled chillies over the weekend.  Might try these recipes.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The end is nigh!

Today's pick
  • chillies (including 1 long cayene)
  • yellow-green chillies
  • eggplants
  • tomatoes - lots but nearly the last
  • fallen lemons
I think we might be at the end of the tomatoes for the year.  The plants look unhappy, the fruit on the broad yellow ripple currant tomatoes are much smaller than usual and same for the sugar lumps. I think they might get pulled out next weekend.

The only tomato variety that seem a little happier are the brown berries. They might stay in a little longer? Let's see next weekend.

My cucumbers seem to have been found by huge numbers of aphids -  more than I can control really.  Where did they come from in just a day or two? They might end that crop too!

a long cayene against some pretty big lemons
The eggplant are still powering on as are the chillies.

Oh well, it was a strange summer, but the water tank is full, the limes and lemons nice and juicy and I haven't had to get the hose out much so I guess that is all positive.

The mind drifts to brassicas and snow peas...and the hungry gap.

Tonight its homemade (and homegrown) basil pesto - its being made as I type -  that's the chink, bang, bang, bang, chink, bang  you can hear in the background... with some roasted sugar lump tomatoes on top. Mmm.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

A glut of chillies

Thai green curry paste
I love growing chillies.  They are such pretty plants and chillies can come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colours and intensities.  The trouble is you can only eat so much chilli  in one go so preserving is essential.

Today I decided to preserve some of the glut in Thai curry pastes. These recipes are adapted from Authentic Recipes from Thailand a book I bought  in Bangkok airport after a holiday of great eating and good fortune. It was the year of the tsunami and we were very fortunate to have left the coast the day before it struck. 

 Red or Green Thai curry paste

1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
5-10  red or green chillies* (I used my very long cayenne for the green paste)
3 tablespoons  sliced shallots
3 cloves garlic (8 cloves for the red paste)
1 teaspoon galangal (get a young one and cut some very thin slices)
1 tablespoon lemongrass
1/2 teaspoon lime* rind (the recipe uses kaffir lime)
1 tablespoon coriander root
5 black peppercorns (10 for the red paste)
1 teaspoon dried shrimp paste

Thai red curry paste
Dry fry the coriander and cumin seed then grind. Add the rest of the ingredients except shrimp paste in a mortar and pestle and mash. You could use a blender but I think it is better in the mortar. I like mine a little textured or maybe I am just lazy.  When it is a texture you like, add shrimp paste.  I spoon it into an icecube frame and freeze and pop out into another container to store. I use two cubes each time I make a red or green Thai curry or stirfry with red curry paste.

Anyone got any good chilli preserving methods?  Particularly for green chillies?

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Weird scenes inside the backshed...

We had noticed a very large red-back spider inside our shed lately.  Figuring she has a right to life, we have left her alone knowing where she prefers to spin her web and keeping our distance.

Today, a weird scene awaited us. A baby mouse (or rat?), slighlty mumified and madam red-back atop.  Had she killed it?  What would she do with it now?

For those non-Australians in the readership, the red-back is one of Australia's fabled 'poisonous' spiders, endemic to the suburban backyard.  If you think me foolhardy, you probably need to take into account that as a Primary School student before there were anti-venines for the more poisonous funnel-web, I was taught how to collect them and take them alive and healthy to the Council for 'milking' of their venom so that they could develop an antidote. I am not afraid of spiders.

Beat the beet week (3), parsley and finger limes

Today's tomato and chilli pick
  • parsley
  • spring onions
  • mint
  • big pile of cherry and berry tomatoes
  • chillies
Pulled out
  • zucchini
  • zebra tomatoes
  • spring onions
  • Italian parsley
  • curly parsely
  • violas
  • broccoli
  • beetroot seed
A sunny morning got me into the patch early.  I picked a big basket of tomatoes and chillies before heading to the market. On return I decided that the zucchini was on its last legs and so it was removed. I also decided that the zebra tomatoes I had planted back in October really just hadn't thrived.  At first I thought that was becasue they got too much shade but I dont think the season helped. They thickened up a bit on removal of the wattle but they were a sad case of sprawly growth with a few fruit fly infested green orbs despite my yellow glue traps!  So they came out too. Hmm, space to plant! So spring onions, two types of parsley, broccoli, beetroot seed and some violas went in.

I grow both types of parsley -  I like them both.  But the curled parsley seems to have suffered with the wet weather and have gone a bit soggy and rotted. The Italian parsley has coped much better. David made tabouleh to go with falafel and hommous for lunch -  great way to deal with a big bunch of parsley!

This recipe is adapted from a very old Tess Mallos cookbook - The Complete Middle East Cookbook. It's been very well used and is a little worse for it.  I think that it might be late '70s or early '80s when Lebanese food started to become popular in Sydney. Suddenly even the most dedicated Shire-dwelling WASP  family was serving hommous and flat bread at dinner parties. We ate with our hands and started using words like tahini and baba ghanoush -  words that still sound so great in the mouth. I even dabbled with 6 months of Arabic at Sydney Uni and regularly headed off campus at lunch time to grab a falafel roll from Maurice's in Newtown. To this day I think they were the best falafel rolls I have ever had. Maurice's little corner shop has been empty for years. 

Anyway, I felt very sophisticated when the mother of a boyfriend of mine gave me this book one birthday or Christmas. Thanks Pat -  who'd guess that it was still in use.

Well used Tess Mallos cookbook -  thanks Pat!
3/4 cup burghul
2 cups finely chopped parsley* ( Italian is best I think)
spring onions*
olive oil
lemon juice*
cherry tomatoes* cut in half

Soak burgul in cold water for 30 mins or so and squeeze water out.  Chop all greens finely and add to a bowl  with cherry tomatoes. Stir thru burghul.  Mix oil and lemon juice together with pepper and mix thru the salad.

And how is the beetroot glut going?  Well today I decided to get over my morbid fear of  the pickled beetroot and decided to take the plunge.  I followed Rhonda's recipe and the result is one beautiful jar full of beetroot.  I could have probably made two jars but what if I don't like them?  So I still have quite a few  fresh ones left over.
Aren't they a beautiful colour?

FINGER LIME (Microcitrus australasica)
My lusted after beauty called "Collette" arrived late in the week from Daley's in Kyogle all upright and protected in a fab cardboard box.  This spikey lass will produce black shiny fruit and dark lime green pulp.  Here she is!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Compost crisis and pizza triumph

today's eggplant and chilli pick
  • pile of eggplant
  • big bunch of basil
  • 3 yellow-green chillies 
  • 3 zucchinis
  • chillies
Help! I have a compost crisis. What is the best thing to do when you have a maggot invasion? Is it a problem or not? Or is it just yucky?

To add or not to add lime?  To add or not to add more carbon? Relax and let them munch and squirm? Turn the bin out and hope the birds pick thru it? I never put meat or dairy in the bin.

Roasted cherry tomatoes, eggplant, fetta and oregano pizza
Tonight is Friday night pizza night - all homemade and garden focussed! David did the honours including home made yeasty bases. Yum.

One pizza with roasted cherry tomatoes*, eggplant*, fetta and oregano*. Another with a  basil* pesto base, zucchinis*, mushrooms and black olives. 
pesto, zucchini, mushroom and olive pizza

* from the garden

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Beat the beet week (2)

Roasted roots
  • lemons
  • 2 punnets tomatoes ( berries and cherries)
  • 3 zucchinis
  • chillies
Tonight's beat the beet recipe is...

Roasted Roots
3 beetroot*
6 shallots
2 potatoes
sweet potato
half a head of garlic broken into cloves
bay leaves*
olive oil

Heat oil in roasting pan, toss in vegetables cut into small chunky bits add bay leaves and roast until everything is crunchy and caramelised and the insides are soft.

Tonight we are eating with berber sprinkled lamb skewers, baba ganoush, cucumber salad (borrowing from  Sydney Foodie with a few changes)

Smashed cucumber salad (I know this as La ban huanggua -  spicy mixed cucumber in Chinese)
I am grateful for Sydney foodie's recipe for reminding me of this. I have such fond memories of eating this dish in China in really hot and humid days.  The crunch of the cucumber and garlic and chillies goes great with a cold beer too...

smashed cucumber salad
2 cucumbers smashed and seeds removed*
1 clove garlic smashed and chopped
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
Chinese white wine vinegar
Chinese Shaoxing wine
Peanut oil

Leave the skin on the cucumber, smash the cucmber with a Chinese cleaver or other heavy knife,  when open remove the excess seedy bits (mine are quite seedy at the moment!). If the smashing doesn't give you small enough pieces break the rest up with your hands.  Breaking or smashing  it rather than cutting it really is a feature of la ban huanggua and gives you a nice chunky texture. Add garlic and chillies and mix.  Heat a small amount of peanut oil in a saucepan and when smoking pour over cucumber, it'll crackle. Then add a little Shaoxing wine and Chinese white vinegar. I think the vinegar really makes it. If you like a little chopped coriander is good too.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Beat the beet week

today's beetroot pick
  • a big pile of beetroot
  • 3 punnets of tomatoes (berries and cherries)
  • 2 cucumbers
  • handfull of chillies
I had to pick most of the beetroot today. The swollen purple roots were sitting on top of the ground. Had I left them much longer I swear they would have pushed themselves completely out of the ground.  I hope I havent left it too late - will they be too hard and woody?  Or maybe not after the mild summer. We will find out very soon.

I have officially declared this week as 'beat the beet week'. I think we are going to have to be pretty serious about eating them to get the numbers down to a reasonable level.  Tonight I am trying Suburban Tomato's  Beetroot, fetta and mint salad  but think I will use vin cotto (just becasue I have it) with olive oil in my dressing instead of ST's suggestion. Might also be nice with some roasted pine nuts.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Giant bee-eaters

giant bee-eating praying mantis
  • long cayene
  • tomatoes - 2 punnets of berries and cherries (unsplit)
  • tomatoes - 1 punnet (split)
Planted out
  • punnet of baby basil ( raised from seed)
  • a tidy up in the patch 
What a beautiful day, warm and sunny, not too hot, just hot enough. A bit of light pottering in the patch was the order of the day.

Some of the tomatoes had sprawled a little too much and I removed the sprawling bits so that other things wouldn't get smothered. Needed to do a bit of weeding, what with the rain things were a little out of contol but soft damp soil made for simple removal.

long cayene
The long cayene needed a bit of staking -  it  too had got a little too leggy and needed some support, but in staking it I accidently broke some branches that were heavy with fruit. Damn! Serve me right for delaying the staking!  Anyway I have saved the fruit and will probably make green curry paste next weekend.  In the meantime they are in the freezer. Its such a shame - I would love to have seen them red.

Today's unsplit  tomato pick
praying mantis in rosemary
More wildlife?  We get the most amazing giant praying mantis in our garden. I saw one again today. One year when the lomatia was flowering heavily I sat and watched a giant praying mantis hunt the bees that came to the blooms. It would freeze near a flower head and wait patiently (what anthropomorphism - how do I know it was patient!) and then stike with its barbed long front legs and quickly snap the bees onto its barbs. It would then eat the bee head first. What would it do with the barb at the end of the bee, we wondered? Surely it would throw that bit away? No -  the praying mantis ate every scrap of the bee.  I watched it facinated for at least half an hour as it, one by one, ate bees.

Since then, each spring and summer we have spotted numerous giant praying mantis in the garden and noticed its egg cases positioned on those plants that have prolific flowers across the garden.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

A non-gardening Saturday?

striped marsh frog from Frogs of Australia website
  • 1 punnet of tomatoes
  • thyme
  • parsley
  • chillies
What? A non-gardening Saturday? How can that be?  Yep!  I spent the whole day looking and applying for jobs. Oh well, at least it wasnt raining!

Tank full and ground watered everything is back into growing mode now that the sun has come out again.

With the frogs 'plonking' away in duets and mozzies buzzing my ankles (both have enjoyed the wet season!), I provide tonight's recipe.

Roasted fennel with cherry tomatoes , olives, garlic and olive oil (Hmm one of those ingredient list recipie titles!)

This is 'a Jamie' ( you know who I mean), it is such a favorite that I dont look at the recipe anymore so I  provide my version to share with you. It has a few added extras that I think work (chillies and shallots). It's from the irritatingly titled, "Happy days with the naked chef", but I do like his food and I  remember fondly  how bright and colourful his books looked  to me during our 5 years in England and that makes me feel good about any daft title. Fancy that, a Jamie book is an antidote to seasonal affective disorder. Perhaps it should be prescribed along with sun-imitating light bulbs!

2 bulbs of fennel (I bought these cause mine had all gone to seed)
cherry tomatoes*
shallots (the oniony little ones -  not the spring onion ones)
1 large handful of black olives
1 small handfull of thyme*
2 cloves garlic*
1 chilli chopped (seeds in ok with me)*
Vermouth or lemon juice* or white wine
olive oil

Heat roasting pan  with olive oil in oven. Add peeled shallots and the tops of your fennel -  the stalky and feathery bits and cook for a bit.

Heat water in a saucepan and blanch fennel bulbs cut into quarters. Remove with slotted spoon and add to tray along with tomatoes, garlic, olives and thyme. Drizzle with more olive oil and either Vermouth, or white wine or lemon juice and roast until  everything looks yummy and the tomatoes have started to split and ooze.

I often also pop into the same pan salmon fillets and cook all together.  I make it so often that  I say to myelf, 'come on, surely you could be a little more imaginative?', but then I eat it and remember why it is such a favorite.

Back to the frogs.  I have now found out that our frogs are striped marsh frogs, apparently one of the first to colonise backyard frog ponds and a 'voracious hunter'. Not voracious enough! I wish they would eat the mosquitoes!

Just noticed the similarity betten Harriet and the plonkers? Grey-brown stripes!  Harriet is not a voracious hunter thankfully!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Food quotes

Zucchinis terrific! Like bunnies, prolific!
On cooking and eating

If God had intended us to follow recipes, He wouldn't have given us grandmothers. - Linda Henley

It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.- Lewis Grizzard

Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food. -  Hippocrates

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. - an American proverb

Worries go down better with soup.  - Jewish Proverb

Soup is liquid comfort.  - Author Unknown

Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn. - Garrison Keillor 

Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. - Michael Pollan

One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating. - Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright

This cabbage, these carrots, these potatoes, these onions ... will soon become me.  Such a tasty fact! -  Mike Garofalo 

On vegetable growing

A vegetable garden in the beginning looks so promising and then after all little by little it grows nothing but vegetables, nothing, nothing but vegetables.  - Gertrude Stein

The smell of manure, of sun on foliage, of evaporating water, rose to my head; two steps farther, and I could look down into the vegetable garden enclosed within its tall pale of reeds - rich chocolate earth studded emerald green, frothed with the white of cauliflowers, jeweled with the purple globes of eggplant and the scarlet wealth of tomatoes. - Doris Lessing

Ripe vegetables were magic to me.  Unharvested, the garden bristled with possibility.  I would quicken at the sight of a ripe tomato, sounding its redness from deep amidst the undifferentiated green.  To lift a bean plant's hood of heartshaped leaves and discover a clutch of long slender pods handing underneath could make me catch my breath. -  Michael Pollan 

On living simply

I live alone, with cats, books, pictures, fresh vegetables to cook, the garden, the hens to feed. - Jeanette Winterson

Better to eat vegetables and fear no creditors, than eat duck and hide from them. - The Talmud

On zucchinis

Zucchinis terrific! Like bunnies, prolific!-  Author Unknown

The trouble is, you cannot grow just one zucchini.  Minutes after you plant a single seed, hundreds of zucchini will barge out of the ground and sprawl around the garden, menacing the other vegetables.  At night, you will be able to hear the ground quake as more and more zucchinis erupt. -  Dave Barry

Quotes sourced from:

Look what I've got

Dream come true - padron seeds!
  • 2 cucumbers
  • a handfull of chillies
  • 1 punnet of red cherry tomatoes (unsplit)
  • 2 punnets of mixed tomatoes - cherries and berries (split)
Padron seeds! Shame it's not planting season, but padron are no longer unattainable. I am liking this blogging caper! Thanks to L from 500m2 in Sydney and  her referral to the Italian Gardener. Now I can dream of next spring, look at my packet of seeds and know that  piles of hot pardon with their little green skins all blistered, scattered with a little sea salt and accompanied by a glass of fino is not that far away.

And I am going finger lime hunting this weekend.

Today's two cucumbers
Today our yard was a baby bird creche.  It seems that Laurie and Keats have two babies.  Both turned up today driving their parents to distraction.  The babies were engaging in adolecent risk-taking behaviour. Instead of staying safely up on the balcony rail away from Harriet (who isnt really a bird catcher and who was hiding from the wet weather and nowhere to be seen) they doodled around on the stairs of the deck and grazed on  the grass without a care. Their parents wildly screetched at them while they were doing this as if to say, "what are you doing down on the ground, you are a bird - the cat will get you!"

Then there was a little tribe of silver eyes that swept thru the blueberry ash....

Chinese spicy eggplant
silvereye - not my photo
Tonight it's Chinese Spicy Eggplant for dinner (see Techno bimbo for recipe). Uses lots of eggplants, garlic, chillies and spring onions!


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