Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Moroccan lemon chicken

One of my favourite things to eat in winter is actually something I haven't made for a while - Moroccan Lemon Chicken. Do you have favourite recipes that you have some how forgotten about?  And then enthusiastically resumed making?

So the other night when I had few pickings other than  another basket full of lemons, I  remembered this old friend of a recipe. I can honestly say that this is one of my favourites... its lemony, garlicky, peppery and olivey -  4 of my favourite flavours.

Here is the recipe. It comes from, The Vegetable Market Cookbook: Classic recipes from around the world by Robert Budwig. It was a gift from a favourite aunt and it has fabulous recipes inspired by the produce from vegetable markets in Thailand, Morocco, Italy, France, India, Mexico and Guatamala. Being a fancier of markets it was the perfect gift.

Aside from the great recipes, the book is filled with coloured pencil drawings by the author from those markets or of the dishes he makes.

In this book the recipe is called, Chicken with olives and lemons, but it just gets called Moroccan Lemon Chicken in our house. This is my version below but I must say that it is pretty close to the original -  just a few changes here and there.

Moroccan Lemon Chicken ( *from the patch)

olive oil
6 cloves of garlic (oh yeh!)
1 cup chopped coriander leaves
1 tblsp cracked black pepper - I crack it in the mortar
1/4 tsp saffron threads
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp sweet paprika

3 'Maryland' chicken pieces cut at the joint making 6 pieces of chicken
olive oil
2 medium-sized onions finely chopped
1 x 400 ml can of tinned tomatoes
1 cup water
picholine olives with the pip still in
2 preserved lemons*
juice of 1 lemon*

In a bowl mix marinade ingredients, prick chicken with a knife and rub in the marinade. Cover and let sit for at least 4 hours.

Heat oil and fry chicken pieces until sealed, remove from heat. Add onions and  tomatoes and cook on a bit then add chicken and water and cook for 30 mins, turning the chicken to get it in the juices.

Cut preserved lemon skin into small pieces. Add lemon and juice and olives to the pan and cook for a further 15 mins or until the chicken is very tender and the sauce has thickened to your liking.

Serve with couscous or I really like it with smoked rice.

I haven't taken a photo.  My photos of food invariably look horrible.  I will leave you with your own image in your head, the scent of black pepper, lemon and coriander.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Garden update

Earlier in the week I gave you a bit of a citrus update.  Here is a bit of an audit of where other things are up to in the patch.

1. Snow peas
Still picking a handful that is enough for two every second day and the flowers keep coming.

2. Rocket
The rocket forest is starting to flower but there is still plenty to pick.

3. Fennel
The bulbs are thickening, but I will have a gap in my fennel supply. I have seeds in the ground but they aren't up yet.

4. Broccoli, cabbage, cauli 
I have my second crop of brassicas in and they are doing very well. It is the first time that I have had such young brassicas at this time of the year and it is a great time of year to make them low maintenance.  There are no cabbage moths, no grubs to squash and so their leaves are looking very nice - no tatty holes from grub munching. In future years I will try to get two winter crops of brassicas in.

A new cauliflower

A new savoy cabbage

5. Celery
They are so green!  They have been enjoying the rainy weather we have had recently.When they get on a bit I will start using them quite young in Chinese dishes stir-fried with beef strips.

6. Spring onions
The last of the spring onions in the ground are starting to form their flowers.

6. Seed raising
This is the first time I have raised spring onions from seed and I will do it again. They are very very easy. I love how they suspend their seed on the top on the new green sprout.

The heirloom lettuce are coming on but they are very slow and in the ground the beetroot have just emerged...can you see them?

So that's the round up. What's happening in your patch?

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Goldfish apron

Last week I showed you my wonderful carrot apron.

I made it with the aid of a Kwik Sew pattern, my sewing machine a bit of sunshine  on the back verandah and some time off work.

Last week I make Style A. This week I tried the other full apron pattern - Style B -  and made this goldfish apron.

The fabric is quite a lot of  fun (I think) with orange goldfish on an aqua background. Some of the fish are blowing bubbles!

The skirt is very full and the panelling edged by bias gives the skirt of the apron a lovely structure, although its not particularly evident in these photos... you know sometimes things you just make still think they are fabric and haven't yet realised they are something else?  It will realise its an apron tomorrow.

Every time I have my haircut, it's the same...

This pattern uses LOTS of bias. Meters and meters!

I am contributing this to
My Creative Space, have a look and see what others are making this week.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Citrus update

My lemon in March '12
Today I did a bit of work on the citrus.

Back in March I introduced my citrus to you via my post Citrus celebration.  I have one large lemon tree, two espaliered Tahitian limes and a finger lime called 'Collette'.

Finger limes are Australian native plants that produce the weirdest long thin citrus fruit in crazy colours. Collete is shiny black on the outside and dark green on the inside (apparently -  she hasn't fruited yet). When you cut the thin skin of a finger lime, the little bubbles of citrus cascade out of the plant. When you eat them the little bubbles 'pop' in your mouth. They are amazing.

My citrus are the best things in my patch. 
If I were only allowed to grow one thing,  I'd probably rebel. But if I really, really were only permitted to grow only one thing on pain of death, I'd choose citrus (although I might think for a minute about eggplants or chillies) but I'd still protest.

I use my lemons and limes all the time and I can hardly imagine two days in a row without a lemon. I am fortunate enough to not have to buy lemons as I am now in the privileged situation to be able to provide my own.  It's wonderful. In summer, limes are essential for the G&T on the back verandah and for the Asian food that gets eaten in vast quantities. One day I will never have to buy a lime.

The plants are so pretty.  Dark leaves (when they are fed properly!), sweet fragrant flowers. "Lemon tree, very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet, but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat" - you know the song? 
You can make an incredible variety of things with citrus - savoury, sweet, Asian, Western, sauces, pickled, marmalade, curd, cordial...

Alright, that's enough..
.today it was time to do a bit of tidying up. 

It's a great time of year to do a bit of citrus inspection and maintenance. At this time of year - at least in Sydney - the leaf growth is thinner so you can move about in your citrus a little easier and you can see what's happening.  It's also the time of year when stems start sprouting new leaves and tiny flower buds are starting to form so you can see which parts of the plant are thriving and which parts aren't.

This is what I got up to.

1. Pruning the lemon and the limes
I spent a bit of time looking thru the lemon and the limes to see if there was any dead or barren stems. What do I mean  by 'barren'? This might be my term... not sure, what I mean is stems that are still green but there  doesn't appear to be any new growth coming on. The 'barren' stems and dead ones got cut out.

When I had done that I also looked at opening up the lemon by cutting out weak, thin stems and ones that overlapped.  I also took out branches that had rubbed up against the fence.

Quite a lot of material was taken out of the lemon.  I wish I had take a before and after picture, but I didn't, but here are some of the bits that came off.

2. Shaping the espaliered limes
Some of the wires onto which my limes are espaliered had come loose so I got the hammer and those little u-shaped nails and  re-strung some of the wires. Then I tied  any of the main stems that had come loose on to the wires.

I did a bit of shaping the lower branches to shorten them to make sure the whole plant was getting sun.  There wasn't much to do really, most of the work was done in the pruning above. I don't pretend to be an expert on espaliers at all, but they work and look good and fruit so I am happy with my efforts.

3. Inspecting the leaves
Hmm, lots of citrus leaf miner, particularly in the lemon and the need for a big feed!  I don't do anything about my citrus leaf miner, but gosh the plants really DO need a feed. Some of the leaves are quite light-green or yellowing. They will get better.

4. Enjoyed the fruit and flowers
Then I just spent some time enjoying the fruit and flowers...

The lime flowers come out before the lemon flowers.
Such beautiful lime flowers...they are so white and classically shaped! And look at those little baby limes in the middle...

I still have many lemons on the tree that are basically ready to pick and there are more baby lemons to come.

I am contemplating my next lemon and lime glut, mmmm...

There are some limes as well but they are not ready yet and lots of lime flowers in different stages of development. It's exciting to contemplate the next flush of fruit.

5. Inspected and fed my finger lime
And what of  'Collette' the finger lime?  Well she is well and still in her pot.  Back in March she flowered, the loveliest small citrus flowers and then set fruit.  But the fruit haven't developed at all in all that time.  They are still tiny.  Can you see the tiny purple long fruit in the centre of the picture? And off to the left?  I don't blame you if you cant! They are no longer than they were in March! What have they been doing?

Is it a seasonal thing?  Do they get going when the weather warms up? Or are they duds? Does anyone know? Perhaps our more sub-tropical Australians? Is there anyone out there north of Coff's Harbour? Port Mac?

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Chilli-fried cauliflower

While I am not picking much at the moment - just handfulls of snow peas, buckets of rocket, spring onions and herbs -  I still have a bit of a stash of cabbage and cauliflower in the fridge as well as many containers of frozen chillies in the freezer.

The great thing about brassicas, especially when they have only travelled from the back yard to the kitchen, is they keep so well in the fridge. Nevertheless it's time to use some of them up!

I decided that I did need to finish the cauliflower and dug around in an old cookbook - The Complete Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon. It's one of those survey books that covers many countries across Asia from Pakistan to Japan. This dish is in the Malaysian section.

Here is Charmaine looking absolutely georgeous.

This cookbook like a  similar Middle Eastern  compilation  by Tess Mallos was given to me a million years ago by a lovely woman with wild red hair who was the mother of a boyfriend of mine. I wonder if she could imagine that I still use them both from time to time?

It's pretty tatty now, but all good cookbooks get tatty with use, pages get stuck together with food or they fall out from being opened too often on that particular page. Sometimes that's the way to find the page you want.  It's the first time I have cooked this recipe.

Chilli-fried cauliflower (* from the garden)
(Sambal Goreng Kembang)

I have cut the recipe in half and also added some coriander at the end, otherwise it is unchanged.

peanut oil
2 chillies*, finely chopped
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp shrimp paste
250 g cauliflower* cut into small florets
1 tblsp hot water

Heat oil in wok and fry chillies, onion and garlic over a low heat, stirring frequently until onion is soft and golden. Add shrimp past and fry for a minute longer. Add salt and cauliflower and toss and stir constantly until cauliflower is mixed in with the onion and chilli mix. Sprinkle with hot water and cover allowing the cauliflower to steam to your preferred texture. I tossed coriander over it at the finish.  

How was it?  It was ok... it was a bit too shrimp paste-flavoured for me, so I brightened it with a squirt of lime*. I think it needs both the coriander and the lime...

Friday, 20 July 2012

Hainan chicken rice

One of my favourite things to eat is Hainan chicken rice. It's so clean and has such fantastic zippy sauces  that spice up the steeped white chicken breasts. And the sauces are loaded with produce grown in the garden!

It's great if you are feeling like a cold is coming on.

The recipe I have put here is an adaptation of one I cut out of the Good Weekend - the magazine supplement that comes with Sydney's Saturday broadsheet.

The recipe dates from  June 2 2007 apparently as the date is still on the recipe cut out.  I suspect that it was presented by a chef as is often the case - but I can't attribute the author as I have only cut out the recipe.

Hainan chicken rice 
lots of chicken stock  - enough to cover the chicken, cook rice and to add to the sauce below -  I make my own stock regularly
chicken breasts - one breast can serve two people
ginger slices
1 cucumber -  peeled and cut into thin strips
1 tsp sesame oil
rice -  jasmine is nice but today I used brown

Heat chicken stock with ginger slices till boiling. Add chicken breasts and turn heat off.  Cover pot and steep for 45 mins. Cook rice in a rice cooker using chicken stock as the cooking  fluid.

Remove chicken from stock and place on a cutting board.  Turn the heat up again on the chicken stock till it reboils.  Cut chicken breast into thick slices, smear sesame oil over the top. Prepare for each person a bowl of chicken stock soup and a bowl of rice. Serve with cucumber, a slice of lemon or lime, the sauces below and  a tiny bowl of thick dark soy sauce for dipping.

Spring onion, ginger and garlic sauce (* from the garden)
200g spring onion* green tops, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
5cm knob of ginger, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sesame oil
3 tblsp peanut oil

Place all ingredients except the peanut oil in a serving bowl.  Heat the peanut oil until hot then pour over the spring onion mixture and stir. It sizzles!

Chilli, garlic and ginger sauce (* from the garden)
4 long chillies* finely chopped
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
5 cm knob ginger, finely chopped
pinch salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tblsp chicken stock
juice of one lime*

Place chillies, garlic ginger, salt and sugar into a mortar and pestle and pound into a thick and even paste.  Transfer to a serving bowl and add the lime juice and stock.

Eat, drink and be merry!

Now I just need to start growing more garlic and ginger.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Carrot apron

Last week I bought some fabulous carrot fabric.  There was only 1 meter of it  - had there been more I would have bought more.

I wanted to make an apron that I would wear in the garden, something that I would pop on over the work clothes when drawn to the garden  for a little post work de-stress.You know - a bit of weeding, grub squashing or growth inspection. Perhaps some snail squashing ...

There was enough fabric to make a full apron when I added some contrasting fabric. 
Here is the finished item, I love it!

It used a huge amount of bias which I did in two different oranges, I guess to go with the different colours in the carrots.

I could have used greens but I am having a bit of an orange time at the moment.

It's got two great big pockets, plenty of room to shove your seed packets and secateurs.

The pattern is from a
Kwik Sew  patten, I made Style A, but both Style A and B have a retro feel I think.

It was very easy to put together -  the thing that took the longest was ironing the bias in half so it was easier to use.

I think I will make some more in this same style.  Imagine an eggplant version?  One with chillies, tomatoes, passionfruit!  You could have lots of fun with bias and contrasting fabric!

Most of my aprons end up in my little shop - Cumquat -  this one might stay with me... 

I am contributing this post  to My Creative Space

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

My first blueberry plants

I have been inspired by L@500m2 - today I bought my first blueberries. It was love at first sight -  they are such pretty plants! Lovely dark green classically veined leaves, pink-orange stems, tight dark pink buds and pink-blush bell flowers...

I only brought two plants - both Nellie Kelly variety.  I think the plants will be called, 'Nellie' and 'Kelly'.

They will stay in pots for a while until I see how they go and so we can chase the sun (or the shade) as required around the patch. Apparently they go very well in pots. If I have some success I may get more.

I have much to learn about them, their preference for acid soils and their other habits. Here is one thing I have learnt already...did you know they can live for up to 30 years?

Any tips for success from experienced blueberry growers?

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Spring is in the air

Solstice is passed, spring is in the air and the sap is rising in all gardeners in the southern hemisphere. The last few days in Sydney have been clear blue skied and 20 degrees Celsius. Just perfect weather!

The fact that  Suburban Tomato is raising her tomato seed raising has got me moving.  If Liz can start raising seeds in Melbourne now, then heck, I should have started weeks ago in Sydney! So today I started raising the following.


  • brown berry -  a brownish cherry tomato
  • broad ripple yellow currant -  you get the idea
  • sugar lump -  a bright red squat-shaped cherry
  • zebra mix -  a mix of black, green and red zebra striped tomatoes - medium sized

We have BIG fruit fly problems in Sydney and so the smaller varieties are essential.

Other things

  • Padron chillies
  • Garlic chives
  • Beetroot - Dark Red
  • Fennel - Florence
The beetroot and fennel have gone directly into the soil. Is it too early for them?

All these new seeds were added to some seeds  I had started raising a while ago.
  • Red bok choy ( which is looking very cute in its pale blue punnet)
  • Spring onions
  • Heirloom lettuce mix (Australian Yellowleaf, Rouge d'hiver, Flame, Goldrush, Forellenschuss -  I think that's a lovely freckly one)
My seed raising goes on on top of my black flat topped compost bin.  It  generates bottom heat and has been a great place to raise seeds.

And there are plenty more seeds in the seed box just waiting to go into the ground. I can almost hear them telling me, 'plant me, plant me!'

Do you have a little box like this where you keep your seeds and other paraphernalia? Paddle pop sticks to label the seeds ('paddle pop sticks' - that's probably Australian... you know what I mean...), screw top watering thingies, labels from plants?

I love my seed box. It's an old shoe box decorated with cut-outs of seed packets and seed catalogues.

How do you keep your seeds?

Monday, 16 July 2012

Monday Harvest - 16th July

A wonderful sunny winter day spent making and eating my favourite lemon cake and lolling about in the grass with friends talking about plans and dreams and changes. While lolling, we nibbled on fresh snow peas from the patch -  it doesn't get much better than that. With friends around  it was a good opportunity to share some of the produce. 

I picked 3 cabbages - two decent sized ones and a tiny one that was on the shady side of the patch and wasn't really going to get much bigger.

I kept one large one and the small one and gave the other large one away. That is the end of  the cabbages...

I also picked a big bunch of spring onions and shared half with my visitor. This is just half the bunch.

The only other produce that is in abundance at present is the rocket - I have a forest of rocket at the moment so my friends left with a huge bunch of rocket as well.  My friends tell me that the bunch will become rocket pesto. (What the hell am I going to do with the rest of the forest!). 

For more harvests pop over to Daphne's Dandelions.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Cooking with homemade kimchi

Last Saturday I made kimchi for the first time. With one week of fermentation my kimchi looks like this.

It's much softer in texture now and skloopier. It tastes pretty good, but not as strongly flavoured or chillied as the kimchi I have eaten before and I like. I suspect that is becasue it has sat for longer.  I am prepared to sit mine for longer but I also want to use some now.

I  found a recipe for kimchi pancakes which became dinner. The recipe comes from my recently purchased Gourmet Traveller - Asian Favourites Cookbook, page18. It has blue swimmer crab meat in it, but I used prawns. I can't be bothered with extracting crab meat and I like the taste of prawns much better as well. 

The recipe required some specific ingredients, I hope I bought the right things. As well as kimchi , it needs split mung beans and gochunjiang a fermented  Korean chilli paste.  It is strange becasue 'jiang' means 'sauce'  in Chinese (maybe it does in Korean as well?).

Here are the mung beans I bought  from the local Asian grocer -  I hope I bought the right thing, I think I did.

And here is the Korean fermented chilli paste. It comes in a cute little plastic box which I am sure I will re-use for something. There is a hell of a lot of it, but being a chilli fancier I am sure I will get thru it somehow. It's really yummy, thick, dark red and gooey like a thick jam.

Kimchi pancakes (* from the garden)

400 gm dried, split, shelled mung beans, soaked in cold water for 4 hours and 
2 tablespoons chicken stock ( I used quite a bit more than this)
200 gm cabbage kimchi, squeezed to remove the moisture, chop finely
2 spring onions *
1/4 cup of coriander finely chopped
2 tablespoons gochunjiang
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 garlic clove crushed (I used 2 as the kimchi isn't very garlic flavoured)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
250 gm prawn meat cut into small pieces
vegetable oil for frying

Steam mung beans for 15 mins in a strainer over a pot of water. I needed to do this in two batches.

Place in a food processor and blend with the chicken stock until finely ground. I found I needed more fluid than suggested in the recipe. Place in a bowl and mix with all other ingredients. Shape mixture into patties 1 cm thick. Heat oil and shallow fry, cleaning the pan between batches. The recipe says this makes two pancakes, but they would be very large and a little hard to handle.  Instead I made pattie sized ones and 12 of them. Here is one before cooking that I squashed down when in the pan.

The recipe has lots of Korean accompaniments to go with this.  I had it with some steamed snow peas from the patch. You can see that the patties are a bit sloppy.  They held their shape before cooking but in the pan they seemed to sag.  I suspect it might be becasue I added a little extra fluid, but that  was  becasue I couldn't get the mixture to move in the food processor without it.

But how did it taste?  Just fabulous! I really like these -  not too beany, not too kimchi, not too chilli. I have a little stash now in the fridge and might leave them uncovered in the fridge so they dry out a little.

I would make it again definitely and next time I will try to solve the sloppiness problem and make the other accompaniments, though they are really nice with some steamed snowpeas -  something simple.


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