Tag Archives: Cooking

The Preservation Society

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“Father: It’s been nine months since my last confession.”Nah, I’m not religious but Holy Moly has it been a long time between drinks on this blog!

Busy, busy, yeah you’ve heard it all before…work, kids, life. Doesn’t matter; here we are. And just this week life presented a lovely little window of garden abundance and time: two sweet things that rarely coincide so I grasped it with both hands and my pantry and fridge are slowly filling in its wake.

First, let me just say: TOMATOES.

And, oh what a glut we’ve had! However, I’m proud to say I’m learning from years past and this time I’ve succession planted. So while we’ve had a tremendous short-term haul of Black Krim, Mortgage Lifters, Tommy Toe and others I can’t even remember, they’re still coming! Green Zebras are ripening (although it’s hard to tell with that variety) and the orange Jaune Flammee and stripey Tigerella too. I planted six different varieties of cherry tomatoes that grew to such gargantuan proportions it was almost a little scary how much fruit we were harvesting. Reinforcements were called; it was all hands on deck!

One of the pleasures of growing so much food is giving it away to grateful friends, family and neighbours who rarely, if ever, experience the superior flavour and quality of homegrown produce. But that said, I  would still rather keep as much of it as possible to feed my own family. And so began the wave of preserving, a joyful yet time-consuming necessity.

Here’s a taster of what I’ve made so far:

  • 14 bottles of tomatoes made in my Mum’s old Fowlers Vacola system, which I subsequently overheated and broke. Ugh!
  • Tomato Ketchup (3 bottles)
  • Tomato and Eggplant Chutney (6 jars)
  • Dried cherry tomatoes (3 bottles) sprinkled with garlic salt and dried basil and marinated in virgin olive oil
  • Slow-cooked oven-baked tomato sauce (2 bottles). This is a recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s “Kitchen Garden Companion” cookbook.

This is, of course, in addition to gorging on fresh tomatoes for breakfast lunch and dinner. Eggs poached in chopped tomatoes for breakfast, bruschetta for lunch, Tray Baked Salmon with Olives, Green Beans, Anchovies and Tomatoes for dinner (thank you Jamie Oliver).

img_3692But it’s not all tomatoes. The cucumbers are starting to assert themselves in the pecking order of the vegie patch with a tidy harvest of 14 cucs in an afternoon (right after I’d just bought one from the shops – what was I thinking?!) So I thought I’d turn my hand to pickling given my son’s penchant for dill pickles. And this was the result: Bread ‘n Butter Pickles. It’s another recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s “Kitchen Garden Companion” cookbook and I’ve got to say: absolutely delicious! Surprisingly so. I’m not usually the biggest pickle fan but these are incredibly moreish and the kids we’re in there with forks, shovelling them into their mouths. So there’ll be more of them to come.

What else? We’ve made Decadent Chocolate and Beetroot cake and Beetroot Relish with all the beetroots coming out of the garden (one of my all-time favourite vegies for its versatility.) Basil pesto is next on the agenda. I do this at the end of summer every year and freeze it in ice cube trays, then bag ’em. They’re great for popping into your spaghetti bolognaise sauce, as a pizza sauce base, adding them to fresh pasta with parmesan and olive oil for the laziest mid-week meal ever (my kids love it!)

Ah yes, I haven’t had this kind of time for ages so it’s just dumb luck that it coincided with harvest. I’ve changed my work situation (for the better I hope) as there are new business ventures to explore. Stay tuned for more on that later.

Sunday Mango Magic

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I can’t believe that I once hated the funky taste and slimy texture of mangoes. Now I think they’re divine! So when we went to the Kalamunda Markets last Sunday and saw a stall selling the most ENORMOUS mangoes I’d ever seen, well, we couldn’t resist. They had large boxes of second grade R2E2 mangoes for $20 – BARGAIN!

Despite a few black spots on the skin, which I assume is caused by Anthracnose, a common fungus affecting mangoes, the flesh was flawless and absolutely superb. And jeepers, there was a lot of it! The R2E2 mango has a sliver of a seed, unlike the Kensington Pride variety, which I have planted at Edgefield, so the amount of meat we got off these ginormous fruit was impressive.

We got home and set to work preserving them because they weren’t going to last much longer fresh. Needless to say, we gorged ourselves on fresh fruit but we chopped most of it up and put it into large ziplock bags to freeze. Mmm, mango smoothies. We also thinly sliced a couple to dry in the food dehydrator and I then made a double recipe of Jamie Oliver’s “Black Rice, Hazelnut and Mango pudding”  for breakfast during the week. I could barely keep the kids hands off it!

Preserving takes time but when you can get your hands on in-season gluts like this or better yet, grow your own, then it’s SO worth doing. We actually went to the market to see if we could get a couple of boxes of end of season tomatoes in order to bottle them for the winter but we were too late.

Turns out it was Sunday Mango Magic instead!

 

Got my cooking and gardening mojo back!

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I spent yesterday spring cleaning part of my pantry while dreaming of my new house that will actually have room to store it all. For the moment, I’m slowly taking over the kids’ playroom and lounge room with foodstuffs.

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This is mainly beans, grains, legumes and some preserved lemons that just don’t fit in either pantry #1 or #2.

It’s getting a bit ridiculous. But I’m enjoying the revival of my cooking mojo in which I’m experimenting with more vegetarian cooking, focusing on wholefoods and using my Thermomix more. So far it had yielded lots of delicious results! It’s also going hand in hand with the burst of life Spring is bringing to my garden. I’ve definitely got my gardening mojo back too and have been slogging it outside for a couple of weeks now (in my “spare time”. 

Tony (my awesomely handy neighbour) re-gravelled the driveway and delivered a massive pile of mulch from my new favourite place for cheap landscape supplies – Red Hill Waste Management AKA, the tip. Who knew?

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The new driveway and the kids playing on the mulch pile.

I’m slowly but surely mulching the entire garden, gravelling the paths in my vegie patch, erecting walk-under arbour-style trellising for beans, cucumbers etc. So much for doing less in the garden this season! I can’t help myself. I am trying to quarantine it all to the house block for ease of maintenance and water use but I’m sure it will inevitably spill out. I will have a densely packed edible garden around the house though that’s for sure.

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A recent harvest – beetroot, carrots, cabbages, mandarins, oranges, lettuce, silverbeet, spring onions, pak choy.

The citrus grove has been pruned, fertilised, weeded and is ready for mulch (big job – deep breath). Then I’m going to plant melons and pumpkins under it and see how they go. My seeds have all sprouted and are slowly growing into little seedlings. I haven’t started on actually revitalising all the vegie patch garden beds yet…so much still to do. But I’m making good progress.