Thursday, 30 April 2009

Mmmmmmmmmmm moussaka

Well, it's a cheaty healthy moussaka style dish based on a recipe from the Women's Weekly 21 day diet - but it's ever so tasty!

Brown some mince and onions (I used 1 red onion and about 200g mince) - use a sploosh (that's a technical cooking term!) of olive oil or a bit of stock if desired. Once the meat is browned add in a few chopped tomatoes, some herbs or spices of your choice (I used Marrakesh Magic from screaming seeds) and add about 1/2 a cup of stock (I used vegemite and water!) and simmer until thickened.

Meanwhile char grill slices of eggplant (I used 2 small from the garden) and capsicum until tender.

Make the dressing - combine about 1/4 cup yoghurt and the juice of a lemon

And then compile! Make a stack with eggplant, mince and capsicum in whatever style takes your fancy, add some leafy greens (I used baby spinach leaves but rocket works well too), drizzle with the dressing and serve.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Rug's cold out there!

After a few days of lovely rainy (45 mm!) cloudy weather, the mercury is still hovering below 10, and the sky is looking ominously clear. Why ominous? Because it means that father frost is probably going to make his first visit in the next few days - and I'm not ready!!

I still have peppers, eggplants, chilli and even some tomatoes still maturing - all my plant children seemed to be late bloomers this year! Even though it's more optimistic than realistic I'm hoping to get another week to let them ripen a bit more before harvesting them. So tonight it was time to cover up.

I tend to use whatever is easiest - the chillies I covered with some cloche material that was on sale last year, and the pepper and eggplant bed I covered with the pieces of shade cloth that I use to protect the beds in summer.

Given that frost is forecast for the next 3 nights, I decided it was time to harvest the meagre pumpkin collection, as well as the ripe raspberries, tomatoes, and a couple of peppers and eggplants for tonight's dinner.

One year I WILL have a good pumpkin harvest. This year is NOT that year.

I have only managed 6 that are definitely ripe enough to store. The plants are in such a bad state it wasn't worth pulling them up to try and let them ripen further. So the grand tally for the year will be 4 marina di choggia, 1 turks turban and 2 pink banana. There are 5 or 6 additional small marina di c's that will probably be thinly sliced in stir frys and the like a la Jackie French.


Oh, and Kelly.... please don't tell me how great your butternut bonanza has been. Otherwise I may throw all my toys out of the pram and have a good old fashioned sulk :)

Monday, 27 April 2009

Learning to share

When it's 8 degrees outside then learning to share the fire is the only option!

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Happy to be living in a Supertramp song

It's raining again..........

36mm in the last 2 days, and it's STILL raining. Not to mention blowing a gale (literally) and only 7 degrees outside - the wind is definitely blowing from the snowfields! I have decided that it's a very good day to be inside near the fire. I might even catch up on some preserving.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

So, when SHOULD we panic??

On Easter Saturday we went out with some friends for a paddle in our kayaks. We were going to go for a jaunt down the Murray, but alas the blue-green algae put paid to that trip.

Our back up plan was to go for a paddle on Lake Buffalo. We came here for fishing / a picnic between Christmas and New Year, and it was very pleasant. The upper reaches of the lake are far from the madding speedboats, and have pretty inlets to explore.

Doesn't it look pretty?

Well, yes and no - you would think it was lovely - snaking river, lush green banks, hills in the distance, but the scene shocked, horrified and, frankly, scared me more than a bit.

You see, we were here between Christmas and New Year, and the scene was very different. You can see where Jerry is standing in the left photo - 3 months ago his ankles would have been in the water. None of the bright green would be visible - it would all be under water. It's hard to tell from a photo but we estimated that was a drop of at least 8 meters in the water level. And to give you an idea of scale it took us about 5 minutes to drive to this part of the lake from the other end. That's A LOT of water that's gone.

A quick check of the water company site shows that since we visited the lake has gone from nearly 100% capacity to just over 30% - IN 3 MONTHS.

A quick tour around some other regional dams for our area shows:
  • Lake Buffalo - 65% EMPTY
  • Lake William Hovel - 64% EMPTY
  • Hume - 98% EMPTY
  • Dartmouth - 80% EMPTY
The numbers for Hume and Dartmouth are pretty scary when you realise that
"Hume Dam is the major operating storage of the River Murray system. The storage regulates the River Murray, and re-regulates water discharged from the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme.

Releases from Hume Dam and downstream tributary streams supply irrigation, domestic and stock and urban demands to Victoria and New South Wales, and provide about one-third of South Australia's entitlement. In very dry years, releases are made specifically for South Australian requirements and are supplemented by transfers from Dartmouth Dam."

So it's a major water supply for hundreds of towns, hundreds and thousands of people, parts of 3 states not to mention farmers and other agricultural industries in the area. And lets not forget that the Murray River is one of our largest and most important rivers. The fact that a huge tract of the Murray is effectively closed due to blue-green algae barely rates a mention in the news - it should be a front page national scandal. So should the fact that there isn't enough water to keep the river flowing and healthy.

And yet on the radio / news / in the papers we're told not to panic, and many of the major towns in the area are on stage 1 restrictions (or even no restrictions) - and they are still building new housing estates in the region to house more people. Oh, and lets not forget they're building a pipeline from our region to take water to Melbourne. Perhaps it's time to reconsider extending this up to QLD to take away some of their excess water?!

Surely it's time we all got serious about water? If it's not time to panic now (albeit a productive kind of panic that leads to useful action), when will it be?

Monday, 20 April 2009

Pink Banana Pumpkin

It hasn't been a great year for pumpkins for me. Again (sigh). However, we do have a few in the last stages of ripening, and a few ready to eat.

The first one to be sampled is the pink banana pumpkin. It is slightly pinky in colour, but not particularly banana shaped! This one had a hollow seed cavity right through the middle. Not sure if this is the way they are supposed to be as I haven't grown this variety before.

After saving the seeds for next year, I peeled, then cut the whole thing into chunks and tossed into a roasting pan with home grown tomatoes, and some chopped up home made bacon. A few good glugs of olive oil, and a sprinkling of Tuscan herbs and into the oven at 200c for about an hour.

While that was happening I chopped a red onion, and the rind of 1/2 a preserved lemon, and put that into a bowl with baby spinach leaves, and cooked up some mograbieh cous cous. The roasted veg and cous cous went into the bowl as well, a glug of olive oil and a splash of aged balsamic and voila! Dinner is served (oh, and lunch for the next 2 days given the amount of leftovers!)

The pumpkin has a nice firm consistency, so seems to be a great variety for roasting.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Dinner Winner

I was feeling pretty uninspired about dinner yesterday, however, the huge field mushrooms in our local greengrocer gave me an idea - stuffed mushrooms. They turned out rather well, so I thought I would pass on the recipe. Once again this is more a guide than hard and fast rules, as I just made this one up!
  • goats cheese feta (but you could use ricotta - the feta was what was in the fridge)
  • ham - I used 1 thickish slice
  • labna - home made yoghurt cheese (here's my recipe)
  • za'atar - a mediterranean thyme-like herb I have growing
  • sun dried tomatoes (home grown from last year, rehydrated for about 20 mins in hot water)
Turn on the oven to 200 celsius. Chop the ham, tomato, feta and za'atar, and add enough labna to bind together in a gloopy paste :) . You could use an egg if you prefer but I didn't have one. I also added in the mushroom stalks, chopped up.

Brush the musrooms with olive oil on both sides, and place on a baking tray, underside facing up. Mound up the mixture on each mushroom, and then pop in the over for 15 - 20 minutes.

Serve with a garden salad...

Some oil (local lime infused olive oil from EV Olives) and balsamic, and a nice glass of red wine (local, organic from Pennyweight in handy recyclable bottles).

And as the oven is on you might as well make some baked apples for dessert! Our apples are the honeycrisp variety (DIVINE) from a local orchard.
  • Core the apples and place in a baking dish
  • Stuff with a mix of brown sugar and sultanas
  • Pour over a splash of port (Pennyweight again!)
  • Add a knob of butter to the top
Turn down the oven to about 180 and bake until done (maybe 30 - 40 mins...I wasn't counting!). Serve with cream, ice cream or custard. Or, if you're Jerry, have all 3!!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

A soup for (almost) all seasons

Aaaah pumpkin soup how I love thee. Easy to make, and even easier to eat!

Over Easter I whipped up a tasty batch and I though I would share the recipe. Actually it's less a recipe and more a guide, as I don't follow any hard and fast rules when it comes to pumpkin soup.

  • butternut pumpkin (but any kind would do)
  • sweet potato (I added this as there was only half a pumpkin available)
  • stock
  • red lentils (these add a lovely richness / thickness to the soup)
  • harissa (optional)
  • yoghurt (optional)
  • cayenne pepper (optional)
Chop the pumpkin / sweet potato into chunks, and pop in a saucepan you've heated with a bit of oil and some garlic (I used 2 cloves, chopped). Stir for a minute or two.

Add in your lentils (I used about a cup) and about a litre of the stock of your choice (home made best but I cheated and used marigold brand vege stock) - enough so the pumpkin is well covered. You may need to add more stock as you go along and the lentils start soaking it up. Put in a squirt of harissa if you fancy (I normally do as I like it spicy).

Bring to the boil and then simmer until the pumpkin/sweet potato bits are tender.

Remove from the heat and blitz with a stick blender - or let cool and blitz in a regular blender.You may need to add more liquid to get the consistency you like - or, if you think the mix is too watery then remove some liquid before you blitz - you can always add it in later :)

Reheat gently, and then serve with a dollop of yoghurt and a sprinkling of cayenne pepper.

This soup also freezes really well for school/work/quick home lunches.

Of course, this is just a guide - you can get creative with herbs, spices, and home made stock to give this soup your own signature!


Wednesday, 8 April 2009

It's just a box...right?

Wrong... it is actually almost 2kwh per day!

This my dear reader is a magic box that will turn my chest freezer into a fridge, and will save me power and money in the long term.

It is actually an external thermostat unit that you plug the freezer in to and then feed the temperature probe into the freezer. This box then turns the freezer on and off as required to maintain a temperature of 4 degrees. No messing around with freezer internals :).

Thanks to Mr Rudd's money, we've purchased the kit, and will purchase a slightly larger chest freezer as our new freezer (to hold more bulk purchased meat as well as frozen home grown produce). Our current chest freezer will be moved into the kitchen (luckily it fits in the space that our current fridge occupies) and will become our new fridge. Our old (17yrs) fridge that is on it's last legs will retire to the shed to enjoy a new life as a rodent proof food store.

Why a chest fridge?
  • It is much more energy efficient than a standard upright fridge or fridge/freezer. Our current unit uses on average 2kwh per day. A chest fridge uses around 0.1kwh per day according to the maker and people I know that have them. That also tallies with our chest freezer that uses about 0.4 per day.
  • A chest freezer is a LOT cheaper to buy than a new fridge/freezer
We're lucky that we can make all this work with only minor modifications in the utility room (where the freezer will live) and with no modifications in the kitchen so in total we will still spend less than if we had purchased a new upright unit. Thanks Mr Rudd!

If you want to read more about chest fridges click over to Mt Best, who sells the kits. I'll post updates once we are underway with the room modifications.

Bad IE

Sorry to those of you having problems with the layout on my new template - I think it's a problem with older versions of IE (I have v7 and Firefox 3.0.7 and it works fine in both of those). I'll try and work it out over easter.

Oh and I've fixed the problem with the comments box - thanks Kelly!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Tonight's sunset

This is one of those times that I love where we live - we used to have to travel to get these kind of sunsets, and now we just step outside the door.

How does that Mastercard ad go....priceless :)

New look Good Life Down Under

Some of my fellow bloggers have been updating their site templates and layouts - I didn't want to be left out so I've happily spent a few hours giving The Good Life Down Under a facelift.

What do you think?

I still need to tidy up my labels a bit, but it's well past time I had a shower and got on with my day!

Friday, 3 April 2009

I love a good storm

By a good storm I mean one that has lots of thunder and lightning and rain. Particularly the rain part. We often have great storms here in summer but they invariably have lots of lightning and no rain. A BAD combination in fire season.

However today we had a doozie of a storm. It went on for about an hour - lightning (fork and sheet), seemingly never ending thunder, and about 5 mm of rain. More would have been better, but hey, I'm not going to complain :)

I sat out on the back verandah with the hounds (who are not the least bit perturbed by storms) and watched the show - after turning off and unplugging all electrical appliances, phones and dog fences, of course!

I caught a snippet on camera - even managed to get some lightning - so you can enjoy a bit of the show - just love the combined sound of thunder in the heavens and rain in the gutters.

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