Monday, 31 August 2009

Not your average sunday roast

It's been a long search, but I have finally found a small producer of grass fed beef locally (about 40km away). They raise Welsh Black cattle, and this is what they say about their beef:
The cattle are free-range fed on pasture grass supplemented with hay and natures minerals to give the meat a natural flavor. The cattle are hormone and GE free and are not routinely drenched. We do not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides on the property but only apply natural products like seaweed fertilizer.
The meat in the pack is welsh black steer raised on our property to 3 years of age. The meat has been aged on the bone for three weeks to give tenderness and full flavor then packed on trays for convenient freezer storage.
What they don't say here is that the meat is ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS!  Fabulous flavour, real beef colour (no preservatives) and a good bit of marbling too. We had a T-Bone steak last week, and it seemed almost sinful to have any condiments with it.

With this find I can now say that 100% of the meat (pork, lamb, beef) in the freezer is local, from small producers, and is all bred for flavour (large black pork, welsh black beef, wiltshire lamb). Come late spring we may also be able to say all the chicken is home grown. Wouldn't that be fab?!

So it seemed rude not to have a roast beef sunday, but this time something a little different. As we were going to be out and about in the afternoon I decided to make a pot roast and pop it in the slow cooker.
It was just too easy to prepare:
  • brown the meat
  • throw a sliced red pepper, basil, a sliced red onion and a sliced carrot into the slow cooker
  • add the meat, then top with a jar of home grown tomatoes and their juice, and season to taste with salt and pepper
  • put on the lid and leave for 6-7 hours on low
  • if you like, thicken the sauce with a bit of cornflour before serving. We had this with mashed potato and broccoli.
As an extra treat I made meringue and a small pavlova to use up the 8(!!) egg whites I had leftover from making Gary Rhodes bread and butter pudding on saturday. That's dessert sorted for this week.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

A Satisfying Saturday

Our bedroom is unusually large - mostly because half of it used to be a garage before the original owners extended the house. We're often felt that it's a bit of a waste of space and at various times have had grand plans to put in an en suite ... until we realised the cost and permits involved and that went into the "too hard / too expensive" basket.

Jerry's wardrobes (to the left of the bed in the pic) back onto the laundry/pantry room, and the latest idea was to knock through there, and make one big pantry, and then put up the partition in the bedroom and have a walk-in wardrobe and a smaller bedroom. As yesterday was a gloomy rainy and windy day we decided to move the bedroom furniture around and see how the room would feel if we made the changes. After a few hours of moving and thinking we decided we didn't like it much...we're used to the open feel and the space and the lovely view out the window...which we would sacrifice if we made the change. So we're working on a revised plan now that just involves making a smaller pantry and re-arranging wardrobe space to make it more efficient so we can lose 2 'panels' of wardrobe.

The upside is that the whole room has had a thorough spring clean, and we moved the chest of draws and chest around to make a bit of a change. Take a good look, it will probably never be this clean and tidy again!  LOL
But that wasn't enough cleaning for me, so I also attacked the stovetop. I'm still amazed how effective bicarb and a spray of vinegar is at cleaning the stovetop - it's much better than commercial cleaners, and even more effective than the home-made cleaner I was using.

After all that hard work, the reward had to be a glass or two of local red wine and a home made pizza, with
  • chilli BBQ sauce
  • ham
  • pineapple
  • mushroom
  • roasted red pepper
  • basil
  • home made goats fetta
And yes, it did taste as good as it looked!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Not again!!!!!!!

Yep, again.

Big wind = more enormous tree limbs falling on our fence, and on other trees.

At least this time they missed the chicken coop and the new gate. At least 3 huge limbs fell, judging from these trees (L) - and there's still one hanging there waiting to fall. There used to be a nice shady native tree under all that mess that the chickens liked to sit under (R).

So it's time to call our friend with the chainsaw as those branches are too heavy to lift, let alone move. Really, I am very tempted to get all these trees pulled down and replaced with something else!

Heaven help any rabbits that decide to wander in - they will be doggie dinner!!

Over on the other side of the garden there's more evidence of the wind - although hard to see in the photo - I found small branches from the gum trees (L of pic) embedded in the fruit cage fence (r of pic). Now THAT's windy!

There were also a few wattles down on the driveway that I had to move so Jerry could get to work. Relatively small ones - one (about 7 ft tall) was completely uprooted.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Curds and Whey

Yesterday was another cheese making day.

Buoyed by the success of my Caerphilly from a few weeks ago I've been more adventurous and made Derbyshire. This is a cheese that will mature in 3 months rather than 3 weeks. Fingers crossed! It needs to dry for a few days then I'll wax it and pop it in the cheese fridge.

After making the cheese I had about 4 litres of whey left over. I could have used this to make some ricotta, but the yield is never that good, and I'm not a huge ricotta fan. Instead I fed 2L to the piggies, kept a litre to use in the chook mash, and used a litre to make 3 loaves of English muffin bread from Ricki Carroll's cheese book.

This bread is delicious toasted - a bit like a cross between a muffin and a crumpet. It also freezes very well. You can use milk if you don't have whey. The best part is no kneading!

Makes 3/4 loaves
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups warm water
  • 4 packets or 4 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • Cornmeal (polenta) for sprinkling (I used wheat bran last time which I think was better)
  • 12 cups bread flour or all purpouse flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda (bicarb)
  • 4 cups whey or milk
  • 4 teaspoons salt
Dissolve sugar in the water. Pour yeast into a large bowl, add the sugar water and let sit for at least 10 mins (it will froth up nicely).
Grease 3-4 loaf pans and sprinkle with cornmeal or wheat bran.
In another large bowl (large enough for 12 cups of flour plus mixing space!) put 6 cups of flour and the baking soda(bicarb).
Warm the whey and salt (or milk and salt) until just lukewarm, then stir this into the yeast mixture.
Pour the yeast mixture into the flour and stir to combine. Add remaining flour and work into a stiff, dry batter.
Preaheat oven to 200c (400F)
Spoon batter into tins, press flat, and let rise in a warm place until the dough is just at the top of the tin.
Bake for 30 mins


Thursday, 13 August 2009

August Garden

Time for another stroll through the vege patch.

The hardenbergia over the gate is looking just stunning...laden with flowers and with bees most of the time! The other one by the fruit cage isn't quite as magnificent....but still very pretty and a welcome bit of winter colour.

(L)Parsnips, carrots, rocket, onions, leeks, garlic, silverbeet - you can find it all in the impatience bed! (R) Garlic and snow peas in the fruit cage bed.

(L) Garlic, onions, shallots and some self seeded parsley. (R) The green manure crop is looking good too.

(L) Broad beans and a couple of turnip varieties. (R) brassicas (kale, cauli, cabbage, collards)
Pretty respectable for winter I think :)

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Sometimes a simple thing makes you really stop and think

Jerry's just started doing some volunteer work with a refugee resettlement program run by Vinnies. Each family that arrives - as well as their DOCS and other caseworkers - is 'given' a group of 5 or 6 volunteers who help them settle in to life in Australia. The volunteers do all kinds of things - from driving people to appointments, taking them shopping, helping explain the way different things work (the rental market, schools, shoping, eletricity bills etc etc) as well as just dropping in and helping them practice their English.

Jerry's been placed with a group looking after a Bhutanese family. They've already been here a few months. On Sunday Jerry and I went to the 'big smoke' (well, the little-big smoke of Albury!) for a bit of a get together with the family and the other volunteers. This was the first time we met them. We drove the father and eldest boys (in their teens) to the meeting place and on the way there Jerry asked the eldest what was the one thing they liked most about Australia so far. With no hesitation at all he said "It's peaceful".

I'm still really struck and quite moved by this, and the though of what their life must have been like in the camps to make this the first and over-riding good thing about being here. Intellectually we know that we are lucky and have a good life here, but it does take something like that to make you stop, think and really appreciate just HOW lucky we really are.

If you want to know more about Bhutan and the refugee situation try this link

Sunday, 2 August 2009

If it's the weekend... must have been time to work in the garden again! We did a bit more roofing work on the chicken coop as well- it's about 60% complete now.

I also relocated 3 rhubarb plants from the raised bed vege patch to the front garden. They really didn't need to be in those beds, and they were taking up valuable space that could better be used for other things. In the new 'rhubarb patch' they will have plenty of room to grow, and will look decorative as well. I picked just under a kilo of rhubarb from the plants before moving them.

We also planted out our new strawberry plants (10 Milewa and 10 Lowanna organic runners from the lovely folk at Cornucopia Seeds - I can higly recommend them for great service and fab range). The Milewa plants went into a long section of excess large drainpipe we were given by a neighbour. He had even pre-drilled drainage holes and cut the top out!

We've put this outside the greenhouse, set on some bricks that are resting in trays of water. Why? To try and stop the dreaded millipedes - scourge of every in-ground strawberry crop we have tried to grow. The 10 Lowanna plants I've put in pots in the greenhouse - again a millipede management strategy. I am DETERMINED to be enjoying home grown strawberries this summer!

And finally Jerry has been installing some solar powered LED lights that we bought (1/2 price!) in various useful places around the property - by the front door for those times we forget to leave a light on and can't see to put the key in the door, by the gate, and one on a tree on the path up to the house.

So this evening I just have to cook the rhubarb, bake the sourdough bread, make lasagne (sauce simmering on the stove as we speak), do some ironing...and then put my feet up!!!!!!
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