Sunday, 27 December 2009

Practical Presents

I hope everyone had a happy Christmas. Here at M&Js it was a quiet day, but there were some lovely practical presents to enjoy.

My obsession with kitchenware seems to provide and endless supply of gift possibilities. This year I received something I've been wanting for a long time - a maslin pan. It's pan made just for making jams and chutneys, with a wide mouth to speed evaporation. I am delighted!! Here it is getting it's first workout (rhubarb and berry jam).  Even after boiling the jam the handles were cool enough to hold without gloves, and you can easily pour straight into jars when bottling. This will be a much used item in Margo's kitchen !

Can you believe mama and papa Jerry bought this out in their luggage from the UK?!!

I also received a lovely new 11L stockpot to use for cheesemaking (and stock of course) and a new saute pan.

Of course, no Chirstmas would be complete without some new recipe books. I received the River Cottage bread book (looks brilliant - I've read most of it already!), Nigel Slater's new vegetable book (I'm drooling over his lovely bordered veg patch), and the book from the BBC TV series grow your own drugs, which also looks great at first glance - at last something useful to do with all those St John's Wort plants growing like weeds! Keeping an eye on them here is a very funky kitchen timer my friend Lucy sent me.

It wasn't all garden though - check out my new boot-wellies!

Jerry didn't miss out though - he got a scythe! Once he's learnt how to use it I'll have my very own grim reaper  LOL

My sister-in-law clearly has a sense of humour, as she sent us these:

and finally for the last word in cute, check out my mum's puppy (a miniature schnauzer). He's not a real dog, of course (how small!!), but he is cute.....

Sunday, 20 December 2009

It's all happening at M & J's this week

Phew!  It's all happening here at the moment! Today I

  • made brambleberry cordial - cheated by using the steam juicer to make the juice. MUCH easier than fiddling with muslin bags etc, and the chickens are overjoyed with the leftover berry pulp

  • made cherry chutney - it's SO tedious pitting 2kg of cherries - but when it's $8 for 2kg of seconds you need to just do it :)
  • finished making the raspberry vinegar
  • made rapsberry jam (Jerry picked 900g yesterday! it's a bumper berry year)
  • sorted my garlic and hung the good cloves in bunches to dry further. The ones that won't keep we will eat first
  • made a jar of pickled garlic
Doesn't look like much, but that took care of 5 hours this morning.

Meanwhile the great pantry renovation started this week. We're extending our laundry/pantry/utility room into where Jerry's wardrobes are to give us more food (and general) storage space, as well as space for a bigger chest freezer, given that we now buy almost all our meat in bulk. The first stage meant moving ALL Jerry's clothes, and all the food and jars from the pantry out of their respective homes. That took us from this:

to this:
Of course, all the bottles and jars of stuff had to go my new pantry is now down the other end of the house. It's going to be a bit chaotic for a few weeks until it all gets done, but it will mean so much more storage. Most of Jerry's clothes are now in either "my" wardrobe, or in a temporary wardrobe.

Luckily our guests between Xmas and New Year spent about 6 months living out of a trailer-tent whilst touring Australia, so I'm hoping this means they won't feel too claustrophobic with all this clutter at "their" end of the house!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Kitchen Capers

Today I harvested the last of the garlic - in all we have about 120 bulbs - so 2 per week if I can make them last for a year. I might preserve a bit, but for now we're enjoying fresh home grown garlic again after several months absence. Needless to say I am de-LIGH-ted  (with apologies to Dave Gorman).

Elsewhere in the harvest department I turned 500g of raspberries Jerry picked today into jam, and also made another batch of apricot chutney (local fruit). I've also started reading my new book, healthy artisan bread in 5 mins a day, and I have made my first batch of dough - we'll see how it goes. It's certainly rising nicely at the moment.

Last, but not least I have 1kg of blackcurrants that Jerry also picked simmering on the stove. I'll make blackcurrant jelly tomorrow. Yum.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

What's happening in the garden?

Summer already! It's hard to believe, although thankfully in the last few weeks the weather has been more springlike with mid 20s and lovely cool mornings and evenings.

I've harvested the garlic, and the 'good bug mix' flowers are coming along really well in the orchard.

We wont be short of berries this year, and we harvested 1.8kg of redcurrants yesterday.........

Yacon and oca, with lettuce and giant red mustard going to seed in the background. The violas look pretty under the peach tree.

Potatoes, capsicum and eggplant, and a costa romanesque courgette

It's been a great year for sugar snap and snow peas, and the rest of the potatoes are storming along

The tomatoes look great, and the first fruits are forming on them.

I'm hopeful for my bean crop this year - I've planted scarlet runner, several climbing varieties, as well as a number of bush varieties for fresh and drying. So far so good!  I've also let some carrots go to seed again this year as they did wonders in attracting beneficial insects last year, as well as looking pretty. The seed seems to be viable as well, as we're had carrots popping up in all sorts of interesting places  this year :)

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The last supper

of Jerry's holidays, that is! A simple pasta with green salad followed by berries and cream with a pastry biscuit.

Ingredients: (all home grown) - tomatoes, parsley, oregano, garlic, darwin's lettuce, purslane, giant red mustard, plus some home cured bacon and home made cheddar. Pastry biscuits were home made (even the pastry!- thanks Nigella!!), and the brambleberries and raspberries were from our first pick of the season.

I also made a loaf of  "Jonna bread" - so named because the recipe came from my friend's Danish mother - for sandwiches.

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 packets (7g each) of dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 200g wholemeal flour
  • 300g plain flour
Make the dough in a mixer or by hand by simply combining all the ingredients. If you want to be really fancy you can add the sugar to the water (luke warm) then add the yeast and leave a minute or two before adding to the flour. 

Pour the mix into a full size bread loaf tin - or 2 smaller tins if using cake loaf pans. Let it stand for at least 10 mins - or until the dough has risen well (ie to the top of the tin). While this is happening you can preheat the oven to 200c.

Bake for 30-35 minutes. Note that this bread won't necessarily sound hollow like more 'traditional' breads when it's cooked, so it's better to go by colour (nice golden brown).
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