The Spring Garden 2015

It’s been ages since I sat down to write on my blog….far too long! But I am here now…so much to talk about….this is the second year I’ve grown the tomatoes from seed (last years’s crop). 4 different varieties – 40 plants and we’ll let some of the self sown ones grow too, so if all goes well we’ll have another freezer full of tomato puree for next year.

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The purple peach tree that I grew from seed last year is about 50cm tall with 4 main branches, it’s growing so fast you can almost see it growing. Over winter we planted a red currant, some raspberries (have fruit on them!), 2 blueberries and replenished our strawberry crop. I wish we had room to plant more berries but I’m hoping we’ll get enough to eat and may be freeze some too? How cool would that be? A Cox’s Orange Pippen, a Snowapple and a Villa Franca lemon also found there way into our garden over winter.

I bought a pair of kiwi fruit at the supermarket a while ago (going cheap – $6 for both!); they looked a bit sad but hey you can’t go wrong for $6. We potted them up, fed them and off they went like a rocket; we needed a structure to grow them on – they can be a very vigorous plant and need lots of support and space – Neil used the old trampoline frame to build a structure and one day the kiwi fruits (and a grape vine) will create another feature in the garden.  I’ve seen photos of kiwi vines growing over trellises – beautiful foliage, golden fruit hanging down, that’s what I want to see here!

Winter was a busy time in the garden, we decided to move the rose bed (14 old roses) to a more suitable part of the garden – they were in a prime vegetable growing position. To do this Neil built 2 new raised garden beds – one for the roses and a new vegetable garden. Moving the roses was not fun, we certainly hacked into them but you know what, we didn’t lose a single plant! Just how tough are roses? Very tough! We replenished our paths with a thick layer of mulch – local wood chips from the crew who trim the street trees – this really brightened up the garden.

The summer garden is still a way off, the next peak above ground planting period (growing by the moon) comes up around the 13th Novemeber; so it will be all hands on deck to plant zucchini, tomatoes, eggplants, okra, fennel, lettuce, silver-beet, spinach, capsicums, beans, cucumbers, pumpkin and probably heaps more! I’m going to try some new crops this summer – okra, spaghetti squash (pumpkin) and snake beans, it’s always nice to have some unusual plants growing; okra plants look really interesting and I would love to eat a truly fresh one for once. I hadn’t even seen a spaghetti squash until last summer and was blown away by them! They are not cheap to buy so why not try and grow them – it’s just a pumpkin after all – 4 of the 6 seeds I planted have taken and I gave the rest away…. lots of spaghetti squash this year!

Our young avocado tree produced 2 wonderful fruits earlier this year and has been absolutely covered in flowers, thousands of them; we were wondering how many flowers would produce fruit, well we are delighted to announce some babies are forming…

We planted another lot of root crops last weekend – beets, celeriac, carrots and parsnips; the last month’s root crops are up but the cat decided to have a bit of a dig and damaged some of them, so we’ve put a net over the bed to stop all manner of pests.

Had to pull up the shallot crop a bit early I think, but they were going to seed and had to be lifted, hope they are OK, they’re drying on the deck and will be ready to hang in a week or so. The garlic crop is looking good; we planted a smaller crop than usual so we’ll keep our fingers crossed that they are robust plants.

I’m loving my herbs – got some beauties – tarragon, fennel, parsley, coriander, various mints, sage, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, basil, lemon grass, lavender and chives (the garlic chives are awesome). Phoebe makes the most beautiful omelettes with next door’s free range eggs, lots of fresh herbs and cheese – simple and delicious. Is horseradish a herb? This crop will yield more horseradish than we will ever use….I make horseradish sauce and use it fresh but…

Anyway enough rambling on for one blog…till next time….

 

 

Early May in our paleo home and organic garden.

Neil (aka pasta man) and I have had a wonderful weekend working in the garden, finally the summer crops are over (actually there are still a couple of tomatoes, 1 zucchini, chillies and some eggplants producing fruit) but we had plenty of room to transplant seedling lettuces, spinach and purple broccoli and plant garlic and shallots. We’re not growing as large a crop of garlic or shallots this year because we aren’t eating that many of them anymore (I mainly use them for flavouring and then take them out) but I can’t imagine cooking without those vital ingredients! I’ve been buying garlic shoots from the asian grocer but wonder what exactly are they? I must look them up on google! The shoots are great as I can eat them without any tummy complaints and they have a lovely garlicky flavour. I made a new batch of kimchi last weekend and it’s just stopped the most volatile stage of the fermentation process (gassy bubbles) today so I can divide it up into smaller jars and complete the process in the fridge. The kraut ferment I made last week has settled down (not overflowing anymore) but it will take a few more weeks before it is ready to bottle up (I need to taste it before I decide the next phase of the process), I like ferments to be crunchy, salty and sour and the best thing about making my own is being able to tailor them to my taste buds. I found the bought ferments overpowering and not fresh tasting!

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Living and cooking the paleo way can be simple and /or complicated and I find I need to plan ahead and cook a little extra so I have some easy options to replace the old takeaway or times when I just don’t feel like cooking. Eggs are always the easy option and scrambled eggs or an omelette are our takeaway these days (or a stir fry). I have always been a big believer in breakfast & I used to be  adamant that my children ate breakfast, after all wasn’t it the most important meal of the day, and how can you concentrate at work or school if you haven’t any fuel on board? Well after eating the paleo way for about 6 months now I find I just don’t want to eat breakfast anymore, so I wait until lunch time to eat and I don’t even miss breakfast or get hungry until lunch time, now that is amazing for me! Anyway, I’ve been listening to my body and letting go of old rules and been surprised by the results, my appetite has changed drastically since reverting to fat as a fuel source instead of carbs or sugar. I’m currently on week 3 of The Paleo Way 10 week challenge and listened to an interesting talk by Dr Mercola on the need to and health benefits of having a regular 16 hour fasting period of which missing breakfast is way to go! What the? I’ve figured this out on my own and now have confirmation that by listening to my body I am making “right” decisions for me. He also bangs on about not eating too much protein and that approx 100gm a day is plenty to sustain a healthy disposition, I’ve been gradually cutting down my protein consumption and if I eat more than 100gm can feel uncomfortable and know I have “overdone” it. From now on I need to watch my protein consumption and eat mindfully.

This leads me to cooking – this weekend (and last weekend too) I made a slow cooked lamb shoulder (is 10 – 12  hours slow enough for you?) and been thrilled with the result, not only is it easy peasy to make but totally delicious to eat! It might not be a pretty dish to serve but my guests have been very happy with the flavour and texture of this meal. I  used the Pete Evans’ Lazy Man’s Lamb shoulder recipe as an approximate guide but put my own slant on it with more vegetables and even quinces in my second attempt! I must say I am a little over lamb at the moment and so we are having calamari tonight!

While foraging for herbs in our garden yesterday (for the lamb shoulder) I noticed that the olives were ready to be harvested, so I picked the two trees we have but then arises the question – what on earth do I do with them? Last year I tried 2 very different methods both of which did NOT work and so after talking to the olive guru – Andy Goddard – decided to do things his way and that is to put the olives straight into brine and forget about them for 6 months. I thought I had enough to do yesterday but managed to get the olives ready for the fermentation process, I must say this is by far the easier option for preserving olives (as opposed to changing the water every day or second day) and I seriously hope it works for  me as this will mean I have enough olives for a whole year. Just how cool would it be to grow and ferment your own olives, the only problem being that they need 6 months or more fermenting to be edible! I mean really? Who on earth figured this out?

I’ve been meaning to feed the vegetable crops and fruit trees with seasol and worm juice for weeks now and today I did it (with Neil’s help), don’t know why I put it off for so long as I get quite a buzz from feeding our garden. We are going to buy some BD 500, it’s a biodynamic fertiliser made from fermented cow manure and is a super powerful growth agent – well it is certainly worth a try! I will let you know how it goes, so bye for now, until next we meet…..

“Change in the weather”

“Change in the weather…change in the weather …somethings happening here..”

It’s the Easter holiday break and the Bellarine Peninsula is busy busy busy with holiday makers enjoying the last of the warm weather. We’ve been busy in the garden pulling up the summer crops to prepare for the autumn and winter vegetables. The pumpkin and zucchini plants look horrible covered in mould and aphids but are still producing so we’ll wait a bit longer to pull them up (I’d like to get rid of them to make the garden look nicer). I haven’t sprayed the aphids (I would have used pyrethrum and soap) as there are a few aphid eating ladybirds around and I definitely don’t want to harm them. There are a few tomato plants still producing but it won’t be long until they come out too. We planted radish (little pink ones and the large daikon), 3 types of spinach, carrot, mixed heritage lettuce, beetroot, turnip, parsnip and purple broccoli seed and kale, cauliflower, romanescu broccoli, wombok, parsley, lettuce (cos) seedlings and flowers as companion plants. It’s not the best time of year for garden beauty, the sunflowers and hollyhocks look ragged and I’d love to pull them out but I want to collect some seeds, so I have to be patient and let nature take its course. The citrus trees are looking really good, loads of lemon, oranges, cumquats, limes and even some mandarines (our first ones) and 2 baby grapefruit which is rather exciting. Oh and we have our first 2 passionfruit on the vine, now that is very cool, I’ve tried to grow passionfruit unsuccessfully over the years and then Phoebe gave me a plant last year for my birthday and it’s taking over the citrus trellis! Neil built another trellis structure for the kiwi fruits (he used the metal poles from the old trampoline), so now we wait for them to grow – in my imagination I see the vines covering the trellis with beautiful golden kiwi fruits hanging down. We used to grow an assortment of berries when we lived in the bush but I didn’t think we had enough room here however the berry scandal (fancy getting hepatitis from eating frozen berries!) prompted me to grow some blueberries. It’s hard to make a choice there are so many varieties,  I chose a Denise and a Northland and they are growing just fine, my goal is to grow enough to eat and freeze – they are seriously good for you.

I’m still heavily into the paleo way of living and my cooking has changed so much! I’ve never really been into the whole chocolate Easter situation – as the usual chocolates are pretty ghastly – and so I’ve not had any trouble saying no thanks BUT I’ve been making a paleo style chocolate nut and fruit slice (using cocao and carob) and that is seriously hard to say no too (it’s still a treat and not to be eaten all the time). We’re eating our way through my ferments so I made another crock of kraut and some water kimchi this week – my kimchi e-book (The Kimchi Cookbook by Lauryn Chun) boasts 60 different recipes which I hope to explore over the next few years – so much fun experimenting with fermentation.

I was wondering what to make for dinner tonight, I had some left over beef koftas and teemed them with a rich tomato and garden vegetable sauce and made some zucchini noodles with my spiraliser (even Pasta man likes the zucchini noodles) and all from the garden! All paleo, nutritious and super delicious!

I am also very pleased to say that at last I can make a decent mayonnaise (I make a fermented one that is light, smooth and delicious) – with my dutch heritage mayonnaise is very much a part of our eating culture but it’s impossible to buy mayonnaise that is chemical or “bad oil” free so I’m pretty happy with my new mayo making skill. As a matter of fact I have to make some right now…..

 

 

The autumn garden & paleo cracker recipe

So autumn is here and wow what a mild summer it was, the air conditioner has only been on once! The vegetable garden is producing loads of tomatoes, zucchinis, eggplants, carrots, beetroot, assorted greens and purple king beans. I was really pleased with the tomato crop this year mainly because I grew them from seed collected from a couple of tomatoes given to me last summer. I am definitely going to save seeds and raise our own seedlings from now on. The majority of tomatoes have been turned into many litres of tomato puree and ratatouille and luckily our old freezer – which we haven’t used for about 7 years – started up like a charm, it’s already 3/4 full of tomatoes, peaches and apricots and may even fill before the season ends. Don’t know what I would have done without that old freezer because I have a paleo dilemma, I usually make an assortment of chutneys, relishes and sauces but they use up copious amounts of sugar and the paleo diet is pretty much sugar free, so how do I preserve all our beautiful tomatoes? I decided to cook them then strain the mix to get out the skin and some seeds and freeze this puree, I can still make preserves later on if I want to or we have enough tomato puree for a whole year at least. I did make 2 batches of kasoundi – I just had to – that stuff is awesome (recipe is listed) and it’s not so heavy on the sugar as some of my other recipes! Our biggest tomato so far weighed in at 848 grams, apparently that is small in the large vegetable category but it’s the amount of large tomatoes that is mind boggling, as soon as I clear the decks Neil comes in with more and more tomatoes.

I’ve had a lot of fun experimenting with the fermentation process and have a continuos supply of milk kefir, fermented garlic, chilli sauce, horseradish sauce, mayonnaise and assorted kimchi and kraut concoctions. My taste buds and stomach are getting used to these unusual foods, I actually crave them now, I even had some for breakfast this morning! I love that fermented foods are jam packed with goodness, delicious to eat in a strange way and I made them myself from our own or out sourced organic produce! Having an assortment of fermented foods to use as condiments will hopefully replace our old chutney, sauce & relish habit and they are a much healthier alternative.

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I’ve been very remiss with my blog writing for a few months now but I’ve been researching, experimenting and adjusting to the paleo way of life and just didn’t know what to write. If you follow the paleo lifestyle then sugar, dairy, grains and legumes are omitted, this may seem daunting but the transition has been relatively pain free for me as I love eating loads of vegetables with good quality protein and fats, honestly I don’t intend to preach but I feel so darn good and satisfied, that’s the only way to describe it, a deep feeling of satisfaction and I eat less because I am not hungry! I probably spend more time in the kitchen because I make absolutely EVERYTHING and we rarely eat out, but at least I know what’s in our food and growing, harvesting and cooking our produce or sourcing organic produce, grass fed meats and wild fish is so much fun! I make one or two batches of dry biscuits or crackers each week, they take about 20 minutes and are so easy, I was asked for the cracker recipe which will follow but I must add that each batch I make is different because of the range of spices, seeds and flavours that make each batch individual. My favourite flavour is black / white sesame seeds but finely grated parmesan cheese is nice too (but it’s not strictly paleo).


Paleo cracker recipe
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Recipe type: savoury biscuits
Cuisine: paleo
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
These crackers are crisp and tasty and are wheat, dairy and sugar free.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup of almond meal
  • 2 tablespoons of ground linseed
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon of oil - olive or macadamia
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons of flavouring of your choice such as grated parmesan cheese, sesame seeds, assorted spices or savoury yeast flakes - experiment!
Instructions
  1. Grind the linseed (I use my nutribullet which does a great job) and add to the almond meal
  2. Add the other ingredients and mix until a firm ball of dough is formed
  3. The mix should not be wet and if so add a little more almond meal
  4. Divide the mixture in half and roll out between 2 sheets of baking paper
  5. I like to roll it very thin but you could have them a little thicker if you want (they may take a few minutes longer to cook though)
  6. Take the top layer of paper off and cut the dough into shapes of your liking
  7. Leave the dough on the bottom layer of baking paper and place on a biscuit tray in the oven
  8. Bake in a moderate oven for 10 - 12 minutes
  9. The dough should be crisp and golden when cooked
  10. Cool on a cooling rack and place in an airtight container for storage
  11. Cook the other batch as above
  12. I usually make a double batch because they go so fast
  13. They stay fresh for days!

 

The summer garden

Well Xmas and New Year (seasons greetings to you all) have come and gone since my last blog (how time flies) and the garden is just starting to produce enough to eat. We’re harvesting zucchini, tomatoes (early ones only), purple king beans, radish, green bull chillies, beetroot, assorted greens and herbs of course! The eggplants are just starting to fruit – hopefully we’ll be inundated with tomatoes, zucchinis and eggplants in a few weeks time. I’m not having much luck with florence fennel, the seed just doesn’t seem to strike well, anyway I’ve just planted another lot (organic local seeds) so let’s hope they take off. The zucchinis are an organic italian variety, they’re so pretty and seem to grow long before filling out – a lovely striped fruit too. I’m hoping the golden beets grow as big as the ones I bought from Magic Meadow (organic farm produce) and can’t wait to be able to pick our own carrots too.

The plums pictured above come from a friend whose plum tree was getting attacked by birds – she  had to pick them before they had fully ripened – I’m in the process of making plum sauce and jam. I tried one of our apricots today, it was nearly ripe and probably fine for cooking, might have to pick some tomorrow. We’ve netted the apricot and mulberry trees (as well as some of the tomatoes) or we would have lost the lot to birds. I don’t mind sharing some produce but the birds indiscriminately peck at everything in sight and don’t eat the ones that drop on the ground! What a waste!

We usually buy about a dozen advanced tomato plants, the rest of the crop being the self sown varieties that pop up all over the garden. This year we only bought two tomato plants (the ones that are producing now) and the rest we’ve grown from seed collected from two sources – a huge Italian variety brought over from the “old country” years ago and an Italian small green striped heirloom tomato. It was fun growing our main tomato crop from seed and we ended up planting about 10 of each variety  plus kept a crop of self sown tomatoes too, so we probably have about 40 tomatoes growing! We weren’t going to plant so many this year!

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A few years back I rescued a small half dead San Pedro cactus from our daughter’s share house (it was strewn in the garden amongst a tangle of weeds) and it certainly rewarded us this year with about thirty blossoms all in different stages of development. On Xmas day 7 blooms opened at once – absolutely amazing!

The weather has been crazy lately – too much wind and scorching heat – I hate seeing the garden being blown about like that – but at least it’s raining tonight!

Until my next blog…cheers Lemmie

Life after a fire storm

It’s been 18 months since the place we called home for 20 years went up in smoke and last week we finally went back to pay a visit. We had sold our share of the property some years ago but the memories of 20 years of living in this beautiful but dangerous part of the world are strong, after all we transformed the bushland to a home with gardens, sheds, dams and animals (pigs, chooks, ferrets, guinea pigs and dogs) and interacted with lots of native animals, birds and insects. The children ran wild over 150 acres – they built cubbies, drove paddock bombs, caught yabbies and yellow belly fish (golden perch) as well as skinks, tadpoles and an assortment of lizards. The house had large windows to take advantage of the light and bush views but birds often hit the windows too and we became adept at caring for them until they regained their equilibrium. There were hundreds of different birds and we learnt all about them – the tiny black and red mistletoe bird, those beautiful finches that nested in the ground and the large noisy, egg and tomato stealing currawongs. We could hear the deep grunting the koalas made but didn’t see them often, but we saw plenty of kangaroos, wallabies, possums, echidnas as well as snakes. We had a large vegetable garden and many fruit trees but it was definitely a challenge sharing the produce with the birds, kangaroos and possums. There were weddings – including our own – many birthday and new year’s eve parties (renowned for water fights – children vs adults) and other social events. I taught Reiki there and did many remedial massages – it was incredible that my clients would travel on dusty, bumpy or muddy and slippery roads for a treatment. It was a truly wonderful place for a young family to live but every summer I was anxious about fires and snakes; we had a few close encounters with fires and snakes but we were lucky not be living there when the property experienced the catastropic fire 18 months ago.

I had heard about the Australian bush’s ability to regenerate post a fire but until I saw it with my own eyes I would not have believed the extent to which this is true. Yes many trees died and the survivors have that weird new growth sprouting out all over the tree but the amount of new trees sprouting up where none were before is incredible, there are millions of gums, wattles and other shrubs there now. We walked around trying to find landmarks – the chimney footings, bits of tile and contorted shapes of glass and metal. I was more interested in what survived in the garden and found many young seedlings of shrubs and trees we had planted, it became clear why some plants are pests in the australian bush when you see just how well they do compared to native plants (I refer to agapanthus and periwinkle).

The property will be vastly different from now on – another phase of life has commenced.

 

 

 

Hooray it’s spring!

Well we are lucky to have a few days in a row of warm, calm weather – and boy have I enjoyed it! I like to get into the garden early before I start doing other stuff; this morning it was foggy, damp and cool but in no time at all the sun was out and the layers of clothing came off, it was lovely feeling the gentle sunrays on my arms and face. In no time at all the green bin was full but there was no way I was stopping, I was in the zone pulling out weeds, pruning shrubs and digging to aerate the soil. I pulled out the huge parsley and rocket plants that were going to seed and moved a some mulch around. I decided to cut quite a few fronds off the fan palm, it was encroaching into the vegetable garden and shading it too much. It was surprising just how much the ornamentals have grown over the last few months, I haven’t spent a lot of time in the garden lately but those days are over and the garden is my number one priority to get it ready for the spring plantings. Luckily we still have tons of greens – spinach, silverbeet, kale, lettuce, rocket, sorrel and herbs for salads and cooked meals, surprisingly there are still bullhorn peppers ripening, beet roots and a few carrots.

I haven’t written any food blogs for a while but I’ve been reviewing my cooking from a healthy /nutritional point of view, I decided to try the 5/2 diet as a scientific experiment and so for 5 days I eat normally and I fast for the other 2 days. The fasting days aren’t too difficult as I can eat about 500 calories and if I am clever with my choices it can be satisfying and I don’t feel like I am starving. I am hoping to lower my cholesterol, blood glucose, blood pressure and maybe weight (that is not my main reason for doing this though) before I experience any major health problems. If this system works I am planning on sticking to this regime so I can enjoy my cooking /eating while maintaining a healthy lifestyle, so in 8 weeks I’ll have blood tests done to see if the diet has improved my statistics.

My kids wanted to give me a nutribullet for my birthday but I wasn’t sure if I needed another kitchen gadget, usually I make juices with the juicing attachment on my food processor, the only problem being you lose all the fibre. So now I have a nutribullet and am experimenting with various vegetables/ fruits / nuts and seeds smoothy blends each morning for breakfast. The smoothies aren’t as appetising or pretty as the juice made with beetroot, celery, apple, pomegranate, ginger and carrot in the food processor but apparently they are full of goodness and highly nutritious, I just need to find the right blend for my tastes (the first one I made tasted OK but was brown!). So there you have it, I am trialling the 5/2 day fasting regime and playing with the nutribullet, I will let you know how I go with them over the next few weeks.

Before I go I wanted to tell you about the cooking master class I did with Chef Marty Chichester from Oakdene restaurant. Marty shares his 30 years cooking expertise by way of  a 3 course dinner menu to help develop cooking skills and confidence. The monthly classes fill quickly and the menus are never the same,  this one was based on Thai food which was good for me as I’ve never even had a “proper” Thai meal before. We made a hot /sour soup (YUM), deep fried barramundi with a delightful salad and dressing and a pannacotta (coconut, mango, lychee). We tasted some Oakdene wines with the meal and had a really nice evening, I’ll definitely be doing some more classes with Marty!

I will share with you a Thai pork belly curry recipe a friend gave me (it’s her favourite Thai dish) in my next blog……