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…..

 

 

Food for health (the Paleo way)

It’s been ages since my last blog for two reasons – 1. my iPad won’t upload photos into my site (but I’ve found another way to load photos) and 2. because I’ve been going through a “moment” regarding my relationship with food. You can tell from my ramblings that I absolutely love anything to do with food (cooking, growing, sourcing & experimenting), it’s a very important part of who I am and so I wondered do I cook to live or live to cook? Am I doing the best I can to look after my health? Is my love of food turning into an addiction or obsession and impacting detrimentally upon my health (rising blood glucose and cholesterol levels & irritable bowel symptoms). I was slowly putting on weight, found it impossible to lose weight and was struggling with unexplained muscle pain. My sister-in-law put me onto a book – Wheat Belly by cardiologist Dr William Davis – this book blew my mind and so I experimented eating this way for a while; it was going well until I had an IBS attack that lasted for days, so I tried the FODMAP diet for allergies and then a combination of the wheat free and FODMAP but I was getting very confused and losing my way, so off I went to a naturopath for some advice. I hadn’t been to a naturopath for years and was delighted with Belinda’s caring approach. She really listened to me, asked me lots of questions and then suggested I follow the Paleo way of eating for a month (while still leaving out foods that obviously upset my stomach). So…more research… what is Paleo? – I read Primal Body Primal Mind – quite a heavy book to read – written by Nora Gedgauras and  began following Chef Pete Evans (Paleo Guru) while learning to adapt to life with no sugar, low carbohydrate, no diary (apart from yoghurt) and no legumes. I needed to source organic / chemical free produce, grass feed meat, wild seafood and nutrient dense foods like seeds, nuts and fermented foods like kimchi. I needed help with recipes and ideas, Belinda (my naturopath) put me onto some great websites (like Nom Nom Paleo) and foodstuffs like cashew nut cheese (YUM), yeast flakes, Spirulina and others I found myself – cocoa nibs and activated nuts from Totally Nuts (have to be the BEST nuts ever!).

We won’t have any trouble sourcing organic vegetables and fruit when our garden starts pumping but at the moment we’ve only got greens (spinach, silverbeet, assorted salad leaves, herbs and broad beans). I’d heard about a farm in Lovely Banks called Magic Meadows that sells organic produce 2 days a week at a reasonable price and for the last month we’ve been making the journey to purchase organic and spray free vegetables and fruit, the quality of the produce is really very good, especially the strawberries, carrots, cucumbers and beetroot. I bought some organic meat and chicken (from the organic shop in Geelong), it’s quite expensive, I wish we had access to the fabulous markets and produce they have in Melbourne. The farmer’s markets usually have organic meat suppliers and I purchased some Sage Organic beef sausages and lamb shanks at the Bellarine Farmers Market last Saturday (held monthly in Ocean Grove).

Main meals aren’t that difficult cooking the Paleo way but try to make desserts or bread substitutes, cakes and biscuits without flour, sugar or butter – very challenging indeed. My experimenting has paid off to a certain extent, I have yet to find a wheat free bread that really works but some of the sweet treats are absolutely delicious – date & nut balls, nut slice, strawberry bliss balls.

I am really enjoying learning more about health, food and nutrition and experimenting with new products. I’ve changed too, I no longer feel ravenous, don’t crave sweet things, no more snacking, I feel full and satisfied and the muscle pain I’ve had for years has gone! I am excited about cooking and enjoying my food even more than before!

I purchased Pete Evans Paleo inspired cookbook – Family Food – and am slowly making my way through the recipes while reading Femented by Jill Ciciarelli and Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz. I am looking forward to learning about and making fermented goods – like yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi and vinegar and would love to have a go at making my own soap too (my friend Nellie gave me some of her home-made soap made with olive oil and caustic soda only, it was so lovely!) Anyway enough rambling for today……

Below are photos of Paleo style main meals we’ve been enjoying of late…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The floral garden

A couple of years ago I noticed a spectacular climbing plant growing over the wall of the old Geelong gaol and grabbed a piece to identify it. I couldn’t find it in any of my books or on the internet but the local nurserywoman named it “Russian Lady’s Slipper”. She thought it looked easy enough to grow from a cutting (it looks like a succulent) so I did just that, one little cutting and now it has taken over a large part of the fence and will climb into all the neighbouring plants and across the ground if we let it. I wonder what I have introduced into  our garden it is so vigorous, I imagine that if left alone it would eventually cover up the whole block, house and all. It has a tendency to damage the fence too so I think eventually it will have to go or at least have a massive regular prune. When flowering it is absolutely amazing as you can see in the photos….

I’ve spent a couple of hours in the garden this morning and now it is raining, I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome! I just wish I had planted the broad beans, peas and spinach seeds, it would have been perfect timing. I did plant 3 punnets of flowers (mixed coloured hollyhocks, red pansies and white cinerarias) and a french tarragon plant to add to the herb collection. I found a lovely curry leaf tree at Van Loons yesterday and had to buy it, our last one died while we were on holidays last year and I’ve missed the convenience of being able to pick the delightfully fragrant leaves to use in cooking. We decided to plant it in the bank of shrubs that are growing to form a colourful screen or hedge dividing the lower garden and the newer top garden and helping to create a much needed wind break and gentler climate. Our back yard garden is slowly being transformed from a desolate, windswept, barren piece of dirt to a lush environment with the addition of split levels, lots of plants, time, water and muscle power. Our garden is a mixed up blend of herbs, vegetables, fruiting plants and our favourite ornamentals, we want to create different rooms or aspects in the garden and so it is evolving and changing as time goes on and as we do too. I do like my ornamentals but I’m more interested in edible plants lately, there are so many amazing edible plants available it seems silly not to grow as many of them as we can (space is the key).

Pesto and Lighthouse Olives

Oils, olives and other goodies

Oils, olives and other goodies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been buying my olive oil from Lighthouse Olives for a few years now; what a delight to take my 3 litre flagon to get refilled with the latest batch of oil and be tempted by other goodies they have for sale. Yesterday I bought a bucket of their olives and was very tempted to buy one of the beautiful rolling pins (every time I go there I want to buy one). I am lucky to live in a region with lots of vineyards and olive groves so buying from the producer is just a short drive away, apart from knowing my oil comes from, I can taste it and choose between varieties and it’s not much more expensive than buying oil in the supermarket!

Olive and other treats

Olive and other treats

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The basil is ready for a heavy picking so pesto is on the menu today; this recipe came from a cooking class I did in Positano Italy (with a few adjustments). The recipe did solve a problem for me though as other recipes ask for a cup or so of basil leaves but it depends on how heavily you pack them in the cup. This recipe suggests a set number of leaves which is much better, so here is my tweaked pesto recipe with one magic ingredient….

 

Pesto
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Recipe type: sauce or dip
Cuisine: Italian
Author:
Prep time:
Total time:
A well balanced pesto mix - very easy to eat
Ingredients
  • 50 - 60 young basil leaves
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 30 gm pine nuts
  • 100 gm finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 150 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • salt for seasoning
  • 1 small boiled potato
Instructions
  1. Gently wash the basil leaves and air dry (be careful not to bruise or crush them)
  2. Add all the above ingredients to a food processor or blender and blend until the sauce is ready
  3. If storing the pesto for a while, place the sauce in a glass container and cover with a little olive oil and keep in the the fridge (may be stored for a week)
  4. If using the pesto for a pasta dish, add a little of the pasta water to the pesto before adding the pasta & mix until distributed
  5. If making a dip add a little creme fraiche to some pesto and mix through
  6. Or add pesto to mayonnaise