Archive for November, 2011

Thermomix Ice Cream

November 30, 2011

This was the one recipe I just had to try and boy, is it beautiful!

2 egg yolks
250 gm cream
250 gm milk
150 gm sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
pinch salt

The ingredients are placed in the Thermomix bowl and cooked at 80 C for 5 minutes. The mixture is then placed in a separate bowl in the freezer for 3-4 hours, until it’s firm but not frozen. It’s then returned to the Thermomix and whipped on high speed for 20 seconds, and returned to the freezer.

It is definitely gourmet ice cream. So rich and creamy and vanilla-ry.

Being so simple, with just 6 ingredients, I was prompted to wonder just what’s in commercial ice cream.

I found an empty ice cream container under the sink (Coles choc vanilla brand) and looked at the list of ingredients on the lid.

Water, Cream, Sugar, Milk Solids, Glucose Syrup, Maltodextrin, Colours (5 of those), Emulsifier, Vegetable Gums (3 of those), Flavours (unspecified). At least 16 ingredients. I checked the Codex Alimentarius listing for food additives (the colours and gums), and at least one of the colours and one of the gums is listed as having the capacity to induce allergic reactions in some asthmatics!!!

Note too: water is listed first, so it’s the major ingredient. Commercial ice cream is just a frozen emulsion of a few nutritionally-poor ingredients in water!

Needless to say, I won’t be buying commercial ice cream again.

Sorry, there’s no photo. I ate it. (The ice cream, not the photo).

Sustainability rant

November 28, 2011

I’ve been meaning to do a rant about sustainability for some time and it’s just been triggered by the newly-arrived DVD I bought called Urban Permaculture, which features permaculture guru Geoff Lawton.

Now, don’t get me wrong; it’s a very good permaculture educational tool. There are lots of good ideas there for anyone interested in putting in a backyard permaculture system.

But Geoff keeps using that word, over and over and really, he should know better.

Sustainable means for a long time. A very long time. Millennia. Hundreds of millennia, even.

It’s not possible for anyone living in the here and now to claim that they’re living sustainably, because there’s no way future events can be forseen. Events that might cause a group of humans, or even our entire species to die out. Events like major climate change, for example.

Only if we leave descendants far into the future can they claim that we, their ancestors, lived sustainably. Because if you die out, you don’t leave descendants.

Similarly, going in the other direction, we can claim that our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived sustainably because we, their descendants, are here to prove it.

So, how do you define sustainable?

The best definition I’ve heard is the one we were taught in our permaculture design course:

“A system is sustainable if it produces more energy than it consumes, with at least enough surplus to maintain and repair itself during its lifetime.”

So, things and people can’t be sustainable. Sustainability applies to systems. And sustainability is about successful energy capture.

(Which is why I nearly had a cardiac arrest when I read in the morning paper recently, in an article relating to the carbon tax and how families can lower their carbon footprint, there was a family saying they’d “bought a more sustainable fridge”.  Aaarrgh!)

And there’s another point. Tacking ‘more’ onto sustainable. You can’t be more or less sustainable. There are no degrees of sustainability. Either you are or you aren’t. Either you can maintain your way of life for a very long time, or you die out.

Of course the big brain-dead no-no is tacking ‘growth’ onto sustainable. How many times have you heard the phrase ‘sustainable growth’?

Since it isn’t possible to be living sustainably if any part of that living relies on exploiting finite, non-renewable resources (like oil), or renewable ones at a greater rate than the renewal rate, and since no species can grow indefinitely on a finite planet, sustainable growth is an impossibility. An oxymoron. (I wonder if that’s because only a moron would believe in it?)

What people mostly mean when they say sustainable, is self-sufficient.

It makes much more sense to say, “I am trying to be more self-sufficient”, rather than, “I am trying to be more sustainable”, because that’s simply nonsense.

So please, watch how you use this latest buzz-word. In fact, don’t use it at all. Say self-sufficient, because that’s what you really mean.

And remember also, continued growth in a finite system is impossible. Either we stop it voluntarily, or nature will stop it for us.

The insanity of industrial farming

November 24, 2011

I’m a fan of Gene Logsdon’s writing. He writes at The Contrary Farmer.  He’s not a conventional farmer.

His latest post is an example of the insanity that is modern farming.

May the sanity that is permaculture one day replace all industrial agriculture.

Thermomix bread rolls

November 21, 2011

I finally picked up two 5 kilo bags of bread wheat yesterday:

I wanted to try the bread rolls recipe in the Thermomix:

100 gm whole wheat grain
300 gm lukewarm water
1 sachet dry yeast
1 tsp salt
400 gm baker’s flour
20 gm olive oil

I weighed in the 100 gm of wheat and ground it, then added the rest of the ingredients. Interestingly, the amounts are identical to the bread I normally bake (no improver in the Thermomix recipe, though), except that the Thermomix uses only half the water.

After mixing the ingredients in my normal loaf, I leave the mixture to double in size and then knead by hand until the dough is firm. Takes a while and I end up with a bench covered in flour and a pair of messy hands.

The Thermomix mixes the ingredients in 5 seconds and then kneads for 1 minute and 30 seconds. No time to even go to the loo! No messy hands, no messy bench.

The dough is beautifully mixed and smooth and surprisingly, not sticky.

I allowed it to double in size, rolled it into a sausage and cut it into 12 pieces. Rolled them into balls and put them on a tray.

Now here’s the interesting bit. You put them straight into a cold oven and turn it on. No preheating! 25 minutes later, they’re done. So easy!

The flavour is OK, but a bit bland compared to my normal recipe in which I add all sorts of grains, milk powder and LSA mix, so next time I’ll try that and I’ll also try a full loaf instead of rolls.

On the whole very happy with the result.

Tomato cuttings

November 17, 2011

This Black Cherry tomato has outgrown its stake. Time for some pruning and maybe take a cutting:

Part of the top growth pruned out:

The bit that was cut off:

Side leaf and leaf axil shoot removed, also a cluster of flower buds. Finished cutting on the left:

The cutting in a mix of 2 perlite/1 cocopeat:

Taking cuttings from mature tomato plants is an easy way to get new, instant plants without having to wait for seed to germinate and grow on.

New whizz-bang kitchen gadget

November 14, 2011

Some time ago my neighbour bought a new kitchen gadget. She told me it’s name, which I promptly forgot, and from time to time brought me tidbits of food she’d made with it, all the while raving about what it could do.

I wasn’t particularly interested until the day she brought me a tub of home-made butter, then I promptly sat up and took notice. This was butter as it used to be many moons ago. Light and fluffy and tasting like I’d forgotten butter used to taste.

So I went and had a look at this machine. It’s called a Thermomix.

While I was there she tossed off a batch of pastry and gave me some to take home and try. When I mentioned that I made my own bread, she whipped a bag of bread wheat out of the cupboard. “How much flour do you use?” 500 gm.  She weighed it out (the machine weighs, too) and flipped a switch. There was a crashing, grinding sound and 30 seconds later she tipped out a batch of wholemeal flour. I made 2 loaves, using 50/50 wholemeal and my usual flour and we declared it excellent.

I’ve always wanted to grind my own wheat and other grains for bread and had been investigating a Champion brand juicer/grinder, but the Thermomix does it all and more besides.

I was definitely interested so my neighbour organised a home demo (Thermomix can only be purchased this way). A friend of mine came and another neighbour. We were treated to a variety of foods, including a strawberry sorbet, hommus and a  pumpkin risotto.

I talked myself into it and have ordered one!

Although it is expensive I feel that I would use it for a huge variety of things. Just being able to grind grain would be great. I would make my own butter and ice cream for a start. Plus mayonnaise, pesto and pasta sauce. Fresh LSA (linseed, sunflower & almond) mix. Pure foods, without all the dubious additives found in supermarket foods.

I have a food processor, but the lid is broken, although it still works. I have only a hand mixer. I don’t have a grain grinder or a juicer. The Thermomix will do it all. I can Freecycle the food processor so won’t have to put it out in the rubbish.


I wrote this post a while ago and saved it as a draft. I’ve just fished it out of the drafts folder to complete, because my new whizz-bang Thermomix arrived last Saturday.

I am rapt. I made pumpkin soup. It chopped up the vegetables and cooked the soup in 20 minutes. I had it that night with the bread I’d baked that morning. It was great. Two extra meals went into the freezer.

I made beetroot salad. I can’t stop snacking on it.

Later this week I’m going to buy a bag of bread wheat, grind it and make some wholemeal rolls. Then I’ll try home-made butter & ice cream.

Don’t expect to see me on Master Chef, but hey!…you never know.

How much am I growing?

November 13, 2011

I want to get some sort of an idea of how much of my food I’m actually providing from the garden. Is it 5%, 10% or even more?

I’ve been thinking about how I’ll do it.

It’s obvious it has to involve weighing.

I’m already weighing the yields I get; well…..within reason. I don’t weigh every lettuce leaf or bunch of parsley, but I do weigh the big stuff…..fruits and vegetables. I eat a bit of stuff on the run, as it were…..pick and eat a few strawberries, grab a mandarin off the tree or pull up a carrot while I’m hand watering, and so on. So that bit’s not hard.

I need to compare what I grow with what I buy and I’ve realised that’s not hard either.

All I have to do is list what weight of groceries I buy each week. I don’t even have to weigh anything because it’s all nicely printed on the docket. I’ll only have to weigh the greengroceries because I get them at a roadside shed (where some of it is locally grown), but that won’t be too hard.

So I’ve prepared an exercise book where I’ll record weights grown on one page and weights bought on the opposite page. It shouldn’t be too onerous; I only shop once a week so all I have to do is copy the docket items into the book. So that I’ll always remember to weigh what comes in from the garden, I’ve put the digital scales permanently on the bench with a pad and pen beside them.

I’m hoping I”ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

First result:

At the end of the first week I bought 8969 gm from the supermarket and harvested 1471 gm of food from the garden = 16%. Interesting!

Good one, girls!

November 10, 2011

I discovered that the girls love azolla, the floating water fern. I have a bath growing azolla at the back of the polyhouse and next to the chook run. I want to move the bath down the back (reason in another post), so I started cleaning it out and threw a handful of azolla and duckweed to the girls. They promptly dived on it and devoured it.

So that’s good, another food item I can provide for them. I realised I was going to have to reinstate a handy supply next to their run so I didn’t have to be always walking down the back to get it (permaculture energy-saving in practice).

I put a plastic tub next to their playground and went to get the hose to fill it up. They were quite interested in this new development  and hung around watching the water trickle in:

I put in a few handfuls of azolla/duckweed growth and congratulated myself that I’d only have to scoop it off and push it through the wire for them.

Oh, no, you don’t have to do that. We can get it for ourselves:

Clever girls!

The Private Life of Chickens…BBC doco

November 7, 2011

For Melbourne bloggers who love chickens, part 1 of this great 3-part BBC documentary screens tomorrow (Tuesday) on ABC TV at 6 pm.

If you miss it, it’s available on YouTube from the Permaculture Research Institute’s site at this link, but it’s not the complete program. Some parts (the bit where it shows how chickens learn about predators), are missing.

It doesn’t say when parts 2 & 3 will screen, but I assume it’s going to be the following two Tuesday’s.

Forward planning our food supply

November 1, 2011

Here’s a very thought-provoking article from Michael Lardelli at Energy Bulletin. Where will the food to feed a city come from when fossil fuels are no more? At the moment access to cheap oil (soon to become more expensive), means we can access food from far and wide. That situation can’t continue for much longer. Why aren’t we planning for it?

Lardelli says, “at an absolute theoretical minimum, a city of 1 million people would require over 400 tonnes of food per day”. When you think of it in those terms the implications of the decline in global oil supply are staggering. Where will our food come from without the transport that gets it to us?

I used to think a city like Melbourne would be able to provide all the food it needs from within the city boundaries, if it really tried. Think of all the gardens, naturestrips, parks and sports grounds that could be (and would have to be) used. Think of all the potentially productive land now covered in useless mown grass.

Now I’m not so sure.

Even if it could happen in theory, it needs to be planned for, as Lardelli says. And how many people are ‘peak oil’ aware enough to be deliberately planning for self-sufficiency. Very few, in my experience.

I know how hard it is. I tried to make a couple of neighbours aware of the peak oil issue; tried to encourage them to start growing food. It was a disaster. I was well and truly put down; told it was all a lot of crap and they had better things to do. So much for awareness raising. I won’t ever attempt it with anybody else.

It needs a major interruption (even just a temporary one) to our oil supply and hence our food supply, to wake people up.

Governments know about the oil supply decline, but they’re not informing the people; not forward planning for it. Just trying to fit more and more people into cities that eventually won’t be able to feed themselves.