Archive for July, 2012

The versatile Excalibur dehydrator

July 30, 2012

Last year I bought two new gadgets somewhat expensive pieces of kitchen equipment.

The first was an Excalibur dehydrator and the second was a Thermomix. If I had to score them for usefulness, I think the Thermie would come out ahead, but the dehydrator does its fair share of processing and drying.

Baby tub of home-made yoghurt maturing in the bottom of the dehydrator:

(I need to start making larger batches. The Girls love it on their porridge!).

At the same time, apple rings drying on the top shelf…..:

…..and pumpkin seeds drying on the lid:

A pumpkin called Barbara

July 27, 2012

I don’t buy fruit and veggies in the supermarket. I grow as much of my own as I can, of course, but I don’t want to support the Coles/Woolies duopoly any more than I have to.

What I need to buy, I get at a Sunday Market I visit regularly, or at a roadside shop which also happens to be on the way to the market. There’s a lot of locally grown stuff available, which is an added asset.

Last week, at the roadside shop, they had a box of pumpkins labelled ‘Barbara’. They were locally grown and I bought one. The lass on the checkout said she’d had some through the week and it was nice and sweet:

Not having heard of this variety, I Googled (as you do). I’ve found only one reference so far, at this blog (another interesting food blog to add to the feed reader. She’s a nutritionist, based in Sydney). She got hers in a veggie box scheme. I’m still looking and will go through the lists of the various seed suppliers. Not to worry, though, I’ve taken out the seeds from mine and will sow them in spring.

I cut Barbara in two and she is the deepest orange you could imagine. I’m looking forward to sampling her and will definitely buy more Barbaras if they’re still around when I go to the shop next time:

This season’s oca…..picked & pickled

July 26, 2012

The oca plants have fully died back and I’ve picked all the tubers…..

…..and started pickling them. Here are the first two jars:

The recipe I use for the pickling liquid is fairly simple:

3/4 cup vinegar ( I use apple cider vinegar)
1/2 cup water
2 tsp dill seeds
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
2 springs fresh dill (place in the jar with the sliced oca)
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbsp sugar

Mix all in a saucepan and bring just to the boil. Pour over the sliced oca in a pre-heated jar.

I like oca fresh, either raw or pickled. I know there are people who rave about it roasted, but to me it’s yuk. The texture goes like mashed potatoes and the flavour is like old socks (no, I’ve never eaten old socks, but you know what I mean!). Maybe I cook it for too long, I don’t know. Or maybe I have a different variety to other people. I think I’ll try gently steaming a few tubers in the Thermomix. If that can’t do it, nothing will!

Some of the biggest tubers, scrubbed and ready to go:

They don’t need peeling. They’re crunchy and slightly lemony. If left in the sun for a few days after harvesting, they sweeten up a bit.

I’ll be posting out tubers this week to those who asked for some.

Back in business!

July 23, 2012

Yep! It’s an egg! First one since early March, when the Girls gave up laying to moult.

Nice surprise, as I wasn’t expecting to see any for another couple of months. This one appreared last Saturday and there was another one today. It’s nice to see the carton in the fridge with something in it again. I’ve been buying eggs at the free-range egg farm at the end of our street and although the owner is a very nice person, it was hard to have to endure that slight smirk and “hens not laying yet?”.

There’s more:

I think spring is coming!

Time to sow tomatoes

July 16, 2012

In the past few years I’ve sown tomato seeds at the winter solstice, inside, on a heat mat. I decided to leave it a bit later this year, because the plants in the garden tend to fade out in autumn, while I notice that those who sow later have tomatoes yielding much later, even into early winter.

I rescued the heat mat from the bottom of the cupboard and set it up near a window.  I decided not to plant the seeds in cells and pot later into small tubes for planting out; instead I’ve bypassed the potting on stage and  have sown the seeds direct into the small tubes. I’ve put 3 seeds in each pot and will thin later to the strongest:

The plastic container holds 35 small tubes. I’ve sown 5 tubes of each variety:

In this first sowing the varieties are:

Silvery Fir Tree. I grew this for the first time last year and was really pleased with it. The plants have attractive fern-like leaves. They flowered and fruited early…large fruits with a decent flavour.

Amish Paste. A new one for me this year. Came highly recommended (as did the seeds) from Frogdancer.

Green Zebra. I love the flavour of ‘green’ tomatoes. They’re especially nice fried. They’re not really green, as in ‘unripe’. The paler striped areas turn yellowish when ripe.

Black Russian. I just couldn’t live without this variety.

Red Pear Cherry. This one is so useful for drying. Also halved, in salads.

Black Cherry. A kind of mini Black Russian. Doesn’t have the rich flavour of Black Russian, but still useful for salads and drying.

Burnley. A late-yielding variety, useful for cooking, frying & salads.

When these seeds have germinated, I’ll move them to another spot (still inside while the weather’s still cold) and sow a new lot, with some different varieties. They’ll eventually go into the polyhouse outside to harden up and grow on. If the ground’s warm, I would be hoping to get them planted out sometime in October.

Thermomix bloopers

July 10, 2012

Thought I’d make the Thermomix pasta with tuna again for dinner. I made it last week and it was really delicious. I had half a can of diced tomatoes left over and wanted to try it again, this time with bacon pieces instead of tuna.

So…I weighed and measured all the ingredients and lined them up beside the Thermomix. Chucked a couple of cloves of garlic into the bowl and half a red onion that I wanted to use up, all ready for chopping later.

It was too early to begin cooking dinner and too damp and cold to go back outside to the garden.

I know!  There’s time have a go at that apricot/sesame slice in the Thermomix Vegetarian Cookbook I bought from Thermomix consultant Frogdancer last week.

Weighed and measured all the ingredients for that and read the first of the instructions.

Place apricots in the bowl and chop 5 seconds at speed 7, then set aside*.


Took the lid off the bowl and looked inside.

Oh, noooooooo…..!

Chopped apricots & garlic anyone?

* I should explain, for non-Thermomix owners, that the lid on the bowl has a hole about 5 cm in diameter in the middle. Ingredients can be dropped into the bowl without taking off the lid.

Also note: It’s not a good idea to do this, because you might have been dumb enough to have put something else in the bowl beforehand and forgotten it was there and you can’t see it.

Frogdancer…you stop laughing!

Hey…how about that?

July 7, 2012

I was just reading another WordPress blog that was using the same template as mine and he had a ‘search’ bar at the side of the page.

Now, I’ve always wanted a search bar so I can find previous entries and so on, so I thought if he can do it, the facility must be in there somewhere.

I’ve never really investigated what I can do with this blog, but I went looking and found how to put in a search bar. Whoopee!

It’s now on the top right of the page. Apparently, after typing in your search item, you need to hit ‘enter’. I did a few searches and…it works!

Now I can find things!

An apple a day…

July 6, 2012

…keeps three chooks out of mischief.

The Girls like an apple as a treat. If I throw the pieces into the run or even into their treats bowl, it all soon ends up on the ground covered in dirt and other nasty chook stuff.

Lying in bed at night thinking about it.

One short garden stake.

Drill a hole in the top.

Hammer into the ground.

Slip a large nail into the hole.

Jam apple on nail.

A clean apple and three happy Girls:

Tackling climate change

July 4, 2012

I came across this great video of Peter Cundall (if you live in Oz you won’t need to be told who he is!) at Green Gavin’s site.

Rather than attempt to embed the video here (which I’ve never done before and would probably blow up the whole of WordPress if I tried), I’ll just refer you to Gavin’s site. If you haven’t met Gavin before, you’ll be amazed at what this guy is doing to reduce his impact on the planet. Go take a look.

While I’m here I may as well put forth my own views on the whole issue of climate change and that you-know-what tax!

I’m pretty disappointed that so many people have come out against the tax. I don’t just mean dummies like the scientifically-illiterate Leader of the Federal Opposition. Are ordinary people so dumb too that they really want themselves and their children to suffer the effects of climate change? It’s going to be pretty nasty when it really starts to kick in.

Peter Cundall points out that it’s really a pollution penalty tax. Which it is. Human activities (burning fossil fuels) are increasing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. I expect lots of people don’t care, one way or the other about the effects of this. Maybe they just don’t understand the effects or maybe they’re just wilfully blind. The rest of us, who are doing our best to reduce our CO2 emissions have a right to be angry at those who aren’t doing anything to reduce theirs. We’ve gotta live on this planet, too.

Personally, I don’t agree with compensating people for the tax, even though it looks like I’ll come out of it ahead. The whole idea of the tax is to force people to reduce their CO2 footprint. The tax should be a penalty for what is essentially pollution of the atmosphere which maintains the earth in a state conducive to life.

Giving people extra money means they’ll just spend it on more consumption, which means more CO2.

But then, nobody ever listens to me!  <sigh>   Back to the veggie garden!