summer

December 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Straight from the vegie patch, I’m sure you can imagine what I did with these little guys…

…yes, I stuffed those lovely delicate flowers with rice, feta, anchovies and herbs, baked them in the oven with cherry tomatoes and olives and invited  7 friends to come eat them with me.

 

sauerkraut

July 29, 2011 § 1 Comment

The fermentation of cabbage is a very ancient chinese tradition that is believed to have come to Europe with the nomadic Tartars. So whilst we usually associate Sauerkraut with Germany, it is really only the name that bares its origin there. The French on the other hand call it ‘choukrout’.

Interestingly the fermentation of sauerkraut takes place with 3 different microorganisms in different successional stages of the process determined by increasing acidity. However when making sauerkraut you don’t have to worry about this, the microorganisms will take care of themselves wonderfully. What you will have to do is very very simple.

I find it so satisfying and a little bit magical harnessing the bacteria from the air to transform food. As you will probably come to know, fermentation is one of my most favourite things.  On this matter, sauerkraut is a very good place to start, as it is really very very easy.

This recipe comes from Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions.

1 medium organic cabbage, cored and shredded (use half red and half green and end up with a beautiful pink sauerkraut)
1 Tbsp sea salt
4 Tbsp whey (alternatively use an additional 1 Tbsp salt)

Shred the cabbage and combine in a bowl with the salt and whey.

Pound with a wooden pounder, or anything similar you can get your hands on. I usually use  a metal potato masher. Keep this up for about ten minutes to release the juices.

Place in a large wide mouthed and steralised glass jar. Press down firmly with pounder  or potato masher until the juices rise above the cabbage. The top of the cabbage should be at least 1 inch bellow the jars mouth. Cover tightly and leave at room temperature for approximately 3 days before transferring to the fridge. It is then ready to but will improve with age.

planting garlic winter solstice

June 22, 2011 § 2 Comments

It is the darkest day of the year today, the winter solstice. I’m so happy that from here on in things are only going to get brighter.

A wonderful thing to do on the shortest day of the year is plant garlic. So much to look forward to as each clove is pushed an inch deep into the ground. By the summer solstice they will be ready to harvest and you will have fresh garlic all of your own.

How to grow garlic

You can take any old garlic that you have bought from the shop, especially those that have begun to sprout, however, I prefer to use organic and the lovely fragrant purple varieties.

Choose a sunny, well-drained position with good fertile soil. I like to plant garlic around the borders of the vegie garden as they are great at keeping away pests and disease.

Separate all the cloves, leave the skins on, and plant about 15 cm apart, an inch deep, or so the top/pointy part of the clove is 2 cm bellow the surface. Cover with soil and wait patiently, they will take quite a few months before they are ready.

Each clove will grow into a plant that will contain a single bulb that can itself have up to 20 cloves.

You will know your garlic is ripe to harvest when the tops of the plant begin to dry off and die. If you harvest them to early your bulbs will be small, too late and they will split. A general rule is, plant them on the shortest day of the year and harvest them on the longest.

Your garlic will then need to be hung to dry in a cool dark place for 1-2 weeks. You can then brush the dirt off. It is best not to wash them.

Here is one I snuck in about 2 weeks ago, they don’t take long to sprout.

Preserving Olives

June 13, 2011 § 11 Comments

We live in one of the old Greek and Italian neighbourhoods of Melbourne. One of those suburbs that every now and again sport concrete lawns dotted with olive and lemon trees. A very particular aesthetic that I myself am not particularly partial to but nevertheless, I appreciate the mini suburban farms even though embedded in a cement landscape of which I can only imagine is a good way of keeping out the weeds.  I am lucky enough to enjoy the advice of an old greek man who sometimes happens by when I’m in the front yard. He leans over the fence, a subtle aroma of cigarettes, commenting on the progress of our orange tree and the vegies in the garden. I enjoy the aged and wisened advice, it is the stuff I cherish most.

So it is at this time of year that trees are heavy with black fruit and the markets and grocers are brimming with plump and round olives.

I have never pickled olives before, and from a little research, have learned there is more than one way of going about it. Jim Massoto gives a wonderful step by step set of instructions and advice which you can find here. However his process takes 20 days in which you soak the olives in briny water that you change every day.

We decided, to go for a rather simpler option that a friend let us in on after he was given the advice from an olive seller at Preston Markets. With this method you may end up with olives that are slightly more bitter, but after tasting our friends and considering this process was much nicer on the environment as less salt would be poured down the drains, we were convinced. Also, it’s no where near as much hassle.

How to preserve olives

First, you want to make sure you pickle your olives when they are as fresh as you can get them as they are quick to spoil. Pick out any bruised or spoiled olives as they have an off flavour.

Sterilize a bunch of big jars. Wash the olives thoroughly and place in the jars. Cover with briny water (100 g salt dissolved per 1 litre water). Then pour a layer of olive oil on the top of the water and seal tightly. The fuller the better, as the less air inside the jar, the less likely they will contaminate. Leave in a dark cool place for about 3 – 4 months or until they develop a rich olive flavour. A layer of scum will develop at the top of the jar, however this is said to be helpful in taking away the bitterness of the olives.


And we wait, fingers crossed.

Autumn and Chutney Red and Green

March 18, 2011 § 2 Comments

The days are whirling on by. Why is there such a fine balance between being too busy and not busy enough. I have hit too busy hard and have resorted to that all to familiar feeling that any tiny spare moment in the day must be made productive. At the same time I am trying preciously to hold onto stolen moments alone in the garden, or a walk down a quite evening street, or a good stare at the ceiling whilst lying in bed. A life without time to smell winter on its way, or missing the precise day autumn turns the leaves on the trees, or  not noticing the loveliness of a miserable cold day,  isn’t worth living to me.

So Autumn has snuck up and run me over. It comes with cold toes and dewy grass, turmeric days, darkening evenings, soup cravings and way too many tomatoes in the garden.

This Tomato Chutney recipe originated from a friends brother. Its evolved a bit along the way but was so damn good to start with that it would be a shame to change it too much. The recipe calls for green tomatoes but because ours are still ripening I  have used red ones instead and just used a bit less salt. If you are using red ones you also don’t need to let the tomatoes sit over night in the salt as the recipe suggests.

Recipe for Tomato Chutney

2 kg tomatoes roughly chopped
700 g onion finely diced
700 g grated apple
1/3 of a cup salt (if using red tomatoes 1/4 cup will do)
2 cups dark brown sugar
400 g sultanas or raisins
400 g dates roughly chopped
2 and 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp turmeric
1/2 Tbsp curry powder
1 Tbsp whole cummin seeds
1 Tbsp whole coriander seeds
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp mustard seeds
/2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp chilli powder
1 Tbsp whole cloves
1 Tbsp whole pepper corns

Put the tomatoes, onion and salt together in a bowl and leave to rest overnight (this is only necessary if you are using green tomatoes).

Place all ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to the boil for a couple of minutes. Simmer and stir regularly for 45 minutes.

In the meantime pre heat the oven to 140°C.  Clean about 10 jars in hot water. Place the jars on their sides in the oven until they have dried. Boil the lids in a saucepan of hot water.

Pour the mixture, it must be still boiling hot,  into the hot jars and tighten the lids immediately.

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