Friday, September 9, 2016

Constantly Surprising

As a gardener, I follow the rhythms of the seasons, expecting blooming in the Spring, abundance in the Summer, brassicas, harvest in the Autumn and hard digging work in the Winter.  I look forward to the specialness of each season, waiting for their own sweet special moments.

Mushrooms in Autumn in one thing I look forward to with particular eagerness.  If you have read my blog for a while you will know that I always get excited about mushrooms.  Their appearance puts me into a frenzy of "mushroom spotting" whenever I am out.

Well, this week, the first week of Spring, we have had wild weather.  Cold, fast winds, snow and sleet all conspired to keep us mostly inside, in front of the fire.  I ventured out to milk the cow and pick early daffodils but that was about it.

Until today.  My special "mushroom spotting eyeballs" noticed a white "something" growing in my flower bed out the kitchen window.  Sure enough, in the wrong weather, at the wrong time of year, beautiful, meaty, fragrant mushrooms are emerging!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Candied/Sugared Violets

Who can resist a sweet treat? this little Victorian number conjures up afternoons of cucumber sandwiches and scones with cream.  Sugared Violets are a labour intensive flower decoration.



If you are lucky enough, like me, to have swathes of violets rampaging through your garden, then this is a winter activity for anyone with Martha Stewart or OCD tendencies.

- Pick your violets, leaving them on a long stem.
- Wash if necessary (I skipped this step) and leave to dry thoroughly
- Whip the white of one egg to stiff peaks
- Using a child's paintbrush (never used in paint) brush the egg white onto all parts of the flower, front and back
- Dust with castor sugar, leave no area undusted.  Paint extra egg white if necessary.
- leave to dry for 24 hrs
- pack into an airtight container, should last for a month

Imagine cupcakes with these little beauties on top.  Or a vanilla cake with cream cheese icing, mmmm

There is a trick to painting the flowers, check that out here: https://www.facebook.com/amazing.rosebud


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Preparing for cold weather

I have had a few afternoons getting the garden organised for cold weather.  Unfortunately I left it too late for the poor cauliflowers.  I had to throw half of them over the fence to the pet sheep because they are damaged by the frost.  This makes them go icky and brown on top.

The other half will be OK because I have tied the larger outer leaves over them, protecting them from further frosting, or indeed SNOW (predicted for the next few days).

The Raspberries got a decent thin-out and prune.  The trick with them is to take out all the dead wood, (those canes that fruited last year) and to trim down the new canes which grew over the season and will produce fruit last year.  Our freezer still has kilos of fruit to be used up.  We get more raspberries than we know what to do with.  Raspberry is a common flavour here for cheesecakes, milkshakes, and berry smoothies.  The pruning took about 4hrs.  You can see in this photo how many canes I have removed, and that is just one third of the work done.  In the picture the canes on the right of the wee boardwalk have been thinned and trimmed, the ones on the left in the picture are still everywhere.

I set to the Blackcurrants also, thinning out, and making a nice fan shape so that the sunshine can get in for ripening, and hands can get in for picking.

Sooner or later I will have to tackle the Strawberries, which need all their dead growth picked or cut off.  Oh, well, another time soon...when the snow has gone away!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Teaching my son to cook - Week Six

Hi Hamish, this week it's Salmon and Roasted Veges with Burnt Butter....

You will need:
Frypan, Roasting Dish

Ingredients:
One large, thick piece of Salmon, not the tail end, enough for yourself
2T butter, at least
3 Large Carrots
1 Potato
1 Onion
Other root veges of your choice
A green vege of choice, like Cabbage or Broccoli, in small pieces
Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic
Some Balsamic Vinegar

First prepare the veges.  Slice the carrots lengthways into 2 or 3 pieces.  Peel and cube the potatoes.  Peel and slice the onions.  Pour a couple of tablespoons of the oil into the roasting dish.  Throw in these veges and your other root veges.  Crush over the garlic.  Sprinkle salt and pepper.  Bake about 40 mins till everything is tender and browned.

Once the root veg is ready, heat the frypan till quite hot.  Add the butter, and swirl.  Immediately add the Salmon piece, skin side down.  Fry briskly till the skin is crunchy and brown.  You will see the salmon sides start to change to cooked white.

Now put the green vege in with the root veges, still in the oven.  Toss to coat in oil.

Turn the salmon with tongs.  It will take another 5 or 10 mins to cook through.  To check, gently part the flesh of the salmon and look inside.

Take the vege out, and toss about 1T balsamic vinegar over.  Arrange on a plate.  Top with the salmon.   Pour the butter from the pan over as a sauce.  If there is not enough butter melt some more and vigourously heat to brown it quickly.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

On Cows, and Joy

Finally, after months of waiting, and watching our cow Willow get fatter and fatter, in fact till she could no longer get down the race...A Calf!  it's a boy, who we have named Sherlock.

Here are Mum and Son, minutes after he was born.  Sherlock has not stood up yet, but Willow is licking him and he stood soon after this photo

Having a calf means having milk.  For the first few days we let them be, then on about day 4 I started to milk Willow.  Those first pails I just let down onto the ground, it was still colostrum.  But after that we have had milk.

She and I have come to an understanding viz I won't tie her to the fence and she won't walk about too much.

We have had a few troubles, she doesn't like me sitting on a bucket for a stool - it makes too many rattling sounds and freaks her out.  I also bring her a bucket of cow muesli as a treat.

While she's eating the cow muesli she stands nice and still in the paddock, and I milk her two rear udders.  Despite what my father said, about cows kicking etc, this is the easiest way to reach them. The two rear teats are quite small and if I milk from underneath it's a slow job.  She hasn't ever kicked.  In fact, she doesn't do anything in a hurry and even if she wants to take a step or two forward I can see she is thinking about it a good minute before she does it.  She's a ditherer, so it takes her a while to make up her mind to take a step.

Once the muesli is finished I have to take the bucket off her or she starts to bang it about, so I take it off her and hang it on the fence or sit on it.

Then I sit at her side and reach her two inside teats and milk them.  The right inside is the calf's favourite and sometimes there isn't much milk there.  But the left inside is the most prolific.  I generally end up with just one hand going on that at the end.

We started getting about 2 litres of milk a day, and now we are up to 4 litres.  Keeping in mind that her calf is on her always, I don't take him off for the night, I'm pretty pleased with that.

Now we have milk, cream and butter!  yumm
Fresh butter!  The fat content of Jersey cream is so high that from a litre of cream most turns into butter, I might get about 200ml of buttermilk only.
So far the weather has co-operated with the paddock milking.  But the idea is that Mark will build me a Cow Bail, so I can milk under shelter when it's raining.  Training Willow to go up the race and into the bail will be my next task!

It's very soothing and meditative milking out in the paddock, while the cow eats or licks her calf, and I lean on her warm sides.  I love it!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Teaching my Son to Cook - Week Five

This week, dear Hamish, it's a chicken dish.  I know I promised Salmon, but I am keeping that...In the meantime, here's a recipe inspired by one of our apprentices, Aaron.  He brought some leftovers for lunch, and they looked so delicious that I snaffled the recipe off him.

Chicken with Cream Cheese in Apricot Sauce
You will need: A baking dish about 3 inches deep, Rice Cooker, a stick whizz or potato masher

Ingredients:
Rice - I know you know how to do this already, so no instructions, just do your thing!
4 to 6 Chicken Thighs, de-boned. (you buy them in the Supermarket like this)
1 onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1 can Apricots
1 tub Cream Cheese
2T Soy Sauce
2T Balsamic Vinegar
Broccoli
Carrots
Salad

Method:
Put the onion in the casserole dish.  Take out each thigh, and open it, put in about 1Tablespoon of cream cheese and fold the thigh in half.  Place each thigh on top of the onion, in a single layer.
In a bowl add the tin of apricots, juice and all.  Add Balsamic Vinegar and Soy Sauce.  Blend or mash.  Pour over the chicken pieces.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake about 1hr at 170C till golden on top and cooked well.

While its baking, do the rice, and steam the veges.

Serve on rice. Eat.

Do Dishes.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Teaching my Son to Cook - Week Four

I don't yet have a picture of the Beef Stroganoff, so I'm not sure if it was a success.  But no matter, onwards and upwards!

This week:

Boil Up For Two Nights
This is my take on Maori Boilup. I've anglicised it a bit.  You should get enough for two meals, it is delicious heated up the next day.  This is a longer cooked dish, so is best for a weekend, or on a week night if you dont mind eating late

You will need: A large pot

Ingredients:
2 x Pork Hocks or Lamb Shanks
Some Thyme, fresh is best
3 x Potatoes, peeled and cut into smallish chunks
2 x carrots, peeled and sliced
Greens of some sort, Kale and Cabbage are best
1 x Beef Oxo Cube
1 cup Self Raising Flour
2T butter
A little milk

Into your large pot put the Pork Hocks/Lamb Shanks, cover well with water, bring to the boil.  Add oxo cube and simmer for about 2hrs or until the meat is soft. Add 1t salt and grind over good amount of pepper.  Add the potatoes and carrots simmer 15 mins.  Add the dumplings (to half float on top) and greens.  Put on the lid(or the dumplings wont cook properly). Simmer till dumplings are cooked, about 10 mins.
Dumplings:  Rub the butter into the flour, add thyme and moisten with milk to make a dough. Roll into balls about the size of a walnut.

To serve, take out the meat and break into chunks, put into a bowl.  Add potatoes, carrots and greens, and throw around a few dumplings.  Ladle over a few spoons of liquor.  Enjoy.

Do dishes!