Sunday, April 13, 2014

Antiquing at Dirty Jane's Emporium Bowral

We love rummaging around antique shops. Dirty Janes in Bowral, Southern Highlands of NSW is a favourite. He are some highlights this week.

Oh wow I wanted to buy this ticket booth. it is so very beautiful. I can see it in my garden.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spicy carrot and sweet potato soup

Yesterday we ate out at a cafe for lunch. It was cold and wet and the spicy carrot soup on the specials board really appealed to me. But alas, as is common, the chef felt the need to use a meat stock in a vegetable soup. I always check what stock is used in soups and risottos. I have learnt to check for these hidden sources of meat. I don't know why they have to do it but t happens more often than not.

I found something else on the menu for lunch but decided the die was cast for what I would cook for dinner.  I guarantee my version was way better than the cafe version anyway.  And yes it was just the thing for a cold day.

Carrots, 4-5 large, peeled and sliced
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
Chilli infused olive oil
Ground cumin, 2 teaspoons
Ground coriander, 1 teaspoons
Fresh coriander or lovage* see note

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Saute the carrots and sweet potato in the oil for about 10 minutes until beginning to soften.
Add the spices and half the fresh herbs.  Stir and heat a little longer.
Add just enough water to cover.
Cook over medium heat until all vegetables are soft.
Puree in a blender until the right consistency has been achieved. Add a little more water if too thick but be careful not to water it down too much. Put back in the saucepan and replace on the stove over low heat to warm again.
Serve with more herbs on top and chunks of crusty bread.

Serves 4 as an entree or 2 as a meal.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Mushroom foraging for saffron milkcaps in State Forests with Diego Bonetto

We spent a lovely Autumn day foraging for wild mushrooms today on tour with Diego Bonetto.
Diego comes from Torino, Italy and a tradition of foraging for wild food, a tradition he is happy to share. Which is fabulous as my family has no tradition of foraging. Anglo-Celtic Australians such as myself have been taught to fear mushrooms and other wild foods. Caution is certainly warranted. We found maybe 20 different types of mushrooms today that Diego could not name. But he was able to teach us about one wonderful wild mushroom that is not just edible: its divine.

Introducing the saffron milk cap.

This large, distinctly orange mushroom was the object of our attentions today.  Also known as a pine mushroom this milkcap grows in a symbiotic relationship with the pine trees. This is not a mushroom that can be cultivated at home. Wild foraging is the only way to collect them.

These mushrooms are highly prized across Europe and the forest was full of people out picking today. The weather has been wet consistently across the past month and its early Autumn so picking season is upon us.

The bus tour set off from Sydney early this morning and got to one of the Southern Highlands State Forests about 9am. Mushroom foraging in State Pine Forests in allowed as a free, help yourself activity. Here is a link to the Forestry NSW guide. Diego explained mushrooming and the joys and responsibilities of foraging. We visited three different sites and today the last was the best.

This is the haul we collected. Everyone went home with a big stash.

After collecting mushrooms for a while Diego cooked up a storm for us on a bar-be-que plate: Olive oil, garlic, rosemary and sliced saffron milkcaps. The mushrooms are firm and so very tasty. The best mushrooms I have ever tasted. Truly.

I can't wait to head back out to forage for more.  I will have to be careful to not over indulge. I'd hate to get sick of them. But they will only be at my disposal for a few months.  

I can highly recommend you join a tour and learn more about this great delight and go collect your own.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Autumn harvest dinner: spinach roulade recipe

Wow what a week for tackling culinary fears! First I cooked artichokes and they were divine.

Now I have conquered the savoury roulade.
I have always wanted to make one, but they sound so complicated. I not only managed to turn out a restaurant quality meal, I did it almost completely from my garden produce. My chickens are moulting and off the lay, and I don't have a cow for cheese or cream but everything else I grew and harvested. This was such a wonderful celebration of home grown produce!

Last week I was rummaging around in a thrift shop or two. I bought a couple of pillow cases and an old recipe book. Apologies to all celebrity chefs of great fame: I prefer old cook books. My family and colleagues at work are well aware of how much I love my 1977 Women's Weekly Biscuit and Slice cookbook. The recipes never fail and are always wonderful.  This time, I found the 1986, Rose Elliot "The new vegetarian cookbook". With a mushroom filled spinach roulade recipe.

I trusted the recipe to work out and yes the instructions were spot on. I improvised a little on ingredients, the actual how to worked superbly.

Here is the recipe paraphrased and with my own version of the ingredients based on what I had in my garden today.

And yes they are enormous oyster mushrooms I grew!

Ingredients for roulade
fresh greens: spinach, silverbeet, kale
salt and pepper
4 eggs, separated
grated Parmesan

Ingredients for filling
mushrooms, diced
celery, sliced
sage, sliced
artichoke heart, chopped
300 ml sour cream
salt, pepper and nutmeg

Instructions for Roulade
Prepare a Swiss roll tin with baking paper. Sprinkle with Parmesan.
Preheat oven to 200 C.
Wash, trim and chop greens. Dry cook in a saucepan, stirring occasionally until tender, about 10 minutes. Take greens off heat, add a dollop of butter, egg yokes and seasoning. Stir well, be careful not to cook the egg.
Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Fold into the greens.
Pour the mix into the pan and bake for 10-15 mins.

Instructions for filling
Heat butter in a pan and toss in the chopped mushrooms and herbs.  Cook until they release their juices and brown a little. Add sour cream and seasonings. Heat gently to warm through. Take off the heat and allow to thicken.

Putting it all together
Turn the oven down to low.
Place a fresh piece of baking paper on the bench and sprinkle a little more Parmesan across it.
Take the roulade from the oven and gently slide it off the tray onto the prepared paper. Lightly press down into the Parmesan.
Spread the filling evenly across the roll, leaving a gap of about 5cm from the far edge.
Roll the roulade up a little way at the filled edge and squeeze to ensure tight. Keep rolling slowly and firmly pulling the paper away as you go.  Stop and tuck in any filling squeezing out until you get to the end. Cover with paper and gently squeeze the roulade to make sure it has rolled well and is firm. Take away the top piece of paper. Replace on the tray and put back into the oven for a little while to make sure it is warmed through.

That's it!

Slice and serve warm with a fresh salad, baby potatoes or whatever you have growing.

What's next? I feel absolutely ready to tackle anything with the produce I've grown!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Sunday chores in the garden

After weeks of rain we had sunshine for most of the day. The fog has rolled back in now and the drizzle is watering my plants. I was able to use some of the sunshine to catch up on some gardening chores.

It is early Autumn so I have planted cauliflowers, broccoli and brussel sprouts.  I put in leek, spinach, bok choy and pea seeds. The vegie garden is weeded and mulched, the compost turned and capped off with a thick layer of damp used straw.

Th chickens have had a wet old time of the past week too.  Now their coop is clean and filled with dry shredded paper and straw. They have fresh green pick and lemon balm strewn through their egg box.  I dug up a couple of wheelbarrow loads of old muddy straw from their yard, which is being recycled through the vegie garden, and gave them clean dry straw to scratch around in.

I have been gradually creating a fernery in one shady side of the garden. So today I did some work on that too. I put in two purple fountain grasses and five small ferns.  I estimate about 6 more plants, a huge amount of mulch and its all done. Its been a big project as we naively let the chickens in and they destroyed many, many plants. Its all coming back now and looking good.  I will feel a lovely sense of accomplishment when I have finish that area. Don't worry there are plenty of other projects to move on to.

Comfrey in flower

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Baking artichokes from my garden autumn harvest, overcoming fear of artichokes

This summer I planted artichokes for the first time. I was surprised at how quickly they grew and produced flowers.  Here are my photos from a couple of weeks ago.

We have had torrential rain since then. All the empty dams are re-filled and our sloping driveway and garden path have washed away. Everything is soggy underfoot and the water dripping from the trees drenches as I venture out when the rain stops.

I have lost a few crops. My silverbeet is ok just some of the leaves have rotted. My peppers look ghastly, completely ruined.

The biggest victim though was my artichokes.  They are completely laid waste on the ground.

I quickly snipped off the three heads I could find so growing them would yield some harvest.

Now as I said in my last post on the subject, I've never been confident about how to deal with artichokes.  So I found some information on the web and tackled the chokes with my laptop handy.

First I soaked them in a bowl of water with lemon juice. I took one out of the bowl and sliced a bit off the top. I cut down into the centre with a sharp knife to dig out the choke, the fibrous stuff you can't eat. This was like coring an apple only try not to cut right through to the bottom. My knife needs sharpening before I do this again, it was harder work than it needed to be.

Then I cut the bottom. Under the hard outside shell there's the delicate heart.  Carefully cut from the outside towards the centre shaving off that outer shell. Keep working around the bottom artichoke till the heart is exposed. Put it back in the lemon water while you prepare the other in the same way.

Place the artichokes in a pot of boiling salted water. Boil for 10-15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 180c and spray a baking dish with oil.

I made stuffing for the artichokes. Here's my recipe:
   Finely chopped walnuts
   Chopped garlic
   Diced cherry tomatoes
   Sliced shallots
   Fresh parsley
   Blue vein cheese, diced.
Mix all ingredients together.

I took the artichokes out of the boiling water and cut them lengthways. Place them cut side up in the baking dish and spoon your stuffing into them.  Bake until them smell divine, about 10-15 minutes.

I wasn't really sure whether the artichokes were under or over ripe and struggled to find clear information on this.  The purply coloured one in the photo above was quite coarse so in future I'd pick them earlier. Don't worry though as through baking them any leaves that were super coarse fell away and exposed the tender middle anyway.

I am very happy with my first try with artichokes.  Dig in, give it a go. It will work out and we'll all get better at it as we practice. I will re-use this stuffing recipe it was delicious.

The recipes and instructions I found helpful can be found on my pinterest cooking page.

By the way, I bought two new artichoke plants as they are a must have in my garden now. Oh drat raining again.                                                                                       


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