Monday, February 18, 2013


The weather these days never ceases to confuse me.  Last Thursday we were minding our own business, having dinner actually, when totally out of the blue a massive hailstorm descended.....
It hosed with rain and we had 32 mm in about 20 minutes.  One kilometre up the road there was not a drop.  When I went outside on dusk about an hour later to lock up the chooks it was as if nothing had happened.   Not a puddle remained.  This is how you do it:  you run out of rainwater so you get a man to bring a huge tanker of water to fill up your rainwater tank.  You pay him to do this.  Then it is guaranteed to rain within the next week.

It's been very hot since then.  There have been spontaneous lightning strike fires erupting in the Grampians:
Photo:  The Hamilton Spectator
30 degree plus temperatures are typical for February.  It is tinder dry.  It is always the time of year that I retire indoors to make tomato sauce and relish to last us for the coming year.

The beans are coming thick and fast now, and I made this bean and roasted hazelnut salad:
I flashed the beans in the hot oven of the Aga to roast them as an experiment, but the colour wasn't great, so it would probably be better to just blanch them (the flavour was good though).  I also roasted the hazelnuts then wrapped them in a tea towel and rubbed the skins off.  For the dressing I mixed about 3 tblsp olive oil with 1 tblsp vinocotto, added salt and pepper and a dash of lemon juice.  Dress the warm beans in a bowl with the dressing, then arrange on a plate, crumble over some goat's cheese or feta and top with the hazelnuts.  Drizzle over a bit more dressing to finish.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Farewell to 2012

I thought I should sneak in a last post for 2012.  I can't believe the month of December has slipped by without so much as a cursory glance in the direction of this blog.  It's been a bit of a whirlwind: lots of end of year bits and pieces, a trip to Adelaide, friends to stay, school break ups, gardening and general Christmas busyness.
Flowers on the potatoes

Some South African friends came to visit the weekend before Christmas.   We chased kangaroos, watched the shearing, played lots of cricket and went yabbying.
Ate lots of this,

drank far too much of this:

We had our first Christmas at home this year.  After lunch my mother-in-law declared that she would never cook Christmas lunch again and after more than 40 years of preparing the feast, I think she deserves a break.  The tree is down, decorations packed away, linen napkins and placemats washed and ironed, holly and ivy removed from the mantlepiece and pine needles swept away.  Quite a relief really.

It has been non stop in the kitchen, but alas very few photographs to show for it.  I made my first batch of strawberry jam from home grown strawberries, which was gratifying...
Here is a good chicken dish for the holidays.  It looks like it might be tricky, but is really so easy.  Just marinate in the morning and bung on the BBQ when you get home from the beach.  The kids will appreciate a change from a sausage in bread, which is their standard dinner at this time of year.

First you need to butterfly a chicken.  DON'T PANIC.  It is very simple, but you do need a pair of poultry shears (cheap).  Place the chook breast side down on a chopping board with the parson's nose facing you.  

With the shears cut along one side of the back bone from tail to neck.  Pull open the bird and cut along the other side of the back bone and remove it (use it for stock). 

 Turn the chicken over and open out then press firmly down to break the breast bone.  Hard part done.

Season with salt and pepper and then marinate in a large zip lock bag in the fridge for up to 24 hours.  I would put it in a dish and turn over a couple of times.  Here are a couple of marinades you could try:

1/2 cup lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, crushed
handful each of parsley, thyme and oregano, all chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
Mix together and add to bag.

Here is one based on a Nigella Lawson recipe:
1 carton buttermilk
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tblsp dijon mustard
1 tblsp maple syrup
1 tblsp olive oil
salt and pepper
Mix in a bowl and add to bag.  The buttermilk makes the chicken very tender.

I then cook this on the BBQ skin side down, with the lid down for about 15 minutes (don't let the barbeque get too hot, you don't want it to burn), and flip it over and give it another 20 minutes.
Don't know about you, but my sweet peas have been a bitter disappointment this year.  They were so amazing last year.
I just couldn't get the seeds to germinate.  I have just pulled up the most enormous onions..
and the garlic looks good too..
I hope you had a lovely Christmas.  Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2013 and hopefully there will be less chaos and more time for new recipes and news from the garden.  See you next year!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

And welcome 2013

Well we are a month into the year, I hope it is treating you well so far.  It has been a busy month of holidays, with plenty of beach time ...
with short periods at home in a mad frenzy of trying to resuscitate my dying garden.  The front lawn looks like this:
It is beyond depressing.  It is just so dry, until last Thursday we hadn't had a drop of rain since October, which is rare in this part of the world....driest Spring/Summer since 1932.  No matter how much water (in our case slightly salty bore water) I put on, there is no substitute for the nitrogen-rich rain that falls from the sky.  The 13 mm we had on Thursday has freshened up the garden a bit, but will probably not help the summer crops.  Even the real dry weather garden stalwarts, like the roses, buddlieas and euphorbias are looking miserable.  The plumbago seems happy even though it gets no water..
And think of those poor Queenslanders, who have been flooded out for the second time in two years.
Even the agapanthus looks scorched

We have not had a good start to the year.  It is largely utilities that are letting us down:  no power last Friday, a massive burst water pipe in the garden (no water for days on end) and our rainwater has run out.  It is unheard of for this to happen before the end of January.  And our hot water service in the bathroom has packed it in.

There's plenty of action in the veggie garden
so there's been apricot jam, zucchini slice and pesto galore.  I also made some zucchini soup which I am proud to announce was made exclusively with vegetables from the garden:  yellow zucchini, onion, garlic and a potato to thicken it  up.  Even the chicken stock was homemade:
I was given a large bucket of blood plums so I made plum sauce..
and a very nice plum cake:

200g butter
2 cups castor sugar
1 tblsp honey
6-8 blood plums (mine were very small so I used a lot more), halved and stones removed
3 eggs
slosh of vanilla essence
200g SR flour
1/4 teasp Dutch cinnamon
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 180c.
Butter and line a 25cm cake tin with baking paper.
Put half the butter and sugar into a saucepan with the honey and heat until the butter is melted.  Pour this into the cake tin and swirl to cover the base.  Arrange the plums cut side up over the mixture.
Beat the remaining butter and sugar until light.  Add eggs, one at a time and add vanilla.
Add flour, cinnamon and milk and fold gently until just combined.
Spoon the mixture over the plums and bake for approx 45 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Put on a rack and cool in the tin.
Run a knife around the edge of the cake and place a serving plate on the top and invert the cake.  Leave for a minute or two then gently remove the tin.  Serve with cream.