Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A new Australian product..

I love these random rows of bulbs that pop up in the garden at this time of year.   I often wonder who planted them and how long ago......  
That row of snow drops is in a really odd place, certainly not part of what I thought was the original garden.  For all I know there was once a cottage or driveway there a long time ago.  Just shows you what great survivors bulbs can be.  The elms are starting to flower...
Since the arrival of spring it has been full bore in the garden.  I finally got around to pruning the Albertine rose (bit late, but better than never) and there seems to be a constant round of weeding, mowing and whipper snipping.
Many years ago I had the extreme good fortune to be given a set of three wonderful cast iron frying pans by my friend Tom:
His mother had died, and when cleaning out her house he found two sets of these and generously gave one set to me.  They have been hands down the best frying pans I have ever used and have endured years of hard work, being used on electric, gas and now an Aga stove.  Recently the largest one, which gets the most use, has started to lose some of its top layer..
I'm not sure if I can re-season it to restore it so I have been looking about for a replacement and was delighted to come across an interesting Australian project.  Mark Henry, the engineer behind Furi knives, has come up with a totally Australian made cast iron frying pan with an ergonomic handle that won't break your arm when you lift it from stove to bench:
Mark is launching the Tough Love pan using kickstarter, a crowd funding campaign to support the company into its next step of development.  Read more about it here:  solidteknics and support it if you can.  Incidently, I have nothing to do with this company, I just think it looks like a great product.
Pretty spring flowers

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

An early Spring and lime marmalade

I can't believe how stunning the weather has been in the last couple of weeks.  We have jumped from deep mid winter to a glorious spring in a matter of days:  blue, blue skies and not a breath of wind (rare in our part of the world, which was, once upon a time, referred to as Pleurisy Plains).  We had an early autumn break and now an early spring,  but I suspect that winter may not quite have finished yet.  The crisp mornings have been particularly stunning and I love taking the dogs for a walk in the early light.
A couple of backpackers have arrived to help us with lamb marking so I had to do my least favourite farmer's wife job of cleaning up the spare cottage so they could move in.  Many farms have a spare cottage that was once the home of a farm employee but is no longer permanently occupied as the cost of wages is so high and it is often more economic to hire contractors.  Whilst the contractors often stay in this cottage, it never ceases to amaze me how a house can deteriorate when it is empty: the mice and the possums move in, there are cobwebs everywhere and the garden rages out of control in no time.  I had a delightful surprise though, out the back I found a beautiful Japonica or flowering quince that I didn't know was there.  It just shows you they are as tough as old boots because it is putting on the most magnificent display of red blossoms having had no attention whatsoever for several years.  I love them because they flower at the end of winter when there's not much else and they are ridiculously easy to arrange in a vase, which is good for people like me who lack any talent for floral display.
My friend Evie kindly gave me some beautiful limes from her garden:
 This is my lime tree...
Not a spectacular specimen.  My kids would say "Epic Fail, Mum" (as they so often do...).

I decided to make lime marmalade which I love on brown toast as a weekend treat.

Makes about 6-7 jars

1 kg limes
2 litres water
1.6kg castor sugar

Roll each lime a couple of times on a chopping board to help release the juice.
Halve the limes then juice them.  Put the juice in the fridge.
Trim the ends off the lime skins and put them in a bowl.  Cover with water and soak for six hours or overnight.
Trim the pith from most of the skins.  To do this I flattened the lime on the board and used a sharp knife to cut off the pith.  It is a bit tedious but you don't need to do the whole lot.
Slice the skin into thin strips, again using as much as you think you'd like in your marmalade.  I prefer them to be thinly sliced and don't like the marmalade to have too much peel.  
Put about a handful of pith and any pips into a square of muslin or chux and tie with string. Put this into a large saucepan with the lime juice, strips of skin and water.
Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 45 minutes until the rind is tender.  I did this in the baking oven of the Aga.

Add the sugar and stir gently until the sugar dissolves.  Increase the heat and boil for approx 45 minutes until the marmalade reaches setting point.
Pour into sterilized jars.  Probably best to keep it in the fridge once opened.