We are in the midst of autumn, which is lovely, but as always we are waiting patiently for some more rain. There's been a few sprinkles and the green shoots are appearing in the paddocks, but what we would really like is a big rainfall before it gets too cold. And oh aren't we all sick of feeding.
Some friends very generously gave me a beehive for my birthday and it arrived on Good Friday:
I was a bit hesitant about having to deal with the bees and how to extract the honey but I have been assured by the bee man that I don't have to do anything with it until September, which gives me plenty of time to read up on beekeeping in general. It was a lovely idea, as my friend Sal knows how I love to grow and produce my own food. I was reminded of Sylvia Plath's poem, The Arrival of the Bee Box:
"It is dark, dark,
With the swarmy feeling of African hands,
Minute and shrunk for export,
Black on black, angrily clambering...."
Promise not to suffer the same fate as our old friend Sylvia.....
Speaking of producing our own food, there has been lots of activity in the kitchen lately. The end of summer always brings so much produce that I invariably run out of jars. I have made crab apple and quince jelly, pesto, tomato sauce and this year I tried a new recipe for tomato quetta. Quetta is an old fashioned relish which is a bit like a chutney, is very easy and very delicious. I found a recipe in the CWA cookbook (thank you Glad Brown of Portarlington) and adjusted it slightly:
30g garlic, crushed (use a microplane)
30g fresh ginger (ditto)
60g capsicum (or chilli if you'd like it hotter), diced
1 large cup white vinegar
2 tblsp cornflour mixed to a paste with a little extra vinegar
Peel and cut up tomatoes and put in a big pot. Add garlic, ginger, capsicum, sultanas, sugar, salt and vinegar and boil until quite thick, stirring occasionally. When it has thickened slightly, add the cornflour mixed with vinegar and stir well. Give it another five minutes, it will be a lovely bright red colour. Pour into sterilised jars.
The other thing I've been loving this autumn is eggplant. My little plant only managed two, but I have been buying them and making all sorts of things.
One of the dishes I loved in Italy was eggplant parmigiana so that has made several appearances. It is also a great way to use up all that zucchini from the garden, which seems to never end. I always cook the eggplant or zucchini in the Aga (top shelf of roasting oven) until it is nicely browned, then layer it in a dish with a tomato passata (often quickly made with tinned tomatoes), grate over some parmesan and cook at 180c for about half an hour. I have also discovered the Turkish dish, Imam Bayildi, which roughly translated means the Imam fainted: he supposedly fainted with delight after having tasted the dish. It is basically eggplant stuffed with eggplant cubes and tomato sauce and is well worth the effort. This is based on an Ottolenghi recipe.
IMAM BAYILDI Serves 4 as a side
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 red onions, sliced
3-4 tomatoes, chopped
1 teasp paprika
1 teasp sumac (optional)
1 teasp brown sugar
1 tblsp lemon juice
salt & pepper
chopped mint or parsley
Cut eggplants in half with the stalk attached. Score the flesh, sprinkle with a little salt and leave for 30 minutes. Meanwhile heat the oven to 180c.
Rinse the shells and pat dry with kitchen paper. Score the flesh then scoop out and set aside. Place the shells on a tray and cook for 15 minutes until softened.
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil to a frying pan and gently cook the garlic and onions for five minutes until soft. Add the eggplant flesh and cook for a further five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes, paprika, sugar, lemon juice, sumac and season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 5-10 minutes.
Fill the eggplant shells with the tomato mix and pour over any extra sauce.
Drizzle with olive oil and cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes. You can eat this hot or cold and you can do it a day or so in advance. Sprinkle with herbs before serving.
So enjoy the autumn with all it provides, its gentle stillness, vibrant colours and smoke from burning stubbles pervading the air. It is a beautiful time of the year.
Note: I'm sorry the posts are few and far between. Our internet connection is appalling at the moment and constantly drops out so it takes forever for the photos to load and often I have to start again.