Tuesday, 31 January 2012

OMG It Happened Again!!!

Way back in October I wrote the below post, but this time there are photos!

Clearly we are creatures of habit as pretty much everything happened as per last time except this time I was suspicious about what the cause of the ruckus might be.

Twas the night before Friday, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, except me and (the click click of) my mouse,
Dinner was done, and the dishwasher stacked
So up went my feet, it was time to relax.
Hubby was sleeping, as was the cat
The puppy was too, outside on her mat.

But then there was barking, oh what a racket,
She wouldn't shut up, regardless of tactics.
And so I went, out into the dark
All of this time, she continued to bark.
Onto the lawn, and under the trees
Was that a noise, or the knocking of knees?

Under the hedge, there was a lump in the gloom
Ready to defend myself with a broom
Then I jumped in the air, I'm sure it wiggled
Hubby behind me, oh how he giggled
So I made him come over and investigate too
He was much braver, I'll give him his due.

With a torch in my hand, it was easier to see
My oh my, what could it be
A long neck turtle, that's what it was
She'd wandered about, and got herself lost
Stuck half through the fence, not able to move
She'd wedged herself tight, so what could she do.

We got her out from the tight squeeze
And carried her off, further under the trees
We released her out into the night
Pointing her away from the scene of her plight.
We're sure she found the way to the dam
Relieved not doubt to be out of that jam.

Going nowhere fast.

Hubby to the rescue
Seems like we might have to get acustomed to this happening.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

It's Raining, It's Pouring, The Old Man is...

It's Raining, It's Pouring, The Old Man is... sitting on the couch watching M.A.S.H on DVD.
Hubby has had the last week off work due to the rain and has slowly but surely been working his way through the box set he got for Christmas last year.  He is now under strict instruction that the theme music must be muted, after about 17 or more episodes I am sure you can imagine why.
We have had a lot of rain more than 200ml in the last week and just 3 dry days in the last 2 weeks. 
So as you can imagine,

The paddocks can not soak up anymore water,
And are turning into rivers,
The roadside gutters are full to the brim,
The roads go under and leave us cut off for periods of time,
The rivers are raging,
The rivers normally ankle deep, rise flowing over bridges and roads but thankful for now the have dropped leaving their high water mark on the river banks.
We always need a bit of rain but right now the washing is piling up and a few dry days would be helpful, and I am dreading the day the sun comes out and turns the neighbourhood into a sauna.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Tastes from Childhood

While visiting my parents at Christmas I asked mum for a basic loaf recipe that she used to make us when we were growing up.  It was just a plain loaf  but it was always my favourite.  Mum was not sure exactly which one it was so she just pointed me in the direction of the cook books she used back then and told me which recipes she could remember using.
The recipe was finally tracked down in an old community recipe book where ladies from the community had all contributed a couple of their favourite recipes and then it had been printed and sold to raise money for charity.  This little old book was missing its cover, dog eared and printed the old way pre-photocopiers (not sure what it was called) and each recipe was credited to the lady who submitted it.  This little book had sure had a workout, always a good sign.

The recipe is called a Brandy Cake.  Strange since it does not contain Brandy and if baked as a loaf not a cake.  It could perhaps come from the colour but that is just a guess.
Anyway it is a good one to whip up when you want a cake but are all out of eggs.

Brandy Cake

Melt together:
4 Tbls Golden Syrup
200 gm Butter
1 dsp instant coffee (leave this out if you want or are making for children)

Sift together:
3 c Flour
2 Tbls Baking Powder
3Tbls Cornflour
Then mix in 1 1/2 c sugar.

Dissolve 2 tsp Baking Soda in 1 1/2 c cold milk and add this to the melted mix and quickly whisk to combine.
Pour over the dry ingredients and pour into 2 greased loaf tins.  Bake at 160 degrees for 55mins.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Lentils with Red Cabbage and Spicy Sausage

This recipe is on the table in less than an hour, is packed full of flavour, can quite easily be turned into a vegetarian/vegan meal and is a great recipe to introduce carnivores to lentils.

2 Cups Green Lentils             2Tbls Veg Oil
2 Onions                               2 Cloves of Garlic
1 Bay Leaf                            600 ml of Chicken Stock (Vegetable for non meat eaters)
Salt and Pepper                     6 Spicy Sausages or 4 Chorizo Sausages
100 ml Olive Oil                    50 ml Tarragon Vinegar (or other good quality vinegar)
1 Tbls Dijon Mustard             1/4 Red Cabbage
2 tsp Sugar                            3 Handfuls of Flat Leaf Parsley
2 Handfuls Mint Leaves

Put the lentils in a medium saucepan and cover with water.  Simmer for 5 minutes then drain.
Heat veg oil in a heavy based pan and add diced onion, bay leaf and finely diced garlic.  Cook for 3 mins on a high heat stirring frequently then tip out of the pan and put the pan back on the heat.
Slice the sausages into slices on the diagonal and add to the pan.  Cook till browned then add the onion mix and drained lentils to the pan as well as the stock.  Simmer for 15 mins and season with pepper.  Taste before adding salt as it may be salty enough from the sausages.
While the lentil mix is cooking finely slice the cabbage and place in a bowl.  Sprinkle the sugar and a pinch of salt over the cabbage and scrunch with your hands then leave to sit for 10 mins.
Chop the mint and parsley and add to the cabbage.  Make the dressing with the olive oil, vinegar and mustard and pour half over the cabbage after it has sat for 10 mins.
Spoon the cabbage and herb mix onto plates and the spoon the lentil mix on top.  Spoon over the rest of the dressing mix and serve.

Simmer and Drain the Lentils

Brown the Sausages

All in and on the stove

Tarragon Vinegar really makes the dressing

Cabbage after being scrunched up.

Chopping the Herbs

The finished product
If making this without sausages you can add 1 tsp of paprika and 1/4 tsp of chilli powder to the lentil mix to add additional flavour if required.
The Tarragon Vinegar is really worth spending the money on.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Tales From A Beginner Preserver

A little while ago I purchased a 2nd hand Fowler's Vacola Preserving unit.  It is a green stove top variety that I believe is from the 1950's.  It looks like it has had a fair amount of use and came with 15 jars of various sizes some lids and clips.  Since then I have also picked up 2 lots of jars from Op Shops, 6 x No 20 jars and 6 clips (all brand new) for $5 total and then 13 x No 27 jars and 1 x No 42 for $12.

The unit came with the instruction booklet (all in imperial measurements) so I set out to give it a test run with some stone fruit.

I followed the instructions and made the syrup although I opted for a light syrup instead of the medium as it seemed like way too much sugar, I packed the fruit in and filled right to the top making sure to get all of the air out, then it was rings, lids and clips on and into the preserver.  The instructions said fill the unit 2/3 of the way up the outside of the jars with water so I did. The temperature came up and after the recommended cooking time they were done.

Well sort of...

As you can see from the picture below picture what were (I thought) fully packed jars ended up being only half full.  I knew the fruit would shrink a little but by 50%???
The second problem is that somehow even though I topped it full to over flowing with syrup there is now a big air gap in the jars???  I am sure this will mean the fruit will go off, does anyone know?
The jars have definitely sealed so what do I do now?

I am really hoping there are some preserving experts out there who can steer me in the right direction in all things Fowler's.  The fruit was not expensive but I would hate it to go to waste (there might be a lot of plum recipes on the cards) but I need to make sure I can master this so I am not wasting produce in the future.

Any suggestions, guidance or advice would be very welcome.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

I Think I might Melt

This summer has been all over the place.  Back in November it was really hot with days on end over 30 degrees, so I washed all of the winter blankets and packed them away.  Then it got cool again and I had to get it all back out again. 
So far this year it really has been quite pleasant with temperatures in the high 20's  - low 30's.  That was until yesterday.
It was an absolute scorcher!!  It got as high as 39 on the veranda and 37 in the house, yuck! 
There was no breeze and no escape for hubby and the pets.  Hubby busied himself with jobs that involved keeping cool like fixing the sprinkler system in the shade house and Jessie our little black puppy resorted to taking dips into the garden pond and standing under the sprinkler in the shade house while it was being fixed.

The cat who is an almost 100% inside cat was stretched out on the floor with her back pressed against a brick wall trying to keep cool too.

I had to work and so I locked myself in our little office (I work from home) and sat in the air conditioning.  Our office is the only room in the house with air conditioning but with two computer desks plus craft cupboards and filing cabinets down one wall there is not really a lot of floor space left.  At a push we might be able to fit out camping mattress in here, and if the heat keeps up we might have too.

In our last house I used to soak old sheets in water and hang them over open windows so that the the air was cooled as it passed through.  This is something that miners wives used to do when they lived out in the deserts.  I might have to try this again as it works as long as there is a breeze, and once they are up you just spray them with a water spray bottle.  Just be aware of what your walls and floor are made of as you do not want them so wet they mark the wall or floor.

How are you coping with Summer?  What tips and tricks do you have to stay cool?

Monday, 9 January 2012

Cherry Chutney

I am now back at work and my summer holiday is over for another year.  Sigh.

This year I planned ahead and took a few extra days off after we returned from NZ just to get a few jobs done around the house.  The Berry Patch was one of those jobs as was doing a freezer stock take which is how I ended up making this chutney in the heat of summer.
This is a super tasty chutney that goes well with so many things.  My personal favourites are on BBQ lamb chops and on cold roast beef of ham.
I managed to pick up these cherries cheaply at the end of last (2010 - 2011) summer and have had them in the freezer since then.  They were always intended to be chutney so it did not matter too much if they go a bit squished or were soggy when defrosted.

This is a very easy recipe and can be doubled etc as required how ever you will need to cook for slightly longer with the lid off for larger quantities.

All ingredients in the pot.
Cherry Chutney

3 Cups of pitted Cherries
1 1/2 Cups Cider Vinegar
1 Cup of chopped Onions
3/4 Cup White Sugar
3/4 Cup of Sultanas
3 Tbsp Powdered Ginger
1Tbsp Mustard Seeds
1 Tbsp Cinnamon
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/4 Tsp each of Allspice, Ground Cloves and Ground Nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a large pan or stockpot and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer covered for 1 hour.  Un-cover and simmer until thickened (approx 30 mins for the above quantities).
I used my stick blender to blend it up a bit just so the cherries were not all whole but it is up to your personal taste how chunky you like it.
Bottle into sterilised jars.  Makes about 3 cups.

The finished product.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Creating a Berry Patch

Berries to me are the ultimate fruit.  Raspberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, Mulberries oh the list could just go on and on. 
Sadly though unless you pick them yourself or get them super fresh they loose that special something that a just picked berry has. 

Berries for me evoke strong memories of childhood.  My cousins and I also used to spend Autumn days wandering the country roadsides picking Blackberries for our mums to make jam and ending the days with stained mouths and fingers.  To this day my favourite jam is Blackberry Jelly mmmmmm.Over the years my parents grew Strawberries, Black and Red Currents, Gooseberries (a bit tart for my liking back then) and Blueberries.  
Blueberries were something that we grew commercially as pick your own and ready picked.  So Winter was pruning season and every Summer I used to earn money picking, sorting and eating packing Blueberries.  These days when I see people buying Blueberries on sale at the supermarket for $4.99 for 250 gms it makes me sad that they are not getting to enjoy them at their best, room temperature and straight from the bush.

For a while now I have been planning a berry patch and even though we live in Queensland where it gets quite hot I am determined to give it a go despite the fact it might fail. 
So before heading off to NZ we sprayed off 3 areas where our Berries were to go giving the spray a month to kill of the grass and dissipate .  I am not a huge fan of spraying but when trying to kill off Kikuyu grass smothering it  is not an option so for a quick result I went with it.
I already have a patch of thornless Blackberries (Waldo) that were originally just 2 plants but have now multiplied and created new plants where branches have touched the ground.  These were not really planted in an ideal spot so they are getting moved, to join the other berries, where we have also made a bit more of an effort before planting to make sure we can control them.

The unloved Blackberry's
Then before Christmas I ordered 3 Raspberries (Autumn Bliss) and 3 Blueberries (Northland) and these will form our berry patch. So with the help and muscle of Hubby we (well mostly Hubby) preparing the 3 beds for planting.
Preparing the Beds

This closest bed was for the Raspberries and was getting a
root barrier so we were making the sides very straight.
Note the mega mulch pile in the background, very handy having
an Arborist for a Hubby.

Number one helper trying to get in on the action.

We framed the Raspberry bed with roofing Iron and now just need
to put some piping around the top edge to make it safe.

Raspberries in and mulched

Blueberries in and mulched.  Root barrier not requited,
puppy barrier maybe....
We are yet to transplant the Blackberries, a job for this weekend probably, but once done I will be very pleased.  In reality that was probably the easy bit done (although it didn't feel easy at the time) now it's just a matter of waiting for fruit, and in my mind that will be the hard bit.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

A Very Special Christmas

This year Hubby and I made the trip back to New Zealand to spend Christmas with my family who all live there. 
It had been about 8 years since I had spent a Christmas with them and it was such a special time.  Before going I imposed a blog ban on myself, no entries or reading of other blogs, while we were there as I wanted to make sure I did not fritter away the precious time with my family.
All 3 of my remaining grandparents were there along with Mum and Dad, my brother, sister in law and my niece (17 months), and my youngest brother who arrived back in NZ on Christmas eve after 6 months of working over seas.  So it was a pretty full house, not just of people but of joy.

Christmas day was wonderful with delicious food and drinks prepared by my mum and grandmothers, plus dad looking after the ham.
The giving of gifts was made more entertaining by my niece who had well and truly worked out the unwrapping.

My niece opening a present with her dad.
Then helping her great-grandad open one.

Having a bottle with her great-grandmother
Youngest Brother helping his niece on her bike.

Winding down at the end of Christmas Day.
On Boxing Day Hubby, Mum, Dad, Youngest Brother and I all headed off to the family race day at the local race course for a bit of a flutter.
It was a warm day and a great family atmosphere with lots of people picnicking and unwinding after Christmas.  We all had a flutter, the boys all left having lost a little bit of money (too much drinking and not enough serious thought probably), I broke even after having a bet on all but the last race, and Mum who came with $15 in her wallet, paid for her entry, a race guide and a cup of coffee left with $30 at the end of the day having bet on every race.

Mum and Hubby waiting for the race to start.
Backing the winner on a beautiful day.
 While in NZ we did get to catch up with some of the extended family as well as with a friend of mine, who I have known since I was 4, and her family.

We have some great memories that we will treasure in years to come.