Monday, 28 January 2013

Learning About Fermented Foods And The Recipe For Fermented Fruit Paste

A few months ago I attended a Cheese Making workshop and during the workshop the host touched on fermented foods.

Fermented foods are present in a number of cultures across the globe and even here in Australia there has been a resurgence.
Some examples of fermented foods are: Sour Dough, Miso, Kimchi, Sauerkraut, Kombucha Tea, Tempeh, KefirCultured Butter and Liz over at Eight Acres has been making Beet Kvass.

In earlier times people preserved fruits and vegetables through the process of lacto-fermentation, using the lactic acid as the preservative that prevents the bad bacteria from growing.  These days most preserving is done using acetic acid.  Otherwise known as vinegar.
One of the advantages that lacto-fermentations has, over more modern forms of preserving, is that the lactobaacilli in the fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels.  It also adds good bacteria back into the stomach.

For me some variations of fermented food can be a bit challenging to the taste buds but his is a great recipe for a fermented fruit paste that I think everyone would enjoy.
I enjoy it with yoghurt and it also goes well on cereal and smeared on a slice of sour dough.

I have made a few people try it and only afterwards told them how it was made.  Most people have said that it was quite tasty and a bit fizzy.
Some people were generally interested and a few said they would not have tried it if I had told them first how it was made.
I think it is crazy because I know some of these people are quite happy to eat pseudo foods.  By this I mean  highly processed and overly packaged foods that have ingredients you have never heard of and more numbers that a maths book.  
But  they say they would not want to eat something like this as the are worried that is has been left out on the bench for nearly a week.

To make this recipe you will need some sour whey as this recipe is a lactic ferment (meaning that the lactic acid acts as the preservative and is what ferments the food).  Sour whey can come from yoghurt, kefired milk or from cottage cheese and will inoculate the new ferment with lactic bacteria.  Sweet whey is what you would get from making hard cheeses.  The whey is the watery liquid that separates off from the above foods.


  • I made mine using whey from my kefir so that is what I will refer to but the process is the same. 
  • This recipe needs to be made in a container that a plate (or similar)can fit inside of as the mix needs to be weighed down.  I used an old yoghurt container and a saucer.  Then filled a tall narrow container with water to act as the weight.
  • The amounts are approximate but the dates and prunes should form the bulk of the recipe.
Fermented Fruit Paste

1/2L Water
3 Tbls Sour Whey
750 gm Pitted Dates, cut in half
250 gm Pitted Prunes, cut in half
300 gm of Nuts and Seeds, nuts bigger than a peanut should be cut or crushed
100 gm of Firm Fruit cut finely, pineapple, rock melon, apple etc  (I used apple)
4Tbls Peeled and Grated Ginger

Prepare all of the fruit and nuts mix together to combine the different elements.
In a 4 litre bucket or container add water and enough salt so that the water tastes just a little salty.  Mix until mostly dissolved.  Add the whey and mix.

My Kefir where you can just make out the layer of clear whey
sitting on top of the kefired  milk
Add the fruit and nuts and mix breifly with the liquid.
Place your clean saucer or plate on top of the mix inside the bucket and press down firmly.  All of the ingredients need to be submerged underneath the liquid.

Weigh your saucer down with a large glass jar or similar filled with water.
Cover your ferment so that bugs cannot get in and leave to stand at room temperature for 5 days.
After 5 days the liquid is bubbly.
The liquid should have almost almost if not entirely disappeared..  Transfer to a glass jar and store in the fridge.  It is ready to eat.

My first batch is just about coming to the end so I will need to get another lot started this week.  It lasts a very long time in the fridge and I really reccomend you give it a try as it is a great way to get so more good bacteria into your system.

What fermented foods have you tried or do you enjoy?

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Flooded In

All of that lovely rain we have been getting has now fully saturated the ground, and has been running off for the last 24 hours.  We have had now had over 150 mls of rain in the last 48 hours and it is possible that we will get up to another 200 mls before the weather front moves away.  There is also the chance of tornadoes as other parts of Queensland have experienced them as part of this weather system.
It appears that the last tank is full
The below photo was taken 2 hours ago and in the distance you can see the line of trees that mark the creek.  And on this side of them is where the creek has burst its bank.
This was an hour later:
And now this is the same view.

Within the hour I expect the water will be creeping closer to our house but it is very doubtful we would flood.
Across the road it looked like this 2 hours ago:
And now it looks like this:

We are creeping close to the level of flooding that we personally saw in the 2011 Queensland floods and at the rate we are going we might even pass them.
At least we still have power, phone and internet (for now) which we lost for a number of days last time.

From our house to the creek which is the tree line in the distance it is about 700m so as you can see there is a lot of water out there.  You will also note in the below photos we have diverted the water from our tanks to the street as the overflow will otherwise make our lawn a bigger soggy mess.

I hope where ever you are you are safe and dry and having a lovely weekend.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Friday Night Home Alone

Hubby has been away working for a few days and I have been holding down the fort at home.

It is finally raining here and so far we have had over 30 mls of rain in 2 days.  The plants and animals are loving it and you can almost heat the ground sighing with relief.  We still had plenty of water left in our tanks, as there is just the two of us and we have bore water for the toilet and laundry, but a few of our neighbours have run out and had to buy water.
The beautiful rainy weather, I am sure the paddocks will green up nicely after this .
Our sad brown lawn.  It is green along the front as we have been watering the hedge.
But if we had not gotten this rain we would have been  walking on dirt.
So on this rainy Friday night at home on my own what will I be doing?
I will be curled up on the couch with a cup of Chai tea and reading the latest edition of Grass Roots Magazine that arrive in my mailbox today.  Then I will be getting some sour dough on the go for the weekend.
Home alone really is a bit of a luxury and not looking too bad at all?

Thursday, 24 January 2013

The Best Bean Salad In The World

I know it is a big claim but I love this salad for many reasons other than taste.  It is really just a pickled vegetable salad that is cheap and easy to make. You can just keep adding to it over a number of days which makes it great for events like Christmas. And you can even freeze it although it is not something I usually do as we are happy to eat it day after day till it is gone. You can use any vegetables that you have on hand or in season but I will give you the recipe as I like it.
The Best Bean Salad In The World

500 gm Dried Beans or your choice (I like Lima and Borlotti)
3 Stalks of Celery sliced
500 gm Green Beans sliced
3 Onions finely chopped
1 Tin Corn Kernels drained or fresh if you have it
1 Capsicum diced
1 Carrot grated
1/4 Cauliflower broken into small florets
1/4 Broccoli broken into small florets
1 Handful of Mint chopped finely.


1 1/2 Cups White Vinegar
1 1/2 Cups White Sugar
1/2 Cup Water
2 tsp Salt
1 Tbls Vegetable Oil

Bring all dressing ingredients to the boil the leave to cool.

Soak your beans overnight then drain, rinse and boil for 45 minutes.  Drain and cool.
Once the beans are cool add the rest of the ingredients and pour over the dressing.

Do you have a favourite salad recipe that you would like to share?

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Cool Dinners For the Heat

It is still really hot here at the moment, between 35 and 42 degrees Celsius for the last 2 weeks.  So the idea of turning the oven on is not at all appealing.

We have been using the BBQ outside and eating lots of salads.  Tonight I used up some bits and pieces from the fridge to make fresh spring rolls with dipping sauce.
The sauce is actually clear but came out dark in the photo.
The spring rolls can be filled with any fresh vegetables, noodles and meat if you choose. And the dipping sauce is not just great for spring rolls but also goes well with things like Chicken Wings or Drumsticks and is great as a salad dressing on a Warm Thai Beef Salad.

Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce

1/2 Cup White Sugar
1/4 Cup Rice or Coconut Vinegar (use white if you cannot get these)
1/3 Cup Water
1 tsp Salt
2 Cloves Garlic, Peeled and Crushed
1/4 Cup Chopped Coriander
2 -6 Small Red Chillies, finely chopped (I use 4 and because of the sugar it is not that hot)

Combine sugar, vinegar, water and salt in a saucepan and bring to the boil cooking until the sauce has reduced by half.  Remove from the heat and stir in the garlic, coriander and chillies.

What have you been eating lately?

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Bread and Butter Pickles

Last year I made these pickles for the first time and they were amazing.  So good in fact that when I got to the bottom of the last bottle I was devastated and was kicking myself that I had not made more with the glut of cucumbers we had last summer.
So this year I will not be making the same mistake.  I am going to make a couple of batches and have just got the first one under my belt.
These are great as part of a ploughman's lunch, fantastic with cheese on crackers and great in burgers or sandwiches.
Bread and Butter Pickles

Part 1 - Vegetables
1kg Cucumbers (young and freshly picked)
2 Onions
3Tbs Salt (Not Rock Salt)
1/2 Cup Hot water

In a saucepan dissolve the salt in the hot water.  Slice the cucumbers very finely.  I use a mandolin but you could use the slicer attachment on a food processor or do it by hand but thin even slices are the key.
Slice the onions thinly as well ideally the same thickness as the cucumber.
Mix the onion and cucumber in a bowl and pour over the salty water then mix thoroughly and leave for 3 hours.
Tip into a colander and press as much as liquid out as possible.
Part 2 - Liquid
2 Cups White Vinegar
2 Cups White Sugar
4 Tsp Mustard Seeds
1/2 Tsp Ground Turmeric
1/2 Tsp Chilli Flakes

In a stock pot heat all of the liquid ingredients until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the drained vegetables and simmer for 3 minutes stirring a few times.
Spoon into sterilised jars making sure all the vegetables are covered in the pickling liquid and seal.

This is so worth making even if you buy your cucumbers.

Monday, 21 January 2013

For the Love of Books

Over the weekend Brisbane hosted its Lifeline BookFest and my best friend and I meet up to hunt down some bargains along with thousands of others.
For anyone who has not heard of the bookfest it is one of Lifelines major fundraisers.  Lifeline is run by Uniting Care.   Uniting Care Community is one of the Queensland's largest community service providers, offering Lifeline services, child and family care, counselling, disability support and social inclusion programs throughout Queensland. 
The bookfest is the worlds largest second hand book sale with millions of books on offer every day.  It takes up half of the Brisbane convention and exhibition center and is attended by thousands many pushing supermarket trolleys full to the top with books.  As well as book they also sell CD's DVD's, puzzles and board games.

Row upon row of tables of books
 I have been to the book fest quite a few times and I know to take along my nanna troley like the one below.  And when it is full that is it time to leave (although sometimes there are a few more books loaded on top ready to tumble off at any moment).  Otherwise I could just go on and on.

 I got a heap of books, mainly fiction, and although I tried to avoid the gardening section the lure was just too great.  But it was worth it.  I picked up this excellent little book all about wild herbs for $2 which is both a field guide and recipe book.  I have not had a chance to read it yet but from the brief skim through it looks very interesting.
I also managed to get some board games and puzzles for $2 each.  One of the puzzles has never even been opened so it will have all the pieces but the other well I will not know till I give it a try.
Puzzles and games
I picked up a game of scattergories that has only been played a few times and a cute retro set of board games that has all the pieces and is in great condition.  You can see the games on the front and I had heard of all of them except the Motor Race and the Steeple Chase.  
Do you remember these?
Retro Board Games
After all that looking at books we headed off to a nearby cafe for lunch and spent a lovely hour catching up on all the news.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Slow Living December 2012

Linking up with Christine again this month.

Nourish -Make and bake as much as possible from scratch. Ditch over packaged, over processed convenience foods and opt for 'real' food instead.
We are eating very few processes foods lately and it has been very noticeable when leaving the supermarket with very little in the trolley.  Most of our food that we are buying is coming from the markets or green grocer.  I have still been baking bread but not as  much as in the cooler months, it has just been too hot to turn the oven on.
Strawberries to freeze
Home made Feta
Bottled Tomatoes
Bread and Butter Pickles
Prepare - Stockpile and preserve. Freeze extra meals or excess garden/market produce. Bottle/can, dehydrate or pickle foods to enjoy when they are not in season.
I have made bread and butter pickles, bottled tomatoes, and home made feta too.  I even managed to get some strawberries in the freezer.  I seem to have got quite a bit of preserving done over the last month.  On top of this we had one of our cows killed and she is now in the freezer.

Reduce - Cut down on household waste by re-using, re-purposing and repairing.
Hubby has been busy building a new woodshed from recycled materials.  The posts were parts from an old power pylon and the roofing iron came from a few different people who were getting rid of it. 
Washing  Liquid
 Green Start (or continue!) using homemade cleaners, body products and basic herbal remedies. The options are endless, the savings huge and the health benefits enormous.
I have been making up more of my Bi Carb Cream Cleanser and washing Liquid.

Grow plant/harvest. What's growing this month? What's being eaten from the garden?
It has all been about summer vegetables with lots of peppers and tomatoes as well as cucumbers.

Create - To fill a need or feed the soul. Create for ourselves or for others.
I made a lot of Christmas cards and presents in 2012 as part of my Home Made Christmas.  I am still practising my knitting and am knitting a few more dishcloths.

Discover Feed the mind by reading texts relevant to current interests.
I am still reading books about permaculture and climate change and these were a couple that I really enjoyed.

Enhance Community
The anti sand mining group for my local area that I am involved in had a major win which we celebrated over the Christmas period.

Enjoy - Life! Embrace moments with friends and family. Marking the seasons, celebrations and new arrivals are all cause for enjoyment.
December was a busy month catching up with friends and family.

What have you been up to?

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Unwanted House Guests

Last week while doing the washing I heard some rustling behind the laundry tub.  I knew straight away what it was.  A snake keeping cool during the hot weather.

We have had them come in the back door making a bee line for our washing machine where they curl up to keep cool.  This one was a red belly black snake and did not want to leave.
We tried leaving the back door open three nights in a row plus all the days and there was no hint it was leaving.
So in the end I called a snake catcher.  It had been 5 days and I was not prepared to wait any longer to get my laundry back.  Plus this is an area we have to walk through every time we need the toilet or bathroom.
The snake catcher came out and asked me to give him a hand by tipping the washing machine to one side while he grabbed it from underneath.
It was all over and done with in less than 5 minutes and I just had time to run and get the camera to get these couple of photos.

The snake was placed in a pillow case and the snake catcher advised me he would be working on taming the snake over the next week ready to do a display and presentation at a nursing home next week.

Well either way I am glad it has left our place.  If it had just stayed outside he could have stayed.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Hello 2013

A Happy New Year to you all.

I really enjoyed the break over the Christmas period and even though I had to work every day but the public holidays I really tried to live like I was on holiday.  I stayed away from the computer and TV , spent time catching up with friends and family, and read lots of books.

We had a lovely relaxed Christmas with hubby's family and my youngest brother who has moved over from New Zealand.
We gave Jessie an grunting pig for Christmas as she loved to death the second hand one someone gave us.
Hmmm what's in here?
I'll just test it with my paw
Grunt little piggy, grunt.
I love my Piggy
And I am not letting piggy go, even when I go to bed.
My sister in law was buying for me (this year we all only brought for one person each.  Like a "not" secret santa) and she made me this fantastic apron which is reversible and labelled Fi's Kitchen.  Plus she got me some cheese moulds to go with the cheese making kit she and my brother in law gave me last Christmas.  I will post about some of my cheese making another day.

We had a lovely relaxed day and spent some of the afternoon playing Finska.  Such a great great game for all of the family.  It is all about knocking down the pins with a wooden baton and then you stand them up where they fall.  The other team/person then has their turn.  The aim is to get exactly 50 points which is not that easy.  If you go over you go back to 25 points.
The starting set up
My father in law taking his turn.
My brother standing them up from where they were knocked by the last person.
By the end of the game some of them had made their
way back under the mango tree in the background.
(It was pretty hard to get them back there)
Over the Christmas period I have also been bottling tomatoes on a weekly basis stocking the pantry for the year to come.  I don't think I could grow and preserve enough to last a whole year but since all of my tomato plants were grown from seeds every bottle represents a money saving.
Seven litre sized bottles to store away
I am picking about this many "Italian Fryers" Capsicums every day.  They are sweet and deliciousness and I have been eating them right of the bush.  Lucky there are still plenty for the kitchen.