Thursday, February 18, 2010

Party Time

This past weekend we flew to Brisbane to celebrate my neice Genevieve's 21st birthday. Gen did all the decorating herself. It looked beautiful. Tea light candles resting in op shop jars half filled with beach sand. (Gen collected a few bucket loads of sand herself!) The effect was brilliant. Clever girl Genevieve!

The planning for the table has been in the making for a long time. Genevieve and her Mum bought the centre table runners in South Africa on their last trip late last year. Now THAT's being organised! The huge table seated 50 guests. Dinner was catered. Easy and very good!

Here's Genevieve with her grandparents. My Mum and Dad. An historic event! It was the first time in about 25 years that we were all together in the same spot. Very special.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Big and small

Durning the hot January weather, my Hydrangeas crashed and burned. I was pretty miffed. I really want a row of them along the front fence. When I mentioned my dissaster to my old neighbour who now lives around the corner, she promised me some cuttings from her Mum's garden. And here they are. I've shoved them in growing pots, along with some French and English Lavender cuttings. (Lavender from my garden.. who hoo!) Now they're resting on the back deck for a few weeks till they're strong enough to be planted along the fence. I'm going to put the Lavender down the driveway. The driveway spot gets sun all day, so these babies will be happy there.

How pretty! I just love the bright sunny zucchini flowers. This is the bush that produced the little fruit further down the page.

Tomatoes tomatoes... they're coming up EVERYWHERE!

All shapes and sizes. I didn't realise how many different varieties there are. A bit different to the three or four kinds you get in a supermarket. I've not bought tomatoes since December. Love that!

I'm picking a little basket like this every couple of days. They're great just tossed in a bit of olive oil, sprinkled with some basil, salt and ground black pepper. Then under the grill till the skins start to blister. They can then be used as a side dish, in a salad, on bread... the list goes on.

So here is a pic of what my zucchinis COULD look like! The big monster comes from my neighbour, Chandra, over the back fence. As do the lovely little eggplants. My pathetic efforts are the little yellow jobs! I tried right? What the hell am I going to do with this big thing? The skin is pretty hard, much like a butternut squash. So there was only one option really. Hit Google and find a zucchini chutney recipe. The result was great. Now the said chutney is resting for a couple of weeks to 'stew'. I'm thinking up an Indian dinner to compliment it!

About 3 weeks ago I popped a few vegie seeds into my seedling tray. The zucchinis are the tall leggy looking things at the top of the pic. In the middle are some mixed lettuce seedlings starting to poke their little heads up. And who knows what I planted in the bottom part of the tray. I think there are parsley seeds there. They're not doing anything yet. I'll have to wait and see and then surprise myself!

This little seedling punnet was a 'seed kit' I bought at the local garden shop. Great success. These are rocket seedlings. I'll give them another week to harden in the punnet, then plant them in the ground.

Tomato Update

My friend Kathryn pointed me in the right direction in solving my tomato problem. It seems that these babies are suffering from Sunscald.

According to the Colorado State University:
Sunscald is common on fruit exposed to too much sun. This problem often occurs when infestations of hornworms are high and defoliation or pruning of leaves is heavy. To help control sunscald, shade the plant and reduce the fruit's exposure to the sun.

Ok, I didn't think I had hornworms. But I'll go and check. I DO know that we've had a Summer of belting hot days. Problem solved? I hope so.
In any case, I'm still picking loads of beautiful little cherry tomatoes.

And what to do with this bounty harvest?

Last night I threw together a simple Italian salad. Italian why? Red, green and white of course.
I simply sliced the baby tomatoes in half. Then tore up a handful of garden basil and sliced about 6 balls of bocconcini into wedges. Tossed the lot together. Splashed with olive oil and an aged balsamic vinegar, salt and freshly gound pepper. Delish.

The same salad can be prepared in a slightly different manner and look spectacular for a more formal occasion. ie. Christmas Eve dinner.

Here Sara was getting the layers together. A perfect Christmas salad.

Puppy Love

We had a little visitor on Saturday morning. We 'puppy sat' our Niece's new little pup. Her name is Bells. She's a cross Shitsu/poodle I think! She loves toes! Don't leave any exposed. She kept us entertained with her puppy antics. Then she flaked out in her basket.

Come again little Bells!

Going French

What can be more satisfying than cooking up a storm on a Saturday? So many favourites in our home, but this week I went for the trusty Coq au Vin. Easy to prepare. Shove it in the oven for a couple of hours and it's done. Served with a luscious spoonful of mash, there is nothing more comforting. Did I mention it was 30 odd degrees outside? Oh never mind. Just turn on the air and enjoy the meal.
Katie and Sara getting stuck into dinner. Note the elegant serving vessels!

Here's my version of this VERY rich dish. (I've adjusted it slightly and left out the lashings of butter, but it's still very rich)

Coq au Vin

You can cook the entire dish on the top of the stove, but I prefer to get it started on the gas, and then pop it in the oven and forget about it. So you need a pot with handles that won't melt in the oven! I have a large Le Cruiset. Perfect for this dish.

Preheat oven to 160 - 170 degrees.


2.5 kgs chicken pieces. (legs & thighs are great. If you can get free range organic chook, even better) Cut off all the excess fatty bits. Feed them to the dog. She'll love you.
1 bottle red wine. (I used Shiraz)
250g diced bacon
15 French shallots or small onions peeled and left whole
500mls chicken stock (my favourite is the Massel brand. No additives)
2 teaspoons tomato paste
125ml brandy
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 sprigs of thyme
3 bay leaves
2 cups fresh button mushrooms cleaned and sliced in halves
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
30g flour
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Toss the onions and bacon in the olive oil. Fry lightly till the bacon fats have started to melt.

2. Add the chicken pieces. Brown slightly.
3. Now the easy bit. Pour yourself a glass of red wine. Throw the rest into the pot.
4. Add the brandy, bay leaves, thyme, tomato paste and chicken stock.
5. Add the mushrooms.

6. Put the lid on the pot and pop it into the oven.
7. Cook slowly for approximately an hour and a half. Check the dish towards the end of the cooking time. If the sauce needs thickening, then using the flour, mix it with a little cold water and stir into the pot. Simmer for a few more minutes. Check seasoning.
8. Just before serving, sprinkle the parsley into the pot.

9. Serve with soft, creamy mash potatoes.

Friday, February 5, 2010

It's raining....

There are no complaints from me today. The weather has turned cool and it's raining gently. Just perfect. The lawn is getting a lovely soaking. The sugar cane mulch I spread all over the garden beds on Monday is sucking up the moisture.

I've got baby tomatoes growing furiously. I'm still new at growing vegies, and to be honest, some things have me purplexed. Why do some of the tomatoes go from green to white? Some start off looking quite promising, and then they become wrinkled and deformed. I'm leaving them on the plants to see what happens. Maybe they've had too much water... maybe not enough.

The tomatoes start off looking good. Then the go all weird.

Cherry tomatoes look great. Eggplant looking promising.

My first post

Well, I've done it. I'm starting my own blog. Not that I feel I have the authority to comment on anything or everything. But rather I'm using this blog as a journal of where I'm going this year. A kind of road map if you like. I'm hoping this blog will keep me motivated to keep pursuing my dream of creating a sustainable back yard, shop for local produce, create jewellery and quilts , decorate my home and keep focused.