Saturday, June 30, 2012

Biltong and droe wors

Earlier this week we had a biltong making evening with a neighbour and his young son. Frans, Paul and Max rubbed flavours into meat strips. The main flavouring ingredient in South African biltong is coriander. The seeds were scorched then pounded and sieved before being rubbed on the meat. We divided the meat into 4 flavours. Garlic, Chilli, Coriander & Spicy pepper. We made sausage too. All these bits were marinated overnight. Then Frans rinsed the meat strips in hot water and vinegar and hung it all up in the outside shed. He decided to change the drying venue last night. The shed is too humid. So he made a jig to hang the meat. And it's got prime position.... in the lounge! It will take a few days to dry.
I wonder what the old girls in the portraits would think!

Have a happy weekend

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Moroccan Dinner

We love Moroccan food. The best part about it is that it is easy to prepare at home. A handful of staple spices will allow you to create many delicious meals. I have a few Moroccan recipe books. My favourite is Made in Morocco by Julie le Clerc. It's been a while since I used my tagine, so I thought I'd give it a bash on the wood stove. I've given myself a rule. If the kitchen stove is lit, then I don't use the electric stove. Mmmm... What this has translated to is that I've not cooked a meal on the electric stove for a month now. I've used the wood fire stove for 99% of the meals. The only thing I used the electric oven for was to toast three trays of pita bread crisps as the trays were too big for the oven. Yes, I could have used smaller ones, but I wanted the done all at once.
I decided to do the classic tagine of chicken with lemons and olives. I have learned that my tagine is not huge. It's best for serving no more than four. I've also learned not to add too much liquid to the dish as it bubbles over very quickly!  Here is the recipe from the book.

Tagine of chicken with lemons and olives

3 onions peeled and sliced
4 chicken Marylands (Legs & thighs - cut them apart)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup chicken stock
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 preserved lemons, quartered and rinsed (you can make your own)
1 cup green or black olives (I used mixed!)
1/4 cup chopped coriander or parsley. (I used coriander as I love it!)

Place the onions at the bottom of the tagine or casserole. Arange the chicken portions on the bed of onions. Drizzle with olive oil and dust with spices. Pour over stock and season with salt and pepper.

Cover the pan and bring the liquid to the boil then turn down and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, turning the chicken pieces once or twice until the chicken is cooked and the liquid is very much reduced. Cooking can also be done in the oven.

Add the preserved lemons, olives and coriander to the sauce 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4

Here is the tagine layerd up and starting the cooking process. Of course I forgot to take a picture of the finished dish. Just believe me when I say it was delicious! 

To accompany the chicken tagine, I made Seven vegetables with cous cous. I used my flat cast iron dish. It's perfect for this type of cooking.

The vegetables I used were:
Sweet potato
Butternut squash
Red onion

I had a small piece of lamb backstrap which I browned first. I wanted to add a little extra depth of flavour to the vegetables. After browning, I simply threw in the chopped veggies. (not too small), added a little chicken stock and the following spices: ground ginger, ras el hanout, a few strands of saffron, salt & black pepper. I popped the lid on the pot and baked the vegetables in the oven once I'd got them steaming on the top of the stove first. To serve I made cous cous. I used 2 cups of cous cous to 4 cups of boiling water with a couple of stock cubes thrown in. (I have to tell you, that this quantity of cous cous is more then you'll need for four people! We've been eating left over cous cous for a week!) Spoon the cous cous into a big serving dish and then add the vegetables to the top of the cous cous.

For dessert I made Baklava. It's strictly not Moroccan but it has that Middle Eastern sweetness that is a perfect foil for the meal above. I've not made it before as it always seemed too fiddly. There is a little cafe' in Colac that sells lovely Lebanese and Turkish desserts and I've bought some from them before. They are delicious, but expensive. I decided that I'd make them myself. I googled (what would we do without it!) a recipe and made a big slab of the stuff. It was easy. Not tooooo fiddly. And oh so sweet! Here is the recipe.

And to finish this blog post I'm going to pop in a few pics that we took at the Spice Market in Istanbul last year. I'd go back there in a heart beat. The smells and colours are just amazing!

Have a good week!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Birthday week!

Well, I didn't do much last week. It was my birthday you see. Being outside was not an option as it was cold and wet. In fact, some days it was raining sideways! Our paddocks are already sodden. Good for the pasture. 

Back to my birthday... I was spoiled! Frans cooked a delicious dinner for me. We had our friends John and Norma around to share his culinary efforts. Jamie Oliver to the rescue! We had rolled fillet of beef wrapped in herbs, mushrooms and proscuitto, served with roast potatoes and creamed spinach. And I have to add, that he cooked this meal on the wood fire stove. Genius! Norma provided dessert. Wonderful sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce. Not a calorie in sight of course! Thanks to everyone who called, emailed, FB'd and sent cards! Half way through the day a little car drove down the driveway and a lady hopped out with a big basket of beautiful flowers. What a lovely surprise. Thanks Sara and Stephen! Sara gave me the cutest little egg cosy; the little chick below, and the sweetest little heart pins. I put them to use immediately to block a woollen jumper that I'd finished for myself.  My dear mother in law, Riet, sent me a surprise box. It was filled with old wooden cotton reels. What fun!

Frans loves his biscuits. Last night he opened a packet of Tim Tams. It felt rather light when I picked it up. He assured me he'd only had a couple. Try six! He also loves Anzacs. I make them for him often. I thought I'd make something different last week. Sara has been talking about peanut butter cookies for a while so I gave them a whirl. Mmmm...... my efforts are visible below. I'm not fond of making sweet stuff. Can you tell?!

I've just completed a couple of knitting projects. This one is for me. Pattern can be found on Ravelry. I liked this pattern as it stated it was 'made to fit a grown-ass woman'! My kind of pattern!  

Another little project that has just come off the needles is this little jacket below. Another Ravelry project. If you're a knitter or love to crochet, then this site has oodles of great projects. Many of them are free. Patterns are simply downloaded. I'm not sure who is going to get this one yet... 

My next knitting project is a jumper for Frans. He's been asking me for ages to knit him one. My objection has been the long sleeves I'd have to knit! However, I gave in. The yarn was purchased.  I had been collecting mens jumper patterns from everywhere thinking one of them would be fine. But he is a fussy man!Didn't like the rib on one, didn't like the collar on another. These sleeves are too 'floppy', these shoulders too droopy! Oh boy. We finally decided on a pattern. I am now knitting at every opportunity to get this one done. 'Man' knitting takes a lot longer! Here is the pattern.

Knitting in the car. This is the main road going through Colac. As you can see it's very busy! Not...

And now for the next BIG project. I offered to make Sara and Stephen a wedding quilt. I took her to a lovely quilt shop in Melbourne. Actually, it's my favourite shop. It's called Patchwork on Central Park in Malvern. Sara spotted a quilt that Lyn had on display. Of course she fell in love with one that is going to take a long time to make! Below are some images I gleaned from the internet of English paper pieced quilts made with a diamond shape. I don't know who made them unfortunately. But arn't they stunning? This is what she wants. Just as well I have a year to make it!

While we were at the store we picked out a bunch of lovely fabrics. I ordered the papers from Brigitte Giblin who does beautiful stuff with paper piecing. The papers are 1". Slightly smaller than the images of the quilts above.  

Here are just some of the lovely fabrics Sara picked out. She doesn't want the quilt to be too 'girlie'. So there are some blokey designs scattered amoungst the fabrics.

Sara had fun grouping her fabrics and sorting them by colour.

The sun is shining today. The garden is calling. Have a good week, what's left of it!

Monday, June 11, 2012

WOOFers! (Workers On Organic Farms)

We've had a wonderful weekend this Queen's Birthday weekend. Frans' nephew Christopher, along with his lovely wife Sarah and baby Saskia came to visit. Sara and Stephen came down from Melbourne too so we had had a house full of grown up children! We're the oldies now....

Sarah, Saskia and Chris. Saskia was more interested in the cows than the camera!

We are pretty sure that all three our cows are pregnant. They're the black ones. We have Agnes the Angus, Eileen and Thursday. We've not named the two white calves for obviouos reasons... If all goes well, we will slaughter one of the white calves in the next 3 months and sell the other one. And hopefully, there will be three brand new baby calves to take their places.
The guys got to work digging holes. I bought fruit trees last week and they needed planting. So we're extending the small orchard behind the house and have planted them there. They had help! 

Chris digging a hole. Well, he's pretty good at this job. He's a plumber! Can't let those skills go to waste! Nala was there, posing for the camera too.

Remember all the garlic that needed planting? Well we've started. Frans made us a clever contraption to drill holes into the bed. Sarah and I got stuck into the planting on Saturday. We stopped half way as the Otway drizzle became a little cold and just too wet to keep going. The fire was going inside and that seemed a much better place to be!

Baby Saskia giving her advice from the side lines!

And then I did a recount of the garlic cloves I had to plant... and came to the conclusion that we did not have enough space. So the men got stuck into creating another bed. Stephen said it would take 15 minutes.... Ha! Try 3 hours!

We decided that the 'no dig' method would work the best. So here Stephen and Chris are laying down cardboard boxes directly onto the lovely lawn that Frans has been nurturing. (He's a bit sad that I've twisted his arm to turn a lovely lawn into another garden bed. But in reality, what's more beneficial? Food or grass?) We still have our packing boxes from our move, so they are now coming in very handy. 

After the boxes, we needed a layer of chook poo and straw. What good timing! We have been meaning to clean out the chook house for a while now. It's not a fun job. It's dusty and smelly. So we are very grateful that Chris got stuck into the job of cleaning the chook house and shovelling the poo onto the new garden bed.

Chris dumped load after load onto the cardboard. (the poles on the cardboard were there to stop the board from blowing away over to our neighbour's farm.) As Chris dumped one wheelburrow after another, I watered it.

And speaking of our neighbour... While we were preparing the garden bed with the first layer, he came over with his tractor, bucket full of good soil. He'd seen us busy with the bed and figured we could do with some soil. Good man! So five trips later, we had a garden bed with a layer of chook manure and straw as well as a good layer of quality soil. Only one more layer to go and we'll pick that up in town this week. We'll add a layer of compost to the top.

Now we should have enough space for the remaining garlic! The bonus of having created another bed is that after the garlic crop, I'll have the bed available for more vegies.

I want to show you this. It's my chilli plant that Stephen gave me for Mother's day. It was FULL of lovely glossy red chillies. I put the pot outside and managed to use a couple. Then one morning I came outside and this is what what left of my plant! No chillies! All eaten. Gone! I'm guessing that it was a parrot. The cheek of it!

You know how eggs are shaped differently at each end? Well this egg was almost a perfect oval. Looked like a rugby ball.

We have a pile of dirt next to the chook house. We want to move it, but the chooks love it. This is where they take their baths!

Last week I lit the wood fire stove. It's been going non stop. I have a rule for myself. If I light the stove, then I don't use the electric one. It's a challenge, especially when it comes to baking. I have managed to stick with the rule and have baked bread, cake and biscuits for the first time. Warm winter porridge for breakfast was delish! Frans enjoys his porridge with a hefty dollop of farm honey!

On the cold rainy days I've been busy in the sewing room. I've started a quilt for a friend's birthday. Hopefully it will get finished this week!

And this has to be the best photograph of the year! Sara, on her bike! Yes, she's riding! 

Chris, Sarah and Saskia have gone back to Sydney. It was lovely having them to stay. And great that they enjoyed working on the farm!

Have a wonderful week.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Last week of Autumn and what we got up to...

In a small country hall a little way from us, a couple of friends and I, (Norma and Wendy) took ourselves off to the Great Australian Morning Tea a week or so ago. This is an annual fundraiser held all over Australia to raise money for breast cancer research.

A welcome sign at the door. A gold coin donation was the entrance fee.

What a spread was waiting inside the hall! The country ladies of Irrewillepe had outdone themselves. Besides the lovely cakes and sandwiches, there were beautiful quilts to admire. A table groaning with cakes, preserves and farm veggies was tucked in a corner of the hall. No-one left without a bag of goodies. Lucky door prize time and Norma picked up a huge hamper of Natio products. I won a prize too. A bottle of wine. Nice.

Crafty stuff
I've been experimenting with empty feed sacks lately. They make great shopping bags. They are tough, waterproof and rather nice. Well, I think so anyway. I will be putting them up on our Etsy store in the next day or so. In the mean time I'll share some of the styles with you. Let me say, getting photos of the bags in the back yard with the chooks as props is not easy. A chicken doesn't know about posing in a shot, so I had to be quick!
Horse bag. I have these in red/grey and also a gree/grey version. No, we don't have a horse. I was given these bags by a friend.

This one is my favourite.

If you want to add a touch of 'country' to your city shopping experience, then you need one of these bags! I can promise you that you will receive may compliments! I use one for my library books and I always get comments, good ones of course, when I use it. How much you ask? $15 plus a few bucks for postage. For this you get an upcycled bag that gets a new lease of life!  

And now for a lesson in farm reproduction....

While I was out being a photographer/stylist, the farm animals were doing their thing. In particular, the ducks. I have to say that duck sex is not pretty! The drake is aggressive and the poor duck literally just lies there while he hammers her head with his beak, pokes at her eyes and generally beats her into submission! What will the outcome be? Fertilised eggs we hope! I'll keep you posted.


This past week I harvested pumkins. I've learned that a basket of pumpkins requires a huge growing space. Valuable vegetable patch real estate. Will I grow them again next season? Definitely. I grew two varieties. Butternut and Italian Zucca. However, the Zucca seeds have given me two different varieties in one packet. The round green ones and the oblong ones. The vegetable bed looks quite sad in this dying state. But this is exactly what it has to look like before you pick pumpkins.

I'll be making soup and roasting these babies!

After pulling out all the spent vines, I then dug over the long veggie patch. You may not get as excited as I was, but looking at this soil makes me smile. There are lots of earth worms in it. A good indication that the soil biology is healthy.

The bed on the left has been planted with a few different veggies. Turnips, parsnips, carrots, beetroot, brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, broad beans and some garlic.
The bed on the right is where the pumpkins were. The soil is ready for the next round of planting. It's going to be.... GARLIC! Lots of it!  

I received another 5kgs of garlic from Kym at Farm with a Future. I spent a few hours separating the cloves in each bulb. I'm not sure if there's an easier way, but by the end of separating nearly 2000 cloves, my fingers were sore and ponged! I planted around 650 cloves in the left garden bed (shown above). My back and legs were a tad sore by the end of that little excersize! And I've still got another 1600 to go. We've got some visitors coming for the weekend this coming long weekend.......

Visit to the big smoke...
This week I also visited Sara in Melbourne for a couple of days. She had some hospital appointments so I took her. I know the way by now. Our first appointment with her specialist was rather stressful. I missed a turn and ended up in a long line of traffic going the opposited direction to where we had to go. I was driving Sara's little Yaris which is a manual. I can drive a manual. Well, I used to be able. So you can imagine how many times I stalled, restarted and waved hands of apology to cars around me. I decided to do a 'U' turn in the middle of the traffic as there was a little gap in the centre island. Big mistake. I misjudged the turning circle of the little white smartie and ended up having to do a 20 point turn, scraping the bottom mud guard at every turn. So I feel I have now gone through a right of passage to get us to the hospital without ending up in Sydney! Sara's tests went well. She has another specialist appointment later this month.

While I was in Melbourne, we took the opportunity to have breakfast 'out'. We ate at a lovely little place called Porgie and Mr Jones in Hawthorne. Best coffee I've had in ages. So I had two. My breakfast was folded scrambled eggs with holy goat fetta, and Sara had Swiss cheese melt with kassundi. Delish. The service was good and I'd go back anytime. We parked around the corner and I couldn't resist taking a few pics of the cute little houses that line the tree lined street.

And look what I bought while I was in Melbourne.... the cute little Tony Biaco flats on the right. Op shoping is the way to go! $5 for my new shoes. I also bought a pair of gum boots for the farm. Yes, I like red shoes!

Free stuff is good stuff!
A couple of weeks ago Frans and I went to the council in Colac to find out where we could get free mulch. We'd heard that the council had a spot where you could go and get this stuff. Why pay for it if you can get it for nothing! Well, they didn't have any. They suggested we stop and ask a truck driver when we saw the tree loppers chopping branches or trees. Mmm.... ok. Then as luck would have it, the power company came to our neck of the woods. They do an anual pruning of trees close to power lines. We happened to have some trees on our fence line (on the council side) that had to be cut down. Good wood too! Frans was determined that we would get some of this good stuff. The rules have changed in Victoria and you can now gather wood from the side of the road. Frans didn't want anyone else to get 'our' wood! So once the trees were down, he and I drove down into the paddock with the trailer and set to cutting up the logs with a chain saw. Now bear in mind I remained in the paddock, while Frans climbed over the fence to the road side to do the demolition work. A fence. Electric. As he sawed through tree trunks and branches, he would pass the bits over to me. Of course it goes without saying that a couple of times I leaned a little too close to the fence. And yes, ZAP! Electric shocks aside, we were happy with our haul. The next day, the power company boys were back with huge chipper. They proceeded to mulch the branches that they'd cut. And guess what! Yep, we got all that lovely mulch. They backed the truck down the driveway and dumped it beside the willow tree. Lovely free, sweet smelling mulch!

And finally...... Winter has arrived! I lit the Rayburn last night for the first time this year. I have given myself a rule. If I light the wood stove, then I can't use the electric one. So I cooked a roast chicken dinner in the wood stove. It was delicious! Today a pot will go on the top to get a hearty country soup going. It's raining outside. Perfect wintery weather for staying indoors.

Have a wonderful week!