Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Autumn harvest

 We've been a little busy on the farm over the past few weeks. There has been much picking, preparing, bottling and cooking. I'm giving a quiet little sigh that that summer is over and finally we get to ease into slower days. I have been anxiously waiting for the tomatoes to fruit, and finally, just when I had almost given up on them, they seem to have exploded in numbers around the vegetable patches. There are still many green ones, and I'm watching them closely. I have made a pact with myself that this year I will NOT process any green tomatoes. Why? Because I just don't like them. I know, some folks like green tomato pickles, but I just can't be convinced. I find myself telling our customers 'don't choose that one, I don't like it'. And that's probably not the best way to sell a product. So I will instead cross my fingers and hope these little babies turn bright red so I can make another big batch of Tomato Kasundi and a big supply of our very popular Tomato and Ginger Jam. 
This is Gus, Andre's dog. He likes company. Here he was, keeping an eye on the tomato picking. He eats pretty much everything that is not nailed down, but he's not fussed on tomatoes! 
This is Kasundi in the making. Just look at the amount of spices required for a 2kg batch! I take a deep breath each time I make itas it is an expensive thing to make. But, our customers love it. And so do we. I used some as a curry base a week ago. I added coconut milk and poached some fish in the sauce. It was fabulous. Frans even had two helpings, and he's not crazy about fish. This Indian relish is also great on a little steamed rice and veggies. Mmmm.... 

Green beans climbing high! 
A morning in the veggie patch and Pat is picking tomatoes, I'm gathering beans, zucchini, parsnips, carrots, swedes.... I've cut back the asparagus ferns. We'll look forward to sweet spears in October or November again.  
What do we do with all the beans? I blanched some and froze them for use during winter. Some we just had to eat right away. A favourite South African dish is to boil beans chopped up (like the pic above), a chopped onion and a couple of potatoes together in salted water. When the beans are soft, strain off the water (keep for soup stock!), mash together the veggies. Add a little salt and white pepper and a blob of butter. Delicious!
The apple trees are heavy with fruit. There's apple action at the table most days. Apple & Ginger Jam, Apple & Rhubarb Chutney, Apple Jelly, Apple Sauce... And of course, our famous Worcestershire Sauce made with our very own organically grown garlic and apples. 
We've canned quite a few jars of apples. These will make their way into apple crumbles and roast pork and apple sauce dinners!
Let's not forget the zucchinis. We have had our fair share. We love them roasted, in salads and in quiches Our favourite farm soup of the moment is Zucchini Soup.  Here's our recipe:

Zucchini Soup

2kgs grated zucchini
2 litres stock 
(we use chicken or turkey stock, whatever is in the freezer! Our own birds. Plucking a duck is not a pleasant task, so we make sure we get every little bit of value out of our birds!)
1 onion or a few shallot stalks or even a leek (whatever you have growing that is 'oniony') - chopped roughly
1 potato - chopped roughly
Parsley - a big handful
2 cloves of garlic - chopped finely
2 handfuls of grated strong cheese. I use Parmesan or similar.
Cream. About a cup.
Salt & Pepper

Lightly sweat the onion and garlic. Add all the rest of the ingredients and cook till everything is soft and mushy. Blitz with a hand blender. Add a little cream. Season to taste.
Serve with freshly baked bread. You'll be serving up seconds!
You know that the end of the zucchini season is here when you get baby zucchinis that don't seem to grow anymore. It's getting too cold. Pick them. And the flowers! Chop them up and make a delicious stir fry or quiche.
The excess pickings are blitzed and frozen in big zip lock bags. Each bag holds around 2kgs. This is just the right amount to make another batch or three of that delicious soup!
There are some times that we have to take a leap of faith when it comes to eating from the land... Our neighbour brought around a dish full of freshly picked field mushrooms. They pick them in their forest each Autumn. We were a little dubious in eating them. The wrong ones can kill you! These looked like mushrooms. Smelled like mushrooms. No funny colours. Lots of 'googling' and checking to make sure they were ok. We did have our neighbour's word... They were delicious. Served on a grass-fed porterhouse steak. Here's Jayne getting the fungi ready for dinner.
April has been a busy market month. First we had a market in Birregurra, followed by a rained out market in Colac. Then another market in Birregurra on Easter Sunday. On offer were all our new apple products, as well as the tomato jam and Kasundi. 
Like my new little white shelf? I picked it up from an op shop for $6. The can of spray paint cost $12. Andre' sprayed it for me for nothing. Priceless... to me. 
 I love it. 
Easter Sunday Market in Birre.
Sold the last of our lovely garlic. 

This is a short week. We have Anzac Day on Friday.  
We'll be attending the Dawn Service in Colac. This year is a special year, as Frans' brother Andre' will be playing the Last Post for the ceremony. When it's over, we'll all walk down the road to the RSL for a free breakfast. 

Lest we forget.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bula Fiji

Twelve days in Fiji, and Frans and I have come home refreshed. I will admit that I won't go back there again in March. It was just a little too humid for me! We went once in July, and that was very nice. So that's my personal reminder for next time! Don't go at the end of the monsoon season!

I promise not to bore you completely with holiday pics. I'll only show you a few. Starting below are the obligatory sunset and sea view snaps. What can I say? If you think it looks good in the picture, then I can assure you it was fabulous in reality too.
Each sunset was more beautiful than the one before... 
These two sun lounges were directly in front of our little burre. We spent a bit of time there.... 
Early morning coffee was taken on the beach, while the shadows were still over our lounges.  
The view from our front verandah.  
The decor was basic. The air-conditioning non existent. The ceiling fans whirred for 7 days straight! 
Nadi is a grubby town. The day we went in for a little look around happened to be a day after a cyclone had knocked out all the power to the local stores. Every shop was in darkness. 
I don't know how confident I'd be of getting a good haircut from a shop that clearly specialises in so many things! I presume one of the gentlemen hanging up back packs is Mr Daud himself. 
This shop was completely dark. My flash lit it up. You could buy a lot of plastic here! And toilet paper! And a kettle. That was my one big purchase. I bought a shiny new stainless steel stove top kettle for our Rayburn.  

Frans was determined to travel light on this holiday. He prided himself on the fact that he only had a very small bag to take with him. That was fine, except he didn't take any swimmers with him, and the one pair of shorts he took was falling apart and covered in paint. Not exactly suitable attire for fronting up for breakfast at The Hilton! So we ventured into a couple of dark menswear stores. We found one where the sales assistants were very happy to trawl through piles of shorts by torchlight to find the right size. It seemed a good idea to try the articles on to make sure. Sizes differ in different countries... (Frans should have tried on that swim shirt! It is waaaay too big!) He was guided through the clothing racks by a young boy with a torch. While Frans changed into the new shorts in the cubicle, the attendant hung his arm over the cubicle door to give him some light. Only when we got back to our hotel did we see what the actual colour of the shorts were. Navy. Oh. Not dark grey. But the size was good!

We wanted to visit some farms to see how the locals grew their veggies. A taxi driver we met said he'd take us to a village in the highlands where he was friendly with a family who lived there. The village was poor. No electricity. No fridges. There was only a single generator. Around 200 people live in this village. There are a couple of TV's which get used to watch important events, such as rugby matches! Before we drove up the mountain, our driver suggested we stop at the local market where he does his personal shopping and buy some supplies. 'Aunty' would then cook us lunch. They would enjoy the variety of food we'd be bringing with us as they eat taro or cassava every day. 
So we stopped off at a local butcher. It appeared that you could get your hair cut in the same place! It was very basic. Meat was divided by cut in to different plastic buckets under a glass refrigerated counter. It was not displayed with any of the artistic flair that our Aussie butchers have. This was just meat. I bought some round steak because it was the only meat that looked ok. Everything else looked dried, gristly or grey! I only hoped that Aunty would know what to do with this steak.
Our driver helped me shop for veggies. We bought avocado, paw paw, potatoes, carrots, eggplant, lettuce (very expensive!), onions, tomatoes (also expensive) and a few other bits and pieces that I can't remember. Did I mention it was hot? I was melting!  
We drove for about an hour to what felt like top of the world. The views across the highlands was impressive
Frans climbed a rock to take a few photos. This is one of them! The road was rough. No regular vehicles could attempt the clime or dodge the giant pot holes. 
On a clear day, you really could see forever! 
On our arrival at the village, we were introduced to Aunty and her son. She has two sons and their wives and two little children living with her in her house. The house has little furniture. In one corner is a small cupboard to hold a few grocery staples. The main area of the house has a large woven mat on the floor. Most activities, like eating or the traditinoal kava welcome ceremony happen on that mat. There were a few couches lined up along the wall. No television. No proper windows, just louvres.

This is the kitchen stove. 
The kitchen is a small alcove off the main room (the one with the mat). Here one of the daughters in law is peeling the veggies we brought whilst sitting of the floor. Aunty is chopping cassava root just inside the kitchen door. The red cupboard on the left is where they keep a little rice and a few tins of bully beef and tuna. 
Rosie is another daughter in law. She is well spoken and is a teacher. She came from another village to marry her husband. Arranged marriages are common. 

And this is the spread that was laid out on a red and white cloth on the floor. Fresh fruit beautifully cut up, a delicious beef soup (that's where the steak ended up) that would provide a number of meals. The white potato looking stuff at the bottom of the shot is the cassava root. It is bland and doesn't have any real taste. Aunty suggested I put a slice of avocado on it. Well, it was bland on bland. Not really a culinary highlight. Because of the humidity, the salt is sticky and is kept in a jar. No point trying to use a salt cellar.
Frans tucked into the delicious lunch! 
This is Aunty. She said we were sisters. She was referring to my butt. Nice. 

A holiday in Fiji is not complete without a sunset cruise. We spent a few very pleasant hours with some of our fellow resort travellers. The sunset did not disappoint either. It was spectacular.

There was one exciting moment on the cruise, when a young American fellow went down on one knee and pulled a ring out of his pocket. Frans was lucky enough to capture the proposal on camera and thankfully she said yes! 
Now ain't that quaint?! (Say it with an American accent!) 
Yep, we took a selfie. The only one. 
Our welcome drink when we checked into our island holiday was a cold coconut with a staw stuck into it. Delicious.
This resort also makes the best Pinacoladas. We had one nearly every day just to test that they were consistent in their quality approach! 
Of course there is always a Fijian night. Here's the office manager, Nai, doing her bit in the act. The staff on this island are friendly and multi talented. One day they're a crew member on a catamaran, the next they're showing you how to weave a coconut leaf basket. Then they will turn around and play guitar in the evenings whilst you sip a cocktail. 

The warrior dances were amusing and scared the hell out of the little kids!

Going to Fiji you are forced to slip into "Fiji Time". Life is a little slower. No point rushing. Nothing wrong with that!
We loved the tropical flowers. So different to our Victorian gardens. Look at this beautiful champagne coloured hibiscus.
We hope to go back again. One day....Now it's back to reality... and the apples are ready for harvesting!