the community garden

Our local council is trialing a new community food foragers garden. I really love the idea of this and hope that it takes off,  just getting bigger and bigger.

Imagine city living where on each high density living block there was a community kitchen garden readily accessible for all the locals. An attached community compost bin, for all those to access that didn’t have backyards. Seasonal food grown within a hop skip and a jump of where you live, with composting scraps being used for the same garden while decreasing all the food scraps being sent to land fill.

It doesn’t seem like a big ask, does it?

It just makes sense. Cutting back on waste having to be collected by council. Making more efficient use of space. Encouraging a community spirit. I’m sure on each block there would be at least a couple of willing people who would love to regularly tend the small edible space. If people are living in a high density living area, green spots are hard to come by and the chance to actually dip your fingers in to some soil and tend a little foliage would be incredibly appealing to a lot of inner city dwellers.

More green spaces in the city are needed. Whether it be roof tops, street corners, reclaimed concrete areas, where ever they may be. However,  first people need to ask for it, and be encouraging when trials are put into place. Be vocal, spread the good word. Whispered words of encouragement is what gets ideas moving. Spoken words and acts of enthusiasm keep them there.

If everyone’s local councils started up just one food foragers garden in their area, it was successful, and people respected the space. Surely this could mean the start of many more to come?

The benefits of a nation wide scheme like this?… Oh can you imagine.

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Do you have any community gardens or food foraging gardens in your area?

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apple and oat muffin season

Slack jawed, and with my elbow cast at an odd angle, my eyelids creaked open. It seemed I had fallen asleep. These things happen sometimes. It’s  called the sneaky nap. Not a nap that you sneak in, more a nap that sneaks up on you.

There you are going about your business, and then suddenly… whooshka! You wake up slack jawed and no feeling in your arm. The sneaky nap as struck again.

Bleary eyed I staggered out to the lounge room only to find things were looking a little different. Very different. I couldn’t put my finger on it. The Monkeys were quiet and going about their monkey business, surprisingly not causing havoc at that particular moment. So it wasn’t them.

I continued looking about. Things looked clearer, clearer than they had for quite some time. I didn’t think I had napped for that long, so it can’t have been clarity of thought that had returned. I squinted… then it dawned on me, that was it. The fact that I was squinting. Squinting in my lounge room. Squinting in the afternoon autumnal sunlight. At that same moment Mr Chocolate cheerily walked in with a wad of newspaper in hand, and proceeded back to the windows. The light was different…

That was it. The windows were clean!

To celebrate the soft autumn light, and to use up some seasonal apples, Apple Oat Muffins it was.

Apple and Oat Muffins

150g softened butter

3/4 cup raw sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup of whole oats

1 1/2 cups self raising flour

2 beaten eggs

3 grated apples *

Cream butter and sugar together. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Spoon mixture into lined muffin tray. Sprinkle with a little extra raw sugar. Bake at 190C for approximately 25 minutes.

*Apple season runs from January to May.

cherry season

I wonder just how many cherries a person is supposed to eat in one sitting?

What’s the limit? Where’s that unclear line between that’s sufficient thank you very much, compared to Oh crikey, THAT is rather a lot young lady.

I don’t know, I really don’t. That line is decidedly murky at the moment. It feels likes it’s been years since I had cherries, let alone good cherries, but this year… oh la la. Summer has looked decidedly cherry shaped… and I’m rather loving that.

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Any idea what the cherry quota should be?

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It’s nearing the end of our season but support your locally grown cherries.

More information on Australian cherries here.

Orange and Passionfruit Jelly

I find making jams and marmalades really satisfying. If I don’t make any every couple of months it all begins to feel a little edgy.

Cook the fruit up, jar it, wipe them all down, and then line the jars up with all the others sitting in my darkened cupboard. A little contented sigh can be heard and life continues on.

Saves us a whole bag of money in doing so, and I get to preserve the season in a little jar. Summer is still tasted in midwinter, like with my Vanilla Plum Jam, and now winter can still be enjoyed (until I run out again) with this Orange and Passionfruit Jelly. Oranges from my dad’s backyard tree and passionfruit given to me, I needed something sweeter than marmalade as for the most part it this was going to be used on The Monkeys natural yogurt.

I used to get really impatient with making jellys. The whole drip, drip, drip…thing for hours. I wanted results quickly, not in 12 hours time. However now, I think I appreciate the whole process of it a bit better. I like being able to see that dripping bag get smaller and smaller, knowing that soon, a few more jars of golden goodness will be lining up with their counter parts and doing their preserves-in-the-pantry kind of thing.


Orange and Passionfruit Jelly

oranges

1 apple

2 passionfruit

2 limes

Oranges and apple peeled and quartered (a bit over a kilo). Into the pot with enough water to cover it. Cook for about an hour until all soft. Hang from some muslin (or jelly bag) and drain for about 10-12 hours or over night. Measure your orange juice, add juice of two limes and passionfruit, (I had about a litre of liquid) into a large pot and bring to a soft boil. Gradually add sugar, (I used a kilo- equal amounts juice to sugar.) Simmer until wrinkle stage or passes the saucer test.

* Don’t go and make a phone call while it’s cooking and leaving the stirring spoon in…. as it may boil over and burnt sugar and juice isn’t particularly fun to clean off.

chocolate and strawberries

Chocolate and strawberries…

Strawberries and chocolate…

There is a lot to like with those combinations.

Lots of ideas, lots of variations to play with…. whatever you do though…don’t do anything like the very average cake I made. Good quality dark chocolate, check. Lovely tasty strawberries whizzed up to make a beautiful red mush, check. Combined together to make a cake that Little Monkey and I refused to eat, Monkey Boy ate very slowly and Mr Chocolate asked whether he had to finish it? Not a success…nope not at all.

Never mind, we still have strawberries and chocolate.

I also finally finished a crocheted hat in strawberry and chocolate colours. Still learning, still trialing, but now I can wear my funny lumpy warm efforts. Chocolate alpaca wool from my mums alpacas, spun by my mum, crocheted by me, and keeping my ears warm. Along with my fingerless gloves, (in strawberry and chocolate.) Lessons learnt…. alpaca wool is lovely and warm, it’s good to make stuff, and taking a picture of your hand and head is hard…quite hard.

Never mind, we still have strawberries and chocolate.


Blueberry Frangipane

3am and I’m sitting in an armchair next to Little Monkey’s hospital bed when he broke his leg. The armchair was my bed for the duration, swamped by blankets I’d made a nest for myself so I could keep one eye closed for sleep and one eye watching carefully over the little fella as he slept.

In my hand however was a the most delicious thing I had encountered for quite a while. Not hospital food, but a frangipane fruit tart. Brought in earlier, by my very thoughtful sister from Brasserie Bread.

I’m not sure whether it was the fact that I was eating it at 3am that made it delicious, or it really was the best darn tasting tart I had ever tasted. Either way, it was superb and I couldn’t get enough of it. Fast forward 2 months, and that hopsital stay is happily a distant crappy foggy memory, but that tart….

That tart, was the kind of tart that makes you sit back, and let those taste buds reminisce. I put the tart in my, will have to give that a crack one day… thought pile and then went about my business. Until Amy at Tiny Tea Room posted on a pastry-less almond Pear Tart. Now with Amy’s stunning photography I’m sure she could make a white bread cheese sandwich appealing, but non-the less that sweet almondy goodness was brought back to my mind, front and centre…. and no pastry? Even quicker!

I wanted not crazy sweet, vanilla-y tones, and a gritty type texture….oh and easy. Let’s play…

Blueberry Frangipane

150gms softened butter

1/2 cup raw sugar

2 tsp vanilla essence

3 eggs

150gms almond meal* (1 1/2 cups)

100gms course semolina (1/2 cup)

125gms blueberries

Cream butter and sugar together, Add the vanilla and eggs. Stir through almond meal and semolina. Blueberries on top. Bake in a greased, floured tin (approx 23cm square) at 180C for about 30minutes or until light golden.

* I lightly toasted whole almonds, skin on, and then blitzed them in the blender to make the almond meal.

Verdict? It didn’t quite match that 3am frangipane fruit tart but I was happy with it. Super easy, and really quick. I think this one might become a regular favourite. You can easily up the sugar if you want it sweeter, and swap the blueberries for other seasonal fruit.

picking your own blueberries

Standing in Berry Sourdough Bakery, waiting for coffee. My eye catches sight of a rather enticing book; Locavore, A foodies journey through the Shoalhaven. Hello, what have we here?..The Shoalhaven is an area that sits just south of Sydney, and according to this book there is a whole wealth of wonderful food deliciousness just within reach. Now I already knew of a few, but to discover more? Well, I had to buy the book didn’t I?

One of the places mentioned is Clyde River Berry Farm. A place where you can pick your own fruit. Primarily a blueberry farm, it also has a variety of other berries, peaches, plums, nectarines, honey and jams.  A slight detour on a dirt road and we were there. Obviously very popular, as the place seems to be rather busy. It’s bakingly hot, the middle of the day and we still had a long way to drive with The Monkeys. We wander through the orchard rows, picking blueberries, nectarines, plums and peaches as we go. At least now, we had something to munch on in the car.

Munch we did. It was so lovely to be able to taste fresh fruit. Really, fresh fruit. Selected by the grubby paws of Little Monkey and Monkey Boy, nothing could be finer.

Some Blueberry tips:

* Let the berries stay on the bush for a week once ripened.

* Once the fruit has been picked, it can stay in the fridge for up to a week plus.

* If still uneaten after a week, can be easily frozen.

* Don’t wash them first before freezing, as they won’t defrost well.

Awhile ago a reader suggested I try growing blueberries after hearing of my rather dismal gardening in pots effort. The next week I went out and bought a bush. I still haven’t killed it, (hooray!) it seems to be quite happy in a pot, no critters have demolished it, and I have now tasted my very own blueberries from it. So Lotte, if you are still reading…Thank you.

sourdough blueberry pancakes

Clyde River Berry Farm is open December- January. 10am-6pm.

Farmers Markets- a love story

Farmers Markets. Oh how I love you all.

Good ones that is. The ones where it really is locally produced food. Food that has been made with love and care. Food that isn’t mass-produced and tastes divine.

Be it a crispy celery picked the day before, a hand crafted cheese, some aromatic fair trade coffee, an organic free range piece of meat, a back yard grown punnet of strawberries or some lovingly tempered chocolate.

I love it all.

There is nothing that gets me happier than a morning spent in a great Farmers Market. I feel like a kid in candy store. The promise of all things delicious. I try not to clap my hands with glee, but I tell you, when its a specially good one. A little clapping with glee may happen.

Good food miles- check.

No unneccessary additives- check.

Different ideas- check

Supporting small businesses- check

Super fresh- check

All looks delicious- check

Having recently travelled north for 10 days, I was lucky enough to go to 3 lots of farmers  markets that were just beautifully timed for our holiday. (and yes, I may have planned our holidays around one of them..)

Getting to see what the locals are producing is wonderful, and it’s certainly not long before my purse is hemorrhaging money,  my fridge is looking bountiful, and my tummy is looking rotund.

One of the markets was in Port Macquarie for the Hastings Valley Markets, when a stall caught my eye…

Goat Meat. Now this red meat I had been wondering about for some time. The taste, the cost and where to buy it, as it sure as eggs isn’t bought any where near where I live. So whacked it in the freezer and to be cooked at a later date.

I was also was very happy to see some locally produced garlic. Why is it the beginning of April already and I’m yet to see any Australian garlic in the local shops? It’s the garlic season people! Come on. I don’t want my garlic to be chemically treated and come from Argentina, China, and Mexico if it doesn’t have to.

Some gorgeous tomatoes were bought. Tomatoes that actually taste like a tomato, and has not had the taste bred out of them in order to look good. These were knocked back as quick as I good get them out of the bag by the monkeys.

I love buying things that I’m not sure what they are, or have heard off but not eaten or cooked before.

Its the taste sensation possibility factor that I love the most.

I didn’t get any great sour doughs. They didn’t seem to be happening which was a bit disappointing as they are a firm favourite with us. However, I did get some knock out individual sticky date puddings the size of tennis balls. Even I, had to pause mid way through eating one of these little beauties that had a grand total of 57grams of fat in each serve. Oh sweet mama!….best not to think of it really. I didn’t, and bravely soldiered on.

I can see all our holidays planned in times to come, planned around when the local foody markets are on.

Farmers markets and possibly where to get a great massage… two very important things when thinking of ones next holiday.