Crackers, pesto and for the love of good honey- ELC #9

Eat Local Challenge  || cityhippyfarmgirl 

Super duper easy rustic style olive oil crackers, with a carrot top pesto, creme fraiche and a little salt on top.

I had a proud moment with this one, all local, easy, seasonal, very frugal and kid friendly. Yes, kid friendly was the ultimate winner for me. They were gulping them down!

Bliss honey- south coast NSW || cityhippyfarmgirl

They were also keen on getting their hands on this honey. Honey is always a favourite staple in this household and local harvested honey always seem to crop up just at the right time, (like when we are about to run out.)

This one will be drizzled on natural yogurt for an easy after dinner dessert, popped into smoothies, spread on toast with tahini and baked with an oaty combination in the oven. Every drop used.

So where did it all come from?

flour- Demeter Farm Mill

olive oil- Lisborne Grove, Hunter Valley

carrot tops- Rita’s Farm, Kemps Creek

lemons- Champion’s Organics, Mangrove Mountain

creme fraiche- Pepe Saya

Honey- Sth Coast NSW (bought when we were visiting the area)

Eat Local Challenge || cityhippyfarmgirl

Interested in taking the Eat Local Challenge?

Just how local is local? Well this depends entirely on you. Only you know how you and your family eat. Raise the bar just a little from what you already do. If making sure the majority of your meal includes solely food produced in your country, than make that your challenge. If you want to make it a little trickier, go for produced in the same state…trickier still within 160km.

My aim is to really know where my food is coming from for at least one meal a month, (where I will be posting here in the last week of the month).

Eat Local Challenge #8

Eat Local Challenge #7

Eat Local Challenge #6

Eat Local Challenge #5

Eat Local Challenge #4

Eat Local Challenge #3

Eat Local Challenge #2

Eat Local Challenge #1

eat local challenge || cityhippyfarmgirl

Advertisements

Mead, not just for Vikings

plum mead || cityhippyfarmgirl

I’d never really paid much attention to mead. I had heard of it certainly, but had never tried it. Not because I didn’t want to, I just well…didn’t pay it much attention.

But then fermentation stepped into my life. Sourdough certainly. Sauerkraut became a staple. Pickles started appearing and then I got a box of plums.

See it was the box of plums that pushed me to the mead. I needed to process the whole box, but space (as always) was an issue. I couldn’t store that amount of jars of jam or chilli sauce, nor could I freeze a huge amount either. I went looking, flicked through the trusty bible, figuring there must be some other way of fermenting with plums I hadn’t thought of.

So that’s how mead stepped in.

I read, planned and hesitantly started. Within 24 hours there was fermentation action happening and that was just a little bit exciting. There are just three ingredients in there- honey, water and plums. That’s it, and then the bottle started bubbling like an excitable volcano. The excitement was contagious. I continually checked and stirred it. I thought it would take about a week for bubbles to ease off but it only took 5 days (Sydney, Australia summer time). Strained and bottled, the taste test.

It was good. I thought.

I say I thought, because at this stage, I still had no idea what mead tasted like, so had nothing to gauge it by. It’s hard to tell whether there is much alcohol content. The test would be to down the bottle on an empty stomach and see what happens, but that didn’t seem likely to happen.

Ten days into the fermentation, (second fermentation period) the mead developed a thin mould layer. It had a closed lid, so I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I did what any hack city hippy would do, and shook it in, ignored it and popped it in the fridge.

But not before I had a good smell of it. I have finally gotten to trust my nose. With all my fermenting experiments I always smell them along the way. Observing differences, subtle changes and really trying to identify when and where things start to change. I trust my nose and if I’m not sure, well I don’t use it- The Plum Mead smelt fine, and while several weeks later into the fermentation process the taste was fairly underwhelming, I am keen to try it again.

golden coloured mead || cityhippyfarmgirl

Next, I started on a Honey Mead, (or honey wine). Raw honey and unchlorinated water, that’s it.

Now according to Sandor Katz, (who I was lucky enough to hear speak recently) raw honey already contains abundant yeasts- with pasteurisation or cooking killing them off.

“The yeasts are inactive so long as the honey’s water content remains at or below 17 percent (as it is in fully mature honey). But increase the water content just a little bit beyond  that and the yeasts wake right up.”

And so I did. I woke those little things up with a ratio of 1:4, following the instructions, and intermittently smelling it. At the end of three weeks I have a lovely light (green) sweet tasting mead. I can’t liken it to anything else I’ve ever had, but it’s good and I think this could be the beginning of many more meads to come.

So what do my two experiments with mead making have to do with Vikings?

Well according to Norse mythology, mead seems to be heavily linked with the Norse god Odin and along with it, anyone that drinks mead may become a poet or scholar. I’m still waiting for poetic inspiration, but perhaps I simply haven’t made or drunk enough of the honey gold beverage?

************

All of my mead making inspired by 

The Art of Fermentation- Sandor Katz

Little Nut Bars and a keep it simple reminder

cityhippyfarmgirl

Last Saturday I baked.

I baked and I baked, and I baked. I didn’t set out with having a baking day in mind, it just sort of turned out like that. A baking day that snuck up on me. I didn’t mind, I ran with it. I had ideas in my head, and I really just wanted to try them. Thing is I tried too hard. After a whole days baking I had a table full of food to feed my family for the coming week, and a sink full of dishes, but was I happy with them?

The Date and Pecan bread, yes- but nothing really new there.

cityhippyfarmgirl

The Muesli Biscuits, yes. (Although one tray was over cooked as I got distracted trying to do too many things.)

not lasagne

The Rocky Road Brownie was a complete and utter mess, mostly due to the fact that I’d forgotten to turn the oven down after baking bread at a really hot temperature, (the marshmallows certainly didn’t appreciate this.) And yes, it does look like lasagne.

The first tray of Chocolate Honey Cardamom Buns- looked like I had been blind folded while shaping them, and the taste was just plain bland. The second tray looked better, and tasted better, but oozed it’s contents every where, and certainly didn’t have any wow factor.

What was left?

The little Nut Bars. They certainly looked ok, but would they stand up to being flicked out of the mini muffin tray? (Jeez, maybe I really should have just put it all in a lined tray like was suggested.) I didn’t want to find out.

I wanted to go for a bike ride. Leave the mountain of dishes and ride with the wind in my hair. And so I did. A quick 15km’s later and I was back in the kitchen, ready to find out if the brownies were as bad as they looked, (hell no!) hoping the dishes had miraculously disappeared, (they hadn’t) and whether those little nut bars would come out (they did.)

So what did I learn from the days baking? Simple cooking is still the best. Nothing fancy, nothing complicated, just good quality ingredients put together. I know this, I always say this. But I still seem to have days where I need to remind myself of it.

So with a days baking behind me, and some tasty little nut morsels to nibble on by my side….now I just had to work out what on earth we were having for dinner.

cityhippyfarmgirl

Little Nut Bars

(inspired by this recipe at the always delicious Green Kitchen Stories)

8 chopped medjool dates

100g whole almonds

100g crushed peanuts

100g sunflower seeds

100g sesame seeds

a pinch of Murray River Salt

2 heaped dessert spoonfuls of coconut oil

2 heaped dessert spoonfuls of local honey

In a pot gently combine the coconut oil and honey together. In a bowl pour mixture over the rest of the ingredients, and mix together. Either press down into a  lined baking tray or a non-stick mini muffin tray. Pop into the fridge until firm.

Dark Chocolate Honey Ganache Cones

 a little lurker

Dark Chocolate Honey Ganache…

I had been thinking about this combination for at least a year. Dark chocolate ganache… a strong honey… and perhaps some chopped lightly toasted hazelnuts wouldn’t go astray either.

Now pastry or no pastry? A tart could work…

Then I saw the mini cones, done. How easy would that be. Construction began.

Little Monkey liked the sounds of it, he wasn’t leaving my side. No no, not for a second. That little barnacle was tricky to pry off without a wayward chocolatey spoon clasped in his hands.

Left over dark chocolate ganache from the little fella’s birthday cake. Stir in some Leatherwood Honey, and pipe it in to some mini cones. Easy, and now I’m thinking of other possibilities based on this little combination to play with.

What do you think might work?

gluten and sugar free crumble

I didn’t feel like sugar and I didn’t feel like flour… but I did feel like dessert. The rhubarb was fast becoming friends with the flacid celery in the fridge and I still had some squirrelled away blueberries in the freezer. A crumbley thing it was. Lots of similar variations of this had been popping up around the blogosphere. It’s funny how a food dish can sneak it’s way in, and suddenly everyone is happily eating a variation of the same thing. 

So did rhubarb without sugar work?

It probably didn’t work as well as it could have. However, the honey was a decent trade off and completely passable if you were going easy on the sugar and didn’t want any gluten though. The Monkeys had two serves of this, so it certainly passed their palate test. Mr Chocolate got through it and declared yes it was good… but the last one was better, (with sugar and flour.)

Blueberry Rhubarb Crumble

(gluten/ sugar free)

Bunch of chopped rhubarb and a punnet of frozen blueberries

in the microwave for 3 minutes

while that’s cooking

blitz 1 cup of toasted almonds/hazelnuts/linseed in food processor (chunks not crumbs)

add 1 tsp vanilla and 1 tsp cinnamon

then 3 tablespoons honey

mix it round and pop on the top of the fruit

into the oven at 180C until golden

bees and honey

I was watching some bees recently. Silently going about their business, buzzing around from one flower to another. Watching how their pollen sacks got more and more full. One poor bee could hardly keep himself up he was so laden down with pollen goodies. It was so peaceful just standing still and watching them.

From where I was standing I could see about 50 bees all gathering their pollen to take back to their hives and create liquid gold. Honey.

We had passed some hives earlier on, and it was quite possible that these little fellas would be making the 4km trek back to these same hives. Bees may travel for up to 10km in search of nectar, pollen and water if they have to. So would it be these same bees? Or were there enough flowers in their immediate hive area. In an ideal setting a bee would travel just 200 metres in search of food.

Within Australia many bee keepers will move their hives along with the changing flowering blossoms. By doing this the apiarist helps the bees find the best nectar around. The hives are usually moved at night when the bees are sleepy, and tucked up in bed.

Five little things about bees and honey

1/ Bees talk in vibrations

2/ Honey doesn’t go off.

3/ Honey can be linked back to Egyptian times.

4/ Honey can be used to soothe a sore throat, ease a coughing fit and aid sleep.

5/ Honey is a natural exfoliant when used as a face mask. No need for expensive chemical laden products.

The European honey bee was introduced to Australia in the early 1800’s. This is the type of bee that most commercial apiarists will use. There are native Australian bees, (approximately 1500) however the majority of these only produce enough honey for their own use. Only 10 out of the 1500 types of native bees produce and store honey. Sonya from The Novice Bee Keeper is a great place to start if you are interested in keeping bees or just want to know more of the processes involved. Spice and More has also just started up some backyard bees, for another interesting peek at beekeeping.

Honey is such a magnificent product. I can’t help but be a little in awe of it when I am spooning it out and drizzling it on some toast. The flavours that can be so different. The subtle changes in the different types. If you want a more flavoursome honey, try a darker variety. Generally these will be the stronger in flavour ones. Here in Australia the majority of our honey comes from the hundreds of types of eucalypts, with a few other native plants added in for more subtle flavours.

Leatherwood (from Tasmania) stringy bark, yellow box, and blue gum are just some of the types of honey produced here in Australia. So much tastier than a blended bland super market honey.

With that production of honey also comes fertilization. Fertilization of so many crops that we depend on both here in Australia and the rest of the world. (A list here on the extensive amounts of crops requiring pollination from bees.) What will happen if that pollination doesn’t happen?…Why wouldn’t it happen? Pesticides, parasites, disease, loss of habitat, farming methods all are possible contributors to the world’s downfall of bees.  Colony Collapse Disorder is a name that has been thrown around a lot in the last 5 years. Are we going to be hearing of it even more in the next 5?

Did you know that the honey bee speaks Parisian street slang? Many city centre roof tops are producing honey from their own bee hive or two. Helping out with pollination within the city limits and producing gorgeous honey for its city dwellers living downstairs. I’ll be right back dear, just popping up to the roof for some honey… I can certainly see the appeal in that.

So what can you do?

* support local honey production, buy some of the liquid gold.

* plant bee (and other pollinating critters) friendly plants. You don’t need a whole garden. Even a single pot is something. Some plants bees are attracted to, lavender, bottle brush, eucalyptus, rosemary and basil. These are just a tiny few of the possibilities for plant attracting. Have a look in your area and see what is available and suitable to the climate.

* If you have the right space consider some back yard (or rooftop) bees.

There is so much information on bees, home bee keeping, colony collapse disorder, honey that I have only just skimmed the surface with this post. So many things to think about while watching the next little buzzing bee quietly buzzing about doing its thing.