the vegetable that everyone forgot- Frugal Friday

Cauliflower.

Remember that one? It’s got a bad rep, as the tastless tree like cousin of broccoli. It’s not though.

In season now, it’s cheap, tasty and adaptable to oodles of dishes… just right for Frugal Friday.

Cauliflower and Potato Soup

A splash of olive oil

Half a head of cauliflower

One large zucchini

Six small dutch cream or kipfler potatoes (the waxy kind)*

One cube vegetable stock (or your own if you have it)

water

Cook it up until soft. Then blitz it up with a hand held blender. Serve with a scattering of lightly fried sourdough breadcrumbs, for some textural crunch.

* Remember all potatoes are not created equal. A good potato can be the making of your dish.

Advertisements

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.

******

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

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.

********

Any idea what the cherry quota should be?

*******

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

More information on Australian cherries here.

piggy options for a city gal

To market, to market,

to buy a fat pig

home again, home again,

jiggety jig…

Today it’s all about the pig.

It’s been a lengthy porcine process, searching and asking around, and it’s still far from over. What I wanted, was to find some piggy products coming from a pig that has had a chance to frollick in the paddocks, rolled in the mud and has nuzzled the earth. A pig that has been farmed in an ethical fashion. Has a taste a good pig should and can be bought without handing over a small mountain of money. A pig, that I could find out a bit more from the people who had reared it, and of the whole process of birth to abbatoir for the ham intended pig.

Could I do it? What piggy options does a city girl have?

Living in the city surrounded by more city, shopping in city food areas… is it possible to get that kind of information and pay those kind of dollars without it becoming a pain in the pig trotters?

Let’s see.

probably the best tasting ham I've had

First up. Pig products are available everywhere. A lot of people like their porcine products. Bacon and ham get regular look ins for many family meals. Butchers and super markets sell a whole range of products for reasonable prices. The ham, salami, pork products that are readily available however, usually come from conventionally farmed beasts. Animals that are farmed intensively, with breeds selected for their rapid growth and maximum dollar.

A taste comparison between the two is easily distinguished. From what we had bought in the past, a comparison between a wet salty pale ham compared to a much more flavourful darker sweet meat, was really hard to compare. They weren’t even in the same field…*ahem*

I was looking for free-range, heritage breed pork products that I could access relatively easily. I didn’t want it to be eaten every day of the week but as a special occasion in small amounts every few weeks or so. A bacon, lettuce and tomato roll once a month, yep that would do nicely.

Supermarket, nothing to be found there, standard pork products. Butchers in my local area… The conventional ones either raised an eyebrow and scowled at me, within an indignate no, they didn’t know where exactly the pig was from, and yes of course it was free-range if it says it is. Now I don’t want to be a poop, but if it’s free-range, I’d love to know where it’s from and what sort of breeds they are using. If they don’t know, could they find out. Difficult. One organic butcher in my area came up with the goods though. Pasture Perfect ham and bacon, yes ma’am, up north somewhere they come from. With a little googling around, yes indeed. Pasture Perfect is based in Ashford, NSW. (Have a peek at that their website if you would like to see some truly cute pictures of their black Berkshire  pigs.)

I liked what I saw but what other options are there within my area, so I delved a little deeper.

Feather and Bone– Suppliers of sustainably raised meat. Has a large range of regular products along with some seasonal meats. Sign up for a really informative weekly email and they’ll also let you know what’s on offer for the week, and importantly where the meat has come from.

Melanda Park– located in Ebenezer, NSW. “A marriage of heritage and modern breeds…” Distributed by Feather and Bone.

Ormiston Free Range Pork– located in Mudgee. Offers farm visits and runs pig handling courses. Products can be delivered to certain neighbouring areas and are sold through one Sydney retail outlet along with Pyrmont Growers Markets.

Tewinga– located in northern NSW. Distruted by Feather and Bone.

Pasture Perfect– Certified organic pasture raised Berkshire pork. Stockists to buy from.

At the farmers markets I’ve been going to lately, pork products is not something I’m regularly coming across, it seems to be a bit hit and miss. Some times the products are there and sometimes not. I did see a stall a few days ago that had a range of products from South Australia. When I was in Hobart Rare Foods also had a great looking range, but not a lot since. Maybe with customer demand the market will increase and I will see more of these products (and local ones) regularly at my usual haunts. Or maybe I just haven’t searched hard enough. Unfortunately I don’t feel I can just accept “free-range” without questioning exactly how they’ve been kept and how free range that actually means.

Our food environment seems to be rapidly changing and it’s really hard to keep up with what’s happening. For the moment it seems generally most people are happy to eat conventionally farmed pig, in time to come I’m wondering whether this will change. For me, I would much rather pay more for my meat, eat it sparingly and know where it has come from. Knowing how and where the animal was raised, and what sort of breed it was. Compared to not knowing and paying less. Yes, it takes more of an effort, and may not be as convenient as buying at the nearest supermarket or corner butcher…but maybe things weren’t meant to be so convenient?

Piggy Interests-

Black Berkshire– Kuro (black) Buta (pig)- A heritage breed of pig originating from Britain. Prized meat in the pig world.

Rare Breeds Trust of Australia

* From one corner of the world, to another. I know I’m lucky enough to have readers from all over and this company information won’t be relevant to a lot of people. So please feel free to mention a local company that is truly free-range, organic or you know more about the particular breeds used and how they are reared. It may help others in your own local area find these great products, that are quite often harder to find.

Bonjour, my little brioche

The Monkeys and I were on a mission. Early to the farmers markets and then home again before it got too hot.

With Monkey Boy on the scooter, Little Monkey in the pram and me running, we actually got there in reasonable time. The sun was out, the sky was blue. Talks about turtles and all their merits while we ran and scootered along. A good start to the morning.

I had chevre on my mind, so once at the markets I set out for the Willowbrae stall. Eeeek, it wasn’t there! I scan again, sigh, there will be no goat cheese to be had this week for us.

To my right I hear a cheery “Bonjour”, it seems I have paused outside the French Patisserie stall…these things happen sometimes. The very friendly Malik entices Monkey Boy with a brioche. His eyes light up, eyebrows raise, as he starts to nod enthusiastically.

Actually Mama, Little Monkey can have that one, I’d like a chocolate croissant instead.” He says eagerly.

It’s hard to resist all the delicious looking pastries…

If I half close my eyes and breathe in deep perhaps I can be magically transported away to a French countryside village. A small curb side table, my back to the warming autumn sun. My cafe au lait is being carefully brought out on a little tray accompanied by my still warm from the oven brioche. Pierre my waiter, pauses for a second first to ensure that everything is ok, his gentle old hand lightly touches my elbow. His eyes follow to where mine have drawn, we both gaze out over to a field of sunflowers on one side and rows of grapes on the other. Oui, oui…tres bien…

ACTUALLY, I want that one Mama!

Snapped back to reality I am back in the markets, Monkey Boy is pestering me for his croissant and Pierre, his brioche and cafe au lait are gone.

I do instead have the very friendly Malik. Malik has a cake or pastry for every palate that comes through the markets I’m sure of it. Starting his family run business 8 years ago, he saw a gap in the market for really great French patisserie goodies. He divides his time between 3 lots of farmers markets within Sydney, as well as supplying various retailers throughout the city. He is also soon to open a shop in Abbotsford, that will  include some of their organic range produce as well as those dream enducing brioche.

.

he’s a bit shy…

 

Mindful grocery shopping

Shopping- I really try and buy the weekly groceries as organic, locally produced, Australian owned, as little added numbers/preservatives etc,  minamally packaged as possible, and still within a budget. This can be a really time consuming thing to do, due to checking and rechecking – (well up until recently it has been.) I can usually alternate between two different main supermarkets, and know now which ones regularly have the products that I want. Add in some farmers markets, fruit shop and health food shop and we are away!

This has been no easy feat! I think it has taken the best part of the last year for me to now know most brands which fall in to my buying categories. For a long time it was reading the backs of EVERYTHING, checking out ingredients, where its made, who the company is owned by etc etc. Shopping could take a really long time.

Last weekend  after a  shop at the local main competitor super market (that will see us through the week), groceries for 4 people, $150 dollars spent, only one item made out of Australia- toothbrushes were made in Singapore. Thats pretty good I thought.

So what is my point with all this? (bit tired today but I’m getting there…)

People have become completely removed from what they are buying. .

I don’t want to just buy my packaged meat, neatly cut up in stir fry pieces with no idea where it comes from. I don’t want my pears to come from China, when perfectly delicious ones are grown in Victoria. I don’t want my chocolate ingredients to come from 4 different parts of the world to be put together in a factory that is still on the other side of the world and then shipped to me and bought for $4.50 a block on the supermarket shelf (thats not good food miles!)

What I would like is for people to be a bit more questioning of what is actually in that jar of food they have just bought, question where the meat is from, is the dairy from free range cows, and does the supermarket offer a more locally produced chocolate product? If people even slightly changed their buying habits, super markets would follow suit and produce on the shelves what is selling the most. Look at how far fair trade coffee has come in recent years.

Its really easy to look at a shopping list and just go bang bang bang in the trolley and dashing out the checkout with not a clue of how many food miles you have just clocked up, and how many additives and preservatives you have just added. Every one does this as its easy! Its convenient. We all lead busy lives and at the end of the day when your knackered, the kids are whingey, you still have to make dinner and 50 other things to do after that, that you think “as quick as possible please”.

So, how to change current habits? Even if you started off small it would make a difference.

Animal Vegetable Miracle- a book that tells the story of how our family was changed by one year of deliberately eating food produced in the place where they lived. Loved it!