tomatoes, a tart and just a smidge of pride

tomatoes || cityhippyfarmgirl

The quietening effect of looking at the tomatoes on the bench even surprised me a little. Eyes slowly scanning over their little green surfaces, searching for that hint of red that would soon burst through. Their tiny foliage hats slowly shrivelling as their connection with the plant in which had shoved them into their small tomatoey glory was now gone.

Unceremoniously yanked out, their yellowing leaves and and wilted limbs telling me it was time. The caterpillars had also moved in, my vigilant watching had wavered and they had seized their opportunity. A greedy multilegged stampede towards the prize line- launching themselves on to the not yet ready fruit. With green tomato stuffed through out their squishy bodies. They would seemingly wave to me in indignation and a last hungry effort as I plucked and squished them off in annoyance.

It was me or them, and I had no intention of it being me. This was my biggest crop this year. No easy feat growing from those small pots in the midst of the concrete city courtyard. No easy feat.

tomato tart || cityhippyfarmgirl

So it was with a smidge of growers pride I made this tart. A simple one, with onions, mozzarella, fetta and those sweet little tomatoes.

Home grown little tomatoes…I salute you.

tomato and fetta tart || cityhippyfarmgirl

Tomato, onion and Fetta Tart

Pastry

200gms cold butter

2 cups plain flour (300gms)

110gms natural yogurt

In a food processor pulse flour and butter until resembles bread crumbs. Tip out into a bowl and add yogurt. Mix through, a quick knead until a smooth consistency and then roll out pastry on a lightly floured board. Roll to the thickness you want (I find this amount is enough for two large sized tarts, and adding it to a greased tart tray.

as many cherry tomatoes as you have

half a finely chopped spanish onion

about 100g of mozzarella

one small block of crumbled fetta

one sprig of rosemary

Lay all ingredients in a layered fashion until it reaches the top of the pastry sides of the uncooked pastry shell and bake until it smells delicious at 190C.

ripening tomatoes || cityhippyfarmgirl

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Eat Local

EATLocal- cityhippyfarmgirl

I’d often thought I would like to do one of those ‘eat local’ challenges. Problem was time was ticking and I was still just thinking about it.

I needed to get up and out there, doing it. I already think our family’s way of eating is fairly mindful, eating with a conscious but I wanted that extra push, that little bit more. If I was a single person I could push it a lot, a hell of a lot more, but I’m not. So in consideration to my three still small children with sometimes picky taste buds I’m going to set the bar just a little higher than what it is. See how we go and then hopefully move on from there. Mr Chocolate’s taste buds are fairly in tune with mine, so as long as I don’t serve platefuls of sauerkraut and buckwheat he’s reasonably easy to please on the dinner front.

So what’ the challenge?

Once a month, a meal created from local food. Pretty simple really.

Also keeping in mind-organic, free range, spray free, from the farmers market, garden grown, as little packaging as possible, and knowing where it has all been sourced from.  Many of our family meals incorporate a lot of these aspects already, but as one set meal, knowing exactly where everything is coming from, or coming as close as I can anyway, (while still keeping in mind- divided emerging taste buds and importantly a budget.)

We live in a small space in the city, growing extra food is simply not an option for us. BUT there are other foody options and I’m pretty excited to find out what a few more of them might be.

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Local Harvest is a great organisation that runs similar challenges every year. Have a peek for more details on how you can get involved.

Along with what ever I cook up once a week, I’ll also add any great finds or problems I had during the past month- an Eat Local post will be done in the last week of the month.

How about you? Have you done this before? Have you thought about it? Want to give it a crack with me?

Eat Local- cityhippyfarmgirl

Strawberry Season

strawberries

strawberry crumble

strawberries

I had plans of pie. Strawberry pie. It sounded good and I had it laid out in my head. I certainly had the strawberries, but on finding myself in the kitchen…well just quietly, I couldn’t be bothered.

Crumble sounded like a simpler option, and that it was. It took ten minutes to pull together and about 20 minutes in the oven. Easy? You betcha, and at two minutes thirty five to be eaten? Well that was also an easy one.

Strawberry Crumble

100g melted butter

1 tsp vanilla

zest of a lemon

75g raw sugar

75g almond meal

150g self raising flour

hulled, washed and roughly chopped strawberries

Strawberries into an oven proof dish. Mix all of your remaining ingredients together and spoon mixture on top. Into an oven at 180C for about 20 or so minutes or until golden.

how to make sauerkraut

sauerkrautcityhippyfarmgirl

I felt pretty satisfied looking down at my kitchen bench. Sure it looked ridiculously crowded, and if someone had asked for a sandwich at that particular moment, I would have had to point them in the opposite direction…but. There was still that sense of satisfaction.

Satisfaction in the form of my bench tops being full of bacteria, and lots of it. There was the ever-present sourdough starter bulking up and bubbling away, there was the slowly sprouting buckwheat, gaining little green tails. There were kefir grains in the wings waiting, and the new guy who only speaks a little English… Herr Sauerkraut.

I’d finally taken the plunge, and had jumped in. I had been put off by pictures, wafty smells and stories of mouldy cabbages. Also the length of time to do it and having no bench space or proper pot to make it in. Saskia and I had talked of it awhile ago and then there it sat. A suggestion, a hint, sauerkraut were you going to happen?

sauerkraut

first day

I looked up lots of recipes and decided that a quick and easy version using sugar, and vinegar seemed like a good option. Twenty minutes cooking no problem!

But I held back. I make sourdough, I make yogurt, I sprout things, I wanted to try kefir, was I really going to be content with a twenty minute version or should I try and do it properly?

Well, put it like that and there sat my answer…get going girl.

Half a cabbage cut as finely as possible. In a bowl with two teaspoons of salt and crunch it all up in your hands. Breaking it down, releasing the juices. (Unless you have arms of steel, I crunched it a bit and then left it, going back and forth over the next half an hour or so.) Then in a clean glass jar, squash it all in with the juices sitting at the top, (it breaks down a lot.) My half cabbage was quickly nothing in size and I wished I had more to put in there. Lesson learnt for next time. I’d kept one outer leaf to put over the top of the cabbage mixture and then some muslin and a rubber band over top.

cityhippyfarmgirl

a few days in, and the colour has changed

Now the waiting. One week to 6 months is how long you can leave it. Due to teeny tiny kitchen bench spaces, I was not going to be waiting 6 months. Projects were lining up on the bench tops and a week was all I was giving it.

Taking the muslin off, the outer cabbage leaf out and sticking my nose in, what do we have? Bless my birkinstocks if we don’t have sauerkraut.

That was ridiculously easy, and now I’ve got a lovely batch of sauerkraut sitting in my fridge ready to be teamed up with…well pretty much everything, (including the reuben sandwich.)

sauerkraut

 How about you, have you made sauerkraut? Does the fermenting world entice you or scare the pants off you?

Cauliflower, Leek and Potato soup- Frugal Friday

cauliflower leek and potato soup

If I had opened our vegetable box as a kid, and seen cauliflower looking right back at me- I may well have wept a little.

At the very least I probably would have silently gagged.

Not now though. Now, when I see a little cauliflower peeking from a corner, in the Foodconnect box I do a little happy dance. I can’t get enough of it. Teamed up with some leek and potatoes also from the box, (and locally grown) you have yourself an easy peasy seasonal dinner. 

Cauliflower, Leek and Potato Soup

one chopped large leek

3 chopped large potatoes

half a head of a large cauliflower

1 vegetable stock cube

about 500mls water

salt and pepper to taste

Saute leeks in a couple of good slugs of olive oil, then the rest of the ingredients and cook until soft. Then blitz, with a hand held mixer.

Serve with pangritata and capsicum chilli sauce.

cauliflower, leek and potato soup

(Remarkably similar to last years cauliflower and potato soup…that’s seasonal eating for you!)

lemon and olive oil cake

lemon and olive oil cake

cityhippyfarmgirl

lemon and olive oil cake

I had a whole fruit bowl full of some back yard lemons. Now what to do with all that yellowy goodness?

I thought of lemon meringue pie….

I thought of lemon cordial

I thought of limoncello….

I thought of lemon and rhubarb pie

I thought of lemon meringue icecream...

I did a lot of thinking about those lemons. But none of them was quite right. What to do with you my bowl of tarty yellow fruit?

Gourmet Traveller stepped in. Another winning recipe that really is very easy. The hardest part was squeezing the lemons, which was in no way tricky at all. Love a recipe that is just tasty and simple…and lemony of course.

Lemon and Olive Oil Cake

lemon and olive oil cake

Smoky Roasted- Frugal Friday

cityhippyfarmgirl The last of the seasons locally grown hot house capsicums, were to be roasted and blitzed. Then teamed up with some smoked paprika and pretty much anything else I threw at it.

I’ve made this a few times now. Thick and chunky, teamed up with some crumbled fetta as a soup. Drizzled over pasta, added chilli and some other steamed vegetables worked through with it. Or lastly slow cooked with a chunk of pork neck. The sauce slowly gets cooked into the meat over a couple of hours and then gently pulls apart ready to be eaten with rice, entwined in a wrap, spread over the base of a ripper of a pizza. Or as my favourite so far, with a mix of sauteed beetroot leaves and stems, mushrooms, sprouted buckwheat, chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, kalimata olives, crumbled fetta and a squeeze of lemon juice, (quite the bowl full doesn’t it.)

What I like most about the basic smoky roasted capsicums, is that I can pin point exactly where everything that’s gone in there, has come from. Plus, there are hardly any ingredients.

cityhippyfarmgirl

cityhippyfarmgirl

Smoky Roasted Capsicums

roughly 8 large red capsicums halved and seeds taken out (farmers markets- grown just out of Sydney)

a couple of tomatoes, quartered (again from the same local market stall)

a couple of slugs of olive oil (grown and made in NSW)

roast it all down (210C) until they are soft

(if garlic is in season and locally grown I’d be throwing that in too.)

Add some water, about 500-750mls (or stock if you have it) if you want it as a soup and blitz with a hand held mixer (or blender.)

Add a teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika (the only non local product)

If adding meat, I have used a pork neck (from a happy pig) and cooked on slow in the sauce for about two hours. Cool it down and gently pull apart.

Salt to taste, and using River Murray Salt

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Not really a recipe today, more of a suggestion of what to do. Basically, just roast and blitz!

Where do you find your inspiration?

cityhippyfarmgirl

cityhippyfarmgirl

The inspirational hour.

That time when darkness still lurks on the corners. Soft greying light gets slowly pushed out of the way for bright orange and pink streaks. The sun is yet to emerge, and my chai sits steaming before me. The rest of the household sleep on. This is my time. Quite often far too brief, but my time non the less. This is when ideas sprout, words seem clearer and inspiration is welcomed. I love this time of day. For me, it truly is the inspirational hour.

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Some wonderfully inspiring things going on at the moment that may tempt you just a little.

Crowd farmed catered event at TEDx Sydney– Saturday 4th May. Inspiring, a truly inspiring day. I’m not going to the event, (unlike this incredibly lucky lady) but do plan on going to one of the satellite events.

Three day Strawbale Building course- Mudgee, NSW. Strawbale houses would have to be at the top of my most oohed and aahhed over houses.

Bhutan- the first country in the world to go 100% organic. This is truly inspiring.

If you’ve ever considered eating locally before, but haven’t quite had the courage to start, this maybe the challenge to help you. Local Harvest encourages individuals, households and communities, to take on bite sized, meal sized or feast sized challenges. The annual challenge week has already passed, but you can do your own at any time. I’m really tempted by the feast sized challenge, it would be hard….anyone else want to do it with me??

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Tell me, what’s inspiring you at the moment? Person, place or thing?

respecting the fish

fish copy DSC_0228 copy

When I was a kid my parents would occasionally buy fish from a co-op shop down by the wharf. The fishing trawlers would bring in their catches and deposit their sea life goodies onto the shop counters. While I wasn’t so fussed on eating the fish I did enjoy playing with the fishy carcass out in the backyard.

Scales would be scraped off, hitting the old newspaper underneath. The dinner parts carefully taken inside to the kitchen and the rest of the fish bits would be all for my sister and and I to inspect.

We would squish its eye a little, have a look in the stomach seeing what it what it might have eaten just before being caught, and generally just dissect the remains to see what there was to see.

While the odd fishy innard silently being flung off onto the grass under foot, and half an hour of playing with fish guts probably made us smell like, well fish guts. I do really value those experiences.

These days our little family doesn’t eat a lot of seafood. Like any meat, I would like to know where and how it arrived on my dinner plate. In an ideal world I would catch any fish that I was to eat myself, or at least meet the person that did. Neither of those options seem particular practical for us at the moment so seafood intake is about once a year.

That once a year time had arrived and there was to be fish on the table. I couldn’t give my kids the same childhood experiences that I had, with cool green grass underfoot, and fish guts to step through… but I could do something similar.

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With a sharp knife and eager fingers to prod. Anatomy was scrutinised, fins were stretched out, eyeballs were poked and a satisfying amount of respect was given to the small fish lying on the plate. This was once a life lying before us, respect I think was well deserved.

What was the fish thinking before it got caught mama?

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We talked about the fish and what it meant to catch something and then eat it. Monkey Boy said he thought the fish looked sad and wondered whether it was sad because it had been caught. Little Monkey thought the fish looked like it was crying. As he had a fascination with poking the eyeball, it really looked like it was.

While I’m not a fan of attaching human emotions to animals, I won’t shy my kids away from the realities of eating meat. It doesn’t come naturally filleted and free from eyes and tails. If they choose to eat meat than I have every intention of them knowing where it really comes from.

For me this starts with respecting the fish.

tortilla de patatas- Frugal Friday

Tapas is one thing that Mr Chocolate has a real soft spot for. Anything that involves small dishes being brought to the table with lashings of olive oil over it, there is a good chance he’s straight in there with a fork at the ready.

Our first proper date was at a tapas restaurant. Dark walls, candle lit tables, and jugs of sangria dotted the various tables. Being fluent in Spanish, he encouraged me to try out some words he had just taught me on the wait staff. As my language skills at that stage were limited to “dos cervezas por favor”, any spanish chit chat on my part was questionable.

However the night was young, the sangria was good and my spanish got better. It wasn’t long before our table was littered with empty small dishes, and a smattering of olive oil drops. With satisfied bellies, the jug now empty, our conversation remained lively.

Sparks were flying and… (well, perhaps that’s a story for another day.)

Until then, how about an easy Tortilla de Patatas.

Tortilla de Patatas

(a very simplified version)

In a frying pan add

a good couple of slugs of olive oil

some cubed cooked potatoes (4-ish)

beaten eggs (4-ish again)

cook on a medium heat until it starts to cook on the edges. Then pop a lid on, lower the heat to cook for a further few minutes until cooked through. Season to taste.

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eat with gusto, a glass of sangria and your very best Spanish pick up line

“Donde estas la zapateria?” (which is probably not your best pick up line.)