Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Cooking with silver beet

Silver beet and rainbow chard were our best performers this year. They seem to be pest resistant and they are nutritious and quick to prepare.

This seasonal sage and pumpkin pasta dish exemplifies it:
Fry a small onion in a knob of butter with about a tablespoon of chopped sage. Keep the heat reasonably high so it all browns nicely. Once brown, throw in about a cup of finely diced pumpkin. Butternut works really well. Let it cook for about 5 mins, stirring so it browns evenly. Add a small pinch of nutmeg and half a cup of white wine.

As this is reducing on a lowered heat, either slice your washed silver beet into ribbons, or just hack at it with scissors. Pop it into your colander.


Cook the usual quantity of your preferred pasta. When it’s done, simply drain the pasta through the silver beet in the colander. This is enough to cook it. Mix through, and dress with olive oil



To finish the sauce, stir 2 tablespoons of sour cream and another 2 tablespoons of chopped sage through, thin to the desired sauciness and pop it on the pasta. 


Top with parmesan, crumbled feta, and/or pine nuts.

I hope you enjoy this with your home grown silver beet!


The good and the bad

The bad part about keeping chickens: looked out the window this morning and saw a rat run across the roof of one of the pens.  (Note to self, must get less lazy cat).

The good part about keeping chickens: just went outside, collected three eggs and scrambled ’em for lunch.

How to make proper scrambled eggs

I should preface by saying, in general, I am a pretty lousy cook.  I barely do any of the cooking in our house, especially since WhatWouldMacGyverDo is an excellent cook, but scrambled eggs is something I do well.  Thankfully it is also something the toddler eats very happily!  You might be thinking, this is not such a great achievement, you know how to cook scrambled eggs too.  But trust me, if your method includes either of the following:

you really, really don’t.  If you have previously been cooking scrambled eggs in the microwave or whipping them up, you don’t know what you are missing.  Growing up, my family always had scrambled eggs made in the microwave, but since being taught the method which I will outline here, there is no going back.

(I should probably point out that there are other techniques similar to mine that also produce genuinely good scrambled eggs.  WhatWouldMacgyverDo’s method for example which is essentially a variation of this method.  They are basically very similar in cooking method, but mine turn out thicker and chunkier.)

Okay.  So what you do need, equipmentwise, is a flat based frying pan, a flat headed wooden spoon and a stove top.

The ingredients are: 2 eggs per person (or more if the eggs are on the small side), butter, and pure cream (not thickened).  In a pinch, full cream milk will sub for the cream, but it’s obviously not quite as delicious.  Skim milk is just sad.

Mandatory accompaniment is toast, naturally,

Optional accompaniment, fresh herbs.  Ours this morning were tarragon, parsley and chives from our garden.

You need to have everything ready and at arms reach before you start.  This may sound a bit like telling you how to suck eggs (haha get it?  I crack myself up…) but the timing is critical to have everything cooked at the same time; the eggs cook very quickly and you need to watch them the whole time if you want to avoid over cooking them and turning them to rubber.  The more eggs you have though, the longer they take to cook.  If I’m just cooking two eggs, it is a bit of a race with the toaster, but you have a bit more breathing space with six or eight eggs.

Immediately before you start, put the toast down in the toaster.

Put a knob of butter (don’t be stingy, and use more for more eggs) into the pan and turn the pan to a medium heat to melt it.

Spread it around to cover the base of the pan.

As soon as it is pretty much melted and as quick as you can, get cracking (there’s just so many lame jokes to be made!)

Break the yolks with the wooden spoon.

Worry at the eggs (push them gently with the wooden spoon) to stop them sticking to the pan base.

This worrying is what will slowly ‘scramble’ the eggs.

Continuously scrape the eggs from the base of the pan so they don’t stick.

They will quickly begin to thicken.

Keep scraping the base of the pan as it thickens.


Almost thick enough

They will look still mushy or not quite cooked but this is the point where you pull them off the heat. The residual heat in the pan will finish cooking them.


Once off the heat, add in a decent slurp of cream (again, more cream for more eggs.  For two eggs it’s about a tablespoon, but I never measure!)

Stir the cream in gently.  The fat in the cream stops the cooking and makes a custardy texture.

And they’re done!

Grab the toast, which should be up by now, and serve them up, with snipped fresh herbs if you like.

As soon as the eggs are on the plate, put the pan in the sink and fill it with water to soak while you eat.  This will make cleaning it much easier.

Nom nom nom...

It probably doesn’t need to be said, but eat immediately!

Toddler style. She doesn't seem to like the toast with eggs so we don't bother with it for her.

All gone.

So there you have it.  May you never have the horror of microwaved scrambled eggs again!
(And perhaps WhatWouldMacGyverDo will follow up with his slightly different technique).

Winter Solstice

This post is a bit late, but we celebrated the Winter Solstice this year.  The solstice was June 22.  Now that we are trying to grow food seasonally, it feels fitting to mark the passing of the seasons of the year and to celebrate the return of the longer sunlight hours.  This should also mean that our chickens start to come back on the lay, or for those who haven’t laid yet, come into lay.  Laying is linked to sunlight exposure, so the return of longer sunlight hours is definitely cause to celebrate.  We have not had one single egg since the end of May!  We have had to go back to buying supermarket eggs!

We had some friends over for dinner and cooked up some goat in the weberate and ate food from our gardens.  We exchanged preserves from our Autumn harvest – pickled green tomatoes, pickled chillies, lemon butter mmm… And it seemed very fitting!

The younger kids had fun roasting marshmallows over a fire, while the adults (and nearly adults) mulled wine (here is a link to the recipe – it was just stunning).

Apparently I was having too much fun to take photos on the night but here are a few of the preparations – making the lemon butter, lemon candles and the the yule log themed table centerpiece.

All the ingredients for the lemon butter

Simmering and thickening the lemon butter

Liquid sunshine

Lemon candle - made from the left over lemon skins

And a couple of the Yule log. I know traditionally you are supposed to burn the Yule log, but I liked this idea better.

Winter colourful greenery from the hedge trees between us and a neighbour

Marmalade take two

My mother-in-law enjoyed making marmalade last November so much that she has spent much of the summer and autumn on a bit of a preserving kick, making many different types of jam and chutney.

Here is a list of all that she has made:

Kumquat marmalade

Strawberry jam (two batches)

Plum jam

Boysenberry and apple jam (two batches)

Blackberry and apple jam

Orange marmalade (a second batch made with me again)

Grape and raspberry jam

Grape, cherry and cranberry jam

Grape, cherry and strawberry jam

Plum chutney

Peach chutney

Green tomato chutney (FOUR batches!)

Needless to say she now has pantry shelves filled with preserves, even after she has given many jars away.

This long weekend I pulled out all our tomatoes that were left to make room to plant the next crop – garlic.  I’ve now got around 7kg of green tomatoes that she is going to help me make into chutney over the next few days.  I’m also thinking I might pickle a few to try out Milkwood’s pickling recipe.

Monster egg

One of the things I’m loving about having chickens is see just how different eggs can be in shape and size, between chickens and even from the same chicken.

Adelaide and Henrietta are still our only layers and each prefers to lay in a different nesting box (we have two, which should still be plenty for the six girls when they are all laying) so it is pretty easy to tell who lays which egg at this stage, but already the shapes of each girl’s egg is quite different; Adelaide’s is pointier and Henrietta’s tend to be a bit bigger, more like ~60g than Adelaide’s ~50g.

On Sunday, however, Henrietta laid a simply monstrously large egg.  She hadn’t laid for a couple of days, so it really seemed like she was making up for it! It topped the scales at 80g.  I felt seriously sorry for the girl!  The next day she laid a much smaller egg, I presumed making up for the previous monster.  For comparison, here (L-R) is one of Adelaide’s standard size eggs, Henrietta’s monster Sunday egg, and Henrietta’s little Monday egg.

Monster egg, little hands

Sure enough, this morning when we cracked them open for breakfast, the monster was our first double yoker!

Double yoker

I thought that would be it, but today she laid another 80g egg.  I guess we will have to wait and see if it is another double yoker…

Autumn equinox harvest

The garden has done really well considering how late I got all the vegetables in.

The tomatoes have really come out this year – I estimate I’ve picked about 8-10kg total so far, and there must be at least another 2kg still ripening 0n the vine.

Tomato glut

Tomato glut 2

We’ve had so many over the last few weeks.  It has been lovely being able to pick them fresh for lunch and dinner each day, and still we have so many left over I’ve been able to start preserving them to eat later in the year.

Some of the tomatoes

Laying the tomatoes out to dry

Drying the tomatoes

Sundried tomatoes

Not technically sun dried – I used a friend’s dehydrator – but just as delicious!

We’ve also had beans and corn, though not nearly as much as I would have liked!

Corn harvest

Corn and beans for dinner

Tomatoes and beans

The sunflowers have finished blooming and are the heads are drying out so we can collect their seeds.

Drying out sunflower heads

Sunflower seeds

The new raised bed and the new herb bed are coming along nicely.

The raised bed is finally thriving

New herb bed seedlings (and don't the chickens look great in the background!)

And I’ve got the winter harvest seedlings under way.

Winter seedlings (and an avocado that started growing in the compost, not that I'm expecting it to survive the winter in this climate!)

We have two laying chickens now – Henrietta and Adelaide – and are getting about three eggs every two days from the pair of them.

First eggs meal!

I’ve also been doing a bit of wild foraging with two very good friends.  We’ve been blackberrying twice – I would never have believed how much better freshly picked blackberries taste.  Blackberries are a terribly invasive weed here and the free and tasty fruit is the only redeeming feature.   I used some of them to make a blackberry sauce.

Boiling up wild blackberry sauce

It was very, very good over ice cream!

Blackberry Sauce + chocolate icecream = black forest goodness

So all in all it’s been a rather delicious, though busy, few weeks.  We’ve also been busy building a (hopefully reasonably soundproof) rooster box for the chickens to sleep in – Red is right on the verge of crowing, so we are rushing to get it done before he annoys the neighbours.  Pictures to follow when I get my act together and remember to photograph it.

Weekend lunchtime grazing

When Athe gives you milk…

Sad though it is, I haven’t been able to resist making use of the milk price war currently being waged in Australian supermarkets.  Making use of litres of milk at a go is no easy task.  However, India has provided the answer in the form of paneer.

Paneer is a acid-set cheese made by boiling and then acidifying (adding lemon juice to) milk.  It’s no harder than that.  The resulting curds are strained and pressed (though you can wash them in fresh water too).

I used a few internet recipes, to make mine.

A big saucepanm, strainer lined with tea towel, 1l milk, lemon juice.

First, I gathered the saucepan, strainer lined with tea-towel, milk and lemon juice.


Heating milk always looks the same

Then, I brought the milk to the boil while stirring constantly, pausing only  to take a photo.


Normally, this would be bad!

Then, I gradually added the lemon juice until it curdled, while stirring gently.


I strained the curds through the strainer, and placed a pyrex dish full of water on it to press out excess water and give it a firm consistency.


150g from just over a litre of milk, and the juice of just under one lemon

The yield from just over 1L milk and a lemon was 150g.  This cost $1.50


It was unwilling to fry up nicely, crumbling a bit in the pan, but even in the cheapo butter chicken sauce it was very tasty.


The most exciting part for me is the by-product.  I was nervous to feed the protein rich whey to the chooks because everything I read tells me citrus is bad for them.  However, it makes the most amazing dough.  Even the waste heat is used because you can use the whey as it’s cooling down from the boil.  I gradually beat bread flour into approx 400mL whey, adding seeds, oil, salt, sugar and yeast at the thick batter stage.


The dough was amazing – glossy and almost non-stick – and the texture of the bread was really moist and elastic.  Don’t let the shape trick you; it rose really well but I have to make flattish bread because I do it on the stove and under the grill because the oven’s broken.

This made two decent loaves but one got eaten quite quickly!

Hopefully, the milk war won’t leave us with higher prices in the long term, because I hope to be doing this again and again.

(Edited to fix formatting)

Making marmalade with the mother-in-law

I wish I could say these were our own oranges but we have not yet managed to successfully grow citrus.  We planted a lemon tree when we first moved in, but it died within a year.  We then inherited a kumquat tree in a pot when some friends moved interstate and this tree is doing well enough, but it has only ever produced two kumquats (both of which went into this marmalade!)

These oranges came from the neighbour of a friend.  While we were over at my friend’s place and our toddlers were playing in the yard, her neighbour stuck his head over the fence and offered us each a bag full of oranges since he had far too much off his trees.  We happily accepted and the toddlers had oranges for morning tea.  After we took ours home, we ate a few, but then the toddler decided she didn’t like oranges any more and at any rate we weren’t likely to get through that many so I decided to make marmalade out of them rather than let them go to waste.

Having never made marmalade before I drafted in the mother-in-law who a) makes marmalade reasonably frequently and is therefore something of an expert, and b) is an extra pair of hands and eyes for keeping the toddler occupied and out of the kitchen containing the boiling sugar!  In consultation with our trusty copies of Delia, we set to work this morning…  I don’t have photos of every stage because we had our hands full (and sticky) with the marmalade (and the toddler).

The marmalade consists of 2.9 kg oranges (plus 2 kumquats), 3 lemons, 6 kg sugar and 9 L water.

Softening the peel. We used an old tea towel as a bag for the pips.

Boiling with the sugar added.

After five hours we had sixteen and a half jars of homemade marmalade!  Enough to last us quite a while.  It really is satisfying to see them all lined up.

Sixteen and a half jars


(And it is really delicious)

Darling Delia, from whence all good food comes.

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