Wednesday, 30 April 2014

object lessons

i saw two stainless steel teapots in my local op shop a while ago for $2 each..they didn't get my pulse racing like enamel teapots would but i loved their quality and design so i bought them, took them home and gave them a bath..never thought to check their history at the time but later on i did a casual search only to find that my ostensibly benign teapots have a really interesting history..they're made by 'old hall'  which is considered to be the company that made the first stainless tea pot in the teapots were designed in 1959 by leslie wiggin, a company family member, and belong to their most popular connaught range..i'm pretty sure i had their toast rack once but it went in a gung ho moment of 'i must get rid of some stuff' and 'whoever uses a toast rack anymore'..

i grew up with spoons that my father, before the days of political correctness, called 'simple simon slurping soup spoons (sssss)'..up until recently i'd only ever used my one and only sssss to serve cream or jam but after using one as an eating implement recently i now know why he labelled them this way..they're very deep so really difficult for elegant food retrieval..anyway, in the window of my local op shop recently, i saw a box of spoons that looked like my sssss but i couldn't be sure..something seemed a bit different but i went ahead anyway and i lashed out and spent the $15 for the set of six possible sssss..and hey..they were the same..just less worn..i did a search and discovered that the spoons are called 'jasmine' and that they were made by the company 'rodd'..i also learned that gold versions were commissioned in 1961 as a wedding present to the duke and duchess of york and that the epns (electroplated nickel silver) version was a popular wedding gift for the non polo playing/fox hunting and tiara/crown wearing types..

old hall 'connaught' teapot,  fake enamel cup (a gift from my girl kat),
enamel jug (eastern european) and rodd 'jasmine' spoon

has an object ever been your teacher?

Saturday, 26 April 2014

cumquat cordial

please don't judge me too harshly when i tell you this but i've watched the film 'meet the parents'! there's a scene in the film where milking a cat is you're probably wondering what the heck cumquat cordial has got to do with cats and their mammaries but bear with me..

i've made a few cumquat recipes over the last few years..there've been brandied cumquats and cumquat peel, cumquat jelly (the  gelatine one), cumquat marmalade, cumquat jelly (the jam one), cumquat curd and cumquat delicious (like lemon delicious but without the lemon)..and i've added cumquat marmalade to bread and cake..if you had a cumquat tree like mine you'd understand..and you can't give them away because the only people i know who'd be interested in all things cumquat already have their own supply to deal with..but don't get me wrong here people..i'm not's just that cumquats are so small..yeah they're ever so cute and they smell adorable but they're the devil to juice..

cumquat cordial
i doubled the recipe which made 6 bottles


1000 gms cumquats washed and stems removed
3 kgs sugar
8 cups boiling water
2 heaped tablespoon citric acid


~ place sugar, citric acid and water in a large bowl and stir until the sugar is dissolved
~ process cumquats finely, add to the sugar solution, and then leave until cool
~ strain through a muslin lined sieve pressing to extract as much juice possible
~ pour into sterilized bottles and refrigerate

to serve

~ a splash of cordial with soda water or water


even though this cordial is delicious i think it needs a higher cumquat to sugar ratio..and that's not just because i've got so many cumquats i don't know what to do with them! to counteract the sweetness i've been adding some fresh juice to each glass of made up cordial and that's worked well but next time i make the cordial i'm going to add it directly to the syrup to get the tangy flavour i'm after..i've given up on the juicer method since i made a miraculous discovery that's entirely technology free..i just squeeze each half between my fingers..mieow!

do you make cordial? if so what's your favourite?

Sunday, 13 April 2014

fresh pomegranate juice and raspberry jam

a ripe homegrown pomegranate is a beautiful thing..i just love peeling off enough of the pink leathery skin to get a purchase with my fingers so that i can tear the fruit open..but it's not just a tactile thing because the tearing open makes a lovely sound..and then inside is the visual delight of the glistening ruby jewels nestling in white papery folds..i know some advocate banging the back of the opened fruit with a wooden spoon to extract the arils but for me that's a bit brutal..i like to extract the fruit with my fingers..gently..gently..

some fruit just doesn't lend itself to public consumption..i'm thinking mangoes and maybe bananas..and for me it's also pomegranates because i don't like the seeds..i haven't come up with a way of extracting the chewed seeds elegantly from my mouth so i eat and seed spit in private..although i don't mind downing a few in a salad..

one way around the seed thing is to juice the pomegranate but that's easier said than done..well for me anyway because i haven't discovered a nifty non spattering crime scene way of doing it took me ages yesterday to press the arils with a spoon against a sieve to extract the juice for my jam but not as long as the bloody cleaning up took..but it was worth the effort!

fresh pomegranate juice and raspberry jam
tea with hazel
makes 2 jars of 250 mls and a bit


500 gms raspberries*
500 gms sugar**
150 mls fresh organic pomegranate juice***
juice of half of an organic lemon


~ place ingredients in a large saucepan and heat over low heat until the sugar has dissolved
~ bring to the boil and boil until set has been reached
~ pour into sterilized jars and cap immediately

*     i used very reasonably priced fresh tasmanian raspberries..frozen berries could be used but i prefer not to use those available at the supermarket because they're imported
**   i like a tangy jam but for those who like their jam sweeter increase sugar quantity to 550-600
*** i needed 2 medium sized homegrown pomegranates to attain this amount of juice

now i want to make scones to have with my jam..with a whisker of cream too of course!

this post submitted to punk domestics

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

april in my garden

i've been very busy in the garden lately..i was up and out in the garden at about 7 am for 4-5 hours on three consecutive days this lovely it's been working on those quiet cool mornings..a few light showers here and there lately softened the soil and made the work a bit easier and then yesterday it rained and rained on the freshly dug soil..i'm happy..

the hard yakka

~  lavender, tied the flower stalks into small bundles and hung them up to dry..i'll use the dried lavender in soap making
~ perennial herbs such as lovage, tarragon and mint
~ cut dandelions back

~ spent annuals and biennials such as marigolds, carnations, rocket, tomato, pumpkin, beans, coriander and parsley
~ some of the over abundant nasturtium, flanders poppy and nettle seedlings that threaten to take over my garden
~ woody rose geranium, sage seedlings and a lavender (relocated)

~ compost and manure into vegetable garden beds for replanting
~ around rose bushes to eliminate the fibrous roots of a nature strip tree (it's the healthiest one in the street)
~ around garden beds to neaten the edges (i have gravel paths with no formal edging)

~ three types of garlic (early while, early red and italian red from digger's)
~ rose geranium suckers that had grown from the geranium plant i removed
~ sage seedings and lavender into herb garden

~ prunings, weeds, spent vegetable material cut up and added to the new vegetable garden bed (see below)
~ kitchen waste, egg cartons, paper towel, cardboard and newspaper added to the compost bin along with layering of some of the former material to aid decomposition
~ compost tea made with horse poo

prepared a new vegetable garden bed
~ i trimmed the kikuyu, covered the area in op shop purchased woollen blankets ($3-$4/each) and cardboard, put bricks around the edges to help stop the invading kikuyu and then layered the area thickly with kitchen waste, cut up garden material, horse poo and a generous amount of should be ready for digging in spring

the reward

~ green beans (scarlet runner and blue lake), egg plant, tomatoes, carrots, spring onions, butternut pumpkin, lettuce, chilli and rainbow chard
~ coriander, parsley, celery, tarragon, oregano, rosemary, thyme, mint, lemon verbena, sage, chives, lemon balm, comfrey, pineapple sage, lavender, nettles, fennel fronds, marigold petals, violets, roses, hollyhock flowers, nasturtium leaves and flowers, and carnations
~ rhubarb, pomegranate, cumquat and alpine strawberries

seeds collected
~ rocket, capsicum, coriander, chilli

1. don burke italian tomatoes..the best i've grown in years despite having grown the plants from really old seed
2. lavender
3. a little handful of alpine strawberries every day or so
4. the eggplant have been very prolific
5. a tiny very prolific and very sour tomato that self seeds every year..i blanched these and put them through a mouli and used the puree as a base for a sauce
6. look a bit like a zucchini and then becomes like a butternut pumpkin..last year i only had one whereas this year i have six
7. this is actually last year's crop of pomegranates..i pruned the tree quite heavily last year and it has only produced 8 pomegranates this year..
8. beans, beans and more beans..except they only started producing about 3 weeks ago..i didn't have one bean all summer (the heat has been one explanation for this anomaly)

more hard yakka

need to
~ pick chillies for drying
~ plant peas, broccoli, cabbage, onions, lettuce, carrots, beetroot, rainbow chard, broad beans, coriander, sweet peas, potatoes and spinach
~ finish tidying garden edges
~ stay on top of weeding
~ remove bean plants and eggplants when production ceases
~ watch crabapples for ripening
~ transplant black currant bush

see you next month for 'may in my garden'