Wednesday, 11 February 2015

a summer reverie

this summer has been lovely in melbourne
a few less hot northerlies..a few more mid twenties days
not quite as beastly hot as the last few summers
mulching my garden with mountains of pea straw has helped my garden cope better too
my tomatoes are the best they've been in years
the butternut pumpkin is prancing around sending its tentacles in all directions and producing lots of fruit
the pomegranate and cumquat tree's branches are in danger of snapping with the weight of all the fruit they're bearing
no beans yet..nearly ready..late because i was tardy
same with the zucchini and cucumber..although i have picked a few immature cucumbers..couldn't wait
and i'm picking a handful of alpine strawberries daily..they crop all year round..planted in the shade they crop in summer and in winter if planted in full sun..found out by accident..the good sort of accident
there's lettuce, silver beet, celery, rocket, spring onions and watercress
 and the scent of a freshly picked bunch of roses
'cause the soul needs food too 

i planted a packet of way past its use by date digger's heirloom mixed tomato seeds this year and this is what i got..
six varieties..the green ones are took me a while to realise..

roast tomato and capsicum soup with sweet corn, chilli and cheese

roast tomato and capsicum soup with sweetcorn, chilli and cheese
tea with hazel

ingredients soup base

2 kilos tomatoes cut large
2 large capsicum cut large
1 red onion cut into quarters
4-6 unpeeled garlic cloves
1 fresh red chilli
2 litres chicken stock (i used homemade)
1 teaspoon (tsp) sugar
salt and white pepper
olive oil

ingredients to serve

1 sweetcorn cob per person
freshly grated parmesan
finely cut green chilli
finely cut spring onion
salt and pepper


~ place the vegetables in a roasting tray, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and sugar
~ cover the tray with foil and bake at 180 deg c for an hour or until the vegetables are softened
~ remove foil and continue to bake until the vegetables are just starting to darken on the edges
~ place the ingredients in a saucepan with the stock and boil for about 10 to 15 minutes
~ press the soup through a drum sieve and return the soup to the saucepan
~ boil or chargrill (for a smoky flavour) the sweetcorn and then remove the kernels

to serve per person

~ place the kernels in bowl, sprinkle with a tablespoon of parmesan, top with the hot soup and garnish with extra parmesan, spring onion, green chilli and salt and pepper

so, tell me, how's your summer been so far?

Sunday, 11 January 2015

cypriot black lava salt

i was chatting about salt with my local providore owner a few weeks ago and during the conversation he mentioned cypriot black salt*..oh..that would be interesting i thought..should buy some..then i remembered that my son was in cyprus..oh..hang on..i'll see if he can get me some..long story long i contacted him about it..he brought me some back when he arrived home from his 6 month holiday just before christmas..apparently it was very hard to find though..luckily he had a close friend and cafe owner who helped him find it..seems to just be an export item and that the locals don't use it..he brought me a bottle of home produced cypriot olive oil too..he knows his mother well! i used the oil and salt in a greek style warm wilted greens salad the other day..eating it i was in greek heaven..

*   black lava salt is sea salt that has purified volcanic charcoal added to it..apparently the charcoal aids digestion and detoxifies the body although i'm skeptical about the health benefits considering it's used as a garnish only and not meant for cooking and thus the amount of charcoal consumed tends to be very small

i mulched my garden heavily with pea straw this year and it's sprouted
lots of pea plants that i've let grow just for the heck of it..but bonus..
i'm now picking a handful of snow peas every day

warm wilted greens salad (horta salata) with homegrown spinach,
purslane, snow peas and garlic and garnished with shaved pecorino,
a drizzle of cypriot olive oil and a sprinkle of cypriot black lava salt

have you come across any interesting ingredients recently?

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

violet leaf cold processed soap

making this soap was a test of patience that i ultimately failed..i waited about 10 days for the violet leaves to dry enough to be processed into a powder..i waited a month for the violet leaf powder to infuse with the olive oil..i decided to buy some extra emollient ingredients so i looked up the shop's address, wrote it down and poodled off to get them but i couldn't find the shop..came home..checked the address..i had the right numbers but in the wrong order..i waited 'til i had time to go back to the shop..i waited until i had several hours free to make the soap..i made it without any mishaps but i didn't wait long enough for it to firm up properly and so it crumbled a bit when i cut it into usable pieces..but it's still a lovely soap.. 

violet leaf cold processed soap
tea with hazel


750 gms olive oil
500 gms copha
150 gms shea butter
100 gms almond oil
20 gms beeswax
12-14 cups violet leaves
400 mls filtered water
210 gms sodium hydroxide


~ dry half of the leaves, crush to a fine powder, place in ceramic bowl and add 250 gms olive oil, leave for a month (or more) to infuse, then strain through several layers of muslin and then add the violet leaf oil to the remaining 500 gms of olive oil to make up the 750 gms of olive oil required
~ place the remaining violet leaves in a large bowl, add enough filtered boiling water to cover the leaves, leave to infuse until cold and then strain
~ measure the tea and add extra filtered water to make 400 mls or discard any excess (i drank the excess violet tea i had and it tasted lovely) and set the violet leaf tea aside
~ follow the instructions here for making the soap but use violet leaf tea instead of water


~ when i added the sodium hydroxide to the violet tea it turned orange but when i added the orange lye to the oils/butter/beeswax the combined mixture turned a lovely pale green that was retained through the saponification process and insulation phase
~ according to culpepper violet leaf infused oil is antiseptic and helps to soothe dry and itchy skin

next i want to make blue cornflower (they come in pink, purple and white too) soap..that's another test of far i've grown the cornflowers, collected the flowers, dried them and removed the petals..the blue of dried cornflowers doesn't fade so it should look really pretty in soap

Sunday, 7 December 2014

making do

i love the alchemic way in which a few random ingredients can be made into something nutritious and delicious..for instance i don't have a plethora of spinach for making spanakopita at the moment but after a little bit of foraging on the home front yesterday i found enough greens to make a hortopita or wild greens pie..i gathered rocket (i have a lot of the smaller leaved variety that self seeds everywhere), dandelion leaves, violet leaves..yes they are edible, purslane, spinach, watercress, mint and wild fennel (i collected the seeds last year from the dandenongs, where it grows wild, while on a blackberrying expedition)..and i did a bit of tweaking with my phyllo recipe..

strifti hortopita (spiral wild greens pie)
tea with hazel

ingredients pie filling (these ingredients can be adjusted to suit individual taste and the ingredients to hand)

about 5-6 cups of mixed greens (i used rocket, purslane, violet leaves, watercress, spinach and dandelion)
1/4 cup of mint cut medium
1/2 cup of fennel fronds
1 egg beaten (1 tablespoon (tbs) reserved)
150 gms feta crumbled
150 gms ricotta
1 teaspoon (tsp) salt (murray river salt)
1 teaspoon pepper

method pie filling

~ cook the dandelion leaves first in a centimetre of boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes, then add the violet and rocket leaves and cook for a further 5 minutes..lastly add the purslane and spinach and cook until all of the leaves are well wilted
~ drain the leaves in a colander, cut up with scissors while still in the colander, and then press the leaves to extract excess water (the water is like a health tonic so i drink it)
~ mix the greens with the herbs, cheeses, salt, pepper and egg and set aside

extra ingredients

sesame seeds
melted butter

ingredients pastry

200 gms typo 00 flour
50 gms rimacinato flour
35 mls olive oil
1 tbs cider vinegar
1 tsp salt (murray river)
warm water

method pastry

~ place flours, salt, vinegar and olive oil in the bowl of a stand mixer and, with the motor running add enough water to make a soft dough
~ knead for 5 minutes 
~ remove the bowl from the mixer, cover with a damp tea towel, and rest for 1 hour
~ divide the dough equally into 5 balls, roll each one into saucer shaped discs, and rest covered for 30 minutes
~ roll each disc to a rectangle about the size of a large dinner plate size and until it's semi transparent

method assembly

~ butter each sheet of phyllo, place a fifth of the mixture along the long bottom end of the pastry, and then roll up into a sausage
~ coil the sausage in the middle of a lined circular tin
~ continue in the same manner buttering the ends so they adhere to the last piece
~ brush the top with reserved egg and sprinkle generously with sesame seeds
~ bake at 220 deg c for 10-15 minutes and then at 180 deg c for a further 40 minutes or until well browned

~ i think the pastry made with the typo 00 and rimacinata flours was better than my former phyllo for a savoury was certainly harder to roll out but its more robust and coarse crunch suited the savoury filling
~ i thought the flavours of the leaves and herbs worked well and none overpowered the others..i hadn't eaten violet leaves before (apart from chewing on a raw one recently when i discovered they were edible) so i wasn't sure how they would go but there was no stringy chewiness or weird flavour and if i hadn't put them in myself i wouldn't have known they were there..

i'm grateful
that i'm eating weeds because i want to
not because i have to..

Sunday, 2 November 2014

rhubarb, strawberry and rose water crumble with rich egg custard

there's so much to pick from my garden at the moment
broad beans
rainbow chard
lots of herbs and edible flowers
red red last..

rhubarb, strawberry and rose water crumble with rich egg custard
tea with hazel

ingredients crumble

250 gms strawberries hulled
6-8 rhubarb stalks cut into 3 cm batons
1 tablespoon (tbs) sugar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon (tsp) rose water concentrate
seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod
1/2 tbs corn flour
70 gms butter cut into dice
70 gms castor sugar
70 gms light moscovado sugar
70 gms plain flour 
2 tbs oats

method crumble

~ place rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, vanilla seeds, rose water and corn flour in a baking dish and mix gently
~ mix castor sugar, moscovado sugar, flour and oats and rub in butter
~ strew fruit with the crumble
~ bake at 180 deg for about 30 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the top is browned and crisp

ingredients custard

3/4 cup of full cream milk (i use organic unhomogenised)
1/4 cup pure cream
2-3 tbs extra milk
1 egg yolk
1 tbs sugar
1 1/2 tbs corn flour
1 tsp vanilla (i used home made)

method custard

~ put milk, cream and sugar onto heat
~ mix corn flour, egg yolk and extra milk to form a thin paste
~ add a few tablespoons of hot milk to the egg mix (to prevent curdling) and stir well
~ take the saucepan off the heat and add the strained egg mix
~ put the saucepan back on the heat and cook stirring until the custard just comes to the boil
~ take off the heat and add vanilla

tastes even better eaten while sitting outside in the sunshine

Friday, 17 October 2014

very grateful

minestrone was a favourite when i was doing my nursing training at the royal melbourne hospital in the late 60's and early 70's...exhausted and hungry after gruelling shift work my friends and i'd often walk to carlton for a bowl of minestrone (or bolognaise) was always served with plenty of crusty bread and butter..i started making it myself when i was living in the north of was a wonderful all in one nutritious, cheap, warming and hearty meal for me and my soldier husband..the recipe i used then was from elizabeth david's italian was one of four books i had at the time..the others were elizabeth david's french country cooking, the green and gold and a book on greek cooking

i'd forgotten about minestrone soup until this morning when i was thinking about how i'd use some stock i'd made earlier in the week..lots of options whirled through my head but when i thought about some of the other ingredients i had minestrone suddenly just popped into my head..

versatile minestrone
tea with hazel
serves about 6 people


2 litres stock (i used homemade)*
100 mls red wine
3 medium onions cut into medium dice
2 fresh garlic heads cut into quarters*
1/4 cabbage cut into large chunks
6 celery stalks cut medium (i used homegrown which have smaller stalks than most commercial celery)*
1 large carrot cut into medium dice
2 medium potatoes cut into medium dice
1/2 cup arborio rice
3-4 thin slices of double smoked bacon cut large (i used skara)
1 teaspoon (tsp) chilli*
2-3 tablespoons (tbs) organic tomato paste
8-10 dried tomatoes cut into medium pieces
parmesan rind cut into chunks
6 ruby chard leaves and stalks with stalks cut into medium pieces and leaves cut large*
large handful of rocket leaves*
1 cup fresh broad beans*
1-2 bay leaves
olive oil
salt and pepper

to serve

chopped parsley (i add it as a garnish because i find parsley goes an unpleasant dull colour when cooked) *
freshly grated parmesan
extra olive oil


~ saute bacon, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, cabbage, potato, chilli and bay leaves in olive oil until the onions are translucent
~ increase heat, add wine, and cook for a minute or so to burn off the alcohol
~ add stock, tomatoes, tomato paste, parmesan rind and rice and simmer for 20-25 minutes
~ just before serving add chard stalks and leaves, rocket and broad beans and cook until just tender
~ adjust seasoning

to serve

~ garnish with plenty of parsley, some parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil


* home grown or home produced ingredients

suggested alternative ingredients

~ replace the stock with water
~ use other leafy greens such as spinach, kale, mustard greens, nettles and dandelion
~ replace the tomato paste and dried tomatoes with passata or fresh tomatoes
~ replace the fresh broad beans with cooked dried beans such as haricot, lima or kidney beans
~ replace the rice with pasta or use both
~ omit the bacon
~ saute the vegetables in good quality bacon or pork fat

one of life's pleasures for me is turning my home grown produce into a wholesome's not about money per se..sure this soup cost very little..for me it's more about being in touch with the ebb and flow of seasonal produce..and growing my own keeps me firmly in touch with the hard graft of those 'on the land' who provide us with sustenance..i'm grateful..yeah that's it..very grateful.. 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

chair love


kitchen stool
retro/vintage shop purchase
rubber feet stoppers replaced
small stool
op shop purchase for $2
child's metal + vinyl chair
op shop purchase for $5
found abandoned on a footpath
stained and painted 
child's chair
op shop purchase for $5
op shop purchase for $2
op shop purchase for $2
kitchen stool
vintage/retro shop purchase
rubber feet stoppers replaced
gifted by a neighbour
stripped to reveal previously
hidden embossed australiana
sanded + painted
child's chair
made in melbourne by
 a j parker + co
op shop purchase for $10
metal chair
found in a hard rubbish collection
stripped, rust protection given +
the seat painted
kitchen stool
vintage/retro shop purchase
rubber feet stoppers replaced 
four more 
new seating needed

happy spring equinox