Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pressure cooking - the love affair continues

It's a month or so since I invested in my Pressure Cooker. I've used it at least 20 times in that time.
Why did it take so long to walk (or quietly hiss) it's way into my life?
If you have read this blog in the past, you could surmise that I am a girl who likes my tucker. You would surmise right. Because I like my tucker, I also like to cook. Unfortunately, life often conspires to keep me from the kitchen. If I don't cook, I don't get a decent feed. And then I get cranky.
The pressure cooker has released me from all that "I don't have time to cook" stuff. It means I have time to cook, and do other things too. Take this morning, for example. While we were hanging around the kitchen for breakfast, I put together a Pumpkin, Potato and Chickpea curry which will be my lunch for the next few days. Total time, prep and cooking: 20 minutes.

Here's the recipe:

Pumpkin, Potato and Chickpea Curry

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 knob of chopped ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 tablespoons tomato paste
400g pumpkin
300g potato (these are approximate measurements, just use whatever you have)
1 tin chickpeas
½ cup boiling water
Salt and pepper

Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat, sauté the onion until lightly golden. Add the garlic and ginger, stir for a minute or so. Add the spices and tomato paste, stir for another minute. Stir in the pumpkin, potato, chickpeas, water and salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 45 minutes.

If using a pressure cooker, bring to low pressure over high heat. Once at pressure, turn down the heat and maintain pressure for 6 minutes. Release pressure using natural release method.

Why else do I love my pressure cooker? It's clean! There is no way your simmering food can short of water, so I haven't had to scrape food from the bottom of pots. And because the food stays in the pot, with a tight lid, there is no splattering on the stove.

Me and my pressure cooker - it's official. It's love!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Celebrating Ten Years on the South Coast

That's me in the garden, planting pansies

It is ten years tomorrow since Action Man and I, along with our 13 month old son, packed up our Sydney house and headed two hours south out of the city. How do I know? Moving day was my birthday, which is tomorrow. Also I'm one of those people who remembers dates (but I can't remember what I'm looking for).

If you had said to me that I would not return to Sydney then, I would have looked at you as if you were mad. We were leaving so Action Man could take up a posting (he was a navy officer then), and in my mind, we would be returning to the city at the end of the posting and life would return to normal.

Life has other plans for us sometimes though, doesn't it? Our daughter was born within a year of the move. Gradually, I grew to love the life we had on the coast, and to my surprise started to dread returning to the city. Who'd have thought?

Action Man, a country boy, meanwhile was working on a career change. When a good job in his chosen field came up in the area, our future was decided. We sold up our Sydney house and bought this piece of Australia, and have never looked back, and have never regretted the move for one minute.

For most of this time we have lived on one moderate income, which is where the need (and in the end, desire) for pared back living arose. Far from being a challenge, it has been something we have enjoyed doing and learning. For me , growing things and doing things, yes with spades and spoons, has been absolutely empowering. This is our place, and we make the decisions around here. I work outside the home on occasion because I want to, not because we need to. A huge difference.

More than anything, we have achieved a state of personal freedom here that I didn't foresee and is worth more than any money. Is our way the only way? No, not by any means. Everyone has their own path, young or old, city or country dwellers, employed or not employed. For all of us, I think the underlying challenge is to find our way of life that allows us to make the decisions, free from the chatter of media, societal expectations, business and yes, government.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pickin' Pumpkins

Winter is well on it's way, although we haven't had too many really cold days yet. We do have Wind today, and lots of it. Thank goodness I'm not at school today, because in my experience, if there is one thing that gets the kids peevish, it's wind.

Here is what has been going on in the garden in the last few weeks:

Harvesting: bok choi, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, silverbeet, capsicum, zucchini (last of), beetroot, kipfler potatoes, lemons, rhubarb and PUMPKINS!

Planting: leeks, fennel and garlic (lots of).

I'm way behind schedule with garlic planting this year. It's been in the back of my mind since the beginning of April, but frankly, we didn't have the space because the pumpkins were still there. I wrote about my tactical error in planting pumpkins in the main vege garden here.

Today Action Man and I got stuck into the vegie garden to clear out the pumpkins, in one of our periodic working bees. Here is our harvest. Impressive, hey?

There is no way we will be able to eat these on our own before they go off over the next few months, so we will be giving at least half of these away. To me, giving away produce is one of the nicest parts of growing things.

After a few hours, the garden was cleared, composted, limed, planted with garlic bulbs, mulched and fed. A job well done.

Still working 4-5 days a week for the next few weeks. Having a vegie garden has had surprising benefits. Even though I don't have as much time to work in it, it's great to have vegies at your back door. It's meant that with a bit of judicious planning, I haven't had to do a mad scramble to do the grocery shopping for at least the last ten days, which is a considerable time saver. With vegies and fruit in the freezer, hopefully I won't be doing a major shop (except for milk perhaps) for the next 7 days.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Winter has started, and my busy time of the year as far as work is concerned has started as well. Teachers go down with sickness left, right and centre, and I start to beat the phone calls back with big sticks.

This is the time of year that I abruptly stopped blogging in 2008. When I am working 4-5 days a week as I am now, Life gets Hectic. I am either working, preparing for work, doing housework or parenting. In the little time I have left, there's a choice: either blog, or do the things I like to blog about. My priority is the latter, I'm afraid.

Nonetheless, I am going to try and blog once a week over the next few busy months, if not more. I don't want Spades and Spoons to need CPR again.

I hope you will hang in with me for the truncated version of Spades and Spoons.