Tuesday, January 31, 2012

White peaches

Luxury. A sinkful of peaches - white (can't remember the variety) and Golden Queens. You have to be careful with the white peaches. They drip with juice, and are so sweet. The Golden Queens don't drip juice. They are firm and yellow. Mainly used for canning.
My big regret when I chose the varieties of peach to plant was that I didn't go for freestone varieties. Both are clingstone. Not a big deal when you eat them fresh, but a little harder to work with when you are looking to cook or preserve.
Vegies and fruit are coming in the door thick and fast: tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, beans, figs, grapes, passionfruit, lemons, beetroot. No lettuces - they just go straight to seed in this hot, humid weather.
Meanwhile, mildew has attacked the zucchini. It's been really wet, and the last few days have been hot, so mildews and fungus are everywhere.
February is our most productive month by far - would that it came 12 times a year.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Kushari

I try to have one vegetarian night a week around here, sometimes we have two. Personally, I would do more, but the meatlovers around here bleat. I would make myself a vegie alternative, but know they would want to eat that as well so I would end up making two full meals each night. Too ridiculous, so I stick with the once-or-twice-a-week plan. (I have, though, basically cut out meat at breakfast and lunch, so I keep meat to dinners only).
This week, the family decamped to Brisbane to visit my mother-in-law, so I had four veggo nights. I made tofu and vegie burgers, a vegie curry, and tried out this recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian book. She calls it Palestinian Lentils and Rice with crisp fried onions. I call it kushari, as I recognise it as the lentil and rice dish we ate when we travelled around Egypt, and that is what they called it.
How cheap is this dish: lentils, rice, onion, a bit of oil, salt and a pinch of cumin. And yet, very moreish - I'll make this again, definitely.

Kushari

1/2 cup lentils
1 cup basmati rice
1 onion, finely sliced
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin.

Cover lentils and rice with water and soak for about an hour.
In a heavy saucepan, fry the onion in oil over medium heat until brown and crisp around the edges - this takes about 10-15 minutes. Lift with a slotted spoon and put onto paper towel.
Drain the rice and lentils. Stir into the oil left over in the saucepan for a few minutes until the rice is coated in oil. Add salt and cumin. Add water and bring to boil. When it boils, cover with a well fitting lid, turn the heat down to its lowest point, and cook for 25 minutes.
Fluff with a fork, and garnish with fried onion.

Feeds 4, I would guess.
P.S> I wouldn't miss out the onion step. It pretty much gives the dish it's flavour.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Happy Australia Day



Local identity, Sheepie, celebrates Australia in the same way many thousands will today- a barbie and the beach.


Without wishing to sound jingoistic at all, I think Australians would all do well to spend a few moments of quiet contemplation and count up the many reasons we should be grateful to live here. Here's a few to start: we enjoy a democracy; peace; a working judiciary; a free press; we've managed to combine all that is good about capitalism with enough safety nets to catch the not so well off; an education system; health services for all; clean water; reliable electricity. etc etc.


Recently I read Peter Hartcher's The Sweet Spot. It is a wide ranging read through Australia's political and economic history to show how we got here. Here's a bit from the blurb,


"Hartcher argues that Australia's prosperity was not built on dumb luck. In a time when the authoritarian success story of China is strong, Australia offers a better model: a democratic success story. Is it perfect? Of course not. But on some of the most important and appraently intractable problems of the modern world, Australia, believe it or not, is as good as it gets. And the beaches aren't bad either."


In a time where our politicians and media seem hell bent on pushing why things are so bad in this country, and will get worse, and why we should be fearful, Hartcher's book is an welcome antidote. We have challenges and inequalities, no doubt, and we shouldn't rest on our laurels. But I can't think of a country in the world better placed to rise up and meet them. Far from being fearful, and as hokey as it sounds, we need to count our blessings.


Happy Australia Day to all. Be thankful. And enjoy your day whatever you're up to.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A new addition

No, not what you might think.
Here's the new addition - a Bernina 330 sewing machine.
After enduring one too many frustrating sessions at my old machine, with its self-adjusting tension and stitch length, usually mid- seam (yes, it was regularly serviced), I took myself off and treated myself to this little beauty.
My mother sewed nearly all my clothes from primary school to wedding dress on her manual Bernina. It sewed like a dream. A couple of years ago, I bought a Bernina overlocker, and it too is a pleasure to sew with.
Since I brought this home last week I have spent a bit of time getting to know this beautiful thing. It's seam is brilliant. I can't think of a purchase I have made in my life that has made me smile more.
Another reason I was hanging out for a new machine was this pattern the Beignet skirt from Colette Patterns. Twelve buttons and buttonholes down the front. Completely undoable with my old machine, which had a woeful buttonhole from the get-go.
Stay tuned projects off the new machine..

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Exclusion bags - the verdict



Our ongoing battle with fruit fly is familiar to long-time readers of this blog. Even though we didn't know it at the time, our decision to plant stone fruit set us on the path of a long and frustrating battle with these pesky buggers, usually ending in victory for the fruit fly. It was a case of to the defeated the spoils, as we bagged up kilos and kilos of spoilt peaches, plums and feijoa over the years.

This year, we decided to conduct a controlled experiment with the use of exclusion bags. These are little paper bags with a wire insert that allows you to cover up each fruit totally closed, keeping the little buggers out. Not much hope though. Fruit fly are insidious little things.

We bought 6 packets of 25 bags at the cost of about $35 dollars, and used them on our plums, white peach and nectarine. We had fantastic fruit set this year, so we knocked off heaps of small fruit and kept the rest of the fruit uncovered with the intent of spraying with Eco-naturalure.

Unfortunately, our plan to spray was totally nixed by a very wet spring - we barely had two days running of dry weather for a couple of months. So in the end, the uncovered fruit wasn't treated at all.

The result - hooray, the exclusion bags worked! For the first time, we are eating our own unspoilt white peaches. And yes, the uncovered fruit has been spoilt. Unsurprisingly.

If you're interested, you can purchase exclusion bags on line here at the Green Harvest website.

Actually, this is an interesting little website offering all sorts of organic gardening supplies.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Laundry Liquid



Every three months or so, it's time to make another batch of laundry liquid. I've been doing this for about two years using the recipe from Rhonda's Down to Earth blog here.

With only three ingredients: pure soap, washing soda and borax, it isn't complicated and it doesn't take all that long to make. The total amount of time required directly is about 30 minutes from go to bottling, with some time in between to let the mixture cool.

I do have difficulty tracking down washing soda locally - even the hardware stores don't have it. The hardware stores suggested the local chemical suppliers. They have washing soda, but only in 40kg bags! Enough to last me - oh, a lifetime I should think!

I ended up tracking down washing soda crystals, and even though Rhonda specifies not to use them, I have with no problem.

I also find that the mixture cools to form a large jelly-like blob. It has the most interesting slimy texture! At this point, before I decant from bucket to 10 litre bottle, I put a litre at a time into a plastic jug and then I use a stick-blender to turn the jelly into liquid.

But the bottom line is...does it work?? Well, the fact I've been making this for two years says that I think it does pretty well forthe most part. However, after a while of using it I decided I needed to soak my husband and son's work/school shirts in Napisan prior to washing as the laundry liquid alone didn't seem to deal with the grime around the collar and cuffs in paricular. I ask you, how the heck do they get so grubby?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Staycation



Over the last few weeks I've been enjoying one of my favourite types of holiday - the staycation.

What have I been up to? Not very much, actually. I've been sleeping in, cooking, reading, pottering in the garden, sewing, listening to the cricket, and going to the beach almost daily to walk the dog. For the first time in ages I feel rested instead of teetering between tired and exhausted.

The picture above is taken at Jervis Bay. Look at it - pure white sand, crystal seas, almost deserted. Why would I need to go anywhere else?

The weather has been pretty cool for summer, which is fine by me! We've had very few days that have cracked 30 degrees, mostly hovering around 25 degrees. Would that summers were always this pleasant!

Had two forays to Sydney - first to the first day of the Second Test between Australia and India at the SCG. I go with two girlfriends, Jane and Therese, and this year Jane brought her daughter. Just looking around, I can confidently say we were the only all-female group. Watching cricket is only part of the fun, we also get six hours uninterrupted chat time, and I brought a picnic so there was some good food to be had. Too good.

The second trip was to see Ira Glass, the host of my very favourite podcast This American Life, present a show/talk Reinventing Radio. I was really looking forward to this one. Sadly, I was a little disappointed. For one thing, the show could have done with an edit. It was about 30 minutes too long. For another, the sound was pretty bad, and his rapid fire delivery made it hard to understand him at times. And the seats at the Town Hall, where I sat with my knees hard up against the seat in front were torture. Sigh.

Been surfing around the blogs too. So much to inspire out there. Apart from the simple living blogs, I am a big fan of sewing/craft blogs, and I've been toying with starting up my own sewing blog. Then I give myself a good talking to - I can barely give proper attention to the blog I have. And I don't really want to finish up this blog. Maybe a bit of sewing on this blog?? Stay tuned.