Friday, August 1, 2014

A locavore record?

Generally,  by definition,  locavores eat only food they source within 100 - 250 mile radius of their home.

This week we think we made a new record.

All of the produce elements of our dinner were sourced from within 4 miles of our farmhouse.

Tomatoes from our garden

Which we are eating at lunch and dinner -  freshly sliced, slowly roasted or straight from the vege garden as we pick them 

Our perfect basil this year 

The roasted sweet corn came from a neighbours patch a mile away 

and the bacon four miles away from our local Berkshire pig farmer.

Our salad dinner was a simplified version of the Hot and Hot Fish Club  Tomato Salad which we have made before and had recently at the famous restaurant in  Birmingham Alabama. 

We sliced 4 varieties of tomatoes which were marinated in a balsamic dressing and then placed on the plate and layered with roasted corn kernels and topped with bacon slices and sprinkled with shredded basil.  
The salad when finally composed is lightly drizzled with a creamy chive dressing.

The Berkie bacon is incredible - the rashers slowly cooked so the fat renders out leaving a crisp and  salty slice or two to place on top of salad. 

 It is a perfect foil to the acid of the tomatoes, the sweetness of the corn and the acidity and  creaminess of the two dressings.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Everyday wildlife

As much as Australia is renowned for its wildlife, we don't have this native american animal

I went to sleep last night to the sound of coyotes and was awakened by them this morning. It must have been a big night out in the woods near our fields.

At first they sound almost melodious. Then their baying conversation became louder with the pack reaching an overwhelming crescendo. Like a good dinner party, I thought. 

However, M said this morning the howling increased when they caught and killed some other animal, which I must say has never happened at a party of ours.

I read today that as they become more used to humans they could attack so I plan not to go looking for them for a photo op for the blog.
Instead I thought I would share these photos I downloaded so that Australian readers can see what they look like. Similar to a dingo perhaps?

Don't think it is all scary animals here - we had a gentle visitor yesterday afternoon

A young doe not even 100 metres from our farmhouse

Meandering slowly on wobbly legs under the fruit trees- keeping one eye on us

Only running off when I got up from my chair in the yard to have a closer look.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pig to sausage

We have been enjoying local Berkshire pork for the last couple of years - grown by a family friend.

The black Berkshire pig is renowned for its richness, texture, marbling juiciness, tenderness and overall depth of flavour.

They are raised not far from our farmhouse so we can regularly visit the "berkies" to see how they are faring.  M even took the three that we had ordered to share with friends to their final meeting place.

We are so hands on in our quest to enjoy locally grown food that we made sausages from the pork on Saturday - under the tuition of our friend W.

A very productive and entertaining afternoon.

These are the Tuscan sausages with garlic and and fennel 

The pork is first of all put through the grinder

Spices added

Fed through the sausage machine into the skins

What more can I say

The long sausage is knotted into string of nicely plum sausages

They are then put into the freezer to mature for a couple of weeks.

Will let you know how they taste.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

What is achievement?

The first two weeks of my "sabbatical" flew by - with a trip to Birmingham Alabama to see our friend D over the 4th July weekend and a wonderful visit last week from our friends from Oz W&J. 

Spending more time here means I will get to see a bit more of America and we always love to have our friends visit.  All good.  

However, after that initial busy time and with more time on my hands I hit a bit of a low spot early this week -wondering how I would fill my days here on the farm.  

Work wise, I am used to achieving things - through  problem solving, communication and planning.
I always felt an immense satisfaction when a project was completed,  I retained a new client or my list of tasks reduced.
(I am a Virgo in case you didn't guess.)

Now I need to find a different way to satisfy my need to achieve.
To count the things I do each day here as achievements - just different from "my job".

Like this:

Pick fresh veges each day from our garden

Make meals which include at least one ingredient from our garden

Forage for chanterelles and make a new chanterelle recipe-rillettes

Make fresh pasta (sorry no pic)
bake a loaf of bread

Practise my pastry making

Break my block and do some writing 

And yes, lay in the hammock and read.

I have had a good week.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A new chapter

Today is the first day of my "gap 6 months" from my business and work.
For the first time in over thirty five years I will not have work projects to occupy and stimulate me, 
or to provide an income.

I have been planning this since late last year - and thought that these next months on the farm would give me the space and time to wind down and think about my work future. 

In spite of this being planned it still feels like I am taking a big step and I sometimes notice when I am telling people what I am doing I seem to sound a bit deranged.

The idea is not to worry about what lies ahead work wise - but enjoy this "free" time I have.

The farm is the the ideal place to do this - no reminders of my city worklife, a quiet place for reflection but also plenty to do here on a day to day basis - just living our farmlife.

Like making apricot jam - today I made small inroad into this crop of apricots from our laden tree.

The preserving takes place tomorrow.  No rush to get it done today.

Me being me however, I have a list of things I hope to achieve. I won't share them with you just yet....

I hope you will join me on this journey of self-discovery- I think I will need all the support I can get!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Shopping Frenzy

I had a morning of meetings in the city yesterday and thought I would take the opportunity to do a bit of Christmas shopping over lunch.


Midday in Pitt Street mall.

It was a frenzy. It was hot and that crowd in the background looked scary.
I pushed my way through and headed home - sadly no gifts in hand.

Just under two weeks to go.
On-line shopping is looking good.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A memory of tomatoes and my Mum

I was thinking of tomatoes this morning as I walked.  We have two large ones sitting on our kitchen window sill and not much in the fridge after our weeks away.

Should I stuff them, make them into a sauce or just slice them in a salad tonight - just as we ate them at Bistrot du Paradou?

This summer on the farm I seem to have eaten a lot of tomatoes – the red and yellow cherry and grape tomatoes we have grown, romas roasted until tinged black on their edges, big red ones sliced onto a pretty plate with a drizzle of vinegar and oil then sprinkled with shredded basil, salt and pepper.  
That tomato tart - tartin I made twice because it was so good.

During the last two weeks in France I enjoyed daily the most delicious ox heart tomatoes I have ever eaten.

Yet the tomatoes I was thinking about this morning were the grilled tomatoes Mum used to make – halved and topped with a slice of cheese, popped under the oven grill until they were soft and gooey  – and suddenly I was sobbing.  It is over two years since she died and I can still be swamped with a memory that brings me to tears, out of nowhere.

I wiped my face with my t-shirt, blubbered a bit more and thought of the different lives Mum and I had led and yet cooking and eating had been a common and constant interest that flourished as we both grew older.

Widowed at 40, with three children under 8, Mum’s interest in food in our early years was making sure that we had enough to eat and that we ate it.  Meat and two veg (always a potato) most nights but by the early 70's spag bol was also on the menu.  Dessert,  a bowl of tinned fruit and ice-cream. It was good food – and cooked by Mum each night.  Friday nights we had take-away fish or battered sav and chips, and Sunday nights her home cooked hot chips in greaseproof paper or thin pancakes sprinkled with sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice.

For our birthdays – we got to choose our special meal.  That grilled tomato was a part of my favourite birthday dinner for most of my childhood – it sat alongside a crumbed lamb cutlet or crumbed pork mince, with peas, grilled pineapple (sometimes grilled banana too) and hot chips.  A Street's chocolate drumstick for dessert.

By the time I was in my mid twenties my interest in cooking had grown and coincided with Mum having more time to cook and entertain.  We talked a lot about food that we had eaten and planned to cook, we shared recipes and occasional meals. 

Later, when we were all together for a family weekend my brother–in-law once pointed out that we were planning our next meal while we were eating the current one.  
My mother, sister and I looked at each other. Well, of course.

By the time Mum was in her 60's and retired her repertoire was extending and always impressive. Family and friends were served many new dishes - smoky tagines, slow cooked casseroles, roast pork loin accompanied by the latest vegetable side dishes, cold peach and basil soup, trout with dill and sour cream, tomato and gruyere tart. Her pastry was always light.

When I cleaned out her kitchen cupboards after she died I found opened packages of harissa, sumac and tagine spices among her two shelves laden with the usual herbs and spices - all testament to her adventures with cooking and sharing food well into her 80’s. I kept them and enjoy knowing that as I use them a little bit of her is being sprinkled into my dinner.

I think perhaps that birthday memory was fresh because I have just celebrated mine – this year eating bouillabaisse on a beautiful sunny day in Bandol in the South of France. 

As I said, we had a different life, but this memory of food shared has endured for over 40 years. 

Miss you Mum. xx