Monday, April 30, 2012

here now

We spent the weekend pottering around at home. Watered plants. Swept the verandah. Got the kid's involved. Talked about plans. For us and the house. There was some knitting and reading time. Almost finished the Four Seasons Jacket now. I will get around to Ravelling it sometime soon. Halfway through An Everlasting Meal. This is cookery reading at it's very best.

Breakfast on Sunday would not be the same without having a few magazines to flip through. Bespoke, which I was so fortunate to receive as a giveaway from Christina, and old favourite, Country Style. There is no other magazine that reaffirms life in the country like this one.

I baked bread. I made some very hot sweet chilli sauce (the extra heat was unintentional I might add, and I'm a little worried about how edible it actually is) and slow cooked some more yoghurt. Letting it drain in muslin for many hours left it unbelievable rich and creamy.

We made the decision that we will (most likely) stay where we are. It would be hard to walk away from the vegie garden, the hedging, the orchard planting. Hard to walk away from our house that has only ever known us within it's walls. Things here are just starting to take shape. Milking cows, goats and sheep probably won't be happening in our near future. But chickens are on the cards, and there may be other ways of keeping cows etc without the need to move.

Wishing you all a pleasant week in your world.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

cool change

There has been a cool shift in the weather this week. Winter woolies are on. Leaves are scarlet and yellow, still clinging on but succumbing to that cold wind. The wood pile is heaped high, ready for splitting. Our first fire was lit the other night. I'm relishing the chill in the air and looking forward to all this season brings.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

frugal kitchen

I've felt a shift lately in our kitchen. I can't precisely put a finger on just what it it. But there has been a renewed energy in there. Bubbling pots, spilt flour and baskets of fruit. I'm enjoying my time in there.

I've taken to re-reading cookery books late at night. There is something quite restful and comforting to read about the virtues of boiling a chicken or chilling pastry. Whether it has been Nigella's soothing voice in How to Cook, or Jamie's kitchen garden in Jamie At Home, to my new favourite An Everlasting Meal, there are all similar messages to be found within the pages. That a meal is not just about sticking to the recipe. To make do with what you have. Not just to make do, but be inspired by it. To buy the best quality you can afford to.

I've started making pastry on a regular basis. Nigella's advice on the subject was just to dive in and start doing it. On a regular basis. Once you learn the basic ratios (2 parts four, 1 part butter/lard in weight) and bring it together with a little iced water and perhaps an egg yolk (I've even taken to using yoghurt lately when I have no egg yolk), you can make it anywhere, anytime. If you make it enough it becomes part of your everyday repertoire. You really don't need a recipe anymore. Much like making bread, for those that do.

So we've been enjoying pies. Several times a week, so as to get that practice in. And you know what? It truly does get easier.  I don't stress about the pastry anymore. You know exactly what is in it and it tastes so much nicer than the vegetable fat laced store variety.

But most of all I've been concentrating on making meals go further.

Sometimes you just need to make a little more with each meal.

Leftover Saturday night pies and fried vegetables with herbs from the garden became the quick throw together picnic on Sunday. It really couldn't be any easier to make a quick lunch.

Leftovers are you friend.

Leftover pasta with a few eggs and some cheese thrown in is a favorite in this house.

Antipasto instead of take-away. The addition of fried pumpkin took only a few minutes. With ricotta on toast the next day.

Cook a few more vegies than you actually need. During the week they can be used in a tart, over pasta, frittata or even in a soup. Again egg and cheese is a match made in heaven in such circumstances. Don't forget the transformative powers of cream either. We do like our dairy products here.

Chicken roast will usually give you enough leftovers for next days sandwiches, or can be mixed with a white sauce and pastry for pie, used in a salad or a million other ways. The leftover bones will be the basis of a stock. Just throw in some onion, celery and carrot.

Our last lamb roast became the basis for a childhood favourite bubble and squeak. I'd forgotten just how good this tasted.

 A selection of garden vegies  and herbs becomes the nights soup, with a few pulses from the pantry and a chunk of parmesan rind from the freezer.

Making things from scratch, stretching out leftovers and using what you find in the garden and pantry, not only tastes better but I'm finding it a more frugal way to live. Our grocery shopping has stretched out where I don't need to go to the shops weekly. Now that I've put together a good supply of pantry basics, this allows me to stretch those visits out, where I really only need to pick up milk and cream on a weekly basis. We recently bought another whole lamb for the freezer. This time from a farm just down the road. It feels good to have a full pantry and full freezer in a natural disaster scenario kind of way.

Are you stretching things out? I would love to hear your thoughts and tips on the subject.


It seems wrong to not mention that today in our country is Anzac day, a day of remembering those soldiers who fought for our country. So while we aren't attending the marches, or baking the biscuits, it is in our thoughts today. Lest we forget.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Once upon a time I liked nothing more than a weekend outing to the local shopping centre. Which, I'm a little ashamed to admit, always involved a little arm twisting with my reluctant other half. Since moving out here I feel worlds away from the crowds, the parents rooms, and the multi storey carparks.
When you have this in your backyard, it's not a difficult decision to pack a last minute picnic and head out into the mountains. No arm twisting required. Forget about the grass that needs mowing. Getting away from it all, if even for a few hours, can be just what this family needs.

Monday, April 23, 2012

mess and all

As the school holidays draw to a close I've been thinking about it all. I'll be completely honest and admit that there is a small sense of relief in them returning to school soon. I feel I haven't been as patient, as creative and giving of my time as I could be. I feel guilty that we didn't really go anywhere or do anything special. I feel guilty about all the yelling. It all does my head in sometimes.

For the truth of the matter is, the physical demands of a toddler, leave my patience and energy levels somewhat depleted. There is only so much of yourself you can give. There is only so much mess I can seem to handle.

With each new child I've been aware of what the new child takes away from the elder children. Time. My patience. Certain outings.

But I do think they have gained so much more. They themselves are learning patience with the younger one. They really adore her. For that I am thankful.

This is how I reconcile it all in my head. I know I'll never be the perfect mother (which doesn't exist anyway, but I swear I've seen a few on Pinterest). We are a bunch of different, highly spirited personalities all meshed together in this family. There isn't an easy one in the bunch.

But we're together. Getting through this jumbled up mess of life with it's highs and lows.

There has been baking, bike riding, drawing and reading. Friends and cousins over. I guess it doesn't sound so bad when you put it like that.

Yes, there is also a part of me that loves having them all at home. Mess and all.

Friday, April 20, 2012

top b

It took a couple of weeks of sporadic pattern cutting and sewing. But top B from The Stylish Dress book is finally hanging in the wardrobe, ready to wear. I've had good intentions of sewing a whole wardrobe of dresses and tops after completing this tunic. But the truth of the matter is, it is just a little too difficult right now to commit to that amount of sewing. Particularly with the littlest one being very interested in scissors and patterns, or more accurately, interested in tearing them up. And lets not go into the obsession with the ironing board.

So I do what I can, when I can.

I'd heard these patterns are quite roomy, so I went with the 8. Plenty of room to spare, despite still breastfeeding. The upper arms were a little more snug, but still comfortable to wear.

The fabric was a Japanese cotton from Spotlight.

And next on the sewing list? I have pattern N cut out from the same book. I have a dressing gown pattern cut out for Julia (who desperately needs a new one, yes I think this is number 1 on the list) and perhaps if all goes well, for the other kiddies too. It can be a tricky balance sharing the sewing love around.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend x

Thursday, April 19, 2012

preserves preserves

Hello! Sorry for those that missed a post yesterday. Due to the rain Daniel stayed home. For some reason or other I find it very hard to find the time to post with everyone at home. It's still raining and he's still home, but I'm making it a priority to blog today. So here I am. Better late than never.

I've spent the past week or two immersed in the world of preserving. I can't bear to waste any of those quinces, or rhubarb, or peaches. But the rewards of all this hard work which should last until next season. Besides, I do quite enjoy the whole process. Just not the cleaning up.

There are many different ways to make quince into jam. You can grate it, you can slice it thinly and you can cut in small chunks. With the slicing it turns into more of a conserve. Or you can make jelly. So I made a bit of everything.

Quince jelly from this book was a huge favourite last year, so we made quite a few batches of that, saving the fruit for a future pastry dessert. The jelly is a favourite of the kids. No bits of annoying fruit, you see.

I used this quince jam recipe as the basis for many batches, but I preferred to cut into pieces, rather than grated most of the time. And the longer you cook quince, the redder it gets.

And the loveliest of jams had to be Persian Jam. Flavoured with cardamom and rosewater. Need I say more?

Then there were the peaches, which were made into Peach and Amaretto jam. Amazing how a splash (okay a few splashes) of alcohol can lift a jam into another realm entirely.

Rhubarb was turned into Rhubarb and Vanilla jam. (I didn't have any pectin on hand, so used a little gelatine instead).  Fortunately for the kids, you can't taste the rhubarb.

quince jelly

I've been using recycled glass jars, as I did last year. But this year, I've been washing them and then sterilizing them for about 10 minutes in a 150 degree oven. I pop the jar lids in for a minute or two. Once almost filled to the top, I screw on the lid tightly and then turn them upside down on the bench. I leave them for about ten minutes before turning them the right way up. When they are cooled the lids that have a raised middle should be able to be pressed to invert them. I've been using this method for about 6 months and with good success so far.

So now the pantry shelves are groaning under all that weight. And the family is getting a little tired of pots constantly bubbling on the stove. Or of hearing me say "Wait a minute..I'm just filling up another bottle". So for now, I'm hanging up those apron strings and having a little break. Just as soon as I finish that batch of quince paste bubbling on the stove, that is.

persian jam, orange and rhubarb marmalade (from this book) with ricotta

Have you been doing any preserving? Do you have plans to?

Does anyone have good preserving books to recommend?