All about Food

Tagged by Cardinal Cyn

1. What, or who inspired you to start a blog?

The inspiration for this blog came from a gardening notebook I have written in for several years. Being an inveterate planner, I like to have somewhere to record the plans and find them again later. I liked the idea of being able to search easily on past posts, and also being able to share what we are doing at Cato Garden Farm.

2. Who is your foodie inspiration?

Mother Nature. Does that sound twee? A lot of the food I adore is about simple, mighty fine ingredients put together with care and love.

3. Your greasiest, batter-spattered food/drink book is?

Well, not the greasiest, but the most used on a regular basis would have to be Jamie’s 30 minute meals. Obviously Jamie has a special time machine or reeeeallly slow clock, but I love the idea of opening it up and having the whole meal sorted – main, side, dessert all in a couple of pages.

4. Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?

Memorable meals – rillettes on baguettes in a park in Paris. Bought from a food market and eaten in the sun. Little open sandwiches in Copenhagen. Goat’s cheese Gouda in Amsterdam from the local market. Porcini mushroom pasta in cream sauce in Florence. Fish curry on roti for breakfast in Singapore.

(so where did “5″ get to???)

6. What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?

A kitchen fairy to tidy away the mess of cooking and buy the essentials like muesli and coffee beans before we run out.

7. Who taught you how to cook?

My mother. Thank You!!!!!!!!!

8. I’m coming to you for dinner what’s your signature dish?

We might do a selection of curries, or in winter roast pork, definitely sorbet for dessert.

9. What is your guilty food pleasure?

Rice crackers with salted butter and peanut butter.

10. Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?

I can’t grow spinach. And I want to! Maybe I will get it right in 2012?

Just a little bit of progress!

* photos to come once I figure out the visual editor stuff and make it work again.

18/19 June

  • established new pink eye potato bed – C9 using Poly carpet underlay from the second floor (we found a sewing machine bobbin in one roll identifying the source) and horse manure bagged by the Connect students as a fund raiser. So a Poly Potato Patch.underlay
  • planted broadbeans in C5 in back half.
  • Planted Up to Date potatos in O1/O2/O3 under the fruit trees in the orchard in wire circles. They should be relatively protected from frost there for an early crop.
  • Started the 'under the clothesline' redevelopment.
  • Gathered two huge trailer loads of hessian carpet underlay from work on Thursday night. Hooray for scavenging. Although it did rather look like we were rolling bodies wrapped in blankets down the back nature strip in the dark. No-one called the police though.
  • Moved C8 (previous strawberry bed) slightly uphill and re-edged. This now fits better in the space between the chook shed and nashi pear tree. Strawberries from there were removed and most are still awaiting re-planting. With this cool weather I'm hoping they'll cheerfully sit jumbled in on top of each other in the large tubs until next weekend. I trimmed and potted up about 50 already. Once they've settled we'll plant out into the front garden.
  • Carpet underlay rolled down the access path through the raspberries

11/12/13 June – Queens Birthday Long Weekend

  • Established blueberry patch where old chook shed and grapevine were.
  • Moved 3 Blueberries from C8, planted out 2 from pots loitering near the deck, and 3 new ones. Top 5 are Brigitta, 2 are Blue Rose and 1 Blue Crop. Tucked in along the edge, some oregano and a chamomile. All berries got tree guards to save them from frost. It would appear that blueberries curl up their toes at being in the main frost pathway of our garden. I'd rather not count up how many we've killed. Let's just focus on the better location shall we?
  • Planted from top to bottom Peach – Redhaven, Nectarine – Fantasia, Peach – Elberta, on side of driveway.
  • Garlic along inside edge of C3 Snowpeas in S2 Now on the right side fence we have, from top to bottom S1 Sweet peas (self seeded from last year), S2 Snow Peas Melting Mammoth, S3 and S4 Green Peas – Greenfeast
  • Planted Apricots 2 Moorpark and 1 Tilton (furthest from gate) over the back fence.
  • Bought a Black Genoa Fig to go in the front garden. Despite leaving it in the pot I have not killed it yet! (proving my track record wrong)
  • Planted out about 20 strawberries in the front garden in gaps.
  • I think it was this weekend I tucked about four more brassica seedlings into C6 and C0. We lost a few plants to aphid overload and their apparent hatred of mushroom compost. These were some of the 'random red brassicas' I got as a freebie in early autumn and had potted on in the greenhouse to fill gaps.

Preserving 18/19 June

  • 18 jars savoury applesauce from all our own apples. Still more on the trees to eat and preserve
  • 7 jars fig jam (10 mins at 15psi in the pressure cooker to get the runty little end of season ones soft enough to make jam)
  • 7 jars caramelised onion (once cooked down equivalent of half a kilo of onions each!!!!)
  • 4 jars meat balls in tomato – a number#20 jar holds enough meatballs for the three of us, just needs more tomato and other veg to turn it into a meal.

Ferber Musings

Well, the library wants their copy of Christine Ferber’s Mes Confitures book back. Sad Day.

This book is, unsurprisingly for the French speakers out there, a whole bunch of jam recipes. Which is good, but we don’t eat that much jam. So I have used the book more as flavour combining inspiration. I did make the Quince, Cardamon and Orange Marmalade (p152). Which is to die for. Luckily I have more bottles of quince juice tucked away  so I can make more later in the year.

I used the Pear with Caramel and Spices (p187) as an inspiration for some bottled pears which turned out delightfully.  My tweaks were: replace making caramel/ toffee with a scoop of dark brown sugar when making a spiced syrup with cardamom, star anise and cinnamon. This works equally well with stewed apples and makes for a quick dessert warmed through. This has got me thinking about more of our preserved fruit next year being ready made combos – eg crumble fillings with apples and berries.

Future combos to try:

Orange, Rhubarb and Apple in a 1:3:3 ratio

Apricots with slivered almonds

Apricot, Nectarine and Ginger 5:5:1

Citrus with cinnamon, cardamom, cloves

Apples with raspberries 2:1

Blackberry and Raspberry 1:1

Oranges with gingerbread spice, cinnamon, star anise

Yellow Peach with Orange 1:1

Fig and Pear 2.5:1

Mes Confitures cover


Technique tips for jam making to preserve the sparkling colours and whole fruit

Fruit, lemon juice and sugar are combined and brought to a simmer then immediately put into a bowl, covered and left overnight to macerate in the fridge. Sometimes fruit, lemon juice and sugar are combined and simply left overnight to macerate.  Softer fruit may only be left an hour or so, and is not strained in the next step.

The following day, the mixture is strained and juices are boiled until they reach setting point, fruit is added back in and it is boiled another 5 minutes before bottling.

Pectin is added in the form of Green Apple Jelly. Lemon juice aids setting. Where fruit juices are used (as in the marmalade reference above), strained juice is left to settle overnight so the clearer juice on top can be used. These technique based attention to details result in a stunning looking preserve.

Pink Jam

One of the interesting things about reading a lot of foodie/preservation blogs from the northern hemisphere is being out-of-step with their seasons. Many bloggers seem to be excited by rhubarb at the moment, and there has been an explosion of recipes as it is one of the first fruit to emerge at the start of spring.

Well, mine was growing all spring, summer and autumn, and this morning I finished what was probably my second batch of rhubarb cooking in 12 months. It doesn’t really go dormant in my garden. The original plants, (thanks for the correction Dad!) came from Marie who worked in the same building as Dad and had this variety in her family for generations.I think the story goes, came from Marion’s mother, Marion lived next door to my parents for a while. It is a lovely thick stemmed red-just-tinged-with-green rhubarb. Because it just sits there, quietly growing and not demanding attention I rarely pick it. The chickens dose themselves on the leaves from time to time (self-medicating for worms perhaps?).

Rhubarb! Rhubarb!

Recently I picked a batch to aid pruning access to the apricot tree growing above it. There must be a good six to eight corms there now, from an original two. I suppose I should mulch it or sprinkle some compost on it to provide encouragement.

Last night I made Pink Jam – Strawberry and Rhubarb combined with a touch of lemon. But it didn’t set. I think I am being impatient with my jam making, and many North American recipes use less sugar than a 1:1 ratio, but ensure a good gel with added pectin.

This morning, I emptied the jars into a saucepan, added another 1.5 cups of water and a packet of jamsetta, boiled briefly and rebottled. Within an hour it was a firm set which I do prefer. The taste is nice – neither rhubarb nor strawberry dominate, the flavour is very PINK! I think I need to stock up on Jamsetta or consider making a batch of pectin stock from green apples before the apple season is out.

Now, it’s morning tea time and I’ve got a pot of baked rhubarb to enjoy :-)

Wallaby Ragout

A mid-week recipe based on what was in the fridge, freezer and pantry…

Saute until transluscent 1 finely chopped onion in a slurp of Penna Valley Olive Oil.

Add 600 grams Diced Wallaby from Bruny Island Game Meats (in the second half of this article) and sizzle till starting to brown.

Add in 4 chopped carrots, 2 sticks celery chopped fine, the remains of a preserved jar of crushed tomatoes, the dregs of a jar of home made salsa. Stir over a high heat until well combined. Congratulate yourself on emptying two jars from the fridge. Yes the jars have been breeding in there I am sure of it.

Pour in a glass of Moores Hill Cabernet Merlot (and one into a glass for yourself and anyone you really like)

Sprinkle in some dried rosemary and also about two tablespoons of a spice rub based on spanish paprika and pepper.

Toss in about 1 1/2 cups of cooked black beans that were loitering in the fridge. Say a thank you to Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals for introducing you to black beans.

Stir it all around and put on a lid. Turn to low heat to simmer.

Drink half your glass of wine.

Add 2 cups shredded cabbage. Stir. Replace lid.

Drink the remainder of your wine.

Serve 3 large bowls and enjoy.

Realise as you are all finishing your bowls someone should have taken a picture.

NB: Any ingredient can be substituted. Quantities are based on what you find you have. Otherwise it would not be a mid-week recipe. Except maybe the onion. Most of our dinner recipes start with an onion.




Mid-Week Update

Being back at work has meant a shift in my garden time. At the end of yesterday I came home in the dusk, slid on my gumboots and dug some carrots to add to dinner. The need to reconnect with the mud soil was strong. The carrots were a nice addition to a feed of cannelini beans simmered with a pork hock until it all went sticky and delicious. Carrots and leeks added last night upped the vegetable content.

carrots, beetroot, spuds

carrots (orange and white), beetroot, spuds

Yesterday, the chickens were noisily settling down for the night and sorting out who was sleeping where in their new shed.

Tonight, the negotiation was less intense between the chickens. The turkeys (just large chooks really, but that is their nickname) were nesting in the hay under the nesting box. Ginger had managed to get on the lid of the nesting box, for which she has my admiration – only last weekend I clipped their wings to minimise their flying ability. I picked Ginger up and tucked her inside the box with all the other bantams. There’s plenty of space in the nesting box for all of them, but I suspect the turkeys haven’t figured out how to use the ramp up into the nesting area yet. The term ‘bird brain’ definitely applies to those three.

The babies are getting noisier and noisier – they must be missing their late afternoon tea I was feeding them as there is a racket when I come down the back stairs at the end of the day. Jet is growing well but still the smallest. She prefers to stand in the food bowl to eat.

The garlic planted a few weeks back is up and about 10cm high in C2. No sign of life in C4 yet but that was planted two weeks later.

Preserving – 6 bottles of stewed apples last night, 5 bottles chicken stock are just about done in the pressure canner as I write. The pressure canner seemed like a crazy but good idea (number #45 i think) and yet it has been lovely to open jars of mexican beans and mince, or chickpeas and pinto beans ready to use. The chicken stock won’t take up space in the freezer, and won’t need defrosting on the nights we want to make a quick risotto.

Beep beep – there’s the alarm. Off to tend to my bottles of preserved goodness.

Pig, Pig, Glorious Pig

I think we may have enough bacon now. At least for a week or two. And a wee bit of ham on the side. And a couple of pots of pea & ham soup in the pipeline. And some smoked chorizo for flavourbursts.

Assorted To-Be-Smoked bits

Assorted To-Be-Smoked bits L-R Back Row: Thyme Bacon, Maple Bacon, Leg Ham, Hock. Hiding: Brined bacon (2 small squares) Middle: Fennel/Caraway Bacon, Mum's Herb Bacon, Shoulder Ham. Front Row: Hock, Mum's Gammon, Mum's Dry cure Bacon, Hock.

Fully loaded smoking set up

Fully loaded smoking set up 5 sorts of bacon, plain brined hocks, gammon, leg and shoulder ham, chorizo went on later.


Mid- Smoking

Mid- Smoking

Adding more Chips

Adding more Chips We rotated the meats around the bbq to make sure heat was more evenly distributed.


Finished Smoking #1

Finished Smoking #1 On Top: Mum's Herb Bacon, Under Clockwise from Left - Gammon, Mum's dry cure bacon, My brined bacon

Finished Smoking #2

Finished Smoking #2 Clockwise from top: Shoulder ham, Thyme Bacon, Hock, Maple Bacon (under), Brined Bacon.

Finished Smoking #3

Finished Smoking #3 Two hocks, chorizo sausages, leg ham.



Apple experiments

Magic apple tool

Magic apple tool

This will be the first year I turn my hand to preserving apples. I know you can buy apples for a lot of the year thanks to cold storage, but we are going to see how useful some jars of stewed apples are in mid-winter to quickly rustle up desserts. During the apple season we will easily eat 4 kilos a week between the three of us.

Never having done this before, my interest was piqued by Sally Wise’s apple and apricot charts. And there are more varieties both grown my garden and available at the farmer’s market, so I have some additions and annotations based on initial experiments.

I purchased a range of apples at the Farm Gate market to test out, and also picked more from the garden. Thus expanding our possibles to:

  1. Fuji (Cato)
  2. Gala (Cato)
  3. Pink Lady (Cato)
  4. Jonagold (Purchased, ours ripened weeks ago)
  5. Jazz (Purchased from the corner store)
  6. Mutsu (Purchased)
  7. Granny Smith (Purchased, ours not ready yet)
  8. Democrat (Purchased)
  9. Golden Delicious (Purchased)
L- R: Golden Delicious, Democrat, Granny Smith

L- R: Golden Delicious, Democrat, Granny Smith

So far we think:

Jazz are blah, we don’t like them. Granny Smith went to mush too quickly for my liking. Democrats I am now keen to get as an eating apple, but didn’t like them dried. They kept their shape well when cooked

Dried Apples Elimination Contestants

Dried Apples Elimination Contestants: Based on tried and tested Masterchef approaches, I went for a top three and bottom three. Clear winners - Mutsu and Jonagold. Mid field - Golden Delicious - Fuji (no pic). Blah - Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Democrat.

For drying – our Fujis are spectacular, Jonagolds and Mutsu are equal second, Golden Delicious are great too.

For stewing – Fujis, Jonagolds, Mutsu and Golden Delicous.

After preserving

After preserving: L- R: Mutsu, Golden Delicious, Fuji, Democrat, Granny Smith, Jonagold

Before Preserving

Before Preserving: L - R: Granny Smith, Democrat, Mutsu, Fuji, Golden Delicious


The Pink Ladys and Galas from the garden are wonderfully juicy. Mutsus have been disappearing into bags for lunches this week at a fast rate of knots.


We might experiment with storing some wrapped in paper under the house and see how they fare.


There are many more varieties to try out! But I didn’t order a Mutsu tree :-(   Maybe next year… I’m sure we have room for more.


What’s in the Garden at the moment?

Bed Naming Conventions

In the main vegie garden we have seven circles – one central (C0) and then 6 more in a circle around it, numbering starting from the closest to the house. And then we have another few beds, and a few more on the drawing board.

Plan of Plantings - not to scale!


Planted: this week snowpeas on trellis, and about a month ago about 5 brassicas – broc, cauli, cabbage mix

Volunteers: kale, coriander. parsnip, strawberries.


Planted: mixed brassicas, parsley – flat leaf going to seed, curled in fine form, Tiny Tim cherry tomato still producing, lettuce going to seed (for the rabbits)

Volunteer: parsnips galore, chervil


Planted: ready to eat – carrots, beetroot, spring onions, planted this week – garlic. ready to come out – beans, strawberries to relocate

Volunteer: strawberry runners


Planted: ready in a month – carrots, beetroot, Bellstar tomato

Volunteer: no room – tight plantings!


Planted: this week – garlic, waiting to ripen – tomatillos, ready to eat – celery

Volunteer: parsnips, calendula

View down the garden

View down the garden - C1 in foreground, C0 directly below/behind


Planted: brassicas, kale

Volunteer: borage, cherry tomato (too late though)


Planted: brassicas,

Volunteer: cherry tomato ripening now, borage, chives

C7 (closest to new chicken shed)

Planted: strawberries, blueberries

Volunteer: weeds – couch grass

Under clothesline

more brassicas

Side of driveway

more brassicas, snow peas.

Orchard picking now:

Lots of apples – fuji, gala, pink lady

Pears – the last winter cole



Over Back Fence

Butternut pumpkins about 15 cm long. If the weather gods smile they might mature.

Front Yard

Strawberries – very few and the birds are beating us to them

Notes/Learning from this summary:

Yup, we have a few different growing areas!

Possibly we have more than enough brassicas, partly due to some red ones that lost their label from my regular seedling supplier, so they were a freebie. They are now labelled “Random Brassica”, I’m hoping they might be purple broccoli. But I’m thinking another 3 broccoli planted now will extend the season further…

Planned beds – when we remove the old chicken shed, two or three will snuggle in between that side fence and the Williams pear. And another between the nashi pear and citrus grove as that is wonderfully sunny even at this time of year compared to say C5.

And I need to think about not planting brassicas next February in so many places – a few too many beds have them which risks disease buildup. It was an issue of wanting to plant where the tomatoes were, and not having the centre bed properly cleared.