Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pumpkin scones

Here we go again with another pumpkin recipe!

This one is from Taste NZ magazine.

2 cups SR flour
pinch salt
20g butter
1 1/2 cups cooked mashed pumpkin

Preheat oven to 200 deg C.
Rub all above ingredients together in large bowl.
Add 1 beaten egg and about 3 Tbsp milk, just enough to form a soft dough.
Turn onto floured surface and press gently to about 3cm thick. Cut into squares or rounds with a cutter.
Brush with milk and bake on ungreased cold trays for about 15 mins.

Rain rain rain

Last night we got a huge dump of rain, it was pretty windy too but not as strong as it was on the weekend. Seems as though the worst of it is over now. It has stopped raining as I write this and the sun is making an appearance.
Haven't done a 'tap test' yet (we tap on the outside of the water tank to guess how full it is by listening to the change in sound..). Before last night's rain we had about 1/2 tank (it holds about 22,000 L). So with any luck we should have quite a bit now.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The calm before the storm

Another storm is brewing & supposed to hit us tomorrow for a couple of days, strong Northeasterlies again. G fixed up the door to the chook run today but it wasn't worth doing any of the other jobs like fixing the fence around the vege garden (possibility of more damage). We also can't start constructing our steel shed that we've purchased and have ready waiting to assemble until we know we've got a few still days otherwise we'd be asking for trouble, so it will just all have to wait.
Meanwhile the cows are doing a good job of munching the day soon we'll be moving them to another fenced area.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Storm damage

The worst of the storm has passed now, and the wind has flipped around and is now hitting us from the southwest, so it's a bit cold. There are quite a few trees (over 100....yikes!) that now need staking as a result of the strong winds. We didn't stake them when we put them in as they were small and we'd read articles suggesting you could leave them and they would strengthen in the elements and thus not require staking.. hmm. Also the door to the chook run has broken. This was partly because we have a passionfruit vine growing on the fence and the weight of it in combination with the wind pulled the gatepost over.

Other than that just a bit of debris (buckets etc) to pick up from around the paddocks.

So we've a bit more work to do now. One of the joys of living in an exposed coastal area.

Pumpkin and orange loaf

I'm always on the look out for a recipe that could make a dent in our huge store of pumpkins. This is one I hadn't tried before, out of the fantastic book A NZ Country Harvest Cookbook by Gilian Painter. It was successful and I would make it again any time.

200g pumpkin, peeled and cooked, and then cooled and mashed.
1/2 cup brown sugar
6 Tbspn milk
2 Tbspn butter (melted)
zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup walnuts or almonds (I used almonds)
1/2 cup sultanas
2 eggs
2 cups wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder

Grease a 2lb loaf tin. Preheat oven to 180deg C.

Mix sugar with 3 Tbspn milk. Beat in the butter and orange zest. Add nuts and sultanas, mashed pumpkin and eggs beaten with the rest of the milk. Fold in the flour and baking powder and mix well. Pour into tin and bake for 50-60 mins or until a skewer comes out clean.

Family bun recipe

These buns are a recipe passed down from G's nana to her daughter (G's aunt). They're the best rock cakes we've ever tasted. Here is the recipe:

100g butter
3/4 cup caster sugar

Beat together.

Add 2 cups flour and 2 tsp baking powder. Mix. (I guess this would be best in a food processor, but I did it by hand)

Add 1 cup sultanas and 1 packet of mixed peel.

Add enough milk to make a stiff dough.

Place spoonfuls of mixture on greased baking trays. Bake for 12-15mins at about 200deg C.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Wild weather again

We have storm conditions again, with a very strong easterly blowing (rising to be strong gales later this morning) and heavy rain. The paper is reporting "the most intense sub-tropical storm of the decade", and for people to stay indoors. I hope nothing flys away!
Last night G and I did slug patrol and put down more bait. There seems no end to the number of slimy munchers. When we'd got to one end of a bed, looked again, there were more where we'd already been!
I'm a bit concerned that the poor seedlings are now getting a battering as the fencing isn't up to give any shelter but nothing we can do now.

Pic taken this afternoon, usually this is just a small stream!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Vege seedlings

Since the little seedlings got eaten by slugs, we decided to buy some from the local garden centre. They're a decent size so should be more resilient to the munchers. Anyway, we got some broccoflower, a cross between broccoli and cauli and also some Romanesco broccoli which is a cone shaped Italian broccoli. I hope they both flourish.
Also purchased some onions, 'Californian Red', 'Bunching' and Spring, and some Lemon Thyme.

The pink skinned garlic is doing well, the shoots are about 10cm+. And our potatoes, Ilam Hardy and Moonlight are both coming up now. We have just used up our supply from the ones harvested in Jan/Feb and had to buy a bag at the green grocer yesterday.
No lack of pumpkins however! Still quite a lot of those, plus I have soup in the freezer, puree and plain cubed pumpkin frozen too.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rock cakes

G found this recipe in the latest issue of Grass Roots, an Australian self-sufficiency mag we get. Out of all of this genre of mag, we enjoy Grass Roots most of all for its hands on approach, reader tips, recipes and ideas (including money savers).

Anyway, here is the recipe:

125g butter
250g SR flour
125g sugar
1/2 cup sultanas
1/2 cup chopped dates
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmet
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 Tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 170 deg C.

Rub butter into flour. Add rest of dry ingredients, mix. Make a well and add the egg and milk. Mix with a spoon or knife until a dough forms. Drop dessert spoons of mixture on a greased baking tray. Bake for about 15mins.

Variation: next time I might omit the dates and try mixed peel instead.


We've got storm conditions here on the farm again, heavy showers and some hail, strong winds too. We can see the storm clouds brewing in the west so know when the next dump is coming over. This is all good for our water supply since we are dependent on rain water off the roof. However the ground is very soggy and the driveways are in need of some drainage work and repairs. Come Spring we'll get someone in to fix them up, maybe also put in another small dam in the orchard as there's a river running through it at the moment!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Slimy munchers

I went on slug patrol last night as some of the vege seedlings were getting eaten. I couldn't believe how many slugs there were all over the place. I dispatched as many as possible with my gum boot. Most of the very small seedlings have been eaten totally which is a shame, but I'll know next time to be more vigilant. I've now put down some slug bait (wildlife friendly type) and will keep a more regular look out. Now I've got to sow more seeds of Pak choi and Kohl Rabi.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Vege seeds

I've ordered some more vege seeds from my online supplier in readiness for spring plantings. I've chosen some Di Toscana cabbage (Italian black cabbage), Eggplant 'Long Purple', Chillies 'Jalapeno early' and 'Thai Hot', some shallots, and broccoli 'Tender Stems'.

Need to do 'slug patrol' in the garden, some of the seedlings are getting munched.

Friday, July 18, 2008

News from the hen house

Things are looking up in the hen house. One of our 2 grey Araucana hens has started laying again!
This morning I collected 3 eggs, one from the Araucana (they lay green/blue coloured eggs), a small one from one of the Indian Game hens, and the biggest egg is from the Orpington. We have 14 chickens all up, only a few are laying because 5 of the Indian Game hens are too young (should start laying this Spring), we have one very old white Chinese Silkie hen who's nearly blind and not laying, also I think 1 or 2 of the older Indian Game hens are not laying anymore (they might be chicken pie soon).
Although the Indian Game birds are a rare breed and pretty to look at, they don't lay very large eggs, and we're finding the young hens quite flighty, they like to perch on the top of the 1.8m high fence that encloses the run! Also they perch on the roof of the hen house and make a mess with their droppings. I'm tempted to introduce some other breed(s) which lay larger eggs. Can see why people go with Brown Shavers, they do lay nice big eggs.

Ham and spring onion muffins

This is another of Alison Holyst's recipes from her book Marvellous Muffins, actually Bacon and leek but I substituted what I had on hand.

1 1/2 cups SR flour
1 cup (100g) grated 'Tasty' cheese (strong cheddar)
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
pinch of cayenne pepper

1cup chopped leek (I used spring onions)
2 rashers bacon, cooked and chopped (I used ham)
1 egg
1 cup milk

Mix dry ingredients in bowl.
Cook chopped leek in 2 Tbsp water in a pan for a couple of mins.

In another bowl, mix egg with milk. Add leek/onion and bacon/ham.

Add wet ingredients to the dry, mix briefly until flour is dampened.

Spray 12 muffin pans with oil (I use a pump dispenser for olive oil as I discovered the shop bought oil sprays contain propane as a propellant!). Place about 1/4 cup of muffin mixture in each pan.

Bake for about 12mins at 200-210 deg C.

Update from the vege garden

This morning I sowed seeds of more silverbeet ('Giant Fordhook'), 'Winterbor' kale which did well before, and some 'Bloomsdale' spinach. We have lots of space to utilise so figured if we don't eat the greens the chooks can benefit from them.
In the last few days I've also planted out some more spinach, pak choi and kohl rabi seedlings.
The broccoli and cauliflowers don't seem to be growing very fast, I don't know if that's normal for this time of the year or maybe they're too exposed where they are.
The windcloth fence took a bit of a hammering during the last storm and needs fixing.
I'm still a novice for growing most of the veges so it's all a learning curve.
Also the Red bunching onions that have done really well are starting to go to seed which is good so I can save that and sow more.
Won't be long before we'll be thinking about our spring/summer crops. I know I'll put in more 'Roma' tomatoes as they did really well. Maybe we'll grow pumpkins somewhere else as they took up a lot of room and now we've planted garlic and strawberries, and a few other more permanent crops like artichokes, won't have the space for them.
We talked about using part of the chook run to grow crops for them to eat, like corn, greens and maybe some other grains. We could section off an area and then let the chooks in after we've harvested the corn, or just leave it on the plant to dry for them. The cost of chook food is quite high so if we can supplement their feed with our own crops we'll be better off. Comfrey is another plant that can be fed to the chooks.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Honey flapjack

This recipe is one passed down from my mother Ann, who is an excellent cook (or "cooker" as I used to call her when I was young!). We were lucky as we always had lots of home baked goodies in the biscuit tin. Many meals on the dinner table were made from produce out of her vege garden or gathered from the wild (berries, crab apples, mushrooms).

Flapjack is also dead easy to make and it tastes delicious.

100g butter
100g caster sugar
2 dessert spoons honey
150g rolled oats (I use organic)
My dish is about 20 x 20cm, the mixture needs to be spread out quite thinly to crisp up nicely.

Melt butter and honey on low heat in a saucepan.
Add sugar and oats. Stir to mix.
Spread into greased (buttered) dish.
Bake at about 160 deg C for 20mins or until golden brown.
Mark into squares when hot, then cut into squares when cold.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fried rice

I only learnt how to cook a good stir fry in recent years, since viewing Kylie Kwong's cooking show on TV.

This recipe for fried rice is based on a recipe from her book Heart and Soul.

As well as being a nice comfort food, fried rice is the best homemade "fastfood", it's so quick to cook (so long as you have cooked rice in the fridge).

About 2 Tbpsn peanut oil
2 large eggs, beaten

1 1/2 Tbspn ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 onion, finely diced
1/2 cup chopped bacon or ham
1 tsp white sugar
2 Tbpsn shao hsing wine/Chinese cooking wine (or if not available use sherry)
3 cups cold cooked white rice (day old is best)
1 Tbpsn oyster sauce
about 1/2 cup spring onions, finely sliced
1 tsp vege stock powder or a splash of liquid stock
1/4 tsp sesame oil
Chopped red chilli(es to suit your heat requirement)
Splash of soy sauce

Prepare everything first and have it all lined up ready to go in the wok, as the cooking time is very short.

Heat oil in wok and pour in beaten eggs. Cook for about 1min, scrambling them lightly with a fish slice. Remove and set aside on a kitchen paper towel.

Wipe wok (carefully it will be very hot!) with more kitchen paper, add extra oil and stir fry ginger, chilli and garlic for 1min. Add onion, stir fry for 2min, add bacon and stir fry for another minute. Then add sugar and wine. Lastly add rice, the reserved cooked egg, oyster sauce, spring onions, stock and sesame oil. Stir fry for about 3min. Roughly chop egg as you stir.

Serve in bowls, eat with fork (or chopsticks if you prefer) with a splash of soy sauce or tamari to taste. (This quantity serves 2 people). Obviously omit bacon or ham if you are wanting a vegetarian meal..

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pumpkin soup

The pumpkins are keeping quite well, although we noticed a bit of caterpillar damage to one end of one of the large banana pumpkins, so I cut out the damage and made up a big batch of soup today with most of the remaining pumpkin. Here is the recipe. I doubled the quantities and will freeze some of it.

1 Tbspn olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1kg pumpkin, cubed
1L vegetable stock
Optional: dash of cream stirred in before serving

Sautee onion in oil on low heat for about 7 mins, should be soft but not brown. Add spices, turn up heat and cook for about 1min stirring.
Add pumpkin and stir to coat. Add stock and bring to boil, cover and cook on low heat for about 30mins.
Cool slightly. Whizz with a stick blender or food processor. Return to low heat, add salt and dash of cream if wished, mix. Serve hot with toast or fresh crusty bread.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

More goat meat again

A friend of ours who owns a farm had some wild goats which he wanted to get rid of. Apparently a goat can eat as much as a fully grown bull, so competition with his cattle for the grass, particularly at this time of the year, is not wanted. Hence the need to get rid of the goats. Also they taste quite nice! (similar to mutton).
So last night Graham came home with 3 goat carcasses which are now hanging. They hang as with game to improve the flavour (and texture?) of the meat. Then there will be the big job of cutting up into portions, and washing, wrapping and freezing.
What with our stock of lamb meat, this should keep us going for a while. Now we (that's the royal we, I really mean Graham) just need to "knock off" some of the under-producing (in terms of egg laying) chickens.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The goose dinner

Well last night I cooked the goose breasts. I chose an easy recipe which involved marinating the meat in some honey, thyme and balsamic vinegar. Then I roasted some potatoes in butter and thyme, added the goose about 20mins before the potatoes were due to be ready. Made some crab apple "jus" (red wine, stock, then crab apple jelly boiled up and added a knob of butter). Steamed some fresh cabbage to go with it all.
Although it all looked good and wasn't too bad to taste the goose was pretty tough! We couldn't eat most of it! So not a very successful wild food meal. I think next time I will cook it in the slow cooker and try another recipe as I don't think the balsamic vinegar really improved the flavour.
The other thing to bear in mind is we didn't know the age of the goose, and apparently they are quite long lived.

Garlic again

The garlic is all planted now. 300 cloves in total and I just put them in one very long row along the front fenceline of our vege garden.
I also planted some spinach seedlings.
Last night we had a frost. I've put plastic bottles on each seedling to give a bit of protection from the elements, just in case. However it has clouded over today so unlikely to be another frost tonight. In any case, the bottles help the seedlings get a bit of a headstart.
Yesterday Graham planted 75 strawberry plants, so in total with the 18 I already planted that's 93 so we should get a really good crop so long as we can get them before the bunnies do!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Banana bran muffins

I made these muffins from Alison Holst's Marvelous Muffins book. They were very good. I've used a handful of her muffin recipes from this book over the years but this was a new one to try.

Here is the recipe:

3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup wholemeal flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup wheat bran
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
Optional: 1/2 cup chopped walnuts and 1/2 cup sultanas (I omitted these but might include them next time)

50g butter
1 egg
1 1/2 cups mashed banana
1 tsp vanilla
milk to mix

Mix dry ingredients together in large bowl.
In another bowl, melt butter, stir in egg and add banana and vanilla.

Mix wet ingredients with dry ingredients. Add milk until you have a mixture of normal muffin consistency (comes with experience!). Number one rule for muffins, do not overmix or they will be tough, you should just combine until most of the flour has been incorporated.

Divide mixture evenly into 12 oiled muffin pans. Bake for about 15 mins at 200deg C.

Monday, July 7, 2008

One sheep and then several lamb chops

We were given a sheep by the farmer who grazes his herd on our land from time to time.

Graham did a very good job of butchering it, first time round at this skill (apart from 1 goat some time ago). We now have various cuts of meat in the freezer. If we had a proper chopping block and cleaver it would make the job a lot easier, but Graham managed to cut everything into manageable sizes for our small oven.

Should see us right for several roast dinners to come!

Thursday, July 3, 2008


I recently read a charming book called Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran. It's about 3 Iranian sisters who move to Ireland and open a cafe. Each chapter begins with a different recipe (incorporated into the storyline) and I was enticed by the descriptions of Persian cooking, particularly the use of spices such as cardamom, cinnamon and of course rose water.
I made the baklava this morning and it tastes pretty good even if I say so myself. Judged 5/5 by Graham and rather a lot consumed so that must be a good sign!

Here is the recipe from the book. I halved it as I only have a small oven so can't use a bigger pan and I also used mostly pistachios and a few almonds. I ended up with quite a lot of nut mixture left, in fact enough for a second batch!

For the syrup:
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup rosewater (you could reduce this and add more water if you don't want such a strong rose flavour)

For the pastry:
Filo (phyllo) pastry, cut with scissors to fit your dish, I used a small baking tray 25 x 30cm.
500g shelled pistachios
500g blanched almonds
2 cups brown sugar
2 tbpsn ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

To make syrup: bring sugar, water and rosewater to boil in a medium saucepan, set aside to cool.

Grind nuts, spices and sugar in food processor for about 1min.

Butter your dish. Lay 5 sheets of buttered filo pastry into dish. Then spread a thin layer of the nut mixture, cover with 5 more sheets of buttered pastry, repeat nuts then pastry. I repeated this for a further time but I guess you could put more nuts in between, I did quite a thin layer. With sharp knife mark out diamond shapes (cut across and diagonally). Bake for 180 for about 1hr* NB I used a cooler oven 160 and took it out after 40 mins. In another recipe book, it says to bake for 25 mins. Pour the cooled syrup over the top and leave to cool completely before cutting into diamonds and serving.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Lavender shortbread

Back in the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth I made it fashionable to use lavender in cooking. Since those days it fell from favour for use in the kitchen (I'm not sure why, does anyone know?) but has made a resurgence in the last few years.

Make sure you only use the culinary English lavender ('augustifolia' varieties) for cooking.

100g butter, softened
80g caster sugar
1 tsp dried lavender flowers
1 cup plain white flour
1/2 tsp salt

In a bowl, beat together the butter, caster sugar and lavender flowers. I use an electric beater to do this.

Then add the flour and salt and beat slowly until crumb like. Press into dough with hands. Roll into a fat sausage shape and wrap in plastic film. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Slice into 1/4 inch rounds. Bake on unlined tray 160 deg C for about 15 ins.

Variation: add 1 tsp grated lemon rind to butter and sugar with the lavender flowers.
Instead of rolling into logs, you could roll out with a rolling pin and cut shapes, but this is of course more time consuming.

Note: This dough can be frozen for up to a month.


This morning I planted the Kakanui (pink skinned) garlic, which didn't take very long. The time is in the preparation of the bed and for the 1kg of remaining garlic to be planted I figure I'll need 2 beds which are about 20m long each.. Yikes! Might get started on that this afternoon if I can muster the enthusiasm.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Update in the vege garden

We got a whole lot of old hay from a local farmer and have been laying this on the vege garden as mulch, and also to cover any bare ground that would encourage weeds to grow.
Over the next few days I must get around to planting the garlic bulbs. We bought 2 small bags of Kakanui (pink coloured skin), about 60 cloves. Also we bought 1kg of commercial garlic, which after estimating about 1000 cloves turned out to be only 300 but they are fatter than the Kakanui ones.