Saturday, January 29, 2011

Vampires begone

Braided garlic grown on the Peninsula patch. My partner made two of these braids with help from this handy video. That'll keep those pesky bloodsucking gothic types away from our place this year.

A hazel with Tagasaste and Acacia melanoxylon prunings at the base

Apart from garlic harvesting, there has been work to do on the swale. I've been pruning the nurse trees (Tagasastes, Acacia melanoxylon) that are planted around the nut (almond, hazel, and pecan) and avocado trees. The pruning is mainly to let more sunlight in, especially important for sun lovers like pecans and avocados, and it also provides mulch to keep the weeds away from the bases of the trees and adds organic matter to the soil.

It's interesting to see the difference in form and growth stage of the Tagasastes that have been browsed by wallabies. They are bushier and more compact. And, and unlike the un-browsed Tagasastes, they haven't seeded. This means that their feed value is higher: because they've been kept in the the vegetative phase, the leaf matter is more palatable and nutritious. The ratio of leaf to woody material is also higher. For more information on management of Tagasaste for grazing purposes see this farmnote by WA Dept of Ag

All aboard the trailer train.

Moving mulch with wheelbarrows is not fun - its just not. And we've been doing a lot of it lately, trying to keep the indigenous plantings on the back of the dam weed free. So my partner built this ingenious trailer train. I'm so happy, I'm humming a little trailer train song . . .
Flavours from the patches

Artichokes on the Peninsula patch
Oh the joys of summer produce from the patches - so many flavours and so many possibilities. I follow a loose rule of 'making do' - with what is coming out of the ground, and what's in my pantry and in fridge - substitution is the key.

Artichoke hearts and sorrel and gruyere tart

My father prepared these artichoke hearts following a recipe from my aunt, who learnt it while travelling overseas in Italy. The sorrel in the tart is from the Peninsula patch and the tart is a lovely rich treat. Here's the recipe. Don't skimp on the cream and gruyere.

101 (minus 95) ways with Pesto

Basil harvest always leads to pesto. This batch includes parsley, coriander, garlic and lemons from the patches, with walnuts from a Healsville farmer's market. Pesto is so easy and so forgiving. In its most basic form its just blended basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, and lemon. But you can substitute and add ad infinitum. When I don't have enough basil, I use parsley, chervil, watercress, coriander and have even used (lightly steamed) warrigal greens. Any nuts will do. I made a great pesto with salted cashews once. And any strong hard cheese will substitute for parmesan, including tasty, provolone, and pecorino.

Pesto gives a tangy kick to so many dishes. Here are a few of my favourite non-standard uses:
  • add a couple of spoons to zuchini soup at the last minute, or for that matter pretty much any vegetable soup
  • on pizza (smear it over the base instead of brushing with oil)
  • smear it on lamb chops or steak
  • add it to salad dressing
  • add it to bolognese sauce - this is kind of like adding sweet chilli sauce - it lifts the bolognese out of the nursery food doldrums

Zucchini and potato soup is excellent with a few dollops of pesto added at the last minute.

Harvest from the inner-city patch

The staff of life
Sourdough loaf - made according to Dan Lepard's recipe for Mill Loaf (white, wholemeal, and rye flour).

Since buying Dan Lepard's gorgeous book, The Handmade Loaf, I've been experimenting with bread again.

This is expensive flour, but it is stoneground, biodynamic, and from Victoria - that's pretty good credentials.

Olive and walnut sourdough (white, rye and wholemeal flour)
More inspiration has come from this lovely blog on fermentation. I love the commitment to low-tech, low energy techniques - no thermometers or special kits or other fancy equipment. Instead an understanding of the principles of fermentation is used to refine the techniques, particularly the timing.

And I can't resist posting this photo of my Greek neighbour Elsie's amazing Christmas pastries. How beautiful are these?


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