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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Living Better Sept '13 - Part II - Sour Dough

After our pepperleaf explorations Jo gave us a little talk on her sour dough making experiences and also got a little bit into the science of grain nutrition.
One of her main inspirations has been this book...

"Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon 
We love a good book review at the group and Jo told us that the book is based on many ancient cultures and their nutrition and food treatments. It seems digesting grains is certainly one thing we don't do well now and in the book we discover that pre-industrialised people did not use whole grains as our cook books present. They did not have quick rising breads or granolas. By soaking in water we neutralise the enzyme inhibitors present in all seeds.

"Scientists have learned that the proteins in grains, particularly high gluten grains like wheat, puts an enormous strain on the whole digestive mechanism.....the results take the form of allergies, celiac disease, mental illness (this includes depression), chronic indigestion and candida albicans overgrowth...."

Both Jo and I highly recommend this book.
Happily it has taken Jo on sour dough adventures while she ensures her family is getting the best nutritional needs met and you can best read about her talk 
here in her blog post 

Jo's Bread!
Next month she is bringing some starter, Yay!
I love this group!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Better Living Sept '13 Part I - Pepperleaf Recipes

What a night!
There was so much information I'll have to split the posting up.
One of our key focus topics was the Tasmanian Pepperberry.
It seems there is something delicious to taste every month and the Pepperleaf and Parmesan Biscuits that Katherine brought in were DIVINE! So moreish and she has provided the recipe.

This page here gives an in depth description of the pepperberry. Both male and female plants are required for pollination if you are wanting to achieve actual pepperberries but the leaves may also be used for a peppery taste. I have one of each at home and they do happily grow in pots and can be kept as compact bushy shrubs. They are flowering now and we passed around specimens taking note of the rich maroon coloured stems, the smooth leathery olive coloured leaves and the small umbels of tiny yellow flowers (distinctly differing on male and female) and the small bunch of berries on the female specimen. 

Marlene has taken the cuttings to have a go at striking them. There is more useful care and cultivation notes here. The leaves are just as hot and peppery as biting into a berry and I have previously posted about stuffing a fowl for roasting with lemon, garlic scape and pepperberry leaf, all of which are in season now.

Pepperberry leaf would be a great addition to any of your rubs for roasted meats and goes well with cheese so if you are a cheese maker the addition of pepperberry would be fabulous. Jo was also telling us that more research is being done into the medicinal properties of the Tas pepperberry too and I think we will see this plant more widely used in the coming years.

Without further ado....
I give you the recipe Katherine provided for these amazing biscuits (cookies) and I dare you stop at four!

Pepperleaf and Parmesan Biscuits

350g butter unsalted and softened
400g plain flour
300g of matured cheese
50g of parmesan cheese 
1/2 teas salt
1/2 teas paprika
2 teas pepperleaf chopped finely
macadamias or walnuts to decorate

Cream the flour and butter till pale and fluffy.
Grate both the cheeses and mix with the seasonings thoroughly into the dough.
Roll into sausage shaped logs and wrap in foil and refrigerate.
Cut into rounds and allow to come to room temperature.
At this point you can gently push in a macadamia half.
Bake @ 170 C for approx 10 min.

You could use salted butter and omit the salt of course
Use 2-2 1/2 times the dried weight of leaf for fresh
Mixture may be frozen and baked when visitors pop in, BONUS!

These were a big hit!
The Living Better Sept '13 meeting continued in the next post.....

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Living Better With Native Spice

The Living Better Group 
meets again this Thursday 
26th September 2013
at the Launceston Workers Club
and we'll be talking about 
Tasmanian Pepperberries and the pepperberry leaves.
Horticultural notes and recipes
"Sweet Potato Gnocchi with pepper, prosciutto and parmesan sauce"
"Tas pepperleaf and Parmesan Crackers"
"Pepperleaf, Scape and Lemon stuffing for Roast Chicken"
If you are local, come along.
If not I'll have a write up for you after the event.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Feeding Through The Hungry Gap

Even in the "hungry gap" you can make nutritious meals for less than $2 by growing your own.
In the past I have been a bit anti home growing carrots; they're fiddly and slow and finnicky and lets face it, cheap to buy anyway right.
Craig persevered.
We have tended to take the advice of our Italian friend Lisa who simply sows them in lines and harvests them in lines as she needs them. 
Her words,
 "you take them as they come, as they grow, some are straight, some are small and sometimes they are big, wassamatta? They are all carrots"
freed us from the commercial expectations we had been placing on our crop.
We had been conditioned to think carrots were straight, one colour and one size and we were failures if we didn't produce like that.

You do need to ensure that the seed is kept moist till germination and that the weeds are not too vigorous among them. A good tilth to the soil is helpful but if you are using your compost like you should for all your vegetables your soil will be great anyway. A steady supply of water during their growing is also important, like any vegetable you don't want them to go for days on end without water, it will tell in the taste and texture.

Think about that carrot...
it is essentially a root taking up from the soil and creating it's goodness.
I know farmers who will not eat bought mono-cropped sprayed carrots for that very reason.
Another incentive to grow your own.

One of the best reasons of all I have discovered is it's slowness as it turns out. The late sowing in summer has been steadily feeding us for months and what's more I haven't had to preserve them or store them, they have done just fine in the cool ground. I literally pick them as I need them. Within minutes of them being in the ground we are eating them.
Fresh, chemical free, cheap and versatile.

This week for dinner I slow cooked a whole chicken, one of the roosters we culled a couple of months ago. I based it around the Chicken Soup recipe in Anneke Manning's seasonal cook book.
I used a huge bunch of parsley. I mean a huge bunch like a vegetable quantity rather than a herb flavour quantity as it is about to go to seed and I am using as much as I can of it's lushness. I added a bottle of last seasons' tomatoes from the cupboard and juice from a lemon from the front yard. Next some dried beans (4 different types)  from last years harvest that I had soaked for 24 hrs and of course lovely carrot straight from the patch and some garlic still feeding us from last years crop.

The next night I took those leftovers from the slow cook and strained the liquid from the meat and veg. I added some mashed potato to the solids and baked the mix in a pie for dinner the next night. 
Craig took leftover pie for lunch the next day and I took the leftover "soup" for my lunch.
The chick cost us $5 and the cost of feeding it till dispatch is more than covered by the eggs from the pullets.
All the veg was produced from our own saved seed.

I won't get into a breakdown of energy costs to produce the meals suffice to say the initial cost of the slow cook....around $5 plus electricity
The pie say $1.60 for the butter and flour in the pastry and the potatoes (we've run out)
For a total of $6.60 plus whatever for electricity for cooking I made three meals for us.
It's the end of winter (spring doesn't really start here properly for another month yet) and we are in the "hungry gap" of the garden. We still have perpetual spinach and lettuce, carrots and parsley growing. Lemons are in glut and the chooks are laying. We are on our second last pumpkin and though the Turks Turbans are shocking hard to cut my word they store well!

 We are still using garlic and there is also Tas pepperberry leaves, bay leaves and hardy herbs still for the picking. We are down to our last dozen of bottled tomatoes and haven't run out of paste, sauce or condiments. The dried beans are something else. They are a meal in themselves and a little handful goes a long way. We have just finished the frozen peas and broad beans and green beans. 

Though I am starting to crave fresh fruit (we still have bottled cherries, pears, apple and plums) there is no way we would ever go hungry.
All from a suburban backyard.
I cannot urge you enough, just grow two things.
Next year grow four
Next year you'll never look back again.
In the southern hemisphere sow a couple of rows of carrots and keep sowing a row every month till autumn and you'll be feeding yourselves the whole year through. It is surprising how much you will harvest from a short row so gauge it by your family size.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Grouping Elements For Balance

I have been very fortunate of late to be invited to play with the pretty things at 
I have known the extended family for many years now have a deep and abiding love and respect for them all and relish the times when I can create vignettes and displays for their shop.
(Hence the paucity of posts because who wouldn't get lost in the glitter!)
I thought this vignette was a good example for explaining balance of the elements.
I've spoken about feng shui in previous posts and the way subtle energies flow and harmonise.
(here and here)

Key to harmony are the five elements
Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water.
Bear also in mind the "magic of three" and power of triangles found in a previous post, "Accenting On a Budget" and you will see how easily you can change vignettes in your home to compliment seasonal change or just change for change sake to reinvigorate the chi (energy) in your home.

To start, our vignette takes place upon a magnificent inlaid antique wooden sideboard (sigh! divine!) one of our more obvious wood elements. Wood is also found in the frames.

The scarf of gossamer like material provides an anchor point but also represents air with it's floaty breezy nature. It's flow also creating a nuance of water.

The air element is also apparent in the "wind" blowing the horse's mane.
The French crystal paperweight also represents water with it's rippling clarity.
Just as an aside note; faceted crystal or glass whether simple or multi is a tremendously valuable decorator item for instant lift in the room, especially if it is placed in such a way that light from the window is caught and refracted throwing beautiful effects. Do you remember Pollyanna discovering the prisms and rainbows? 

Again water is found in crystals and also represented by scroll work.
The gold coloured glass also contains an element of metal which is more obviously found in the metal horse door stop, the jewellery and the other little vases.

Earth is represented by the large ceramic piece in the centre and indicated by the yellow hues from the golden objects. It is also represented in the square and rectangular shapes.

Fire is represented by the animals in our vignette; the horse and the butterfly depicted in the frame.
It is also represented by the tall glass candle holder and is seen in triangles, cones and pyramids, the very foundations within the vignette. Pyramids within pyramids.

You can easily apply these basics to anything within your own home and to any room.
For more reference try here for basic elemental help.
To find more pretty inspiration from Adrian & Serena's Gifts and Interiors
go here 
or even better, "like" their facebook page.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Peg Ponderings

Some time ago I bought a large bag of cheap wooden clothes pegs with the intention of developing them into a gift idea....maybe a simple addition to the clothes peg bags I make

or decorated...
like the ones in the top photo by "Mama's Little Monkeys".
The idea of something inexpensive, simple, necessary and thoughtful appeals to me. 
Mama's Little Monkeys has a clear step by step with photos on her blog regarding the type of ink and finishes for longer lasting results. (Basic Mod Podge is PVC glue)

Co-incidentally I came across a post from the Deliberate Agrarian

He and his son are HAND MAKING good old fashioned pegs and he has wonderful step by step photos on his post too. He plans to sell his first batch soon via his blog.
Which got me thinking....
about the ingeniousness of the peg design
are there pegs made other than in factories in china?
do people still value something so simple made by hand and crafted with care?
do people look after and care for their pegs as precious commodities still or are they just thought of as cheap replaceable throw aways?
Is that what happened to the demise of the peg bag?

I also found....

also hand made in America from beech and maple with brass plated springs.
Sixteen pegs cost $25.
They really are a thing of beauty aren't they.
If we appreciated the hand made process and paid for it I imagine we would look after them a lot better. I certainly wouldn't be leaving them to weather on the clothes line like I do with my plastic ones.
Which me got to more thinking....
if I am trying to ditch the plastic I should be gradually replacing my pegs with wooden ones shouldn't I.
(proper ones like these, not the temporary Chinese ones that fall apart within a few weeks)
I also found these stunning beauties hand crafted from oak.
They are giant ones and used for home decor rather than the clothes line.
They are 12 pounds from The Gorgeous Company

As for caring for wooden pegs naturally don't leave them to weather on the line (that goes for plastic ones too I guess and a bad habit I have gotten into)
I searched high and low in all my housekeeping books including Mrs Beeton's and I couldn't find any other tips but I seem to remember reading/hearing once way back when I was a child that placing pegs in a tin or jar with a  rag impregnated with turpentine and linseed oil revitalised and conditioned the pegs. Can anyone remember anything like that or shed light on peg care? That is the trouble with the most mundane things, the how to is often not written just generally known and then a couple of generations pass and it is lost.
So what are your thoughts on pegs/pins?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Spring and Fall

Spring and Fall
it's very much on everyone's minds and blogs at the moment.
In the northern hemisphere everyone is talking about tomato harvests and shortening days.
Here in the southern hemisphere the birds have changed their song and buds are bursting.

How appropriate that I went to the Paul Kelly "Spring and Fall" concert last week.
The tour is to promote his first new album in 5years and it was amazing.
I have played this new one over and over.
It is designed to be played in order from start to finish and is a collection of songs that tell the tale of exciting new love and the journey over time till the relationship sours. The final song "Little Aches and Pains" sees the artist come through to the other side of bitterness when time has healed the wounds.
It's very hard for me to pick a favourite from the album but I found a great acoustic version of "Little Aches and Pains" performed with nephew Dan Kelly on a Melbourne Tram.
If you get a chance do listen to the album.


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