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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Knitting/Crochet Tour 2014 Tas Midlands

I'm currently organising a Knitting/Crochet Bus Tour.
Our focus theme is yarn and we plan to leave Launceston by 9am Saturday 6th September returning by 5pm. Our first stop will be the Wool Centre in Ross where we will also have a quick morning tea before a tour of the wool museum and a chat about White Gum wool grown in the midlands right here in Tassie.

On the journey people can either work on their own projects or participate in a mystery knit/crochet.
I also hope people will take the opportunity to have some one on one coaching with each other and learn techniques like; sewing up garments, i-cord binding, heel turning and different casting methods.
Our next stop will be Hobart for a drool at the Stash Cupboard and some lunch

Then back on the bus and returning via historic Oatlands to visit Lucky Ewe fibre specialists. I'm particularly keen to see the Tasmanian merino blends with possum fur and wallaby hair. They also have alpaca, silk and supplies for spinners too.

After all that we should be almost at saturation point and looking forward to a night of dreaming of what we will do with our stash.

It's a not for profit trip and we are doing it on a budget, so there will be a lucky "door" prize but nothing in the kitty for goodie bags I'm afraid. We will also have a charity box on board for knits for the women's shelter in Hobart. I've hired a coach and the cost is $30 per person. I'll provide morning tea (with a little help from my friend Cindy) but lunch is byo. There are only five seats left and if you would like to secure a spot message me straight away for details.

(There has been much excitement and I am already planning the next trip in autumn 2015, a tour of the north west Tas yarn shops)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Fermented Drinks

The girls from Nourishing My Family gave a great talk last Monday and if you live locally they'll be doing it again. Details at the bottom of the post.
It was all about Kombucha, Milk Kefir and Water Kefir.

Above is the kombucha which is a fermentation of sweetened black tea by a Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast, commonly called SCOBY, which is the rubbery mass in the right photo. The scoby floats on the tea and in about 10 days it has produced a lightly effervescent drink. There is much see-sawing about the scientifically proved evidence of health benefits but it has been a practice in many countries for decades with very strong anecdotal evidence. The resulting drink contains probiotics, multiple species of yeasts and bacteria and acetic acid, lactic acid and glucuronic acid. If your liver is overloaded and under stress the additional glucuronic acid binds with toxins allowing them to be excreted.

We taste tested kombucha that had been flavoured by different teas. We tried a vanilla and rose kombucha that was really quite remarkable in taste and would be a wonderful cool beverage to serve people. Other flavours include, peach, blackcurrant, green tea and more.
Like anything produced for consumption there are protocols to follow but the process is very simple. Do some research and maybe it could be for you. The scoby produces "babies" readily so if you put the word out you are bound to be able to obtain one for free and be sure to get a cup of the existing tea to go with it to. If mould occurs, throw the whole batch and scoby away and start again.

We also taste tested milk kefir and water kefir, a probiotic drink made from a fermentation using starter "grains" (because they look lumpy like grains) of yeasts and bacteria. Again, whether you use cows milk, coconut milk, water etc, the result is a slightly effervescent tangy drink. I really love the milk kefir straight but many people enjoy it in smoothies. There are a wide range of health benefits and again, the scoby grains multiply readily and if you ask around somebody will have some to give away. If you find yourself swamped, just refrigerate and put it into a state of retardation till you are ready to resume fermenting. Your chooks will LOVE any spare probiotic drink or scoby as well and it is good for them too.

It's a big subject so get out there and do some reading. There are plenty of sources on the net and I also recommend reading "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon. For those lucky enough to be in the Launceston area, the girls are coming to do a FREE talk and taste at the next 
Living Better With Less
Thurs 28th August
3 Charles St south (parking in Howick St)
(If you could let me know you are coming for numbers that would be great)
There will be grains to give away, please bring a jar with a lid and there may also be kombucha scoby.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Dinner Party For Under $15

By late winter the garden has really slowed and most of the food out there is really what you would call "in cold storage". We are still eating like kings though and last night we had a long overdue dinner party with good friends pulling most of the ingredients from the garden.

Setting a glamorous table need not set you back a small fortune either. My silver cutlery is a crazy set of mis-matched patterns but is shines prettily on a second hand lace cloth. Piece by piece it can be bought for just a couple of dollars from second hand shops. Good white napery always looks elegant and these too I picked up at a second hand shop and a good soak in Napi-san works wonders.

So for starters, how about a good old crowd pleaser, Potato and Leek soup. Anybody can make this and it is cheap as chips and leeks are in the garden now. To serve drop small dots of single cream from a teaspoon and then run the spoon through it lightly to create swirls. This soup used two medium potatoes and a couple of leeks from the garden and home made vegetable stock so the cost was probably something ridiculous like .70 cents. Even if you bought your veg it would still only cost a couple of dollars.

For main course I made Chicken Pot Pies.
I gently simmered two chicken breasts in a pan of water with some celery tops, one small onion and the carrot ends from three carrots. I removed the chicken and discarded the celery tops and carrot ends and added the sliced carrot and cooked till they were softened but still bright and not falling apart. I strained the stock and kept aside in a jug and added the veg to the shredded chicken breast in the fridge.

Next I caramelised some thickly sliced mushrooms in butter then added about a quarter of a cup of vermouth and a heaped tablespoon of the seeded mustard that I had made at the fermentation class last month and simmered till all the liquid was gone.

The next step is to make a basic white sauce using the reduced stock from before for added flavour and then mixing in all the chicken, veg, mushrooms. You could use asparagus, corn, whatever, so many combinations. Spoon the mixture into individual pie dishes or like I do, use these versatile 1 cup ramekins. Leave about 1-2cm headspace. Find a bowl or saucer to trace around on a sheet of puff pastry so that it gives you a circle a couple of cm larger than your pie pot. Brush the top rim and and edge of your ramekin and place the puff pastry on top securing the overhang down the sides, the egg will "stick" it. Snip six small slits in the top.
These are baked for about 25-30mins in a mod-hot oven and when cooked they will be golden and you'll see a bit of the sauce bubbling at the slitted vents. I can't give you an exact costing but definitely under $12.

Simply serve your pot pie on a dinner plate with a salad accompaniment. 
Our salad was purely foraged from the backyard and I have Lee from Killiecrankie Farm Nursery to thank for it. She has taught me so much about perennial edibles. The salad comprises of leaf from Perpetual Spinach, the gorgeously veined Bloody Dock, young Asian green leaf, celery flavoured  lovage leaf , tiny cucumbery tasting Salad Burnett, tiny micro leaves from the mint just starting to make a comeback because of a lovely sunny week here. I've sliced half a pear thinly and added tangy sweet Cape Gooseberries and then strewn it with Calendula petals.

Cost - next to nothing. It's amazing what you can find in a garden in the hungry gap. The Cape Gooseberries are frost tender but they have been cleverly planted in a sheltered corner near the house brickwork and the close boughs of the lemon tree also afford some protection. They make a welcome addition at this time of year when other fruits seem so far away in next season.

And now for dessert!
Junket infused with Bay Leaf and topped with Baked Rhubarb.

Our rhubarb is on the return again and I was able to pick about five lovely stalks. Wash and trim into 2cm pieces and place in a small baking dish with about 1/4 cup of sugar. Cover with foil and bake at 160C for about 20 mins. Cool and set aside for serving. 

To make the junket, I placed two fresh bay leaves (everyone should have one in a pot) into a saucepan with 1 1/2 cups of milk and a tabs of sugar and gently heated it, stirring to dissolve the sugar and removing it from the heat just before boiling. Discard the bay leaves and allow to cool. Add 1/2 cup of cream and re-heat to lukewarm and add your crushed junket tablet or junket powder mixed in a tabs of cold milk. Stir through and pour into bowls and leave to set for about 20 mins before putting them into the fridge to chill.

Junket takes me right back to childhood though the bay leaf infusion lends a sophistication to this simple dessert, and stewed rhubarb is also an old fashioned memory so for a bit of whimsy I set the junket into Bunnykins porringers. The bottom of the plate patterns are all different and as in childhood, everyone had to eat to the bottom of the plate to see what pattern they got.

These were the spoons we had in childhood too and I thought they were just right for a bunny bowl dessert!
Total cost about $1.50

So a three course dinner for four people cost us under $15 leaving plenty in the budget for a nice bottle of wine. The recipes were easy and made use of seasonal produce and could be done ahead of time allowing me to simply serve and garnish. Oh I also forgot, I made dinner rolls too from a basic bread dough and they simply went into the oven 20 mins before we sat down to soup so they were nice and hot and crusty.

Dining out sometimes is lovely but you can save yourself squillions and you can play whatever music you like when you entertain at home. Go on, revive the dinner party.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Tasmanian Bush Food

I'm sort of on holidays and was lucky enough to be able to go along to a talk organised by the Tamar Natural Resource Management about Tasmanian bush food. We met in the beautiful Punchbowl Reserve, yet another stunning natural feature right in the heart of our city; I don't think we realise how lucky we are.

The talk was given by Kris Shaffer, a keen propagator and user of bush food, her knowledge has been honed by a lifetime of reading and research. She is also an artist and is deeply in tune with the spiritual nature of her environment and the dreamtime of the aboriginal people. 

She set a lovely table display and included some of the mainland bush foods in her talk as well. Displayed here on an emu skin is an emu egg, an abalone shell and ringed all around scallop shells containing seeds, pepper berries, wild rice, flowers, leaf tips and other berries; useful for flavouring but not sustaining. Much laboratory research however is going into the potential medicinal properties of some of these edibles.

Here the ripe purple/blue oval fruit of  Billardiera longiflora, may be used in jam but not particularly edible raw. 

We ground some native Tasmanian pepperberries and I have written a post here previously about using the berries and leaf here. (Kris gave little information about them other than they can be used for flavouring) They are hot, as you would imagine, and have a smoky spiciness. A male and female plant are required for berries so if you are purchasing plants make sure this requirement is met. I think they make a nice addition to the garden as a shrub and can be kept well trimmed in size. 
In the very first collage it is wattle seed being ground in the mortar. Again, we were not given information about the species and were warned that the extraneous matter inside the seed pod could be carcinogenic.

Above left was a loaf of bread that Kris made flavoured with leaf tips from Baeckea gunniana. I tasted a tiny piece of leaf and experienced a very pungent strong flavour. My immediate impression was that it would provide a high yield of essential oils and I got an impression of medicinal qualities for chests, anti-fungal, antiseptic - just impressions. No doubt more lab work is being done on this. Also next to the bread is some bunya nut seeds from the mainland. We used to eat these in QLD, steamed or baked (pierce the shell first!), hot with butter. They are starchy and potatoey with a delicate sweet nuttiness. They grow on very large Bunya trees in big cones like a giant pine cone. When ripe they drop to the ground and we delighted if we ever found some. Many of the trees have been removed as the danger from the dropping cones in public spaces could kill someone and unfortunately though some have been planted in Tasmania, I have never seen one bear fruit here.

Even the waterway running through the gulley that is part of the Punchbowl Reserve had edibles. The green long flat ribbon leafed foliage comes from an edible tuber that tastes like potato chips. It grows prolifically but I didn't catch the name of it.

Kris spoke beautifully and spiritually, showing us continually the connection between all of nature. Looking at the signs and deeper meanings that bind all things together. Harmony is to be found in the way that plants generate, what the animals eat and in their turn propagate. She showed a close interconnection between season and place. However, much of the Pallawa people's knowledge has been lost in the last 200 years of colonisation and people like Kris are gathering, researching and rediscovering. There is also money going into research, potential in commercial crops being looked at, delegations going to China with proposals and talk of intellectual property rights being protected. 

We learnt a lot but I felt it was more warm and fuzzy PR than anything specific. We didn't learn about propagation, harvesting, gleaning, cooking, nutrition or medicine. I accept the warnings about potential poisoning and that some foods are safe only after processing or at certain times but that to me is what education safeguards against. As a person who shares a lot of food knowledge I find the concept of food being intellectual property a bit unsettling. I do however believe that the aboriginal community can be relied upon to place a significant emphasis on sustainability and I would welcome any new commercial venture for the Tasmanian economy.

Kris often referred to the book "Land of the Sleeping Gods" and it sounds like interesting reading and I'm putting it on my list.
And check out Kris's Mariner shell necklace

You can read about Mariner necklaces in my post here.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Adventure Day for the Simple Stylers

I'm "sort-of" on holiday so I planned a brief adventure trip with one of my girlfriends for a long overdue catch up and killed a couple of birds with one stone.
Now you don't have to go far and you don't have to be long, just plan a cluster of activities.
Cindy and I travelled only 20 mins to Exeter in the picturesque Tamar Valley chatting all the way about gluten and grains all the way taking in the beautiful Tasmanian scenery.
Our first stop

Inspiration Seeds

This place is like seed porn for me. David is so exciting to talk to and he and Steve Solomon have invested years of knowledge into seed saving and selecting for a cool climate like Tasmania. 

Their bean selection alone is huge and exciting. On our last stop here I purchased some Cherokee "Trail Of Tears", a beautiful pink mauve bean in "green" pod stage and I am longing for summer to plant it out. 

Clockwise from top left;
Le Monde piamonte (French bush bean)
Yin Yang (black and white) and Pea Bean (red and white)
Haricot Crevette
All these heirloom beans and more are available at Inspiration Seeds and also via their mail order.
You can drool here.

Next stop
Lime Cafe
A small place, clean and quiet, with an all day breakfast menu and I'm told the hot pork sandwiches and rolls are especially good but I'm always too early and have to be content with smelling it cooking. Link to their facebook page.
After a coffee and a restorative bite

Calico Crossroads
Before crossing the threshold, I warned Cindy that I would only consider her a true friend if she ensured that I did not walk out with any fabric purchases, the only exception was vintage print cowboy but unfortunately there was none. Poor Cindy did not escape scott free and I'm very keen to see how her new Block Of The Month works out heh heh (sorry Cindy)
Pauline has a beautiful range and lots of inspirational ideas and patterns and has a talent for colour and depth co-ordination. We easily spent the best part of an hour perusing.

And that's how a simple suburban girl can spend half a day on a quality adventure not far from home and without breaking the bank.

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