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Monday, October 20, 2014

All Free...But We Couldn't Give It Away!

Last week I was very excited to be a part of the Colony 47 Spring Share Market.
Colony 47 works for the community and their mission is
"to create a fairer community, eliminate disadvantage and improve the lives of Tasmanians" 

A share market was organised to coincide with fair food week and timed for encouraging spring planting.

All the seedlings above
A picnic blanket to sit and read gardening magazines and maybe take one
The seed box with hundreds of seeds

A speaker about compost making
Just look at that great teaching tool created from half a bin and some Perspex. Learning about nitrogen and carbon layers and the additions like comfrey (bottom right).

The Tasmanian community food garden group were there with activities for kids

A demonstration showing fun with food and how to be creative with it.

I drove from Launceston and did a talk about beans, how to grow, how to harvest and how to use dried beans.

I talked about nutrition and feeding through the "hungry gap" and had made baked beans from scarlet runner beans, a bean salad in seconds and a white bean dip even faster! Note the Good and Cheap book- I was so excited, it turned up just the day before. It's a not for profit book that aims to teach people how to eat well on $4 a day. I love it!

Trestles under blossom trees and little marquis 

And the Colony 47 garden putting on a good show and even mushrooms coming up from the compost!
Being a typical spring day it was a bit breezy and cool and clouds were scudding across the sky. It was beautifully organised. About 60 people had rsvp-ed to this all free event...

But we were lucky to have a dozen people show up I reckon.
I'm starting to wonder,
if you make something free, is it then perceived as valueless?
Is something only worthy if it has a dollar value attached?

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Spring Rice Paper Wraps - Breaking the Basil Bias

I once again came home with a basket full of greens from the market, many of them herbs.
Every year at this time people will come to the market and peruse the array of fresh seasonal vegetables of spring and ask...

"Do you have any basil?"

I aim to educate and explain, basil is a summer herb, it's not in season yet but there are all these herbs, fresh and ready now...

Today at market I had parsley, sage, thyme, mint, lovage, Vietnamese mint and salad burnet.
But you know what?
People just don't know what to do with them, let alone rejoice in them!

So here is what you could have made with those amazing fresh flavours...

Rice Paper Wraps
So fresh and easy, these really are "spring rolls". Some left over cold chicken shredded and carrot mixed with some of those greens above in the top picture all wrapped up in a rice paper round.
Tender spinach and beetroot tops were finely sliced and the leaves pulled from the Asian greens. Salad burnet adds a cucumber flavour and a welcome addition when cucumbers aren't in season. The lovage leaf brings the flavour of celery but in its soft leafy form it is ideal for including in the wrap. The flowers from the Asian greens taste of a mild nutty brassica-ish-ness.

Serve with a dipping sauce of soy, mirin and lemon juice.

No we don't have basil until summer comes but there is a lot of herbs to rejoice in in the spring season. Perhaps we need some of these chefs-superstars on commercial TV to put down the basil and start sharing some more ideas with home cooks about other herb delights.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Wild Nettle Cordial

Stinging Nettles are perfect and tender, ready for picking right now (here is Tas anyway)
Use gloves and long sleeves so the irritating hairs don't sting you. If you do happen to get stung cast your eye around for dock, it usually always grows where nettles do. Crush the stem and leaf and apply the moist mash, it works almost instantly. If you can't find dock, go for plantain.

Young nettle tops can be made into pesto, ravioli filling, soup and many people enjoy it as a simple tea. Nettle tea in your kombucha brew is so yummy. Nettles are power packed with nutrition and health benefits and a much better choice for a "cleanse" than some of the more extreme methods. A cup of nettle tea every morning for a couple of weeks will move your winter body into a revitalised state. A word of warning though, it can lower blood sugar and blood pressure so if you are already on medication for those complaints then you should only use nettle medicinally under supervision.

You know me though, I can't resist a cordial experiment.

Most of the recipes I found suggested steeping/fermenting for a week. I thought that was not necessary for nettles. I simmered a huge bunch of tender leaves with 2 litres of water for at least half an hour. It was an amazing rich green colour. After straining I added 100g of sugar for every 100ml of liquid, stirring over a low heat to dissolve. Most cordial recipes also add citric acid (from lemons) for preserving and erring on the side of caution I added about 50g and I was horrified to see my gorgeous green liquid turn brackish brown. You live and learn. All you chemists out there are probably nodding your heads sagely. 

I have found some great cocktails that call for nettle syrup (here and here)but you can also just enjoy it in a punch or in a long glass of soda water. Great splashed in a Pimms too I should imagine.

Do google and read up on nettles, they are an amazing plant and perfect for a novice forager as it can be harvested in meaningful culinary quantities easily and is very versatile. You could even substitute for spinach in the pasta like I did last weekend.
Do share if you have a favourite way with nettles.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

When Life Gives You Leftovers...

This is what the other side of the market looks like.
We resumed our growers' market yesterday with a soft opening.

I returned home with a few bunches of spinach and a bunch of beetroot.

For those of you who looked at our seasonal offerings of greens, beets, herbs and eggs and scratched your heads, here's what you could have made....

Simply substitute a couple of eggs from your pasta recipe for some puree.
Simply steam your beet and puree or blanch the greens and drain and pat dry before pureeing. 
If you have a Thermomix, place the beets whole in the thermo steamer with 1500g of water and cook for 25mins, varoma temp speed 3. Then place the washed and chopped greens into the top tray and varoma for a further 8 mins speed 3.
I pureed the veg in the thermomix and added 3 eggs, a splash of olive oil and 500-600g of flour. Process at 2min on interval knead. It should look a bit breadcrumby. 

It's not an exact science when working with puree, be prepared to add a little flour to get your dough right. Let it sit. Then a couple of minutes later as the gluten works it wants to come together into a ball so gather it together and place in the fridge covered for anywhere up to an hour. I find this gives a lovely elastic and silky dough.

Next make lots of lovely shapes and styles. You can leave to thoroughly dry and it will store in an air tight jar for ages. 

My favourite is "bow ties" 
Cook in boiling water till soft but still firm then drain and toss in butter and herbs, maybe add some chorizo, broad beans, mushrooms...
make a sensational spring nettle pesto...
but that's another story....

Friday, October 3, 2014

Nesting Box Herbs

We have eight chooks and lately they have all taken to laying in just one of the nesting boxes. Not such a problem over the slower winter months when they slowed production but they were coming back into lay so it was time for a schoojsh up.

I cleaned out the old nesting material and re-filled with some shredded paper from the office and then a gorgeous downy layer of poodle hair (don't laugh, they love it; soft and insulating) and then I strewed the neglected nest with dried herbs.

They love it!
I use huon pine shavings for a natural insect repellent and also include dried calendula, mint, oregano, wormwood, lavender and rose petals. 
I'll also have the mix at market, enough for two boxes for $7

( Note; wormwood is thought to bring on uterine contractions and is recommended to be avoided by pregnant humans and animals. I find most animals will instinctively eat and poultry particularly will self medicate with wormwood for worm control as required. I've heard goats aren't so discerning so keep it away from gestating does.)

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