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Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Locavore's Alchemy

Constantly at the fore in my kitchen and captivating visitors for the past couple of months is this book

"The New Wildcrafted Cuisine"
Pascal Baudar

Pascal is a professional forager in the Southern California region where his passion has taken this craft to its highest form. He inspires top chefs and home foodies alike to explore all the senses the local and oft over-looked ingredients, can evoke. Pascal doesn't just live seasonally upon the earth but immerses himself completely and reverently into the very alchemy of his local terrain.

"Oyster mushroom cooked in it's own environment
inspired by the smell of the forest after the rain" PB

Be not under any illusion that this is a foragers hand book and field guide. I suggest that for that purpose you should research and locate a guide book quite specific to your area and for those in Australia I would recommend "The Weed Foragers Handbook" by Adam Grubb and Annie Raser-Rowland as a good starting place and there are many more of course.
Rather, this book inspires the cook, passionate in seasonal local fare, to take a more personal and profound journey. 

The powerful evocative qualities of aromatics a just as key as the taste sensations.

This book has quite opened my eyes to the tiny, tiny ingredients, like lerp sugar in these cookies. 

Or how about pine pollen and seeds from mustard and dock?

Lots of ferments, shrubs, pickling, brews and extractions.

Seed sensations, powders, rubs, smokes and even goat cheese made with fig sap as rennet.

What I particularly appreciate about this book is the way it is sectioned into seasons.

WINTER; The forest time
SPRING: The green time
SUMMER: The berries and fruits time
FALL/AUTUMN: The seeds time

Each section explores the various ingredients of the time and recipes are included and techniques explained. There is also quite a lot of thumbnail pictures in each section visually identifying what is commonly seen in the landscape (of Southern California of course). While some are area specific I have been delighted to find many cross overs. 

Would I make half of what's in this book? Unlikely, but it's definitely got me excited and thinking further afield and asking myself
"What is a true Tasmanian locavore palate?"
and not just how does it taste, but how does it smell and visualise, how does it integrate our modern acquired species and ancient native bush foods.

What I would love to see is a further exploration of Tasmanian bush tucker along these lines incorporating some of our native ingredients more alchemically. Think of the possibilities!  

I have been following Pascal for years on his facebook page here and I was so excited when he announced he was doing a book. I ordered mine through Amazon and this review is completely voluntary and unsolicited. Pascal Baudar very kindly allowed me to use his magnificent photographs throughout this post, many thanks.

You may also be interested to re-visit this post on Tasmanian Bush Food

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Story From Scrap

This is a scrap blanket made by my paternal grandmother. As a knitter/crocheter of many years I know how yarn scraps retain memories for me of projects past and I so wish I could ask Grandma the individual stories of these squares.

If we look at it from an anthropological view point, the blanket does reveal a story of place, life and times, with a little help from my limited knowledge.
For a start, it's size. It measures 1m x 1,2m and is intended as a "knee rug". In QLD the winters are not bitter and certainly not long, the houses are built primarily for coolness in the longer hotter temperatures, Knee rugs were just the thing for a couple of months of the year sitting in the lounge room watching TV or reading and they were also handy for car travel before heaters were common place.

Although I have no doubt my grandmother acquired some scrap yarn, I can guarantee most of it came from previous projects. The range and amount of colours shows that she was a prolific knitter/crocheter as many had to be in order to clothe family and provide household necessities, like tea cosies and toys etc.
The yarns can be dated by their colours and say a lot about fashions in different decades. I suspect these yarns date from the 1930s to the 1950s. It also shows a consistency of ply and fibre commonly used in that era.

It speaks of an era that wasted nothing and used every scrap.
An era where many garments were home made right down to socks and singlets. Of fishing berets, baby layettes, trendy twin sets and smart toddler play clothes.
Of socks in all sizes and some for the boys at the war front.
It speaks of industriousness even in the down time of sitting. 

This blanket also tells a story of quality dyeing and wool spinning in Australia. The colours still beautiful and unique in every hue and shade, set in individual glory by pure black borders that have not faded with time either.

I'm guessing that the yarn is all 4ply in the old language and she would have used a 2,5mm hook.

When my 2 yr old grandson visits we often sit side by side on the couch under this rug and I tell him proudly of his great great grandma Murray who knit this blanket and I talk about the colours and how the blues of this square are like the beaches at the coast and that square of stormy greys are like clouds....
Stories upon stories.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Warm Glow

Having an older home adds another element to the housework routine-
In addition to the rolling monthly/quarterly routine of windows, skirtings, cobwebs I have added polishing. 

The door fittings, window fittings and even some light fittings are brass.

We have always had a big silverware polishing day in the weeks before Christmas but all the extra brass and copper requires a quarterly routine. By doing it regularly it prevents tarnish building up and keeps it a relatively quick job.

I actually quite like polishing.
I love the satisfaction as the shine is revealed.
I even like the smell of polishing.
Perhaps I wouldn't have enjoyed it 200 years ago without the benefits of modern conveniences like vacuum cleaners and washing machines that make light of our chores these days.

Nothing nicer than a warm golden glow about the house on mid-winter days.
And waxing.....
did I mention waxing......

"Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens..."

Monday, June 13, 2016

Pumpkin Fruit Cake

This fruit cake recipe I'm about to share with you is perfect for this time of year; it uses only two eggs (most chooks being off the lay) and pumpkin which is in glut now. For this recipe I choose a QLD blue which is a dryer style pumpkin and the rest of it I will use up roasting.

The pumpkin gives the cake moistness and a lovely golden colour. You only need a cup of mash. Just cook it up and mash it without any butter or anything else.

This cake is cooked for about 1 1/2 hours at 150C so choose a good tin and line with paper. You don't have to be as fastidious as when making traditional fruit cakes. This favourite tin of mine is quite thick and I lightly grease and simply pop an old pound butter paper in the bottom to line. 

This is great-grandma Murray's recipe and the only addition I make is grated fresh nutmeg - Mmmm goes so well with pumpkin. I'll write out the recipe below in metric also

Cool in the tin before turning out and store in a cool airtight container for a week. Use your own favourite combo of mixed dried fruit. 
I have in mind that I just might try this recipe next time substituting the pumpkin for mashed quince instead....

Pumpkin Fruit Cake

1 cup of mashed pumpkin
250g castor sugar
250g butter
2 eggs
2 tabs golden syrup
2 cups of Self Raising flour
500g mixed fruit
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg (optional)

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Mid Life and A Crisis

I'm midway on the path of life!
Last weekend, I turned 50 and although it was intended to be low-key and quiet it turned out to be quite eventful.

It was the weekend of the Campbell Town show. Founded in 1838, it is the longest running show in Australia. Plenty of agricultural displays along with wood chopping, dog trials, horsemanship, whip cracking....

And LOTS of sheep, fleece judging, shearing competitions, yarn bombing, knitting and wool corporation fashion parades. This area was built on sheep and still remains a key part of the community today.

Tasmanian Fisheries had a great interactive educational set up for the youngsters too.
With two grandsons in tow, the hours were filled and fun. There's nothing like looking through the eyes of the young, and a fitting way to celebrate the onset of midyears.

The rain held off for the show but the next day it poured...
and poured....
and a king tide hit and the swollen rivers couldn't escape fast enough.
Massive flooding hit Tasmania and it rivalled the worst not seen since 1920 but the millions spent on flood levies around Launceston and the town of Longford proved to be well worth the cost. The worst was held back but unfortunately other areas experienced disaster. 

Thanks for all the messages and well wishes and concern. We stayed high and dry and we pray for those still missing.

And through all the highs and lows of the weekend, just as he has been in life, one of my best friends flew down to surprise me. It was the best birthday wish come true.

"Into each life, some rain must fall
But if the storm becomes too much for you all 
Don't be afraid to enter my life
I will be there when you call me."
(Lyrics from "Call Me" Style Council)

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