20 January 2017

Weekend reading

Packing dried oregano into a jar.

Life takes a gentle turn this week. It's back to school for Australian children in a few days so from this weekend, the thousands of tourists who flow into this region for the summer holidays, pack up and go back to normal life.  And all of us do too. Once again there will be parking spaces at the beaches and shops, prices will go back to normal and life will be fairly slow again.

I hope your life is slow and gentle too. Take good care of yourself and come back and see me soon. ❤️

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18 January 2017

Salmon rissoles

I make salmon rissoles or fishcakes fairly regularly as they're a cheap and easy meal that will stretch one can of salmon to feed four people. However, I made this during the week and Jamie didn't like it. He ate what was on his plate, just as he always does, but when we had leftovers the following day the first thing he said was: "not those fishcakes!"  Luckily for him, there was only one left which I had, he and Hanno finished off the chicken cacciatore from the day before. 

For those who do like this kind of pantry food - we always have salmon and potatoes in the cupboard - it's a good standby when you need to rustle up a meal and all the meat is frozen. You can bulk it out with potatoes, breadcrumbs, vegetables and eggs so it ends up being very tasty and nutritious.

  • 2 large or 3 medium potatoes
  • 1 can of salmon (415 g)
  • 1 large or two small eggs
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs - use ¼ cup in the mix and ¾ cup to coat the rissoles
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • ½ bunch fresh parsley or green onions, chopped
  • ½ red capsicum/pepper, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • chilli flakes or fresh chilli (optional)

Cook and mash the potatoes and allow to cool slightly. Add potatoes, salmon, eggs, ¼ cup breadcrumbs, onion, herbs, capsicum/pepper, salt, pepper and anything optional to a large bowl.

Mix together well and shape into round balls, then squash down to make a thick disc. It's up to you how large or small you make them.

Add ¾ cup breadcrumbs to a bowl and coat each rissole with crumbs.  I use Panko for extra crunch. Put the rissoles on a plate and allow them to sit in the fridge for an hour, if possible. This will help the rissoles stay together when you cook them.

Heat olive oil in a frying pan, add the rissoles to the pan and fry on medium heat until they're golden brown all over. That will take about 15 minutes. Drain on paper towel or clean cloth and serve with a salad. I have mine with chilli jam as well.

I use the Aldi premium red salmon which is around $8, you could make a cheaper version by using pink salmon.  I estimate the cost of making these would be around $15 and if that feeds four adults, or two adults and two children, that's a good frugal meal containing omega oils and vegetables.

I hope you try them.

16 January 2017

Peaceful, quiet? Not all the time

I often tell you how peaceful it is here in our one lane, dead-end street. There's not much passing traffic except for the migrating birds that visit us on their way to who knows where. Apart from the work we do in our home to support the life we want to live, not much happens here. It's ordinary days lived by ordinary people. But last week all hell broke loose and we just sat back and observed.

Just beyond that picket fence is our usually quiet street.

After a few days of intermittent rain, on Monday night a tree came down at the end of our street (two doors down) and it took out the power pole supplying electricity to the street. Hanno woke up in the middle of the night and saw the Energex team set up out front trying to restore the power as quickly as they could. He got our torches out and when he came back to bed he told me what had happened. When I got up and looked outside, the men were working away in silence with shielded lights giving them light to work by but directed away from the houses. By sun up, the power pole was back up, trees cut down and the next couple of hours were taken up with the lines being rethreaded along the power poles and the connections to the houses checked. Our power pole suffered damage and we had to put in an insurance claim. We were told the power would be on again around 12 noon but ours didn't return until 2.30pm - just as the ice cream was starting to melt in the freezer, surely the measure of a prolonged power outage. It might even be the international standard. 😎

Fruit bread and butter pudding.

Then on Friday, Sunny came in to collect Jamie after work and asked why all the police were in the street. She had to drive past many armed police and thread through police cars to get to our place.  We had no idea what was happening but found out later from a neighbour that there had been a big drug raid, lead by the SWAT team, in a house a few doors down.  Gulp. 

A family meal. You can always tell where I'm sitting. It's where the big cup of black tea is.

All the while we continued doing our daily chores and apart from living without power for 14 hours and knowing these things were happening around us, we were not alarmed by the outside world moving closer to us in our street. We're in our haven here and we feel safe.

I've been knitting a fair bit and I'm pleased to have finished my year's worth of dishcloth knitting. I started another shawl after the dishcloths and that's progressing well. I'll be doing a knitting post very soon so I'll save the details for that. I've baked, cooked, watered plants, and sat awhile in the garden in the early morning and thought about our new season garden that we will plant in March.  It's not far away so I'd best start thinking about the seeds I want to plant. They need to be ready to go in the ground in eight weeks.

When I have some spare time I do an hour or two on my family history.  Cupboards have been cleaned out, the fridge tidied, decluttering is in full swing (again), we've been teaching ourselves how to groom Gracie, I've been sewing, mending and organising my sewing room. The morning chores start with the bed being made and the kitchen tidied and the hours progress slowly from there. Our main meal is eaten at lunch time and a nap taken is after lunch. We have the pleasure of Jamie's company until next week. He's been such a help to us and he makes us laugh. When he goes back to school in a couple of weeks time, I'm going to do a few more cupboards so we'll go into the year with most of our cupboards clean and organised.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

And life goes on.

13 January 2017

Weekend reading

Here she is again - Gracie, a never-ending source of smiles and silliness. I was winding knitting cotton on my swift during the week and she was captivated by the spinning. In the photo here she's watching the cotton spin, she didn't bark or jump around, she just sat there, staring. 

It's been a busy week here, made a bit more difficult by the heat and humidity of mid-summer. I'm looking forward to the end of it and the cooler temperatures of autumn.  I hope that wherever you are you aren't suffering with your local weather.  Thanks for your visits this week.  I'll see you again soon.

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12 January 2017

Cooking with leftovers - Christmas ham frittata

I did a similar recipe in December but I'm posting this one today because I want to show how I dealt with our leftover Christmas ham, and it just so happens to be another baked frittata. A frittata is like an omelette that you can cook either on the stove top in a frying pan or in a baking tray in the oven. Either way, frittata is a great addition to your cooking from scratch repertoire because they're nutritious, easy and quick to make and they're extremely versatile. Generally they're a cheap option too and they become even more frugal when you use the vegetables you need to use up that day and eggs from your backyard. Frittatas may be eaten hot or cold, I prefer a cold slice, and are a great addition to the lunchbox or when travelling on the road, if they can be kept cold of a hot day. It's easy to adjust this recipe to make a vegetarian version and we often have it with vegetables only.

You can make a nice short crust pastry to hold the frittata mix or you could use three or four sheets of frozen filo pastry but it works really well with no pastry so that is usually how I cook it. You just have to make sure you grease the baking tray well or cover it completely with baking paper.

The ham we had this year was the best ham we've had for a long time. We enjoyed it with our family for Christmas day lunch, and over the following week as a ham and egg breakfast, ham and egg sandwiches, ham, tomatoes and potato salad, ham and cheesy pasta. Gracie had a couple of ham meals and the chickens enjoyed the skin. It was well used, that ham.

But when it got down to where I could see the bone, I cut off all the ham I could and left just the bone and gristly bits. That was wrapped in a couple of freezer bags and is now in the freezer to make soup later in the year.

 Leftovers Frittata 

This is the basic recipe for all my frittatas:
  • 8 or 9 eggs, beaten (nine if you have a couple of small eggs)
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese (or cheese of your choice)
  • 250ml (one cup) cream
  • crushed garlic
  • salt and pepper
Once you have the basic "custard", you add whatever you have in the fridge that you think your family will enjoy.  It goes well with most vegetables, I always include onion and garlic and often use capsicum, peppers, chilli or zucchini. I've also used baked pumpkin, eggplant, leeks, peas, herbs and asparagus. If you want to stretch the meal or have meat eaters who aren't impressed with a frittata, add sliced cooked potato and mushrooms. They add a lot of substance to it.

Here is the step-by-step process in photos:

Add ham, red onions, green onions, salt, pepper and herbs to pan, or whatever vegetables and seasonings you want to add. Cook until the vegetables are translucent - about 10 minutes on medium heat.
Break the eggs into a large bowl, beat the eggs until the yolks and whites are mixed together, add a cup of cream and cheese and mix in. I add the garlic to the eggs too instead of to the frying pan. I think it cooks better in the eggs.

Pour the egg mix into a greased and lined baking tray, add cooked potatoes, vegetables and ham/bacon/chicken and stir gently into the eggs.

Place in the oven at around 170C and bake until the top is golden but still a bit wobbly. Over cooking eggs will make them rubbery. It's much better to slightly under-cook them because they continue cooking in the tray for a little while after you remove them from the oven.

How did you go with your Christmas leftovers?  Did you manage to use them all without wasting anything?

11 January 2017

Dehydrating herbs in the oven

Over the years I knew Rose, we had quite a few deep and meaningful phone conversations and although we only met a few times, we knew each other fairly well.  One thing she would not have liked is a fuss being made of her so I want to start today with a final photo of Rose and then get on with it, which I know she would have wanted. This photo was taken the day we met in person after having a friendship online for a few years. I think she looks really happy and healthy.  Goodbye Rose. I'll miss you.

I published the following briefly yesterday but withdrew it when I knew Rose had died.


I grow a few food plants in the bush house over summer, in particular, oregano and mint, and they thrive in the partial shade. In late December the oregano starts overflowing out of the containers and long tendrils of oregano hang down inviting me to do something with them. I much prefer using fresh ingredients when I cook. I only freeze or dry what will be wasted if I don't save them. However, oregano and mint are two herbs that take on a different flavour when they've been dried. When they start growing abundantly in summer, that is the time to get the garden scissors out and start snipping so I can use them fresh and dried in my cooking. It helps if you have a black dog following you around while you cut. 😊 Dried oregano is a wonderful addition to Mediterranean food, especially sprinkled over pizza, but is also essential in homemade tomato sauce. Mint is best used fresh in drinks, sauces and desserts but dried it can be used to make mint tea or mint sauce or added to stews. Remember, dried herbs are much stronger in taste than they are when fresh so you won't use as much.

Three pots of oregano growing strongly.

This is the mint with a couple of snake trees growing alongside.
And ginger grown from a store-bought root is now growing well in three pots in the bush house.  To the left of the ginger is a vanilla orchid vine and chilli seedlings
This was Gracie  - with a sprinkling of oregano - after she followed me around in the bush house.  I had to brush her down afterwards.

When the herbs are cut and in the kitchen, I gently wash them under the cold water tap, shake off the excess water and pat dry with a clean tea towel. Don't take the leaves off the stalks before drying, do that afterwards, it's much easier. Place a piece of parchment paper on an oven tray and arrange an even layer of herbs over the tray. Today I had enough for two trays.

You can dry herbs simply by tying them up and hanging them but during summer here the humidity is too high and bunched herbs go mouldy rather than dry out. 

My oven operates in the temperature range of 30C to 270C so I turn on the oven to 70C and leave it for a few hours.  The time depends on how mach foliage you have in the oven, it might take two to three hours.  Keep the oven low and slow, you don't want to bake the leaves, you want to remove the moisture while keeping the flavour. If your oven doesn't operate on a low setting, put it on the lowest setting and keep the door slightly ajar with a wooden spoon. Check every so often and you'll see when they're dehydrated and ready to come out of the oven.

This is what it looks like when it's done. When stripping the stems, you want to keep only the leaves. The stems don't add much flavour to your food so throw them in the compost.

This is the part I love, I sit at the kitchen table with a cloth spread out and strip the leaves from the stalks. It's another one of those traditional tasks that connects me with all my great grandmas because I know this would have been something they would have done too. When the stripping is finished and the leaves are completely cold, place them into a clean jar and store in a dark cupboard.  Make sure the leaves are absolutely dry because if they still have moisture in them, they will grow mould and you'll have to thrown them out.

I currently have rosemary, Italian and French thymes, bay leaves and basil in the garden but all those herbs lose their magnificent flavour profiles when dry. They're best left growing and used fresh.  But if you have an excess of oregano or mint, grab your scissors and get a couple of jars of dried herbs in the cupboard to add that extra zing to your cooking.

Just one thing left to do. I want another couple of jars of these herbs in the cupboard to see me through the year so after cutting off the excess, I gave all the plants a good water then fed them with an organic fertiliser. That will promote rapid growth and I'll be out there again picking more oregano and mint in early February.

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