Friday, February 25, 2011

Autumn around the corner

There are signs of Autumn in the garden: Trees are starting to turn,

Japanese anenomes are starting to flower,

Hawthorn berries are coming out,

mushrooms are in the lawn,

and my thoughts are turning to casseroles:

I whipped up this neck chop casserole last night and it really hit the spot.

I remember Dad feeding the neck chops to the sheep dogs which really was a waste as they slow cook so well.  The other great thing is that they are REALLY CHEAP.

These are home grown but you can easily get them from the butcher.  

You don't really even need a recipe, just get the general idea then adapt accordingly with what is languishing in the fridge.  I usually flour and season them (in a bag) and brown them in batches in olive oil in a nice heavy pot.  Remove then add a lick more olive oil and fry a chopped onion and garlic for a few minutes then add any vegies you like:  celery, carrot, leek, parsnip, pumpkin, potatoes, you get the idea.  This time I had a yellow capsicum so I threw that in: (please excuse the blackened state of my pan.   It is, as they say, well loved).

Then add a tin of chopped tomatoes (then half refill the can with water and add that), a slosh of worcestershire sauce, a spoon of tomato paste and season.  Return the chops and cook in a 160 oven for 1.5 hours, or put it in the slow cooker.  We had it with mashed pumpkin and potato and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.

So hail the "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" (Keats for those who have forgotten) and we shall see what the goodies the garden will provide.  And it is probably time to collect some giant pinecones for the fires too..

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Misty Morning and Moules

It was very misty this morning.  It was an inspiring dawn but we ended up having an inch of rain in an hour in the afternoon.  It was almost tropical.  Weird.

I found some beautiful Tasmanian mussels today in the local fish shop.  Packaged mussels can be a bit hit and miss but these were an exception.  Moules Mariniere is the very French way of cooking mussels and requires practically no effort.  In France it is often served with pommes frites and a baguette to mop up the juices.  If you eliminate the chips and bread it is a very low fat dinner.


2kgs mussels (this should serve 3-4)
A good slosh of olive oil
1 tblsp butter
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
300ml white wine
Lots of fresh parsley

Wash the mussels and pull out any beards.  Chuck away any with cracked or split shells.  The chooks love them.
Put a large pan on the heat and add the oil and butter.  When the butter is melted add the shallots and garlic for a few minutes until soft.  Add the wine and bubble for a couple of minutes before adding the mussels.  Put the lid on and cook for about 3 minutes.   Check to see if all the mussels have opened, if not give them a couple more minutes.

Divide mussels between some huge bowls and pour the juices over the top.  Sprinkle with parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Serve with a crisp white wine, large napkins and some bread to mop up.  Discard any that haven't opened.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Oh Dear....

February is the month, as I have mentioned, for recovering from the summer excesses, for Feb fasting and exercising madly.  Not that I can see the point of giving up drinking for a month when you know you will start again in a desperate frenzy of thirst in March.

It is possible to show some restraint, however, and I have been very good, back playing tennis, boxing and working like mad in the garden, eating well and having a few alcohol free days each week but something very sinister beckoned me at our local fish shop the other day and I fell off the wagon:

Crispy soft shell crab is not what you would class as a health food, but so so delicious.  My first encounter with it was at  Portsea this year, where my dearly beloved was playing in the annual social climb/ drink fest sorry, Polo tournament.  Whilst the dishy-for-an-ageing-rocker James Reyne was belting out a few classics at half time I was busy in the marquee acquainting myself with crispy soft shell crabs.

They were handing it around on trays served in a white bread roll, simply with nice mayo and iceberg lettuce.  Sublime.  So when I saw it in the fish shop, frozen, I thought I should have a go.  

With the muffin tops in mind, I thought  I should try a slightly more healthy approach so I made a salad:

I cooked the soft shelled crab in the oven at 180 for 10 minutes while I made the salad.  I arranged some salad leaves, chopped cherry tomatoes, torn mint and basil from the garden.  I then made a dressing of 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, 1 tblsp each of rice wine vinegar, mirin, fish sauce and soy sauce and a squeeze of lime juice.
You could go either Asian or Mediterranean with this.  Just yum.  It is still even better squashed into a soft bread roll with mayo and lettuce.  My advice is to keep well away.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Back to normal

School went back yesterday, yes on a Friday (don't ask), which was something of a relief as the last week can really drag on.  Despite all the rain in the rest of the country we have had a few hot days.  The kids had some fun in the dam last week:

 I spent the better part of the afternoon up a ladder pulling a rampant potato vine out of the pomegranate tree.  I had to be so careful to not damage the beautiful flowers:

There are lots of flowers on the tree, in fact there is lots of fruit on all the trees this year which made me realise that they need really good winter and spring rains to set the flowers and fruit. So it wasn't just my inadequate summer watering that caused disappointing harvests.  Here is the nashi tree, which has barely had a fruit on it for four years:

The tomatoes are so late as it has been cool but at last there is enough basil to make some pesto.

In all the years of making pesto I always found my brew to taste great but it was a bit dull and grey and never the stunning bright green of shop-bought pesto.  Until now.  I have discovered the secret of green pesto and it is worth the extra effort.


This makes about a cup.

1 large bunch of basil
2 cloves garlic
1 cup of olive oil (maybe a little less, depends on how much basil you have.  Just add enough to make the consistency you like)
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan (best to use Grana or reggiano)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
salt and pepper

Pick the basil leaves off the stems and discard the stems.
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil.  Put a big bowl in the sink and half fill it with water.  Add a cup of ice cubes to the water and put a strainer in the cold water .
Add the garlic to the boiling water.  Boil for a minute or so then add the basil leaves and cook for about 20 seconds.  Quickly drain into the strainer and plunge into the iced water.  

Cool for about a minute.  Drain well and squeeze out excess water.
Place basil and garlic in food processor and whizz until chopped.  Add pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan and process until smooth.  Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Bit messy.....

The last photo doesn't really do it justice, terrible light.  
Use on practically anything.