Keep on growing

One of my favourite vegs, the Warrigal Greens (aka New Zealand Spinach) continues to defy the frosts and is just keeping on growing. Just to be on the safe side I thought I would pick the majority of the plant and blanch it so I’d have some for creamed spinach during winter.

I started off with a washing basket full of plant …


which when the leaves were plucked came down to a medium sized bowl


and ended up as 6 x 200gm packets of blanched leaves.

Over on the other side of town Variegated was picking one of her ever-growing pumpkins. She kindly delivered this golden fruit along with a great recipe for Pumpkin Brioche! This is definitely a recipe worth making – just be warned though the results will probably disapper a in a matter of minutes. I’m not sure of the origin of Variegated’s recipe but this one appears to be very close.


The tuna is on the inside

Putting aside such fancy notions as sashimi, most of us most readily associate tuna with cans. I don???t know why but it never really dawned on me, until watching a recent episode of Italian Food Safari?? when Pietro Demaio made Tonno sott’olio that you could preserve fish yourself. Demaio is the author of the equal most popular preserving book at Chez Fork, Preserving the Italian Way.

This week as TB was cruising Fishco Downunder at Belconnen Markets he spotted an Albacore tuna that looked just right for the job. This baby ??? it only weighed in at 8kgs ??? was enough for us to cope with and I must say was ridiculously low-priced at $7/kg. So for just over $50 we had a tuna that could barely fit inside our fridge.


I???ve also read Demaio???s recipe in the book and would strongly urge you to resist the temptation, as suggested, of buying a 50kg tuna for the recipe (unless you have a large truck, willing assistants, a trolley and walk-in freezer storage).


The process while messy is very straight forward. (The cat, fascinated by such a bounty of fish, remained glued to TB???s leg for the whole operation). Having de-headed the fish and removed its amazingly long pectoral fins (30cms or 12 inches in the old scale),


the body was cut up into 10 cm wide pieces.


These were then brought to the boil in a brine of 120gms of salt per kilo of fish and then simmered for three hours. Do the cooking outside!

Having removed the fish from the cooking liquid it is left to cool overnight.


The next morning the skin, bones and blood are removed from the fish.



The pieces are then put into sterilised jars and covered with olive oil or fresh water, with some bay leaves and peppercorns, depending on how you like your tuna. The jars are then placed in a large pot with water coming close to the top of the lids. This is then brought to the boil and the jars are simmered for half an hour. Please check that all the jars have sealed properly, as two of ours didn???t. These will need to be re-boiled. Leave the bottled tuna for a month before using.


As for the remaining head and tail, the meat was cut off for ourselves


and some put aside for the cat (last seen waddling off to crash out next to the heater). The remaining bits were then boiled for stock. We???ve already used some of the stock to make miso soup with tuna and noodles.

Consuming Passions #2

A far healthier occupation for us in recent weeks has been making compost, lots of it and as much as we can. If you???ve been visiting with the Forks for a while you might remember that I started to collect organic waste from my office kitchen earlier this year.?? I also decided, about a month after I started that it might be interesting to keep track of how much waste gets collected each week (yes that???s just the sort of an all-round fun girl I am!). For the three months that I have been keeping records I have collected over 84 kgs of food scraps!


As you can well imagine our compost bins fill up very quickly at that rate ??? which well and truly takes care of the ???wet??? compostables. The office also comes in very handy on the ???dry??? side as well. The shreddings from the paper shredder are the perfect ???dry??? balance for the kitchen scraps. I for one am pleased to see that all our hard work in the office now actually gets used for a truly productive purpose.

While our own garden only produces a small amount of autumn leaves, the nearby ovals and parks are a great source of them. TB now has us regularly heading over the road every weekend to gather large bags full of leaves. I???ll give you a tip. If you are collecting autumn leaves for your compost heap it???s a good idea to run them over with a lawn mower before you add them to your compost to help them break down more quickly.


We got a bonus this week as we shifted from our usual collecting spot and discovered that the groundsmen had been disposing of their grass clippings by spreading them out over the ground behind the club buildings. As there is clearly no intent in their being used for a compost heap we have been happy to assist them by adding the mown grass to our bags! Confidentially I can tell you that their clippings appear virtually weed free, unlike the lawn clippings produced at Chez Fork.


The big compost piles that we create will only just start to address our needs for the garden but far better that we make as much as rather than just keep buying it in.

Consuming Passions #1

The title of today???s post comes courtesy of TB and friend R who simultaneously responded with it when I asked “what should I call a post about our visit this weekend to Ikea?”

Yes, I???ve fallen off the wagon when it comes to retail therapy. I???ve been working hard this past year to overcome years of consumer training. Never doubt that our capacity to consume is being honed by retailers and marketers every day. Common sense will tell you as much and there is plenty of easy to find information about how stores, particularly supermarkets are laid out deliberately to encourage spending. Elizabeth Farelly’s book Blubberland – the dangers of happiness (New South press, 2007) is an interesting read on Australian consumerism.

Ikea has store layout and people movement honed to a T. While I did adopt several strategies which somewhat lessened the impact of the visit, it must be acknowledged that I fell at the first hurdle when I actually agreed to go with my friends in the first place. Let???s face it avoidance is always the best option. One good call was to take a list with me of items to be purchased for other people ??? I consumed, but I didn???t end up spending (all) my own money. Secondly take the time to sit in the comfy lounge room displays and read a magazine. This is surprisingly easy to do as all the display rooms come dressed with books and magazines to enhance the ???lived in??? effect.Given the aspirational demographic they are targeting the magazines are invariably glossy home magazines. I found a Japanese magazine featuring indoor/outdoor living that was full of interesting designs. There were even some DIY books, albeit in Swedish, which had some good home and garden ideas. I was particularly taken by a small and easy to build wooden garden shed, roughly the size of a wardrobe, which fitted out appropriately could be used as a compact tool shed or house an outdoor kitchen. Great for a small garden.


It was definitely a mistake to re-join the line-ride of shoppers snaking around the store. There are shortcuts across the store, which are very helpful to avoid large chunks of the store and should be used more frequently. Per usual it was the market hall that was my downfall. I bought several lengths of Annamoa fabric designed by Lotte K??lhorn for purposes as yet unspecified. There were also two new reading lamps for the bedroom, a bag of 100 tea lights, a couple of kitchen spatulas, a remote control organiser etc, etc, you get the picture.


Check out the checkout!

Suffice to say that by the time all four of us were done the afternoon had flown and the sun was setting! Back down the road for dinner in Goulburn at the Paragon Caf??. It is true but scary fact that I have been visiting this august institution for nigh on 40 years, ever since the day I went on my first school excursion (primary school), via train from Sydney, to see the wool industry in Goulburn. Lunch was had at the Paragon Caf??. I have no recollection of what I ate, but I am prettycertain a fair bit of it is still on the menu. The Paragon lives up to its name. It still serves the most authentic and high quality example of early to mid 20^th century, Australian middle-class cuisine, in the country. I love it.

A Frosty Start

Well it was -4??C this morning so no surprises that there was a good frost over the garden.

From our back garden, both yesterday and today we have seen the remains of the snow that fell on Wednesday on the Tidbinbilla range. Despite risking life and limb trying to get a photo for you from the back garden I wasn’t very successful. So you’ll just have to make do with some frosty images instead.


A Sparkling Success

I must be the first to admit that my recent dabbling with turning rose petals into a sparkling beverage seemed unlikely to succeed, but I have been proven wrong.
O ye of little faith … fancy me of all people doubting a recipe provided by the blessed Sally Wise!

As you can see from the pictures not only is the sparkling rose a beautiful colour …


but it even has bubbles! (hence the close-up).


We have tasted the drink ourselves and have also shared it with some friends who thought it was great. One thing though – this is probably not a sparkler to keep. TB is of the opinion that as fermentation continues the drink will become ‘drier’. At present it retains a good balance and is neither too sweet nor so dry that it has lost its floral character.

I know that next rose growing season in several local gardens the scented roses may not be on the bushes for very long!


(Image courtesy of

Speaking of Sally, she has recently started her own blog. So drop over and say hello, or ask her questions about her recipes.

Knitting in Public

Yes its that time of year when knitters come out of the closet and knit in public.

World Wide Knit in Public Day?? will be celebrated this Saturday 12 June. In Canberra there will be two gatherings the Saturday Morning S’n B group will be meeting in Garema Place from 10.00am BYO chair and blanket etc. I will be joining the Canberra Spinners and Weavers at Cafe in the House, at Old Parliament House from 2.00pm onwards. Details of both groups, as well as other get togethers around the country can be found at the link above.

If you are a knitter I hope you can come along and join us in this celebration of knitting – not to mention companionship, fun and good coffee!
See you there.


A Green Winter

One of the things that most surprised me when we got seriously into gardening was that you could keep growing some plants all through winter. This was because I ???knew??? that everything stopped growing in winter, duh! Well our garden is currently a picture of green. It may not be as rampantly lush as at other times of the year but it is productive.

It???s green because the predominant plants growing above ground are members of the Brassica family. Currently we have kale Cavolo Nero and also a plant of frilly Russian kale that I bought at the Farmer???s Market last weekend. I read that the various kales taste different to one another but my Russian kale is a bit small to harvest at present so the taste-off will have to come later. We also have collard greens, which are another non-heading cabbage type thingy (which are now recovering from the major Cabbage White caterpillar attack). There are also a few ???normal??? cabbages just starting to form their ???heads??? and Purple Sprouting broccoli.

In the green but not a Brassica category we have plenty of silver beet, stacks of sorrel and also the warrigal greens soldiering on. Snow peas, bush peas and broad beans are all growing happily away but apart from picking the tips out of the broad beans (good in stir fry and encourages energy to go into pod production) we won???t be harvesting anything from those for a few months. BTW those five non-starter broad beans I mentioned several weeks ago were so stung by my comments that every last one of them has now shot! So that is a 100% germination of the Aqua Dulce/Leviathon Longpod I planted.

All of these green things go into the ubiquitous Green Soup. This can be anything green in a home-made meat stock. Favourites at Chez Fork are silver beet with mashed chickpeas, broccoli soup (a bit early for that) and sorrel soup with its lovely lemon flavour.This one is silver beet and chickpea served with some yoghurt and Franquette walnuts.


Kale also goes into soups and stir fry. It is great cut fine and simmered in just enough stock to cook and then served on toast with a dash of olive oil – you can also add some fried bacon (a Maggie Beer recipe). Warrigal greens are for unbelievably good creamed spinach.

We are still harvesting our root crops planted in summer, carrots and potatoes. What is good is that they keep perfectly well in the ground here until you need them. I have had mixed success with growing parsnips. I tried direct sewing into the garden and also sewing into seedling pots. None of the direct sewn plants came up ??? I believe this was because it was difficult to keep the soil consistently moist as parsnip seed has a long germination period. I did a bit better, well three seedlings, in the pots but only one survived the transplant (it???s growing very vigorously now). However the best result I???ve had came with a suggestion from Tino at Gardening Australia to grow parsnips in pipes! Tino suggests that you use pvc pipes that are 40cm long to allow for the tap root of the plant to grow sufficiently deep. So far the germination rate has been easily over 90% and the plants seem to be coming along very well. I???m also trying two plants in an olive oil tin which is about 30 cm deep. I???d like to see if this works as the tins are rather easier to get than cutting up lengths of plastic pipe.

Parsnips on 20 April …


and … today!