A purple pot of potatoes

Last year we bought a very large, very purple plastic pot from the tip shop. Its ultimate fate is to be a home for one of our citrus trees, but they are all still too small to warrant a move to a pot this size. So the pot has sat untouched until a few weeks ago.

To be honest the colour was pretty confronting when we bought the pot (nothing that another coat of paint couldn’t fix) but we’ve rather grown fond of it over time. Indeed the colour actually contrasts very nicely with the lush greens of the veggie garden.

I recently found a use for the pot when I uncovered these unbelieveably skanky potatoes, dug up earlier in the year from our garden and then forgotten. I know that the pundits recommend starting each potato crop with fresh seed potatoes, but my inner Scot got the better of me and I decided to rescue these long suffering spuds.


I think some are Pink Eyes and I’m not sure about the others – possibly Bismarcks.


As the pot is quite deep I decided to plant the potatoes in the very bottom of the pot and then build up the layers of soil and straw as the plants grow. The idea is that the more the stems are covered the greater the number of potatoes the plants should produce.

It is quite popular to grow potatoes this way in a stack of old tyres filled with soil, adding a new tyre as the plant grows. However I read an article in Organic Gardener magazine some time ago (sorry I can’t find the specific reference at present), that suggested re-considering this approach as there was an indication of the tyre compounds leaching out or breaking down into the soil. Neither nice or healthy.


As you can see it wasn’t long before my dodgy spuds responded to a bit of attention and started to shoot through the first layer of soil and straw.


And then they really took off!


This photo was taken about wo weeks ago and I will need to apply a final layer very soon as the plants are now well about the rim of the pot. The true test of this experiment will come once we finally harvest these spuds to see whether we just grew a good crop of leaves or a great crop of potatoes. I’ll keep you posted.


Cherry Picking

I’m neither a vegan, or a great fan of cupcakes, but when I saw the magic words ‘cherry ripe cupcake’ (and ignoring the word vegan that preceeded them) I was hooked. The hook came through the SBS Food website, via a ‘featured foodies’ story about a blog called Where’s the Beef?

Now as it would happen I didn’t have any of the requisite dried cherries to make these cakes, but I did find a whole lot of dried blueberries in the cupboard that were a worthy substitute. I also substituted wholemeal plain flour for gluten-free, to give the cakes some more ‘heft’. In the name of domestic harmony I split the batter in half so TB wouldn’t have to eat the coconut, which is a key ingredient for this recipe.


Here are the colour-coded cakes fresh from the oven.


I iced this batch with the chocolate ganache recipe provided along with the instructions. As you can see there was further ‘signage’ for the non-coconut brigade.


Most importantly I was able to enjoy my first cupcake, along with a cup of coffee, in my newly purchased Midwinter ‘Sun’ pattern coffee set (thanks to the eagle eyes of my friend at the last Bus Depot Markets antique day).

We enjoyed these cakes so much that I’ve made them several times since. Here is the link to the recipe Cup cake recipe .

Given that dried cherries cost $10 for 200gms in the shops I bought myself two kilos of cherries for $10 the following weekend at the Southside Farmers Market. It seemed like a bargain then but now we’ve finished drying the cherries I’m not so sure. For that all that pitting and drying we had a  final weight of just under 300gms of dried cherries for our labours. Perhaps if the season continues and the cherry prices stay low it may be worth drying some more ourselves.




Yes, TB has smoking habit, but at least this is one I can support.The smell of smoke rising from the back yard tells me that a luscious piece of ocean trout or better still a smoky section of pork belly is coming my way (or perhaps he’s set the compost bins on fire again).

The smoking process is fairly straight forward, first you ‘cure’ your product and then you smoke it. But life is rarely that simple. You can ‘hot’ smoke or ‘cold’ smoke food. The hot smoke actually involves cooking the product at the same time as the smoking process. By contrast the cold smoke only flavours the food with the cure or other processes such as air drying or subsequent cooking, being relied on to ensure the product is safe to eat.

The ‘cure’ for smoked products is usually salt, which helps draw the moisture from whatever you are smoking, often with the addition of sugar (to balance the salty taste and as a preservative in its own right) and any other flavourings to the smokers preference.


Here TB cures his fillet of ocean trout in a salt, sugar and pepper mix. This ocean trout was cured for about 12 hours and was then hot smoked in the barbeque.


When the coals were at the right temperature, TB put some apple wood prunings, which had been thoroughly soaked, onto the coals to create the smoke. In this picture TB is testing the temperature to check that the fish is properly cooked.


You can see here the difference between the raw cured and smoked product. Given that a fish is un- even in thickness, the tail becomes saltier than the thicker parts of the fish. The perfect remedy is to use the tail meat as an addition to your scrambled eggs and then you don’t have to add any salt!


Now while smoked fish is pretty darned yummy, as far as I’m concerned it runs second best to smoked bacon. TB bought a pork belly to cold smoke for as bacon which he cured for several days before it was smoked.


Yes, it is smoky in there!


The ‘in there’ in this case, is an old drying cupboard. You can see the smoking wood in the bottom of the dryer. The most important thing in a cold smoke is that the goods are sufficiently far from the smouldering fire to ensure that it gets the flavour of the smoke, without any heat. A cold smoke takes hours (about 8 in this case) up to a full day or more, depending on your patience in maintaining the fire at a slow smoulder. A hot smoke is generally a much faster process as you trying not to overcook the smoked goods.


Here is the finished product which can be cut thin for streaky bacon or in larger thicker chunks for full on porky luciousness.

Now I don’t have to tell you that smoking is addictive. It is also an arcane science which has many followers. If you think you are likely to succumb to this obsession, TB recommends ‘Cured’ by Lindy Wildsmith, ‘Charcuterie’ by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Poleyn (considered ‘the bible’ by many), or ‘The Art of Charcuterie’ by John Kowalski and the CIA (that’s the Culinary Institute of America, not the other CIA).



Tomatoes at last!

Hooray, the big day finally arrived this week with the ritual picking of the first tomatoes.


OK so there were only two of them so we had to bulk them out with some other stuff to make a lunch out of them.


Appearing here with the tomatoes are some of TB’s hot-smoked salmon (I’ll be doing a seperate post on this, soon), lettuce and chicory leaves from our garden.


Just in case you’ve not seen them before, these are chicory flowers. The colour is so beautiful I’m happy to let some of the plants run to seed. (According to Notes on Survival, the flowers can be eaten but they are bitter – I think I’m happy to just enjoy them as they are).

Speaking of ‘firsts’ we’ve also been picking the first of the apricots from our tree. Yummy freshfruit, cut up and served on our meusli, eating our breakfast out in the garden.


Five recipes in five days (sort of)

You won’t be surprised to learn that Santa sent us 5 cookbooks for Christmas. Come to think of it everything that we got for Christmas this year was something to do with cooking or eating!


TB thought we should cook one recipe from each of ournew cookbooks for each day between Christmas and New Year. Well we almost managed it – the last recipe was served on New Year’s Day, but I think that’s OK.

The dishes are, in order of preparation:

26 December – Salad Nicoise from the River Cottage Fish Cookbook, by Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall & Nick Fisher


A yummy lunch after way too much Christmas fare the day before!

27 December, Semolina for breakfast from Winter on the Farm by Matthew Evans


At least Christmas was cool, otherwise it would have taken us some time to cook from this book. Our semolina, which can only be described as ‘stodge’, was enhanced by some blackberry jam and a handful of home grown raspberries. Useful if you are trekking several hundred kilometres or as wallpaper paste.

28 December – a ring in!

We had left over souffles from Christmas day and a quick grill of beans and our ‘wrinkled from Friuli’ squash.


29 December – Baguette with Steamed Pork Balls, from Indochine by Luke Nguyen


Wow, the outstanding dish of the run. Juicy pork balls with sweet, spicy slap you about in the mouth Vietnamese flavours. The baguette recipe is included in the book as well.

31 December – Rolled Oat Scones from Possum Pie, Beetroot Beer and Lamingtons, edited by Victoria Heywood


These went down a treat at a farewell afternoon tea for friends moving interstate. Yummo – and I’m still trying to work outhow all the rolled oats just seem to completely disappear in the final product.

1 January 2012 – Parmesan Crumbed Veal with Fennel Coleslaw,  from Real Food by Matthew Evans


Well we went right off the rails here. As you can see the crumbed veal got replaced by a pork chop. The Fennel Coleslaw, which is basically finely sliced fennel and red cabbage with a tasty dressing. The coleslaw is very simple to make and would make a fine side for lots of meals.

Tea towels across the Tasman

I’ve had two fun tea towels cross my path recently.

The first, representing Australia, was this wonderfully wonky Koala and Joey tea towel, commemorating the bi-centennial. It’s held up very well for a 24 year old.


I particularly like their painted lips and I won’t even start on their pink-ringed eyes! This tea towel was bought by my friend Variegated to our annual New Years day breakfast and covered some extremely tasty cinnamon rolls (P.S. we would love to get the url for the recipe, hint, hint).


Next other friends bought us back a souvenir tea towel from their recent trip to New Zealand. This design called ‘Sheep Applique’ came from the company Derek of New Zealand, who have been producing souvenirs and other products since 1961.


I particularly like the retro prints, including one from Air New Zealand, if I’m right, that have been incorporated into the design. Good one M!


Happy New Year 2012


Wow into the new year already!


First crop out of the ground at Chez Fork is radishes – always a good choice for a fast start. I planted three varieties of radish, China Rose (The Lost Seed), French Breakfast (The Lost Seed) and d’inverno nero tondo (translates as ’round black winter’ and is said to be good for winter storage, The Italian Gardener).

All three varieties were planted on 29 December and they were up on 1 January – a good choice for the most impatient gardener! and they will be quick to grow into a tasty component for your salad bowl. Don’t forget that if you can’t wait for the radish bulb to grow the leaves on their own – just don’t pick them all – also make a spicy addition to a salad.

Speaking of other young things, we had one of our corn stems blow over in the gusty winds the other day. TB quickly realised that he was not going to be able to save it, so instead we harvested the immature corn cobs and had them with a stir fry that included our young wrinkled squash and two asparagus spears.


It was one of those duh! moments when I finally realised why anyone bothered with baby corn – the real stuff is so tender and sweet – nothing like the tinned stuff (oh well, some of us are just slow!).