Gourmet Cat

Anyone who has been owned by a cat will know that there are gourmet tendencies lurking just below their furry surfaces. This was brought into sharp focus while I was trawling through a back isue of Gourmet Traveller magazine (February 2011).

There in front of me was a photo using the same type of plate that our cat has been served her dinner on for years! The trusty ‘Duraling’ Hotelware plate, made in England.

Catsplate

The recipe in question was rather appropriately, a smoked trout salad, but I fear my moggie prefers her fish raw.

My only other question is has our cat been freelancing with food stylist Alice Storey?

Water Chestnuts and Currawongs

I was brave and put on my rubber gloves and spent a very damp hour and a half on Sunday finishing the water chestnut harvest. At least I got a good haul, over a kilo’s worth. Combined with TB’s early harvest we’ve got over 2 1/2 kilos this year. This is about the same amount we harvested in 2010, last year’s crop was just over 1kilo.

Waterchestnuts

The good thing about water chestnuts is that they are pretty easy to store. Put them in a container, cover them with water and leave them in the fridge until needed. You can also, once it’s warmer, take a few of them out of the water and start growing your next season’s crop.

Of course water chestnuts are great for stir fries and salads, but my sister-in-law tells me that she used some in pasties she made recently and they made a really tasty (and cruchy) addition.

Currawong

I thought I’d just throw in this photo to show one of our common Canberra winter visitors, the Pied Currawong. He/she is helping themselves to a drink from a plate on our garden table.

In times past these birds were winter migrants to Canberra moving down from the mountains to our ‘relatively’ warmer climes and then returning to the mountains to nest in spring. There is now so much readily available food in the city in the form of fruiting plants, scraps and pet food that currawongs now commonly live here year round. For the past few years we’ve seen some ding dong battles between the currawongs and ravens for a favoured nest site in our neighbours blue gum.

Winter garden

 In the cold foggy light of a winter’s morning the back garden certainly seems rather forlorn and bedraggled.

Backjune

The beds have been cleared and the pile of dirt in the background is where we have been harvesting our water chestnuts, a very unpleasant wet and cold task which has yet to be fully completed. A few fennel bulbs survive in the bed where the beans were growing in late summer. Our two best clumps of asparagus (foreground) have been cut back to stumps.

Backjune2

However just nearby is our herb bed (the semicircle in front) with some lettuces growing away and just behind that a sea of you garlic in protective milk carton collars. Behind the garlic are some rows of baby bok choy which came from our friend M. Further back is our still productive carrot bed. To the left again are some snow peas that are still producing the odd pod.

Miniturnips

In front of the snow peas are some Mini White Turnips, which certainly don’t seem to mind the cold.

Out the front the legumes are leading the way.

Peasjunefront

The Purple Podded Peas I planted in the last days of April are now coming up well and hopefully will produce a great spring crop. The Welsh Bunching onions, behind them, are from last summer and are starting to run to flower. They are great in that rather than pulling them out completely, you can cut them off at the base and they will re-shoot.

Frontjunebroadbeans

The broad beans I planted at the same time as the peas are also up and growing, in front of them is very reluctant crop of mini cabbages which I don’t think will go anywhere. The red plants are chicory and more Mini White Turnips are planted next to them.

Enough computer work. I’m off to don some woolly socks and head out to deal with the remaining water chestnuts!

Pig Out!

This week TB finally bought home a pig. Well almost all of one, minus the head and front trotters, and yes it had already gone to the great paddock in the sky. This was a relatively small, about 50kg free range female porker, which TB ordered through Jordo’s Chop Shop at Waniassa.

Image454

A trolley full of pig

It’s long been TB’s goal to break down and prepare a whole pig for a range of pork products and winter is the best time to do so. Traditionally you killed your pig so you didn’t have to feed the it through the harshest season of the year. Winter was also the perfect time for making cured products where you had the cold dry air to help preserve your meat.

There is a large upfront cost to buy the pig, although at just over $8 per kilo it is quite cost effective when you consider what you would pay in-store for the finished products. The next biggest input is your labour. The other ingredients used for curing, such as salt and sugar are quite cheap.

The pig came cut up into the two back legs, the belly cut into two loins and two streaky’s and the forequarters cut into the hand (that is the front leg) and the shoulder and some sundry bones. All the bones were ‘in’ so one of the first jobs was to trim and take the top bone out of the leg to make a prosciutto.

TrimmingbacklegSaltprosciuttoSalted

Having taken most of the bone out, the meat was salted inside the cavity, then placed in a box surrounded by salt and then weighed down. The meat will be left to cure in the salt for approximately 18 days. After this the salt will be washed off and the leg will be hung to air dry.

Next up came the loins which were variously cut for roasts and chops.

Roasts

The chops on the right ended up very tastily on our dinner plate that night, along with our homegrown potatoes, carrots and garlic.

Loinchop

I was very impressed by the tender, succulent meat which had been lightly brined before cooking.

Of course there was still plenty of pig to process. Quite a few pieces made it into a wet brine. Some of these will become hams. Most of the ‘sundry bones’ ended up in the brine, but were subsequently hot smoked in the BBQ kettle.

BrinedbonesSmokingbonesHotsmokedbones

These will be used primarily for soup stocks. However we did sneak a piece of pork belly in the mix so we would have some tasty bacon in the not too distant future.

A loin fillet was placed in brine for only 20 minutes and was pan-fried along with mushrooms and homegrown pumpkin and potato for dinner the next night.

Loinfillet

In all it took TB two days to do the basic cutting up of the pig. There is still plenty of work to be done. Sausage and salami making awaits.!

Whodunnit?

We’ve been patiently waiting for our chickens to mature so that marvellous first egg will appear. And so it has!

Egg1

The question is whose egg is it? We have two candidates as both Leghorns and Anconas produced white eggs (our Australorp should produce brown eggs).

We are laying odds (sorry couldn’t resist that one), that the perpetrator is our Ancona chicken Artemisia. She definitely looks the most mature of the three birds, having a full comb and wattles already. although some of her other behaviour is rather odd. You see Arte likes to roost in unusual places. Our other two chooks are happy to put themselves to bed in the chook house, but not Arte. After a long search for our ‘missing’ chook last week we found her literally hanging out in the window of the chook house.

Arti1

Our friend who was minding our chooks while we were away overnight was somewhat startled to find that she’d given up on the window and was now roosting on the crossbeam of the chicken pen!

Arti2

Of well, if she continues to lay eggs we shall forgive her her foibles.

Egg2

Anyway, we did need to do something with this egg, small as it was (47gms, OK we are the proud chooky grandperents). TB decided on a souffle, just enough to share between two. We used our kale and Welsh bunching onions for the flavouring.

Isteggsouffle

Another small step along the road to home-based food production.

Italian Style

The latest addition to the chook pen has really raised raised the style stakes. We went to the Royal Canberra National Poultry Show auction and came home with a Red Ancona pullet. Ancona’s are known as Marchegiana in Italy where the breed originates. They are good layers so we are hoping for good egg production once she starts laying.

Red_ancona

Of course introductions can be a bit fraught for a new chook in the pen so our latest has been in a seperate pen while the others get used to her. Although we suspect that given the below zero temperatures that the extra warm body will be welcome in the henhouse at night.