In the meantime …

Back home its time to start getting out into the garden and thinking about spring.

TB has been sprouting onion seeds in the polyhouse so they had to be planted out in their bed. It was cold and soggy work so I’m glad he was doing it! It was also extremly fiddly work getting all those small shoots separated. To stop the cat digging them all up again TB had to resort to major barrier construction.


I’ve been tackling a job that I neglected last year – pruning the roses. Plenty of scratches and catches but at last they are back to a strong framework. Clearing around the base of the plants and seeing how large their bases are reminds me that these plants, with one exception are all well over 20 years old. What gives me greatest pleasure is that several of them were grown from cuttings from the Parliamentary rose gardens and no I didn’t nick them. I asked the gardeners for some pieces when they were pruning and then struck the cuttings myself. My Princess Elizabeth and pink Paris roses both resulted from this process.

The good thing about clearing up the rose bed is that I can throw all the grass to the chooks who have a lovely time eating it and also scratching through any attached dirt for insects.


I was interested to see on the Taste Le Tour segment last month the discussion of how much grazing, 10 square metres of grazing, was allowed for each of the iconic Bresse chickens to ensure the quality required for sale.The only problem with this bucolic scene is that after a few weeks these Bresse chickens are switched to a corn and dairy diet and then stuck in a dark cage to finish them off before slaughter – not so good after all!

Speaking of the Tour recipes I made this one Cherry and Hazelnut Torte when I spotted some cherries of markdown at the supermarket (I’m assuming not Australian, but who can go past a large amount of very tasty cherries marked down for immediate sale at $2). Thankfully I can report that the hazelnuts come from a local farm and were purchased at the Environment fair held earlier this year at the Environment Centre, near the National Museum of Australia.


Very moist and tasty.

Signs of Spring?

I know its really cold in the mornings and friend M has just told me the water bottles in her greenhouse have frozen, but I think we are starting to see some early signs of spring stirring.

My sense of hope is being raised by observations our local birdlife. Mapies flying across our yard with bills full of nesting materials; aerial battles between groups of currawongs, including one Grey Currawong, for the nest space in our neighbours gum tree; and the swans with cygnets we saw near Lake Tuggeranong last Friday.


Ain’t nature grand!

Catching Up!

We’ve had visitors braving the depths of a Canberra winter and then headed off north to visit the rellies, hence the lack of recent posts. So I’m doing a very quick flick through some of what we encountered on our travels before getting back to some more on what’s happening Chez Fork.

Our first stop on the way north was the Mt Annan Botanic Gardens which are literally just off the freeway near Narellan on the southern outskirts of Sydney. We’ve decided that this makes an excellent stop off point prior to facing the excitement of traversing Sydney, if you are travelling further north.


As you can see from the picture above there are some lovely plantings in the garden, including (below) this amazing cycad (Cycas megacarpa).There is plenty of space to stretch your legs either in the formally planted ction of the garden or along the walking tracks through the bush. We took our own picnic lunch but there is also a cafe on site.


To get to the gardens take the signposted turn off the freeway; turn left at the T-intersection and then take the first left turn at the traffic lights. You are there.

A few days later we also made a flying visit to the Royal Botanic Garden in the centre of Sydney. We were literally passing through the gardens, walking between the Art Gallery of NSW and the Museum of Contemporary Art. We passed this trluy amazing succulent, but I didn’t catch its name!


We’d travelled to Sydney by train from Newcastle, not only so we didn’t have to take the car into the centre of the city, but also to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Hawkesbury River.


It was a good thing that we were getting plenty of exercise as we were being fed plenty of tasty food. My sister spoiled us with a luscious lasagna the night we arrived, that was followed by a choice of two desserts! I opted for the passionfruit souffle, recipe courtesy of the latest addition to the family, my new nephew-in-law who is a chef. There was also a sticky date pudding to be had. Some people gave in and shared a bit of both.

Just to ensure we didn’t go hungry we also had an afternoon tea (on another day) to celebrate a new home. Family favourite slices were served along with this new offering of Lemon Meringue cupcakes.


While it’s not clear from the picture the centre was filled with very yummy lemon curd. Definitely got the big tick from me.

Sadly we had to take our ever expanding waistlines from much warmer Newcastle and return to icy Canberra where the cat, chooks and garden awaited us.


Finding our Whey

Last Friday my friend M and I found ourselves in Ulladulla, along with 14 other interested people, making cheese. We’d both heard Lyndall Dykes being interviwed on ABC Radio National’s Bush Telegraph program a few weeks ago about home cheesemaking and we were thrilled to find out that there was a class being held a few weeks later in our ‘region’. What a great reason to head down the coast to escape our frosty winter.


What don’t they do in Ulladulla?

What appealed to us about this class was the emphasis was on the simplicity of the cheese making process. It’s really easy to get carried away with the sheer foodie seduction that small scale cheese producers can induce us, but in reality making cheese is really a rather straightforward process.


To start the day we all sampled the cheeses and other products we would be learning to make – camenbert, fetta, ricotta, yoghurt and marscapone. We then got straight into making our camenbert and fetta, well that is until the fire drill interupted us. Anyway we were quickly back to the cheese making. Our third cheese for the morning was ricotta which we were making in time to eat for our lunch!


Ricotta and spinach patties with salad for lunch.

Somewhat like bread making we learned that cheese making has short periods of activity and then long times when you just let the product get on with it. Which is why we could get so many cheeses underway in one day. Our instructions were very straightforward and within quite a short period of time our curds were forming.

Once the initial cutting of the curds was completed and the curd had rested we were all encouraged to ‘lift and jiggle’ the curds to help the whey to drain out. After several lots of lift and jiggle we were able to scoop the curds into the hoops


By lunchtime we had our curds draining in the hoops.


Fetta to the left and camembert to the right.

After lunch we had a demonstration for making quark (cream cheese) and marscapone, using a yoghurt maker. We then had time to review the days recipes with the very thorough notes provided.


Camenbert, fetta and marscapone flavoured with rum and raisin and rolled in almonds

While there was still turning and brining of our cheeses to be carried out on subsequent days we finished the day feeling quite capable of making a variety of useful cheeses. The feta is ready to eat now and the camenbert will be right to go in about 4 weeks time.

If you are interested in taking a class you can check out what’s available at the Cheese Making Workshop website. They also provide cheese making supplies.To date the company haven’t been able to offer classes in Canberra, but they are currently looking for a suitable venue.