Comfort Food

As we drove back from the gym this morning we caught a glimpse of the snow, low down on the nearby ranges. No wonder we are experiencing such cold weather. Given we have a top temperature forecast today of 8°C, strong gusting winds and intermittent rain there was only one thing I could do – bake comfort food!

Muffins. I already had some tempting ingredients to include. My friend had given me a bag of tangellos from her tree a week ago and I had also bought some freshly harvested walnuts from the Farmer’s Market yesterday.

Cooked tangellos and freshly hulled walnuts, my core muffin ingredients.
Cooked tangellos and freshly hulled walnuts, my core muffin ingredients.

I checked through my collected recipes and found one that looked adaptable. The original recipe for Pistachio, Yoghurt and Cardamon Cake, is from Leanne Kitchen’s book Growers Market. This is a great recipe in itself, but Leanne also gives an alternate version where two cooked oranges are substituted for the yoghurt, so that was my entree. Away I went, substituting walnuts for pistachios and tangellos for the oranges.

Now I had intended to cook these muffins yesterday, but I soon realised that the eggs I needed to add to the recipe had just been tucked away to infuse with a fresh truffle, (more of that in another post), so there were no eggs from our ‘girls’ left over for the muffins. OK, I needed to go to the shops for eggs (oh the shame). In the interim I decided to at least cook the tangellos for the recipe. To do this you cover the tangellos (or oranges or lemons depending on what fruit you are using) with water and bring them to the boil. Keep simmering the fruit for an hour – you will need to top up the water from time to time. And don’t forget to enjoy the scent of cooking citrus wafting around the kitchen. After an hour’s cooking the fruit should be completely soft. Take the fruit out of the water and let them cool down completely. Once cool cut the fruit open to remove the seeds. Take the whole fruit, including skin and pith and pulse in a food processor until chopped up.

I also like to toast the walnuts before using them which I do by putting them in the oven at 180°C for 10 minutes. I often put the nuts in the oven when I heating the oven ready to bake. 

It turned out that I didn’t get the eggs until quite late in the day so I put off cooking until this morning. So here is the recipe:

Walnut and Tangello Muffins (makes approx. 15 regular size muffins)
150 grams of walnuts, or whatever unsalted nut you can get your hands on, toasted for preference
150 grams of unsalted butter
185 grams of Self Raising flour, feel free to substitute some portion of wholemeal self raising flour, into the mix
185 grams of sugar
3 eggs
2 tangellos, or oranges or lemons cooked as per instructions above
1/2 a teaspoon of ground cardamon
.

Oven temperature 160°C for muffins ( If you want to cook the mix as a whole cake raise the oven temperature to 180°C).

Put the nuts and cardamon in a food processor and pulse until they are roughly chopped. Then add the butter, flour and sugar and pulse again until the mix is in small crumbs.

I then turned the mix out into a larger bowl so I could easily add the remaining ingredients. Beat the eggs and add to the mix along with the chopped up tangellos. Mix till the ingredients are just combined – don’t mix it to death.

The mix turned out into the bowl with the chopped tangello added.
The mix turned out into the bowl with the chopped tangello added.

Put the mix into separate muffin cases and cook for 20 to 25 minutes until cooked through. (If you want to cook this mix as a cake, expect to cook for 45 to 50 minutes). Here’s the finished product. I don’t usually ice my muffins but obviously you can if that’s your thing. Enjoy!

The final product.
The final product.

 

 

 

 

 

Orange and Grey

I was completely blown away by a wonderful gift from one of my friends this week, a lovely pair of warm orange lace and cable patterned socks. Wow!

My lovely new socks!
My lovely new socks!

And I can confirm that they keep my toes very warm indeed.

One of our regular visitors has also dropped by this past week, a Grey Currawong (Strepera versicolour).  We have seen this bird – there is only ever one so we presume it is the possibly the same bird – for the past two winters. Here it is sitting in our Japanese maple tree.

A Grey Currawong blending in with the winter scene.
A Grey Currawong blending in with the winter scene.

Thankfully the bird seems quite happy to allow me to move in to get a closer photograph.

The Grey Currawong.
The Grey Currawong.

According to my Atlas of Australian Birds, the Grey Currawong is a solitary bird. There is some indication that these birds are altitudinal migrants, ie moving higher or lower in altitude depending on the season. Although the authors also suggest that we may notice these birds more in autumn and winter because they forage in more open country at this time of year. No matter ‘Greywong’, as the bird is known in our household, is always a welcome sight in our garden.

 

 

Small surprises

I’ve been making inroads into the many small jobs that need to be done in the garden.  On the way I have found a few surprising things.

Firstly a tomato plant growing under the protection of one of our gum trees, the delightfully named Eucalyptus neglecta, commonly known as the Omeo mallee. I’m quite astounded that this tomato plant has grown and survived winter so far, even with the tree cover. However there is a lot of winter still to come so we will have to see whether it survives.

Self-sown tomato - will it make it to the end of winter?
Self-sown tomato – will it make it to the end of winter?

Nearby I found a seedling loquat, growing from a seed I assume a bird carried from our back neighbour’s tree. I’ve potted this plant up, rather than let it establish itself where it fell.

Seedling loquat, the seed is still visible, potted up.
Seedling loquat, the seed is still visible, potted up.

As I continued to weed around my pots of bulbs I came across some sad specimens, onions and a kale plant, that had been planted in seed trays before we went on holidays in April. Alas they had lain unfound ever since.

Some neglected onions seedlings and a small kale plant.
Some neglected onions seedlings and a small kale plant.

I found a spot for the onions in the front garden bed, after I did a clean out of the left over bean plants and several large parsley plants.

Parsley in the front garden bed.
Parsley in the front garden bed.

TB has dried all the parsley and all the onions have now found a home arrayed around my scarlet runner bean, sitting in the middle of the plot waiting to see if it will re-shoot this summer. The real question is whether the onions will actually produce bulbs or  just run to seed come spring.

Onions with a home at last.
Onions with a home at last.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going to Goulburn

My friend M and I decided to have a bit of a girl’s day in Goulburn yesterday. While we specifically went to see an exhibition at the Goulburn Regional Art Gallery we also managed a nice lunch and a stroll around some of the streets, looking at the interesting buildings.

One of our stops was the Argyle Book Emporium, on Sloane Street, just about 100 metres from the train station, where we spent some time and some money. I decided to focus on the garden section where I found two interesting books. The Seedsavers’ Handbook, by Michel and Jude Fantin, which will hopefully contribute to a more successful approach to propagating seed from our vegetables. The book includes descriptions, propagation, seed saving and storage information for a good range of garden veggies, as well as an “on the lookout” section highlighting particularly interesting varieties of plants.

A serendipitous find was a 1965 Garden Club Edition of A Flower for Every Day, by English cottage garden promoter Margery Fish. I’d guess from it’s excellent condition that the book has never been read. I was immediately taken by the delightful cover. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a credit for the artist responsible for the cover anywhere in the book. I’m definitely looking forward to reading this book while curled up next to the heater.

Does anyone know who the artist is?
Does anyone know who the artist is?

An added bonus inside the book was this entertaining ad for a bookcase, which could be bought from the book’s Australian distributor.

An offer too good to miss!
An offer too good to miss!

I wonder if there are any of these marvels of modernist design still around?

Our last stop of the day was a visit to Gehls nursery, out on the road to Crookwell. It was a pleasure to see a nursery with a range of shrubs, many of which I recalled from my grandparent’s garden. There was also a large range of trees on offer and some lovely HUGE pots. My favourite pot was a mere snip at $990! I did need a pair of secateurs as the last ones disappeared several months ago when we had a garden blitz at a friends place, so I splurged on a pair of stainless steel, Sophie Conran secateurs, made by Burgan and Ball. We are uncertain whether the old secateurs were dropped on the ground or accidentally thrown away at the garden waste centre. All I can say is that these secateurs are not going on any excursions to other gardens!

A happy haul.
A happy haul.

A final felicty was the arrival this morning of our latest seed order from Green Harvest. It includes three herbs, mitsuba (Japanese Parsley), perilla (shiso) and Zaatar (a Middle-eastern relative of oregano) and two veggies Japanese Burdock (gobo) and Kailaan (Gai Lan, Chinese broccoli). It’s a bit too soon to be planting any of these so now I just need to put them somewhere where we won’t forget them.

 

 

 

 

 

Picking pomegranates

We have just picked our first pomegranate, or rather it fell off the bush, so TB decided it was time to use it.

Our first pomegranate!
Our first pomegranate!

We weren’t quite sure how ripe the fruit would be, it certainly wasn’t the size of your average commercially grown pomegranate. However when we cut it open that hot pink juice came flowing out.

The hot pink insides of our pomegranate.
The hot pink insides of our pomegranate.

TB found the fallen fruit when he was collecting lemons to make a lemon syrup cake. It didn’t take much for him to decide to add the pomegranate to the drizzling syrup. The taste was good but the seeds turned out to be hard and not very pleasant to eat. So in the end he strained them from the final syrup.

Lemon syrup cake served with lemon and pomegranate syrup.
Lemon syrup cake served with lemon and pomegranate syrup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warmer winter produce

My sister lives about 400kms north of Canberra on the coast. You can tell it’s warmer there because she’s still picking passionfruit from her vine!

Leeks, lettuce, spinach and passionfruit from a warmer winter garden.
Leeks, lettuce, spinach and passionfruit from a warmer winter garden.

Indeed her passionfruit vine is the envy of the family. Even her father-in-law an extremely experienced veggie gardener is trying to work out what her secret is. As the real estate agents would say, “location, location, location”. The vine just adores growing on the east-facing garage wall with plenty of protection from hot westerly sun and winds.

 

Whiling away winter

It’s always slow in the winter garden, not that nothing is going on, but there is less of that urgent feeling you get with gardening in spring. I think the chooks feel the same way. Our egg supply is so intermittent that we actually had to buy eggs last week – oh the shame! Not that that has stopped them from taking the opportunity to jump out of their fenced in area to grab some of that ‘greener grass’ before they get spotted and herded back into their enclosure.

Chooks on the run, out and about in the back yard.
Chooks on the run, out and about in the back yard.

There are also those clear sunny winter days that Canberra residents love so much. If the wind isn’t too strong we’ll sit outside and soak up some warmth. It also gives us the opportunity to spot some visitors, such as this Grey Butcherbird.

A Grey Butcherbird (Cracticus torquatus).
A Grey Butcherbird (Cracticus torquatus).

Actually the Butcherbird was sitting just above the foraging chickens and I couldn’t help but think it was calculating if it might just catch out one of our chooks – even though they are about five times the size of this fellow.

We are also trying to keep up with our bike-riding, despite the chill winds. We took a bento box lunch to a nearby lake last week, but forgot the chopsticks. Well at least there were some shrubs nearby – needs must!

Lunch by the lake with improvised chopsticks.
Lunch by the lake with improvised chopsticks.

Of course there is also the chance to eat some hearty soup made from our own garden veggies. I was particularly keen to try this roasted beetroot soup recipe which I found in the magazine Kinfolk that I bought in Tokyo (something to read in English!). It used pomegranate molasses as an additional flavouring! We have, so I now find out, not one but two unopened bottles of pomegranate molasses collected on our various travels. What an opportunity to use some.

So things don’t always go quite the way you expect. I supplemented the beetroots, of which we have only a few, with some carrots which we have a lot of. The roasting went fine until I got distracted, sitting in the garden, and returned to find my veggies were more char than roast. I was able to peel the worst bits off, although this did reduce the size of the meal. I used just 2 teaspoons of pomegranate molasses, instead of the quarter cup I had anticipated, oh well. To finish it off we grated some of our freshly dug horseradish into some cream and swirled it in. It was a great combination of flavours, even though we only ended up with one serve each and no leftovers.

Roasted Beetroot soup flavoured with pomegranate molasses.
Roasted Beetroot soup flavoured with pomegranate molasses.

Winter is what we make it and some days the chooks even give us an egg for breakfast!

Some winter sunshine on a scrambled egg from the 'girls'.
Some winter sunshine on a scrambled egg from the ‘girls’.