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’.

 

 

 

 


Truffle time

Forget being close to the ski fields, what I want to be close to in a Canberra winter are our local truffle growers. Last weekend we went to the Capital Region Farmer’s Market at EPIC to buy some of those very fragrant fungi. What was also good was to see that there were two truffle vendors at the market last weekend Turalla Truffles and Terra Preta Truffles.

Finely sliced truffles ready for action
Finely sliced truffles ready for actio

We’ve been buying and eating truffles for several years now so we were quite happy to pay for our 20 grams worth from the Terra Preta stall. We paid $2.50 per gram, a slightly lower price than we’ve paid previously.

So what do you do next? To make the most of your truffles you need to focus on their aroma. Don’t try and use them straight away, you will be wasting your money. Any food item you choose to pair your truffle with needs time to absorb the truffle’s aroma. A good first step is to take your truffle, wrapped in its piece of paper towel and seal it in a glass jar with some eggs, then spend some time deciding what you will use your truffles for. You could likewise store your truffle with some rice as the base for a truffle aroma-ed risotto.

Truffle stored with eggs
Truffle stored with eggs

The truffle aroma will infuse the eggs through their shells, so leave the eggs and the truffles together at least overnight, or up to 48 hours if you can hold out that long. We usually make truffle-infused scrambled eggs our first truffle dish each year. You don’t need to put any truffle in the eggs as the eggs will have plenty of flavour already, but you can grate some truffle on top as a garnish. This way you can use your eggs and keep the truffle for another dish. This year we were able to use our own hens’ eggs to make this Sunday brunch treat.

Truffle-infused scrambled eggs
Truffle-infused scrambled eggs

I was really keen to make some truffle sausages so while we were at the markets we bought some pork shoulder from the Inglebrae stall. To try and make sure we got the best value for our truffle TB first cut the truffle very finely and then mixed it with butter. This was left to rest and infuse while TB prepared the pork meat for the sausages.

Finely chopped truffle mixed with butter
Finely chopped truffle mixed with butter

We used Matthew Evan’s recipe for the sausages. Sadly we only had 20 grams of truffle not 200 grams as Matthew used. Because we had the 2 kilos of pork we used only 200 grams of sausage mix with our truffles, then turned the remaining pork into pork and fennel sausages.

TB mixed the truffle butter into the pork mix and then left it to rest for several more hours before forming the sausages. We ended up with 8 truffle sausages from our mix.

Truffle infused butter being mixed into the pork mince
Truffle infused butter being mixed into the pork mince

We were really strong and scheduled our truffle sausage eating session for the following evenings’ meal. It was definitely worth the wait as the flavour was rounded, nicely developed and could be tasted throughout the sausage.

Truffle sausages served with our own peas and butternut pumpkin and fried onion
Truffle sausages served with our own peas and butternut pumpkin and fried onion

Now all we have to do is decide how long we will hold out eating the other truffle sausages currently stored in our freezer.