Monday, February 28, 2011

"out upon the islands on a cool summer night..."

The best thing about camping for me- was being in a beautiful spot, watching the sun go down, and right as I got that feeling of 'well I guess it is about time to be getting back' I remember No! I am already here!

I have made a list of what I think are the basic beginning supplies, and since Zok loves to shop I think we might be on our way.
I want to explore around to some of the National Parks I haven't seen yet and check out camping spots.

I am grateful for my neighbors, the expert campers allowing me to come along to Camp Meech-ie. They have camped in this spot for as long as the spot has been a spot, and maybe before.
Being true bush walkers they see any part of the bush that doesn't need a machete to get through as a trail.
This is the park where we stayed-

Of course on returning home I couldn't view my kitchen as anything besides a modern marvel, and don't even get me started about indoor plumbing...

Although the elusive, Quoll did not show itself, we saw all the usual suspects as well as a nice ray (probably a skate) and cuttlefish (!).

Monday, February 21, 2011

" brain hurt like a warehouse it had no room to spare..."

Jam, Jam, Jam
The gateway food to 'putting up your garden largesse for the winter'.

I am a bit of purist about Jam, I really don't want to get too fancy, I think that combining fruit(s), together, with spices or flavoring is good if your fruit isn't up to the grade. But when the fruit tastes so great, and your only problem is you can survive eating on that fruit day in and day out before the fruit spoils well, then I say just preserve as much as you can.

I seem to be unable to do anything without a book, our first year with the fruit trees I borrowed books from the library, until I found a copy of Ball basic tips-

I tried to find a book put out by the jar company of Australia which was a company called Fowlers not Ball but I haven't found one yet.
I did use the book as a guideline for making apricot butter this year.
But I would describe apricot butter 'jam you put through a processor'. Although as you see in the photo, after it is processed you cook it one more time to thicken the mixture.
I also use about a fourth of the sugar recommended.
I do use pectin, natural pectin because our tree is on a two year cycle, and I did just use the last jar of jam about two months ago-and I think pectin has a lot to do with longevity. I also split the apricot kernels and cook the fruit with the center bit, as almost any person over the age of fifty will tell you to do so.

Jam making at least in Tasmania is really, really common. I don't remember ever even idly thinking of making jam when I lived in America.
I can't imagine not making jam, or eating jam that came off an assembly line.
I can only feel sad for anyone I know who hasn't experienced the difference between a tomato from their garden, and the ones from a large store or the difference between homemade jam and jam from a grocery store. I really plan on storing my jam for at least two years, as many people here already have jam and therefore I find it hard to find people who want any. Plus I get nervous about getting my jars I like to give jam to the trustworthy.
We will see if the neighbors across the road return my jars to me...
(Of course if you are reading this and want but didn't get jam just call me).

Making jam is really as easy. You don't need a recipe, also if you only want to store your jam for less than a year, I don't think you even need to be that careful about the process. If there is a fruit tree in your area, I would knock on the door and just ask for a few pounds of fruit.

This is what I do.
I rinse the fruit, cut a small x into skin at the bottom of each fruit.
I flash boil them, this is an obvious process as you can see the skin coming away, transfer to a large bowl filled with cold water and the fruit practically comes unpeeled on its own.
The skinless fruit is then cut into chunks- this makes it easy to pull out the seed/core and cut away any bad bits you couldn't see with the skin on.
These go straight into a pot, I add sugar about 1/4 of a cup and another 1/4 if taste dictates.
I add the juice of one lemon to help the color set.
Pectin needs to be whisked into the mixture thoroughly.
I let it boil to get the heat high, and then simmer for about five minutes.
I like my jam thick so I strain it a bit as I put it into the jars.
I use the left over as well, as this goes really well into smoothies.

Then I boil each jar for about 10 minutes, let them sit for 5 minutes off the heat.
After the five minutes of 'resting' I transfer them using tongs to the counter and wait for that wonderful 'pop' sound that says, "Well done!" your jar is sealed.

I don't use anything fancy and I re-use my lids and jars.
I run them through the dish washer but you could boil them.

I also just cut the best of the fruit in half and place them in jars and top them with light simple syrup about a fifth cup sugar to every one cup of water.
I don't take off the skins or cook them, but I leave them in the boiling water for 20 minutes to make sure the lids set.

Winter is much nicer when you can go down to your basement/garage/pantry and get a jar of fruit, from your garden, or stolen (kindly) from a neighbor.
Try it! You won't be sorry.

I'm going camping- excited but apprehensive...I am pretty sure that my time in a tent is wholly comprised of a trip in the sixth grade and sleeping out in my yard, in Hollywood California.
Also I am not bring ANY make-up, so other than the time Zok and I were up in the Arctic Circle where make-up was rendered impossible, this event is a first.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Steamed Coconut Rice and Mixed Vegetable Salad

This is my favorite new dish that I've talked Zok into making.
I can't express in print how much I love it, but if you know me, you can probably imagine me going on about it.

My friend Jeannie was like 'Oh yeah, I made that the other day'. But I don't think most people I know would casually make coconut rice.
But if you HAVEN'T made coconut rice, I am telling you - right now- that you should. I really think the combination of these two dishes together is what really makes the flavor great.

This recipe is for 4 people.

Steamed Coconut Rice
500 g (1 lb) long-grain white rice (we used basmati)
1 1/2 cups (375 ml/12 fl oz) coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt

Pour 2 cups (500 ml/16 fl oz) of water into a wok. Place a large sheet of baking paper in the base of a large bamboo steamer and spread the rice in the base of the steamer. Bring the water to a boil, sit the steamer over the wok (it should not touch the water) and put the lid on the steamer. Steam the rice for 35 minutes, turning the rice over halfway through the cooking time, and replenishing the water, if necessary.
Gently heat the coconut milk, with the salt, in a medium-sized pan. Add the steamed rice, bring to a boil and stir well. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and remove from the heat. Set aside for 45 minutes, or until the coconut milk is absorbed.
Spread the rice back into the paper-lined steaming bamboo basket and cover. Check that there is water in the wok and them steam for another 30 minutes.

Mixed Vegetable Salad
300 g (9 1/2 oz) fresh chopped pineapple pieces
1 cucumber, chopped
250 g (8 oz) cherry tomatoes, halved
155g (5 oz) green beens finely sliced
1/3 cup (80 ml) rice wine vinegar
2 tbl lime juice
2 red chillies, seeded and finely chopped
2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
30 g (1 oz) mint leaves to garnish

In a bowl combine the pineapple, cucumber, tomatoes, beans and toss well, cover and refrigerate until chilled. Stir the vinegar, lime juice, chillies, sugar and salt in a small bowl until sugar dissolves.
Arrange the chilled salad on a serving platter, drizzle half the dressing over the top and garnish with the mint leaves.
Serve immediately with the remaining dressing on the side.

Monday, February 14, 2011

It's all happening

For the next few months, my theme is leaving and returning, and leaving again.

I have a couple of more recipes that I want to post up when I get some time.

At the moment I have house guests, one who is very small, yet both reigns over and commands all who are larger.

Just before visitors came, I went to Sydney. I got to see a dear friend, that I haven't seen in too many years, and bask in her reflected glow.
The Sydney Botanical Gardens has a colony of blonde, fruit bats. They are enormous, and beautiful as they fly out over the opera house at twilight.

I got to see Sting perform, twice. I became a Police fan about three years ago now, being so recently into his music, I think I may have been a little over-excited about the shows.
Thinking that I'd never see him live, I watched some documentaries, and live footage.
Sting of course has some great cult film moments as well.
I read his book, which I really enjoyed, as a fan most of my questions were answered, aspects of their first record deal, the filming of Quadrophenia.
I've been having a good time.
I plan on having more.