Archive | August, 2012

Let’s start with a confession…

31 Aug

I neglected the raspberries. Not just a little bit – I planted them in pots along the back fence then abandoned them.

No staking, trellising, fertilising, weeding or attention. I picked a couple of berries late last season, but they didn’t do much in their first season. I’ve been meaning to construct a trellis for them to grow on, but getting the materials home from the hardware store and actually constructing the thing seems quite difficult. You’d thing I’d be able to manage tidying them up and fertilising though,  wouldn’t you?

Well no.

This is the disgrace that is my back yard. The raspberry plants are in the pots along the back fence. The garden in front was holding my capsicums and chillies protected over winter, but they’ve come out of their pots into the front garden bed and I’ve just left the pots sitting there. Imagine an indoor version of this scene and you’ve pretty much got my kitchen.

Each of the pots even seems to have its own unique affliction. The first one has been overtaken with ivy.

And the second with a different weed.

The third seems to be missing from its pot entirely (I blame the chickens for that one), and the next is most definitely a chicken victim.

But when I brought myself to actually examine the plants, they actually look like they are still alive. And not necessarily in the places I was expecting…

There’s a completely new plant in the middle of the garden bed! And when I looked down between the pots, there was another more advanced cane, popping directly out of the ground!

My raspberries have escaped!

How that happened, I really don’t know. The pots seemed pretty sturdy, and the garden bed that they have popped up in is completely lined along the bottom with concrete.

So I guess I’m going to have to construct that trellice, and soon. Unless I want the triffids all over our back yard.

Converting to cloth baby wipes

30 Aug

Although I’ve been using cloth nappies since our daughter was born we’ve still been using disposable wipes. When Baby T was born, I decided to ditch the disposables and convert to cloth wipes, almost exclusively.

My main issue with cloth wipes was the convenience. The disposable wipes were pre-moistened and worked really efficiently to wipe up the icky stuff. I thought that cloth wipes were dry and required you to wet them when required. I recently discovered a solution, and I’m pretty chuffed.

I bought these Grovia cloth wipes because they fold to fit the Huggies container – the one with the rubber opening. They worked out at about $1 for each wipe. The wipes I was using cost about 5 cents each. If you bought really cheap ones on special they might be as cheap at 2 cents each. I wash them in a load with nappies that I would be running anyway, so it won’t take too long before I’m in front.

To fold the wipes I place one wipe down, then another along the halfway point.

I then fold the bottom one over the top at the same middle point.

Then another wipe is placed on top

And again, the previous folded above that.

Continue the process until you have folded 16 wipes

Then you move onto making up the solution. I put about one and a half cups of hot water in the wipes container, mixed with  a tablespoon of vegetable oil, a squirt of baby wash and a few drops of an essential oil blend for fragrance. I love the smell of Perfect Potion’s Beautiful Baby Hush Blend, so I use that, but fragrance isn’t necessary.

I whisk the solution up quickly, then put the wipes in before the mix separates. I’ve found that the best method is to put one end in until half the liquid is absorbed then the other end until it is all absorbed. If you just put the wipes in horizontally then the bottom ones get sopping wet while the top ones stay dry.

Once they are in there, they pop up nicely through the rubber baffle, just like the disposable wipes.

I have about 60 wipes and I’ve found that to be about the right number so that we never run out. Other people probably don’t require that many, but we have 2 kids in nappies and they are frequent pooers.

This system has passed the cynical husband test. Early on, his reaction was (and I quote) “Can’t we just be normal people and use disposables?”. Now he acknowledges that they genuinely work better than the Huggies. I still buy disposables for the nappy bag because they are more compact, but around the house I am very happy with the cloth.

Mud pie season is here again

29 Aug


Tuesday Night Vego – Vegetarian Pad See Ew

28 Aug

I’ve only recently discovered Thai noodle dishes. I’ve always avoided them in favour of saucy curries, but now I know what I was missing. My favourite is probably Pad Kee Mao or Drunken Noodles, but it has too much chilli for the kids. Pad See Ew on the other hand is mild and sweet – just the kind of food that kids love.

Pad See Ew is usually made with some form of protein such as pork or tofu, but I’m perfectly happy with just veggies and egg.  Egg is often substituted for meat in my house. This dish can be made with whatever seasonal veggies you have on hand. Tonight it was asparagus, spring onion, mushrooms and tuscan kale. It should have also been cauliflower and sugar snap peas, but I forgot them on the other side of the kitchen bench.


Pad See Ew with seasonal veggies

500g fresh rice noodles (found in the fridge of asian grocers)

Oil with a high smoke point (I used rice bran)

As many fresh veggies as you like

Sweet soy sauce

Fish sauce (or light soy)

Rice vinegar

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Microwave the rice noodles for 1 minute to heat slightly. This makes them easier to separate.

They come packed tightly in a plastic tub, so separate them into rough strips one sheet thick so they cook evenly.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok over high heat and cook the eggs into a rough omelette and set the omelette aside.

Return the pan  to high heat and once it is smoking add any non-leafy veggies. In my case I added the white parts of spring onions (shallots), asparagus spears and the mushrooms. When they start to colour well add a little fish sauce (or light soy if you are a stickler for the vegetarian thing). Add the leafy veggies and a little more fish sauce. Once the leafy veggies have wilted, remove all the veggies into a separate bowl.

Return the pan to high heat and add a few more tablespoons of oil to the pan. Once it’s smoking add half of the noodles, spread out evenly over the cooking surface. Let them rest there for a few seconds to colour before starting to toss them around to cooker further. Add a tablespoon of sweet soy, stir and remove from the pan. Repeat with the second batch of noodles.

Combine all the ingredients back into the pan, including the omelette (broken up into pieces). Season with a splash of rice vinegar and taste for seasonings. You may need to add more sweet soy, fish sauce or vinegar.

Serve as-is to the kids, or with your favourite chilli sauce or sambal to grown-ups.

I have a terrible habit of breaking Linda’s rules for the Tuesday Night Vego challenge. This recipe is fast and seasonal, but fails the healthy test. There is quite a bit of oil in this one, but it’s a great way of increasing the veggie consumption in the kids.

Harvest Monday – 27th August 2012

27 Aug

Warming weather has meant that the garden (and weeds) are growing quickly. I’m having to be more active outside these days to keep on top of it, although I’ll be glad when the creeping oxalis (soursop) goes dormant and I can stop chasing it for the time being.

2kg peas

I harvested the last of the shelling peas. After shelling they yielded about 900g of peas. Some went with some meatloaf during the week, and the rest went into the freezer.

3 baby leeks

The leeks are taking forever and I’d like the space for summer plantings so I harvested 3 small leeks this week for use in an asparagus and smoked salmon quiche.

2 sprigs dill

Also in the quiche.

2 asparagus spears

The asparagus is putting out lots of new spears, so the coming week will bring the biggest harvest. I combined one of these with the ones I harvested last week and used them in the quiche, which was seriously delicious.


Bowl of baby spinach

Into a salad that I served with the quiche.

25 peppermint leaves

I harvested the first of the peppermint leaves from my new plant. I put them into some tea, but realised upon drinking that you need far more than 25 leaves to a pot. It was very slightly minty hot water.

Bunch of oregano

The oregano has sprung back from winter much faster than the other herbs. I used this in a garlic chicken and chorizo casserole.

Bunch of celery

Normally I harvest the celery on a ‘cut and come again’ basis, but this week I harvested a whole bunch for a batch of cream of celery soup. The soup benefits from using the sweeter inner stalks, and it was delicious.

4 spring onions

I used these in some chicken and sweet corn soup and also in a pasta salad today.

1 bunch silverbeet

I found a recipe that the kids would eat silverbeet in! This large bunch went into Chickpeas with chorizo and silverbeet.

Luckily this little guy survived the shredding of the silverbeet and was noticed before being added to the pot.

Well that’s all for me this week. For more harvests – in Australia and the other side of the world, I’m linking up with Daphne. Go pay her a visit.

27 Degrees

23 Aug

That was our maximum temperature in Sydney today.

Most of my seeds are up- such as the tomatoes.

And the cucumber

And the chillies and celery that Liz sent me

My overwintered Tobago Seasoning chilli is setting new fruit

The apples are in full flower

And the leafy greens are going to seed.

Like many unseasonably hot days, we are getting a cracker of a thunderstorm now.

Tuesday Night Vego- Pumpkin and Nut Curry

21 Aug

I’ve been pretty loose with the rules for this Tuesday Night Vego challenge, and this week is no exception. Last Tuesday I cooked a pumpkin and nut curry, and it took well in excess of the 30 allowable minutes. In my defense, most of the time is in simmering and letting the flavours develop. The actual time spent doing anything was less than the 30 minutes.

This recipe is based on Jamie Oliver’s Meat Free Mondays recipe here, and I stuck fairly closely to the seasonings etc but changed proportions, added sugar and changed the chickpeas to cashews and macadamias. The result was good, and even better the next day. The kids ate it willingly 2 nights in a row.

Pumpkin and Nut Curry

  • 900g pumpkin, chopped into 3cm cubes
  • 4cm piece of peeled ginger
  • 1 bunch coriander
  • Vegetable oil (I use rice bran)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • Small shake of chilli powder
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 20 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 x 400ml tins coconut cream + 200mls water.
  • 1 1/2 cups mixed toasted nuts (I used cashews and macadamias)

Finely julienne the ginger. Finely chop the stalks of the coriander. Reserve the leaves for later use.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, chilli and onions, then reduce to a medium heat.

Cook until coloured, stirring occasionally. Next add the mustard seeds, curry leaves, and coriander stalks – Jamie Oliver said to fry until the curry leaves go crispy, but my onions were threatening to burn by that stage.  Add the turmeric, tomatoes, coconut cream, water and sugar.

Bring to the boil, then add the pumpkin. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes.

While the curry is simmering, toast the nuts in a separate pan over high heat. Be careful to keep them moving constantly, because they’ll burn if you blink. Take half of the toasted nuts and blend to a fine powder in the blender or food processor. Add  ground nuts to the curry – it will add a thickness to the sauce.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Just before serving, add the whole nuts. Serve over rice, scattered with the coriander leaves.

The mixture of cashews and macadamias is great because cashews will go slightly soft in a curry, while macadamias will remain crunchy. The ground nuts add a nuttiness to the sauce too.

Harvest Monday – 20th August 2012

20 Aug

My garden is looking a little ‘between seasons’ at the moment. Winter stuff has come out and some summer plantings have gone in – this should decrease my yield over the next two months or so.

1 bunch Coriander and 20 Curry Leaves

This was the first harvest from my new curry tree. Despite the aroma of the crushed leaves (that I find offensive) I really enjoyed their flavour in a curry I made during the week. I’ll be posting the recipe as part of my Tuesday Night Vego post tomorrow.

2.2 kilograms Root Vegetables (carrot, daikon, swede, turnip) 

I harvested the remaining root vegetables this week, which leaves me without carrots for another 3 months at least. I’m going to use them in a bacon and root veggie pie.


1 Cauliflower

This was one of my ‘mini cauliflowers’. Not sure I’d grow it again because the plant took up almost as much space as a full-sized cauliflower. I used this one is a cauliflower and cheese soup.

Large bunch Silverbeet

I used this as a side dish during the week. I steamed it and added an oyster/soy based sauce like they serve over gai lan at yum cha. I also added chilli to my serving.

4 Asparagus spears

The asparagus has mostly woken from its slumber. Not all the crowns have put out spears, but one in particular is going great guns – 3 spears at once. I’ve been collecting these in the fridge, and I’ll use them once I have 6 of them.

2.5 kilos tomatoes

I pulled out the last of my tomato plants during the week and harvested the 2.2 kilos of tomatoes hanging on the plants. With these I made 4 bottles of tomato sauce (ketchup.)

That’s all for this week. I might have a few more weeks of decent harvests before the hungry gap hits, but the seedlings are mostly all up, so it won’t be long before the bulk of the garden gets stripped and the new plantings take their place.

For more harvests from around the world, visit Daphne’s blog.

Because sometimes you just need more peas

18 Aug

End of season for winter tomatoes

17 Aug

Last week we had a cold snap in Sydney. My highly productive tomatoes suddenly withered and went brown and crunchy.

Luckily the growing tips of the plants seemed mostly ok.

So I took some cuttings of these to re-plant.

I put the cuttings into some water, and they will soon sprout roots.

At this time I’ll replant them into the garden, and they should provide me with fruit through spring and early summer when my Summer tomatoes are not yet mature.

This process is described very throughly by Jodi. That’s how I learned this method, and it works!

I managed to save one plant, but the rest came out entirely. I planted out some of my overwintered capsicums and chillies, optimistically declaring that the worst of winter is behind us. I cut them back savagely, and they should reshoot when the weather warms a bit more.

Although I’m not completely sure they all survived the overwintering…