Stocking Up

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Even though there are only two adults in our household, I find it worthwhile to prepare bulk amounts of various meals and ingredients for meals.

Some of the bulk preparation is due to the quantities of seasonal produce from our garden and in other instances it is simply due to the recipe or my choice to make a substantial quantity in one go.

Here are some examples of the sorts of things I do.

Single lunch serves of pumpkin soup.  This was after we had soup for dinner, it was all from one medium pumpkin picked from the garden.

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Limes cut into wedges.  Citrus are in abundance at our place at the moment and this is just one of the many ways I am using the bumper crop of limes.

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Bagged and ready to pop into the freezer for a refreshing addition to chilled water – still or sparkling (from the Soda Stream).

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A bulk quantity of refried beans done in the slow cooker.  This recipe (from Mimi all those years ago) practically makes itself.  A versatile staple that I store in the freezer.

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Spiced peanuts – I used some in the kale salad tonight and the rest will be used for future salads, that is, if GMan doesn’t snack on them all in the meantime.

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A batch of gluten free cheese scones.  These are delicious with a bowl of soup on a cool evening so I always have some in the freezer.

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What is in your stock to make preparing meals easier?

 

Falling Nuts

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Unless you live in or have visited a couple of fairly specific areas in Queensland, Australia it is unlikely that you have seen or even heard of a bunya pine.

It is the middle of January which means it is bunya nut season.  It is certainly not the time to have a picnic under one of these trees as the cones can weigh several kilograms.

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The bunya pines are indigenous to where we live on the Blackall Range, however, there are very few original specimens due to land clearing for the dairy industry in the late 1800s.  We have one on the steep slope at the rear of our property so the falling cones roll down the hill to where they are easily accessible.

I had heard several cracks and thumps over the past week so I went looking for them and collected 4 cones today.  The photo above shows the intact cone.

Once they are ripe and fall, the cones quickly split open and the segments containing the nuts separate.

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These 3 cones in the wheelbarrow are in various stages of splitting.  You can see the central core around which the segments are spiralled.  Each segment contains a nut.

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At this stage they still need to be boiled or roasted and then the hard protective shell removed to reveal the edible nut.  There is a fair bit of work involved in getting from the fallen cone to edible nut stage.  I have a bag of nuts for to be roasted or boiled which I will take for one of my work colleagues who is a real fan.  I am not desperate to eat them but feel that I should utilise this free bounty of local produce.  I am planning to prepare the nuts and then grind them and use to make pesto.  In the meantime the crushed nuts can be stored in the freezer.

The bunya festival was and remains an important gathering for the local indigenous people.

Seasonal Produce

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There are many good reasons to eat what is in season where possible.  Food miles are reduced if you eat local seasonal produce.  It is more likely to have been picked ripe and have better flavour.  An abundance of a particular crop will invariably see the best prices for the consumer.

Most of all though, if you only eat items that are in season you will appreciate the wait for those crops which only bear at a particular time of the year.  Like the first sweet bite of a new season mandarin.  In our climate we pick fruit from our mandarin tree during June and July which are our winter months.

Once the fruit are ripening I have to cover the tree to protect the fruit from the local scrub turkeys.

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You can also see one of the orange trees next to the netted mandarin.

This afternoon I removed the netting and picked the last of the fruit.

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We have picked a lot of mandarins over the past month or so but these are the last 30 of them.

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We will savour these fruit as we know it will be another 10 months before the next crop is ripe.  In the meantime, there will be plenty more seasonal delights as the months roll by.  Imagine if I could eat these all the year round.  They would no longer be anticipated longingly and the delight of that first burst of delicious flavour would soon become ho-hum.

We are fortunate because we live in a temperate climate so many crops can successfully be grown during most months of the year.  However, seasonality still exists for the citrus trees, raspberries, mangoes, passionfruit and avocadoes.

What is in season at your place?

This was our glorious winter day here today.  No, it has not been photoshopped – the sky really is that blue.

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Something from the Garden

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Back to one of my favourite topics – eating what is in season.

Last night we had salmon for dinner.  While the salmon is not strictly local, it does come from Australian waters.  It is farmed in the clear water of the Huon River estuary in southern Tasmania.  The salmon could hardly be considered a budget meal as it costs about $10 for enough for 2 serves.  We always barbeque the salmon and season it with a little salt and some lime juice to enhance the flavour.

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I served it with pumpkin mash, stir-fried pak choy, balsamic roasted cherry tomatoes and avocado slices.  I poured some of the balsamic/tomato juice over the salmon as a glaze to finish it off.  All of these ingredients came from our garden so you can’t get much more seasonal or local than that.  It also means that a meal of salmon is quite a reasonable price.  What would you pay in a restaurant for a meal like this? $30 – $35 perhaps?

Not every meal contains as much of our own garden produce but I do try to include it as much as possible.  Tonight we are having pizza which will be spread with mango chutney (made from the neighbour’s mangoes) instead of tomato paste and have balsamic roasted pumpkin as the main topping.

We have had a bumper harvest of pumpkins this year so I am constantly looking for creative ideas to use them.  As well as the ubiquitous pumpkin soup, pumpkin mash and being used on pizza topping I have also made some pumpkin scones recently.

What do you have a glut of?  Do you have any pumpkin suggestions?

Tomato Day

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It was nothing like ‘Tomato Day’ as described in the novel, “Looking for Alibrandi” but The Duke and I had our own mini version when we cut up 5.5kg of tomatoes yesterday.

A couple of weeks ago I asked at the local fruit stall if they had any cooking/sauce tomatoes as I wanted to make tomato sauce.  After some discussion it was agreed that they would try to get some from the market if there were any available and let me know.  I had not heard anything so I asked again when we went yesterday to buy our weekly supply of fruit and vegetables.  B then presented me with a box of assorted over-ripe tomatoes which had been sorted from the regular ones rather than specifically purchased.  These were then given to me as they would otherwise have been thrown out.

Back at home, we only had to discard 3 or 4 that were completely rotten and the rest were chopped up and placed in bags in the freezer.  I simply do not have the time to make sauce this week in the lead-up to Christmas and holidays so they can stay in the freezer until I have time to make the sauce.

This is an example of the benefits of eating seasonal produce and also supporting and getting to know your small, local retailer.  I could not imagine this scenario happening at my local Coles or Woolworths supermarket.

Friday Favourites – Zucchini Quiche

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A friend gave this recipe to me nearly 30 years ago.  It seems to be commonplace now but at the time it was a real novelty.  I use it for main meals, packed lunches and finger food depending on the the serving size of the pieces.  The ability to serve it either hot or cold just adds to the versatility.

ZUCCHINI QUICHE

350-400g zucchini, grated
1 cup grated cheese
1 onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup self-raising flour
¼ cup oil
5 eggs
Black pepper for seasoning

2012-01-20 01Place all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and combine.  Spread in an ovenproof dish and bake for approximately 45 minutes at 180 degrees.

2012-01-20 02HINTS & MODIFICATIONS

2012-01-20 03I love this recipe for several reasons.  It allows me to make use of the things we produce – eggs, zucchini and onion.  The recipe is one of the most forgiving and versatile ones I have come across.  At various times I have used 1 less egg, substituted milk for 1/2 of the oil, used up to 100 g more or less of zucchini, substituted half of the zucchini for other vegetables such as grated carrot, diced capsicum or corn kernels.  The results may not be perfect but it is definitely edible.

The quiche is usually served with salad here, but the options are almost endless.

2012-01-20 04I am pleased to say that all of the salad is home-grown except for the capsicum.  The eggs, zucchini and onion are also home-grown and even the oil I used is local avocado oil.

Please let me know if you are inspired to try this recipe if you are not already familiar with it.  I trust that you will enjoy the results as much as we do.

The Ones That Got Away

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Yesterday I ventured down to the vegetable gardens and found these zucchini.  At 1.8kg and 2.8kg they could certainly be regarded as the ones that got away.

2012-01-15 01The photograph shows them beside the food processor which gives an indication of the size of them.

In keeping with my previous post, there was no way I was going to waste them so I cut them up and and scooped the seeds out.  I then cut them into manageable pieces and fed them through the food processor with the grater attachment.  Since the skin is fairly tough on these large zucchini it did not grate particularly well but my work still yielded 8 x 400 g packs of grated zucchini in ziplock bags ready to freeze.

2012-01-15 02These are now packed away in the freezer, ready for use.  I make zucchini quiche/slice which works perfectly well with previously frozen zucchini.  I also add it to bolognaise sauce and lasagne.

I will post the recipe for the Zucchini Slice on Friday in Friday Favourites.

What do you do when you have a glut of a particular fruit or vegetable?