Month: January 2018

Well I must have been tempting fate a bit last weekend with my “it’s been mild” statement. Friday was up to the high 30’s and Saturday came in with a top of 42 in our area! It was harsh. The air conditioner was going most of the day, the dogs napped inside and the poultry got their coop watered more than once. Trying to convince my dear Muscovy Panda to leave her nest while broody was an exercise in futility, but the trust levels are so high that I don’t get nibbled at these days – just a bit of huffing and squeaking (Muscovies don’t adhere to the ‘quacks like a duck’ adage).

Anyway, on to the veggies! I’ve been checking the garden semi regularly and while there seem to be several green tomatoes coming along nicely I’m still without ripe red ones to make myself a Greek salad. A friend from work is taking in some from his father’s garden tomorrow and I’ll be taking some zucchinis as a trade.

As you can see, I had another few hundred grams of Thai chillies. My tiny erstwhile compatriot and garden companion, weary of merely being a fetch and carry assistant, took it upon herself to select a few not quite ripe and blatantly green chillies. She only opens the fridge to get milk out so I’m sure she hasn’t noticed the storage issues I’m currently having!

Jalapeños! These are fairly small and reddened quite early. My plants seem to be producing small jalapeños which I’ll use for pickling and probably some jalapeño jam soon. Bread and butter jalapeños are almost a condiment in this house at the moment, and every jalapeño we grow will be supplemented with stock from a Riverland family that travel to our local market every Sunday.

Here are the first habaneros of the season. The picking of the green ones is a similar story to the Thai chillies, however instead of standing on a strawbale and reaching over, this time Olivia pulled the chicken wire up and pulled off a small branch!

Cucumbers. I was so sad that I didn’t have any a few weeks ago and now I’m wondering what to do with them all. Four plants like the zucchinis, but you know, climbier. It’s getting a bit foresty out there.

What can you really say about zucchinis? They’re crafty, throwing their spiky leaves up to shield their fruit so you only notice a flipping giant specimen because that shady patch looks a little..too..shady? I’ve been pruning their leaves to make locating fruit easier and the chickens have been pleased for the extra greens.

Speaking of spiky! Eggplants! I popped some in the barbeque the other day when Pete was using it, hopefully I can make some baba ghanoush with them. He was smoking with mesquite so I’ll have to see how much flavour they’ve taken on.

And finally, my little plums. I picked these to see how they’re going (apparently still quite tart). Not that it’s stopped Olivia sampling them!


Frugal Friday – Almost Free Ricotta

On Tuesday I returned to work after the New Year’s Day holiday. I’d like to say “like everyone else” but a lot of the people at my work wisely booked the extra leave, which my team are unable to do at the start of a new month due to our reporting responsibilities (boo!). Coming back from leave to a whole lot of repetitive fiddly work? Not the greatest!
Somehow, a mistake had been made with our milk delivery company and all we had left in our fridge was a bunch of milk expiring that day. Some people were really leery of using milk at the expiry date, so we ended up with three two litre (approximately half gallon) bottles that were unused at the end of the day, which would only have been tipped down the sink by our cleaner. What a waste!
Instead of letting the inevitable happen, I took the unopened bottles home with plans to make ricotta to go with some mushrooms I’d bought and frozen a while ago.
The idea started when I was telling a friend about a meal I used to make when I worked at Maggie Beer Products – staff would sometimes receive stock with a short code so it wouldn’t be wasted, and I absolutely loved the Mushroom Pate in an individual Beef Wellington. I can’t find it on the website anymore (is it gone? I loved her vegetable pates!) but after leaving the company and not having my favourite snack easily accessible, I made something similar by sauteeing some mushrooms with butter and rosemary and mixing in some cream. The memory of fragrant rosemary and mushrooms and flaky pastry wormed it’s way into my mind and I thought – why not mix it with ricotta instead of cream and make mushroom rolls instead of sausage rolls?!
Back to the point – this unexpected bounty of free milk made a trip to the supermarket unnecessary!
This time I used this recipe from Super Kitchen Machine as I wanted to be able to do small manageable batches right after work. However, if you don’t have a thermal cooker, this recipe over at Little Green Cheese works really well and I’ve used it before.
I’ve priced up the cost of making the Super Kitchen Machine recipe using my free milk (super cheap because free ingredients), a supermarket home brand, a home brand cream (right here), unhomogenised milk (this one) and based the cream amount on this table. Costs can be reduced by using a home brand cream, or free if it’s available to you!
1.5 litres (cost) + 200ml cream (cost) + salt (cost negligible) + vinegar (cost negligible)
Free milk:
1.5 litres milk ($0.00) + 200ml cream ($0.86) = $0.86
Inexpensive milk:
1.5 litres milk ($1.00 litre) $1.50 + 200ml cream ($0.86) = $2.36
Unhomogenised Milk:
1.5 litres milk ($1.50 litre) $2.25 + 200ml cream ($0.86) = $3.11
My combined yield from two batches was 700g, and I did drain it a bit longer than instructed.

The supermarket brand at Woolworths ends up being $8.00kg; if my yield is 350g then I believe mine works out to about $6.74 when using the inexpensive milk (and obviously if you get free or clearance milk then you’re making out really well at $2.03 for just your cream).

Because I haven’t tested it, I’m unsure if the inexpensive or unhomogenised milks would have a higher yield of cheese but I do believe you get different yields depending on milk quality. Making your own ricotta is probably a bit of a labour of love if you’re buying all of your own ingredients at an expensive rate but if you enjoy cooking and science experiments then it’s a fun way to spend an hour or two.

That’s it from me for today, I’m going to go and start dreaming up this rosemary mushroom roll!

Harvest Monday – Welcome back, Summer!

“This time of year in suburban South Australia is generally pretty warm” is a pretty big understatement. We’re normally watching the long range forecasts in the first few weeks of December trying to figure out contingency plans for Christmas Day, working out who’s got a pool or the best air-conditioning and enough space to host a family get together. New Year’s Eve is a similar affair, and a lot of people generally celebrate at the beach.

This last December has felt a lot milder than previous years, which I think is evidenced by the fact I’ve only seen a handful of ripe tomatoes from a now deceased self seeded Sweet Bite (Konrad has a lot to answer for).

Right now, the Thai chillies are winding up;

This took a while to collect and involved co opting Olivia and her toy bucket to help me. I taught her how to use the front of her shirt to carry things and she stole and ate two underripe plums from the tree. It was pretty cute!

I picked these eggplants (but had a little accident and also cut off a branch with NINE flowers blossoming);

And these zucchinis, after a bumpy start with my flowers mostly being female and hand pollinating for a while;

We’re still getting quite a few eggs, and Panda, our Muscovy, is back on the lay so I’ve been giving Pete’s mum eggs to salt for his dad lately too. As soon as Panda starts making that high pitched nesting Muscovy cheep, the chickens know she’s looking for trouble!

I’m going to get to bed now and don’t have time to try and figure out why my images are displaying sideways.

What have you got going on at the moment? Lots in the garden?