An Urban Hippies best birthday present

So today I hit 42. On some levels I feel the age (and a bit more) on others I feel a lot younger.

So did I have a big party, grab lots of presents, head for my nearest mid life crisis (hell I have one of those most weeks 🙂 ). Nope I had the best day I could think of given the last few weeks of business and chaos in my life and the planning for the next week of craziness running around Japan . A quiet day.

I had a sleep in which as any parent of two children under 3 would know is a priceless gift. Then spent the day with A. and the kids.

Sabrina and I made purred pears for her brother (Sabrina told me which pears where best) then a nice big batch of pumpkin soup for the family while I am away.

Sabrina is really getting into the cooking and crèche have told us that she cooks for her ‘boyfriend’ in the home corner but has a habit of putting the baby in the oven …

She spent all morning sitting there talking to me about things as I cook. I am hoping this will lead her to learn the value of cooking as it has taught her how much fun gardening is. At the end of the day I can only guide.

On the issue of present s I have avoided them for the last few years. Probably after having been traumatized when A. made me get in a 6 meter skip in to clear out space for when Sabrina was born. I think there is enough crap in the world and at the end of the day I have so many things, I just don’t need anything and the best present is for me to have my family around me on day like this.

So we finished the day with a nice simple meal at a great family run Lebanese restaurant. Nothing fancy just good simple affordable food. And you know it is a family restaurant when your 3 year old has an accident on the seat at the table and the owners just go ‘ we all have kids’ as they just smile and bring out the plastic covers.

I hope that you all had as good a day as me. Remember life is to be lived.




Why peasant and also hippies like soup.

Yesterday I made a sunny meal and today I did a couple of quick batches of winter comfort food in the form of soups. We often have soup for dinner on those busy week nights when pulling it out of the freezer is about as excited as you can get. It is also great for lunches

I have discussed the idea of spending $50 to $100 for lunches a week seems such a waste when a little planning can reduce this and having small packs of frozen soup with a bit of bread make a good fallback position if no left over’s from last night are available.

In addition to being delicious these two recipes are great in that they use simple inexpensive ingredients that might otherwise be wasted.

A leek and potato soup with the rinds of your parmesan that would otherwise be thrown out used to make it super creamy with that lovely undertone flavour of parmesan to it.

And a soup that uses an ingredient that most people say “you can eat that” a radish leaf soup.

Both turned out very well with the dinner being the being the leek soup, topped with crispy bacon and fresh sourdough (our life is so hard here as urban hippies). The three year old went back for thirds so can’t have been too bad. I will be writing a bit about not wasting items and using things to their full potential over the next few weeks as it is something close to my heart.

Hope you enjoy.

Leek and Potato soup with Parmesan.

  • 3 large leeks
  • Olive oil
  • 500g floury potatoes (I used Dutch cream)
  • As many parmesan rinds as you have minimum 2 or so (parmesan rinds freeze well)
  • 1½ litres water
  • Lots of Sea salt to taste
  • White Pepper to taste
  • Bacon crisped up to add on top
  • 1 cup fresh parsley leaves shredded as a garnish
  • Cream or Sour Cream or even some natural yogurt.

Slice up the white part of the leeks and add to a heavy based saucepan with the olive oil and cook on a low heat until soft. Add the diced potatoes and heat for a few minutes then a teaspoon of salt, the water and the rinds. Cook for about 40 or so minutes at a low simmer. Remove from the heat, take out the rinds and use a stick bender to puree til smooth.

Fry bacon until crisp and add to the top of bowls with a little cream and some fresh shredded parsley (got to love the parsley growing wild down the side of the house)

 Radish Leaf Soup

  • 3 large onions diced
  • Olive oil
  • 4 cups washed and trimmed radish leaves
  • 6 -7 peeled potatoes diced (depending on size) I used Dutch cream again
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • Additional Salt to taste
  • Cream.

Dice onions and sauté in olive oil until golden. Add the radish leaves until they have wilted, add stock, water, salt and add diced potato and simmer for 20 -30 minutes.

Use a stick blender to puree and add additional salt and pepper to taste.

Dollop of cream on top and enjoy

The Learning of new skills.

I am a great believer in gathering new skills. I remember when I saw an article on Africa and they were talking about educating children. The teacher spoke of the fact that you can take away their home, drive them from their country but the education and the skills that is theirs for life.

In my country we do not live in such dire situations but the basic outcome remains the same. Get what skills you can these are yours for life. As I have stated before I work on the philosophy that each dollar you earn is a little bit of yourself sold on so if you can do some stuff yourself then you reduce your dependence on the external world and the variegates that this can lead to.

Don’t get me wrong for some jobs you get the people in who know their stuff. When we took out a wall at our small house to make the living area liveable I worked as a labourer for a friend who was a builder. I learnt a lot and reuse those skills all the time, But some of it such as bridging a gap made by the removal of load bearing wall I would never try in this world. I pay and am happy to pay for the artisan skills that are artisan rather than ‘buy it in China’ and ‘stick it in’.

The skills for my job are pretty esoteric to be honest and have limited use outside of very small corporate circle almost to balance this out, outside of my job that I have focused in on skill that give me real world skills. Things such as growing food, preserving, basic building and repairing, cooking, brewing, foraging etc. I have also learned some basic masonry skills for making garden beds, paths, retaining walls etc.

What I have often failed to see is the value of artisan skills. Focusing instead in on the practical. A couple of weekends ago I did something different. A stone carving course and I would have to say I truly enjoyed it.

Working with such a medium as stone is slow and steady work even with the advantage of modern power tools. It is work were you have face, ear, breathing and eye protection and as such tends to isolate you to the medium and the work. The group I did the course with where very different, a female business owner, a caravan restorer, a retire and myself an IT geek and sometimes urban hippie. While it is not easy to be social At times when we needed a break we would all wander down and see what the others were doing. Everyone was positive.

The weekend went very quick in its own way and left me a good mind set both in regards to the learning of the skill and also forced me to look at the world through a different lens as I have discussed in a previous blog.

It has also given me a new set of skills to play with a different way to look at projects such as my bluestone retaining wall at the back.

A. has been looking at glass blowing course and I can only support her in this. Even if at the end of it she only comes out with something for the house and new set of skills then it will have been well worth it.   

My advice to you all is to go and learn a new skill this year. You can only benefit from it.

Sunny Meals in Winter.

Winter here in southern Australia is looking to be cold and wet this year. Nowhere near as cold and wet as our American or Northern European friends winters but still cold enough to easily end up falling into the bad habits of greasy stodge as comfort food. Don’t get me wrong you need this at this time of year but it can easily lead to unhealthy food over a long period of time. This year the plan over winter is to get some sunny food into our diet preferably from the garden and ensure that we get as many micronutrients as we can in to keep us healthy.

So tonight I noted that the boutique smoked ocean trout we had in the fridge was getting close to its best by date. We choose the ocean trout as this is a sustainable wild fish, caught locally rather than the farmed fresh salmon you can buy here in Australia. The process of farming salmon is not a pretty process and in many ways the outcome is very ,very bad for your health.

So add a little lightness and sunshine in your week and make sure you get those micronutrients all year long.

Smoked Ocean Trout and Pasta.

  • A smoked fillet of ocean trout
  • Spanish Onion
  • Capsicum
  • Two Handfuls of fresh rocket leaves
  • Handful of green olives
  • Pasta (I used Penne)
  • 250 grams of mushrooms
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Salt and pepper

Put the pasta in salted boiling water.

Slice onion, capsicum, mushrooms and garlic and pan fry in butter an olive oil till soft. Add shredded smoked ocean trout and olives and heat through. Add some pasta water to the mix and allow to warm through and thicken. Throw on rocket leaves and allow to wilt. Drain and mix through pasta and added salt, pepper and grated fresh parmesan.

We were lucky all our ingredients came from our garden, weekly organic box from Ceres and the boutique smoker that we have access to. If you can’t get smoked fish use ethically pole fished tuna or ethically caught first world wild salmon as a substitute.