The Pumpkins Circle of Life.

Well it has been a few very busy weeks and yes we have fallen well and truly off the urban hippie wagon this week.

At the very least normally we manage to at least get lunches and meals made for the week and not rely on takeaway and buying lunch at the over inflated prices at work but we have drained the freezer and been too sick/too tired/too busy/too stuffed to get things sorted.

The problem with working as hard and being as busy as both A. and I are is you often fall into the pattern of it costing more to live than it should. I have often said that I would happily swap a 3 day week for 60% of my salary and the numbers I have done would show me as us being way ahead. When you outsource aspects of your life you effectively lose control of them and this is trap we all should avoid.

We have had several take away meals and don’t get me wrong the food has been good. Local pizza place and small family run Chinese/Vietnamese place called Bamboo Garden we occasionally get take out from.

Last night was my mother’s birthday and she was down visiting the Preston market with dad for fish. It was an excuse for us to be together with the kids and enjoy each other’s company and go to the bamboo garden and try the food in house.

The little family run restaurant turned out a feast for us, awesome spring rolls, the best dumpling we have had in a while (we get these as take away but they are so much better fresh) Peking duck, char siu pork and the piece de resistance, a whole barramundi poached in ginger and shallots. It is nice to feast for special occasions.

We came home and dad and I chatted about food and my garden went over a few things I want to do. He made a typical nonchalant remark that even at the worst part of the year he can get at least a dozen food plants to eat from his 3 acres. Pretty good and whole lot better than me and most others.

So today with the footy on (no interest sorry even as a Hawthorne supporter) and the weather dropping in and out of good and bad I decided to catch up on restocking the freezer. I saw a great recipe in the age online from Frank Camorra that I wanted to try. I had some really good local Wimmera Harvest lentils and the rest of the ingredients from our ceres box the one item missing was the pumpkin. I could have sworn I still had one I harvested in the autumn.

So I trawled through my shed (getting a bit full now we are storing what used to be two rooms of stuff in it) and lo and behold there was the last of my pumpkins from last season. The irony is that I was just planting the seeds from this breed of pumpkins yesterday.  They store well and eat fantastically even after 6 months of being stored in an old tin shed on a concrete floor. They grow well in my area. What is not to love? I will be planting more this year to tide us over the next winter.

The soup, with good old cheese toasties made an awesome simple evening meal and lots left for the freezer. But a warning do not leave out the dash of vinegar in the recipe it adds a level of balance to the flavours that  makes this go from a good dish to a great dish.

So with a couple of other dishes. The freezer is now stocked and hopefully next week we can get back on the wagon.

The Sanity Filter

Last week was pretty nasty at work, this week will likely be a bit more nasty. But life is still good and sometimes you just need a sanity filter to help you look at the world a bit differently.

A few weeks ago I built the mini hot house with the kids on Father’s Day. Each morning last week I checked on the seeds, watched them appear and grow.

It was my sanity filter for the week. I will be doing the same for this week.

Have a great week everyone and I hope you can find your own sanity filter

Pots for Plants.

I have been busy planting seeds again today. Two weeks ago I put together the mini hot house and it  is already paying dividends. So far the seedlings are doing well with about 10 of the 16 varieties of seeds I planted up and running and few more looking I am expecting to see come out soon.

Today I planted tatsoi, mibuna, corn salad and other greens, egg plants, capsicum, herbs and about half of the dozen types of heritage tomato seeds I was given. Nasturtium and some other flowers. I also prepared a new bed for planting and started to sort out the area for the heugan bed I am going to build.

The little urban block is going to be a buzzing hopefully this year. I am going to try to fill each of the micro climates I have and see what works and what does not. What we like and what we don’t.

One of the big issues for me obviously is getting enough trays for seedling. I will be honest I use a mix of my own compost and commercial organic potting mix for this and it is working well. I have purchased some seedling trays but I try to use up what I have to pot up things so that I don’t have to add to the weight on the world of plastic and waste and also keep the cost down.

Today I used some old toilet rolls which I have cut in two ways to see which works better, some milk cartons and as many of the old seedling trays I can find around the place from previous years.

As I said it feels good to use what would be waste or even recycled for a new use. We recycle where we can but at the end of the day reusing is a better of the four ‘R’s’

So go and see what you can find to plant in and plant as many types of seeds as you can swap them with your neighbour just get planting.

Oh and yes my neighbours will get a fair chunk of seedlings I have indeed over done it but hey that is ok.

Any fish left in the ocean for that curry?

For me an issues is how do I get sustainable fish for the table. I look at the sustainable types of fish in my part of the world and oddly or perhaps not it is mostly what I ate as a youngster.

When I was young we used to go to lakes Entrance on the coast of Victoria. My father is an avid fisherman and we caught luderick, flathead, black bream, trevalli, leather jacket, slimy mackerel and others. I am a poor fisherman although I must admit the interest is rising again and much of my time was spent scaling, gutting and filleting fish that my sister and father had caught.

Oddly enough these are now the types of fish that I am looking for to fill my freezer and today I took a run down to the Preston market. I went there sick of seeing so few types of fish in the shops and most of it very unsustainable.

I saw all of the old types and noted that they were amongst the cheapest of the fish on offer. I grabbed a slight more expensive fish in Australia flathead fillets for a good curry, I grabbed some cheaper whole fish to fillet or bake whole I will keep the bones for making stock. To be honest the price seemed just a little too cheap to me and again I question if we need to pay a fairer price for these things in this rich country.

Today we also celebrated that the super trawler was banned in this country. We have to start to realise that like the people who run our cheese and tofu co-op that small is better. A decent small living on a longer term rather than gutting the world so a few can get super rich.

Small scale fishing in a sustainable fashion makes more sense to me. Less bye catch more people employed. No you don’t get a 20% return on your investment but maybe we are eating this fish curry in my great grand children’s time. It is much the same for small scale milling of timber or farming within the limits of the land. more expensive but even Ben Bernaki has commented that we need to look at a more sustainable lifestyle and enjoy that life.

It sounds like a great plan but it will come at a cost to us all in the form of higher food costs which will perhaps make us value the resource we are using. No different to buying organic chicken or heritage beef or pig breeds it will be better for us all. By the way a fish like leather jacket which most of the population have probably never eaten or heard of is one of the best eating fish you will come across and sustainable.

So go fishing or buy some good sustainable fish from a small supplier or local fisherman but be prepared and happy to pay a bit more so you value it. Allow the person making a living, make that living without being forced to trash the world to get by.

But as for the curry well, see below.

Pumpkin and Flathead Thai curry

Fry 1 medium onion and 2 tablespoons of yellow Thai curry past

  • 1 medium onion sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of yellow Thai curry paste
  • Knob of ginger finely sliced
  • 2-3 pieces of lemon grass bruised
  • 400 ml can of coconut cream
  • 3 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 2 cups of fish stock
  • Chili to taste
  • Bok Choy or other greens to taste sliced (I used a bok choy and some broccoli from my ceres box
  • 500 grams of finely diced pumpkin
  • 500 grams of fish (blue grenadier or flathead works well) chopped into bite size pieces.
  • Dash of fish sauce

Fry onion, paste, ginger and lemon grass for around 2 minutes add garlic and continue to fry for around another minute. Add stock and coconut cream, fish sauce and mix through. Add in pumpkin and any sliced toughish stalks from your greens. Simmer until pumpkin is soft but not too soft. Add in the greens and simmer for 3 minutes then add in the fish and simmer around 3 minutes till the fish is just cooked through

Serve on rice (I would have added some coriander but mine in the garden is a bit light at present)

The next door neighbours basil.

We often have the neighbours over for dinner at our place. The next door neighbour always brings a few home brews and some produce from his garden.

Since we moved in he has been a great help in getting the garden going he has been here quite a few years and his garden is well setup although his large flock of chickens does tend to denude anything not protected.

This year though out the winter he has brought us amongst other things fresh basil. Even at the end of the winter after a number of hard frosts it was still fresh basil. In the end I had to ask him about it and he showed me a huge 2 meter across basil plant unprotected in the middle of Melbourne after a solid winter.

In his generous laid back fashion he mentioned the raspberry canes I gave him last year and asked if I wanted some root stock and cuttings.

Of course “just be neighbourly” I grabbed some root stock which I have planted out in 4 locations to see where it settles in and put aside a couple of pieces in the new mini hot house I built to get it going as gifts for some people who have helped me some difficult to get plants and items in the past. The circle turns.

As you can see from the photos it a serious survivor and the cuttings I got as well have taken off in less than a week

Like a lot of people I believe it is important to grow heritage open pollinated varieties of plants and cutting from old varieties of tree’s but even more important than that is what I will call very local varieties. Plants that grow well in your immediate area. Sadly as most people barely know their neighbours name and or their local community this can be hard with plants that grow really well in an area not readily available to be propagated for the benefit of all

So if you get a chance to have a chat with your local neighbours do so and see what grows well in their backyard and be happy to share what grows well in your backyard.

Oh and the spare basil leaves well couldn’t let them go to waste. A good old fashioned basil pesto with smoked chicken breast at the end of winter. Not too shabby at all.

Basil pesto with smoked chicken

  • A good bunch of basil
  • Almond slivers
  • ½ cup of parmesan cheese
  • 4-5 good sized garlic cloves (as many as you like really)
  • Several good glugs of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

I tend to use the food processor for this so I dry toast the nuts in frypan and add these to the other ingredients except the oil. Add some oil blend and add some more till you have the texture you are after.

I sliced warmed a smoked chicken breast we get from the gentleman at the famers market who does artisan smoking of meats and cooked some whole meal pasta cooked till al dente and stirred everything though.