A New Easter

As I sit here eating left overs I would have to say the urban hippie household has had a great Easter.

IMG_1916-2000With the sad passing of the matriarch of our family my grandmother last year this was the first year where we mixed new and old traditions. Making new traditions or reviving old traditions is becoming more and more important. Our culture has had 50 years of traditions being ‘reinvented’ every couple of years to keep the market going and keep the economy ‘healthy’. Buy your traditions is the motto of the defining western culture 😦

For us every Good Friday was at my grandmother’s house. A traditional German fare of pickled foods, heavy casseroles and my Oma’s famous ‘vegetarian’ chicken stock dumpling soup 🙂

This year I hosted my immediate family and we had by any rule of thumb a feast. Wild salmon, smoked salmon, local fast growing sustainable fish and squid crumbed and fried. A few old favourites such as the herring salad my mother resurrected from grandmothers recipe and fish casserole.

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And an old favourite with a small twist my potato salad with wasabi and the crunch of fresh cucumber.

For desert pavlova from my parents pasture eggs with cream and berries.

We tried to make the event as sustainable as we could. Potatoes and veg where from the local farmers market, local olive oil to fry, pole and line caught tuna for the casserole, local fish such as bream, trevally and local shark (quick growing and sustainable in the way it caught here) we had wild salmon (frozen and transported but wild caught) the only down side was the smoked salmon and gravlax that came from somewhere in Europe and was probably farmed.

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But with the feast and the over cater gene I got from my grandmother comes left overs. Which is what we had for the next day. We try to waste as little as we can in our house.

Sunday was again family with a Croatian feast with A.’s family cabbage salad, potatoes, pork and beef cheeks. Baked cheeses, polenta and lemon meringue for dinner. None of which I am sure of where it came and if it was local or sustainable or anything else but you need to be careful to make sure that you are leading. People can be non-Newtonian liquids forcing your views on them is not going to work unless you lead by example. My local dinner was pretty damn fine and you can taste how fresh the just caught local fish. Fish most people have not eaten not because they are no good but because they are not exotic enough or are ‘not in fashion’

After the big lunch we all grazed in the evening feeling stuffed and I got a little insight into how not to waste things. A’s mother had some of the left over polenta with milk for dinner which all the grandkids proceeded to try and all loved. We have to relearn such uses. Nothing should go to waste.

We need to remind ourselves that feasts should be just that. Something special, a time to eat those things that we only have once in a while. One of problems with the middle class of which arguably most permaculture people are from (whether they choose to believe that or not) is that most western middle class folk eat better than kings of bygone eras. To that end we will be living off left overs and the last of my parents and my garden for a few weeks. Seasonal food to balance out the feast.

But enough comments. I hope you all had a brilliant Easter and are living of the left overs of your feasts J post some left over recipes if you can be interested to see what people do with their recipes. Below is the recipe for fish casserole we eat each Easter and the potato salad with wasabi and cucumber.

OH And as a bonus for me J I planted out some of my winter brassica’s just an hour or so in the garden to weed and plant and bit of pruning but it was very nice 🙂 need to get out there a bit more don’t I 🙂

Fish Casserole

  • Potato’s for 3 layers in your container parboiled and sliced
  •  Two 2 gram tines of tuna (you are looking for skipjack tuna pole and line caught. Aldi sells a good one) alternatively my mother has used baked fresh fish in place of tinned fish
  • 6 – 8 hardboiled eggs sliced
  • Mustard sauce as below
  • Cheese to top.

Mustard Sauce.

  • 80 grams of plain flour
  • 80 grams of butter
  • 900 ml of milk
  • Mustard to taste (you need to use a bit I used a small whole jar of German mustard)
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Method: Fry off the butter and flour to make roux or paste. Make sure you fry off the flour long enough to make sure you remove the flour flavour. Add a little bit of milk and mix to make paste and then add a bit more as you got to make smooth white sauce and mustard and salt and pepper to taste.

To put together the casserole put a layer of potatoes on the bottom of a casserole dish, a layer of the tuna, then add sauce to cover. Ad the eggs and another layer of potato and tun then more sauce then a final layer of potato and the last of the sauce to cover then add the cheese to top.

Cover and cook for a while remember most of the ingredients are already cooked so it is just combining and warming it thought. At the end take of the lid and let the cheese brown off.

Freezes well and tastes better next day 🙂

Potato Salad.

  • 1 kg of potatoes cooked till just cooked (not over cooked) an important thing for both the casserole above and the salad is to start the cooking from cold water and bring to the boil it is a trick I learnt making chowder as it stops the potatoes starch breaking down incorrectly.
  • Mayonnaise (as A. is pregnant I used kewpie mayonnaise) about a cup
  • One cucumber deseeded and sliced into 5mm squares.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Wasabi paste to taste.

Cut up the potatoes once warm but not hot mix through the ingredients and serve and room temperature. Needs an hour or so of sitting time to combine the flavours.

Real Food Again

So we have been to New Zealand for a holiday (more on that later) and have had builders working on our house for the last 2 week (much more on that latter!) so we have been living in an apartment a bit closer to town.

I cooked while we were there but it was very basic based on what I could get and make at the nearby ALDI or local takeaway.

So when we moved back in on Friday we went to the local fish and chip and decided that was it for a while. Enough we need real food.

Having to work all evening Saturday complicated this but we had, had enough.

Having access to my kitchen, larder and garden made this easier.

I had a pumpkin, sweet potato and some pears from my parents just staring at me as I opened up the fridge.

Some bacon off cuts from the freezer and soup cried out at me.

It was interesting adding the pears as it made it a little sweeter but also added a greater depth level in the flavour that I had read about but you have to taste to understand. A little cultured sour cream and mmmmm J and the soup was very filling.

It is interesting to. I have noticed in the last few months that nutrient rich foods are making us less hungry. We get our tortillas for Mexican from a place in South Kensington who uses corn fresh ground on the premises.

A pack is enough to feed us to stuff point but other brands just don’t seem to fill us up I wonder if food, real food, nutrient dense food makes us less hungry. Or perhaps a better way to look at it is the calorie rich, nutrient poor food is leaving us craving these nutrients and leaving us hungry as our bodies seek the nutrients despite the calories and we can only get these through eating a lot more?

Either way for the next months we are eating a lot more of these nutrient dense foods. I have hit my parents place as our garden needs some love courtesy of the madness leading up to our trip and the work on the house. On the upside I am seeing the lots of nettle coming up J nutrient dense, low energy weeds are the best tonic for all in regards to our society. Now if we could just stop the council spraying them.

Recipe for Pear, Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Soup.

  • Half a butternut pumpkin or equivalent
  • A very large sweet potato (or a few small ones)
  • 2 pears cored but with skin on
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sticks of celery sliced
  • 2 carrots sliced
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Teaspoon of curry powder of choice (I used a Jaffna Sri Lankan style one)
  • 100 – 200gram of bacon off cuts or ham or prosciutto ends)
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Olive oil
  • Optional but recommended cultured sour cream to server.

Method

I used a pressure cooker but this can be done in a pot if required the cooking time just goes from 15 minutes to about 45 minutes.

Sweat down the carrots, onion, celery and garlic in a little olive oil for about 5 minutes. Ensuring they don’t brown add the bacon pieces and bay leaves and let them sweat for a further 2 -3 minutes until you can smell the bay leaves.

Add the other ingredients excluding the sour cream.

Cover with cold water and bring to the boil and simmer or to pressure in a pressure cooker. (15 minutes for a pressure cooker or 45 for a normal pot)

Remove from the heat and allow to cool remove the bacon and bay leaves and use a stick blender to blend. Shred the bacon and add back in and reheat until it is simmering. Simmer for 5 -10 minutes. Season with more salt or pepper to taste.

Server with sour cream and crusty bread.

Freezes very well but don’t add the sour cream when freezing.

A Big Pot of Organised Goodness

So as with most people our weeks are very busy. Both of us work and the kids are in full time crèche life is busy but with winter and with the sick season on its way we still like to ensure that we eat well at a decent price without breaking the world during winter.

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One of the solutions we have found is to put together a big pot of soup for the week. The kids get a good lunch at crèche and A. and I often eat leftovers from meals and lots of fruit and veg during the day so hearty soup, salad and sandwiches works well in a busy rush home and get the kids ready for bed evening.

We have a good number of soups we regularly do. One that is always a favourite is the leek and potato soup with parmesan rind. Pretty damn good, kids love it we love it but not really a great source of the mix of vegetables that promotes immune system and general health over winter (damn).

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Two others that we make regularly are pumpkin/vegetable soup and minestrone. A big pot of one of these two soups would be made most weeks for us and we would get 2 -3 nights worth of meals with sandwiches and salads from it.

Both soups are great as they use lots of in season vegetables and use what is local and are very easy to make and are both very cheap. The can be made quickly and easily even with kids running around and organising a week night .

I am lucky I have access to good veggies I grow and from my parents and farmers markets we also use cheap off cuts of meats, these tends to be a very small amount often coming from things like prosciutto rind, de skinned sausages, bacon and off cuts of ham from our local boutique smoke house vendor. So as I said even on a budget these are easy to make and generally pretty good for you.

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Easy Minestrone (big soup)

Ingredients

  • Meat as discussed above
  • Large onion diced
  • 3 Carrots cut into 5mm pieces
  • 3 sticks of celery cut into 5mm pieces
  • 4 -5 gloves of garlic crushed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Big handful of fresh picked parsley
  • Springs of thyme
  • 1.5 litres of stock (I typically use chicken stock)
  • Dash of white wine optional)
  • Good handful of short pasta (I tend to use wholemeal or spelt pasta but any will do)
  • ¼ of a cup of passatta sauce
  • Can of white or borlotti beans, or frozen peas or some green beans.

A lot of my soups, stews and casseroles start with a mirepoix which is a French term for a mix of the carrot, onion and celery which is sweated down in a pot with a little olive oil. The only real trick is to not turn up the heat to high and to leave the lid on when sweating the vegetables. Under no circumstances do you want to let the vegetables brown at all. I tend to leave it for around 15 minutes and about ½ way through I throw in the garlic and bay leaves and herbs. Once the base has been sweated add the stock, wine and the passatta sauce and bring to the boil then simmer for 20 – 30 minutes (good time to get the kids bathed and in their PJ’s)

After the simmer time add the pasta for another 10 minutes at a simmer then add the beans and simmer for another 5 minutes (if you use fresh green beans add them with the pasta)

Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with fresh herbs, some grated parmesan (or not) and drop of good olive oil. Freezes exceptionally well as lunches.

Pumpkin/Vegetable Soup.

This one takes a bit longer so best made on a Sunday or while making Mondays dinner and just get better as you reheat it.

For me the only difference between pumpkin and vegetable soup is that in pumpkin I use a lot more of the pumpkin where as in a vegetable soup I will use a greater mix of vegetables. The Veggie soup is great as a way touse up any leftover veggies you might have hanging around and again freezes well.

Ingredients

  • A piece of ham, bacon or smoked hock.
  • 2 Large onion sliced
  • 3 Carrots cut into 5mm pieces
  • 3 sticks of celery cut into 5mm pieces
  • 4 -5 gloves of garlic crushed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Big handful of fresh picked parsley
  • 2 kg of pumpkin cubed
  • 750 grams of potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons of a good garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Salt to taste

As with the other soup above this one starts with a mirepoix which is a French term for a mix of the carrot, onion and celery which is sweated down in a pot with a little olive oil. The only real trick is to not turn up the heat to high and to leave the lid on when sweating the vegetables. Under no circumstances do you want to let the vegetables to brown at all. I tend to leave it for around 15 minutes and about ½ way through I throw in the garlic and bay leaves and herbs. Once the base has finished add the cubed pumpkin and potato add water to just cover the veg and bring to the boil. Add a good amount of salt the garam masala, pepper and turmeric. Add your piece of ham, bacon or hock and simmer till the potatoes and pumpkin are soft.

Stick blend it til your desired consistency. Serve with sour cream or yogurt. I like to add in some fried sliced chorizo on top as well .

The kids love a good cheese toastie to go with it this and I have a few ways to make it and one of our favourite is to use the Lebanese flat bread, fill with grated cheddar cheese and a little mustard, butter both sides and put in a press grill. Comes out crispy and cheese filled for the kids (and big kids) to dip into the soup.

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Happy International Permaculture Day (IPD)

I suppose I should post that I did something amazing on this day? Got my garden ready, visited some shining example of how someone has gone there already. Built something made something?

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But no it was just another day for the urban hippie family. Yesterday was my daughter’s birthday party and we had good gaggle of local kids and their parents along. They ate, drank had a good time. Kids painted and ran around the back yard eyed of ducks and chickens and the bee hives. Parents and a few relatives commented on what I was doing and suggested they would like to try some of the ideas. So from that point of view some good came out of it. But basically the best thing was local people enjoying time with local people.

So today started a little quiet with A. needing a bit of a sleep in and my plans to do something for IPD didn’t quite work out but that is ok.

I got to watch the kids doing some painting , then go to their swimming class and then the rest of the day spent visiting family up country. All in all very enjoyable day. I came back with another couple of boxes of quinces from family and really need to get bottling this week. But that is about as far as a concrete outcome I could come up with.

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It got me thinking about the IPD. A lot of people are blogging or commenting on the things they are doing. But shouldn’t IPD be every day? Permaculture being Permanent Culture then IPD should be like any other day. Getting up and doing the little things, feeding the chickens and ducks playing with the kids, time spent with community and family discussing ideas (as I did with one of my cousins) watching and observing making small changes. Interacting with family and the local community? Spending time with my kids in the garden (after all my kids are a primary driver of why I do this stuff)

So all in all I am happy with my IPD and could not think of a better way to spend it. Don’t get me wrong the ideas people have the events they have run are great and it is obvious that such a day is more for those outside the fold rather than in and very important at this junction in time.

So for me the day is like any birthday I have had in the last 20 years or New Year’s. It is a good chance to look at what has been done and needs to be done a time to get some inspiration and some perspective.

At the end of the day (pun intended) Permaculture will know when it has succeeded in getting permaculture to the masses. When we don’t need to celebrate an IPD as it would be like celebrating a Monday.

Writers Block… Yep got it that is for sure.

It is not that I have not had any idea’s or even had tales and items to write about but I just cont seem to get them down in words. A couple of times a day I have a good blog in my head and then when it comes to writing it get caught up in whatever else I let myself get distracted with.

I am now just going to sit down and start writing so if it comes out as junk some days so be it you guys can always unsubscribe if it gets that bad 🙂

The last three weeks have been busy and I will write about them as I can. I went on juice diet for 15 days. The diet is a detox diet based around the fat sick and nearly dead documentary. It was a success with me feeling great at the end of the diet. Lost a good bit of weight and my liver appears to be much happier. I have done this last year and had a similarly good experience in regards to weight loss and keeping it off but also in some other health aspects. I plan to also do a vegan diet in spring to get my body working again.

The thing about this sort of radical diet is that it is not that radical. It is in the modern world but in times not so distant fasting and hunger where a part of our lives we are designed for it. And the type of fasting on vegetables is particularly good for us as is gives us a nutrient burst that for times such as spring  allow us to get our bodies functioning and on track.

I still cooked for my family and it is interesting once you are on this diet how you look at food and how our society deals with food differently.

 I eat a lot of good food (one of the reasons I need to fast, one of the reasons most people need to fast once in a while) and most of it is seasonal and cooked from scratch where possible.

The thing that strikes you is the sheer volume of food available and the amount of advertising that goes with the food. It is everywhere and very pervasive and not eating and being aware of it you almost get to step outside the subliminal side of things and see why people are packing on so much weight.

I still did my gardening, did exercise and walked to and from public for work and I didn’t feel weak at all.

Not sure if I will do this diet later in the year. Think once a year about 12 days would be optimal but I am going to do a 21 day vegan diet in spring. This is both an idea that Chinese medicine and also the paleoarchaeology types who study us from a historical point of view recomentd. For both a good amount of bitter greens and a high nutrient low calorific diet in spring helps the liver get back in shape after a winter of stored food (typically comfort foods for us now)

I did get to add in a bit of urban hippieness into the diet. Green smoothee’s of Kale, dandelion leaf, nightshade leaf, mallow leaf, cleavers, nasturtium and even a few of my precious nettles (although they are being saved for soup, gnocchi and pasta) from my back yard made the diet cheaper and easier this time and allowed me a side line of interest to help keep me going.

I am adding more weeds all the time into our diet and this is working well, the kids love them and in our societies nutrient poor energy rich foods, the weeds being the opposite makes for something we should all be eating more off.

FYI the weed walk with Adam Grubb is on for those in Melbourne in a couple of weeks time. Check out the link and attend if you can it is a great walk well worth the money and time. You will never look at a grassy field the same ever again.

Gross Amounts of Inspiration

Well despite having only just caught up with sleep, being part way through a 15 day juice detox and getting back to a busy week of work I am still buzzing from my last weekend and start to the week. I went to the amazing Milkwood Permaculture Institute up in Mudgee to attend a natural building course.

I will not go into details of the building process as I think it is only fair for Milkwood to publish the detailed steps in their excellent blog (they allready have an overview of the build so jump to their site and have a look once you have finished reading this post) which I would strongly recommend that people sigh up for.

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Suffice to say I had a great 4 days we built a rubble foundation, stacked bales, built a reciprocal roof, rendered the outside with lime render, the inside with clay render and put second hand timber on the roof in preparation for a earth roof they are planning (we didn’t quite get onto this but that was no biggie)

My brain was fried by the sheer volume of information and the professional builder who was the instructor gave us amazing amounts of information and was so generous with his knowledge it was ridiculous.  

But it was more than the course. Being at Milkwood showed what can be done. As Sam the builder said ‘Many talk the talk, these guys walk the walk’. We did a quick site tour and the knowledge and skill and the understanding is everywhere. From the management of water to energy to food production. All done with a level of practicality I don’t often in people who are out to change in this area.

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The people on the course where great and everyone got a chance to try everything as well as get good sound theoretical knowledge and ask as many questions and discuss options.

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We ate incredibly well (most of it from Milkwood) and sat outside and watched the stars, drank tea, planned and chatted as a group.

Even the 11 hour drive home and a couple of hours sleep before heading to work, worked out well. It gave me the time to sort through the info I had in my head and idea’s I need to get into. And boy do I have a few idea’s.

I have already put in more winter vegies and am looking at the hot house glass going I have to get this going now. I have to get the new chicken pens sorted. And a host of other things to keep me entertained.

It is still unlikely I will ever get a consensus for a move out country and build something as grand as full sized sustainable house and permaculture life style block 🙂  At the end of the day I do see a reno of my place in the very near future and a weekender where I can put in more food forest and my own zone 4/5 and build of a  small place to stay in. Probably a lot like the one we built up there. The reciprocal roof is such a thing of beauty I couldn’t not have one on any building I built.

I also gained a huge amount of knowledge about what to do with my place to get it more efficient. So I will continue to dream and will most likely be back to Milkwood to do more courses. I will also still keep working on getting the most out of my little urban block. After all not everyone can have acreage in a finite future and being able to do what I can in the suburbs is the most important thing.

Oh and one last thing. I got to see the mythical upside down fire in action. And yes it definitely does work.

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