Looks like the bugs of winter…

So I had hoped to post a long post tonight as it has been a great day with my oldest turning five. She is a great kid and I am delighted and saddened at the same time at how fast she has grown and what a real little person she has become. My little girl is growing up to be a wonderful empathetic, happy little person who loves all around her but she is growing up so fast…

My parents came down and dropped of a big box of quinces to process next week and on top my usual bottled quinces for winter I have a few idea’s including bletting some of them in my freezer to try them and a cordial a good friend Libby at libby-cooks has been talking about (if I can con it out off her 🙂 )

But now I feel like the proverbial. We have already had a run of bugs in the house and as winter kicks in it appears one more has decided to come our way from the biohazards that are our crèche children.

bottle

So instead of a long post I am brewing an early batch of elderberry syrup. This is a medicated brew rather than a eating syrup and is proactive measure to keep you healthy and fight virus’s.

Recipe is below. In addition I am drinking a couple of hot lemon and honey drinks as below.

Hopefully I can short circuit this one and do a post on the soups I have been making on my new stove this week.

Hot Lemon Honey and Spice Tea

  • Juice of a lemon (or half a lemon to taste)
  • Table spoon of raw honey
  • ½ teaspoon of dried ginger
  • ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • Hot water to a cup

Nothing much mix it all together and drink hot. Very effective.

Elderberry Syrup

  • 1 cup of fresh or frozen elderberry or 1/3 of cup of dried
  • 2 tablespoons of ground ginger or fresh
  • 1 teaspoon of cloves (about ½ if you are using ground cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 3.5 cups of water
  • 1 cup of honey

elderberry

Put all ingrediants except the honey in a pot and simmer till it reduces by about a third to a half. Once this has happened pass it through a fine sieve and use the back of spoon to make sure you get as much liquid as possible add a half a cup of boiling water to help push the last of it through and use the back of the spoon again.

When tepid add the cup of honey and stir in (don’t add the honey when to hot) bottle in a sterilised bottle and keep in the fridge I have around a ½ a shot glass a day in winter (starting now) as a proactive and if I am feeling fluey I have it every 4 hours or so.

Should last a month or so in the fridge so make up a batch at a time rather than to much at once.

Advertisements

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.

Daddy daughter time, Elmore field day and the Forager never leaves me.

So last week was the 50th Elmore field day was on. For those who are not aware this is the largest and one of the best field days in country Victoria.

When I was growing up the field day was famous for a very farm orientated thing, big tractors, big headers silos and farming stuff. It is still this but now with the rise of hobby farms and small holders in the last 30 years there has been a shift to include items that best fit small holders, horse people and just generally those interested in the country.

Elmore 007-2000 Elmore 009-2000 Elmore 008-2000  Elmore 002-2000

It was a great day we wandered around chatting and had a great time she was in awe of the amount of stuff and when she got tired was happy to jump in the backpack I have for carrying her and just enjoy the spectacle. She got to see the sheep being sheared, crops cut and we got to see a friend who is PDC graduate from up that way who was supporting the WWOOF at the event.

On the way up we discussed the countryside passing through the type of country I remember as a kid when I used to go to collect firewood with my father on a Saturday morning.

Elmore 001-2000

For me as with taking the kids to my parents place or them realising that roast chicken is a chicken and roast pork is a pig. Seeing how the country functions and that there are other aspects than the bohemian inner city life they lead is important.

As much as Australians pride themselves on the self image of the outback and of them being a rugged country people the reality is that most people’s connection with the land is tenuous at best and mostly just plain broken. The lack of understanding of where our food comes from and how it is produced and who does it leads to a great many of the environmental and social issues that we see.

Elmore 013-2000

When we go for the cheapest food we push the farmer to produce the cheapest item to match the imported item or support the duopoly here in Australia. It comes at the cost of the land, farmers are pushed to produce it cheaper and ‘better’ even if damages his future on the land. That is the reality.

Elmore 014-2000

So head out of the city and see how your food is produced, visit a field day or if you are lucky enough a real farm. Take your family they will all benefit from it.

After all it is harder to screw over someone you know or at least understand the situation of.

But for me the highlight was just the spending time with my little girl. She will grow up soon and probably won’t want to hear anything from her father at time so getting in now and letting her see that there is more to the world she lives in is important.

Elmore 005-2000

Oh and on the way up I spotted some clumping bamboo on a road side. So on the way back i checked it out. It was nice.

Elmore 019-2000 Elmore 015-2000

Good thick walls be perfect for building and definitely appeared to be clumping type. I mentioned it my friend as it close to where she lives and a good find from foraging point of view for the work she is doing on her place. I also grabbed a root cutting so I will see how that goes. I would like to grow some in a large pot. It is handy to have as a building material like this around for stakes or trellising.

Elmore 020-2000

Potted up the root cutting at home that night

Oh and see below for a bit of country ingenuity my daughter thought was funny

Elmore 010-2000

This is why you do not get a real post tonight…

Sorry all.  It is 11pm and I have just finished bottling 6 liters of elderflower cordial after foraging a few items of hard waste I noticed on my walk home for a new wicking bed.

So the photo below will have to do for now. More interesting stuff tomorrow.

And the taste. One of my best batches according to A. 🙂

elder-cordial

Elderflower cordial

So now the equinox is gone and daylight savings will not start till the end of the week I am finding I am up at 5am and it is light enough to see and move around the garden in.

For those who do not know the best times to pick elderflowers is early morning and dusk. The perfume of the flowers is at its best and the flavour as well. Although I have picked them at other times and the flavour seems fine I try to go by this tradition.

This morning I found myself awake and wandered out on the front porch and noticed the elderflowers had ripened and there would be enough to make a batch of elderflower cordial.

bowl

flowers

I started the kettle up and went out and picked about 30 flower heads and quickly put a batch together to start the infusing process. The cordial is great mixed simply with iced cold water or soda water it is a light refreshing drink in the heat of summer or a favourite is to add a shot Gin to the mix and then you have a great little mixer to sit back and enjoy looking at your garden in the evening.

cordial

So the mix was done in a few minutes and then it was the daily chores of cats and chickens and then off to work.

bucket

There is something satisfying to me that I can do this before heading off to my corporate day time job. It somehow makes me feel more alive, even though most of my day will tied to this work culture  just a little bit of me is still out there enjoying the path less trodden.

Elderflower Cordial

  • 5 litres boiling water
  • 30 Elder Flower Clusters (I don`t wash them – aroma gets lost)
  • 3 kilos sugar
  • 10 lemons
  • 125 grams of citric acid

This amount makes 6 litres of syrup. You only need about 1 – 2 cm per glass.

Put all the ingredients in a clean bucket, cover it with a tea towel and stir it every day with a sterilised spoon so that the sugar dissolves with time. I cut the lemons in half, squeeze them out and throw the peels in as well. After one week, sieve it through a cloth and fill it up into bottles.

That`s all. Have fun.

The original recipe I got from my family is to use cold water but as the elderflowers have natural yeast (handy for making champagne) that ferments I try to kill this off with hot water. It saves the bottles exploding or getting a hard liquor version of syrup.

A trick to fix the cloth in place over the bucket is to take enough twine to almost go around the bucket then tie both ends to rubber bands. That way I can easily remove the string no nots nothing to worry about and makes sure the towel or cloth stays in place.

rubber bands

Elderflower Season

We often look at harvesting as autumn pass time. Laying down goods for winter.

To me this is a lot less important in the temperate location I live as there is regular growth in all but the worst of mid winter and even then greens are available, but there are times during the whole year when a particular food comes around.

Some like asparagus are enjoyed as part of the cycle some like mushrooms are both enjoyed and stored for the rest of the year.

Elderflowers are one of these. They are only around for a short period of time but to me they are well worth putting down a store of for as long as they last.

elderflower

I have a number of sources but there is one in our court that I get to and hit pretty hard in the flower season knowing that this will impact on the berries I get. I do this as my experience is that this one tree is flogged by the birds and few elderberries are left for me to pick. My source of elderberries is up country and well worth the trip to collect them when I need to get them.

Elder has some great properties. The flowers and berries when properly prepared have antiviral properties and this year I had elderberry syrup each day over winter and avoided the usual bout of illness.

So the first batch of the season went straight into the dryer. Elderflower fresh or dried with a little honey makes a great tea and if you are feeling a bit like something is coming on it is seems to help to avoid it turning into something serious.  This will keep me going till the berries are out and I can make up a new batch of elderberry syrup.

bowl of elderflowers

The second batch I will pick tomorrow morning and make 4 -5 litres of elderflower cordial. Then onto the good stuff the champagne J

All through the season this year I will really be focusing in on these little harvests getting the larder ready and keeping things stocked. Each year I try to get a bit further off the stupid go round and this is great example of that.

Elder flowers are also easy to find in most places so start to have a look around and learn to identify them from a good resource. Start to work out where your own larder and medicine cabinet are to be found before you actually need them.

Good luck foraging.

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.