Plastic Free July 2017.

Yes it is that time of year again. Going to give it a try.

plastic-freehttp://www.plasticfreejuly.org/the-challenge.html

Our first day was both a success and not. It certainly makes you think a lot more.

I like the idea they have this year of keeping all the single use plastic for the month and then uploading a photo. Also going to look at options for what can be up-cycled and also keep the recyclables as a reference.

Give it a try yourself but don’t knock yourself out over it 🙂

As for the rest well.

Much going on.

Not much going on.

Depends on your perspective.

We do the best we can.

Working with or against Nature? (fat hen spanakopita)

I visited my parents place over the Christmas period had a really nice relaxing time. Foraged some items, took the family to a few different places but mostly just relaxed.

My father is the king of the drip system. He has beautiful rich red volcanic soil that is free draining, very free draining as such he tends to drip water the plants and along with 40 plus years of adding organic matter to the soil means his vegies grow incredibly well.

Because of this he also has minimal weed issues how ever one thing I did note that fat hen sometimes called lambs ear (Chenopodium album), dock and the purslane where doing really well. IMG_9318-2000

I grabbed some purslane to plant at my place and grabbed a large bag of fat hen which I made into spanakopita (recipe below).

To me it is interesting that this high protein crop that by my father’s admission (he is a rabid anti weed man 🙂 ) the chickens and sheep love is torn out spayed out and treated with disdain.

And there it is growing without water or love and just doings its own good thing. From a point of view of plants we are going to have to start to look at what will work by itself without lots of inputs or work and this is potentially a great option for fodder and food. The broad acre style of farming the crops you want rather that what will grow easily is simply not going to hold true in the long run.

And much to my father annoyance his granddaughter loves the fresh leaves of this plant and now it is naturalised in my back yard we have access to it for salads, cooking or as fodder for the chickens.

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As for the taste of the spanakopita. A. and I made up two batches of rolls and a pie with a half side fat hen and half spinach and apart from being slightly more beefy texture the kids and wife could not tell them apart and all was eaten.

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This is one good weed.

Recipe for Fat Hen (or spinach) Spanakopita.

  • Packet of filo or puff pastry (or if you are a better cook than me make your own 🙂 )
  • 3 eggs
  • 150 gram of feta
  • 75 grams of ricotta
  • 75 grams of quark cheese (could use another 75 grams of ricotta)
  • 2 bunches of spinach or equivalent or more of fat hen.( I like lots of green in my mix) shredded.
  • Butter melted and a brush
  • Two onions finely diced.
  • 1 or 2 Sprigs of mint finely sliced (to taste)
  • 1 or 2 Sprigs of dill finely sliced (to taste)
  • Dash of nutmeg.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.

Mix all ingredients apart from the melted butter and pastry in a large bowl.

Lay out the filo or puff pastry. If using filo make sure you keep a damp towel over it put brushed melted butter over each sheet as you layer them. A. helped me with this process as two people make this easier. We use 3 or so layers for a roll and 3 or so layers top and then same bottom in a pie. Puff pastry is just one layer.

Spoon mix onto the pastry sheets and roll or make into pies. Do not over fill.

Butter top and make sure you butter the tray they are sitting on.

Put in an oven at 150 to 170 degrees Celsius till cooked through and browned (about 45 minutes) slow cook is a better option for your health than the western desire to deep fry/fast cook everything.

Once cooked leave to stand for 5 minutes before serving with a nice salad.

The Silence

I woke up late and fairly tired yesterday morning. The previous night I moved the back hive to my parents place. In many ways it was a triumph as no bees died in this move (which means by default I didn’t get stung). I am getting the structure of the hives down pat and managing the bees is becoming easier in some ways.

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On the other hand the movement of the bees is a complete disaster. We had a complaint late last Sunday that our bees where attacking our back neighbour. Threats ensued of calls to the council and pest exterminators so we made a decision even though we are flat out and it is five our round trip to get them out of Dodge City for a while.

From what we can tell the neighbours had a swarm in their compost. Dug up the compost got stung looked over the fence and saw the hive which has been there for three years with different bees in it. Freaked out and became very, very, very irrational about it. (Quite scarily irrational to be honest) and started yelling and screaming.

It is a great shame as this is a very urban friendly hive. If they had one fault they were so indifferent to humans that they would fly near them and not flee. This lead people to believe they were being attacked, swatting them and getting stung.

Our 5 year old is devastated, my wife is devastated and I am far from happy. This is a swarm we got as a fist of bees and just filled the hive to the point we needed a new box on top.

So the last two mornings I went up to open up the chicken run and went past the location where the hive used to be, had a quick look to check if any had been left behind (nope all clear) and noted the absence of them in the flowering kale, again I noted it in the lavender out front.  Thursday in far less sunny and warm day the back yard and front yard hummed with bees.

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And today? Silence.

The neighbour’s husband while I was talking to him was raving at his almond tree and the productivity of his vegetables last year. Well not now. And this is the big debate that needs to be had in a culture where a person get to reach into another’s back yard and be irrational about something well with that comes a responsibility.

The person in question invoked the ‘I am worried for my children’ comment for her own fears. Well I am worried for my kids future but not because of a few bees which they know about but because this very same rational if taken to its extreme (and that is something humans are good at) will lead to my children having a poorer future.

‘I will get arguments about well as a community we all need to respect each other’s views’. Having grown up in a small community YES you do and they will not be your views so you need to suck it up and move on! A community of like minded souls is not a community it is somewhere between a cult and self-validating support group.

A. ss annoyed as a scientist she wants a rational conversation with people and that is simply not happening with people these days. It is not just the urban folks it is also parts of the alternative community and permies. The bigger picture is hidden as everyone want their ‘personal rights’ to supersede everything. Everyone is getting into their own bunkers and not even bothering to look at empirical evidence or each other’s views.

On the upside there a small number of feral bees around and at some point we will likely move the bees back and put them in a private location where people cannot just look over the back fence (mind your own business people) and away from this neighbour. We will be quiet about it and work on our desire to get people to realise the value of these beautiful creatures in a way that allows us not be target by this type of person.

It is the old flying under the radar vs. getting things done argument and on this occasion low flying looks like the option.

I still cannot shudder at a world that our children seem to be destined to inherit!

Enough for one day I have swarm trap to setup in the hidden corner of the chicken run !

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Organic Yep there is Fauna.

This is the non cool view of organic food. This is from my father and as you can see it is more than healthy.

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I found this when working out what I could make from what I had in the house . With A. staying home for 12 months for number 3 (more on that later) our budget is being pounded (however there is still a lot of fat in there to be honest compared to many) and we are living on what is in the house and what we have.

So we had a nice cabbage from my father and some cooked rice we had for dinner the night before with some left over curry. So my thought cabbage rolls.

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We did a big purchase of meat from a local farmer at the farmers market and some of the good bacon, a leek, and a few bits and pieces. Below is the recipe I used. So there was a meal for last night along with fresh bread just made and still warm.

This needs to be the philosophy for all, what you have, what is local, a few luxury items and not letting anything to go to waste.

Cabbage Rolls

For the rolls

  • 500 grams of mince
  • Leek finely sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 rashes of the good bacon diced
  • A cabbage cored and as leaves.
  • 2 -3 cups of rice
  • 1 tsp of cumin
  • 1 tsp of smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs to bind
  • Bowl of iced water to quench the leaves.
  • 2 table spoons of passatta sauce.
  • Grated cheese.
  • ½ cup red wine
  • Bread crumbs

Sauce

  • Two cans of organic tomato. Buy European organic if you can (I know not local) as they have rules on BPA in the lining
  • ½ cup red wine
  • ½ cup of water
  • Table spoon of molasses
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 bay leaves
  • A handful of perennial basil or other herbs (optional)
  • Teaspoon of chilli or to taste.

Fry up the bacon and leek and add the mince, cook till almost brown then add the garlic crushed for a further 2 minutes add the spices for a further 1 minute. Add the red wine and passatta. After 5 minutes add the cooked rice. Cook for a couple of minutes until mixed through. Drop into another bowl to cool.

IMG_3488-2000 IMG_3487-2000Blanch cabbage leaves 4 or so at a time for around 1 minute in lightly salted water. Refresh them in iced water and drain in a colander.

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Mix all of the ingredients for the sauce ready to add.

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Once the filling has cooked add some cheese (of your choice) and two eggs to bind. Mix through and add bread crumbs till the mixture is no longer sloppy.

Once the filling is ready put a tablespoon or so in each blanched leaf and fold, putting the fold down the bottom. Fill the container with rolls ladle over the sauce and either put in an oven until the sauce has thickened or on stove top till the same.

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I served it with grated cheese but some sour cream would be nice as well.

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We need to get over the fact that there will be bugs that things will not be perfect in our vegetables. Be grateful we have food and help out the world by eating what is there not what is perfect. We cannot in the long term afford to ask farmers to throw away straight banana’s or bent carrots. And why should we?

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.

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.