Guest post on Ranting’s of an Amateur Chef.

So I have been a follower of the Ranting chef for several years.

I am honoured he offered me a guest post and had a post I was about to put together for something A. and I have been eating a fair bit later that I thought would suite.

To me he the ranting chef is a constant. Every day in rolls another email about a meal to make.

My wife often comments can go to a fridge and pull together a meal from what appears to be nothing. It is a skill I used living in share houses in London when I lived there in the 90’s it is skill that allows me to save money and means we waste little.

Perhaps the first step in people taking back some control of their lives is cooking their own meals and knowing what is in them. Cooking from scratch should not be in the realm of master chef style reality television shows or only the realm of celebrity chefs it should be a day to day thing. Shown to be easy skill it really is.

With knowing what comes in your meal is the ability to mix in the few ingredients have in your garden you started gardening in or the items you have never seen before from the local farmers market.

The Ranting Chef blog shows this day by day, week by week, building up skills and using ingredients.

His stamina is also quite impressive in regards to rolling out blog posts as a blogger who is an absentee writer a lot of the time I know how hard to roll out a post almost every day for years at a time.


Taking Stock

So Today was our famers market day. We go to the farmers market at Bundoora stock up on good meat, small goods, cheeses and a week or two of any fresh vegies that we don’t grow or swap that are on offer.

Today before I headed off I did a fridge and freezer clean out and stock take to check what I needed and to ensure that I did not waste anything, or buy things I already have.

We have some changes coming to our house as we retro fit it for conserving energy and the power will be off for a few days to a week so one of the plans is to clean out the freezer. It will also not hurt to process what I have in there, either by cooking it or it processing it for alternate storage such as bottling/canning drying etc. I like most people can rely a bit too much on the freezer  and while a very useful tool for improving self-sufficiency we should remember that at the end of the day it costs us to run whereas bottled fruit or a pack of dried mushrooms can sit there for a couple of years and not cost me a penny.

It is also going to help our budget as well. The retro fit is not going to be cheap but by my calculations we are pretty much setup for the bulk of meals for the next couple of months.

So it might be a good chance for everyone to see what they have in their larder, fridge or freezer and ensure that all nothing is going to go to waste.

Once done I have cleaned out my freezer I will be putting in a good chunk of a whole pig I am buying in the freezer in May to see how I go with it as my primary source of animal protein for the winter. But I will also be processing some into smoked bacon, salami and prosciutto as I have said I want to reduce that reliance on the freezer and keep it as simple as I can  which will help my budget and hopefully the world at large.

To this end tomorrow I will start to plant my bed in the community garden with winter veg. After all if you can grow and harvest it as you go then you are even better off than storing it in the end.

taking stock 001-2000

Lacto Brewed Ginger Beer

I have been away for a while due to work commitments to study. It is one of those odd things that happens. I have a 5 year plan and I don’t think I will use this diploma I just got at the end of that 5 year plan but the next 5 years it will be required to lead to the end of the 5 year plan (I think that makes sense)

Sadly you have to balance out the ‘what you want’ versus what it takes to get there. For me it is a balance but one I am aware of and try to manage. I do not want to get to the point where lied to myself so much thinking I can sell my present to do what I want in the future but neither do I want to car wreck the future by doing only what I want rather than what I have to do.  

And also at the end of the day education is always a good thing. People should never stop learning formally or informally. To stop is to in a way to start the trip to death.

But enough of my musings. I have a lot to catch up on for everyone but I also want to spend the day in the garden so my balance for today is the short post below on brewing lacto ginger beer. Last year I did this and this year I am trying again and it is looking very promising with the starter brew smelling SO GOOD after a week of me helping mother nature make it.

To make the starter you need a clean sterilised large mouth jar. A cup and half to two cups of rain water (tap water is ok but boil it and leave 24 hours to get rid of any chlorination before using) . Add a tablespoon or so of grated peeled raw ginger. The amount depends on what you end up grating from the amount you peeled. No matter how much it is add an equal amount of sugar to it needs to be added. Cover opening of the jar with a piece of muslin cloth and rubber band.

Each day you add around the same amount of ginger and sugar and stir vigorously (I tend to swirl it once day as well) after a couple of days you should see bubbles forming and the lovely ginger beer smell will come of it.

It may take a bit longer as it depends what wild yeast is around and the conditions. This year has been great for wild yeast (as I discovered making elderflower cordial which is another story)

As with all my brewing but particularly when using a wild yeast process make sure you sanitise everything when I grate the ginger I pour boiling water over the grater and plate and leave for a minute or so and even pour it over the knife used to peel the ginger. I obviously make sure all of the spoon used to measure and add the ginger and sugar and the stir is clean and had had boiled water poured over it to clear.

I have a couple of more days of making the starter then I can make it up into beer and will post on that then.

The Olla Bed

About a year ago I built an Olla bed. For those of you not familiar olla are a low tech unglazed earthen ware containers used to provide water directly to the roots of a plant.

A much better article than I could ever write is found at

With summer just around the corner (despite the sudden cold snap) I thought I had better give a report on how it is doing.

My Olla are not so pretty being made of some old clay pipe I had access to and some pot bases. I Sanded them to remove any glaze and used silicon to bind it all together. Over the last summer they lasted really well requiring a single fill up of the three olla to last the week.

I also incorporated a mini worm farm into the bed that helps to keep up the worms in the beds and compost it.

As you can see the beds are thriving. Last summer almost all of our salad vegetables came from this one bath tub. I was sick and tired of plastic packets of salad vegetables costing me a fortune and going bad after about two days.

The bed requires very little work to keep the plants maintained and as you are feeding directly to the roots of the plant the amount of weeds has been very minimal. I have used seedlings for the most part planting them around the Olla and this seems to work best for me, the developed roots seem to find the water without much trouble. Direct seeds seem to go the way of the weeds and not do as well.

This year I will be adding some herbs and more leafy greens to the mix and seeing how much I can push the system and how long the reservoirs will last with the bed fully loaded.

In the next week or two I will drop a post on the build process I went through.

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.