Sourdough Starter Pasta and User up Pasta Sauce

It is a busy time of year we harvested, honey and have been madly preserving and  drying fruit from the back yard. Getting vegies in and keeping stuff alive in the heat (a break down on how that went soon)

But no matter how busy it is we are always up for a visit by a friend. It has been a long while since we caught up with this particular friend and it was great to see her. Time flew in her company and a bottle of wine and good food was had.

The kids had a great time number one son was enamoured and spent the whole time showing off ‘for the lady’ and number one daughter was still talking about her well into the next day. She makes a great aunt for our kids such a wealth of experiences in her life to share with them in the future.

Opportunities like this are great and you want to make good food to go with it but not be completely tied up and spend all your time in the kitchen so for me a good slow cooked pasta sauce over some homemade pasta is the deal. It started with a simple starter of onigiri with blanched green shiso and toasted sesame seed (recipe later in the week) and as it is that time of year simple fresh Satsuma plums for desert. Yep life is hard.

The pasta is something I have made before it is a great user up of excess sourdough starter which happens when our busy life doesn’t always allow us to get bread made but the starter needs a feed.(the other option is the chooks love it 🙂  )

IMG_0601-2000 IMG_0602-2000 The pasta dries beautifully and is really filling and yet strangely light. It is not good pasta to fold through ingredients as it tends to break up this is a drop of good pasta sauce on the top and cheese pasta. As you would expect it is little sour which adds a lovely extra level to the food.

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The pasta sauce I started around lunch time and cooked long and slow it is a user up sauce. I had a end of salami I froze when we went away and some keep the ham skin both where added with fresh herbs and good wine and cooked for 2 -3 hours. The extra ingredients again add a depth of flavour to the sauce.

While this may seem complex it is simple to make with lots of down time to get on with what else needs to be done.

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To me nothing epitomises what I want from life more than good time spent with family and friends and well cooked food to go with this. If everyone did this just a little it would make a hell of difference to us all 🙂

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Enjoy the week ahead everyone.:)

Sourdough Pasta

  • 1 Cup of sourdough starter
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 6 egg yolks
  • A little water as required

So add the flour to the sourdough start and eggs and mix through and roll into a ball (you may need to add a little water to get it to bind). Once in a ball put the covered bowl in a warm spot for 8 to 24 hours to rise.

Once the rising time is over roll flat and as thin as you like and cut into strips (as you like). Add to boiling salted water and when it rises to the top check to see if it is cooked. Drain and try not to stir to much as it breaks it up.

User up Pasta Sauce

  • One bottle of passata (750 ml or so)
  • 2 cups of red wine
  • Onion finely sliced
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 500 grams of ground organic beef or pork
  • 3 small carrots
  • 3 sticks of celery
  • 4 -5 bay leaves
  • Parsley
  • Oregano
  • 2 table spoons of molasses or sugar if you have no molasses
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Piece of Salami or cured sausage
  • Ham skin or bacon rind or some bacon bon or some ham anything really

Fry the onion till translucent then add beef/pork then garlic and herbs. Drop in the carrot and celery and herbs for a minute or two to sweat. Add in the passata sauce, wine, salt, pepper and molasses, ham bits and cured sausage.

Cook at a low heat for an hour or two or so. I serve only the ground beef and sauce but you can server it all if you want. I top with fresh grated Italian parmesan of course. This well worth the money and food miles 🙂

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Resilience

We had major storms last night here in Melbourne. These are starting to get all the more common and while our place survived without any apparent damage a lot of places where hit pretty hard. We lost power for an hour and some places lost roofs and had trees fall on power lines etc and are still out of action.

I did a look around our garden and it stood up pretty well. The trees in the food forest are starting to work to shelter each other and this was shown by the few fruit I lost off the plums and other fruits. When I checked the neighbour’s tree while checking up on their chickens (they are away) I saw the effect of lone tree in the wind. Lots of fruit lost so the harvest off that tree is going to be far from spectacular let alone when we get another 4 -5 days of this weather which is forecast.

As I said my garden stood up well and I am happy with the way it is going and will continue to build on it.

One of the effects of climate change will be greater variability in the weather. If it is hotter or colder but consistent then you can work around it. But the reality is we are going to have great climate variability and this is harder to work with

 More storms, late frosts, thunderstorms, heatwaves and out of season heat/cool events. To me this reinforces that we are all going to need to work towards a higher level of self reliance and to build systems that can operate under these stresses.

It will have some challenges. A classic method of passively reducing energy input is to have deciduous or even evergreen trees around to shade a building summer and or shield it from the wind in winter. Harder to deal with when you have storms that can tear down trees and  large branches. If these become not one in 30 year events but every year it is going to need to be planned for.

My food forest will be kept low at the back and I use fruit trees that are low and not big enough to cause any damage if they come down. Being on a slope I am hoping that I will get a cooling effect dropping down to my house in summer and warming in winter even if only a little bit it will help.

 The shade sail has made a huge difference and allows us to drop it in winter for the best effect of light and heat and then put it up for effect in summer and is an easier safety issue to manage than large trees.

In addition I have smaller trees in large pots I can move around in summer to shade things and act as heat sinks, then move the away in winter. I also have lot trees acting to reduce some of the heat load hitting the house.

The protecting effect of the food forest on all layers and addition of perennials will aid us in great resilience in our food production. We will still have annuals.

Lots of annuals but the forest can act as can be bedrock of our production.

The changes in weather patterns will have an effect on the rest of what we all do as well. The power was off for an hour that was the third 1 hour plus outage in our area in the last 3 months due to weather and one of those was 12 hours. Friends in the USA 20 miles out of city of a hundred thousand lost power for a week last year in mid winter of 20 below.

So while we are in no way preppers as well as helping our budget and to be more sustainable we are adding a wood fired cooking stove to the house to heat it and also to cook. In outage it also will be handy.

I plant to dry as much of my food as I can this year and can/bottle as well. Freezers need power and while it is a very good thing to have I have seen my parents loose a full freezer of food not a good thing to have happen. Think it can’t happen. 98% of the power lines in Victoria are above ground. Poles and lines are very susceptible to big storms and high winds and that is not even thinking about the higher rates of bush fires.

Makes me wonder though when I grew up we had candles and torches ready now our neighbours have said they had to burn the decorative table candles for light when it was off all night 6 weeks ago. We had some solar desk lights and a bunch of candles, not very expensive to keep and very handy.

I suppose we had all better get used to being a bit more prepared and resilient on ourselves and those around us hadn’t we? Appears our government is going to do little to reduce the effect of climate change so we had all better start dealing with it and it s effects ourselves.

We used to celebrate this way

“Wow, well yes that is a pig, that is a bit confronting…” this was the words that a friend that had come along for my wife’s 40th stated as she saw me lift the suckling pig rotating over the coals onto the cutting board.

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It was my wife’s 40th birthday and too many it was both a revelation and a bit confronting to see where their meal really came from.In the end everyone handled it well particularly our 4 year old who is well aware of where her meat comes from.

My wife and I had run around for a couple of days madly cooking up a storm, rather than outsource it we decided that we would make it ourselves. It ended up being a lot cheaper and allowed us to control the process and to a greater degree the ingredients.

To people it was like “you made all of that” and yes we did. My parents helped. We organized what we could in advance. Baked the quinces, blood plum crumble, rhubarb crumble and nectarine pie. We purchased the veggies from our local farmer’s market stall holders, the birds and meat from our local butcher and what we had grown ourselves we used first. The rolls from our local family bakery down the road. The cake from the local lady who runs the Greek deli. As with so much else in our country we had to buy some things from the duopoly supermarkets but we kept that to a very small minimum.

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We tried to do the permie thing of slowing water down but with the money getting it into the smaller businesses that are family run, letting it drip down into the society growing people and the local community not just letting it run away like a flood gouging our society an then being stored in huge dams that destroy much of what was once there beneath it.

Yes I could have outsourced it, it would have cost me a bit more been a lot easier but there is value in cooking a meal for those you value enough to invite to such an event.

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all stuff

Yes we cheated, some party pies and some crackers (cheese from the local cheese maker and the quince and pear from my mum) and small goods from the local family run Mediterranean supermarket. We did what we could and didn’t lose any sleep over what we couldn’t.

I think for some the idea of catering for 60-70 with a whole suckling pig is just a bit big to start with and that is fine. Start small make one course but give it a try and even if you can’t do it go and get what you can from a local supplier. Do what you can.

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You are inviting those nearest and dearest to you, most of them are statistically are likely to work for a smaller business in this country so if you just outsource it or go to the big two for everything then you are to a degree having a party at their expense where they are invited along.

At the end of the day we had a great time, kids ran around and had a ball, 15 kids sang happy birthday to my wife which she thought was just the cutest happy birthday she had heard. We spoke to friends we ate, yes we ate and all in all we have a great time.

And as a side note people looked at my garden and many said they got inspiration from it they browsed chatted made new friends.

We used to celebrate this way. Something special now I see people eating out every day we are so wealthy we can feast by times gone past standards every day.

They out, outsource their meals to restaurants or to large conglomerates (see people doing the birthday party at MacDonald’s).

The feasting is supposed to be a special occasion thing to celebrate a milestone, the harvest, the birth of child a wedding, a religious milestone. Hopefully people will head back this way. We cannot continue to feast each day. It does not at all help the world, the poor get poorer the world gets more waste but for us it is just as corrosive. It makes us unhealthy, it becomes the norm, the gray, it ends up having no value. It makes our minds as fat as our bodies. A feast is an event and should be something to look forward to. Very different from celebrating the day to day with our friends, family and neighbors with a simple meal.

Go out and plan a feast for an event. Do what you can yourself and see if the feast is so very different from your normal day to day? If it is not then we you may need to get back to some peaks and troughs to enjoying things simple and really enjoying the feasts.

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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making it yourself

Why make it yourself?

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This is often the question that I get asked?

It has been a busy, busy week. You know when the proverbial fertiliser has hit the wind displacement device when you have to do two weeks of work to be able to take a week off to go on holidays. To say my current work load is unsustainable is to state the bleeding obvious. This is a story for another day though.

Added to that I have had some issues with the second car and we are trialling having only one car and me using public and the bike as my mode of transport to and from work. this is working out well but means I have to be a bit more disciplined and means it requires more organisation.

So that has been the reason for no posts over the last weeks. We have however been trying to keep living the life and to a greater extent we have been.

I have cooked meals for friends and family and we have offered friends to stay in our house rather than paying for accommodation and keep the money go round going. We have carted our kids, and still grown our food and all this with a couple of people working far too long hour’s is it any wonder we need a holiday 🙂

I try to cook our meals as much as is possible from scratch that is not to say that I don’t use some items such as yellow curry, garam massala mixes and items like mustard (although I will be making my own mustard soon enough)

Last weekend I made up a porchetta with fresh herbs from my garden for dinner, pancakes with no mix. We ate veg and salads from our garden including a tomatoes and basil salad with 5 different types of tomato and3 types of basil. During the week we ate meals that we had cooked for lunches and I started the week with $45 in my pocket and ended the week with $43 in it and no sense of hunger or having missed out.

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So why go to the trouble of making our own from scratch especially when we appear to be time poor? Well the cost is a major issue. We don’t work to work, we work to allow us to get ahead and in time. If we work long hours and just waste the money then we are going backwards.

I also like the challenge of doing things from scratch. I talk a lot on this blog about the developing of skills. Making it yourself makes you less of a slave to the system and ensures that if the time comes when you cannot easily buy the service you can always do it yourself.

It also means I know what the inputs into something are, especially useful with cooking and knowing what our bodies and the bodies of our children get put into them.

It gives a real sense of the cost of things to the world. Sometimes it is not cheaper such as the bacon I make. I can buy cheap bacon for much less than I can make. But that would factory farmed pork, in unsustainable practices to a large multinational taking the money of shore. And it does make you wonder what the final cost to the world of such an item really is when you realise it costs me twice as much to make it and I don’t even consider the labour involved.

So it makes you look at the world differently.

It makes you realise what real things should taste, feel and be like. Not the bland hand to mouth no thought I will buy more stuff to make me feel better lifestyle.

And the final reason is that it is interesting and fun. Which helps to keep me sane on the stupid go round that is the culture we often deal with.

As I have said a part of the week as been in seeing if we can cope with out the second car. Our kids love the simple joy of being carted by us in the bike trailer from crèche rather than by car and despite the organisation and discipline the time spent carting the kids has reacquainted me in an odd way with the world around me as I cart the kids or walk to and from the station I check out the herbs. See mallow and mallow cheese in abundance, edible nightshade, dandelion and other ‘weeds’. I also see some interesting things people. Guerrilla gardening, by putting plots in unused spaces, wild harvesting and gathering. Keep an eye out for items I can use later on and the huge waste of space that we have in the cities that could be used to solve a great many of the problems we have from homelessness to growing our own fuel and food to connecting as a community.

 It is also feels a damn side more useful than a lot of people I see rushing home so they can change to go out to do some exercise…

So while busy the week has been good with more time in many ways than most to look at the world and enjoy the time with family and friends.

This week I am in Apollo bay for the week with family for a beach side holiday. Tomorrow we will catch up with Libby from libby cooks for a meal including quite a few foraged dishes and we will then explore the area, hopefully do a bit of foraging and just enjoy the time with family.

If I don’t post I will definitely have to come up with a new excuse other than work 🙂 wont I ?

Homemade Porchetta.

Butterfly a roast and lay flat on a chopping board. I left the roast in the fridge uncovered for 5 hours to allow the skin to dry out to get the best crackling prior to this step.

Dry toast 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds.

In mortar and pestle or the food processor in a pre apocalypse kitchen put together a selection of fresh herbs from the garden, lots of basil (or basil mint as I used in this case) and parsley are a must, as is garlic and some rosemary (not too much) other than that just use what you have. I used oregano, thyme and sage as well and could have added some French tarragon I had if I wanted to. A little bit of salt and pepper and some chilli to taste. Blend with as little olive oil as you can to make a smooth but not sloppy paste.

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Spread over one side of the butterflied roast, grate a little lemon zest on the top and then roll and secure the roast with twine or wet skewers.

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Liberally coat the skin olive oil and salt and fresh black pepper.

Pre heat an oven to 250 degree Celsius

Put roast in for 30 minutes and you should see the crackling start to blister. Drop the heat back t 150 degrees for 2 hours or so then ramp the temperature back up to 250 degrees for the last 20 minutes until the crackling is perfect.

Serve it? We had simple boiled Dutch cream potatoes and other vegetables to go with it.

Any leftover should be sliced thickly and eaten on sourdough for lunches 🙂

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Photos of the making of porchetta below.

A local meal

So I am not going to be completely successful in my attempt to do a blog post every day in March as I have missed a couple of days already. I would like to say there was a good reason but that good reason was me falling asleep on the couch as the 10 days above 30 degrees hit me and a sudden cool change allowed me and everyone else without an aircon in their bedroom to sleep 🙂

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I am often on about eating as local as you can and tonight was a good example of what we try to do. We had local goats haloumi, , salad and figs from our back yard, local Dutch cream potatoes and my homemade cordial for a drink.

Of this only the vinegar was of unknown origin, even the olive oil was local (we get it from the cleaner at work whose mate has a local olive grove) and even the salt was from South Australia and pepper from NSW which is the furthest ingrediants

The meal was simply the potato’s boiled in a little salt and being Dutch cream nothing else was required, a simple green salad seasoned with vinegar, olive oil and some salt and pepper and of course the haloumi and figs that where simply fried in some olive oil. To me there is little better that the salty flavor of haloumi and sweet fig they work so well together.

After dinner I made a quick batch of ezi sauce plum sauce with the last of the Satsuma plums from our back yard. This sauce works a treat as a marinade for meats and is awesome as sauce in stir fry’s. It was good to use up the last of these plums and make sure they are not wasted and these bottles will get used.

Tomorrow I have to bottle up the quinces I have and try to get the elderberry tincture done but for tonight I am going to crash.

Below is the recipe of the sauce and as I said it is great. My mix today was a half mix as that was all of the plums I had.

Place 3 kg ripe dark plums, roughly chopped; and 1.5 liters of water into a large saucepan. Bring to the boil. Stir occasionally until stones loosen and plums are soft and pulpy. Push through a colander over a large bowl, removing stones. Return pulp and liquid to rinsed saucepan. Add 1/2 cup ezi-sauce, 1.5 kg sugar, 6 tsp salt, and 2 tsp ground ginger ( mixed with sufficient water to form a smooth paste ). Boil gently uncovered for 1 – 2 hours or until a thick pouring consistency. Fill using a small funnel or jug, into hot sterilized jars and seal.

This is where you need smell a vision internet

“This is where you need smell a vision internet” said my wife as I striped the leaves off the basil.

We picked a full shopping bag of basil along with the haul of veggies and other items from mum and dads place yesterday. It would have been better to process it last night but getting back and getting ready for the week ahead and only one car precluded that.

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Again tonight in the heat it would have been easy to leave it untill it cooled down tomorrow as I have now done with the quinces I need to bottle and the plums to sauce, but the closer to the picking the better the pesto. And while it unseasonably hot, it is autumn and time to start to lay down food for the winter and pesto is such a great item you can really never have too much of it.

I also had the problem that I did not have enough almonds for such a big mix (I don’t really like pine nuts and make mine with almonds or hazelnuts) but I did have some really good salt and pepper cashews from the farmers market so waste not want not. We always have garlic and this was my father’s giant Russian garlic and we are lucky to have access to the good Italian parmesan.

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The recipe is very much by hand lots of basil leaves, a good handful of nuts, 3 or so cloves of garlic, and good sized piece of parmesan grated. You will need salt and pepper but these cashews had enough on it I did not add any more.

Wiz it in the food processor adding olive oil as you go until it gets to the constancy you want.

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This is also the recipe I use for making my foraged nettle pesto (which I think is even better than basil pesto) and parsley pesto.

Bottle in sterilized bottles and put a layer of olive oil on top or pack in plastic containers to freeze. I did both this evening.

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I will probably get one more crop of my basil and have some beautiful purple basil I am very eager to try in making pesto to see how it goes. In winter it will be a little bottle of the smell a vision added to our meals and will hopefully last till the nettles are ready for their turn.