Monday, 27 June 2011

Veggie round-up

Even though it is winter here in Melbourne alot of veggies are still putting on their best show:
The peas are starting to produce many flowers and the pods are fattening up nicely. This is the first planting of peas for this winter.

This is the second lot of peas I have sown this winter. Just popping their heads up. A good liquid feed every week of worm juice will get them flying along.

The first of the cauliflowers I was disappointed with, but these seem to be doing nicely. Good colour, no signs of bugs and firm little caulis forming in the centre. ( love cauliflower with a white cheese sauce) I will often tie the leaves of the cauliflower around the actual cauli to keep them nice and white, as too much sun yellows them. Not alot of sun here this winter though.
The broccoli heads have been in good supply, being tight and free from bugs.

Bok Choy are growing well. They are quick growers so they will probably be ready to harvest in four weeks. So I probably will need to replant another lot in two weeks time, as these have only been in for two weeks.

The Chard (silverbeet) are a constant, year round winner in our garden. Great for throwing in a stirfry and using in other dishes where spinach is needed.

 We don't eat alot of salads in winter, but it's still nice to have some lettuce in the garden (this is an oak one) for lunches.
Cabbages are doing great and look good in the garden this time of year.

There's always beetroot in the garden and carrots.  We use both the root of the beetroot and the young leaves in salads. Our rabbits love the leaves as well.
Lastly, the Rocket is finally up and will be quick to grow. Love this on a pizza with roasted pumpkin and goats cheese! Also, the spinach seeds are up and growing.

Happy gardening everyone..........

Friday, 24 June 2011

orange tree update

The other day I posted about my oranges being eaten by what I thought to be a possum. Gooseberry Jam put the idea in my head about netting them, so I have. The day after my first post about them the culprit hit again, and I found two more oranges on the ground the next morning. So enough is enough.

Also, as requested, here is a copy of my muffin recipe for Phoebe. It's not the lightest recipe, but the kids like it. Just make sure if you are putting in the strawberries and ricotta that you add plenty in each muffin. In the meantime if anyone else has a really light muffin recipe, I would really love a copy......
100g butter
100g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups S.R. Flour
100ml milk.

Cream the butter and sugar
Add vanilla and egg
Add flour and milk alternatively
Makes 6 large muffins
180 degrees celcius until just starting to brown

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Yummy Muffins

It's so cold in Melbourne at the moment so yesterday was a day that required a little comfort food as the kids arrived home from school.

Yummy ricotta and strawberry muffins:
Cubes of ricotta push into the muffin mixture.
Frozen strawberries, sliced, then dusted with a little icing sugar
 ( this helps them to not sink to the bottom of the pan).

Up they rose.
I left them in the baking pan so they would keep warm until the kids arrived home.
Dusted with a little icing sugar and served with hot chocolate.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Beware of the orange thief!

Something has been slowly, but surely, eating my oranges.

This year, due to our increased rainfall, we have had a bumper crop of oranges. There's only one problem......something is eating them. Every couple of days I go out and check them, and sure enough another one or two have been eaten. It's either a native rat- they love fruit, or a possum. Not sure what to do about it though.
Some of the oranges are even having their skins left on the tree.
At this point I am simply removing the ripe ones before they get eaten.

Home grown is best

Every week I travel into the Vic Market and visit the organics section to buy any veggies or fruit that we currently are low on in our own garden. We grow a wide variety in our garden, but particularly the fruit side of things always requires a top up. I had always thought that I was doing the best for my family by doing this. I had trusted that when our food in Australia is labelled 'organic', it had to be true.
So here's the thing: currently in Australia there is no independent government body that is testing our organic produce. Anything that is exported is tested, but not the produce that we consume here at home. There are individual farmer's groups that test the produce. The Australian Quarantine Services does accredit these groups, but many experts are still skeptical about their credibility.
So the big question is, 'can we trust what we buy as organic'? Me, I'm not sure, but I will keep buying 'organic', and paying the extra for it.
The verdict - GROW YOUR OWN!!!! it's the only way to guarantee what is used on, or rather what is not, your fresh produce.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Winter veggies

This time of year the garden really struggles to shine. Some would say it looks a little lifeless. The leaves have now all fallen. The roses are well and truely finishes, ready for their pruning next month, and the summer vegies are a distant memory.

Thank goodness for the constant winter veggie winners:
The Broccoli is always a winner, with the tight heads coming into full production. There are about five plants now that have produced large heads, the side shoots should follow in the next month.

The climbing peas are just starting to plump up. These never make it inside the house, as the kids pick and eat them straight from the vine. The snow peas have also started to produce, these also don't make it inside, this time I'm the thief though.
The watercress has popped up from no where and is growing vigorously. I thought I had pulled it all out at the end of Spring, but it has been a welcomed suprise. Great for a spicy salad, and this variety has a real bite to it.

And of course there's the cabbages:
These are the red ones, they look as good as they taste.

My January King cabbages are filling out beautifully.

We have also planted baby cabbages which are really cute in size. These ones however are from last spring. I simply removed the cabbage head and left the bottom of the plant. Now I have three to four small cabbages growing on each plant. Great little size at about 15 -20 cm across.

Friday, 10 June 2011

The great Australian dream

To own your own home in Australia is well known as the 'great Australian dream'. Of course with this is the Aussi backyard, which is so diverse in the different lifestyles we can live here. Some people have a backyard that stretches as far as the eye can see, others have a simply balcony, and others, like myself have the suburban block with the lemon tree and Hills hoist down the back. No I don't have a Hills hoist now, but as kids we certainly did, and boy did we have fun swinging ourselves around on it. The eldest brother even broken one or two with his mates, but that's a different story.

My mum has always provided me with my lemons from her lemon tree that was a present from her father. In my kitchen there has also been 101 uses for her juicy sweet lemons that arrived in abundance . There's the lemon meringue pie, the lemon and sugar crepes on a Sunday morning that my youngest daughter can never tire of, home made lemonade in summer and of course the lemon curd which i love on sweet biscuits, just to name a few. I would also take the opportunity to freeze the juice in cubes as well when there were far too many lemons, to use in the future.

Three years ago I decided to plant my own lemon tree. In melbourne a lot of our lemon trees suffer with gall wasp infestation. This is when the gall wasp lays it's eggs into the soft new growth of the tree trunk. The eggs grow in the trunk, causing a swelling, and then they hatch and leave open egg lumps in the tree. Seems harmless, however over time this greatly decreaes the quality and quantity of the fruit. There are two ways to treat this. The first being to cut the swelling areas and branches completely off, disposing of the infested branches. The second method I tend to use. You cut slices of the trunk off where the swelling is, therefore exposing the eggs to open air. They naturally die. Sometimes however, the tree is far too infested to do this second method. There are also slicky strips that you can hang in your lemon tree that attract and catch the insect.

My tree has been in for three years now, and with no signs of any gall wasps, although I have removed bits of the tree, I am now eating and cooking with the juiciest and biggest lemons.

My dad's favorite is the lemon meringue pie, so here's the recipe. Enjoy!

2 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon icing sugar
185grams butter
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon water ( approximately)

Sift flour and icing sugar into a bowl, rub in butter, add egg yolks and enough water to bind together. Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roll out pastry and line pie dish, fill with baking weights and bake in moderate oven for 7 minutes remove weights and bake for further 7 minutes.
Spread filling into pastry shell, top with the meringue and bake until golden brown tips form ( approx. 5 mins).

Lemon filling:
1/2 cup cornflour
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/4 cups water
2 teaspoons lemon rind
3 egg yolks
60 grams unsalted butter

Combine cornflour and sugar in saucepan, gradually stir in lemon juice and water, stir until smooth. Stir constantly over heat until mixture boils and thickens. Careful not to leave alone or it will burn. Remove from heat and quickly stir in lemon rind, egg yolks and butter. Stir until butter melts. Cool to room temperature.

5 egg whites
3/4 cup caster sugar

Beat egg whites until firm peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beat until dissolved.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Cold, cold , cold!

The weather is freezing here in Melbourne today, as the wind feels like ice. In order to garden a large number of layers of clothing need to be applied. It is so easy now that the temperature has dropped to simply stay indoors and put the gardening clean up off till another day........or month. So beanies go on, scarves, and thank goodness for the gardening gloves. I'm being very brave and doing my hydrangeas today, as they need to be cut back in time for spring growth to happen.

The photo is the last lot of the potatoes I harvested. The kids love digging to find the spuds, it's like digging for gold and seeing how big they can find them.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Juicy Oranges

Picked the first of the oranges to eat today from our garden. We have Washington navels, and Valencia oranges, but all prefer the Washingtons as they are sweeter.
Looking forward to many more to eat this season!

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Veggies for partial shade

The other week I wrote about my new garden area. The area has now been cleared and cleaned up.
Upon removal of the bricks that were down there we discovered a number of Red back spiders. Be careful when gardening as they are everywhere in Melbourne now. After many years of dry hot summers they have become a regular visitor to our gardens. So always wear gloves in the garden, and make your children aware of the danger in touching spiders. 
I have added some sheep manure to the area as well as fresh compost from my compost bin. At the back of the garden area I have placed a climbing frame as it is my intention to grow climbing vegetables up it so the view of the water tank is blocked.
Over the last week I have researched which veggies will grow here and many of the leafy greens will do well. So broccoli will be planted in the next week, more cauliflowers, boc choy, rocket, spinach, as well as some more snow peas and climbing peas next to the climbing frames. It will be a little bit of an experiment to see what does well. I'll have the before and after photos on next time.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Passionfruit clean-up

Today, being the final day of winter, was definitely the last opportunity I am going to get to clean up and trim back the passion fruit vines. I say vines as we have three now, and we are lucky enough to have had alot of fruit this year. I have put some of the pulp into snap lock bags and frozen it as week.
Melbourne has had a beautiful first day of winter today with a top of 18 degrees celcius, so it was perfect gardening weather with clear sunny skies.

Two of my passionfruit vines have managed to ramble up the pencil pines, so a fair bit of trimming back needed to be done. So one more job ticked off the autumn/ winter clean up list. Job list continues tomorrow!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Yummy Carrot Cake

I picked some carrots from my garden yesterday as there are plenty. So what to do with them you ask.......many a carrot cake I have tried, but this is the best one ever. Moist, light and the yummiest cream cheese frosting; enjoy!

Moist carrot cake:
1 cup self-raising flour
1 teaspoon bi-carb soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups finely grated grated carrot
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup finely ground walnuts
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Grease 14x25cm loaf pan, line base with paper. Sift flour, soda, and spices in bowl. Stir in
sugar carrot and nuts, then stir in combined eggs and oil. Beat on medium speed with electric mixer for 5 minutes. Pour into prepared pan and bake in moderately slow oven for about 1 hour. Stand for 5 minutes before turning onto wire rack.

To make frosting ; beat 125grams of cream cheese with 50 grams of butter in electric mixer until smooth. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon rind and 2 cups icing sugar. Blend together and spread onto cooled cake.

Tip- I keep my cake in the fridge in an airtight container. It will keep extremely moist this way for a good week. Also I have used this recipe to make muffins ( as in the photo), bake until just firm on the tops.