Saturday, August 28, 2010

Sowing Seeds for Spring

Well it is not quite spring until next week but it felt like it today. I haven't posted a blog for a couple of weeks but that does not mean I have been idle by any means.
Upstairs in a nice warm room I have punnets of seeds popping up. Italian and Squire Kale and some Beetroot are coming along nicely. I also have started off some Roma and San Marzano tomato seeds in the hope I can have them a decent size and ready to plant by late October.
  Out in the vege patch today, I have sown some carrot, bok choy, parsnips and planted some New Zealand yam tubers. Amazingly, the ground was quite reasonable to dig even after all the rain we have had of late. I always have to protect newly sown seeds from hungry birds here and old mesh baskets from our nursery come in very handy. I also put in some gooseberry plants which had layered themselves from my gooseberry bush - couldn't let them go to waste.

It hasn't been quiet in the kitchen either - I have been experimenting with sourdough breads each weekend. Last night I made some Turkish sourdough bread which went very nicely with a Fish Tagine for dinner. Thanks to Jennie who gave me a Wild Sourdough Bread recipe book for my birthday a couple of weeks ago, there is much more experimenting to do. Maybe even a sourdough Panettone for Christmas breakfast this year. I will have to do an experimental version first of course!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Parmigiano - Flowerdale Style

My cheese press in action
This weekend I found some time to make some hard cheese after the initial experiments with halloumi, fetta and mozzarella. My cheese press is now up and running (and stable) so it was time to venture forth. According to Antonio Carluccio's Complete Italian Food, Parmigiano reggiano can only be made in Emilia Romagna while elsewhere in Italy, an almost identical cheese gets called Grana Padano. This all begs the question, what do you call it if it is made in North West Tasmania? Anyway perhaps I am jumping the gun as it has to age for more than 6 months (12 if I can wait that long) before I will be able to taste it and see if it comes anywhere near the real thing. I've been thinking about how I can create the right maturation conditions (12-15 degrees C and 85% humidity) for a while and I am still not sure if my "cheese cave" is going to be right. It is currently in a plastic tub in the coolest room in the house but I might move it out to a concrete walled shed when the weather starts to warm up.Parmesan takes quite a bit of time to make as it involves heating up the curd very slowly after the curds have been set and then cut. It is then pressed gradually increasing the weights over about 15 hours to achieve the final shape.
My cheese cave

Of course there is always heaps of whey left over after the curds have been taken out and so rather than waste it, I made some ricotta as well.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Savouring some Sourdough Bread

A friend of mine gave me some sourdough starter a few weeks ago so I have been experimenting a bit, trying to find an easy but good recipe which wasn't going to tie me to the kitchen all day. First of all I tried one mixed and cooked in the breadmaker. The recipe had yeast in it which sort of defeats the idea of it being sourdough. It was quite dense because there was rye flour in it but it tasted ok.
Then I tried a recipe which was entirely powered by starter - mixed in the breadmaker and then left to rise all day near the wood heater. Worked well and my second effort ,was even better. We have just eaten the last of this loaf today, still tasting good after 6 days which is pretty amazing. The mix of rye, wholemeal and bread flour really gives it a lovely flavour. It is almost as good as the Bauernbrot you can buy in the German Bakery in Hobart ....4 hours drive is a bit far to go for a loaf of bread though!
A new loaf has been brewing all day and is now cooling off after coming out of the oven. The good thing is that the starter will last for a couple of months in the fridge without being used if I get too busy to make a loaf each week. Just need to activate it again the night before I want to make a loaf.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

It's still Winter but Spring seems not far away

The last two days have been mostly sunny and unseasonally warm so yesterday, whilst my sourdough bread was proving in a bowl , I got busy having a big clean up in the vege patch. The weeds are starting to flourish and some veges are showing signs of going to seed. I pulled out all but one of my head high Portuguese Kale after making some Caldo Verde for our lunch, cleared and dug over some ground to sow some mesclun lettuce, planted some Pink eye potatoes and planted a sucker of a globe artichoke as well. We are still eating lots of fresh leeks, fennel, carrot, parsnip, broccoli, kale, lettuce, silver beet, beetroot and bok choy as well as stored pumpkins, and heaps of stuff in the freezer. And while I was in the gardening mood, I put in an order for some seeds from The Lost Seed company - a great source of heritage seeds and also I discovered,  New Zealand yam tubers, which are going to be my next experiment.
We also made a cheese press this weekend - one that won't allow the weights to slide off and crash into things - so now I am ready to tackle some more cheese making. Maybe next weekend. And maybe we had better eat some of the cheese in the fridge first.