Monday, July 30, 2012

Asparagus - from seed to spear

Last summer I bought some asparagus seed to give it a go in the garden. The seed germinated and we repotted it several times over the following months.  Over the summer I kept it outside in the sunshine but put it under shade cloth as the cooler weather set it. The plants sent up fern like fronds in summer which yellowed during the autumn. Looking at them  last weekend, I realised that a couple of the plants thought that spring was just around the corner and were starting to send up new spears. 
Time to plant out. The problem is that it has taken me this long to decide where to put them where they can stay for the long term. As I usually rotate things around the vege garden, I had decided that it was not the place to put them.  The spot where we put potatoes in last season seemed like a good option but we have had some persistent little rabbits who somehow survived the myxomatosis spread of last spring. Solution, build a little fence around the asparagus section. It is not exactly the most aesthetic looking addition to the garden so perhaps it will need to be replaced with something more permanent and pleasing to the eye one day. For now it serves it purpose. So in went the 16 plants I had grown.
Now we sit and wait and somehow resist the temptation to harvest any spears at all this season.  We will have to wait until next spring for a 50% harvest of the crop to allow the crowns to develop. Meanwhile if you see me drooling while looking over the fence, you’ll know why.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Preserving Kiwi Fruit - Can you bottle them? Yes ...and ...No

My previous blog about Kiwi fruit has been by far the most visited of my blog posts. The other day I even had a visitor from the North Pole Alaska looking at that page! Didn't know you could grow kiwi fruit at the North Pole...
So last weekend I thought I had better come up with some other ways of dealing with a kiwi fruit glut. It is that time again when I have lots ready to harvest and any time soon they will start getting really soft. I thought I would have a go at bottling /canning them to see how they turned out.
I didn't much enjoy the peeling process, having knicked 2 knuckles in the process but they looked a very pretty green when packed into the bottles. The fruit I chose was quite firm and acidic almost sour taste. This photo doesn't do them justice.
So into the preserving pan they went and came out an hour later, a paler shade of green but still holding their shape. I let them cool overnight before I removed the clips and as one bottle didn't seal properly, we got to have taste.

The verdict:   They lost a lot of flavour and colour in the bottling process. The texture was like a bottled plum. They tasted ok ...just , better mixed with some other fruit I think rather than served on their own. But still, if you have a glut, it is one way of putting some aside for a later date. I think I prefer frozen slices as they keep both their colour and flavour. It is just the texture that is different from the fresh version. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Taste of Portugal Part 2

Restaurant with a view

Another day trip we had was to Serra da Arrabida  . First stop a visit to the village of Azeitao...home of the Queijo Azeitao and some special Tortas de Azeitao. Of course we needed to wash it all down with something so 2 sorts of muscatel were on offer,   a young one followed by a more mature version.  Last time I had muscatel was some homemade stuff on a Greek island camped in someone’s vege patch about 30 years – it was pretty terrible. The Azeitao versions were much more palatable.

Queijo de Azeitao
Tortas de Azeitao
Later in the day we stopped for lunch at a restaurant perched high above a beach where a few surfers were trying their luck. On the menu for starters was mussels and the area speciality choco frito – fried cuttlefish.....delicious. Then came another speciality Cataplana, cooked in a special dish, it was a lovely stew of fish, mussels and other shellfish.

Luis serving the Cataplana
Choco frito

And finally, no trip to Lisboa is complete without a visit to Pasteis de Belem for some Portuguese custard tarts. These are the very special ones from the shop in Belem where they have been making them since  1837. Usually there is a long queue of tourists outside the shop to buy them over the counter, but it is nicer to enjoy them sitting at a table inside the cafe. Someone told me that they invented these tarts to use up all the egg yolks they had left over after using the egg whites to starch nun's habits. That is just one theory though.   Bon Appetit!
Pasteis de Belem

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Taste of Portugal : Part 1

The other half of our recent trip to Europe was spent in Portugal.  Our son lives in Portugal and has Portuguese in-laws so we get to taste the real food of Portugal and not just the tourist fare.
My favourite dish from my last visit to Lisbon was Sardinhas grelhadas (grilled sardines), however May is not the season for fresh sardines. Niko’s father in law however found some frozen ones and cooked them just for me! They are cooked on a special griller – the sardines are sprinkled with salt and placed on a rack over an electric element which is suspended over a tray filled with water. Never seen anything like it in Australia but it does a superb job. . 

first course..........

and just in case you were still hungry
Peniche harbour
A few days later we went on a day trip to Peniche and had lunch in a restaurant within sight of the fishing port and we could see fishing boats at work not far offshore.  I figure the grilled mackerel  that I had was as fresh as you can get. It was absolutely delicious but I forgot to take a picture. This was the view.

On the way back to Lisbon that evening, we called in at the World Heritage listed town of Obidos. The speciality of Obidos is Ginginja - a sour cherry flavoured liqueur. In Obidos, the favourite way to have it is in a cup made of chocolate. So as the sign says, drink the ginja and eat the cup. Yummm!