Category: From my kitchen


You may remember back in winter I planted a range of potatoes to see if there was a variation in success of different types (see “Lots of Spuds“) They all took off and started growing really well, which made me feel great! However not long after this, two of the potato plants started to die off and one in particular (Sebago) – died completely.

Dead Sebago potatoes next to other healthy ones in the garden

Dying Ruby Lou potato plants next to other healthy ones

I was devastated! Surely it was too early for the potatoes to be ready for harvesting … what had I done wrong? The potatoes were all treated the same way, and were next to other potatoes that looked really healthy. With a heavy heart last week I decided to dig the plant up and investigate what disease or pest had ended my crop. But to my surprise and delight I found no sign of any disease or pests – instead what was waiting for me was a healthy little crop of potatoes!

Sebago potatoes

It seems without realising it I have always grown late season varieties, but in trying a mix of lots of different types of potatoes I had grown some early season ones as well. Adding to my harvest, the Ruby Lou and Pontiac potatoes were also ready this weekend. All that’s left now is to start enjoying some roast potatoes for dinner – but when they look so colourful and taste so good, who can complain about that?!

Ruby Lou & Pontiac

Our dinner, ready to go into the oven, complete with fresh herbs from the garden

Success!

My sourdough starter had been going crazy this week – growing to the top of the jar on a daily basis, really crying out “bake with me”. So I set out to try sourdough again and see if I could succeed with the previous undercooked loaf from last weekend (see previous post). I am very pleased to report that I did and the results were worth the wait! With absolutely no commercial yeast, I was able to create two sourdoughs – one half white/half wholemeal and the other a pumpkin & linseed loaf (as an experiment). Both rose (after a very patient wait for almost a full day), and the taste is just fantastic!

Well the sun is out, so I’m now heading out into the garden. But trust me, right now – you wish you were here eating this bread.

From disaster last week, to success this week!
Half white/half wholemeal

Pumpkin & linseed loaf

I’m hoping the answer is no, however my freezer may now disagree with me…

Gearing up for the spring overhaul, it was time to remove the last of the winter crops to make room for new spring seedlings. After I removed a few spent broccoli, I was amazed to find how mulch celery I had growing! I remember planting the seedlings out, but they seemed to do such a good job of hiding among the other veggies as they grew that I hadn’t realised how much celery I really had.

After debating with myself about how much I celery I could eat in a week (even for the most healthy eaters, realistically there’s definitely a celery limit) – the only solution was to freeze it.

I did this last year too and I found for me it’s the best way to keep celery. Cut into the size I would normally use for cooking – it’s so easy to just grab a bag out of the freezer ready to add to a meal.

To do this I blanch the cut up pieces for a minute and a half before placing it in ice water to stop the cooking process. I then bag it and voilà! Celery ready to use whenever I need. It sounds easy – but due to the amount of celery I had this process seemed to take hours! Worth it though, as I won’t need to buy celery for many months.

Although it’s not from my front yard, really one of my main aims is to try to be as self sufficient as I can – so over the past year I’ve been making my own bread. I had a bread maker prior to this, however I was never happy with the results (overcooked/undercooked & generally inconsistent). I took a bread making class with a friend last year – loved it & never looked back! I’ve found I get a lot more reliable results from making bread by hand, and I also find the kneading process quite fun (and a tad therapeutic!) Not only does the house smell great while the bread is baking but I also know exactly what is in, and more importantly, what is not in my bread.

After the class my friend and I both tried to make sourdough – and I have to admit I was pretty envious of the loaves she ended up with compared to my many, many bricks… The standard loaves seemed to work fine but I just couldn’t get the hang of sourdough and eventually I threw out my starter (leaven). I’m not quite sure what drove me to try again – but this week I thought I’d give sourdough another go. I started making the leaven last weekend and have been pretty good at feeding it every day (I may have been a tad neglectful last time). By this weekend it was looking pretty healthy.

My sourdough starter (leaven) showing signs of activity

Given all my previous failures I wasn’t sure which recipe to try, so I decide to try three different recipes & see what worked. I picked two white sourdoughs (which I ended up making as half white/half wholemeal) and a half white/half rye all from different recipes. I’d forgotten how long sourdough takes compared to standard bread – each requiring around 6 hours of proving time in total, but worth it in the end. Along the way I had my doubts that any were going to work, hoping for at least one – but all three rose!

Unfortunately when I cut them open this morning one white was undercooked, however the other white and rye worked really well. I’m so pleased I gave it another go and proved to myself that I can make bread from simple beginnings of flour and water. I might experiment around again in the next few weeks and see what else I can create. Spending all morning eating bread trying to work out which loaf came in at number one – probably the best part of the whole experiment…

Rye

White/wholemeal sourdough

My very first tomato seedlings

My first love in the garden was, and still is, tomatoes. One of those original packets of seeds I spoke about in my introductions was cherry tomatoes. Knowing nothing about gardening at that stage I germinated almost the entire packet of seeds and ended up with over 30 tomato plants. Advanced gardeners would have picked out the strongest seedlings, but I was just so excited that I had grown something that I nurtured every single seedling and they all lived and thrived. Everyone received tomato plants for Christmas that year (which I still feel was a pretty good present!) and I received updates on how the plants were doing, and even photos of the tomatoes in salads which was just beautiful. Until then I never realised the pure indulgence and incredible taste of the home grown tomato.

Last year however, despite my efforts I really ended up with minimal tomatoes. (I prefer to blame it on the very wet summer Melbourne had, it makes me feel better…. ) However on the upside the zucchini plants provided us with enough zucchinis to last an entire year (fresh, frozen and preserved).

This year I put my concentrations back into tomatoes, now one of my favourite vegetables. Nurturing seedlings, checking plants every few days to make sure they were growing and supported correctly. Looking back – I may have over done it a tad… my garden now feels like the land of tomatoes!

Regular harvest size

 

I am still not sure why each season results in completely different harvest outcomes (any comments or advice would be helpful!). My zucchini plants look healthy and have grown big, but have produced a disappointing amount of fruit this year compared to last year. The tomatoes on the other hand have thrived this year. Eaten daily in salads or recipes I am nowhere near running out.

Trying my best to eat as many as possible, I have been left with the worry they would go off faster than I am able to eat them. Which only means one thing – preserving! Last weekend I made tomato chutney – a personal favourite of mine. It’s the easiest recipe – put ingredients in a saucepan for half an hour, stirring occasionally. After sitting for a month, the flavour is unbelievable. For me, preserving adds colour to cold winter days, reminding me of the beauty that was the summer garden.  For people that like chutney they make great gifts too.  I also made a tomato soup to freeze for winter, however I doubt it will last that long before I’ll eat it….