The Luxury of Frugal Simplicity

We’ve been making wine, making clay, making kilns, making pots, making preserves and in general making a living, in all the various and diverse ways that we have grown into during this big long experiment called life.

As the last few weeks of summer are slipping away, the days get shorter and the plants are adjusting accordingly. This last week, we have been harvesting the red grapes and the yellow quinces.
In the past we have tried making wine from our Isabella/fragolino grapes, but it was never very good, due to the fact that we are not at all skilled at making wine, but also because these grapes are not really suited to wine making, so we have taken to bottling the dark red grape juice. This is the very best way to appreciate these grapes. We have also grown both Cabinet Sauvignon and shiraz, which are much better for making wine, but they need a lot of work to protect them from mildew. I refuse to use anything poisonous, restricting myself to only organic treatments. So this meant regular applications of Bordeaux spray, which is copper carbonate and lime mixed together. This works, but has to be applied after every rain, as it is water based and washes off. Long term use can lead to a build-up in the soil, so I decided to let them find there own way to survive without spraying. They didn’t! So no shiraz grapes this wet year.
However, the Isabella/fragolino hybrid is totally immune to Phytophthora root rot and leafy mildew. So no sprays are needed, perfect! These grapes are only good for juice, but the juice is of excellent flavour and the way that we have developed to extract the juice brings out exceptional depth of colour and flavour. We have tried the more traditional crushing and pressing, but this only results in a clear/pale pink juice. Partial fermentation to make ‘summer wine’. A semi fermented blend of partially fermented sweet juice and a little alcohol from the fermentation, results in a pale pink, cloudy, rose style. This is very nicely spritzig and tangy on the tongue but we have developed a better way of improving it to what we believe is an outstanding level of density of flavour and colour.
The red colour of wine comes from the skins which contains, amongst other things, anthrocyanins. These complex chemicals are thought to be quite beneficial to your health. But simply pressing the juice out of their skins only results in a white juice or wine. Have you ever thought how clear champagne is made from pinot noir red grapes? The clear juice is quickly squeezed out of the red grapes and separated from their skins so that no contact colouration can occur. If the grape juice is left in contact with the skins, the alcohol that develops in the wine ‘must’ as it ferments starts to dissolve the red colour. Partial contact results in a ‘rose’ light red colour, but full fermentation on the skins produces a red wine. Wine makers have developed a technique called ‘plunging the cap’ which involves pushing the red skins down into the fermenting ‘must’ to encourage the contact and colour extraction. This is done several times a day, for a week or two, as long as the fermentation lasts.
As we are not making wine, but only juice. Miss Penfold Grange King decided to try heating the juice to sterilize it for bottling, but along the way found by accident that the colour improved as well. So now we don’t really crush the grapes in the normal way. We carefully pick all the ‘berries’ off the grape bunches and separate the stems and any unripe grapes, as these can give a sour acidic flavour to the juice. We also separate any living protein from the bunches as well. In industry this is called “MOG” material other than grapes, and a lot of it, slaters, spiders, caterpillars and especially snails, can pass through the system and separators, just like grapes, if they are the same size. However, It doesn’t seem to affect the finished wine from industrial scaled production wineries.
We take the time to carefully separate all of this by hand about 20 kilos at a time and then put the grapes in big boilers and heat them . initially to sterilize the juice for preservation, but we have found that a few minutes of simmering and some squashing using a potato masher, produces a very rich, red, dense grape juice of immense flavour and colour. It seems that anthrocyanins are also extracted by heat just as with alcohol. After the colour has been extracted by this heating, we drain off the skins and pips through a large kitchen sieve, pressing it a little by placing a stack of plates on top, then filling glass jars taken straight from the oven with ‘pop top’ lids simmered in hot water. As the bottles cool. the lids are sucked down and sealed making a loud ‘pop’ noise as they vacuum seal.
This juice keeps for up to a year in these sealed bottles. Miss Penfold Grange King has found lots of ways to cook with this preserved juice over the years. She makes jelly, by re-heating with some gelatine and a little lemon juice and even some zest occasionally. This year we have also made some summer wine from this improved and concentrated rich red grape juice. it’s absolutely fantastic. If you haven’t ever tried some of this stuff. it is an amazing way to preserve grape juice. Except, as summer wine it isn’t preserved at all, just drunk. we make a batch every few days to replace the last batch, keeping the ferment going, restarting the new batch off the lees of the last one. We make it in 4 litre glass fermenting jars. It’s an ongoing process that lasts as long as the grape crop.
Every year we try something a little different, some other way of dealing with what we have, always trying to find a better way to get the most out of our home grown produce. This year, amongst other things, we have experimented with preserving our quince crop by cooking them in this wonderfully rich, dense and colourful red grape juice which is brim full of flavour.
Quinces need to be cooked with a little bit of sugar. In the past I have used pure white and deadly as well as local honey, but this year we have decided to use the sweetness of our grape juice to provide the fructose to bring out the luscious red colour of the cooked quinces.
I bring the quartered and peeled quinces to the boil and then switch them off. Because they are so fresh, they don’t need to be cooked for too long, otherwise they will go all mushy. While the quinces are coming up to the boil. I bring all the quince peelings and cores and pips up to boil for a few minutes, and simmer for a while. The skins and pips are full of pectin, so boiling them dissolves this pectin. I drain off the pectin liquor into a smaller sauce pan and continue to reduce tha pectin sauce further.
I place the quinces in a baking tray with a few cloves, a 5 star anise, a cinnamon stick and the zest and juice of a lemon. I cut the spent lemon in the baking tray as well and pour the hot grape juice over them and place them in the oven on low to cook a little more. As soon as the pectin liquor is reduced to half, I pour it over the baking quinces and bake them for another half hour. It reduces to a jelly-like, rich, red, fragrant syrup.
Perfect with a little cream or icecream, or both.
Yum. You don’t know what you are missing if you haven’t tasted something like this.
We may not have much cash flow, but by gosh we eat well. We just couldn’t afford to pay to eat this quality and range of gourmet foods if we were working for money.
Best wishes from Miss Penfold Grange and her Maximillion dollar value Schubert

New Show of my pots at Watters Gallery

I have a new show of work at Watters Gallery in Sydney coming up in March, titled;
Just one Idea
I will be showing a series of groups of unglazed, wood fired, porcelain bowls, all different. Each group is made from a different local porcelain clay/ground rock material combination. all unglazed and wood fired using different species of timber, all from local, hand collected and carefully sorted sources
There will be 6 different groups.
6 Dreams
5 Inspirations
4 Rough Notions
3 Humours
2 Dark Thoughts
and Just One Idea.
Below are a few of the pots that will be in the show;

The luscious excess of the summer garden

The luscious excess of the summer garden
Breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus desert.

We have been experimenting with a few new ways of dealing with our excesses from the garden. We have our favourites that we love to cook every season with all the usual suspects as they front up in quantity. It’s just amazing how much I look forward to that first tomato of the season to get ripe enough to pick and eat, right there in the garden. It truly explodes in the mouth with sweet, acidity. Such a flavour. Then all those vitamins that I am obviously in need of, because I crave that first tomato so much. Just brushing the leaves of the tomato plants while weeding is nostalgic and gives me the Pablov’s Dog reaction. i can’t wait.  I’m craving a fresh tomato after 6 months without having any. However, after a month of tomatoes with everything, I seem to have enough of the vitamins and minerals that tomatoes offer, and they lose some of their charm. They are still fantastically delicious, but there is no longer any urgency to eat them. They just become part of the menu landscape. In fact, so much so, that while I’m weeding and watering the plants, I try to avoid brushing the leaves, as the smell is no longer appetising, but slightly off-putting even. What is this reaction? How does it work? My body is telling me what I need to eat and when I’ve had enough. Time to move on, try something different.

The same can be said for zucchinis, capsicum and aubergines as well I suppose, but not with the same urgency.

After we have cooked and eaten all the usual favourite dishes a few times, we start to consider other ways of thinking about what we have and how we can be creative with it.

Breakfast of stewed fruit and yoghurt. Today its blood plums or fresh prunes.
It’s always interesting to see what other people have found to do with summer vegetables. The following recipe is from Andrew McConnel, from his page in the recently launched “The Saturday Paper” This is a new Australian newspaper launched by Morry Schwartz this time last year. We were foundation subscribers, as I have been to ’The Quatertly Essay’ and the ‘The Monthly’. I think that it’s important to support creative ventures, and anything that may help to subvert the dominant paradigm can’t be a bad thing. The recipe for Zucchini salad is from the 7th of Feb issue.
Zucchini Salad and ricotta
The lovely made some fresh ricotta and served it with a few thinly sliced zucchinis. This is a lovely fresh salad of thinly sliced raw zucchinis. Slice the zuchs and season with pepper (plus salt if you use it), then dress with some torn basil leaves and lemon zest, + its juice and some olive oil. Evenly spread the fresh warm ricotta over the top in little lumps and a few lightly roasted pine nuts.
After making the ricotta, there is a lot of whey still left over. This is good to feed to the chickens or a pig – if you happen to be fattening one up at the time, or to make a batch of scones?. Ms ‘one brick’ Einstein has a brilliant idea and decides to make a whey pudding by adding a little bit of vanilla bean paste, some sugar and a little gelatine to the warm whey. It sets in the fridge to a jelly that is surprisingly good as a breakfast or dessert option.
Lightly steamed capsicums and garlic served warm and topped with fresh ricotta
Sliced, fresh warm tomatoes picked straight from the garden 5 minutes earlier and served on a bed of oak leaf lettuce.
Mixed small tomatoes, finely sliced fresh red onion and grated zucchini salad, served with crispy toasted seeds,(sunflower and pumpkin) dressed with lemon juice. This salad will be going on our list of ‘must do more often’. Really nice mix of flavours and textures.
Served with cold potatoes cheese, fresh basil pesto and green leaves.
Zucchini fritters. Grate a few small young zucchinis and mix with a little flour and an egg, season with salt and pepper, some coriander leaves, parsley, a hint of chilli and finely chopped shallots. Fry in a little olive oil till golden on both sides.
Mixed summer veggie fritters. Grate zucchinis with mashed, steamed and cooled, waxy potatoes, sweet corn nibblets, sliced, steamed French beans, finely chopped capsicum, parsley and Thai basil. Mix with egg and flour and fry in a shallow pan with some extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste.
Baked capsicums stuffed with ricotta mixed with olive, garlic and dried tomato tepinade. roasted beetroot dip, grated zucchinis with lemon juice and pepper, sweet corn on the cob, fresh capsicum and cold potato with tomatoes and olives.
Lightly steamed french beans served with home-made spicy tomato passata. We also have beans like this served in yoghurt with garlic.
Baked, marinated ocean trout fragments with udon noodles and seasonal veggies. Marinate the fish in some soy, ginger, olive oil and lemon juice for a few hours. Steam, bake or Pan fry the fish in it’s marinade. Meanwhile, boil the udon buckwheat noodles and steam the fresh veggies, beans, broccoli, colli, zucchini chunks, whatever is at hand on the day. Toss the veggies through the drained noodles and serve with a few torn-up fresh Shiso leaves on the side and dress with a mix of mirin, sesame seed oil and meso.
Baked mediterranean vegetables with cumin, Roughly chop up what ever is in the garden by way of Mediterranean vegetables. Zucchinis, tomatoes, beans, aubergines, onion etc. pour a little olive oil into the baking dish and rub it through all the vegetables with your hands. sprinkle some cumin over it and bake in a moderate oven till tender. This is a Nigel Slater recipe that The Lovely has transposed to suit what we have. The cumin isn’t something that I would have thought of, but it works and is really nice. It’s no longer a ratatouille sort of dish, and is suddenly transported to another continent.
Ratatouille variations. Slice egg-plant, tomatoes, capsicums and onions liberally sprinkled with mashed garlic and plenty of torn basil leaves. Pour over a jar of home-made passata, sugo sauce and bake in a moderate oven for half an hour or so. Crush a few more cloves of fresh garlic and sprinkle over the top before serving. It’s tangy and gorgeous.
Serve with some chopped parsley and a little grated parmigiano.
Summer vegetable frittata. Brown some onions and garlic in olive oil, add in chopped tomato, aubergine, capsicum, french beans, zucchini and cold steamed potato slices. Pour over the whisked eggs and grate cheese on top. cook for a few minutes on the stove top and then transfer to the grill. Best to use a flat flan pan or very shallow fry pan for this dish. One with a metal handle that can go under the grill. Grill till the cheese turns golden.
Serve with chunky zucchini steamed with fresh mint leaves. It’s just another way of using up more of the buggers.
Serve with a grating of fresh pepper.
Almond friand cake embedded with slices of fresh pear and topped with local pecans
Poached pears with amaretto and served with greek yoghurt
Quinces poached in fresh pressed red grape juice.
Peel and core the quinces, place in a large baking pan cover with fresh pressed red grape juice and slow cook for at least 4 hours in a slow oven, untill they soften and turn red.
We are not fooling ourselves. There isn’t anything new here. This isn’t fancy food. It’s just simple honest Post Modern Peasant food picked from our garden and cooked within hours, if not minutes of harvest. A good percentage of it is even eaten raw in the garden while we are harvesting. Nothing could be fresher or more wholesome.  Nearly everything on these plates is home-grown and home-made – even the plates.
Best wishes from two well-fed potters

Resistance is Fertile

The summer garden is being very productive and keeping us busy. The heat is back and the rain has largely stopped, so I had to water the garden today. I have been building kilns these last few weeks, more or less full-time, but there are always things to do in the garden and it’s a great entertainment and relaxing break from working on kilns to be able to just walk out of the workshop and spend half an hour with the vegetables as a break. I really enjoy this attempt of ours of the last 40 years to try to achieve some independence and self-reliance, but I still have to earn some money to pay all the rates, regos and insurances that are necessary to be able to live and work here. There are no free lunches in this garden. We know a lot of potters here, but non that makes a living solely from what they can make and sell. Everyone has a second income from part-time work, or a partner with an income who helps to support them. We have both worked part-time to support our artistic ‘habit’. Building kilns and running firing workshops from here are our current income support schemes for our self-reliance. Selling our work makes only a quarter of our income.

The Queen of Quince has started on the late summer preserving sessions. Potatoes, tomatoes, basil, beans, pears, apples, quince and red grapes are all coming on at the same time and have to be dealt with. I lend a hand where I can as an interesting relief from the kiln work. I usually try to keep January free of kiln orders, so that I can be 100% involved in the garden and kitchen at this busy, productive time of year. But this year, events transpired such that I have to work on a kiln to make a deadline that can’t be changed. Being adaptable and adjusting to change is a useful skill I’m told?  Organic growing, nurturing, harvesting, preserving  and cooking and eating our produce is the most rewarding thing that I can think of doing with my life. It is the reason that we have chosen to live out here in the bush with few services, but plenty of space, clean air and water to live out our self-reliant, creative, self-employed utopian dream. As it’s turned out, and much to my surprise, we have managed to ‘get away with it’.

I could have chosen to make something a lot more ‘commercial’ I suppose? And in a very much more efficient manner, but that just doesn’t seem to interest me. I’m not really very interested in ‘efficiency’. I rather like to spend a long time creating something really beautiful with my hands, whether its making a pot on the potters wheel, or weeding a garden bed, writing a real letter on beautiful paper by hand using an ink fountain pen, or at the current time in spending time hand carving and shaping a fire brick to fit in a specific position in the door of a kiln so that it makes a perfect door seal, with a ground face and precision interlock. Some of these firebricks are cut and shaped on 6 faces.


No-one really understands what goes into a hand-made object. It is no longer part of our Australian culture. It belongs to a time long past. However, I believe that it is important to keep skills alive. So I really do it for me. I’m completely selfish in this. Luckily, there are just enough people out there who are prepared to support me in persisting with this enterprise. The people who buy my kilns or come to my exhibitions have no idea of what they are looking at. “Oh yes, it’s pretty” doesn’t scratch the surface. It’s the back story to all of this that makes it special. No-one can see this in the object. It’s invisible, but the object wouldn’t exist at all without all the preparatory work and research. The research and prep are the two noughts on the price tag.  Anyone can make a bowl. It’s the simplest of shapes. Nothing to it!  I want to prospect, dig, crush and mill all my own materials for my pots, in just the same way that I want to grow all my own food. This isn’t a business, it’s a philosophy.

With the assistance of her friend Vicki, The Lovely has picked and juiced most of the apples, except for one tree.


The apple juice from these apples are destined to be made into cider vinegar. Tomatoes are picked every few days and reduced to sauce and vacuum sealed in ‘pop’ top glass jars for use later. The basil has been converted into pesto. The first of the pears are stewed and in the fridge for breakfast and desert fruits. We have had the first picking of the 2015 vendage and some is stored as preserved red grape juice while some of it has been left to ferment with it’s own wild yeast to be drunk as Summer Wine. Slightly spritzig, sweet, weak red wine. It’s something that we came across on road-side stalls in Europe some years ago, when travelling around in their late summer/early autumn and it’s so fantastic and relatively quick and easy to make, compared to real wine. Very refreshing and satisfying on a hot summers day.


We start by picking the low hanging fruit.


Then the higher hanging fruit



We have been supplying quinces and beans to a local restaurant in the last week as well.

Kipfler King has been planting little batches of potatoes as they start to shoot and this latest batch has come from a wire compost ring, behind the mower shed.


They are nearly all small kipflers, we steam them in bigger batches. Too much to eat at one sitting, then we cool the excess and place it in the fridge for a later time. This is not to save time or money. We do it because cold potatoes are better for you. Fresh steamed potatoes are digested straight away and go pretty quickly into your bloodstream. High GI. Once cooled however, the potato starch is converted to what is called ‘resistant’ starch or ‘butyrylated resistant starch’. It isn’t digested in the tummy or small intestine, but passes all the way to the lower intestine where it feeds the endemic gut flora that like to live there. It makes for a very fertile environment for this good gut bacteria. So, resistance is fertile, I read an article about this in New Scientist twenty years or so ago and reprised recently, I have practised it ever since. Having a healthy and fertile environment for the good gut bacteria is an excellent way to ward off colorectal cancer. I also remember reading that cooking the spuds a second time and then cooling them, converts even higher percentages of the starch into the resistant form. Providing lots of fibre where it’s needed. We don’t ever seem to get around to doing this second cooking and cooling. We already have enough to fill our days.  I should change my habits, but I’m resistant.

The humble spud, not un-like revenge, is apparently, a dish best served cold.



Best wishes

from the highly resistant Steve and his Queen of Quince, the Kipfler King