We are just back from Canberra, it’s late afternoon and it’s straight into the garden to see what there is to pick. We’ve been away for 5 days. It has been raining a lot of the time we have been away. The rain gauge has 32 mm in it and there are puddles on the road coming in. It’s the end of the warm weather now and I manage to pick a full basket full of small red and yellow tomatoes. This will be the last picking large enough to fill a boiler and make tomato passata. From now on we will only be able to get a few each day, enough for one meal at a time.
There is a sudden outbreak of normality, and we find ourselves back at work and play simultaneously.
Nina lights the wood stove to make some hot water and I start to wash and prepare the tomatoes for sauce. There is still some sweet basil lingering on in the garden. I have been keeping it well tip pruned to keep it from flowering. this seems to prolong its productive life right up until it gets so cold that it just drops all its leaves and dies. A huge bunch of sweet basil goes in with a bit of thyme and a chilli, olive oil and onions. In a few months time we will be opening these jars of passata and remembering the summer as we savour the sweet, acid, piquant flavour of the tomatoes in the passata. Each 10 litre boiler reduces down to about 3 or 4 jars of passata after boiling, sieving through the moulii and re-heating and reducing the volume to concentrate the flavours.
We have to get cracking, we have a kiln ordered and several weekend woodfiring workshops coming up. We unpack the kiln that we fired before we left and get out all our new hand made kiln door bricks, which have fired very well. As the whole side of this kiln is the door, it makes it all a lot easier on my back, knees and neck, to be able to pack most of the pots without having to get inside the kiln, now that I’m starting to feel my age.
I clean out the firebox and check all the new brickwork and bracing for cracks and then clean all the props and shelves, ready for the re-packing for the workshop.
All our wood firing enthusiasts arrive and we pack the kiln and get it on in the early afternoon. With lots of helpers rolling out the little balls of wadding, it all goes smoothly and quickly.
We light up and fire the kiln over-night and into Sunday. There seems to be a ritual developing of cooking marshmallows over the hot firebox on Sunday morning to cap off breakfast. I don’t know where it started, but it seems to be becoming a regular event.
On the Monday, as the kiln cools, I start welding up the metal work for the kiln that I have ordered, now that I have the pottery kiln shed to myself again.
In the evening I start to make a big batch of roasted marrowbone stock. I fill 2 of our 10 litre boilers with the roasted bones and a mirepoix of garden vegetables and herbs. Over the next two evenings,
I end up reducing the 20 litres of initial stock down to just 500 mls of luscious concentrated jelly. The addition of a bottle of red wine helps fill out the flavours. It goes into the fridge and I take a spoonful of it when I need it instead of buying stock cubes.
Firm, jelly-like consistency, intense flavour.
One night we have a dinner of pan fried capsicums with garlic, olive oil, tomato and basil. The next night it is a lot cooler, so the Mademoiselle makes the first minestrone of the season, using our kohlrabi, cabbage and leeks from the garden and our dried beens that we shelled a few nights earlier, with our friend Elizabeth, sitting on the lounge watching the idiot box.
Carrots, celery, leeks. A great base for the minestrone and also for the stock mirepoix.
I use the other half of the cabbage to make a kiln builders lunch of okonomiyaki, Japanese style cabbage pan cakes. But on this occasion, without any flour, just held together with a few local organic eggs that we got from our friend Marg, who runs a certified organic garden. I add some saffron milk-cap mushroom from the garden. The first of the season for these mushrooms. I also add some of our pickled ginger and a few of our sun-dried tomatoes in oil. It’s not Kosher Japanese. Just the idea and influence of Japan. We use what we have at hand from the garden and our preserves from the pantry. It reminds us of our Japanese friends and the good times we’ve had together..
from the Oka Nomiyaki and his Mini Strone