Chillies

Even though we are just two weeks away from winter, we are still managing to harvest a small bowl of little ripe tomatoes every few days. There are loads of chillies too. The chickens are still laying an egg each, almost every day, so we decide to have tomatoes and eggs on toast – with some chilli.

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Tomatoes with chilli simmered in a little olive oil has to be the best accompaniment for fried eggs. It’s so aromatic and tangy. It has to be one of my favourite winter breakfasts, and the pan juices are just crying out to be mopped up with some nice bread.

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Chilli seems to make so many dishes sing. We grow a range of chillies and capsicums each spring, but they are quite slow to grow for us and don’t decide to fully ripen the whole crop until autumn. I decide to look them up in my favourite plant book, “The Oxford Book Of Food Plants”. We were given our copy as a gift from the late John Meredith in The seventies and it has been an invaluable guide to information on the origins of food plants. I google this book and find that it is still available 2nd hand;

Oxford Book of Food Plants by S. G. Harrison (1970, Hardcover)

Pre-owned: lowest price

 $5.04
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With an authoritative name like S. Harrison, it would have to be a good read!

Pages 128/129 are all about peppers and chillies, including black pepper.

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Capsicums or sweet peppers (Capsicum Annum) are described as an annual plant grown from seed and originated in tropical America. This spices includes all the larger fruited kinds and are often picked while still green. These ‘peppers’ vary greatly in their pungency. In General, the larger the variety, the milder the flavour. In some parts of Europe, these fruits are called ‘Paprika’, while in Spain they are called ‘pimento’. The fruits  can be very high in vitamin ‘C’. Although often quite round in shape like the ‘bell’ pepper, they can be long and pointed. I don’t know what they are called in Korea, but there were huge quantities in the street markets, sold by the sack full. I believe that they were the hot variety of the annum family. They were quite large, long, tapered and pointed, and ripened to a very dark mahogany red colour.

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On the other hand, ‘Red pepper’ or ‘Chilli’ (Capsicum Frutescens) is a perennial plant or can be in the tropics, but the frost kills it here. It has less vitamin ‘C’ than capsicums. Pungency is described as being variable, but in general, it is much greater than in the capsicums. There are two main forms. The short spiky variety where the fruit often stick upwards. Sometimes called ‘birds eye’. These a smaller and smooth skinned.

The other main variety is longer and narrow with undulating skin and the fruit hang down. S Harrison in The Oxford Book Of Food Plants describes the longer gravitationally influenced variety as ‘red peppers’ while the short spiky gravitationally resistant variety he calls ‘chillies’. We grow them both and call them both chillies – long or short.

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I like the flavour of chillies , but I’m not any kind of masochist, just hot is hot enough. once I break out in a sweat, that’s hot enough. Two of our small hot chillies is about my comfort level in a meal.

Last night we had steamed capsicums stuffed with both red and green chillies, along with brown rice and some other condiments! Keeping it all the family!

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One Minute in My Life

At breakfast I finish my coffee and see the shadow of my fingers through the porcelain bowl that I’m drinking from.

I’m moved to capture the fleeting moment on my phone.

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I realise that it is a bit of a multicultural moment. I’m drinking Italian style coffee grown in New Guinea in the French style with milk at breakfast from a bowl made by and Englishman living in Australia, thrown and fired while in China. The table is made from Japanese cedar, grown in Australia.

At least the organic full cream milk was produced locally in Picton from our local dairy, but the cows are Friesian and Jersey.

 

Stihl Crazy After all These Years

As we have been whittling our way through this epic journey of felling, cutting, splitting and stacking all the wood from the 5 huge, dead, eucalyptus trees in and around our 7 acres. We experience a curious sense of exhausted comfort in working our way through the last tree. Tomorrow should see the end of it.

We couldn’t have done this so quickly without the help of friends and students to do some of the carrying and stacking. We worked quite hard today in the light showery sprinkles of rain to get half-way through the last tree. It’s hard to say exactly how much wood we have processed and stacked to season in the last 3 weeks of part-time labour, but I imagine that it must be somewhere approaching 20 tonnes. I’ve gone through almost 8 litres of bar and chain oil and the same of two-stroke mix in maintaining the saws. Chain saws are such a great invention. They make so much work possible. I couldn’t have done all this without them.

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Of course we were aided at every moment by the chickens. They know the sound of the chain saw and the splitter, and as they are free ranging all day, every day. They know where we are and what we are doing from the sounds that we make. It only takes minutes for them to turn up. Freshly split wood means fresh bugs and termites.

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After all this work, we reward our selves with a high carb, but low GI meal of solid wholemeal pasta topped with a home-made tomato passata sauce and a side dish of lightly steamed broccoli from the garden. All this without the addition of oil, salt or sugar. Not to mention, there are no preservatives, pesticides, or fertilisers used along the way. This is wholesome, fresh, homemade, nutritious food. Simple and plain, but not boring. A green garnish of fresh-picked basil and parsley completes the meal.

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Our little small holding here produces fuel for our stove and kilns, but also fuel for our bodies. Real work with a defined and obvious purpose, that leads to a positive and creative outcome along with home-grown and home made whole foods, these are all part of a well-considered complete life. I’m not sure if all this is working, but we are certainly having a good go at it.

Autumn has finally arrived

The weather is finally taking the calendar seriously. We have had our first seriously cold evening of the year. We even lit the fire, and although it was nice, it wasn’t really necessary and we hardly stoked it as we weren’t that cold, but it was a nice thing to do, quite comforting. It seems that summer has lasted 7 months now. I’m sort of pleased that we can now have some cooler weather.

I have been finishing off half a dozen little wood fired kilns, but have been held up waiting for some parts. So in the mean time, we have continued our wood cutting epic effort. We have almost finished cutting up, removing and stacking all the timber from the dead trees that we had taken down by the arborist. It’s been a mammoth job and will provide us with wood fuel for some years to come.

Having burnt off so much energy during the day, we feel that we can afford the calories and have pizza for dinner. I make up some rye flour dough during the afternoon and it is risen and proved by evening. I roll you a couple of thin bases and we use what we have in the fridge as toppings.

   

I start with a very basic wash of tomato passata sauce and then a sprinkling of finely chopped garlic. We build up the pizza with a few olives, capers and sliced artichoke hearts, topped with some cheese.

10 mins in a very hot oven does the trick.

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We make another one with sour cream, smoked salmon and red onion.

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We have a couple of slices from each one and put the rest in the fridge for lunch tomorrow. Home-made comfort junk-food is very nice once in a while.

Lucie Thorne House Concert

We held another of our house concerts again on Saturday night. This time with Lucie Thorne. We have a couple of attempts to get her here in the past year, and this time all the stars were in alignment.

It was a very enjoyable afternoon/evening/night. Lucie is a very talented singer songwriter. We have all of her CD’s and enjoy listening to them a lot. So it is really nice to be able to have her here in our house for a few hours.

We particularly enjoyed our private performance when Lucie did her sound check.

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and everybody else enjoyed the full performance, later that night.

Lucie has developed her own individual style, a soft breathy vocal style and such a gentle lyrical guitar sound that she has developed from her hollow body electric guitar, but turned down to the lowest possible level, so that the sound just gently washes over you with a soft reverb effect. She doesn’t really strum the strings, but emotes through her fingers in keeping with the vocal line of the songs. It so individual and idiosyncratic. She is a totally engaging performer.  The music critic from the age described her music as “some of the most simple and beautiful songs you will hear” The Age.

We consider ourselves so lucky to be able to host her here in our house.

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We have already invited her to come back again next year.

Check out her links below for more information on Lucie and her music.

http://www.facebook.com/lucie.thorne

http://www.luciethorne.com

These hot days

We have been enjoying, or perhaps suffering, a few hot days this week.

The mercury hit 44oC on the back verandah yesterday. Far too hot to try and very much that was physical out side or even in the kiln shed. I stayed inside after watering the vegetable garden in the morning. I read a book instead. It was really the only sensible thing do.We had watered everything the night before as well, but as the heat set in and built up, the plants wilted and lay down. By the afternoon the sweet corn was frazzled and its leaves white and papery dry. I hope that it survives!

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It was so hot that even the candles suffered erectile disfunction!

Boxing Day Domestic Meditations

Before we head off to have out Xmas lunch, we are up early to harvest the summer largesse from the garden and orchards. We have been picking a few nice red tomatoes each day since mid December. Our earliest crop ever. Due largely to the fact that I started them off under an improvised cloche in September before we went overseas. This beat the frosts and kept them warm to get them started off earlier in the year. It’s the first time that I have attempted this and it has worked very well.

Now we can harvest a basket full of tomatoes each week. So we have been making small amounts of Tomato passata since the week before Xmas. This morning I put on a Jan Garbarek CD and settle in for an hour to shell a big bowl full of beans the have got away and are not as nice as they could have been if I’d got to them earlier. I have been picking, blanching and freezing them each week to keep up. There are some big scarlet runners, some lumpy french climbers and smaller bush beans. I need to harvest them every couple of days to keep them flowering. Today I decide to shell the larger ones and cook them down into a dish of beans in Tomato sauce.

  

Janine has been chopping and mashing the bigger ripe tomatoes in a large copper boiler to render them down for more passata. This is pretty simple to make. We just cut up the tomatoes, Place them in the pot and mash them with a potato masher and let them boil down in their own juice. After they cool, we will put them through the kitchen sieve to remove the seeds and skins, before re-heating to concentrate the flavour and them vacuum bottle them for later in the year.

 

 

I steal a ladle full of her tomato sauce and add it to the beans in a small pot and add a tiny knob of our home-grown garlic and one of our dried chilis. I set it one small burner to slowly simmer and get stuck into slicing all the small tomatoes in half for drying. It’s a cool morning, so it’s OK to have the stove on.

We are all done by 10.00 am.