Sunday, 31 May 2009

Chicken and dumplings...

This is where I left the chicken yesterday... cooked in what is now stock,  and didn't take the lid off no matter how much I wanted to see how it looked.... if you take the lid off, you let the bacteria and fungi in,  and you'll get mould and wierd stuff on top.  Resist the temptation and leave the pot until the next day.
Ready to cook the dinner.... and I took the chicken out of the stock.   I used the spaghetti cooking pan, so I lifted it out easily.  Discard the vegetables and such,  and take the chicken meat off the bones...  no elegant way to do this,   just pull the meat off the bones.  If the chicken cooked for an hour or so,  the meat should come away easily.  The other pot shows the stock in which the chicken has cooked.
The chicken meat...  in fact I used only half of the meat and about two thirds of the stock for tonight's dinner.  The rest (meat and stock) will make chicken noodle soup later.  It is in a container in the freezer right now... chicken noodle soup next week!
Back to the chicken and dumplings.  I added some left over vegetables from dinner on Friday night...  there were a few carrots, brussels sprouts, mushrooms and mashed potato.  By the time that it began to boil,  the vegetables mixed in though I added a little bit of flour/water mix to thicken the gravy.  (About 2 tablespoons of flour mixed with a cup full of the stock from the pot.)   Then bring it to the boil and it's all looking like a chickeny soupy stewy thick broth...  a bit more watery than a "stew" is probably better than too thick because you can't stir it once the dumplings are added and you don't want it to stick to the bottom.
Now to the dumplings....   I used two small cups of self raising flour... (equivalent to about one and a half  "proper cups" full of plain flour with about 3 teaspoons of baking powder added.) This can be a bit flexible,  as this is a very forgiving recipe.  Add  a little bit (pinch or two) of salt now.  Rub in about 100 gm of butter until the texture is like bread crumbs (see below) and the only way that I know to do this is by hand...
I added two eggs (because I have chickens and plenty of eggs, though less or even NO eggs would work also.)  Then add some milk.  I had some sour milk (it had been left out of the fridge for too long) and that is just as good as fresh!  The mixture can be made in several different ways,  depending on the amount of liquid added...
1)  lots of milk...  mushy liquid mix like a cake mix.  This is added to the chicken in big spoonfuls.
2) medium (as I did today)  so that each dumpling can be formed with wet hands, rolling the dough in to a soggy ball.... then dropping it into the chicken mix.
3)  You can mix the dough to be like a scone dough that is rolled out and cut with a scone shape or into squares with a knife...   and the "scones" can be dropped onto the top of the chicken mix.
Below is my mushy mix that I could roll between my hands into balls... there were nine dumplings.
These are the dumplings that were made into balls (wet hands)  and dropped into the watery chicken mixture...  just in there,  and not cooked yet.
Lid is on and the dumplings are cooking (below).  Once again,  you can't take the lid off.  That would let the heat out and the dumplings won't cook evenly.  But notice my glass of wine nearby...  time to sit and wait!  It takes about 45 minutes...
And here they are cooked...  they really do increase in size a lot, but remember that you mustn't take the lid off while they cook... you need the steam.
And here are the cooked dumplings with gravy, chicken and bits and pieces on John's plate.  I probably need a food stylist to photograph my dumplings,  but the budget doesn't quite run to that!  They tasted so good though!

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Cold Saturday

This morning I went to the market at Angaston before breakfast. There was a frost (it is only May!) and it hasn't warmed up much since... according to the Roseworthy (nearest) weather observations,  it did get over 16 deg C.... maybe!!!  The market is really great.
Beryl and I went together in her car. (I drove.)  It's about 20 minutes away. 

And so I am doing some preserving... more quinces, and preparing a chicken for dumplings tomorrow. I also bought two big fresh squids, and we will have squid for dinner tonight with some left over for the freezer.  

The orange pot in the picture (below) is the preserving pan, the silver pot contains the chicken and notice that Jess has her usual spot!  I'll add the recipe for chicken with dumplings tomorrow.
Here is the equipment and ingredients for preserving the quinces. 
I have just received this cutting from my "Fowler's Vacola" recipe book (via email from john who has a scanner!)  so that you can see the original instructions.
 Seven jars fit into the big orange pot,  so that is how many I prepare at one time. The lids are completely re-usable, and the rubber rings last for quite a while.  There are metal clips that hold the lids on while they are boiling,  though I take those off once the jars are cool.
Here (below) you can see the jars in the boiling water bath (with clips,)  and the thermometer that took about an hour to get to 200 deg F.  (My vacola thermometer has both Celsius and Fahrenheit degrees,  but my old recipe book (circa 1950) has everything in Fahrenheit, so it's just as well that I'm bilingual.  Sorry about the blurry photograph, but it is a bit over 200 there.
Below are the ingredients for cooking the chicken.  I'll describe it all tomorrow when I make the chicken and dumplings, as it takes two days to make this dish, though not all of it actually doing much!  Right now the cooked chicken is sitting quietly on the kitchen bench until tomorrow.
And here it is.  The chicken is in there, cooked,  but I can't look at it yet.... more tomorrow.

Friday, 29 May 2009


Today is very cold (14 deg C) outside,  but I have weeded a row of coriander that is growing at the back garden. 
The photograph shows the artichokes at the front.  Some of these could well be divided this year,  but I'll leave it until next season and move them further down to where the onions, coriander and broad beans are now.  I'll grow onions and garlic here later.  That will get rid of any pests that fancy my other vegetables!  
If you look carefully,  you can see the rows of seedlings coming up in the background, but before the broad beans and the fig tree (back left, near the old stump.)
These (below) are the onions, thickly sown, from a plant that went to seed last summer. I'll thin them as soon as the thinnings are worth eating.  I weeded these yesterday.  There are always stinging nettles that grow in this area...
Below you can see the part that I've been doing this morning.  The stinging nettles have round cotyledons with one dent in the end, and slightly serrated 3rd and 4th leaves. 
The coriander has long thin cotyledons that have been folded inside the round seed coat.  They will straighten out later, but these are mostly still bent a little bit.  Look at the one on the left lower side of the picture.  Also notice some pulled out nettles lying on the ground!  It is time consuming,  but much easier to pull them out at this stage than when they are bigger.  It also gives the coriander a better "go" without the extra competition.
I have weeded the whole row now.  
The other thing to notice this morning is that the amaranth (below) is going to flower soon, you can see a little red spot in the middle of one of the leafy rosettes.  
Amaranth is the plant that is eaten with white rice in order to increase the amount of vitamin A in the diet.
I will cut some this week before it flowers (and stirfry it with some other green leafy stuff... kai lan, kale and silver beet, some chilli sauce and prawns or tofu.)  Eventually I will let some of it go to seed so that I have some for next year as well.  The seeds are very tiny and are supposed to be hard to germinate though I haven't had any trouble with them.
Deciding on what to have for dinner often depends upon what is growing in the garden.


I mentioned, in passing, the quinces that I had bottled recently.  I think it was last Monday.  
I am reminded of them when I heard a little comment on the radio just a little while ago.  The comment was that anyone born after about 1970 has never even eaten one!  What a pity!
I have a quince tree,  though it is still quite small and hasn't produced much yet.  I found a couple of boxes of them at the swap meet last weekend.  This is the time of the year that they are falling from the trees here, or being picked...  late autumn.
When I was small, we had a quince tree in our back yard. 
In those days,  everyone burned their rubbish in the backyard. We didn't have an incinerator. (Most people had one made of a 44 gallon drum.)  We burned our rubbish on the "rubbish pile" and someone had to stay and watch the fire, poking escaping bits onto the fire and making sure that it didn't actually spread.  I enjoyed that job.  At this time of the year, we would also be burning the fallen leaves from any deciduous trees and any "garden rubbish" in order to get rid of garden pests.  This is no longer allowed unless you live outside the town boundary.  
While I would be watching my fire, I used to pick up quinces from under the tree and "roast" them on a shovel.  The quinces used to turn red and taste wonderful, sweet and aromatic, even without sugar.  In fact, I even like them raw.  The perfumed taste of the roasted quinces is what I remember best.  It is unforgettable.
Here is the remainder of the box of quinces that I bought for $5 last weekend.
They are furry and green until they are ready to eat.  These are all fairly ripe and yellow and shiny now, and most of them have no bruises at all.  They can be funny lumpy shapes,  and keep really well just like this.  
I preserved some of them in syrup.  In the past,  I have been careful to peel them and cut them into more elegant shapes, but having so many,  I chopped them,  skin and all,  and cooked them in the water bath, in their preserving jars.  
We have eaten one jar of them already... to see whether the skin had ruined them or not.  It didn't.  The skin hasn't become tough in the way that apple skin can and that was what I had been worried about.   These are delicious, and I'll never bother to peel them in future.  They have turned a beautiful pinky red colour (below), and I'll process some more this weekend as well.
The syrup was 3lbs of sugar and 3.5 litres of water.  Sorry about the mix of units, but I have an old set of scales with weights in pounds and a new plastic jug that holds 5 litres to mix it all in.
If you find just one quince to try, cut it and stew it gently in syrup until is is soft and pink or red.  It will perfume the whole house as it cooks.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Soup for tea

Tonight we are having soup for tea.  Here it is cooking on the "new" stove with Jess sitting right beside it.
The soup is made from $2.00 worth of bacon bones, a "soup mix" packet from the supermarket (contains dried peas, barley and an assortment of lentils that add up to 500g) and an assortment of vegetables.  I use one big onion, two big potatoes, two swedes (rutabagas) two big carrots, a few pieces of celery and half way through I add some shredded silver beet (swiss chard.)    The whole lot is boiled for several hours.  If you aren't home all day, then you can boil it one evening when you're home, turn it off when you go to bed and reheat it (already cooked) next day... that seems to make it even better.   I sometimes add the remains of a jar of preserved tomatoes if they're already opened... I can imagine adding left over spaghetti sauce or even noodles if they were available.
The amount of water is pretty vague,  but fill the biggest saucepan that  you have (this saucepan is my "spaghetti pot" with the strainer part left out) to within an inch or so of the top... at least 2 to 3 litres...  and stir the whole thing with a wooden spoon every 20 to 30 minutes to make sure that the lentils aren't settling and sticking to the bottom.  Once it gets thicker that seems to be less of an issue,  but at first, just keep an eye on it.  When it is thick and well cooked,  you can take the bacon bones out and pick the bones clean, adding the meat back to the soup.  Jess gets the bones here.  
This is one of the best meals to freeze if you have too much for the meal.  It is an easy way to have an icecream container of soup in the freezer part of the fridge.  Soup doesn't mind how "badly" it is reheated either.  No care required... and another easy meal.

I know that uncooked bones are best for dogs,  but this is less a matter of nutrition than a special treat... bones with a bit of flavour attached.  Jess loves them.  Chocko is lucky to get  a look in!

I don't do formal recipes, but I think I'll start explaining how I make some of our food... after a number of questions about such things....  next will be chicken and dumplings...  and bread.

Dark cold day

Today is cloudy, cold and miserable outside, so I lit a fire so that I could make a pot of soup for dinner.  It's actually hard to get near the stove to cook anything... Jess has found her spot. Notice that it 's still the "modern" stove that I'm using,  I need the bricks and someone to help me move this one first!  

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Winter crops

I am still only picking leafy green vegetables... kale, silver beet,  lettuce and various herbs, but I check the new crops daily.
Here is a baby cabbage,  not ready yet,  but if you were hungry,  it would be perfectly edible...
.. and a new baby cauliflower.  Also very tiny yet,  but it won't be long and I should have about a dozen or more that will happen over a couple of months.  I'll be freezing some in case next summer is as hot as the last.  
There are about a dozen of these too... broccoli... still half grown,  but looking pretty healthy.  I plan to have enough to freeze here too.


We have had another 2mm of rain.
First of all... this is the bottle that is in place to water the baby fig tree next summer.  Look carefully and you'll see the spider that fell in there overnight.  I've put a piece of wood in there now... so that he/she can use it as a ladder to climb out.
These are the broad beans that I planted some time ago.  After all of this rain,   they have grown heaps.  These look fairly healthy and should be our main supply of beans this year.
And here are the few red flowering ones.  I had 12 seeds,  and only six of them germinated.  Not only that but they have formed skinny little plants that are flowering aready.  I think the seed that I saved from last year (the black and white flowering ones above) are much more vigorous.
The flowers are beautiful...  I might save some seeds eventually so that I can see whether they do better from "local seed."    I will alseo keep in mind that I bought the seeds "on special" at a garden show.   It may be that the vendor was getting rid of old seeds.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Late at night

I have been in the studio painting,  but finding it frustrating.  I am determined to find the time and place to make some more paintings though.  I have been otherwise occupied since spending so much time on local government issues, and while that is well worthwhile also,  it is hard to find the time for everything else.
One photo that I didn't put on this blog this afternoon is this first one... it shows the winter grass around the clothes line.  I need to get out and dig it all up before is gets tall, and before it goes to seed.  I don't have a mower,  so I cut it with a dutch hoe and give it to the chickens.  I've done the pathways near the vegetable garden, and this patch is less of an issue,  but has to be done before harvest time.  The wattle tree in the background is just beautiful... perfumed and spectacular... pity about the winter grass.
I have preserved some quinces (below) that I found at the swap meet on Sunday.  The swap meet was in Kapunda,  mostly car parts, tools and a lot of junque,  but then there were these quinces.  I bought a whole carton for $5 and this is not even half of them.  My quince tree is still small so I look for such fruits where I can.  These are preserved in a light (about 3 pounds of sugar to 3.5 litres of water)  syrup, and are one of our favourites.  The fruit is yellow skinned and pale yellow on the inside,  but turns pink and aromatic (like perfume) once processed in the vacola thing.  When I process other fruits, I add cardamom, cinnamon or cloves (depending on the fruit) but with quinces... nothing... they are magnificent without anything.  The best thing is that they are quite unpopular here and so always very inexpensive.  
It is after 10 o'clock at night... past my bedtime....
My clock (above) is a papier mache representation of Ediacara fossils from the Flinders Ranges (SA) made by a local artist.  My kitchen clock!  And it is 15 minutes later that that now!!!!

After the council committee meeting

Today I spent the morning weeding the garden.  We had had 10mm of rain overnight and it was perfect for getting winter weeds out of the vegetable patch.  There is winter grass all over the rest of the yard,  but more of that later.
On the way home from Freeling,  the clouds were beautiful.
There are lambs everywhere and paddocks seeded or ready to go.  When I get to drive around our council district for one reason or another,  I often think about the people who pay to come and do just that.
Home again and the sun was getting low.  Beautiful clouds though.
This (below) is the garden that I weeded today.  In the from are cabbages and cauliflowers, then silver beet, leeks, more cauliflower and cabbages that are further down the track.  Then broccoli, beets and kale, and if you look carefully,  you can see the red flowering broad beans that I have mentioned previously.  It might not look like much, but the chickens loved the weeds and it looks so much better.  The earth worms are all over the place too.  I had been worried about them after such a hot summer, and I hadn't put enough mulch on that patch to keep it cool...  but they are back and they are the best indication that the soil is doing ok.  When you're gardening you need to think about keeping the soil "alive" and that's why you can't use a lot of chemicals, including glyphosate, despite what Monsanto says.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

My old stove is home again!

First of all, here is the cauliflower plant that had the aphids on it.  I made some soapy water and washed them off with it.  There are none there now,  but I'll keep an eye on this one.  I did a couple of other plants at the same time, and I'll be checking them also.
Last night we had 2mm of rain overnight, but none since.  The sun is shining right now,  though we were promised some more rain.  I won't hold my breath.
Here is my old stove that has been repaired and cleaned up.  Notice the brand new stainless steel bolts instead of the old steel ones.  It looks like a new stove.
This part is really new.  The oven is now made of stainless steel instead of the thin sheet stuff that had rusted through.  There are also two new stainless steel oven trays, and more shiny stainless screws.
This is the back of the stove (below.)  It looks quite new and shiny, but once it is installed,  no one will ever see it again... this part anyway.  
I now need to find some old clay fired bricks to build the base for it to sit on.  (I had had to get it jack-hammered out to fit the modern stove in.)  I am really looking forward to having my good stove back in its place.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Cloudy morning.

It feels warm and damp outside.  The washing will dry but it looks as though it could rain again tonight or tomorrow.  We've had a little bit of rain this month, but no decent falls since the middle of April.  Looking at the winter grass sprouting in the pathways though, its enough to grow the weeds!  
I have finally planted the fig tree.  One of the chickens died, and so she is buried under the tree, and quite near to the chook's house...  behind the tree is the patch where onions and coriander is planted (broad beans on the left too) then the potato ditch and the artichokes and the chickens.  I hope the buried chicken produces nice figs.

The tree  is planted with a plastic bottle buried upside down beside it also so that it will be easier to water next summer...  it will get the water down into the soil while the tree is young. It's better to use aggie pipe that has holes all along it,  but I haven't any here at the moment, and the coke bottle was the next best thing.   There is a moat around the little tree too, ready for hand watering next summer. 

I saw some aphids on two plants today too.  This is a cauliflower plant (below.) There is a cabbage plant (nowhere near this one) that has some on it also.  I don't usually get many aphids,  but at this time of year there are less predators around.  I'll wash these off with some soapy water today.  I use velvet soap because I can't get the "Safer" brand, potassium based solution here.

Friday, 22 May 2009


I have just returned from the shop with a few groceries that we needed.  This is my usual shopping bag... from Hart's Fabric Store in Santa Cruz.  South Australia now has no disposable shopping bags as well as a 10c deposit on drink containers.  As long as you remember to take a shopping bag,  it's all ok.  There was a time years ago when bringing a shopping bag was essential, and it is coming back....  back to the future?  ...or on to the past?
For those who noticed, Fiona's painting is in the wall (rhs) behind the shopping.

The tank plan is happening slowly.  There are two 9000l tanks by the back fence now.  The one with the downpipes running into it has overflowed.  The next one is about to be hooked onto it. What's more,  if it overflows also,  there is enough space to put a third one "in front of" this new one... it would hide the back one in this photo.  Once these are both full,  that will make 27,000l total,  but I think I will need the fourth tank eventually.  Seeing a tank full of water and how quickly you can use it makes you much more aware of water conservation issues than when you can turnon a tap to gain access water from the Murray Darling system.
These tanks are high enough that I can gravity feed them into the "house tank" that will be plumbed into the house, though I also have a pump for the purpose.  I am not sure that electricity will always be as reliable as it is now, so I plan to have alternative options.  As soon as the house tank is plumbed into the house (via an electric pump) we will be dependent upon electricity even for water.  For that reason I am leaving the little green tank on the tankstand beside the house connected to the kitchen "special water" tap.  This is the third tap at the kitchen sink that has supplied rainwater for drinking and cooking...  in much of South Australia people don't drink the water that comes through the pipes.  It's ok for washing, showering and flushing the toilet,  but most people don't drink it.
A wierd thing that I saw today is this flower bud.  It's a broad bean plant that produces red flowers.  I planted a total of 12 seeds of this kind.  Only 6 have germinated.  Those have grown well,  but are flowering very early.  My usual broad beans (that have black and white flowers) don't flower until at least after the days begin to get longer.  There'll be no actual broad beans until the spring (at the same time as the artichokes) though the flowers should start earlier.  It needs to be above a certain temperature to actually set the beans.  These buds are a beautiful colour.  I don't know whether the different behaviour is due to the different "red breed" or whether it is because the seeds weren't grown here.  I bought them.  I'll be saving seeds from these to see what they do next year.