Saturday, August 26, 2006

A Spoonful of Offal Helps the Medicine Go Down

This is a picture of a dessert spoon and half a pet-antibiotic-tablet. When we got Kittykate to the vet on Friday afternoon, she weighed in at 8kg. Not only is this double the weight of the average adult cat but I had just boasted to the vet that I had been very careful with her food and I thought she had lost a bit of weight! She was up 0.2kg since her last visit in February. This meant that she had to be given DOG tablets!!! The vet said half a tablet, twice a day and don't worry it's really easy. She made me hold Kitty's front paws and then whipped back her head and in the wink of an eye had popped one of these monsters down her throat. Just keep her paws down and her head back, she said. Oh yes.

The next morning , I explained the routine to Robert. He elected to do the front-paw-holding I got the mega tablet ready. I got scratched, Kitty spat out the tablet and Robert said "It's not going to be easy is it?"

Oh yes it is!

Kitty is such a "little" glutton that she doesn't mind the little pink sprinkles on her chopped liver. Here she is wolfing it down and we are now half way through the course.

We had a lovely trip to Ballarat today, on the train. We visited the upstairs of the Fine Art Gallery, having done the downstairs previously (OK, so we love culture in small and memorable doses). The Gallery has a delightful cafe and Robert returns in the hopes that they will repeat a risotto favourite that he had the first time we went. It was a savoury one with mushrooms, pumpkin and chorizo. The next time, there were no risottos on the specials board so we both had lamb's fry, greens, potato rosti and onion gravy. It is always lovely to have someone else cook your offal so that it comes to the table finished. The lambs's liver was perfection. A slight crust on the outside and still just pink but not bloody inside.

It came to mind because that is what the cat is eating and loving...lamb's liver. This time we both had fresh salmon, broad beans, lemon, fennel and herb risotto and it was a delightful combination of flavours.

There was an offal dish on the menu but I'm not so brave with sweetbreads and brains, even though this is obviously a chef who is brave and clever with offal. The Cafe adjoins the Art Gallery but can also be accessed from Federation Square. It is called Cafe Companis and info about it can be found here.

I have an order for a tea-cozy from a friend who drinks tea from teapots with others who do the same. I use the daffodil stitch pattern because it can be so easily adjusted, height and width ways. The trouble is the order is for a tea-cozy which is not as big as that but not as small as this, in a sort of maroony red colour. The pattern looks best in 4ply but most 4ply in the shops is baby-wool-colours. Not "maroony-red". I might have to do some dyeing again.

Cheers to all Gillian

Friday, August 25, 2006

Roasting Chicken in a Wood-Fired Oven

One of the things I wanted really badly when we bought this 1930s weatherboard in Bacchus Marsh, was to have a woodstove/oven in the chimney in the kitchen. I managed to get a Nectre Baker's Oven and you can see it roasting a chicken for tea. The wood is burning in the top half and the chicken is roasting away in the bottom half.
There is absolutely no control that I have worked out yet. There are three heats. Hot, very hot and hell!
Kittykate has been to the Vet because of a wound on her tail which has not healed. $55.50 later we are at home with 5 tablets!
One of the things that happened way back on my birthday in May was that Robert bought me a wok, which has been great but he knew I really wanted a new OVEN GLOVE THING. So he got me the best! And then I went and got a roasting pan and now I want more of this stuff

The chicken was roasting in the smallest of the pans, with a rack inside. It was great. I must admit though, that the wood oven is small and I did the oven chips in the electric oven on one of those pizza pans with holes in the bottom. There is another oven shelf to insert in the wood oven but it's all a tight fit. You could survive quite well with it as a cooking medium, but you'd need to do a lot of planning.
More Scanpans for me as soon as I can afford them.
Cheers Gillian

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Strange Strawberry Jam on the Left

All of a sudden the price of strawberries fell from about $3.00 a 250gm punnett to $1.49 a punnett . This cheap bonanza was at the gloriously named fruit stall on The Avenue, on the way into Bacchus Marsh...."The Fruits of Life".
I went to inspect them and found them to be small, hard and red and, therefore, ideal for jam making. So I bought a couple of kilos. Or more.

My market stall is a bit short of jam at the moment. I have the last of the berry concoctions and I have made some "Dried Apricot" jam but I am about two months off the spring fruits and jelly fruits. I make lemon curd/butter just before each market and it "walks" off the table before lunchtime. But I needed some jars of fresh red jam.

Anyway....this week, Aldi, the price-busting supermarket, had large, soft, red ones for 99cents a 250 gm carton, and so I bought another three kilos. Well, actually Robert has got to the stage of coming back from the fruit stalls and Aldis with a few kilos here and there, so WE bought three kilos. Luckily strawberries can be prepared and frozen so I have been laying them to rest in the freezer.

I then checked my recipes and cooked up a few jars of "Whole Strawberry Jam". Then as I was surfing through a few more varieties , I came across "Strawberry, Balsamic and Black Pepper Jam" . Well I have now made 6x250 ml jars. I love it myself, and Robert, who is not a jam eater, loves it, and I shall take a couple of jars into Melbourne tomorrow where I am assisting in the preparation of the morning tea for a colleague who is retiring.
The picture above shows "Whole Strawberry Jam" on the right and the wonderful "Strawberry, Balsamic and Black Pepper Jam" on the left. Thankyou Mellie for the recipe.

You will notice that I have been able to fix up my links bar a bit, thanks to Sue who only lives about 18Km away and "popped" by today to help me. She and Isabelle were able to show me how to load all that stuff and if you all give me another week and I might be able to add more fancy bits.

Fatkitty is not as big as she seems. We just have a small TV. Well fairly small or perhaps medum sized!
Fortunately she is not big enough to affect the weather. It still looks fairly ordinary around the state

Cheers to all, Gillian

Monday, August 21, 2006

Adding A Few Things

I've been at this blogging business for quite a few months now and I've got into a comfortable rut. I cook, I knit, I blog and I love reading other blogs and joining in with their events and their knitting and other things they want to talk about.
I was always a diary keeper and a pen-friend-letter writer. This is all just so much more direct and selective and I love it.
BUT I must now get real and admit that I need help to enhance my site. People have previously offered wonderful help but I haven't been able to follow the steps easily enough.
Please help me do a few things.
1) please can you let me know how to list all my favourite sites on my sidebar?
2) please can you let me know AGAIN how to put things like the time and weather on the sidebar.
There's lots more I want to know but I can't do it all at once!
If anyone is passing through Bacchus Marsh in the next couple of weeks and wants marmalade, please let me know because I have been cooking up a storm with the Sevilles and also the limes and lemons from the garden with the Cointreau.
Cheers Gillian

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Marmalade and More

There is a very short season for Seville Oranges in Oz and so when I spotted them at one of the local farm produce shops, I knew it was time to make some more marmalade. I'm down to half a dozen jars from last year's marathon effort so will attempt to make only about 40 jars this year.
I shall make quite a large batch of plain stuff and then a couple of smaller batches with added extras. Last time I came through Duty Free on the way back from England, Cointreau was on special and I got two 1.25 litre bottles for Aus$4o. So it's Cointreau in everything for a while!Here is Robert's hand stirring the peel which has to soften to "squishy " and then rest for 24 hours. The sugar gets added and boiled up tomorrow. The produce shop across the Avenue from the other one had Strawberries on special and they were lovely small ones. Small strawberries are so much better for jam making because you can leave them whole. So many strawberries these days are gigantic and white in the middle and so unsuitable for jam. They were selling at Aus$6 a kilo which is lovely and cheap for winter. Of course they have come down from Queensland because such fruit is not growing in Victoria yet.
I do try to use local and particularly, garden produce in order to reduce the food-miles as much as possible but at least Queensland is in the same country. The asparagus in the supermarket at the moment is from Peru!
I'll stick with the broccoli, celery and silverbeet from the garden till the local asparagus hits the markets in just a month or two.
I'm also expecting to wake up any day soon and find that the Loquats on the tree in the garden are turning yellow. Then it is a race with the birds, particularly the Rosellas to harvest them to make Loquat Jelly. The tree is very high so they get all the stuff I can't comfortably reach anyway.

Kittykate has suffered a wound to her tail, probably from Bob, the cat from next door. She is a bit of a sook and is resting up indoors, on my armchair and sharing my morning coffee with me. I think she will probably sleep with short breaks for morsels of tasty food, until it heals. At this stage it is less traumatic for her (and me!) to be spoiled at home rather than carted off to the vet in the carrybasket, which she detests.
In between the cooking and cat-nursing I have knitted one more washcloth. It will need a touch of embroidery to enhance it's features but you can see already that it is indeed an angel from here

A couple more batches of pickled onions have also been bottled so that the supply should see us through the year and provide lots of gifts for happy pickled onion lovers at xmas.

I'm off outside now to plant some sugar snap peas along the back fence. There are plenty of snow peas coming up around the archway already and then the bush beans can go in next.

Cheers to all, Gillian

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Keep It Local

We managed to save enough pavers for Kevin (the gardener) to lay a path with Lilydale Toppings (sharp gravel) between the slabs. I wanted it to look like stepping stones on a gravel bed and he did really well
I have been busy this week with the market and we came home from that to make some more pickled onions. People are coming back for more!
It's about time to make some seville orange marmalade too. The oranges are only available once a year. I'm on the trail of some cumquats too. Just to keep my hand in I have been adding to my "cloth" stash. I have given some away as gifts, sold a few and also tried a few new patterns.
It's really lovely to complete something so quickly. I've been using Paton's Stonewash cotton bought as a bargain on ebay and some Bendigo-back-room 8 ply. They are unmercerised so they are wonderfully absorbent, can be machine washed and are relaxing to knit.
The one on the left is a simple "basket case!" inside three rows of garter stitch all round. I used two strands of 8 ply cotton and used 4.5mm needles, mainly because I have some new anodised ones that size and I love anodised needles and I always knit one more row than the number of pattern stitches. eg If I knit 5 stitches plain then 5 stitches purl all the way across, I knit it for 6 rows before I change round because it makes it nice and square.

Yes, I think that is why it suits me, nice and square.

The second one from the left is a lovely new pattern I found called Bubble Wrap
Because I was using two strands of blue and white, I only used one white strand for the bubble and then picked up the two strands at the end of each one. With the bubbles in white and the background in the two-colours they stand out really well.

The third from the left is a simple fan and feather design and the last one is a really cute sheep pattern, done in bobbles, which I might do a bit of embroidery on to bring out the shape of the sheep. It is from the same site as the bubble wrap

It's a bit SAD to find so much satisfaction in completing a cloth, but it is at least a completion and relieves the guilt feelings about the cardi and uses up some stash. And I was thinking I might get some dolly pegs and hang them all from a line like the picture in "The Knitters Stash"
Must admit I haven't come across any LINEN yarns or even blends and would love to know if there are any available locally.

I think that my efforts to reduce food-miles by cooking up all the produce in our garden and neighbourhood should reach across to yarn-miles. I'm lucky to live where so much is available so close to home.

Cheers for now Gillian

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

No. I didn't make it!

This wonderful concoction came from the local bakery. It seemed so long since we had all had a full scale pavlova that we thoroughly enjoyed it and it was so huge that I was able to send portions home to those who missed out. We lit the eight candles for the eighth of the eighth (Robert's birthday) and all blew them out so that we could share all our germs! It was so delicious and light that many of us had seconds. I'm sure you are all very happy for us. We keep filling up the garden with new plants. The motto is "More plants less weeds"
These three pots of ferns came from Gibbons, which is a wholesale fernery near us and which seems to supply quite a large area. It was lovely wandering around the shed (about 1/4 acre) choosing from the enormous variety.

It's market tomorrow so I have just loaded the ute with the tubs of jams etc and boxes of knitting. Robert does the tables, chairs and stands for me.

We are supposed to be there from 9am till 5pm but I always get a bit bored at about 3.30 and start to pack up to come home. I think it might be the result of years of finishing at the end of the school day!

Chhers for now Gillian

Sunday, August 06, 2006


I had to trim the lime tree because I could see those nasty swollen bits that the Gall Wasp leaves behind, when it buries next years eggs. So I had a few limes.
I made something I will call "Blueberry, rhubarb and lime jam with vanilla and juniper"
It's a long name to write on every label so if you have a better suggestion I would be thrilled to hear about it.
Cheers Gillian

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Bits and Pieces

This is what the footpath used to look like. As you can see there are a thousand cases of possible litigation resulting from a "sprained ankle" and "broken wrist" to frighten the local council into fixing things up!
The last picture was the other side of the road which will get fixed up next and this picture is our side.
A very neat job done by lovely blokes. I did rather prefer the not very neat job which was left from 50 years ago and also done by very nice blokes.

I got sick of knitting the garter stitch pattern for Jet No. 1 Cardi, so I finished the green vest that I had worries about earlier. I threw caution to the wind and used graph paper and no designated pattern.
It was basket stitch, which I love because it grows quickly and I just trusted myself to knit it to the right size with measurements against an already fitting vest.
This is 8 ply/double knitting, with the main body on 6mm and the ribs on 5mm. I cast on 100 stitches and it fits without making me look like a sack of potatoes, and I'm a big oz, size 16Back to the "jet" cardi now, or a bit of the sampler scarf or even the cushion cover from way back. Oh bugger it! think I'll start a new wash cloth.
Cheers Gillian,
ps yesterday's garage sale at a local old grand house, netted a lovely bronze bird and a J.Hassall print in a very old frame.
When did Australia move from letters and numbers to just numbers as a phone number?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Pavers and Marmalade

We probably have a few too many pavers now!. The bobcat brought another twenty from the other end of the road, first thing this morning. Robert had to be down there at 7.30 to load them onto the scoop. Kevin, who does difficult and heavy things in the garden, will come round and lay them properly next week.
They have started pouring concrete already. The strange thing is they are only doing our side. They said a team of outside contractors will come and do the other side later.

I have another batch of the chutney simmering and so here is the marmalade recipe as promised. I can keyboard it in between stirring.
I use Seville oranges which are a bitter orange which can't be eaten raw. Beverley in NZ has grapefruit to use up. These could be what we call ugli in OZ. They are orange coloured and bitter like a grapefruit. They should make really good marmalade too. I use the recipe from Stephanie Alexander's book called The Cook's Companion. I have had great succes with all the recipes I have used from this book except for the marmalade one, but I persevered and by reducing the water from 1.8 litres to 0.8 litres I seem to have it licked.
Here goes...

Seville oranges or other bitter citrus fruit
*Thinly slice the fruit having removed the pips and central white membrane. These can be tied up in a muslin bag and boiled with the fruit, then they get squeezed out and thrown away. The pectin in the pips helps the stuff to set.
*For every 500gm of prepared fruit add 0.8 litres of water and 1/4 tsp of salt. Simmer until the peel is really soft and squishy...about half an hour. Leave it in a glass or ceramic bowl until the next day.
*Measure it with a measuring cup into a preserving pan or kettle. Bring it to the boil and for every cup of it, add 1 cup of sugar. Cook at a gentle boil for about 30 minutes and then start testing for setting point.
*It should set if the temperature is 105 Celsius, or if it forms a skin when a spoonful is chilled on a saucer in the fridge or both. Bottle it in jars you have heated to 18o Celsius in the oven for twenty minutes and then leave it alone until it is quite cool.

I have ruined a few by turning them upside down to see if they are setting while they are still warm and I have learned since that this destroys the set. You can reboil runny marmalade to reset it but it will go dark. Oh the lessons I have learned the hard way. I have even resorted to phoning my mum in England for help and advice on non setting preserves.

I hope this works for anyone who tries it. I add things to some of my marmalades like whisky and cointreau and use some rich brown sugar as part of the sugar component and sometimes I do fine shreds and other times chunky and it seems to work well with any bit of fiddling about now that I have it down pat. Good luck with yours.
Cheers Gillian