Friday, August 8, 2014

Delicious Dulce de Leche

 Faithful Esse warms our home all winter long. She is insatiably hungry and needs to be fed daily. She is wonderfully versatile and if we employ her to her full potential, she is perfect for preparing dishes that require long simmering or slow roasting.

Surplus milk plus warm hearted Esse were the catalysts that sparked the idea for a new Rosewood Country Kitchen product... Dulce de Leche.

The recipe is simple: Litres and litres of creamy jersey milk, heaps of sugar, vanilla pods, a couple of pinches of this and that ... and hours and hours of bubbling and stirring until we have our first batch of jars filled with dreamy caramelised milk.

Perfect for topping cakes, filling swiss rolls, topping cupcakes, topping desserts and ice-cream and, best of all, decadently eating off a teaspoon.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

USE IT - DON'T LOSE IT: Vin d'Orange

I kept some oranges aside from the lovely gift of oranges that I used for marmalade, for further experimentation. I wanted to see how many interesting things I could do with the seville oranges. I used a few of them in a delicious autumn soup of mixed root vegetables, pumpkin and chorizo, and then I found a promising recipe in the book Salt Sugar Smoke, Colette's Vin d'Orange.

Weigh out 500g oranges. 

Chop them roughly.

Place them in a large, sterilised jar. Pour over a bottle of white wine. Stand the jar in a cool dark place for 2 weeks.

Strain the liquid, add sugar to taste and 1/3 cup of brandy. Pour into a pretty glass bottle and see how long you can keep it before you taste it.

If you are anything like me, you will drink it before you have a chance to photograph it. It is that delicious.

A Late Winter Morning

It's early Sunday morning. Kariba, my red-brown Rhodesian Ridgeback stirs in her bed. The moment she sees me open my eyes she begins to whine quietly, asking to go outside.
"Do you want to go outside? I ask her.
Immediately she sits up smartly in her bed and wags her tail, her eyes never leaving mine. I throw back the puffy bedcovers and swing my sock-clad feet onto the wooden floor, trying not to creak the old floorboards as I put on my slippers and dressing gown and head towards the kitchen. Tag, the fat Jack Russel joins us. Kariba and Tag politely sit while I unlock the back door. The instant it is open a crack, our two male Ridgebacks barge into the kitchen, pushing and shoving Kariba back inside. I open the door wide and call them all outside so that, in their exuberance, they don't wake Grant. It is quite common for him to receive slobbery kisses from three of our four dogs while he is still trying to sleep. The click-clacking of their toenails on the floor is enough to disturb any pleasant dreams.

The sun has just risen and there is no frost on the bleached lawn. It is cool, but warm enough for me to wander outside, enjoying the dogs' romping in the morning light. I walk into the chicken yard and up the slope, towards the henhouse. On my way I startle our two piglets who are stealing the remains of the grain thrown down for the chickens last night. They run towards me, grunting and squealing, expecting me to give them breakfast, but I see that they still haven't finished their dinner last night. We had mixed it with water instead of the usual whey, as I hadn't made any cheese yesterday. The piglets would rather snout around and root up the grass that I am coaxing to grow in the chicken yard, than eat their leftover dinner.

There is a lot of jostling and clucking coming from the white henhouse as the chickens crowd around the wire gate waiting to be let out for the day. Arrietty and Homily do not budge from their nests as the rest of the flock pour out into the morning. Arrietty, a pretty young hen dotted in shades of white, black and orange, is sitting on six eggs. They should hatch any day now. She warns me with a throaty high pitched warble as I reach my hand under her, but doesn't peck me. There are no signs of cracks on the warm pink-brown eggs, nor do I hear any tiny peeps from beneath her feathers. I leave brown and black speckled Homily alone. The last time I looked she was sitting in the nesting box, all broody with nothing beneath her. A little later on, when I am collecting the morning's eggs, I will check whether she has laid any. If not I will give her all the eggs for the next three days. I was hoping for eggs for breakfast this morning, but yesterday we only found one. There is some chervil growing in a pot on our kitchen windowsill and I have a craving for a cheesy chervil omelette.  Oh well, it will have to be muesli instead.

I turn the lever for the chicken's water trough and make my way out the henhouse yard, past the piglets in the large chicken yard, out the gate and into the vegetable tunnel. The piglets look up with brown, sandy snouts and then turn their backs, ignoring me, and continue digging up the grass. There is not much growing in the tunnel besides cabbages. Most of the beds are resting, covered in a dry grass mulch, waiting for the frosty winter to pass. I turn the round red tap next to the spindly leeks at the top of the tunnel and water gushes into the chicken trough. I have closed the chickens into their smaller henhouse yard to encourage the hens to think about laying their eggs in the henhouse. There is enough uneaten grain in there to keep them busy. I stand at the fence that separates the henhouse yard from the veggie tunnel, watching the social interaction between the chickens. The two young charcoal coloured roosters crow again and again and stretch their proud wings. I notice that when I throw some cabbage leaves over the fence, they do not dare join the fray in fear of the old patriarch, Mr Montgomery. Our sole winter chick, a still peeping grey hen-chick scuttles after her little grey mother, Mary Thompson. Old Mrs Montgomery and Peg, with her gammy leg, have faded combs and I am sure that they have stopped laying for good. They leave that job to the young hens. We have fifteen chickens now.

I pull up two baby turnips on my way out the tunnel and once back in the big chicken yard, I call the piglets over. They rush towards me and are each rewarded with a turnip. Back in the henhouse yard, I turn the valve again to shut off the water to the chicken trough that has been overflowing and running down the slope while I was watching the flock. There is a sudden spray of water hitting plastic as the irrigation line along the back of the tunnel fills and sprays up onto the plastic and drips back down on the slow-growing leeks. It has been too long since I made leek pie. By now fat leeks should have been replaced with broad beans in that bed. We were slow in planting them last summer and they did not have a chance to strengthen before the icy weather came.

The disgruntled chickens stand at the gate as I leave them shut in the smaller yard. The piglets, seeing me back in their space, run behind me, nibbling at my furry slippered heels. It is very cute, but a slight anxiety grips me as I walk quickly away from them, and one piglet  runs faster, keeping up with my heels. They haven't bitten yet, but I believe that pigs can bite. I distract them by running water into an empty container and slip out the gate and back inside. Kariba follows me in and settles back into her bed, and so do I. Grant is just waking and greets me with a sleepy hello.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Small Town Market

It is a lazy Saturday morning. The cold sun is casting pale light on the creamy white curtains. We are lounging in bed, avoiding the inevitable tidying, sorting and dish washing after a successful Moonlight Market last night. We did well at the market. It is rewarding to see people queuing at our stall, squabbling over the last two custard filled croissants or encouraging their friends to taste our new caramel cream sauce.

I love the markets and the chance to interact with friends and familiar faces in our small town. It is the two monthly markets that helped me to feel more a part of this community. It is gratifying to prepare treats for folk who are so appreciative. Nicol and Klaradyn, in their generosity, open up their restaurant garden for a first Friday of the month market under the stars. When I asked Klaradyn why we can't pay to set up our stall, she answered that it is something they must do. Their foresight and kindness has enhanced the sense of community in this nook of the Eastern Free State.

I have learned which customers like which products, and we try to satisfy them at each market. Hilli, who lives alone always buys a small tub of plain cream cheese. Ed the engineer who teases me about leaving the profession, and Jessica, his wife, want some garlicky hummus. Alexis, a delightfully dignified horsey lady, phoned me at home before one winter market to find out whether we would be there in the cold weather, and whether I would be making pannacotta, a vanilla cream dessert. She returns my used tubs for recycling and always brings a carrier bag for me to fill with a selection from the table. Brian nags for honey when we have decided not to sell any more, Candy can't get enough croissants, Sue loves our bacon, and Karen will only buy the pannacotta when it is in the wide shallow tubs and not the deep narrow ones where her teaspoon cannot reach all the way to the bottom of the tub in one scoop.

I love these people. They have taught me to love this town. The second Saturday morning of the month farmer's market, set up as a tea garden on Fonteyn and Zoe's farm has its regulars too. The two Carols almost always come, one buys halloumi and the other a tub of thyme chabrie marinated in olive oil with garlic and rosemary. Willie and Annelieze usually chat to me in their Swiss German accents and always buy something. They are interesting and interested. I met Liz and JB, an American missionary couple at this market. They love my ice-creams so much, especially the coconut ice cream, that they will drive all the way from Lesotho to our farm, when they have a craving for it. Pierre, the Canadian Frenchman enjoys a chocolate croissant with his morning coffee.

I usually treat myself to a pot of tea at the morning market, and a punnet or two of seedlings for my garden bought from Alita, a headmistress for a local Christian school and a gracious lady. She is my age, but something about her reminds me of my mum. Last month I came home with a tray of tiny onion seedlings which are now planted in between the larger onions in our tunnel. They had been planted too far apart. I also buy at least six R4 samosas from the lovely Muslim couple whose stall is next to mine. He does catering for a living and has kindly agreed to collect glass jars for me. Having enough jars to preserve the summer harvest is always a challenge.

I could go on and on about the wonderful people in this wonderful town, but I am afraid I might bore you. So, with purse full and heart considerably fuller, I get up late, shower, wash my hair and prepare to spend most of my Saturday tackling the mountain of dishes waiting in the kitchen sink. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Fast Food: Eggs Florentine

Sometimes I need a night off and really don't feel like cooking. Sometimes that feeling lasts for days. Back in Cape Town we would have bought take-aways for dinner on days like that. Here on the farm, it would take longer to drive to town and back for take-aways than it would take to rustle up fast food Elastic Mom style. Anyway,  greasy take-aways leave me feeling dissatisfied and disgusted after eating farm fresh all the time.

A while back I was having one of those cooking-is-the-last-thing-I-want-to-do moments. A little bit of thought, and I had a nourishing, yom-chomp dinner on the table in 15 minutes flat.

Set a small pot of water to boil
Pop some bread in the toaster
Warm up some leftover cheese sauce
Drop a sealed bag of our frozen chopped tunnel-grown swiss chard into the pot of boiling water and as soon as it has defrosted,  remove the bag and stir the contents into the cheese sauce.
Pour a dash of vinegar into the same boiling water and crack in three eggs to poach.

When the toast pops, plate it and spoon over the cheesy spinach sauce and top with perfectly poached eggs and season. Voila!

My men reacted as if I had made a gourmet meal for them. There was lots of lip smacking, yom yomming through dinner. If I had thought of it at the time, I would have added a classic few drops of Worcester Sauce onto each egg. So there it is, fast food at its best. I know that it required little bags of frozen spinach and some leftover cheese sauce, but that's my point...

We all have something better than take-away that we can rustle up faster than it takes to find the keys on those low-energy evenings.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Foraging for Nettles

Nettles popped up in our garden a while back. I was delighted as they are apparently very nourishing. This morning I decided to make nettle and potato soup, a variation on the one in Roots, Shoots and Leaves by Bernadette Le Roux. Wearing gloves, I picked a handful of the stinging weed, then washed and chopped them, ready for cooking.

A knob of Rosie's butter 
Only one too young leek because I have run out of onions and I shouldn't be picking the leeks yet. 
4-6 potatoes from storage, little shoots removed, peeled and chopped
Some stock - I used lamb stock made from a roast bone, but any stock will do. 
A handful of young nettle leaves, picked with kitchen gloves on. I would have picked more, but that was all there was in my garden and I did not feel like walking down to the old barn.  where I have seen them growing before. 

Gently sauté the leek in the butter. Add the potatoes and cover them with stock. Boil lightly until the potatoes are tender.
Add the nettles and simmer gently until just wilted. Purée the soup and stir in a generous glug of cream to thin the soup. Season to taste. 

Serve garnished with wild rocket flowers alongside toasted buttermilk bread and cream cheese with chives. Enjoy your lunch on the warm verandah looking towards the distant Maluti Mountains.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

USE IT - DON'T LOSE IT: Apple Cider Vinegar

There was a bumper crop of apples on the farm this year. They are not sold commercially and are unsprayed. We were given a large number of crates of these lovely fruit that had been picked days before and were fast deteriorating. We made apple purée, apple jelly, apple cider, dried apples and apple sauce. I was most excited to try my hand at apple cider vinegar. It worked so well that I wish I had made more, enough to supply me in vinegar for the year. I love to use it in cooking and it is very expensive. Some people take it medicinally every day, so it has to be good. Best of all, it cost very little to make.



Wash and roughly chop the apples and, in my case, remove any wormy bits. Sprinkle over 2 tablespoons of sugar for every 1/2 kg or so of apples. Place the apples in a large bucket and cover them with filtered water. Put a plate on the apples to keep them submerged. Leave them in a cool dark place away from fruit flies until the apples and liquid start fermenting. This will take a few days. Strain the liquid through a fine mesh ( I used milk filters) and place in large, sterilised jars. Cover the jars with clean cloths and secure with elastic bands. Place the jars in a cool dark place for at least six weeks

After six weeks you will see that fermentation has stopped. There will also be a film called the vinegar mother on the surface of the vinegar. My one jar formed a thick mother, and the other jar formed a thin mother.

The mother can be used to start a new vinegar, or left in the jar. The vinegar can be kept sealed in the large jars, or siphoned into sterilised bottles for storage. Try not to disturb the sediment at the bottom of the jars so that the resulting bottles of vinegar will be clear.

I now have around four litres of apple cider vinegar. That works out to about 450ml vinegar per month until the next apple harvest. I wish I had made more, but it's a good start. As I always say, use it - don't lose it. I used a lot of apples, however we lost a whole lot more. Hopefully next year I will have more time and energy.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

GROWING POTATOES: Commercial Mondial vs Heirloom BP1, Beds vs Sacks

Warning! The following post may contain elements not suitable for those bored by detailed garden ramblings, and may prove to be tedious even to those who grow their own veggies.

Last spring we planted our potatoes in well mucked beds under plastic. The 'seed potatoes' were Mondial potatoes bought from our local grocer and had been grown commercially by our friend Benny on his nearby farm. I left them to sprout before planting. In the above September pic, you can just see the bright green potato plants in two rows at the back of our tunnel. 

Then a month or so later I ordered some heirloom BP1 seed potatoes and  planted them in the middle bed, between the Mondials. By the end of October, all the potatoes were flourishing under our vigilant watering and beetle inspection. 

By December, the Mondials had finished flowering, and the BP1's were covered in a mass of pretty blue-purple flowers. We were able to begin scrabbling for Mondials already and enjoy the taste of fresh new potatoes in our meals.

And then we went away in January, leaving the garden in the capable hands of Molly. While we were away the water supply dwindled for some time. When we returned, the Mondials were ready for harvesting. The BP1's had taken a knock from spotty red, ladybug-mimicking beetles , but were otherwise fine. 

These are just a few of the giant beauties that we dug up from the Mondial beds. They had a great flavour and we had enough to share and stored some in paper bags for the next few months. Mondials are robust, pale yellow, firm potatoes. They are great for boiling, potato salads and mash. 

When I was planting the heirloom BP1's, I had more potatoes than garden space. Sticking to my USE IT - DON'T LOSE it principles, I decided to experiment with growing some of them in sacks after seeing Jamie Oliver do the same.

We quarter-filled sacks with rich soil and planted three potatoes in each bag and placed the bags in a sunny spot under the kitchen window. 

They grew well and we raised the bags and added soil as they grew until the sacks were full.

Once the potato plants had died back we excitedly tipped them out into holes in the lawn, dug by our naughty puppy. The harvest was dismal.

One or two sacks provided enough potatoes for just one meal. On a happier note, the yield from the tunnel bed was substantially better than the sacks, but not close to the volumes per metre that we harvested from the Mondials.  What I can say, though, is that the BP1 is a superbly delicious, creamy white fleshed potato. It wins hands down over Mondial regarding texture. I found it suitable for boiling and especially delicious roasted. The BP1 potatoes were more susceptible to scab, but losses were minimal. In all fairness to the heirloom potatoes, some of our problems with yield and insects could have been due to less vigilant watering and bug-squashing during the critical growth period while I was in Cape Town. I will still try growing them again next summer, but will not bother with potatoes in tyres or sacks, and will stick to standard well enriched beds in the future. Our first ever attempt at growing potatoes in tyres a few years back was a failure too.

Summer's potato beds are now Autumn's leek, onion and garlic beds and, come springtime, some of them will be planted up with broad beans and peas.  Through winter we will dig in manure to prepare new potato beds where we grew last season's pumpkins, and so the garden turns with the turning of the earth around the sun.

Friday, May 16, 2014

USE IT - DON'T LOSE IT: Seville Oranges

 Kind friends gave us a huge bag of seville oranges picked from their tree. Seville oranges are bitter and very sour, perfect for marmalade. We don't have oranges on the farm and I was thrilled as we all love marmalade. I have never made it before and spent a while searching through my recipe books for a seville marmalade recipe. All the recipes were for small quantities, so I had to wing it a bit.

for 6kg seville oranges

Day 1:
Slice the oranges in half and squeeze out the juice. Thank goodness I have an electric orange juicer. Separate the pips from the pulp and reserve them. Slice each half of rind into 3 wedges and then thinly slice those wedges. Place the rind and pulp into a suitably large container, add 12 l water. Add the pips, tied in a muslin bag. Leave to stand overnight.

Day 2:
Bring the mixture to the boil and then simmer for about 2 hours. Test the pectin by mixing 1 t of the liquid from the pot with 3 t methalated spirits in a glass. If it forms a jelly-like clot then it is ready. If it does not clot, then simmer the mixture for longer.

Once the mixture is ready, remove the muslin bag of pips and squeeze out as much liquid from the bag into the pot as you can. Add in 6 kg sugar and boil rapidly until a spoonful of the jam wrinkles when you push it with your finger on a cold saucer. The faster you cook it, the paler your marmalade.

Remove the pot from the hear and skim off any foam scum. Set the pot aside to cool a for 5 minutes so that the shreds of rind will be evenly dispersed in the marmalade. Ladle the wonderfully aromatic mixture into hot sterilised jars. Seal immediately.

Makes 19 assorted sized jars from 300 to 500 ml.

My Granny Elizabeth used to make marmalade, so it always reminds me of her. The scent of the bitter orange preserve transports my mind to years long gone by.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Slow Living in April

April... autumn month of golden poplars and misty mornings, magnificent  fiery sunsets and icy sunrises, first frost and late harvests, horses and puppies, the pain of lives ending and fragile hope of life beginning, holidays and hard work, fires in the hearth and in the braai, family and friends, fast frenzy and Slow Living. Join me, along with Slow Living Essentials as I keep track of the month that was for the twelfth consecutive month.  

We fed many mouths at various intervals this month. Three Jersey cows, two calves, three horses, twelve plus chickens, four dogs, one cat, three family members, two farm staff, eight guests, two grandparents and one hundred or so horse lovers and countless customers at our market stall. Here, waiting for their afternoon dinner just outside the veggie tunnel are Thorn, Rosie, Hope and Joy. Each of our animals is fed twice a day. That, along with regular meals for family and friends, has resulted in much meal preparation. I love the cooking part, especially when it is for loved ones, but resent the daily grind of dishes and milk buckets that pile up into mountains every time my back is turned. Dish washing visitors are always welcome in my house. We cook with passion and nourishing others is definitely an act of love around here. Our generous animals in turn feed us... milk, cheese, butter, cream, yoghurt, ice-cream, eggs, meat, entertainment, rides, cuddles and joy. 

Decadent Dad made his first batch of boozy cabernet salami. These delicious-smelling cured meats will hang for four months before we can taste them. His first chorizos are already proving to be fantastic. 

We picked all the grapes off our verandah vine the night before the frost, then froze the whole lot to deal with at a later stage. I hope to make grape jelly, juice and smoothies. 

Besides halloumi, feta, chabie and cream cheeses for market, most of Rosie and Joy's milk is made into an unpredictable farmhouse gouda that we mature for at least four months. It is always fun to cut through the red wax and discover the unique character of a cheese made months ago. With the summer grasses giving the last of their green sweetness, our store of red-waxed goudas has grown substantially. Hopefully it will provide enough cheese to see us through the winter. 

Elastic Mom USE-IT-DON'T-LOSE-IT principles sometimes send me into borderline hoarding tendencies. Challenged by the clutter accumulating in my craft cupboard, I hauled out my cande-making crate, untouched for more than six years, besides the random occasional tossing in of melted pieces of wax and spent candles. I, the unskilled dabbler in many crafts had all these wonderful visions of making candles with my growing children which we did when they were little, yet when the opportunities arose over the past few years for time with my teen children, we chose other pursuits instead, like tea and a chat, a walk on the farm, reading aloud, an outing to town or baking, sewing, and encouraging them in their interests rather than mine or just being together, and the candle-making crate gathered dust. Frustrated with my lack of creativity one afternoon when two young girls were visiting, I hauled out the heavy crate and we spontaneously made some dipped candles from bits and pieces of pink and purple wax. It was fun and I spent the rest of the evening melting my coloured wax into various tins, ready for another dipped candle session. There is a sense of satisfaction gained from making something useful and pretty from waste that I couldn't bear to throw away as it represented regrets over missed mothering opportunities . Repeated dipping and waiting for the wax to set as the organic-looking lumpy candles grow is slow living at its best... deliberate slowing down, pausing and sharing a moment with different enthusiastic children, or even time to ponder and mull over years gone by, extinguished like the puff of breath on a flame. It is a chance to turn regrets into hope for new special candlelit moments.

Juggling many things at once, I regularly burn the porridge in the pot, or even worse, let it bubble over onto the stovetop. A recently-read tip has helped me deal with these awful burns quickly and easily...
For burnt pots: boil up a little vinegar in the pot, leave it to stand off the heat and simply wipe away the burn marks. 
For the stovetop: sprinkle a bit of bicarbonate of soda on the blackened marks, drizzle over vinegar, leave for a bit and then wipe with a soft sponge. Repeat if necessary. 
I am pleased to say that it works.

This Atlantic giant pumpkin wandered far from its bed fellows. Our first frosts have come so we can haul in the many enormous round orange and flat white pumpkins from our pumpkin patch. I left them standing in the open until the frost could concentrate their flavour. 

I greet the icy change with mixed feelings... sadness at the end of peppers, cucumbers, basil, tomatoes and brinjals and relief that the intense gathering of the harvest is over and it is time to enjoy the fruits of our summer labour. Other harvest foods best gathered after first frost are Jerusalem artichokes, celery and, apparently,  rose hips. 

It took a road trip for me to finish my first sock and cast on for the next one. 

It arrived a few days ago in the mail, a brown paper package, a surprise, unexpected. The note read, 
" Couldn't resist sending this one. Love from the UK. " 
Chez Panisse Café Cookbook by the renowned Alice Waters.
The beautifully illustrated hardcover book has become my bedtime companion. Filled with detailed instructions, anecdotes and beautifully simple recipes for creating magnificent meals from freshly grown seasonal produce, this thoughtfully chosen gift book has already brought me much delight. Thank you kind Kerry. 

I have had the privilege of visiting this lonely young mom and her precious prem baby in hospital. She was born ten weeks early.

My son and Xoche, this gorgeous 3 year old appaloosa gelding, participated in their first 40km endurance ride. Xoche was timid and head shy, but with gentle patience and tenderness we are winning him over. His owner is very kindly allowing our delighted son to care for him here and train him. He hopes to ride another 40 with him in May. Decadent Dad and Elastic Mom catered for the  endurance event, cooking three meals, and providing cappuccinos and snacks for around 100 people. 

We spent a wonderful Easter weekend with my namesake school friend and her  extended family.  It was a time of long walks and chats and good food, and of course, an easter egg hunt after dark. I value our longstanding friendship. We were in nursery school together. It's so good to pick up after months and years apart, and for our relationship to be as special as it was before. 

The absolute highlight of my month was an unexpected, yet long overdue visit to my precious mum en route to a funeral. She, my stepfather and their two cute lapdogs live on the KwaZulu Natal south coast, about 8 1/2 hours drive from us. 
We only spent a short time with them, but it was so, so good to be with her again. My mum is the most gracious lady I know, and such a strong role model in her character. I love her to bits and I savoured every waking minute with her. My family is split up all over South Africa, so we really value chances to be together. Being at the seaside again was an added bonus. There's nothing like walking barefoot on the beach, feeling the gritty sand and shells and the water rushing up, foamy and cold.

 I have completed a year of monthly journalling of slow living in our home. In so doing, I have reached a personal goal, and I am not sure whether I will continue the record keeping, or not. Lately I have found myself writing poetry when compelled and part of me wants to focus on more creative writing, while another part of me so enjoys the online contact with like-minded Slow Living bloggers. I feel as if I have all these words tumbling in my head and waiting to be written, yet seldom find the time to record them. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Use It - Don't Lose it: Loving the Leftovers

So call me weird, but I get a sense of satisfaction from using up leftovers, converting them into a tasty meal instead of letting them become science experiments in the back of the fridge, or tossing them in the compost bin. I hate to see good food wasted, food that cost good money or time. My meals are usually planned around what needs using the most in the fridge or garden. In this way there are no Science experiments in the fridge, the turnover is too rapid.

This weekend we catered for 100 people and had a lot of leftover rolls, potato salad, coleslaw, tuna salad, green salad, dessert and sauces. How does Elastic Mom tackle this problem, you may ask?

Well, firstly I shared out some of the rolls, cheese, potato salad and coleslaw with the farm families. I froze the rest of the fruit crumbles, sauces, rolls and cheese for using at a later stage. We ate salad with the next few meals too.

We couldn't eat the salads fast enough, so I was contemplating what to do. Then I had a brainwave: I tossed potato salad with tuna salad (lettuce and all), stirred in 3 beaten eggs and spread the mixture in a casserole dish. Topped with grated cheese, it was popped in a medium oven and baked. The end result was the best potato bake that I have ever made. It was creamy and delicious.

I made a hot lettuce soup (Ina Paarman's recipe) for lunch yesterday from the half the wilted lettuce, onions and cucumber and some chicken stock and milk. I just couldn't toss out 8 litres of lettuce salad. The soup was ok, but not that exciting, so I gave the chickens the rest of the lettuce. If we had had any more coleslaw, it  could have been used in a winter vegetable-style soup too.

Tomatoes are precious around here, considering my summer tomato crop was a failure, so I picked over the green salad, removing all the tomato wedges, olives and feta.

Last night, for supper, I turned one leftover cooked steak, a bowl of tomato wedges and a handful of olives rescued from the green salad into a very tasty toast topping. I sliced up the steak and fried it in a pan with the tomatoes,  garlic, some horseradish sauce, some monkey gland sauce, a splash of gluhwein, and with the olives tossed in, it was lip-smackingly delicious. Decadent Dad yom-chomped his way through the meal.

In all the busyness of preparing for the catering, my fridge got a little too cold in the bottom drawer and froze up the last few precious cucumbers from our garden, and some green peppers too. This evening I made a ratatouille from the rest of the salad-rescued tomatoes, the half-frozen cucumber and green peppers, some garden-fresh brinjals and one of Decadent Dad's salami-style sausages that is half cured, not ready for eating raw, but tasty sliced up for cooking. I tossed in the last of the macaroni from the pantry and, voila, dinner. Delicious again.

Tomorrow, for lunch, I plan to make quick pizza  rolls
topped with the last of the ratatouille and olives, some peppers from the garden and our home-made feta rescued from the salad. I couldn't bear to toss those hours of hard work.

So there you have it... Elastic Mom... stretching those resources big time.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Slow Living in March

March...month of brilliant blue-sky days, and crystal-ice nights, roads lined with delicate cosmos, beech trees turning golden, round bales freshly cut in the fields, sunflowers drooping heavy as they wait for their heads to be chopped off, rows of maize standing to attention, rose-hips fat and red.... Join me, along with Slow Living Essentials as I reflect on the month that was. 

Autumn, harvest time, is the season of year when the fresh produce just keeps on coming. We gather in an abundance of bounty from the land and our meals are richly full of God's goodness and blessing. with few exceptions our food is as local as this farm. 
For health and strength and daily food we praise your name oh Lord. 

As we gather in the harvest, we preserve and prepare for the winter ahead as fast as we can, no slow living in this department, just bubble, bubble, toil and oh so much blessing. We are full to bursting with laden shelves and no more room in fridges and freezers. Herbs dry in the sunny kitchen window before being stored in glass jars. We gather in large bunches of mint, sage, thyme and oregano before the frost steals them away. Potatoes and gem squash are dug and picked and stored in the dark. Rusks are baked in huge batches, as are trays of nutty granola. Ice-creams are  made to order: fresh peach, pear caramel, vanilla pod and toasted coconut. We make cheeses and cured meat, most for sale and some for storage. The fruit trees are laden with fruit, ripe for the picking and falling and lost unless we use them.
Here's some more of what we prepared in March to keep us going for the year:
bunches of rhubarb stewed and frozen
peach and raspberry jam 3 1/2 jars
peach chutney 5 1/2 bottles
pears bottled
peaches, apples and pears cut in chunks and frozen
a crate of apples dried
Green beans frozen in innumerable quantities
 2 jars dilly bean pickle
6 jars curried beans
marinated green peppers
spiced brandy and apple chutney 6 jars
pear and green pepper chutney 6 1/2 jars
apple lavender jelly 4 jars
apple sage jelly 5 jars
apple thyme jelly 6 1/2 jars
apple rosemary jelly 5 jars
apple rose geranium jelly 9 jars
apple cinnamon sauce 13 tubs
apple mint sauce 10 bottles

My Elastic Mom nature balks at waste and so I use parts of plants that traditionally go uneaten. Brussel sprout and broccoli leaves are great chopped into soups. Beetroot leaves are used like swiss chard. Baby carrots, leaves and all are pretty in a stir-fry. I also cook the whole of a leek, not just the white bits. Sometimes I use the green bits and the white bits separately depending on the recipe. Young pumpkin leaves are one of the most delicious vegetables if cooked the right way. 

We have grown veggies in our tunnel for three summers now. The first summer our cabbages were magnificent.... unknown to me our gardener was spraying them with poison until I found out. The second summer our cabbages were moth eaten and riddled with aphids... disappointed, we ate them anyway, just washing them really really well. This time I have found a green solution that is working for us so far.... just cover the brassicas with fine netting to keep the moths away. 

As the summer crops come to their end, they make way for our winter crops. I was given a heap of cabbage seedlings. Hopefully they weren't planted too late in the season. We have also sowed leeks, onions, kohlrabi, turnips and more. I follow a very carefully planned crop rotation in our tunnel. Autumn brassicas follow legumes. They enjoy the remnants of lime that was dug in last winter for the spring legumes. 

That darn sock (see my Slow Living in Feb post) is proving to be a lot more difficult to knit than I thought it would. The pattern was ambiguous, but I think I have it figured out. I am persevering one stitch at a time. I have turned the corner, literally, around the heel and on my way to the toe. 

Decadent Dad is on a steep learning curve in all meaty things smoked and cured. The inhabitants of our little town have caught a whiff of the smoky wind of his charcuterie and he can barely keep up with the demand. The three main resources that he is using in this exciting new adventure are the books, Salt Sugar Smoke by Diana Henry, Preserved by Nick Sandler and Johnny Acton and the dvd, Pig in a Day by Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstall. So far he has made sweet cured bacon, smoked bacon, smoked and unsmoked pancetta, paprika and chilli pancetta, 2 types of chorizo sausage (a paprika and fennel spiced salami-type sausage), and coppa, 

 I have joined our local garden club. Being isolated on the farm, it is great for me to be join with some of the the ladies in our community for a monthly meeting. In March we walked through the veld examining veld flowers and grasses. Surprisingly, a lot of the so-called weeds are useful medicinal herbs or food plants. 

 Not much beats an afternoon ride through the farm lands, enjoying the magnificent landscape and glorious wild cosmos flowers.