A slice of Sol’ Lifting Pie

Secret’s in the sauce.” – Sipsey (Film: Fried Green Tomatoes)

Eventually there comes a point in a cool-climate gardener’s calendar when one has to face the colder reality and accept that those immature, Solanum Lycopersicum, fruits of your summer labour, just ain’t gonna ripen! Rather than cry in a green-waste deluge over the lost juicey-red harvest, I decided to take a nostalgic walk down my childhood memory lane for some sol’ lifting, green-tomato cooking inspiration instead.

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Summer holidays. Saturday afternoons. 1995. I guess one could they were a Rottentomatoes event! At fourteen hundred hours, as the kelpies helped Dad round up the cattle for the afternoon milking session, my mother and all of us kids would pile into the family sedan for a rapid fire trip to the local video store to select the evenings’ Film Night V.H.S. In the interests of avoiding any clandestine arm twisting or conniving inter-sibling brawls, a strictly enforced roster system was established so as to enable a more “uninhibited”, movie selection process. While the boys would always opt for a new-release, shoot-em-up, Hollywood action blockbuster, my pick-of-the-flicks adopted a slower, more Deep South centered pace: the Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy soulful special, Fried Green Tomatoes (1991). A duel period drama-comedy set about a progressive diner in 1960’s Alabama, the characters take the audience on a roller coaster ride of emotions as each employee plays their own unique part in an act of vigilante justice: at the Whistle Stop Cafe’, revenge is a dish best served piping hot and with a generous dollop of blood, red sauce.

Last month, as the daylight hours shortened and those bulky woolen legwarmers made their way to the front of the clothing selection line, it was time to take food lore into my own hands and lift from the earth, those stubborn green sols. Armed with pitchfork, gumboots and a whetted set of secateurs, my up-and-coming, savant scientists took to the streets with passionate fervour and used their “applied” home-learning lesson to make light work of the remaining emerald coloured eatables rambling their way through our recently procured Guerrilla Garden.

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From corn bread and curry to pizza topping and that coveted Soil’n’T Green Tomato Chutney – a popular food swap among our fellow community gardeners – for many weeks to follow, that cavernous basket of burgeoning fruit would see our family kitchen running as hot as the hinges on the gates of Hades…to use a southern american expression. The resultant menu? Well I guess one could say that is was fit to please even the most captious of self-isolating family diners.

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Green Tomato Corn Bread with Home Made Butter

And so it is with great pleasure, and a Whistle Stop in my step, that I present to you my pick of our families rather agreenable feasting favourites, the secret recipe for enjoying a sizable slice of…

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Sol’ Lifting Pie (delivers 6 – 8 soul lifting serves)

1 onion, diced
8 – 10 large green tomatoes, sliced
1 – 2 tbs brown sugar
1 – 2 chillis, deseeded and finely diced
½ c Italian herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary etc.)
¼ – ½ c Parmesan, grated
Pastry:
200g wheat flour
100g soy or sourghum flour
pinch salt
240g butter, cut into cubes

To make the pastry, mix together the flours and and salt. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles that of breadcrumbs. Add 1 tbs cold water then bring the mixture together to form a firm dough. Form the dough into a disk then refrigerate for 30 mins.

In a heavy based fry-pan, fry the onion on a high temperature till translucent. Add the tomatoes. Fry for a couple of minutes. Stir in the sugar and chilli. Turn to low heat and cover with a lid. Cook for around 15 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent the mixture burning. Stir through the herbs and the parmesan. Season with salt and pepper then leave to cool.

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Roll out two-thirds of the dough to about ¼ of an inch thickness. Lay the dough over the base of a pie dish. Fill with the tomato mixture. Roll out the remaining third of the dough. Place over the top of the filling and, using a pastry brush, seal the edges together with milk. Roll down the edges to form a thick crust then coat the pastry with milk. Using a sharp knife, pierce a cross in the middle of the pastry roof to allow excess steam to escape. Bake at 200oC for 35 – 50 minutes or until the pastry is golden in colour.

Serve to your ravenous, undercovid home-school operatives with a side of end-of-season salad and a dash of Squashed Chutney.

Oh…and there’s just one more thing…

…remember…the secrets in the source. Shhh!

Mothballed?

When the cooler weather sets in and those holey woolen jumpers emerge from their boxed-up, summer home, it can be tempting to let the vegetable patch go into hibernation and to cocoon oneself in the comfort of the insulated indoors until the season metamorphoses into spring.

If like me, however, one happens to have a ravenous penchant for tucker from that expansive wingspan of plants, the brassicaceae family, then there are a few things to add to the cool season to-do-list that will help realise a more healthy, hole-and-critter free crop on the other side of winter.

Recently, in addition to erecting pest netting and planting a few additional trap plants (sacrificial cabbage greens sown on the outside of the netting) seedlings at our community garden allotment, there was a flurry of activity about the homestead. Inspired by an idea from Annie – a fellow community gardener and allroud growing guru – my distance-learning pupae were piqued into crafty action, upcycling some everyday recyclables into pragmatic garden ornaments: cabbage moth decoys.

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Resources:
Old milk bottles
Fade resistant markers
Scissors
10 cm x 5 cm lengths of soft, white plastic (two per decoy)
Bamboo sticks
Twist ties
Sewing pins

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Start by first cutting a milk bottle into six rectangles. Draw a simple butterfly onto each rectangle.

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Cut out the butterfly and, using some fade resistant coloured markers, go wild with the colour creations.

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Using a thick darning needle, pierce two holes through the butterfly’s abdomen (about one centimeter apart). To attach a butterfly to a bamboo stick, first thread the twist-tie/wire through the pierced holes (both ends pointing non-coloured side down). Layer a couple of soft plastic strips over the top of the bamboo stick (centered). Place the coloured butterfly on top, wings overlapping the soft plastic. First secure the butterfly in place in the center of the bamboo stick with a sewing pin. Finish securing the butterfly, by wrapping the twist ties about the bamboo stick.

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Your beautiful butterfly creations are now ready to be placed in the garden for some territorial-moth deterring action!

Now…I’d love to say that all one need do now is to sit back and wait for the burgeoning brassica spoils to land on your post-winter dinner plate…but then I might end up with partially masticated, fat, green caterpillar spots on my tongue! As the hatch span of the cabbage moth (egg to first stage larva) is very short, a regular leaf check for little green eggs (the size of a pin head) will help to ward off the last of those particularly evasive, little white flutters and hence save that bountiful future harvest from being totally mothballed!

Easter Basket Case

Autumn brings with it an air of change. The closet cries out for warmer, shadowy and more demure attention. The currawongs corral their cronies enmasse about the burgeoning supply of late harvest berries. And the garden yearns, desperately, for that hasty sowing of brassicas, peas, broad beans and onions before the cooler air temperatures set in for the winter season. Perhaps the most awaited moment on my families colour changing calendar, however, is the coming of the end of the first school term.

Normally the Easter School Holiday period would see us racing down the highway, car boot packed to the gift-giving gunnels with all manner of home made goodies to lavish upon family members and friends alike, for our annual, countryside catch ups. Opting for a quieter, more home based Easter this year, my two busy bunnikins instead put some of their extra educative hours to altruistic use so as to connect with their greatly missed school buddies and familial chums from an acceptable, social distance apart. In true interdisciplinary style – ticking all manner of pedagogical, 3R’s plus the works, boxes – K1 and K2 set about facing many of the “low supply” odds to create a trio of treats that would put a smile on even the most isolated of Easter Bunny dials: Weed Woven Easter Baskets; Sourdough Hot Cross Buns; and a Busy Bunnies Easter Activity sheet.

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Invigorated by a good dose of long awaited rainfall, many an urban weed and hedging plant can be seen brimming with last-ditch-effort, pre-winter growth: simply perfect timing for some basket hamper construction. Inspired by a recent segment on Gardening Australia about basketry, K1 and K2 put their pent-up paws to weaving work by first shaping some Potato Vine and Chinese Elm shoots into a ring.

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With great patience and at times, steely concentration, some fading Diannella Longifolia was then weaved between cross-hatched cuttings of Cotoneaster to create a very simple, tension-tray esque carrier.

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Eschewing the barren and yeastless supermarket shelves, over a series of microbe brewing days, my budding young scientists set about making their own sourdough culture, with the ultimate aim of upholding the family tradition of baking a wholesome and deliciously fresh batch of Hot Cross Buns – plus a few side projects such as sourdough crumpets and sourdough self saucing pudding, to avoid wasting any of that coveted rye flour ferment – for Easter.

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After five days of waiting, watching and whiffing, the golden-egg-quality micro-organism melange was ready for use. Cobbling together what dried fruit was left at our local whole foods store (currants, dried peach and pear…to name a few) and a motley mix of flours, my rabid crew then put their burrowed-up energy to good, bread-making use, with plenty of…

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…kneading…

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…rolling…

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and patient waiting…until the much anticipated feast could begin…with plenty set aside for those Easter basket deliveries.

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In keeping with the theme, and as a finishing touch to the gift giving sentiment, my two little kits pulled out their craft making kits to put together a series of fun holiday activities to be mailed to those countryside companions…who at over 300km away…fall a little outside our hot-cross-bunny delivery range.

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As for Easter Sunday itself, powered by a once-a-year, Poached Eggs Florentine breakfast, the day was filled with plenty of cryptic-decoding, chocolate hunt challenges and a bevy of banter about the card playing table.

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So in a sane and well balanced nut shell, we had an eggcellent weekend!!

Feeling Seedy

After three long months of blistering heat, smoky haze and having a water can glued to one hand, even the most evangelical of gardeners can find themselves feeling just a little enervated and gone-to-seed by the end of the long summer season.

Tempting as it may be to race off the the shops for that quick-fix, store-bought seedling panacea, I have always found that my waning enthusiasm makes a much faster and more rejuvenating recovery after a solid morning session of autumnal exercise. It also proves to be a great family friendly activity for those little green thumbs who may be having an extended period away from the school house.

Ready. Set. Time to go wild for the Seedy Winter Workout Session

Kit up: you don’t need to race out and purchase the Lorna Lemon, rolled-gold standard of equipment to realise an impressively bulky result but you do need some basic essentials: pots (these can be made from newspaper/old egg cartons/milk bottles, collected from tip shops/ second-hand websites or purchased from the local gardening store); labels (paddle pop sticks or old milk bottles cut into strips work well) good quality potting mix; a trowel or large spoon; and a suitable location in dappled sunlight (I use a seed raising greenhouse…mostly for the shelf space!!).

Squats and chin ups: if you’re anything like me, then searching for that “carefully filed” seed collection saved from last season’s harvest, can involve lots of crouching, lifting and pulling oneself up on the edge of cupboard shelves…just in case that hidden box of growing treasures is lurking behind those bagged up sacks of pre-loved clothes. In addition to my own stock (or those swapped with neighbours, friends and fellow community gardeners), I also tend to plant a range of heirloom varieties of my family’s favourite eatable numbers, the seeds of which are purchased from reputable online stores or my local garden centre.

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Dips: you’ll be doing multiple repeats of these arm building digs as you plunge your trowel/spoon into that bag of potting mix, so best to find a comfortable place to lay out your kit so as to make for an efficient transfer from bag to pot. An outdoor table can double as a potting bench, otherwise you can always go old school and lay at a sheet on the ground (to catch residual potting mix) instead.

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Scatter runs: and so we reach the endurance aspect of your whole, garden-body workout. Planting seeds can be tiresome and lengthy work. Patience is a virtue. Particularly if you happen to love having a number of different varieties of each food plant! I always work to a general rule of sowing to a depth of three times the diameter of the seed. The easiest way I have found to do this is to first fill all the pots ½ (for the larger seeds like peas) to 2/3 full with potting mix. After selecting the packet to be planted, I then pour a small amount of the seed into my hand, scatter a pinch relatively thickly over the soil, then cover with approximately three times the diameter worth of potting mix. Repeat…times the number of different seed varieties to be planted.

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Hydrate: like all well functioning systems, regular intakes of water is essential. I tend to wait until I have planted up all my seeds and then give the whole lot a good dousing with the rose spout, being careful (by moving the watercan quickly in a back and forth motion) not to allow the water to fall too heavily onto the surface of the soil: we wouldn’t want to wash away all our hard work!

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Stretch session: I’d love to tell you that now all the hard work is done you can walk away and wait for your growing bounty to emerge…but then I’d be telling a very disappointing lie! Depending on the ambient air temperatures, the seeds can take between three days and two weeks (especially for slow germinating seedlings like onions) to awaken their green tendrils. During this time the seedlings need to be placed in a warm place out of direct sunlight and watered regularly. I like to place them near the front door with a bulb sprayer kept handy so that whenever my kids and I walk past we can give them a good squirt: a fun activity for the whole family…particularly if it results in a friendly bout of water warfare. When the baby leaves are well and truly above the soil surface, the pots should be moved into a position in dappled sunlight or a place that receives plenty of morning sunlight.

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Cooling down: after a beefy surge of growth and maturation, your little sprouts will be well on their way to being mean, eatable greens. To help boost the strongest of the bunch along, some tough and some what cool hearted culling needs to occur.

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Depending on the size of the pot, and the location of the seedlings within the pot (best to select those growing closest to the middle), I usually cull the sprouts back to half a dozen of the healthiest looking specimens. As for those lesser developed runts of the bunch, don’t be too hasty to send them compost-heap-packing, they make a refreshing addition to that salubrious, Saturday Pizza Night, salad.

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It’s always a rewarding experience to reflect back to the beginning of the workout session and give yourself a well deserved pat on the back for making it through the restorative journey. Once those dinky dazzlers, have bulked up to a reasonable size (I usually wait till they have atleast two sets of true leaves) they are ready to graduate into the big leagues: the planting bed in that beloved vegetable patch…

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…Ready, set…Plant it out!!

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Watch Out! Don’t Get Squashed

Aim high. Reach for the stars. Dream big. The sky’s the limit…

Just some of the many encouraging phrases bestowed on me by my parents during those formative years on the farm. Keen to live up to my mother and father’s expectations, I took it upon myself to ensure that I mastered the art of being a consistent “high” achiever. And so began my diverse and rather unorthodox take on the concept of altitude training. From wheat silos and haphazard hay-bale stacks to peppercorn trees and ten foot high shade clothed fences, if there was a vertical challenge to be had then you could bet your last high ropes carabiner I’d be at the climbing ready to take it on!

Early spring was always the most exciting time of year on the farm. Unfazed by the cool air and ice capped fences, my three brothers and I couldn’t throw the bedclothes off fast enough to compete for first place in the great race that was getting to the calving shed in time for the morning serve of colostrum rations for the newly born poddy calves.

One morning, following a particularly large dumping of September rain, Jimmy and Tommy – my two younger brothers – and I arrived at the feeding troughs to the sight of a sodden and desperately mewing piebald kitten hanging precariously by the tips of it’s outstretched claws from the corner, eave purlin, of the shed roof. Realising this was the perfect opportunity to show off my now well honed vertical scaling skills, I seized the moment and skillfully swung myself up and over the steel hinged, shed gate and rapidly began my ascent along the red-brick wall toward the frightened feline.

Blocking out the piercing wails hailing from above, I heedfully navigated the desultory brickwork, using gaps in the mortar and some spare, stacked fence palings to advance myself upward. Over the years, Tommy, Jimmy and I had become quite accustomed to rescuing stray animals that had taken refuge in various sheds and abandoned machinery about the farm. So as I neared my petrified friend, I was well prepared for the bared teeth and angry hissing that ensued. Ignoring the defensive, claw ridden strikes at my hands, I quickly covered the fist sized fur-ball with the cuff of my jumper and slowly made my way back toward my awestruck, brotherly audience.

Of course the blame for what happened next will always be leveled at the rain soaked, slippery clay soil and not at all because my over-inflated, high rise confidence had hijacked my sense of risk and caution. One moment I was comfortably balanced atop a stack of sturdy, wall-hugging fence posts, the next, I was pinned under a corporate fat-cat sized weight of Ironbark, competing desperately for breathing space through the only remaining gap between the now frantically mewing kitten and an incoming deluge of red-dirt mud.

I’m not sure what was worse, the incessant fang and claw induced maiming penetrating my now saturated Nanna-made jumper or the ultimate dressing down and week long parlour duties I received from Dad when, after what seemed like an interminable paws in time, he lifted me from my cat-tastrophe.

This summer I just couldn’t help myself. Dejected and clinging onto life with all but a tinge of chlorophyll left in the wilted green leaves, I threw the neglected punnet of Cucurbita Pepo into my basket and marched toward the checkout of our local nursery. Three months and a lot of love, weed and worm tea fertiliser later, and I was right back in that calf shed: totally squashed!

squash

Lucky. That was the name our much loved cat who, after much pleading and chore bargaining, was adopted into the family as yet another addition to our motley menagerie of rescued pets. Lucky is how I would also describe our abundance of fleshy, yellow marrow. From curries and pasta bakes to humble soups and sandwich-able preserves, we certainly feel golden to have so many adaptable family recipes that prevent us from finding ourselves in a profuse pickle. For those also flush with yellow funds this summer, I present to you my recipe for sharing the button squash love to all those who have a penchant for pickles…

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Squashed Chutney (makes plenty of tip shop rescued jar fulls!)

In true rescuing spirit, I plunged into that crate full of throw away, reduced price goodies at my local farmers market store to ensure that those over-sized yellowy-green marrows had plenty of motley friends to keep them company in those bottled up jars of summertime love.

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700g button squash, diced
2 green capsicums, deseeded and diced
1 corn cob, dekernaled
2 onions, diced
1 ½ c white vinegar
1 c white sugar
4 tsp ground turmeric
4tsp mustard seeds (brown or black)
½ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp curry powder
2 garlic cloves
2 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients into a large pot with a lid. Bring the mixture to boiling point and allow it to simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for another 30 minutes or until the mixture thickens.

Meanwhile, sterilise those tip shop rescued glass jars. To sterilise the jars and lids, wash the them thoroughly in hot soapy water (use a bottlebrush if you need). Rinse in hot water then leave upside down to drain on a tea towel. Place the jars and lids on a tray in an upright position then place them in the oven at 100oC for 15-20 minutes.

Bottle the chutney into the hot, sterilised jars and seal. Leave for atleast three days before consuming.

Chutney

For those in need of an extra squashy meal deal or a wholesome, lunch box treat for the kids, load up the that homemade bread with a spoonful of the chutney, top with some cheddar and throw it in the toastie maker (…also rescued from the tip!). Viola!

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Oh…and as for those large seeds hidden in the centre of the squash, don’t forget to dry and store them for next summer. It’s the golden gift that keeps on giving!

ZomB’ Day Apocalypse

As the sun, scarlet red and looming eerily over the horizon, peeked it’s way in and out of the blackened clouds, a horde of lilliputian afterlife worshipers and their parents descended upon a local community hall for three hours of Zombie themed birthday party fun!

Enamored by the cemetery themed energy emanating from our housing complex gathering last Halloween, K1 decided to bundle up and preserve, for few months, some party ideas for a morbid motif rebirth. Three weeks before the day of the great re-enlivening, and my excited little greening machine set to work on all manner of dark and gruesome, mostly up-cycled, paraphernalia to entertain his fellow birthday bash pals. From entrails entrees to a mean ‘n’ obscene pinata, no activity or food menu item escaped the clutches of K1’s insatiable appetite for brainiacal ideas:

A-wake: nothing says a welcoming Zombie themed gathering like a good ol’ clap of thunder and some omnipresent grey and smoky gloom. Throw in some adequately alarming “Welcome” posters and a cache of classic 1990’s spooky dance numbers and our local community hall centered birthday bash was off to an eeriesistable start!

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Engorge the innards: stuff the kids full of deathly delectable food and, what do ya know, you have a room (and outdoor play space…phew!!) full of boundless afterlife energy. In keeping with the engorgeous theme, K1 renamed some of our family favourite recipes with suitably gutsy epithets including Head Salad (Scott’s Supersize Me Salad); Eyeball Bath (Tabouleh with pearl barley as an eye catching alternative) and Blood ‘n’ Bone Mix (Freekah and Beetroot Salad).

food

As for the main course, well that’s a rather decaying matter. Those popular Bishop Bread rolls, usually packed full of veggies for a wholesome school sustenance, were transformed in both shape and name to resemble none other than…Corpses in Coffins (Sausages in Bread).

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Entrancing games: when it comes to kids party games, I’ve always been a bit of a fan of stitching together some of the old and flagging traditional games with an element of leitmotif to keep the punters entranced. Inspired by the much loved family card game, Zombie Run, K1 and his artistically enthusiastic friend set to work designing plenty of weird and wonderful masterpieces for the more personalised “Pin the Brain on the Zombie”. On the day itself, the kids took to the the brains with colourful fervor and were keen to come back for plenty more brain munching action.

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Following a competitive stint of Zombie Musical Chairs, the captivated kiddycrowd then huddled about the homemade pinata waiting patiently for their chance to belt some lollies out of the Zany Green Zombie head. When the quadruple layered paper mache’ oval was finally breached, mass hysteria ensued as each sugar crazed child expedited a snatch and grab maneuver to secure their personal loot.

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sCoffin Cake: no good birthday celebration is ever really complete until the voice box has been given a good, Sunday service quality workout, with a cake-by-candle-light vigil to finish. Using a childhood favourite recipe (my mothers chocolate slice) for the ground and a traditional, Woman’s Weekly butter cake for the tomb, the party goers were quick to get sCoffin their sucrose laden share of the grave inheritance…with some bold enough to ask for more.

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Final goodbyes: all good things must come to their natural end. Laced with plenty of earthy-green, spirulina goodness, my mothers choc-chip cookies were the perfect send off for what was dubbed by all family members helping to organise the order of service, as a good innings.

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While Scott and I farewelled the last of the guests, the Aunt’s, Uncles and Grandparents bundled two very contentedly enervated youngsters into the car for a slow drive back home. After a long afternoon of party frivolities…let’s just say…my nutty duo did indeed Rest In Peace.

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Luv en der Bouquet

Perhaps it’s my tendency to take walks down nostalgic, English memory-lanes. Or maybe it’s my fondness for all things green and flowering in the height of our dry and scorching summer. Whatever the reason happens to be, not too many plants could out-compete my love for the humble lavender bush.

Ten years ago, Scott and I traversed the red-carpet lined aisle of a 12th century built chapel to recite our wedding vowels before an audience of our dearest friends and relatives. Set against the backdrop of an immaculately maintained, Oxford College garden, we then transitioned into an afternoon of champagne sipping, croquet playing and high society wining and dining. With such botanical perfection to act as a substitute for the usual bevy of expensive flower arrangements, it seemed only natural to also take a more rustic approach to the acquisition of my wedding bouquet.

Until the day before I tied the knot, when my gaggle of girly-friends and relatives descended upon my cottage residence for an evening of hens night frivolities, I had always believed that my rather unorthodox life choices were due to some kind of genetic mutation in the “straight-laced citizen” gene. After all, for every one of my eighteen years of family-home life living, the bills were always paid on time, speed limits were obeyed and never, ever, ever were my school dresses allowed to be higher than my knees. Ever.

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After having our fill of Pimms beverages in the courtyard garden, me, mum and my covey of conspirators salleyed forth, through fields replete with cattle and sheep grazing on the early summer pastures, towards The Sun Inn. Feeling somewhat nervous about disclosing the evenings’ plan to my rule abiding, genteel mother, I surreptitiously hid my swindling equipment in the bottom of my capacious carrier bag and lingered, discreetly, at the back of the group. When the opportunity arose, out of the bag with great rapidity, came my scissors and roll of dampened kitchen roll. Into it went a prized specimen of only the finest English garden or wild flowers. By the time we had arrived at our destination, my booty bag was brimming with all the colours of the purloined, English countryside.

Awaking late following a solid evening of top quality pub food and anecdotal banter, I lackadaisically lumbered my way down the antique staircase in search of that invigorating morning cuppa. As I made my way through through the lilliputian, wooden kitchen door of our cosy, nineteenth century railway cottage, I was greeted with an opalescent display of floral handy work, adeptly gathered at the base with a silky, white satin ribbon. “The rose didn’t quite stand out enough…so I added some of my own hand picked work” said my mother with a smile. “I’m sure your neighbour will be thrilled to know her lovely lavender now takes pride of place in my daughters wedding bouquet”.

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As a reprieve from the hectic schedule of work, school, extracurricular activities and general day to day living, last Saturday evening saw Scott and I donning the fancy dinner garb to enjoy yet another of our treasured Dine-In-Date-Nights. Comprising only the finest garden sourced ingredients, my take on the humble, iced cream dessert forced us to, literally, take some time out to stop and smell the luv en der bouquet!

Lavender Ice Cream (makes approximately 1.5 L)

For me, making ice-cream is a forty-eight hour, labour of love. Having a moreish predilection for the french take on this humble dessert, means that I use a lot of eggs, cream and sugar: the sweetest things in life! The three step process sees me first making the custard. Cooling for twenty-four hours. Churning and then freezing for another twenty-four hours. Whilst a long time in the making, the effort is well worth the wait and is always received with happy smiles from all those who dare to take on my, often wacky, combinations of lingua experiments. Depending on how many flower heads one chooses to pick or pilfer, the intensity of lavendula flavour can be modified to suit all ice-cream comers.

600 ml single or pouring cream
400 ml milk
1 cup sugar
atleast 20 lavender flower heads
5 egg yolks (reserve the egg-whites for a spring take on the traditional, crisp almond bread: see below)

Atleast two days before you wish to make the ice-cream, place the ice-cream bowl (from and ice-cream machine), into the freezer. In a heavy based saucepan over a low heat, bring the milk and cream to simmering point. Cool for alteast 20 minutes.

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Meanwhile, break up the heads of the lavender flowers and rub them into the sugar. Whisk in the egg yolks till light and creamy (this may seem a little lumpy at first). Slowly pour in the heated milk mixture in a steady stream, whisking vigorously till all combined. Return to the saucepan. Stir constantly over low heat until the mixture thickens. Do not let the mixture to boil.

Pour, through a sieve, the custard mixture into a mixing bowl. Cover and cool to room temperature. Cool overnight in the fridge. Two hours before you wish to churn the custard mixture, place the bowl into the freezer. Churn for 15-20 minutes in the ice-cream machine. Place the churned ice-cream into a tub and store in the freezer for 24 hours before serving. Serve in a bowl or cone together with a slice of Strawberry Almond Bread.

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Strawberries are dime-a-harvest-bounty-dozen at my house in November. Acting as a thick ground cover in our courtyard garden, K1 and K2 can often be found taking a forage break in order to retrieve these ruby-esque spring time fruits. In addition to mini-pots of jam, leftovers from the afternoon guzzle fests make a berry alluring twist to the standard almond bread recipe.

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5 egg whites
¼ cup coconut sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 cup buckwheat flour
¾ cup wheat flour (plus a little extra)
½ – ¾ cup almonds
½ – ¾ cup strawberries, sliced

Whisk the egg-whites till stiff. Whisk in the sugar. Mix together the flours. Gently fold through the flour, strawberries and almonds. The mixture should be dollop-able. Add a little more wheat flour if it is too runny. Pour into a small, 1 litre loaf tin. Cook at 160oC for atleast 40 mins or until firm to touch. Cool in the tin. Refrigerate for atleast 8 hours or overnight.

Turn the loaf out onto a board. Slice into 3 mm thin pieces and place on a baking tray. Cook again in the oven for atleast 20 mins at 120oC (this temperature is very forgiving). Flip each piece and return to the oven for another 15-20 mins. Cool.

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To serve as an accompaniment to the Lavender Ice-cream, slice each piece in half on the diagonal. Place one half (or both) into the top of your ice-cream serve.

Spread the lavendula to all your lovers and loved ones!

Happy Hallo-inbet-Ween

The 31st of October for our family – and the many other families in our town house complex – brings with it much hoopla and the usual surge of underworld inspiration. Despite the somewhat hectic schedule of after school and family activities, this years gawesome clambake was no exception to the enthusiastic rule: pumpkins, ghosts and zombie scarecrows being the pick of the haunted harvest crop!

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Far from it’s end of harvest time roots, Halloween celebrations are snubbed and dubbed by many Aussies as yet another Northern Hemisphere tradition spreading its haunting tendrils into our sunburnt turf. Furthermore, for the environmentally conscious citizens seeking to curb habits of over consumption, the spooky paraphernalia and individually poly-wrapped candy can seem like an unnecessary use of non-biodegradable resources. For Scott and me, seeking to relive our nostalgic North American and U.K. past whilst still being true to our families commitment to living a low-plastic-and-waste lifestyle, finding the happy Hallo-inbet-Ween can feel a bit like recreating Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’s monster.

Stitching together the best parts of the grisly frivolities, our 2019 trick or treat costumes and house adornments saw a murder of crow like children gather at our gates for a lower-environmental impact evening of horrifying fun. For those willing to get in on our terrifying secrets to having it all, say hello to the mysteries of the Hallo-inbet-Ween:

Go grave digging: there is nothing more settling to the anti-thow-away mind than being able to retrieve from the tip-shop’s textiles-bin coffin, some handy sheets and clothing for some quick sew costumes. As for that packaging that encased our new worm farm, well how bout some good ol’ fashioned cardboard box, fency decorations.

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Disect: thanks to K2’s ravenous appetite for chewing through the knees of winter jeans, my sewing room cupboard was replete with truncated denim bottoms (the top halves now hip-cat summer shorts): cut into squares as patches for the scarecrows outfit.

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Stitch: one queen sized flat sheet can go a long way. Folded in half length ways and then draped over K1’s head, I cut and stitched my way to ghost costume Victor-Frankenstien-ory. Finished off using a curvy edge – the off-cuts of which were fashioned into a cover for K1’s brain bucket and a head for the scarecrow – K1 was set to petrify the neighbours into candy giving submission.

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Stuff: well that miniature sized scarecrow – destined for a long working life at our newly acquired, community garden allotment – ain’t gonna fill itself. Doubling as a fun activity for a rare at-home-day-Thursday morning, K2 and I set about sawing, pinning and stuffing with straw those rescued, baby-sized clothes to create our very own charming, carbon loaded scarecrow.

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Enliven: bringing the Halloween celebrations to life is always a little easier with that wonderful ingredient called sucrose. As much as I would love to be that parent who is brave enough to offer dried fruit or jackolantern mandarins (an idea I seriously toyed with), K1 made it quite clear that I was already pushing the “not normal” envelope to it’s sustainability limits and so I went with the bulk buy party pack lollies packed into a paper bag option instead. Throw in a strawbale (and crunchy garden clippings) tunnel, some up-north pumpkins and those fence decorations from upcycled cardboard and skellybob’s your uncle!

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After maniacally battering and entering into over 20 houses in our town house complex, K1 and K2 returned home with a booty of…yep…more plastic wrapped candy than one could poke an electrifying stick at. Given our families strict rule of one sweet per day…it may be an eternity before we see the end of that burgeoning lolly jar!

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Happy Hallo-inbet-Ween!

In the name of the Father

…the sons and a wholistic toast!

When it comes to making those really big decisions in life, I’m pretty good at realising a burning pitchfork in the backside. I can say however, without fear of being crucified, that I totally nailed it in the selecting-a-y-chromosome-to-pass-on-to-my-progeny department: I couldn’t ask for a better father to my two children than Scott. So when the first Sunday of spring parked itself on the family pew, we assembled en-mass to bestow a God like worship to the patriarch of the house for Fathers Day.

This year K1 and K2 ascended to the kitchen altar and exercised their digits to provide a procession of offerings set to impress even the most ordained of clergymen:

Retrieved from the depths of the family’s cook-book tabernacle, the Egg and Bacon Roll cook-up has proven to be a ongoing fatherhood favourite…

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Be’lated Date Balls (Beet, Chocolate and Date Balls) – made from a some left over birthday cake, chocolate and those late harvest, garden beets – to round out the feast…

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And some organ inspired piano numbers:

Abounded in mind, body and spirit, we left the table in peace: to love and serve the day.

For those keen on giving some daily bread to that special man of house at the next Father’s Day worship, then look no further: Wholistic Toast. Packed full of plenty of go, glow and grow foods, the whole family will be singing from the rafters by the end of that big brekky feast!

Ahhh…Men.

Wholistic Toast (Gluten Free Man Food Rolls; makes 8)

Thanks to our family’s voracious appetite for homemade pasta and ice-cream, we accumulate a lot of egg whites. When combined with a selection of gluten free flours, psyllium and a generous swill of kombucha, one can have themselves a scrumptious addition to the breakfast feast.

300 g almond meal (although I have also been known to use a mix of gluten free flours including buckwheat, soy, rice, quinoa and banana)
55 g psyllium
1 tbs coconut flour
¾ tbs bicarb soda (baking soda)
½ tsp salt
4 tbs kombucha (or apple cider vinegar)
2 tsp honey (or rice malt syrup)
1 ½ c boiling water
6 egg whites
sesame and poppy seeds (optional)

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In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients (with the exception of the sesame and poppy seeds). In a separate bowl, whisk the egg-whites until they are white, fluffy and soft peaks can be formed. Stir the egg whites through the dry mixture until a bread crumb consistency is achieved. In a separate bowl again, mix together the kombucha, honey and boiling water. Add the wet ingredients into the flour/egg white mixture. Using a wooden spoon or strong spatula, stir vigorously until the fizzing has subsided and the mixture begins to form a firm but sticky dough.

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Pour the poppy/sesame seeds into a shallow bowl. Divide the Wholistic Toast dough mixture into eight, approximately equal, portions. Roll each portion into a firm ball, dip into the seeds and then place onto an oiled tray. Repeat for the remaining seven portions. Bake the rolls in the oven at 180oC for 20 – 25 minutes. Leave to cool.

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When ready to serve that deified Dad in your life his man food breakfast, slice the roll in half and load it with all manner of “grow food (protein packed)” goodies. Hallelujah!!

Light It Up: Lantern Festival

For me, getting out and about in the winter evenings with my two Energizer-Bunny kids, can seem a little like standing in the front row of a fireworks display with a leashed dog suffering from thunderstorm induced, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder! Yet every year, when our friendly and highly enthusiastic Neighbourhood Association puts on its annual lantern festival, I package up my nightmares about K1 and K2 drowning in the local wetlands whilst trying to recover a floating fairy-light display and hit the streets for a night of fire-fueled, community action!

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This year, the scene about our local shopping precinct was nothing short of flaming spectacular. In addition to reuniting with many of my hibernating-for-the-sub-zero-temperature-winter parental chums, there was also plenty of fundraising and entertainment activity to be enjoyed too. As K2 and I indulged in some Community Garden Herb Bread and lantern making frivolities, K1 and Scott took in the serenading sounds of a local and somewhat quirky folk band whilst dining out on an exceptionally long spiral of hot, fried potato.

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When dusk hit the party locale, it was time to light up the lanterns and file forth for a jovial jaunt about the shores of our local wetlands – the venue for the illustrious, Chinese Dragon led, night-light walk. From graveyard gimmicks and floating sea chariots to caroling choirs and living-light escorts, no natural stretch of the waters edge was left untouched by the most animated and luminescent party to hit our town’s winter calendar. At the conclusion of the sojourn, replete in spirit…and gastronomically speaking too, we replaced flame for L.E.D and hit the bike path for a slow cycle back to the homestead, enjoying plenty of post-event debriefing anecdotes along the way!

For those keen to break the mid-winter slump and create a night walking venture of your very own, I present to you the instructions to make a simple lantern from materials found around the home. If you are feeling extra enthusiastic, the activity can easily be up-scaled to include children at your local playgroup or a covey of family or friends: a soul-warming seller!

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Glass Jar Lantern

Resources:
1 large jar
super glue
scissors
paint brushes
scrap, coloured paper (such as old wrapping paper, tissue paper, craft paper etc.)
2 x paper clips (or some wire and pliers)
80 cm kitchen or garden twine (for around the top of the jar)
160 cm kitchen or garden twine (handle)
sand
1 tea light candle
matches

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Take the scrap, coloured paper and cut out pictures (from wrapping paper) or cut the paper into small rectangles (around 3 cm length and width). When you have cut enough paper to cover the outside of the jar, use a paint brush to cover the jar with a thin layer of super glue. Place the paper on the outside of the jar till covered. To ensure the paper is secured to the outside of the jar, paint over the top of the paper with another layer of super clue.

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To secure the handle, loosely wrap the 80cm length of string atleast four times around the top of the jar just below the threaded lip (where the lid screws on). Thread one paper clip through all four layers of the string. The paper clip will be used to attach the handle so ensure that the paper clip is strong enough to hold the weight. Repeat for the second paper clip but on the opposite side of the jar. Pull the string tightly so that the paper clips cannot slip around the rim of the jar. Tie the two ends of the string together.

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To attach the handle, first fold the 160 cm length of string in half. Thread one end through one paper clip. Thread the other end through the other paper clip being careful not to twist the strings. Tie the strings together.

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Fill the jar with enough sand to cover the base to a depth of 2 cm. Place the tea light candle on top. When you are ready to go on your illuminating walk, light a match and drop it into the jar just above the candle. With some tricky maneuvering you should be able to catch the wick: happy lantern walking!