More Tomatoes

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Our garden is completely overrun with self-sown cherry tomatoes. Even after making a large batch of tomato sauce (read about it here) there are still literally hundreds of fruit ripening every day.

I now have several bags of whole tomatoes in the freezer. I simply wash and destalk the tomatoes then bag them up for the freezer. These provide a great alternative to tinned tomatoes for adding to casseroles and other dishes.

Another method that can be used is to puree the tomatoes in a blender (after washing and destalking them). This creates quite a watery mixture so I simmer it until reduced by at least half. You can also finish the process in the oven which seems to add some richness to the flavour, however, this is not an essential step. This is my version of tomato paste.

I spread the mixture into ice-cube trays to freeze.

Once they are frozen the cubes can be bagged up. This is 1.75kg of cubes which came from about 5kg of cherry tomatoes.

It is an easy matter to toss a cube or two when cooking for some intense tomato flavour without adding a lot of liquid.

I also use the tomato puree to make the tomato base for my homemade pizzas. I cook it to reduce even further and add some dark jam (Davidson Plum is my preferred jam but any plum or berry jam will do) and Tabasco sauce. This creates a rich, spicy sauce which we love on pizzas.

NOTE: I will write a separate post in the future with an exact recipe for the pizza sauce as I do not have the final quantities yet.

Replenishing Supplies

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We arrived home from holidays last Friday afternoon and in next to no time we were back into building up our food supplies.

Our kitchen overlooks the vegetable garden and I could a sea of red cherry tomatoes rambling everywhere. This, coupled with the fact that we had almost entirely depleted our stock of tomato sauce (ketchup) meant that this was a high priority on my ‘to do’ list.

The recipe for the sauce is here.

I made another batch of gluten free pizza bases. I make 6 at a time and freeze them ready for an easy meal.

Recipe for the pizza bases is here.

GMan got in on the act and restocked his homemade sourdough bread.

Finally, I picked a bucketful of Davidson plums from our tree (indigenous tropical fruit) and made what I regard as the best jam in the world.

I have included links to the recipes for the tomato sauce and pizza bases.

I will do full posts about the jam and sourdough in the not too distant future.

Also, don’t forget to check the recipe index on the blog. The link to the page is ‘Recipes – Food’ at the top of the blog.

Eggplant Everywhere

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For the past few years I have grown eggplant pretty successfully with minimal effort. In our climate it grows without supplementary watering, is generally resistant to pests and vagaries of the weather and, most importantly, the fruit mature gradually and I don’t end up with a massive glut of produce.

It is definitely a crop worth growing as they are generally $6.95/kg at our greengrocer.

I think eggplant are quite underrated. Here are some of my favourite dishes that I have made recently.

Roasted eggplant slices on a vegetarian pizza.

Ready to pop in the oven to roast.

The finished pizza.

Eggplant and Bean Curry

Sauteed eggplant and some leftover spicy chicken with a bit of tamari and served with cauliflower in cheese sauce. There is no photo of this one.

Eggplant often does not look particularly spectacular but I think it is definitely worth trying.

A New Garden

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There was an area on the southern corner of the house which had been a bit of no-man’s land. At times we had stored excess pavers and sheets of corrugated iron as well as some potted plants waiting to be planted.

A couple of moths ago I began working on cleaning up this area. Any remaining materials were relocated as were most of the plants. I decided to plant the aloe vera plants from multiple pots and edged the area with some rocks.

Then some cardboard to suppress any weed growth.

I had planned to put some mulch over the entire area, however, GMan suggested small rocks. There were plenty in our neighbour’s paddock next door as there was an enormous amount of rock and soil which had washed down from higher up the mountain during the recent heavy rains.

So I set to work.

That was a couple of weeks ago and then I was caught up in other jobs so it was put on hold.

However, this weekend GMan I spent several hours filling and moving buckets of small rocks to finish the area and here is the result.

I am very happy with how it has turned out. I managed to turn an eyesore into a low-maintenance feature. A definite improvement in my opinion.

Salvaged From the Snakepit

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Fear not, there are no snakes in this post. The snakepit refers to an undeveloped area surrounded by rocks in our backyard. It was flooded recently along with the whole lower portion of the garden.

This is a rather sad looking specimen of a chilli bush which had came up self-sown in this area. Despite being drowned by a couple of feet of muddy water, the bush appears to have survived and even had plenty of ripe chillies. Today I picked a substantial quantity.

My goal was to make some more of my ‘Tabasco-style’ sauce but it needs 150g of chillies – that is a lot of birdseye chillies. So, I supplemented my haul with more from a couple of other bushes that are in the fenced vegetable garden area.

I ended up with 128g of chillies so reduced the other ingredients slightly to match the reduced quantity of chillies. The recipe is here. Scroll towards the end of the link for the recipe.

The end result was 350ml of my version of Tabasco sauce. The equivalent cost of buying this in the supermarket is about $24. My cost was about 25c and a small amount of time.

Too Wet

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I have been working on a few small projects over the past few days but did not have a full story or photos to share.

All of that has come to a grinding halt as we retreat indoors as the predicted wet weather has struck. There was light rain during most of the day yesterday but it really began in earnest about 6pm. In the next 12 hours we recorded 176mm (7 inches) of rain.

This is what our backyard looked like when I awoke this morning. We have had intense and/or prolonged rain in the past which has resulted in a view like this but is has not happened for several years.

These are a series of photos of the lowest section of our back yard. The water is over a metre deep in some parts. The cause is two-fold. The driveway of the property next to us acts like a dam which causes the water to back up. We live on a mountain and the water from the steeper land above us finds its way to this area which would have been a natural watercourse in times past.

While the bottom of the garden floods, there is no risk of any inundation of the main part of the garden or the house due to the slope of the land.

This might look and sound quite dramatic, it is not a major problem as we have chosen to leave these areas of our garden as open grass so it suffers no real ill-effects as the water usually drains relatively quickly through the porous, volcanic soil.

It is not actually raining at present, however, the forecast is for continuing heavy rain for the next 48 hours.

We will not be venturing out as we have everything we need here and there is bound to be some localised flooding as well as potential landslips and and fallen trees.

Are you sufficiently prepared to manage if you need to stay at home for a number of days or longer? Please share your tips and ideas.

The Last Pick

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We have several citrus trees here and the fruit is generally ripe during our cooler months from May through to August. The earliest one is the grapefruit closely followed by the Washington Navel orange and mandarin. The two Valencia orange trees are much later and seem to have an extended season with fruit lasting quite happily on the tree for a few months.

In the past we have finished picking in mid-November but the season last year lasted even longer. Today I picked the last of the fruit from the older tree beside the driveway. I thought there might be about 30 but there ended up being 93 fruit!!

I have juiced and frozen all of the juice as I do with all of the harvest. This provides us with enough juice for the entire year. It is just as well that I have plenty of freezer space as there is currently 29 litres frozen juice.

The juicer I bought in 2018 is worth its weight in gold. You can read more about it here.

The 2022 crop is already doing well and larger than the size of a golf ball.

There are still a small number of fruit to pick on the other tree but they can wait for a week or so until I have used some of today’s haul.

Stocking the Pantry

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Fresh produce from the garden is wonderful but there are times when you definitely can’t eat it all at harvest time.

This basket of cucumbers was a case in point.

The recipe from a friend has clearly been passed down from an earlier generation.

I tweaked it slightly and will modify it a little more in the future.

Cucumber Pickles

3.2kg cucumbers, thinly sliced
2 large onions, thinly sliced
3/4 cup salt
Iceblocks
5 cups sugar
5 cups vinegar
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried celery leaves

Layer the cucumbers and onions. Sprinkle with salt and cover with iceblocks. Allow to stand for 3 hours then drain and rinse thoroughly twice.

Place cucumber, onion, sugar, vinegar and spices in a large pot and bring to the boil. Do not boil the mixture. Turn the heat off and fill sterilised jars. Make sure that they seal before storing.

NOTE: I increased the turmeric and altered the celery salt from the original recipe to match what I had available. Additionally, in future I would reduce the sugar and vinegar to 4 cups of each as there was more liquid than I needed.

In deference to our industrious ancestors, it only seemed right and proper to use these two mixing bowls that belonged to my grandmother and would be around 100 years old. I use them on a regular basis in my kitchen.

The end result is ready to be stored in the pantry for eating throughout the year.

A Handsome Bunch

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We have had bananas growing here previously but this most recent clump was planted where we can see them from the house rather than up the back and totally out of sight. This is the view of them from my kitchen window.

Can you see the 2 bunches of bananas which have formed?

Here are some closer views.

They are not the biggest bunches but we are patiently looking forward to our homegrown fruit.

A Bouquet of Basil

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GMan was weeding the vegie garden today and discovered that the basil had grown too large and had collapsed under its own weight.

So, I was the lucky recipient of a large bunch of basil.

I removed all of the leaves, washed and spun them dry. Then it was time to make basil pesto.

I did not use pine nuts but instead I used a combination of almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds and pepitas. There is no recipe as such but I used garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. In addition to the standard ingredients I also added some nutritional yeast and a tablespoon of lemon juice.

This was the yield. It is not the most exciting photo so I added the jar of home-grown flowers which I was gifted yesterday.

There is no photo but we had pesto with our homemade gnocchi, tomato sauce and olives. YUM!