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.

Making the Most of Everything

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At the end of my last post I mentioned that I would share some details of the food preparation that I do.

In the past few weeks I have been fortunate to score some great bargains on fresh produce. A food bargain is only a bargain if you actually use the food. This can be a particular challenge with fresh produce but with a bit of know-how and some time you can make the most of bargains that may come your way.

Today I want to show you how I used and stored large quantities of cheap bananas, pineapples and tomatoes.

I bought a 10kg box of perfect, ripe Roma tomatoes for $10. $1/kg was too good to pass up. I could have bottled them straightaway but they were so firm, red and perfect that we decided to enjoy them fresh for as long as possible. I spread them out on a couple of racks so that would be able to easily identify any blemishes or potential rotten ones. Fresh tomato salsa was served with at least one and often two meals every day. Here is a selection of our meals.

L to R: Chicken tacos, Mexican quinoa and Baked potatoes with refried beans

This strategy worked well for just over 3 weeks which is testament to the perfect quality of the produce. In fact, I have no idea why they were being sold for $1/kg.

The remaining tomatoes were diced and packed into jars to go in the freezer. These will be added to casseroles and other dishes instead on buying canned tomatoes.

Next were the bananas. These were also $1/kg and I bought 12.5kg in a box. The bananas ranged from partly green to overripe but the majority were ripe and flavoursome although the skins were showing blemishes. We eat sliced banana on our cereal every day so about a dozen of the least ripe ones were added to fruit bowl to be eaten over the next week.

Two very ripe ones became banana cake and the remainder were peeled, cut in half and frozen on trays. They can be sliced and added to cereal with no further preparation.

You can see the less ripe bananas in the fruit bowls in the background as well as trays ready for the freezer and two bananas in the bowl which were about to be turned into banana cake.

Finally, the pineapples. I spotted this box of 5 pineapples for $4 and knew exactly how I could use them.

Dried pineapple is a delicious treat so it was a simple matter of peeling, coring and slicing the pineapple and then into the dehydrator. We like it semi-dried (a bit chewy but not crunchy). I store it in a container in the refrigerator.

L to R: Fresh pineapple ready to dehydrate, dried pineapple, ready to store in the refrigerator.

I would love to hear your stories of bargains or gluts and how you make sure they do not go to waste.

Baking Day

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It is over 2 weeks since my last post and I am not really sure why. It is partly because I have been occupied with personal aspects of my life which are not blog material but also I have been somewhat overwhelmed by national and global events which are out of my control.

Anyway, I am back and wanted to share a little of my day from yesterday.

As you may be aware, GMan has been the baker of bread in our house for probably close to 30 years. The breadmaker is an appliance that was a fad for some people and ended up relegated to a storage space to gather dust or the next garage sale. That was not the case here and it has been used consistently here for many years. Our current model is the second one we have owned.

Our bread needs have changed as our daughters left home and the demand for sandwiches diminished. Also, I eat a predominantly gluten-free diet, therefore, regular bread is off the menu.

In the early days GMan used various premixes, however as time has progressed so have his skills. He now makes bread in the breadmaker from scratch. This is mostly restricted to the occasional loaf of fruit loaf which he enjoys.

His main focus now is sourdough which he has researched, studied and perfected in the last 5 years. You can read about one of the earliest results here. Continuing research and a more mature starter have contributed to his current success of which he is justifiably proud.

I am still waiting for him to try a gluten-free starter. Maybe this year……..

Like most people, we are mindful of our power usage, and therefore, the oven is generally used for multiple items when it is turned on. Yesterday was a good example. I also made a loaf of gluten-free banana bread and a batch of gluten-free cheese scones. These are enjoyed by both of us. The scones are the perfect accompaniment to home-made vegetable soup and the recipe is here. I will add the recipe for the banana bread later as yesterday was the first time I had made it.

The last thing I put in the oven was a tray of eggplant slices. These were from our garden and I brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt before gently roasting them until soft. They were for the pizza I made for dinner last night. I do not use the oven when making pizza as I have a benchtop pizza maker.

A day in the kitchen was not only about baking but also other food prep (pineapples, bananas and tomatoes) but I will save those stories for another post.

Storage Solutions

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In the eleven years that I have been writing this blog I have intermittently made attempts to organise my photos. Little by little I make some progress. I recently uploaded the entire collection to the cloud but this post is not strictly about the photos.

While I was sorting through them I found random photos I have taken of different storage solutions that work for me. Here is a selection.

Rolls of wrapping paper in a repurposed shoebox.

In the cupboard in the spare room. Various bags sorted into categories for reuse. A beautiful old tin which is full of buttons (also sorted and bagged). A plastic tub of all our CDs. They have all been ripped and saved on the computer but we can’t quite bring ourselves to get rid of them.

Folded teatowels in a repurposed timber box which lives in the linen cupboard.

The plastics drawer with containers stacked in piles. This needs maintaining regularly.

The cupboard in the office is constantly evolving.

Storage is not an alternative to decluttering but it does help to be able to maintain a level of organisation. However, I do not advocate rushing out to buy specific matching containers. As these photos show it is possible to utilise various containers that you probably already have available.

Happy Anniversary

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I received a notification yesterday from WordPress that advised me that I have been writing this blog for 11 years. Although I sometimes wonder what to write about I intend to keep going for the foreseeable future. Thank you for reading along.

Meanwhile, the day went on with regular jobs. I did 4 loads of washing, ironed and folded everything, stripped and remade the bed, swept all of the floors and made another batch of spreadable butter. When I cooked the rice for dinner I did extra and have 2 more batches in the freezer.

Tomorrow is another day…………………..

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.

Bagging a Bargain

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Most of us are trying to make the most of our grocery budget as food prices seem to be increasing on an almost daily basis. Extreme weather events driven by the impacts of climate change along with global conflicts are combining to disrupt supply chains.

This is the background upon which shoppers are doing their utmost to spend their food budget wisely.

There are not many, if any, items which can regularly be purchased for $1/kg. So, when I spotted Roma tomatoes for $1/kg at our local greengrocer, I took advantage of the bargain. Although the tomatoes were loose on a display stand, I discovered that I could purchase an entire 10kg box for $10. This was too good to pass up.

Here is my haul.

Of course, a bargain is only a bargain if there is no wastage. I have spread the tomatoes out on the kitchen bench and there are no soft spots or blemishes – all absolutely perfect.

Tonight we will have slices of fresh tomato on our pizza. Tomorrow I will make salsa to have with our bean tacos and I am sure they will feature in other meals over the next week. Other than that, I may dehydrate some, make pasta sauce and bottle or freeze them whole.

Making the most of seasonal and often cheaper produce makes good sense as we try to stretch our budget a little further.

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.