Tuesday, 1 December 2015

In My Kitchen | December 2015

In my kitchen are peaches from our own tree! Last year our little tree produced three perfect peaches, about the size of a peach from the shop. This year, however, the tree's branches are covered with fruit. The peaches aren't as big this year, but they are sweet and juicy and just perfect straight from the tree.

Another loaf of sourdough. I was particularly happy with this one. I've been baking lots of loaves lately, trying to improve the appearance of my bread. I'm perfectly happy with the taste and texture, which is the most important thing, but I do like a loaf to be pretty too.

I made this one using this recipe, except mine was 100% whole spelt flour, and I used 400gms of my active starter rather than mixing a fresh one as that's the way I'm used to baking sourdough. Other than those two little tweaks I followed the recipe exactly, and am really happy with the finished result. I think I've been under kneading my bread, frightened of making it tough. This loaf I kneaded with a soft hand for 6 minutes (I timed it) and it was a lively, elastic dough. I proofed it in a banneton, and rather than then baking it in a pot I baked it free form. The strength that the extra kneading gave it means this loaf didn't spread sideways during baking.

The warm weather means a constant flow of eggs from the laying flock, and even the bantams are contributing regularly. The hens had ideas about hiding their eggs, and after a few days of no eggs and no luck discovering their hidden nests, they have been restricted to afternoon free-ranging only.

Some tomatoes from the garden. It's hit and miss with the tomatoes at the moment, as the grubs seem to have taken a fancy to them. I've never actually had a grub problem before, but this year I'm being forced to share about half of the crop with them. Hopefully when the other tomato plants start fruiting I'll have less problems, as the other plants are in a more established part of the garden, so hopefully the biodiversity will confuse the bad bugs.

My favourite kind of cake to bake and eat are classic tea cakes, like this Sultana Cake. As usual this is made on spelt and rapadura. I flavoured this one with brandy instead of rum, which gave it a lovely aroma and made it feel a little bit festive. I'll be sharing the recipe here later in this week.

Are you starting festive baking yet or is it too early for you?
I'm joining Celia once again, make sure you check out the happenings in everyone else's kitchens!

Sarah x

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Thursday, 26 November 2015

Summer's Rhythm

Whilst doing the chores yesterday morning, I noticed the little cluster of apples on the tree had grown significantly, and that they were beginning to blush.
I am met with the delicious fragrance of peaches each morning on my way through the chicken pen.
Two small things, that weren't happening last year, but as time goes on will no doubt become another yearly signal of the changing seasons.
I love how each season has it's own rhythm, and if your mind is quiet enough you will notice all the little things that come together to show that a a new season is on it's way.

Things in previous years that have been part of the beginning of summer here are the noise of cicada during the evening and morning, green tree frogs arriving on the verandah each evening and the mangoes ripening on the trees.

Adding to those this year are the sheep shedding their wool, the joy of harvesting peaches several times a week, the anticipation of those blushing tropical apples. My sourdough starter bubbles to life so quickly in this weather, and I've had to feed it more than once a day to keep it happy during activation.
The zucchinis are going mad in the garden, the passionfruit is trying to take over, the kale and spinach have wilted and there are rosellas sprouting all over the garden.

Summer is my least favourite season, but when I actively observe the things unique to this season I actually quite enjoy summer's rhythm.

What does summer mean for you I wonder?


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Monday, 23 November 2015

The Benefits of Gardening With Chickens

I was driving into my favourite small town recently - it's 40 minutes from our home and is the cutest little village in our area.
It has plenty of heritage listed buildings in it and the countryside is beautiful. Anyway, the little farm to the left as you enter the village always has a sign up "chook manure for sale". But on this particular day that sign read "sold out".
It made me smile. I know that sounds kind of weird, but I was thinking of the garden of the person who had bought that last bag of chicken manure. Of how well their plants were going to grow and thrive, how lush and healthy their garden was going to look.

And then I thought of my own garden at home - of the lush bed of herbs, the corn that's as tall as I am and the cucumbers and zucchinis that are visibly growing by the day.
Like the person who purchased the last bag of chicken manure, my plants are growing and thriving thanks to that wonderful stuff.

The only difference is that I didn't have to buy mine, or shovel it, or manually apply it to the garden. My chickens did it for me.

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