Friday, July 31, 2009


How I love our veggie garden. Years ago I would never have raved on about the garden, so what has changed? I am not sure. Is it an age thing? I don't think so. I do remember the first success I had in the garden of our first home. When the children were very small, I gardened...landscaped you could say because it was a brand new house with no established garden. I took pride in that garden and rejoiced in its improvements. Then we began our travels...returning between each posting away and attempting to re-establish the garden. The children got older and in between school runs and afternoon activities the garden became neglected. I lost interest. I never imagined I could find that joy again.

When we bought this property about 17 years ago there was much work to be done. Constant mowing and planting the odd tree here or there on our fleeting visits. Now we have finally settled down here...the house is built and the grounds need landscaping. With thirty acres the task is huge but we are slowly starting to make headway. The main task so far has been to establish the veggie garden. Its come a long way in the past twelve months. There has been a lot of hard work (with more to come) but the results are there.

Most days I am here I go over there and potter around. Watering, fertilizing, planting, cropping and of course the never ending weeding! I sit to rest on the bench that the Gorgeous Boy has made for me and admire our handiwork. The birds have begun to visit the gardens now and the bees buzz around the flowering peas and the broadbeans. The chickens have settled in and I can here them scratching around and "chattering" amongst themselves, Tiggy lays nearby basking in the sun and there is an incredible peace. Oh how I love the veggie garden :-)

Before I headed down to the city earlier in the week I took my basket and cropped a few things to take down with me,

it is all so fresh and tasty. What more could you ask for? The rewards are so much more than just a basket of goods. I'm not sure I can put my finger on it....but sure is good :-)

I took the time to photograph the jams that I made last weekend. They are all packed away in the pantry now.

but that little jonquil in the vase is still on the bench. I have my laptop on the kitchen bench tonight. Its warm in here with the fire . The perfume is so strong, the garden has come inside with me :-)

I only just had enough jars for all of the jam. While down in the city I found a glass jar supplier and managed to buy a few more trays of jars. There's no holding me down now LOL. I have been preserving tonight but that's a whole other post.

Time for bed now.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Jam making again.

Here I am late at night still waiting for my Pie Melon,Ginger and Lemon Jam to set. Been there...done this before. Why did I think it was going to be different tonight? I loved the last batch that I made so much that I decided to make a second batch. I still have a couple of Pie Melons left and don't see us growing them again, given that they were an unexpected surprise this year!!!

I also had a basket of limes that a friend had given to me. We only had two limes on our own tree this year and given the attacks by my "furry friends" we are lucky to have those two :-( So...this morning I rolled up my sleeves and got started making this years batch of Brandy Lime Marmalade. I am so pleased with the results. A perfect set and that lovely tangy taste. I have twenty jars sitting on the bench waiting to be labeled. Sixteen medium sized jars and four smaller ones. Its been a good jam making year and I am quickly running out of jars. I even had to go over to the shed tonight in the dark and rummage around to scrape up enough jars for the melon jam. I hope I have enough!

I woke up this morning with a mental list of all the things that I was going to do today...the best laid plans of mice and men huh! I did finally get around to digging up the last of the ginger. The "wobblys" had eaten all the tops but I had a pretty good idea where they were and just needed to dig around a little. The necessity of the job moved to No 1 on the priority list as I needed the ginger for the jam! Sometimes all you need is an incentive ;-) While I was there with the spade in my hand I decided to dig up the turmeric and horseradish which had suffered a similar fate. I was pleased with the amount that I was able to harvest of the turmeric. I think, if I have time, I will slice most of it up and pop it in the dehydrator tomorrow to dry it and grind it up to use later in the year. Sadly I was only able to find a small root of horseradish so I potted it up and will start again from scratch. This time it will join my collection of potted herbs inside the fenced area of the veggie garden.

Lunch today was a delight. The "plan"allowed me 80g of smoked salmon with salad.

Not a very clear picture but you get the idea. Being such a loving, caring wife I am prepared to share my diet with the Gorgeous Boy. Isn't he the lucky one ;-) Actually he is...he got to eat the bread. My plate was the one with the crackers on !!!! No. Its not sour cream that you can see. I wish!!! Just some of the cheese that I made from pressing some of the the low fat greek yogurt that I make. I was "allowed" 3 wholegrain crackers spread with 1 Tb low fat cream cheese. I improvised!!! As an after thought, after I had taken the photo I decided to chop up a little of my preserved lemon that I made a couple of months ago. I sprinkled it on the cheese. Oh yum. It was delicious. I shall definitely do that again.

I just went and checked the jam...its finally ready !! I will go and put it in the jars and head off to bed. Tomorrow I will label everything and shuffle things around in the pantry to make room for today's cook off.

I am limiting the photos that I attach to each post as I am having trouble uploading more than one. Its only a recent problem but my computer is still doing strange things. It seems to have a mind of its own at the moment. I will have to ask Mama or dr.K if there is another way of doing it.

BTW what a stunning sunset we had tonight :-) We are indeed blessed to be here.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Diets...Bah humbug!

Yup. That's right......I am officially on a diet. Have been for ten days and it sucks :-( Ten days and I have lost 1.5 Kg. Now that may sound OK but we all know that in the first week if you are good, heaps drop off...cos its all water right? Well its not dropping and I know why I hate dieting. Diet food doesn't taste good. I sit here reading my favourite blogs...most of which talk about food!!!!!and I look at my menu plan...meat and and salad...for a bit of excitement you can eat vegetables. Oh and lets not forget. They give you a "treat" if you are good. A low fat dairy dessert. Thanks but no thanks. I don't often eat dessert but when I do, I want it to taste good not plastic.

I am on this diet for health reasons. I am past dieting for vanity! This time I gotta stick to it! I have to find a way to eat 1500 calories (in the old measure)a day and have it taste good AND enjoy it. I will not be beaten . Its going to be a challenge.

I have been given a "diet plan" to follow and its taken me 10 days to realise that I can be smart about this. Tonight's dinner was Chilli con carne. I perused the recipe provided.

450g lean beef mince
1 tbsp canola oil
1 onion finely chopped
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1/4 cup tomato paste
400g can tomatoes in juice
1 teaspoon sugar
290g can red kidney beans
Mexican chilli powder to taste
chopped parsley.

Served with 1/2 cup rice
40g reduced fat cheese and a side salad.

Blah..... how bland does that sound! That serves four people so if I cook that up for GB and myself tonight. I have to eat it again another night!!!!! to use the rest up. I don't even know what "Mexican chilli powder"is.

I have this method of cooking. It may not suit everyone but it suits me. We grow most of our own vegetables up here at the farm. Because of that, we eat seasonally. Its no good me planning to cook asparagus if we don't have any at the moment but do have a glut of mushrooms, right? So I head out to the garden in the morning with a vague idea in my head of what meat we might eat that night. ( I buy in bulk and freeze, as I don't go shopping very often.) I look at what is available and plan my menu around whats there. Simple as that. I would add that I do keep a very good store cupboard of staples and am not afraid to experiment. I also cook from scratch. So if we are going to eat chilli I use fresh chillies.

I realised that I can tweak this diet to suit me. Tonight I started tweaking. Into the mix went ground coriander, ground cumin, some smoked paprika and a beef stock cube, ground black pepper, extra garlic and three beautiful shiny red fresh chillies. Sit back and taste. Hmmm its getting better. Sprinkle over finely chopped parsley and coriander. Mmmm. I will go with that for today. On to the plate with the rice and just a little under 30g shaved fresh parmesan ( equivalent calories as 40g reduced fat plastic cheese) all served with a nice little side salad of fresh mixed lettuce,rocket and cress from the garden, cherry tomatoes and spring onions. Oh and lets not forget, a crisp glass of savigion blanc ( I traded 1 plastic dessert and 4 dried dates for that!!!) You know I think I may be able to cope with this. Note to self....if you halve the oil allowed for cooking, you can have a little lemon and oil on your salad ;-)

Its only the start but its given me hope :-)

Now I need to go read some of those lovely blogs and figure out how I am going to cook the yummies I read in less than 1500 calories. Wish me luck!

I won't be too long out of bed cos look whose waiting for me

and the Gorgeous boy is there as well ;-)

Night all.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Guests at the Hilton.

We have some new guests.....a few months ago we commissioned the building of the "Chook Hilton" The young man who is renting our old family home had built himself the most beautiful bird cage which I spotted while doing the quarterly house inspection. After greatly admiring his handiwork I asked him if he would build me a chook pen. It took a while with many design e mails flowing between us but here it is in all its glory :-) With the assistance of a friend they delivered and erected it in April of this year. I was going to wait until spring before I bought any chooks to live in there. It gets pretty cold and windy up here in the winter and I didn't want to kill off any new babies before they had time to settle in.

These lovely ladies belonged to Mama and the Princess. They are about a year old and have been raised from day old chicks. Unfortunately they are the ultimate escape artists. No matter what we tried they would always find a way to escape their run and massacre the garden beds. Originally there were six of them but one "flew the coop" and was never seen again. Their wings were clipped but somehow they always managed to project themselves into the air and over the fences. Somehow I don't see them escaping from "The Hilton".

A decision was reached....they would move to the country! I loaded them into the dog carrier which we had used to transport Tiggy home from Malaysia. Covered them with some hessian and packed them into the trailer for the one and a half hour drive up here. Into "The Hilton" they went with a strict warning to "toe the line". I full expected them to suffer shell shock from the trip and a certain amount of frustration at being restricted. No eggs were expected for a few days. Bless their little fluffy feathers next day there were four eggs and they haven't let me down since. Mind you.....they do live in "The Hilton" AND get great treats daily from the veggie garden. I just like to think that someone knows who is the boss !!!!!

We are going to build another tall fence around the run so that they are able to safely free range during the day when we are here and also have the added protection of one extra barrier to protect them from wild dogs (which we unfortunately have in the area) when we are away.

The weather has been glorious lately. Crisp and cool and beautifully sunny at the same time. I spent a few hours over in the veggie garden today weeding and generally tidying up the area (pictured behind the chook pen). Tiggy was sunning himself close by and the chooks were clucking away in the is good here at Bellavista :-)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I am back :-)

Its been ages but I am back. It has been such a busy few weeks but now things are slowly getting back to normal. Thank Heavens :-)

Hi Olive, Good to see you comment and I am sorry that I haven't replied earlier. We have been most fortunate that since the Wood fire oven was built we have not had a complete fire ban here at the farm. It takes a while to fire up so we generally plan lunch and dinner to be cooked in there to make it worth while. The Gorgeous boy is planning to make a wooden door to fit on the front so that we can bake our bread in there. Just another job on the long list of things to do...LOL...Good job we are going to live forever! I hope that you got around to trying the roasted vegetable tart. I used eggplant, capsicum, onion and zucchini with fetta cheese, a beaten egg and a few olives to give it colour.

Hi Mariana, Its good to see you safely back from your trip. I have read part one and two so far and will catch up on the last few days of blogs shortly. It looked like a fantastic experience...these things are not always comfortable ;-) but that's what memories are made of :-) Yes the fudge was truly decadent but so delicious. If it caused you to raid the cupboards for chockies...well what can I say, after all the drooling that I do with your blog :-)

Here is the recipe for the Roasted Venison from a few weeks ago. I must explain that while I do follow recipes it is not unknown for me to add or delete ingredients that I either especially love or don't have in the pantry. So I will write the recipe as it appears in "The Great Australian Venison Cookery Book" with a few added comments.


2 1/2 cups red wine (eg Shiraz Cabernet)
1/2 cup oil ( I try to go a little lighter on the oil than normally recommended but in this case I used the full amount)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf ( I probably substituted curry leaves as I love the flavour)
1 clove of garlic, crushed ( I would definitely have used at least 3 or 4 vampires here!)
3 juniper berries ( I used more.....more like 6 or 7)
1 onion sliced

Mix all ingredients together and pour over the meat.. I then marinated a leg of venison for 24 hours. Remove from marinade and pat dry.

The recipe suggested that you rub over 1 dessert spoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of ginger....I missed out this part of the recipe!

Criss-cross 4 streaky bacon rashers over the top of the meat. I also laid a sheet of pork skin over the top of that....the latter was not included in the recipe but I think it made all the difference.

Pour over the marinade and cover with foil.

The venison was then roasted in a preheated 180 degree oven. They recommend 30 mins per 500g plus 30 mins extra. I followed their recommendation but uncovered it for the last 30 mins.

When the meat is cooked it is removed from the pan and allowed to stand, covered.

Mix together I Tb sp of butter with I Tb sp of flour and add to the gravy in the pan. I had to firstly remove the excess fat that came from the pork skin as it was very "greasy". After the gravy was thickened I stirred in the redcurrent jelly. They suggested I Tb sp of this. I probably used a very generous spoonful.

I hope this helps. The verdict is still out as to whether Venison should be cooked a little on the rare side or well done. I had a whole side of Venison to experiment with and am experimenting with different cuts. This roast was very good. I have some steaks to use another time and I think I will try these less well cooked. I will post the results when we use them.

That's all for tonight...I am going to indulge myself and catch up on all my favourite blogs that I have not had time to read in the past few weeks. I'll be back tomorrow if I don't have square eyes from staring at the computer screen all evening :-)

Friday, July 10, 2009

A winters tale.

Life has been very busy for the past couple of weeks and it doesn't look like letting up for another week. I do like to keep myself busy but I think even I have reached my limit. Is it just the weather? Cold and windy ? I think in a past life I must have been a bear because right now all I want to do is crawl into a warm nest for the rest of winter. Since I live in sunny Queensland I think I am either getting old or just becoming a wimp?

Last week saw me spending a couple of days finishing up the books for the end of the financial year, a messy task locating all of the necessary receipts and juggling the figures until everything balances. All done now for another year. Yeah :-) I also spent a couple of days down in Brisbane with doctors appointments and errands. Thursday I came back to the farm arriving just a few hours before our weekend guests arrived.

Cherry and the girls arrived at lunchtime.....well they would have done if they had not done a little unintended detour to "sight see up at the Dam" LOL. Still Girls...its always good to see the local sites of interest :-) We had planned a girlie night in before the boys came up the following night. I had been out the previous day and purchased all the necessaries........movies, popcorn, the makings of hot chocolate and of course the marshmallows, not to mention enough snacks to last two teenage girls for a month of Sundays. Oh and did I forget to mention the very sin full fudge. Mmmmmm. Six different flavours from the "Fudge Shop" they were balanced out with a kilo of strawberries. You gotta have something healthy in there!!!!!!

What I didn't realise is that they had also had the foresight to cater for the evening. We had enough snacks to last ALL weekend. The fire was lit and we curled up to watch the movie Australia, which I though was very kind of them as they had already seen it and Marie Antoinette. I hope they enjoyed the evening as much as I did.

Next day after a very late start there were many cups of tea and lots of catching up to do. Many hands make light work, the dough was made for fresh bread for dinner.

A slice with roasted vegetables and feta cheese was made to accompany the tandoori chicken and salad (which had tasted so darned good last time I made it that I decided it would do well for a light dinner).

The bread went into the oven

and we were ready!!!!!

The Gorgeous boy and "Nods" arrived just as dinner was ready to be served. We kicked off the evening with dry martinis, a drink that featured heavily in the dinner parties of our younger days! A delicious walk down memory lane and straight on to dinner.

We macerated some of the strawberries with a little sugar and aged balsamic and served them with mascapone cheese for desert. The recipe was compliments of Marie from "The English Kitchen" and well worth making. Absolutely yum!!!!!!! Her blog has some delicious recipes...whoever said English cooking was boring!!!

The next day we did intend to take the girls kayaking (the kayaks were still in the trailer!!) but never quite got around to it. We all pottered around the garden as it was a good "moon day" for planting leafy vegetables etc and GB and I explained the principles of moon planting to Nods and Cherry. We hope that they have as much success with it as we do.

We took our guest for a drive around the local area to view a property that was for sale that they were interested in viewing. Unfortunately the real estate agent had shut up shop for the day (such is life in the country!!) so we decided to drop in at the Kandanga Pub for a beer on the way back. The new owners have a cute little girl schnauzer called Milly so Tiggy got to flirt a little before we headed home.

The wood fired oven was flashed up again for another attempt at Pide. I love to use my guests as guinea pigs ;-) Fortunately, this time I followed the dough recipe, and had more success. I am sure that I can further improve on this.

Lunch was very late in being served at around 3pm but with the addition of an anti pasta platter with grilled Halumi cheese, salami, sun dried tomatoes, olives etc we were all so full that we decided that the Roast beef with a mustard crust which was planned for dinner could wait until lunch on Sunday.

Sunday morning breakfast was french toast with mixed berries in syrup and cream. Oh what decadence!!!!! A restful morning for everyone before lunch of the afore mentioned roast beef and vegetables. Desert was a very simple dish of vanilla ice cream with warmed up strawberry and rhubarb jam drizzled over the top. I have to say was delicious...such a good way to use up some of the many bottles of jam in my pantry!!!! Our guests headed home in the early afternoon. It was wonderful to have them here and I hope that it will not be as long before we can get together again.

Monday morning saw us heading down to the city as GB had to go into the office and I had decided that the Granny flat was long overdue for a spring clean and the gardens needed mowing and the trees pruning. It took two days of solid work but was worth the effort. The Princess came over on Tuesday to give "Nana" a hand!!! She shows skills at dusting but was easily distracted and soon lost interest. Its a good job that Nana had a copy of "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" on hand :-) She is now convinced that with the right spell she can "magic" all the housework done. Let me know that spell little one when you have it figured will be invaluable. dr K dropped in for dinner and stayed over the night which is always nice.

Wednesday was a busy day of errands. While out I decided to buy the Princess a new outfit. It was a cold and windy day. It is still early winter but I could not find any winter clothes anywhere for sale. All the summer stock is now going out on display. There I the shops...all rugged up with long sleeves and a woolly jacket with a scarf wrapped around my neck and all around me are shorts, sundresses and beach wear. I am sorry guys...I want to buy winter clothes in winter and summer clothes in summer!!!!!! I guess this life is all going a bit fast for me....I think I want to get off....I am so "over "the commercial push, push, push. Give me the simple life any day.

Thursday, Mama, the Princess and I went over to visit my sister-in law for lunch and spent a delightful four hours in her company. We explored her gardens and came home with a bag full of cuttings of some bright daisy like plants (I have to admit....I can name all types of vegetables but flower names sometimes elude me) and some native violets. These I left with Mama to plant in the garden and headed back to the farm with GB after he had finished work for the day. Its good to be home again. Unfortunately, we are heading south again tomorrow for a party and will spend the night near Cleveland. Next week I will be busy running back and forth between the two homes and I am looking forward to returning here at the end of the week with no more commitments for a while. Just to have the time to potter in the garden, maybe do a little sewing and to catch up here "at Bellavista". Mariana at Through my Kitchen window has asked for the recipe for the venison roast that we did a couple of weeks ago. I promise I will post it next time.