Monday, August 30, 2010

I Love Footscray

Some of the goodies I bought
I indulged in one of my favourite past times this morning - browsing through the groceries in Footscray.  I reckon Footscray sometimes gets a bad rap.  I love Footscray.  In Footscray you can buy all sorts of Asian, Indian and African food.  And it's cheap and you can buy in bulk.  I hunted out the Ethiopian bakery where you can buy injera - delicious flat bread that you use to mop up stews.  My kids will eat all sorts of vegetables when it's served with injera.  I also bought black sesame seeds and brown rice flour and will have a go at making some sesame seed crackers.  After reading an older blog from moo I made it I was reminded that you can also buy mangosteen in Footscray.  Mangosteen is the yummiest fruit I've ever tasted and there's lots of it at Little Saigon market.
The mangosteen I ate with Eldest Monkey after school

So for tonight's dinner I have made an Ethiopian inspired lentil veggie stew with silverbeet from the garden.  Littlest Monkey Boy was most unimpressed on riding home from kinder when I told him I was making a lentil stew with veggies.  He had a little hissy fit and informed me that he "would not eat the vegetables!"  He said "I will throw the vegetables at your face!"  Hmmm charming!  

I adapted a couple of recipes from Vegan Lunch Box by Jennifer McCann (this is my current favourite recipe book).  You don't have to use the Niter Kebbeh but if you have the time it does make the stew delicious.

Niter Kebbeh (Spice-Infused Oil)
1.5 cups canola oil
1/2 onion, chopped into large pieces
6 garlic cloves
6 slices fresh ginger
3/4 tsp tumeric
6 cardamom pods, crushed
3 cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
pinch of nutmeg

Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan.  Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to very low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Let the oil sit for another 20 minutes to allow the flavours to develop.  Strain oil through a fine mesh sieve and store in the fridge.

Lentil & Veggie Stew
1/2 cup Niter Kebbeh
1 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups red lentils
1/4 tsp tumeric
3 cups mixed vegetables (whatever's growing  - I used potato, carrot, silverbeet, broccoli and sweet potato)
5 cups water
pinch of cayenne pepper and salt to taste

In a large saucepan, combine the lentils with 5 cups water and sprinkle with the tumeric.  Bring to a boil and lower the heat.  Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally until the lentils are well cooked (about 20 minutes). 

Meanwhile in another large saucepan, heat the Niter Kebbeh, add the onion and saute over low heat until soft.  Add the garlic and cook until soft.  Add vegetables.  Cook until all the vegetables are tender (about 25 minutes).  Add salt and cayenne pepper to taste.

When the lentils are cooked, drain and add them to the vegetable mixture.  Stir to combine.   Serve with injera bread.

Like all stews, this tastes great the following day.  My eldest monkey also loves it cold in sandwiches for his school lunch.

Injera from: Mesnoy Injera Bakery
77 Irving St, Footscray

Sunday, August 29, 2010


The exciting and frustrating part about gardening for me is that I never really know if what I'm doing is right.  I planted some potatoes a couple of weeks ago.  I looked up how to do this on a few internet sites and decided to have a go at growing them in a no dig garden.

My nana used to grow potatoes.  She had a rambling big block in the outer suburbs and I remember as a kid visiting her and getting a tour of the garden.  It was a bit of a scrubby mess from what I recall but I know she'd potter around for hours and she loved it.  I remember her digging up some potatoes one day and showing me how she grew them.  I was only a kid but I thought she said she just chucked her potato peel in the ground under a fruit tree and potatoes would appear - but that can't be right can it?  Must have been potatoes not peel!

Anyway, I tend to go in for a bit of research before I try something new and then get confused when I'm told contradictory things.  And growing potatoes does seem to be a tad tricky.  But I printed off some instructions (can't trust my memory with something new), propped them under a brick and made a start.  Finding an appropriate bit of chicken wire took a bit of time.  (Will Monkey Man need this wire?  I'm too lazy to cut this big bit - is this bit big enough?).  Can't be tyres (even though we have a couple hanging around) toxic chemicals might leech out.  Found a good enough bit of chicken wire and made a cylinder.  Put down a thick, damp layer of newspapers and popped the potatoes on top.  Best to buy seed potatoes - better results, less likely disease.  Followed this with straw, (not hay, hay has seeds apparently).  Now, then I was supposed to pop on some compost - but I never have compost when I need it - why when we've got two compost bins and a worm farm?!  Although I did have a bag of mushroom compost which I used and then some more manure.  And topped it all off with another thick layer of straw.    Once they were all buried and done I went back inside and had another look at a few sites and realised I probably planted too many too close for the small space I had.

I'd forgotten about them for a couple of weeks.  Once or twice watered them - wondering all the while am I supposed to be watering - mightn't they rot?  (Since discovered that they do indeed like to be watered.)  And surprise and excitement ... foilage!  It's working.  Now I seem to remember something about not letting them see the light and piling up more straw.  Makes sense - why else do I have this big empty cylinder.  But when do I start piling?  How much of this leaf do I cover?  Sigh.  Anyway, if anyone has the answers... advice please!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Preparing for Chickens Part 2...

We had a lovely sunny day on the weekend and spent most of Sunday outside.  I persuaded Monkey Man to make a start on the proposed chicken corner.   This involves digging up the bamboo roots.  It's a shocker of a job!  Eldest Monkey Boy was keen to help - especially as it entailed using a big dangerous tool.  The axe!  I can be a bit over-protective at times and had to bite my tongue.  I think I only mentioned blood, hospital and fingerless about five times.  Anyway, eldest Monkey Boy chopped up a few bamboo sticks while Littlest Monkey helped for about 5 seconds and then went to bounce on the trampoline.

Monkey Man worked for what seemed like the whole day and managed to dig up 1/3 of the area.  And here's the pile of roots we made just from this section.

 I think this is going to be a long process.  Advice to everyone - don't ever plant non-clumping bamboo!

Saturday, August 21, 2010


I planted a tiny cutting of rosemary a year or so ago and it's grown into a lovely shrub.  It doesn't require much watering or care.  I haven't used it in cooking a lot though - just occasionally when I roast vegies.  It does go well with potatoes so I thought I'd hunt out a couple of recipes this week and make use if it.  I made a potato and leek soup and accompanied it with some home-made rosemary bread.  I haven't made much bread before - in fact I don't think I've made bread since I had kids!  But it's not so time consuming and this bread was definitely a success getting the thumbs up from all the family.  Littlest monkey couldn't stop yum-yumming throughout dinner and even Monkey Man who doesn't really care for food gave it a 10/10.   It was supposed to be flat bread, but as you can see from the photo it was more like a foccaccia.  Next time I need to use a rolling pin and flatten it out more before cooking.  I consulted all my cooking books and the internet but they all tended to say different things about how long to let it rest for.  In the end I decided to follow my Middle Eastern cookbook because that said to let it prove for at least 2 hours - and I was taking the kids to a play centre so that suited me fine.  (The weather has been so grim I felt the need to let the little monkeys run out some energy).  I make soup all the time in Winter and just make do with what I have rather than follow recipes, so this is what I did.

Potato and Leek Soup
1  leek (chopped and cleaned well)
1 onion (chopped)
2 sticks of celery (chopped)
6-8 potatoes (peeled and roughly chopped)
veggie stock or cubes
1 bay leaf
1 tsp chopped rosemary
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups milk 
sprinkling of parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in soup pot and cook leek and onion slowly for about 10 minutes until very soft.  Add celery, potatoes, bay leaf, rosemary and enough stock to cover the potatoes.  Simmer gently until the veggies are very soft.  Using a stick blender, blend everything until there are no more lumps.  Add the milk and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Gently heat before serving and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Rosemary Flat Bread
Recipe adapted from Vegetarian Dishes from the Middle East, Arto Der Haroutunian

8g (1 sachet) dried yeast
300ml tepid water
pinch of sugar
450g plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp chopped rosemary

Dissolve yeast in 3-4 tbs water.  Stir in pinch of sugar and leave in a warm place for 10-15 mins until it becomes frothy.  
Sift flour and salt into a warmed mixing bowl.  Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture.  Add enough tepid water to make a firm but not hard dough. 
Lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough for about 15 minutes until it is smooth and elastic and no longer sticks to your hands.  Add 1 tbs oil to make a softer dough.
Oil a clean mixing bowl and rub the dough round the bowl until it is covered with a film of oil to prevent the dough going crusty while rising.  Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place for at least 2 hours.
Punch it down and knead it again for a few minutes.  Divide the mixture into 6-8 pieces and roll them into balls.  Flatten each one to about 6mm thick.  Dust them with flour and cover with a cloth.  Leave to rise in a warm place for 20-30 minutes.  
Preheat the oven to 230-240ºC putting in two large oiled baking sheets halfway through the heating period.  When the oven is ready, slide the rounds of dough onto the hot baking sheets, dampening the tops to prevent them browning and bake for 10 minutes.  Don't open the door during this time.  Put them on wire racks to cool when removed from the oven.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Silverbeet is fantastic for a novice veggie grower like me.  It's lasted for months and looks great in the garden.  Most mornings I make a big cooked breakfast with an egg and veggies.  I've been popping out the back and cutting off a leaf or two to chop up with tomatoes and mushrooms.  And it's still growing strong.  Even the kids have started to like the green in their pasta sauces or veggie pancakes (I have to chop it up very small for them though).  The only problem I've had is the snails, but a few holes in a leaf don't bother me.

And just when I was about to give up on the silverbeet seeds I'd planted on the windowsill ... life!
My first attempt at indoor seed growing.  Silverbeet seeds.

Here's the recipe I tried last night with silverbeet.  It's from Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion.  Everyone loved them.

Silverbeet and Cheese Filo 
8 silverbeet leaves and stems, stems separated
2 spring onions, sliced thinly
10 mint leaves, chopped
6 stalks parsley
60g butter
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion
1 egg
100g feta
100g ricotta
50g parmesan or pecorino, grated
nutmet, salt and pepper to taste
5 sheets filo pastry

Cut silverbeet stems lengthways into 2-3 strips and then thinly slice.  Shred silverbeet leaves.  Put stems and leaves in a mixing bowl with spring onion, mint and parsley.
Melt butter in a small saucepan and set aside.
Heat oil in a small frypan and saute onion for 2-3 mins.  Add silverbeet mixture and cook for 5 mins or until all liquid evaporates.  Tip into a colander and press with the back of spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.  Leave to drain for 5-6 mins.
Preheat oven to 180º.
Break egg into a large bowl, mix with a fork and combine with crumbled feta, ricotta,  parmeson and silverbeet mixture.  Season with nutmet, salt and pepper.
Place 1 filo sheet on workbench and cut lengthwise into 3 even long strips.  Brush with melted butter.  Place 1 heaped tsp of silverbeet mixture in the top right corner of the first strip.  Fold pastry over filling to form a triangle shape then keep folding over to enclose filling and form a neat triangle.  Repeat with remaining pastry and filling to form 15 triangles.  Brush surface of each triangle with melted butter.
Place triangles on baking paper lined trays and bake for 20 mins or until golden brown.

Friday, August 13, 2010

August in the Garden

I'm sick of the cold and am hanging out for Spring.  Despite being a freckled, red-head I love the warmer weather.  I've just joined Diggers and have purchased some more seeds in anticipation.  I'm going to have a go at getting a head start and try to grow from seeds indoors.  This will be a first for me.  I'm new to veggie growing and mostly I've been getting seedlings. But I'm itching to grow some of the heritage seeds I've discovered and it'll be much cheaper this way.  Although my first attempt seems to have failed.  I planted some Diggers seeds of 5 colour silverbeet in an egg carton and popped it on the kitchen windowsill.  Nothing's happened!  I think I may have let it dry out.  I'll give it a couple more days and have another try.  

This month in the veggie garden I've...
  • made a potato bed and planted potato tubers.  This is a first for me - we'll see how we go.
  • planted spring onion seeds in a pot near the kids' slide
  • planted Diggers seeds of 5 colour silverbeet in an egg carton on the windowsill.  
  • put out some extra mulch on the patches
  • manured the veggie patches I'm not yet using in anticipation of Spring
  • planted some capsicum and eggplant seeds to try raising indoors
  • started digging up the bamboo roots in preparation for chickens (actually I set Monkey Man onto that task!)
garlic, leeks & silverbeet, pot of lettuce

Still growing well are:
  • garlic in a big pot and in a little patch near the herbs
  • leeks
  • silverbeet 
  • a pot of lettuce grown from seed 
  • broad beans 
  • snow peas - just started flowering
  • beetroot

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Preparing for Chickens

I've been dreaming of chickens for about 6 months.  At first I imagined them free-ranging all over our yard, but was assured by people with experience that they will poo everywhere and scratch up the veggie patches!  Anyway, I've done some research and am planning to get some silkies in spring.  I'm keen for them to be pets for the kids as well as helping us in the garden with their manure, digging about and eating the bugs.  Silkies are apparently very friendly, great with kids, can't fly and don't scratch as much.  They don't lay as well and their eggs are smaller than other breeds - but they're so cute!
Bamboo remnants in proposed chicken corner.

Over summer I cut out the bamboo that Monkey Man planted when he first moved here 15 years ago and this is where I'm planning to put them.  It was a massive job and as you can see I'm not finished.  It is that dreadful spreading bamboo that just keeps invading.  I've been finding bits sprouting up from the roots so we really have to dig up the roots - but it's hard work!  I kept a bundle of the bamboo sticks to make climbing frames and teepees and gave the rest to the neighbours.  My plan is to have a coop here with an attached, covered run and to have a separate, bigger, uncovered run for the daytime when we're around.  This run would go along the corner back fences, under the fig tree and under the trampoline.  I'm thinking I'll plant some more fruit trees along the fence where the bamboo was and maybe I'll also be able to squeeze in another fruit tree beside the fig.

So, in anticipation of fresh eggs that are coming, here's an eggy dish I made during the week.  I adapted the recipe from Little Kitchen by Sabrina Parrini, replacing some of the carrot with silverbeet and parsley from the garden.

Carrot and Zucchini Slice

1/2 onion
1/4 cup olive oil
4 small zucchini, grated
2 medium carrots, grated
3 silverbeet leaves, chopped
3 sprigs parsley, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups grated cheese
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups SR flour
salt & pepper

Pre-heat oven to 180º.  Lightly grease a baking dish.
Put the onion in a food processor and blitz it to a paste.  Add this to the olive oil and mix well.  Add the zucchini, carrots, silverbeet, parsley and cheese.  Add salt and pepper to the beaten eggs and stir it into the veggies.  Add the flour to the mixture a little at a time, stirring well.  Pour the mixture into a greased loaf tin.  Cook for about 45 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.

I served this with roast potatoes and steamed broccoli.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


This winter we've got an abundant crop on our two lemon trees.  I haven't done anything much to look after them - a bit of rooster booster last year and the grey water from the kids' baths over summer.  I've been told they need to be pruned to let some air and sun in and they have quite a few lumps and bumps from citrus gall wasp.  I'll get around to it!  For now they're working for us providing Monkey Man with his daily dose of lemon in tea and the occasional recipe that requires a lemon.  I thought I'd have a go at preserving lemons.  I've never even eaten preserved lemons but reckon I'd use them in some couscous, veggie dishes.  So I've consulted some recipe books and here's what I did.

Preserved Lemons 
•  Lemons (enough to fit in a 1 litre jar - approx 11)
•  coarse salt / rock salt 
•  1 cinnamon stick (broken into pieces)
•  3 cloves
•  1 bay leaf

Scrub the lemons.  Cut the lemons almost through to the stem and then pack the flesh surfaces well with salt.  Leave them in a bowl overnight to remove the juices.  

The next day, sterilise the jar.  I do this in the oven - preheat to 160º.  Place clean, rinsed jar still wet on baking try for 10 minutes.  Squash the lemons into the jar interspersed with pieces of torn bay leaf, cloves and cinnamon.  Cover with the lemon juice, seal and leave in a cool place for 4 - 6 weeks. 

Monday, August 2, 2010


This is the second year I've grown beetroot and I've found them pretty easy.  Although this year a few have grown wonky and skinny - I think I planted the seedlings too close.  I planted the usual variety as well as some golden and white beetroots.  Anyway, they are well and truly ready to be eaten.  So today I cooked up some beetroot hommus and beetroot and chocolate chip muffins.  The kids of course loved the muffins - anything sweet goes down well.  We'll see how the hommus fares in the sandwiches tomorrow. 

Beetroot Hommus

3 medium beetroots
1 can chickpeas
1 tbs tahini
2 tbs lemon juice
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Cut and peel the beetroot into 3cm pieces.  Place it in a roasting pan with 1/2 cup of water and cover with foil.  Bake in oven 180º for 45 minutes.  When cooked, put it into a food processor and blend together with all of the other ingredients.  Blend until smooth.  

Beetroot & Choc Chip Muffins

1 large grated beetroot
175g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbs cocoa
2 eggs
1/4  cup soy milk
60g softened butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup caster sugar
3 tbs chocolate chips

Sift together the flour, baking powder and cocoa in a bowl.  In a separate bowl whisk the eggs with milk.   In a food processor, mix together the butter, oil and caster sugar until creamy.  Gradually add the milk and egg mixture and then transfer to a bowl.  Fold through the flour mixture,  grated beetroot and chocolate chips.  Spoon mixture into greased muffin tin and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Cool in tin for a few minutes, then turn onto a cooling rack.  When cool sift icing sugar over the top for decoration.
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