Sunday, 2 June 2013

Winter is here

Winter has come.  Depending on the weather it can be a balmy 20 degrees outside if the sun is shining, then down to low double digits or less if there's been overnight rain and the cloud is hanging about.  I've been working every second weekend and this weekend was my weekend off.  A chance to catch up on general house stuff, get back to the blog and into the kitchen.  As luck would have it, the weather was both sunny and warm and overcast and cool which meant perfect opportunities to get the outside and inside work done; even if it did rain just after we hung out the washing.

The chooks were well and truly due for a good clean out.  The Isas are so greedy they were even interested in the bucket of their own excrement!  Silly chooks.  They have been finding various hidey-holes in the grass for their eggs.  We were wondering if they'd stopped for winter - rather suspiciously all at once - until hubby found their secret stash of 13 eggs mid this week.  I try to leave an egg in one of the nest boxes but only one or two of them seem to understand.

While on the topic of chooks I have some sad news - It's been 8 days since my little cluck monster passed away.  I went out to feed the girls last Friday morning to find her lying on the grass.  She had no marks on her and not a single feather out of place which means I'm still at a loss to say exactly how she died - it may have been old age or perhaps lack of food coming into winter due to the bullying of the new chooks.  My main regret is that she never got to be a mummy chook.  RIP little Goldilocks, AKA cluck monster, fluffy pyjama feet, Little One, or as the neighbour's called her Mo.

Winter heralds the onslaught of the Colliwats; the first of which was picked today.  We were lining up for at least 20 of them until the Isas virtually demolished any of the vine that was remaining on their side of the fence.  Weighing in neatly at 4.5kg, this pumpkin is the biggest and first of the glut salvaged from destructive beaks.

Shortly after the pumpkin rescue the skies clouded over and rain was threatening to drench the newly hung out washing; which in due course it did.  Time to head inside and make even more of a mess of the kitchen.  I started with home made muesli bars.  You'll realise how much of rip off the shop bought ones are when you make your own, and also that they're probably not really all that healthy for you despite what the ads say.  In any case they are quick to make and a good pick me up if you need that sugar hit at work.  You can change the ingredients easily to accommodate your tastes or to suit what you have available in the cupboard.  These are raisin, mixed nuts, sesame and sunflower seed.  Dried apricot and coconut is also nice and I usually add pepitas but had run out this time.  I also use a little less butter than the recipe asks for (100 instead of 125g).  You can find the recipe here:  Do you make your own muesli bars?  I'd love to know what variations you use.  I'm keen to try cranberry and white chocolate some time.

Homemade muesli bars
Continuing my kitchen day I started a sourdough loaf of cinnamon and raisin toast.  For some reason I've been craving it all weekend.  It's possibly due to going a whole week without bread because I didn't have the time to make any last weekend.  It's funny that I've had raisins sitting in the cupboard for months and yet I've nearly used them all up in one weekend.

Sourdough raisin bread
The dough doesn't rise all that well on the bench in winter so keeping it next to the laptop air vent or in our lap does the trick!  You can probably tell hubby is helping out with this one today.  No doubt he'll ask for his dues once the loaf is done cooking.

While the dough was proofing it was time to try out one of Mel Kettle's recipes.  I'd been waiting months to find some tiny unopened button mushrooms and the time to put my mind to making this one.  I finally found some perfect sized mushrooms at the Rocklea markets yesterday and at $4.99 a kilo I was in there like a shot stuffing my reused paper bag to the brim.

This recipe combines so many my favourite things: mushrooms, lemon, vinegar, garlic, good quality olive oil and herbs fresh from the garden.  I can't wait until they're ready.

Lemon, thyme and garlic marinated mushrooms

When it's wet outside you have to bring the garden inside so I spent a bit of time preparing these asparagus seeds - some for the new place and some to give away at the next crop swap.  I know most people grow from crowns but the seeds germinate readily and mature fairly quickly.  I have a few tiny plants at the bottom of the ramp when I spilled some berries last season - read left them out so long they got knocked over into the gravel and rained on .  Please note the red berries are poisonous so if you have little ones make sure they don't pop them in their mouths.

Seeds - Aspargus "Mary Washington"
Now to tackle the mountain of dishes...


  1. Sounds like you had a busy day! Yummies look great! Sorry to hear about your lil Cluck Monster. We had that happen last year and so this year as it got colder we doubled their feed every other day by giving a late feed just before roosting time. It seems to help them put on the extra layers needed for warmth etc. Our theory anyway, but we've not had one 'mysterious' death this Winter.

  2. Thanks Jacqui! The neighbours had noticed the little bantam out of the pen on a few days and had been giving her food (exactly what I'm not sure), but perhaps she couldn't get back to the water or to enough grain to keep her really filled up. Will try to get more feed into them in general. The isas seem so hungry all the time.

  3. Great blog! How did the marinated mushrooms go? It looks so yummy! I just made my first batch of homemade muesli bars using this recipe, tastes great but looks terrible. Hopefully it would be worthy of a photo soon! Sorry about your chicken. :(

    1. Thanks Claire, missing my little bantam. Would you believe I haven't had time to sit down and enjoy the mushrooms yet? Been working 12+hours a day this week so I've just been staring longing at them in the jar in the fridge when I get the milk out for my morning cuppa before I head off for work. :( Your muesli recipe sounds similar. The rice bubbles would make them a bit lighter which might be a good thing.

  4. Finally tried the mushrooms! I quite like them but they were a bit garlicky for the rest of the family and I may have been a bit liberal with the vinegar. I'll keep experimenting and hopefully come to a compromise.

  5. The sourdough looks amazing - could you post your recipe?

    1. Hi David,

      Thanks for the comment. The recipe is from a book my mother bought for me in Alaska, where sourdough is a longstanding tradition. Simply Sourdough: The Alaska Way by Kathy Doogan. Here's the recipe:

      1 cup sourdough starter
      3/4 cup raisins
      3/4 cup warm water
      1 tsp yeast
      1 tbs sugar
      1 tbs oil
      2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups flour
      1/2 tsp cinnamon
      1/4 tsp baking soda
      1 tsp salt
      3 tbs sugar
      2 tsp cinnamon

      Mix starter and raisins in a bowl, cover loosely and proof for 2 hours.

      In a large bowl, stir yeast and 1 tbs sugar into warm water, allow to bubble. Add oil, then stir in the proofed mix. Mix in 2 1/2 cups flour, cinnamon, soda and salt. Turn out and knead 5-8 mins until elastic, adding up to 1 more cup flour as needed. Form a ball and place in a greased bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled (1 1/2 - 2 hours).

      Punch down once doubled, cover and rest 10 mins. Roll or pat into a 9 x 12" rectangle. Sprinkle evenly with mix of 3 tbs and 2 tsp cinnamon, roll tightly from shorter side. Pinch ends and place seam side down in a loaf tin. Cover and rise a second time for 1 - 1 1/2 hours. Bake at about 190 deg C for 30 -35 mins. Remove from pan and cool on a rack.

      I skipped the second half of the recipe only proofing a second time, and just made a normal loaf which lacked a bit of cinnamon. I'll have to try it again properly. I think some orange zest would go nicely as well.


      PS One of my bosses is moving to work at Dubbo Hospital soon. It's not such a big country after all.

  6. Thank you for that sourdough recipe :) We can't believe how cold it is this winter. We drove down to Canberra in early June for a week and it was actually warmer in Canberra for a couple of nights than in the Northern Rivers!

    1. Thanks Jeni. It's been cold here this week - 4.5 deg when I got up for work yesterday and only marginally better this morning. I shouldn't complain because it's meant I actaully get Kitty cuddles at night - an improvement I look forward to every winter compared to the summertime snub. Funny how it can be warmer further south. I suppose water, altitude and microclimates have a lot to answer for. I'm on holidays soon so should hopefully be able to make some more posts shortly - we've bought a new place so looking forward to new posts about that.


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