Rain, rain, come again

I love it when the skies open up and the first autumn rains come down, it is such a refreshing relief after the long dry summer, and it always makes me feel a sense of joy.  Little T is learning about rain too, dancing about in his wellies and pointing to the cloudy sky “up up”.  I’ve changed the old nursery rhyme somewhat to be more appropriate for our dry continent:

Rain, rain, come again, stay with us another day!

With the change in season comes a whole new list of keeping-your-toddler-amused activites {otherwise known as avoiding-a-tanty}.  At first I thought we would be confined to the pay-through-the-nose indoor play centre, but after some thought and inspiration, we’ve had the loveliest day without it costing a cent!

Bunnings.  I needed a couple of bits and bobs for the garden, so we quickly picked these up and then Little T played on the indoor play equipment inside Bunnings for a while.  For a toddler, this was at least as exciting as any other playground/playcentre, and I am convinced he couldn’t tell the difference.

Image from safeplay.com.au

Better Pets and Gardens.  Next I needed to pop over to get some more chook food and I discovered at the store they have fish tanks wall to wall, parrots, hermit crabs, bunny rabbits and guinea pigs.  Wow! this was better than a trip to the aquarium and the zoo combined!  Little T was very impressed.  He talked to the parrot (who answered back), oggled the crabs, and I simply could not drag him away from the fish tanks.  Everything was at his height, and the length of time we were there suited his attention span.

Images from betterpetsandgardens.com.au

Library.  Our local library just happens to have story time for toddlers on the one day of the week that I have off work.  It is free to attend, and the lovely ladies at our library do stories, rhymes and {very messy} craft activities with the little ones.  Little T gets quite overwhelmed by the excitement of seeing all those books (he takes after me!) so the activities are a good way to focus his attention.

Lunchbox picnic.  We finished the morning with an indoor lunchbox picnic (so much more exciting than sitting at the table).  I got the bento box from Laptop Lunches years ago (whilst going through my vegan phase… more on that another time), and found it is exactly the right size for Little T and he likes the compartments and colourful boxes.  I filled his lunchbox with (clockwise from top left) homemade yogurt + berries, carrot sticks + peanut butter to dip, orange + plum fruit salad, cheese, pickle + tomato on homemade bread.  Incidentally, I made Pirate Pete a few weeks ago; will post the sewing pattern online soon-ish.  Argh, me hearties!Playdough.  After Little T’s nap {he was exhausted} we made playdough.  Its WAAAAAY cheaper making it yourself, turns out exactly the same as the bought-stuff, and keeps just about forever.  Mix ½ C salt with 1 C of boiling water (to dissolve).  Add this to 1 C flour, 2 Tb cream of tartar and 1 Tb oil.  Stir to combine, then knead with your hands.  Split into portions, and add a few drops of food colouring.     

Chalk art.  Lastly, we finished off the day playing under the verandah (it wasn’t that cold outside even though it was raining).  Little T decorated every surface with his coloured chalk, and he even tagged the worm farm!    

All in all, a lovely rainy day and a happy worn-out toddler!

GFC yummies

Here we are, another little recipe I make rather a lot these days!

Very economical, tasty and seriously quick.  I prepare these in the time it takes the oven to pre-heat, and they’re out of the oven and ready to eat about 18 minutes later.

Just enough time to prepare for world domination.. mwahahahahahaha…

Actually, they are versatile as well.  I often make them with a savoury filling instead, something like cheese and chives, or chilli salsa and cream cheese, whatever I have hanging about the fridge really!

What you’ll need:

  • 2 frozen sheets of puff pastry
  • 1 C sultanas
  • 2 Tb brown sugar
  • zest of ½ a lemon
  • pinch each of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg per sheet

What to do:

  1. Fill and boil the kettle.
  2. Lay out the sheets of frozen puff pastry and cover with a damp cloth.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C (~400°F).
  4. Put the sultanas in a bowl and cover with boiling water (add a slice of orange if you happen to have it lying around like I did!)
  5. Grease an oven tray with a smidge of olive oil or use baking paper.
  6. Crank on some tunes (Jimi will do fine), make a cuppa and wait till the pastry has defrosted (about 5 mins).
  7. Drain sultanas (discard orange slice, or eat it if you’re that way inclined) and sprinkle them on the puff pastry sheets.
  8. Sprinkle on 1 Tb of the brown sugar per sheet.
  9. Grate a little lemon zest onto each sheet.
  10. Sprinkle on a pinch each of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg per sheet.
  11. Roll up each puff pastry sheet (not too tightly, as it puffs up in the oven… surprisingly).
  12. Slice each roll into 8 even rounds and spread out on the greased baking tray with the cut sides facing up.
  13. Bake for 18 minutes (or until nice and puffy and brown).
  14. Take them off the baking tray while still warm before the sugar hardens on the tray and makes them impossible to remove.

Bon appetit!

Spicy chickpea curry with couscous

The first time I encountered couscous was in a recipe book when I was about 15.  I had never heard of it before, and at first I thought it was some kind of marsupial.  Couscous is actually made of semolina, the coarse particles of durum wheat, just like in pasta and brekky cereals.  I must have ignored the preparation instructions completely that first time because I put the couscous in a pot on the stove with water, and started stirring.  The couscous absorbed all the water instantly, so I kept adding more water, and it just got bigger and bigger.  By the time I decided it must be cooked, the couscous bits were about the size of marbles (only a slight exaggeration) and bounced on the plate when served.  I think it was the first time ever that my dad politely declined seconds.

Years later I learned that couscous is a cinch to prepare.  You just add 1.5 parts boiling water to 1 part couscous and cover it for 5 minutes or so.  I like to add a bit of butter, sometimes a handful of sultanas or chopped dried apricots, sprinkle on a pinch of paprika, and season to taste.  Fluff it with a fork and you’re good to go.  Easy, peasy!

Chickpea Curry

  • 1 Tb olive oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 Tb ground corriander
  • 1 Tb ground cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp hot chilli powder (more or less is fine, adjust to taste)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cans chickpeas (give them a good rinse)
  • 1 can diced peeled tomatoes (or a few fresh ones, but make sure you blanch and peel them first)
  • 1 Tb garam masala

Use a nice tall pot for this, you don’t want to be scrubbing little red spots of curry off your stovetop for hours afterwards.

  1. Put the pot on medium heat and add the olive oil and the mustard seeds.  Hold a lid over the pot because they will start popping!
  2. When the seeds have popped, add the chopped onion.  Cook until the onion looks translucent.
  3. Add the crushed garlic and the rest of the spices (all except the garam masala) and stir for a minute.
  4. Add the drained chickpeas and the undrained diced tomatoes and simmer on low heat, partially covered to stop it splattering on the stove, for at least 30 minutes (any longer is a bonus).  If it looks a bit dry just add a splash of water.
  5. Add the garam masala and simmer for another few minutes or until you’re ready to eat.

Serve the chickpea curry on a bed of couscous with a nice dollop of homemade natural yogurt, some fresh mint and a wedge of lemon, then dig in.

Bon appetit!

Free plum jam

“People who count their chickens before they are hatched act very wisely because chickens run about so absurdly that its impossible to count them accurately.”             Oscar Wilde

As a kid I had two goldfish which I kept in a tank in my room.  One day I noticed hundreds of little eggs all through the tank.  My usually sensible {and fairly boring} goldfish had mated!  And there were literally hundreds of eggs.  You have to imagine my excitement and then multiply this by 10, because that is approximately how ecstatic I was.  It quickly occurred to me that my little tank on my desk in my bedroom could only realistically support two goldfish.  So, I did what any rational, level-headed kid would do: I started to ‘give’ the baby fishies away to my friends before they had hatched.

It wasn’t long before mummy fish and daddy fish started consuming the eggs in the tank, and in a panic, I started moving hundreds of eggs to my mum’s fruit salad bowl.  I had moved almost all the eggs by the time I realised it would have been quicker to transfer the two adult goldfish instead of moving all those eggs.  Slowly, over the next week or so, the little baby fish started to come out of the eggs, and swam around the fruit salad bowl.  By now everyone had been coerced into adopting a fish, it was just a matter of time before they would be getting their new pet.

You guessed it… one by one all those little fishies died, every single one of them, and I was left to explain to my friends that there would be no pet goldfish.  Years on, and I haven’t learned my lesson.  I still count {goldfish} before they’re hatched.

Recently I’ve been planning how I am going to transform our unproductive backyard into a kitchen garden; with fruit trees, veggies, herbs and chooks as well as an extensive composting system.  Typically, I’ve already got plans for all the future produce:  jams, pickles, salads, omlettes…

This was our yard (20m x 15m) before we built the chook pen.  I used an online Garden Planner software to draw it to scale.

On the left is the back of the house with the patio, in the middle is the Hills Hoist, and on the right is the shed.  We’ve finally finished building the chook pen, so the yard currently looks like this:

So… here’s what I’m planning for the rest of the yard…

A little over-ambitious perhaps?

Lemon, fig, orange and olive trees on the north-east fence (left of the chooks).  Grape vines growing over the chook pen fence and the shed.  Plum tree on the right, between the shed and composting system.  And a MASSIVE veggie/herb patch on the south-west fence.  I was planning on raising the veggie patch beds to help with drainage, so it will end up being bricked up about 12m x 2m x 0.5m (LxWxH).

Considering my track record with plants, comments and advice are appreciated!

And if we have an oversupply of plums one day, I’ll be giving away lots of free plum jam…

Chorizo winter soup

This started out as a can’t-be-bothered-but-we-need-to-eat-veggies sort of soup.  Fortunately Big T produced chorizo following a dash to the shops for nappies.  The original {vegan} version tasted pretty good anyway, but the chorizo seriously takes it over the top and makes it amazing.

  • a soup pack or the following veggies…
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 red potato
  • 1 parsnip
  • 1 turnip
  • 1 swede
  • ~3L stock (veggie or chicken)
  • 1 C soup mix (I buy McKenzies, it has loads of nice barley in it)
  • 2 chorizo
  • chives (a good handful)
  • twig of rosemary (pinched from the neighbours)
  • freshly ground pepper
  • {secret ingredient} a tablespoon of vegemite

Chop it all up into bite-size bits and bung it all in a slow cooker (or in a covered pot on the stove if you’re that way inclined).  Bubble away until it is cooked through and tastes lovely (mine was *ready* after about 4 hrs in the slow cooker).  Served with some fresh crusty sourdough.

Bon appetit!