Tag Archives: parsley

The taste of real food

Strawberries, glorious aren’t they?

The image above came from freeimages.com, and I can only assume the strawberries are store bought because mine look like this:

Yes, that is a bog standard dinner fork for comparison. My homegrown strawberries are truly tiny, and yet…when I bite into one my taste buds sit up and beg for more. No need for sugar, no need for whipped cream. These tiny red gems are so full of flavour, and natural sweetness, they literally do not need anything else to ‘enhance’ them.

To be honest, I haven’t bought strawberries from the shop in years. Not because I was growing my own but because they had no flavour unless drenched in sugar. Ditto tomatoes and apricots. The store bought ones are all big, beautiful and utterly tasteless. We may eat with our eyes, but these commercially grown fruits supply very little to our taste buds. They also tend to be expensive except when they are in season.

So what’s the answer? Grow your own, of course.

Wait! Don’t go.

Even if you only have a pocket sized garden, you can grow one, small apricot tree. They don’t grow very big, or at least the one that has been growing in my garden hasn’t. And they don’t require much care. I do water mine every night while it’s fruiting, but I don’t ‘feed’ it, or even cover it with netting half the time. Despite that, there’s usually enough for me, my little nephews and the neighbourhood wild life.

And this brings me to something even closer to my heart than good food – it’s the look on a child’s face when they first bite into warm, tree-ripened fruit. They blink in surprise, and then their little faces light up with wonder. I saw that wonder on my nephew’s face when his Dad lifted him up so he could pick and eat his own apricot, straight from my tree. I think it was a moment that neither of us will forget.

But what if you don’t even have a pocket sized garden?

All of the following pictures were taken on my deck. It’s about 2.5 x 6 [metres], so a decent size, but even if you only have 1 x 1 metre, you can plant one big pot with both a tomato and a strawberry in it. Both like a fair amount of water and seem happy to share. That is precisely what I’ve done here:

If you look to the left of the tomato, you can see the strawberry plant that shares its pot.

I invested in some big terracotta pots, but you don’t have to go to that much expense, a big plastic pot will do just as well. Size is the important thing because smaller pots dry out too quickly.

This is a pic of my basil pot, with a foot thrown in for comparison. There’s also a small tomato plant and some weeds. 😀

 

I’ve been harvesting that basil all summer for homemade pesto. Talk about a delicious, ‘free’ meal!

So what else do I have growing in pots?

I don’t have a great deal of lettuce at the moment, and little green caterpillars ate most of my rocket, but I do have heaps of continental parsley:

I’m also trying something new – watercress:

True to its name, watercress likes water, so I’m growing it in the bottom half of an old worm farm. This is where the worm ‘tea’ is supposed to collect so you can drain it off via the small tap at the bottom:

[In case anyone’s wondering, I released the worms into the garden first].

The watercress ‘pot’ is sitting on top of bricks so I can capture the excess water [it’s full of nutrients] and reuse it on the other pots.

Now, a word about costs. The lettuce, parsley and tomatoes have all grown from volunteer seed – i.e. from plants that were allowed to go to seed. This means they are expert survivors, and they cost me nothing but a paper bag to store the seeds. I bought the strawberry plant, but the basil and watercress seeds were donated by a family friend – thanks Alice! I’ll save their seeds for next year.

The only other costs were my time, water [getting more and more expensive] and a couple of bags of potting mix, so my deck plants are very economical. Unfortunately, my fruit trees are another matter. I have:

1 apricot

1 plumcot [apricot & plum hybrid]

1 apple

1 quince

1 fig

1 Morello cherry [new]

1 kiwi [she needs a male but they keep dying]

1 lemon

1 lime

2 feijoas

5 peaches [each a different variety]

Between them, these 16 fruit trees require so much water that I’m not even breaking even in terms of fruit vs costs. But…we get to eat unsprayed, tree ripened fruit for about 5 months of the year. For me, that’s enough to justify the time, effort and cost of keeping these trees alive. Plus, I kind of think that the water may also help to keep a bushfire from ravaging the place the one day. That’s probably wishful thinking, but we all need our illusions. 🙂

So, should you grow your own? Really?

I believe that everyone can grow something, even if it’s just a few herbs, or a tomato/strawberry shared pot.

I also believe that everyone would benefit from growing something, no matter how small.

But…I’m convinced that kids need to learn what real food tastes like, and if they learn how to grow their own, all the better.

As always, I’d love to hear what you have to say. Do you grow your own? What? How much? Has it made a difference? Please share. 🙂

-hugs-

Meeks

 


#Recipe – Stuffed Tomatoes

This is a superb, vegetarian dish by Maria Luisa Taglienti, dating back to 1955. I’m a committed carnivore and not a huge fan of cheese, but even I love this dish. And it’s not hard to make.

Ingredients for the tomatoes

  • 4 large tomatoes, the firmer the better
  • 1/4 cup of rice
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped continental parsley
  • 1/3 cup diced cream cheese [Neuchatel or Philadelphia]
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper [white]

Method

Pre-head oven to moderate [just under 180C in a fan bake oven].

Cook the rice in salted water for 10 minutes. It should still be a little hard in the middle. Drain.

Mix the rice with 4 tablespoons of butter, the two cheeses, parsley, salt and pepper. This is your ‘stuffing’.

Take out the core of each tomato, including the seeds/pulp, [and set aside if making the optional sauce]. You should now have 4 ‘cups’.

Sprinkle the inside of each cup with salt and pepper, then stuff with the cheese mix.

Butter a baking dish and place the stuffed tomatoes inside with a knob of butter on top of each one.

Bake for approx. 25 minutes or until golden on top.

Optional green beans and simple tomato sauce

While the tomatoes are baking, lightly fry a small, chopped onion and 2-3 cloves of garlic. When golden and aromatic, add 1 sachet of tomato paste [approx. 1 tablespoon] and the pulp taken from the inside of the tomatoes. Add a pinch of salt, stir and cook on a low heat until the stuffed tomatoes are done.

While the sauce is simmering, top and tail a handful of green beans per person and steam until cooked but still firm.

To serve

Serve the stuffed tomatoes with the steamed green beans, the red sauce and crusty white bread. Enjoy!

Meeks


My alpaca proof kitchen garden

The sun is shining and I’m not feeling very cerebral so I’m going to show you some pictures of vegies. I know this will be an instant turn-off to some of you but I’m really excited about my odd kitchen garden even if you aren’t. 😀

First off, let me show you my backyard. And yes, it is huge. I live on 1.6 acres and that amazing view is one reason I love living in this fire-prone fringe suburb. Unfortunately, because this area is fire-prone, one of my top priorities is keeping all that grass nice and short [so that there won’t be much to burn should a fire come through]. To do that I’ve opted for some big, four-legged lawn mowers called alpacas.

Now I know I’ve talked about the alpacas before but I may not have mentioned that alpacas adore lush, green, tasty things… like vegies and roses. In fact they like my precious plants far more than they like all that nice grass so I’ve had to fence off the areas where I’ve planted garden beds. I can get into these fenced off areas but I have to open a small section of fencing to do so and that can be a pain if I have to nip out at night to pick a handful of parsley for dinner.

Being an inventive little person I finally realised that my deck would be the perfect place on which to grow some herbs in pots. That was last year.

As you can see from these photos I’ve been much more ambitious this year. 🙂

Lettuce, glorious lettuce! There’s all sorts of gourmet lettuce in there as well as some ordinary iceberg lettuces right in the middle. They are all still just babies but the beauty of growing lettuce in a big bowl like this is that you can just snip off a few leaves from each individual plant and still have enough for a fresh salad! And of course the plants just keep on growing.

The next photo shows some more iceberg lettuce in a small pot next to spring onions and radishes in the green pot. Radishes are so quick and easy to grow you could probably get a crop by growing them on a windowsill! They are ready to harvest once you can see those lovely red globes start to break the surface. I love small, tender radishes so once these little plants are eaten I’ll plant some fresh seeds.

And finally some of that parsley I was talking about. From left to right we have celery, parsley [and a few extra radishes], green peas and leek.

Once the frosts go away and spring finally decides to stay for more than just a day, I’ll be planting cherry tomatoes, basil and some hot chillies on the deck as well.

I doubt that I’ll harvest enough produce to save me from having to buy any vegies at all but with the artichokes, parsnip, garlic, dill and rosemary I have planted in one of the fenced off areas I’ll have something fresh for most of the year. -dance-

Happy blogging to you all,

-hugs-

Meeks

 


Cold nights and chicken soup

I spent quite some time thinking about this post – all of five minutes – before deciding to indulge the foodie within. If you must blame anyone then please blame Maggie O and SweetMother. Those  dear lady bloggers are talking diets and food at the moment and I’m just too weak to resist such a potent trend so what else could I write about except my Mother’s chicken soup?

My Mum swore that chicken soup could cure anything. Sadly no double-blind experiments were ever done to prove or disprove that assertion so I can’t promise you a cure for cancer or bunions or sagging boobs but it does taste wonderful and is one of the easiest recipes I know. Plus! You don’t have to go out and buy a ton of fancy ingredients. All you’ll need are a few common vegetables, a chicken and some soup noodles. So let’s begin!

Hungarian Chicken Soup Recipe

Ingredients :

1 whole chicken or chicken portions with bones – think wings, drumsticks etc. The flavour comes from the bones people.

1 brown onion

3 cloves of garlic

2 good sized carrots

4-5 sticks of celery

1 parsnip [optional]

1 capsicum [sweet bell pepper]

fresh parsley

salt & pepper [white or black according to taste]

soup noodles

Method :

Put the chicken into a pot at least twice as large as the chicken. Fill with cold water and bring to the boil.

Peel the onions and garlic and throw into the pot whole.

Wash the celery sticks, cut in half and throw in the pot.

Peel the carrots [and parsnip if using], cut in half and throw in the pot.

Wash the capsicum [bell pepper], cut in half and throw in the pot.

Wash the parsley [about 2 small handfuls] and – you guessed it – throw in the pot.

By now the water should be close to boiling and you should see a pale foam starting to come to the top. Skim the foam off a couple of times with a ladle so you end up with a nice, clear broth at the end. Once the foam stops, lower the heat to a gentle simmer, add a little bit of salt and a fair bit of pepper, put the lid on and go away for about 2 hours.

The biggest secret to flavour is time. You’ve put all the good stuff in now let it cook long enough for all those flavours to combine.

When the soup is cooked you will have a number of options :

I’m hungry now option

In a separate pot cook some fine soup noodles [I use angel hair noodles that take about 3 minutes to cook].

While the noodles are cooking grab your trusty ladle and skim off as much of the fat floating on top of the soup as you can.

Drain the noodles, serve up into bowls and top with the cooked carrots and lots of chicken broth. Add extra salt because my recipes are never salty enough and eat!

I’m on a diet option

Nothing terribly tricky for this one, just patience and a bit of organization.

Pour the soup through a strainer into another pot. Reserve the carrots [and chicken if you like boiled chicken] and throw the rest into the compost.

Let the soup broth cool a little then cover and put in the fridge overnight.

When you’re ready for dinner the next night, skim off all the congealed bits of fat floating on top of the broth and discard. What you’re left with is a rich broth with no fat. Reheat and serve as for the ‘I’m hungry now‘ option.

I’ve had enough soup now option

The broth will last for about 3 days in the fridge. After that you can freeze it in smaller portions. I use these portions to add extra flavour to everything from rice to sauces to stews. And of course you can always just reheat them as soup! Nothing goes to waste 😀

I probably shouldn’t write this next bit as it completely ruins the healthy, low fat tone of the soup recipe but… I sometimes whip up some crepes to round off a soup meal and fill those last few holes. They are delicious  served with cinnamon and sugar or jam or even just lemon juice and sugar. If you’re good and ask nicely I may post my recipe for quick, easy crepes on another day when I’m feeling self indulgent…

Enjoy!


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