My Garden ~ a Kiwi's take on life

"I wandered lonely as a cloud That floats on high o'er vales and hills," William Wordsworth


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Lemons Three ‘olden’ ways

Was it really fifty years or more since I attended cooking class at school? I felt quite ancient when 11-year old grandson talked about his first food technology class and his first recipe for a Fruit Smoothie, a printout pasted into his exercise book. The blender was put to work and the smoothie made an excellent after-school drink. But, he was not really that interested in Nana’s old school handwritten cooking exercise book, or the recipes. It must have looked like lots of hard work.

In 1958, I used non-electronic kitchen equipment and we measured in pounds and ounces.  Girls at my age  were used to cooking at home with our mothers. The boys did carpentry and metalwork instead. For fun, I revisited two recipes, one from my old schoolbook and the other from a recipe given to me when I was first married. The third way with lemons is about hand care, something my mother routinely did in the kitchen.

Lemon Honey, or Lemon Curd as some call it, is delicious. Living on a farm, we kept hens, lemon trees grew well and butter was cheap. Lemon Honey was commonly made. This recipe makes about one and a half cups. I store it in the fridge. It never lasts long in this family. It can be rippled through creamy icecream, swirled through yoghurt, made into lemon tarts or as I did today, added to the centre of lemon muffins.

Lemon Cordial is another oldie. My mother-in-law made it when Himself was a child. My sister-in-law and I continue to make this drink. It becomes a  refreshing summertime drink when made up with finely julienned fresh ginger straws, crushed mint, ice and chilled soda.

Lemons are nature’s cleanser. I can see Mum now, at the kitchen bench, rubbing a cut lemon over her skin and around her nails before dipping her hands into oatmeal and rubbing this all over her skin. Oatmeal leaves a soft feel to the skin.

 


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Watermelon eater

Grandson has been watching these grow for ages, now he gets to try them !! Perfect juicy, summery, yummy dessert.

He is becoming quite the gardener and has had a hand in planting and growing most of the veggies in the colander.

Big excitement also was younger brother’s Brown Shaver chicken, Strawberry, is now a big girl and is laying eggs. Nice for breakfast.


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Grandson ~ creates a chilli salsa

 

9-year old grandson is so proud of his garden-to-the-table moment. A freshly picked Hungarian Yellow Wax chili pepper grown by him, was the hero of a salsa served with sweet corn tonight. Tapered in shape, this chili is well-flavoured, has a medium heat and is easy to grow.

In the best of Masterchef tradition, he selected his ingredients, he created his recipe as he chopped, stirred, tasted, adjusted and presented.  His salsa was brushed over freshly cooked sweet corn.  A great taste summer side dish.

Grandson’s homemade  salsa recipe: combine chopped yellow chili, freshly picked chopped parsley and basil leaves with melted butter, cold-pressed virgin olive oil, crushed garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. On impulse, he added some diced Lebanese cucumber because that is his favourite vegetable. The quantities were decided as he prepared the chili salsa.

During the cook, he used sharp steel knives, deseeded a chili, melted butter in the microwave, worked cleanly. I showed my sons and now my grandchildren from pre-school age, safe use of equipment, creative cooking, food hygiene and kitchen management skills.

Learning happens in the kitchen. Together, we read recipes, do the maths of costs and amounts and learn about food culture. I believe all children need to learn how to plan a meal and to learn about people’s food likes and health needs.  This boy knows his grandfather is a diabetic, why I use lots of fresh ingredients and why I may cook a second dish for the same mealtime.

Usually when he cooks, I work alongside my grandson. We have chatted about my childhood years and the meals my family ate. My late mother’s chocolate cake recipe is now a firm favourite with her great-grandsons. Licking the mixing bowl clean is still an important Cooking 101 task. Tonight, as I wrapped monkfish in prosciutto, we talked about this pork meat and how it adds flavour to fish. My salsa verde had to be taste-tested and we compared the two salsas. Why I was using locally grown and pressed avocado oil and parmesan cheese? Why, indeed. I decided that monkfish is delicate it does not need to be overpowered with stronger flavours.

This 9-year old lad, my grandson, is well on his way to managing a kitchen and feeding the troops. It is not only a skill for healthy living but is also a great life interest.

 

 


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Grandsons ~ cucumber, chillies and watermelon

Tonight’s meal will be extra special. 9-year old grandson harvested his very first cucumber off the plant grown from seed he sowed. He loves snacking on the small short green cucumbers.  The first vegetable he picked did not make it to the kitchen, it was too full of sunshine and rain, juicy and crunchy, crisp and refreshing on a summer day. A second cucumber had to be picked. Tonight, he will slice some to add to his Kiwi lamb hamburger. He wants to grate the remainder to mix with yoghurt to make a dip, he has seen me do this. My cooking is strongly influenced by Arabic dishes and flavours I enjoyed when I lived in the Middle East.

After lunch today, we ceremoniously picked the first of the firm, shiny, yellow chillies he also grew from seed. He was adamant he wanted to eat a fresh chilli. I insisted I taste test first to check its level of heat. Back in the kitchen, I showed him how to scrape the seeds and how to handle the chilli to avoid mouth tingling or burning sensation. He and 7-year old brother declared they now love chillies.  Grandson wants to add chopped yellow chilli to the cucumber yoghurt mixture. This has the makings of a tasty dip. My thinking is that I should make a flat bread with chickpea flour and cumin seeds as it will go well with the dip and with a vegetarian stew I am slow cooking.

Spicy eggplant stew.jpgEggplant and chickpeas and are staple pantry items. Mindful of the dietary needs of an adult diabetic in the household, I am make a second main dish using a recipe  Spiced Eggplant Stew with Roasted Pepper And Sundried Tomato Coulis posted by cookingforthetimechallenged in her blog. I added strips of char-grilled yellow and red peppers and a chopped courgette picked from the plant this morning. Leftover stew is great for lunch the next day.

Imagine their excitement as both grandsons made their greatest discovery. Sprawling over the garden bed, hidden under the foliage, are glossy green watermelons, round like footballs, heavy with juice.

Nothing, not even chocolate self-saucing pudding will beat this fruity dessert

Daniel checks watermelon ripeness.jpg

 


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Strawberry the chicken ~ wins an Ag Day ribbon

3 Choosing new chicks5 Outdoors 1st run in chicken cage

27th September, six fluffy, yellow day-old Brown Shaver chicks came to live at our place. The chick rearing school project proved a source of endless fascination.

Strawberry wins Ag Day ribbonDaniel in chook cage Nov 2015

In October, grandson, 7-year old Daniel was still mothering his chicken children. Strawberry did Daniel proud to win a ribbon at his school’s Agricultural Day.

By November, I was thinking thyme for chicken casserole. Strawberries and ThymeMy dire warning about heads on the nearby chopping block was ignored. They cheeped away and continued to forage among the strawberries and herbs.

However, the chicks were terrified of the two adult hens who command the henhouse. Gertrude and Speckles only had so much tolerance for child-minding. They took to their nesting boxes.Gertrude & Speckles I guess it’s natural a pecking order be established.

Come December, the chickens are quite the cheeky teenagers and speak in chook not cheeps. One managed a defiant peck of my blueberries as they were shooed out of the garden. At night now, they roost in the hen-house with the older hens. Fewer feathers are flying.

Is it too much to expect some egg-laying in January?

Meanwhile, Frog froghas taken residence in the flax bush I’d left soaking in a bucket until I get round to replanting it.

Animals 1 – garden 0.


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My Garden ~ winter months

Since I returned home, I’ve been busy in the garden – with some manual help from number two son and his sons. Two-year-old pea-picking, ‘tato inspector who featured in some of my posts last year is a ‘big boy’ now aged three and his baby brother is now 18 months old with a another sibling expected in August – how time flies. I’ll just have to get more garden trowels and forks for these budding gardeners. At least Daddy gets fit giving wheel-barrow rides. And I got to re-plant the spring onions and red cabbages that three-year-old triumphantly declared to be ‘weeds’.

Vegetables and fruit are quite expensive to buy at present. And the stuff fresh-picked from the garden seems so much tastier. I’m pushing my luck and trying to get some vegetables growing for our winter months. I’ve never started this late in the season before. I can’t believe it’s almost a year ago I wrote about Matariki  (Pleiades) re-appearing in our southern skies to herald a new growing season. It’s time to celebrate the Maori New Year again. As I mentioned in my last post, weedy growth was rampant in my absence. See my before and after photos.

In the interest of getting a head start, I cheated this time and bought the mini-variety seedlings of cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. I read they mature quicker – so I’m crossing my fingers that is so.  The temperatures are not too bad – the coldest we experienced the other night was about 4 degrees C. The garden beds are reasonbly sheltered from prevailing winds and have a north-south alignment so get full sun. I have raised beds and and compost so here’s hoping we don’t get an early frost.

Friend at work has put in a very early crop of potatoes. I’ve got some seed Cliff Kidney potatoes chitted and will plant them and see how we go. I’ll put frost cloth over at nights as needed.

We’re enjoying the last of our tamarillo fruits. It’s a rewarding fruit – raw or cooked. Loaded with Vitamin C and makes a wonderful fruit crumble for dessert or sauce to accompany pork. Such an easy plant to grow – never know whether to call it a tree or not. Bigger problem is the rats and possums that also love the fruit. Must the be the healthiest pests around!

Next on the action list is to sow Broad Beans or a green crop for over-winter. Then the strawberry beds need attention and feeding. Then there’s the roses to prune. And I really should deal seriously to the pests. On reflection, think I’ll add a To Do – snuggle up in front of the fire, glass of wine in hand and read the new season’s gardening catalogues.

 


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My Garden ~ Peapicking grandson turns two

Life’s been busy since he came to live here last year. The garden’s full of discoveries – hedgehogs, water, animals and all sorts of things to pick and eat.

Negotiating the puddles  Driveway puddles are a natural hazard when you’re short-stuff.

Feeding the neighbour’s pigs Neighbour’s pigs love my rejected cooked dinners. I take the pig bucket with my food scraps every day.

Feeding hay to the calves in the winter Grandad just wouldn’t cope without my help. The electric fence is scary though.

Cooking makes a boy hungry Cooking makes a boy hungry. I let Nana help me make banana cake and date scones.

Wheelbarrow time There’s gardening to do and peas to pick. Daddy really needs my help with his new raised garden.

Sweetcorn is the new peas Sweetcorn is the new peas (Nana’s note: what he doesn’t know is that more peas are busy sprouting in secret places he doesn’t know about yet).

Black grapes is good I’ve moved on from strawberry tasting. The grapevine is a good place to hang out this month. I’ll get Nana to pick bunches of pink, white and black grapes for my friends at my party.

Story day with my friends at Playcentre My friends at Playcentre are coming to my birthday party.