Monday, May 29, 2017

Going back to the beginning

I have been trying out new techniques in my bread making.

As I wrote about here , I have been using a stand mixer for my bread.

This week I found a second hand copy of this classic book on bread.

I describe this book as a graduate course in bread making. It is amazing, and if you can find a copy -and are interested in bread -I thoroughly recommend it. You never know, you might be able to get it from a library.

One hint which I will now use all the time in winter, was to warm the flour in a low oven for about 10 minutes -this has greatly improved the speed and the rise of my bread.

I tried Ms David's technique of the overnight rise, which she said makes a better tasting loaf. It produced a huge rise in my sourdough on the first rise. Bread making is funny though. I didn't think the second rise would be so quick! I quickly turned on the oven but it was a bit too late. The dough was over-proofed and sinking fast . Then I thought I would make made cuts in the top of the bread ...and the whole thing deflated a little like a balloon with a slow leak. I haven't had a flop in bread making for a while, so it was like going back to the beginning and learning all over again.

I have been trying to make free form loaves rather than loaves baked in tins . I have tried Ms David's suggestion of using wooden bowls or trays to hold the dough as it is rising. The problem then became -just how do I transfer this soft squidgy dough into the oven when it doesn't have a tin that I can hold? DH made me a wooden paddle to get the bread into the oven, but my loaf was too big for it! I found my pizza stone and tipped the bread dough from the wooden tray onto a baking sheet and then onto the pizza stone.

Anyway, the bread mostly tasted good, especially as I took Ms David's advice and worked on adding the flavour back into the bread by mixing my white bread flour with wholemeal and extra wheat germ. The picture below is of the best loaf this week -my free form sourdough which rose well and had a yummy crust and a crumb with just the right amount of holes in it!

Apart from these culinary adventures, the week was memorable for a wonderful concert at the Government House ballroom, from The Australian String Quartet and Slava Grigorian. 

In the winter garden my blueberries have flowered for the first time, which is very exciting! I have planted my mizuna seedlings, and more lettuces and dill.  The days are much shorter now, and we have had a few days of rain, but nowhere enough for this time of the year. Cooler overnight but still quite mild days The garden mostly thinks it is spring. 

As for my quilt -I am still quilting it! Not much progress to show as yet -maybe next week! 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

All the Citrus! What we are doing with ours

It is citrus harvest time. We have been blessed with a gift of a bowl of  navel oranges, but in our own garden we have Meyer and Eureka lemons, pink grapefruit and limes ready now. Our mandarin tree has not produced fruit this winter, but as it is finally growing, I am happy just to let it be. (Four years of sulking brought us near to giving up on this one). 

We have been seeing some Mediterranean fruit fly in the garden and the fruit, so it is important that we harvest the fruit, and don't just leave it on the trees.  We have bought and made our own fruit fly traps, but the other control trick is to ensure we don't leave the fruit on the ground, and dispose of the spoiled fruit by freezing first so there are no live larva in the compost.

In this picture you can see some of the ways we deal with the citrus harvest. I was given a dehydrator, and we absolutely love having dried grapefruit peel (right hand jar) , as it adds so much depth of flavour to a casserole.If you don't have a dehydrator, I guess you could do this with the residual heat in your oven after a cooking episode. I need to do this with lemon zest -in the past I have also frozen zest and it has been very useful. I freeze it in tiny packages -one lemon's worth at a time. This year I want to dehydrate it as there is only so much space in my freezer. 

DH makes marmalade (left hand jar) . He likes small batches, and recently has taken to making it with just the juice of the fruit -not the pulp. He made some this week with lemons and a variety of spices including star anise, and it is SO GOOD. 

My jar of preserved lemons (behind at the right)  is more than half empty, and has gone that wonderful deep amber colour. Time to make some more! A small jar makes a great gift to someone too. 

Lemon juice ice blocks are versatile -I add them to cooking and to my G & Ts when necessary! They have a strange property -if left in the freezer uncovered -they evaporate! It is necessary to take them from their trays and pack them in a covered container.

We had to remind ourselves recently that we can make fresh fruit juice out of our crop! It feels utterly decadent to drink freshly squeezed juice for breakfast! I like to think that, as my poor DH recovers from a serious bout of illness -he was eventually diagnosed with pneumonia- that this will help to boost his immune system again.

We also have some great recipes for using citrus in our meals: we had grapefruit & red onion salad the other day. I have a couple of new cook books with great ideas to try.

Finally, I guess my yellow quilt is continuing the citrus theme! Now pinned together as a quilt sandwich, it is a burst of lemony goodness. 

I am going back to work this week. I have another trip to Victoria in a couple of months to look forward to, but meantime I have my lovely simple life with it's seasonal workload to keep me busy. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Not an Instagram holiday

Do you have an Instagram account? I do, and I am not very regular at posting there. It seems that every post needs an award winning photograph to accompany it -spectacularly lit and staged, with everyone's lives being equally glamorous.

Well, we have returned from a two week trip in Victoria, and it was by no means an Instagram worthy holiday. It was full of joy and adventure, however.

The first week we spent in country Victoria, up by the Murray river, visiting our son, daughter in law and grand children. The weather was sunny almost every day, but a little cold in the mornings for those of us coming out of a WA autumn.

Rochester Town Hall in the afternoon sun

The Campaspe river.

We spent a lot of time playing with our grandchildren, of course, and enjoying family time with their mum and dad. We played all sorts of games, read stories and watched them jump on their trampoline.  

MR DGS with his granddad, playing "Wake Up Pa!" in the hammock. 

After having a really lovely time, we went by train back to Melbourne, intending to have some luxurious times in one of our favourite cities. 

It did not exactly work out like that! My DH and I both were sick with colds, but shortly after we arrived, he came down with bronchitis, and we spent most of the days either attending medical appointments or resting in our hotel room! We both were on antibiotics by the time we got on the plane to come home. 

We did manage to have one nice dinner and lunch with friends, and we saw some of the NGV art collection. We took ourselves out to a  couple of  lunches when it was warm enough. We ate breakfast in our room, and dinner too on a couple of occasions.  

I was able to visit a couple of hidden-away fabric shops when a friend took me to see them, and came away with these nice pieces:

Fabric from Kimono House, which I am planning to make into a quilted wall hanging. 

For a few days, we weren't sure we would be well enough to make it onto the plane, so when we arrived in our lovely home we were most grateful. We are still on annual leave, but taking it quietly as DH is still coughing badly, and I am in a lesser degree coughing too. The weather has turned cool and showery today, so we are quite content to do what our energy levels demand.

One good thing is that Mother's Day brought some new books and DVDs, so we should be capable of entertaining ourselves quite well at home until we are recovered properly. 

I am grateful for the care we received from the medical people we turned to, when DH was sick. I am also grateful for this coming week, as I do enjoy pottering around at home. I have chicken soup in the crock pot for tonight's dinner, and bread rising near the heater in my sewing room. 

In a couple of months we will be back to do some babysitting. We hope to have a better run of health on that occasion.