Friday, 9 November 2012

Sping garden

For the past few years, I've been putting in buying up seed bundles at the Source Winterfeast, which means I have a little case of seeds that I am yet to make good use of.  It's full of surprises and full of things I wouldn't normally choose.  One of those is the humble radish.  I picked radishes for its short growing period, and relatively low maintenance.  I don't think I have the greenest thumb, so something easy and indestructible (says the person who has a less than healthy looking mint) would give me a quick boost of confidence.  I had two types: Easter Eggs and Champions.

I've completely fallen in love with radishes for their fresh pepperiness.  The Easter Eggs turn out to have a elongated root, and comes a variety of colours: white, yellow, pink, while the Champions are round and red.  They are especially good when picked young and eat them as they are.  I do think they are the best radishes I've ever eaten (what do you mean I'm biased?)

These ones pictured here are the last of them.  I've had some pickled radishes recently that were pale pink and wanted to see if I could also make them myself.  After spending a night in the fridge, they did turn pink!  They will be featured in sandwiches over the next week or two, if I don't snack on them beforehand.

The green tops are completely edible too.  Freshly picked leaves are so very prickly, although I would happily eat them raw.  A few went into a pasta dish, and the remainder will go into an experimental pesto.

I have so many things planned for the garden, and I'm running out of room!  Time to get digging and make a few more veggie patches (and should really deal with the Weed Mountain).  There's zucchinis, squashes, tomatoes, peas, beans, potatoes, carrots, parsnips and a whole heap of herbs, basil, thyme, hyssop, parsley and lovage.   I'm trying to grow some cornflowers and borage too, but somewhat unsuccessfully.  I am impatiently waiting for summer tomatoes.  There's pink cherries, yellow beefsteaks, red ones of course, and some green ones too.  It will be a rainbow of tomatoes and there will be a bottling day!  I have some new strawberries out the front with what looks like this year's entire crop of ONE strawberry.  Talk about anticipation.

Do you have a garden?  What are you planting in them? 

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Quick Sydney Trip

Last week I had a little trip to Sydney as part of a yearly work conference, and took a few days off on the side to have a bit of down time.  I was lucky enough to have @Lemopi to guide me around great eateries in Sydney CBD.  I think I have found my food exploring soulmate -- not only did we have dinner at one of the best Thai restaurants ever (Spice I Am), we had two lots of desserts afterwards.  Gelato Messina was absolutely amazing.  I ogled at the display for a great few minutes before settling on the hamburger.  It was the pressed cucumber that was pretending to be a piece of lettuce that got me.  It got predictably messy at the end. 

We also went to Sculpture by the Sea the next day.  It was a lovely and sunny day, but boy was it windy!  The waves were pretty incredible, especially by the pool.  We ambled through the crowd and took photos of the sculptures.  It was good to be taking photos again.  I haven't touched the camera for months, and it felt a little strange and heavy in my hands. 

One of my favourite piece was the wind charm installation.  It was a dynamic piece that moved and sang with the wind.  You can feel it the vibrations through the ground if you stand close enough. 

Despite suffering sun stroke from Bondi Beach, I capitalised on the monthly Pyrmont farmer's market.  It's full of producers, and it's always great to see locals doing their grocery shopping there.  Definitely worth a visit if you're in Sydney and it's on.  We breakfasted on some bakery goods and this amazing rhubarb and pork roll (where the pig was spit roasted on site!)  Yeap.  Pork for breakfast, and it was a treat! 

More travels to come soon, and it's promising to be a deliciously bread-filled one.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Birds of a Feather

My last class at the Agrarian Kitchen was the Birds of a Feather.  If you are squeamish, then I would advice skipping this post.  However, if you want to find out how to harvest your own animals, then read on.

I want to focus on the process of how to dispatch these animals, because I that's what eating meat is all about.  Something has to die, so that we can eat, plant or otherwise.  Part of me was a little reluctant on attending.  I wasn't sure how I would feel, but I am so glad I did go.

It was a revelation.

The act of witnessing the death of an animal connects you to the source of food instantly, much like picking vegetables straight from the garden.  Meat, is suddenly not neatly packaged and boneless.  It was running around a few minutes ago.  It had a face.  Eating this way demanded respect from me, and I want to do nothing less than to eat the animal in full.  Wasting any was not an option and I wanted to use as many parts as I could.  Not only is this respectful, it's also economical.  Seek out the cheaper cuts and with a bit time and effort, they are delicious in their own right.

If you haven't seen the Anatomy of Thrift, then please go and see it, now.  It's a really beautiful thing to watch.  The ethics of eating meat is a can bucketload of worms that this post cannot address.  From my small amount of reading, I initially thought vegetarinism was the way to go.  But with some thought, I realise the problem is not so much with eating meat itself, but eating industrialised food, again, vegetables or animals.  There's a deep connection between animals and plants that is far more complex than just choosing whether to only eat vegetables and/or meat.  The choice is not easy, but I think knowing the provenance of your food is a good point to start, and I strive (but not always successful) to source food as close to the producer as I can.

But, enough ranting and back to the class...  We first learnt how to handle birds.  To hold them, lift them up and slide a hand under their belly and allow their legs to come through between your fingers.  A chicken was passed around for us to have a go at holding the bird.  Once we had mastered holding, we were ready for the serious part of the class.

Guinea fowls were the first to be dispatched.  To kill a small bird, grab hold of the bird's legs with one hand (like you are going to dangle them upside down), and the neck with the other hand.  Quickly and with force, stretch the bird in opposite direction.  The hand around the head, while holding the head down, pull it down and backwards.  The idea is to snap the neck which kills the bird instantly.  The bird by reflex may move around a bit, but the it is no longer conscious and no longer feels pain.

This a world away from industrial slaughter houses. 

In a similar fashion, we also dispatched a few roosters, which would turn into delicious southern fried chicken the next day.  Oh my god, fried in lard with a sprinkling of herb and spice.  It was the best fried chicken I've ever had.

After dispatching the animals, we were ready to pluck them.  There's a few ways to do this, dry plucking (as demonstrated here) and wet plucking as explained below.

Wet plucking starts with dunking the bird in hot but not boiling water (sorry, I've forgotten what temperature it's meant to be :/) for a minute or so.  Feather should come off quite with a little tugging.  If it is really stuck, dunk the bird back in for a little longer, and test again.  It's a lot of work, and is best done outdoors.  Expect feathers to be on your clothes, in your hair, mouth and on your hands.  Persevere though, and you will soon be rewarded for your effort.  As soon as the feather is cleaned, the bird instantly looks familiar. 

Next, the internal organs are taken out.  First, clear away the neck, and from that opening, take out the crop (a sandy sac that birds use to grind their food).  Internal organs like the heart and lungs are also removed.  One final rinse under the tab and it is (almost) ready for cooking.  You may find a few stubborn hair on the bird.  These can be removed using tweezers.  It's... a test of patience.  All the more respect when it comes to eating it.

We then took a break for lunch and we feasted on the guinea fowls that we've just dispatched, as well as a few quails from a local farmer, John (that's Stacey's dad!).  I may have been a little distracted with lunch to take photos of all the food.   I did get a picture of the quails though.  It was sweet and delicious.  As little as they look, these birds were surprisingly filling.

After lunch we had a few more goose to dispatch.  Goose are such majestic and strong animals.  Maybe it's because I saw them being killed, but I thought their feather looked especially white.  Even in death, they still looked so beautiful.  These birds are larger and much stronger than guinea fowls and roosters, and so a different technique is required.

Hold the animal down with your body weight using your knees (basically, you sit in them).  Using one hand, bend the head up and back.  Bending the head back gives access to the main vessel up the neck.  Wield a knife with your free hand and give a quick firm slice on the exposed neck.  Cut through the skin and the animal should begin to bleed.  Having a ready bowl and garbage bag laid out on the ground makes clean up easier.  The animal will definitely struggle, but after a few minutes it will subside.

Then it's more plucking... and more plucking... and a bit more plucking...   There's a secret to plucking a goose, but I'll leave that as a surprise for those attending the class ;) There was so much goose down everywhere, and it would have make a nice doona, or pillow.  In fact, I think Rodney mentioned that there is a place that collecta excess feather.  With all the plucking and cleaning done, the prepared birds were put away to the cool room, ready to be cooked the next day. 

And that's all there is to dispatching.  There is nothing to be afraid of and nothing to be taken for granted.

It wasn't all just about death though.  In the middle of the class, Rodney was called out to see one of the goat.  She had just given birth to  two new kids and we hurried out to see them.  The kids had were still damp and yet to find their way on their feet.  The mother just began to nurse them by licking them clean. This was the closest I've been to see anything give birth.  The mother goat, in one hilarious moment of confusion, tried to lick Rodney's face clean!  It's a reminder the farming is not just about the end result.  Caring for the well being of these animals is also a big part too. 

Life and death on the same day.  It was so blindingly intense, I will remember this class forever.

Thank you to Rodney and Severine for being so brave to hold a class like this.  It may not be everyone's cup of tea, and I dread to think the criticism  you might have gotten.  All of your classes has taught me to think real food, and where it comes from.  The reconnection, even though I was somewhat reluctant, has been made.  And for that, I cannot thank you enough.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Birds of a Feather

There was a lot of this today at the Birds of a Feather class at the Agrarian Kitchen.  More to come... 

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Desserts to Die For

A few outtakes from today's class with Alistair Wise held at the Agrarian Kitchen.  I think I'm still on a sugar high... ;)

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Breaking up

I had one last class at The Studio last night.  12 weeks flew by quicker than I thought!  I've had so much fun learning with Steve, and got to muck around with lots of equipment.  Studio work is fun!!!  We used smaller apertures for some super sharp photos.  As much as I love a shallow depth of field, this is different and I have so many ideas I want to try now.

Steve is running another class in a few week's time.  If you'll like to find out more about it here or you can email him here:

Monday, 9 July 2012

Geilston Bay & Shag Bay fieldtrip

What can I say?  I'm really shit at landscape photography.  None of them really gave a sense of the place and really could have been taken anywhere.  And as for the architecture photographs... It's even worse, so no photos :(

I need to get out there and shoot more!