Tomatoes: 2012

April 3, 2012

This year’s tomato crop has been a flop. Our mediocre summer meant that instead of enjoying tomatoes throughout the warmer season, I’ve only been able to really harvest our toms in the past few weeks. At least they’ve ripened before winter rot sets in. Maybe it’s time to invest in a glasshouse…

Only three varities grew really well in my patch this year: Golden Pear Drop, Dew Drop Cluster & Black Krim. The ones I planted from seed have only just started flowering now, which is all a bit hopeless! But I’ve managed to pick lots of the little yellows and reds, and large fleshy Black Krims before the birds got to them, and have bottled three jars’ worth, with garlic, thyme and basil thrown in. I’ve also harvested enough fruit to add to some of our evening meals. As far as I’m concerned, the perfect partners for freshly-picked tomatoes are olive oil, garlic & balsamic vingear. If you’re feeling fancy, throw in a handful of chopped herbs – like thyme or basil. I often throw pork sausages on top of tomatoes dressed in this fashion, then whack the lot in the oven and roast them together.

Another recipe I’ve enjoyed a few times over the past few weeks is tomato salad, thanks to this lovely blog. Simply take whatever tomatoes you have on-hand, chop them, pop them in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, splash some balsamic vinegar overtop and add some torn basil leaves & a dash of salt and pepper. This is truly summer heaven in a bowl.

But if you don’t have any tomatoes, then it’s time to visit Nikau Cafe and try their incredible haloumi and tomato salad. Make sure you eat slowly, and then order some plum icecream to top it off.

Nature printing

April 2, 2012

We caught the end of a lovely BBC programme on tv the other night: Edible Garden. Alys Fowler collected damson plums, eggs from her chooks and picked lovely red apples from her garden. She also did a spot of Hapa-zome or ‘leaf-dyeing’ printing that caught my eye – where she collected leaves and flowers, then bashed them with a hammer overtop some fabric, to ‘collect’ the prints!

This sunny afternoon, Mr 5 and I, along with with our friend Sophie, decided to try the nature printing technique. We collected an assortment of ‘juicy’ leaves and flowers from the garden, laid them on top of a piece of calico cloth and then bashed them with a mallet. Mr 5 enthusiastically smashed his collection of leaves and flowers, and enjoyed experimenting with different types, to see which made the best prints.

We found that the brighter and juicier the plant, the better the print. So the dandelion flower made a spectacular yellow messy splotch, but the purple sweet pea gave an exact little print of the flower and stem. Mint leaves worked well, as did impatiens. Our stripey geranium made an excellent purpley flower splat, and the orange nasturtium came out beautifully too.

I’m not sure how long the colours will last, but we’re pretty pleased with our little piece of fabric printed with nature.

Chicken vests

March 9, 2012

About a week ago, @farmgeek tweeted a link to this website, that showed chickens wearing vests. Immediately I knew what my next project would be.

Can I just add that:

1. Catching chickens and then dressing them in buttoning-up woollen vests is not easy.

2. Quasimodo and Jackie did not appreciate their sartorial splendour.

3. They are now enjoying a mix of warm stew and rice for their fashionista efforts.

Laserrrrr

February 15, 2012

Sometimes it’s pretty handy having a laser at work. Here are some things I needed to make quickly recently: cello Christmas ornaments for Mr 5′s cello teacher, and custom tough-guy knee patches made from leather.

A zander of zucchini

February 9, 2012

Zucchini or courgettes – call them what you like, but every year it’s the same: I know that a small family only needs one plant to last them for the whole of summer, but I sow 6 seeds and end up with 5-6 overzealous zucchini plants. This typically results in a rather large amount of zucchinis being produced every week, and me scrambling to find creative ways to cook them all. This is a challenging task, given that Mr 5 does not like zucchini, and he takes every opportunity to let me (and anyone else in earshot) know this fact.

This summer I seem to have two different types of plants thriving in the ‘patch. One variety is producing slender gold zucchini (possibly the standard ‘Gold Rush’ variety?), and the other I can identify as ‘Zephyr‘, from Kings Seeds. I adore the Zephyr variety as the tips look like they’ve been dipped in green ink.

I do have some secret recipes up my sleeve to deal with these wonderful over-producing plants. In fact, there’s one stand-out meal that has become a summer staple in our household: baked zucchini, tomato and rice gratin. The best thing about this dish is that *everyone* in our family eats it – and perhaps more importantly, enjoys it! The following recipe is great for incorporating those hidden beauties that have turned into marrows, but it’s also brilliant for using up a clutch of tomatoes, and eggs.

Ingredients
About 1 cup of long-grain white rice
3-4 (or more) zucchini, sliced
A few tablespoons of olive oil
A good handful of tomatoes, sliced in half
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Method

Preheat your oven to 230°C, and prepare two roasting dishes for the tomatoes and zucchini to go into.

Cook the rice. While it cooks, toss zucchini with 1 tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in one of the roasting dishes. Toss the tomatoes with 1/2 tablespoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt in the other.

Roast the zucchini and tomatoes in the oven together, turning them once halfway through until they’re tender and light golden in colour. This usually takes about 10-15 minutes for tomatoes and 20 minutes for the zucchini. Once they’re cooked, remove them from the oven, but leave the oven on.

Meanwhile, cook the onion and garlic with 1/2 teaspoon salt in 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan, until very tender.

Once the onion mixture has cooked and softened, stir it together with the cooked rice, eggs, thyme, 1/4 cup cheese, 1 tablespoon oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Spread half of the rice mixture in a shallow baking dish, then top it with half of the roasted zucchini. Spread the remaining rice mixture over the zucchini layer, then top it with the remaining zucchini. Finally, top this layer with the roasted tomatoes and drizzle a bit of olive oil, then sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of cheese.

Bake in the upper part of your oven until it is golden brown in colour – about 20 minutes in total.

Devour and enjoy!

PS. Did you know that the collective noun for a group of zucchinis is a zander? It must be true, Wikipedia says so.

Crochet: bright colours

February 2, 2012

I received an unexpected text message yesterday afternoon, that said my sister-in-law was in labour. I wasn’t expecting such a text for another 3 weeks, and was absolutely delighted to wake to the news this morning that I had a brand new baby niece! We were able to squeeze in a quick visit to the new family today, and bebe is perfect and M & J are well and good. I made the colourful blanket for baby O, and I hope she likes it.

I’ve also crocheted a few other projects recently(ish) too: a flower hat for a good friend’s new baby girl in the UK, and a bright red/pink/grey hat for my Mum for Christmas. Now I need some new creative projects to work on… any ideas gratefully received.

Mini harvests: January

January 28, 2012

After a sodden start, I’m been steadily harvesting produce from the patch this month. Every week I’ve been able to dig up fresh potatoes, the rhubarb is going nuts and we’re getting at least one zucchini a day. My sweetpeas have started flowering too, and the hydrangeas are enormous, presumably because of all of the rain. I’m loving the colours of our hydrangeas this year: pink, white and blue. I laughed when I saw them selling for $10 a stem in New World supermarket last week. We obviously have a garden worth a small fortune :-)

Summer in a glass

January 15, 2012

Summer is flying by. We’ve had water fights in the shower, been bike riding with cousins, sung along with the Muppets, and picked strawberries in Waipukurau. And despite the weird amounts of rain, we’ve managed to capture the taste of summer in a glass by making this ruby-red strawberry cordial. It keeps for about a week and a half in the fridge. Only if you don’t drink it all at once, that is.

The recipe comes from NZ Gardener‘s Homegrown Berries, and is so simple to make:

Ingredients
2 cups of sugar (I used less)
2 cups of water
500 grams of strawberries, hulled
1/4 cup lemon juice

Method:
Place sugar and water in a pot over a medium heat and stir until sugar has dissolved. Simmer for 5-6 minutes until syrupy. Set aside to cool.

Blend firm, undamaged berries in your food processor until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve to remove seeds (this takes a while!). Combine strawberry puree with sugar syrup and lemon juice. Stir well.

Serve in glasses, topped up with soda water and ice. Sit back, relax and savour the sweet, sweet taste of summer.

Christmas feast

December 25, 2011

Our bellies are full of good, good food and drink. We celebrated Christmas with family and soaked in the sunshine. We sang Christmas carols, walked up Mt Kaukau and admired the red pohutakawas that are blooming throughout Wellington. Merry Christmas everyone!

Birthday blanket

November 26, 2011

Happy upcoming 5th birthday to Mr 5′s buddy Alex! I made this blanket for her last night, sewing a felt garden onto some nice thick woollen fabric, then backing it with lime green polar fleece. It’s a really cuddly blanket, so we hope you like it Alex. Happy travels to Blenheim too – we’ll miss you guys xx


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