the rambles of a family of five in Australia

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christmas 2010

Jesus is the reason for the season!

Rob getting suitably attired to sit in the kitchen and open presents…

E’s first gift – not really sure what to do with all the paper…

First gift unwrapped and sorted – think E is getting the hang of it all!

New crockery and cutlery from Gma and Gpa….

…yep – it’s a winner!

‘More tractor, Daddy, more tractor!’

E chose this himself on Christmas Eve and is still delighted by it!

Cooking Christmas Lunch – E loves to grind pepper.

E also volunteered to wash up. Water all over the floor = happy little boy.

E had his eye on dessert (apple pie) since he woke up. (So did his Dad!)

The wonders of Christmas snowfall!

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summertime…and the livin’ is easy

Elderberry syrup

There is currently a pan full of elderberry syrup cooling on the stove, prior to bottling. There are jars of pickled cherries, raspberry jam and blue plum jam in the store cupboard, and bottles of raspberry vinegar in nooks and crannies in the kitchen. Courgettes (zucchinis) the size of pumpkins lie on my bench – awaiting their transformation into soup, roasted vegetables, stuffed marrows and the like. The farmshop has blue and victoria plums ready for picking, with greengages not far off. E and H harvested elderberries and blackberries in their hundreds from hedgerows that line the estate roads on their usual afternoon walk. The cooking of seasonal produce has been a joyful experience since we moved here.

Pickled cherries

Our neighbours have kindly supplied us with all sorts of things – one of which is the abundance from their vegetable plots: bags of lettuce with the sap dripping from the stems, courgettes, marrows, cucumbers, cherries, elderflowers and berries and fresh green beans. Our own garden gave us a bumper crop of raspberries early in the summer, and is preparing another batch for autumn.

Raspberry vinegar

The farmshop has a PYO patch, and we’ve encountered our first gooseberries (they grow on small bushes) and redcurrants there.
We have baked vegetables; churned raspberry icecream; made syrups and vinegars; eaten fresh salads and enjoyed all the glorious bounty that we’ve been given and/or bought from markets and local producers.

Raspberry jam

We aren’t eating as much meat – partly because if you want to eat something that hasn’t been factory-farmed then it is quite pricey, and partly because the vegies are so delicious on their own. Cauliflower here is a revelation – it has a nutty, creamy flavour and is absolutely gorgeous. Savoy cabbage has become a favourite side dish, and we use the pumpkins that the English scorn to make a tasty Haloumi and roast vege bake.
H missed out on elderflower season – and therefore was not able to make elderflower cordial – but is on target for elderberry syrups and jellies. She is starting with a syrup – to use in building long, cool drinks, or to pour over cake and icecream for dessert. Hopeful friends have suggested making elderberry wine, but that will be a plan for another summer, once she’s worked out the intricacies of cooking with them!

Step 1: Select a likely-looking bunch of berries

Step 2: Strip the berries from stems, if possible.

Step 3: Pick up the jumpy ones…
Step 4: Individually hand-pick the sourest ones for a quick taste
Step 5: Mashing the berries through a sieve – E’s absolute favourite step so far!
E enjoys going for walks that involve foraging snacks on the way. He is learning to recognise a ripe blackberry and readily opens his mouth when one is offered. He assisted H in pulling all the elderberries from their stems this evening and popping them into a saucepan. He has the occasional ‘Huh?!’ moment – like this morning where he took a bite from a (rotting) windfall apple in the neighbours’ garden and spat it out in disgust – but is learning to trust us if we tell him that something is not for eating. This is actually reasonably crucial here at the moment as there are lots of berries in the hedgerows that would make him sick if he did eat them.
Our courgettes/marrows -and a cucumber
That said, he has become adept at snatching strawberries from the hanging basket in the porch as we walk by, and will usually eat them stem and all.
We are heading into pheasant, partridge and venison season – with the attendant lessons in plucking, skinning and gutting. H is keen to have a go, no one else is really convinced she will actually see it through. Stay tuned for the outcome!
The chief tasters…