Sunday, January 31, 2010

Edible Balcony - Moon Plantings

Thai Silk chillies planted on Friday night - the night before the full moon. Considered a very fertile period in the lunar calendar for planting.

I've popped the chillies between the red peppers and the mixed basil.

Now before you think I've gone completely looney(get it?) hear me out. Generations of farmers and gardeners have been planting crops according to moon cycles. Why? They believe lunar planting helps seeds to germinate earlier, plants to grow stronger and the fruit they bear to be larger and tastier. How does the moon do all that?Well as you know the moon is the closest celestial body to the Earth. It is already known to affect water on the Earth through moving the tides but less is known about its effects on sap levels in plants.

This variety of chilli has a blow-your-head-off rating of 7/10. The chillies change colour from cream, to yellow, to purple, until they are red and fully ripe.

You probably know there are four major moon phases - they are new, first quarter, full and third quarter. When the moon is growing in light from the new to the full moon it's referred to as waxing. The waxing phase is a time of growth and expansion. Waning is when the moon moves from full back to new and is losing light or shrinking. This waning phase is a time of contraction. Generally the waxing period is considered a better time for planting, repotting and pruning to encourage growth, the full moon is the best time to harvest and the waning phase is the best time to weed and for general garden maintenance. Read more here.

This form of biodynamic gardening was pioneered by Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian philosopher and social thinker. He was very concerned about our over-reliance on commercial fertilisers and chemicals to boost crops sizes and predicted (correctly) that these practices would actually degrade soil fertility in the long-term.

After some cursory reading on this subject I'm not sure I'm a believer in Moon plantings but I'm going to give it a go. I need all the extra help I can muster!

Last night's full moon over Sydney Harbour... ow...woooooooooooo.....

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Recipe:Grilled Atlantic Salmon Salad with Doodles Creek Wasabi Mayonnaise Dressing

summer on a plate
Another steamy day in Sydney and another day where only a salad will do. But not just any salad...

This is a wow factor salad!

Recipe:Grilled Atlantic Salmon Salad with Wasabi Mayonnaise Dressing

2 fresh fillets of Atlantic Salmon
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons hoi sin sauce
3 organic eggs
4 new potatoes
1/2 a punnet of grape tomatoes, chopped in half
300g green beans
Mixed lettuce and watercress salad leaves to serve
a few sprigs of dill or fennel fronds
100g Doodles Creek Wasabi Mayonnaise
1 tablespoon horseradish
Salt and pepper to taste
a squeeze of lemon

Boil eggs leaving yolks just set, soft and bright orange. Cool, shell and cut into halves.Remove stringy ends from the green beans and blanch them whole. (Blanching them whole prevents nutrients leaching into the water) Drain in iced water. Chop into halves or thirds. Place potatoes with skins still on in the microwave and steam for 5 minutes.(Most nutrients in vegetables are just under the skin surface.I try to cook with the skins on my vegetables wherever possible for this reason.)
Toss the salmon fillets in the soy sauce and hoi sin and grill on a hot BBQ plate for two minutes on each side. The centre of each steak should still be pink and rare.
Mix the Doodles Creek wasabi mayonnaise with the extra horseradish ( I like my dressing to have a little kick of heat but leave out the extra horseradish if it's too pungent for you) and set aside in the fridge.
To serve:
Arrange salad leaves on a serving platter. Scatter with the potatoes, beans and tomatoes. Gently tear salmon into small chunks and arrange on top. Garnish with eggs, dill, a drizzling of the dressing, a squeeze of lemon and a good grating of fresh black pepper.
Serves 4 people.

I love salmon this way.. so rare it melts in your mouth

This is a salad that ticks all the boxes.... tasty, nutritious, filling, looks like you've been slaving in a hot kitchen all day and only takes 20 minutes to prepare!

There's also been some new inedible additions to the edible balcony...

4 deckchairs to replace the old blue ones.
They're made from teak and covered with a non-fade, synthetic, striped fabric.
So comfortable.
They are from a wonderful collectibles store in Surry Hills, Sydney called Ici et La
The colours seem to echo the colours of the herbs, vegetables and flowers on the balcony.

And best of all they fold away when they're not needed!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Edible Balcony - Australia Day BBQ

When it comes to Australia Day I'm a proud traditionalist. Nothing but a barbeque will do. So for lunch we cranked up the Baby Q Weber, threw on a few snags while we watched the
celebrations on the harbour.

This was effortless cooking on a hazy and humid day.

... on went a few pork toulouse sausages from Fratelli Fresh and a few garlic, rosemary and lamb ones in honour of Sam Kekovich!

the Weber did another sterling job....

I served the sausages halved, wrapped in some sourdough bread with onions and tomato sauce.

Needless to say they were delicious - smokey and aromatic...

For the salad I tossed together some balcony tomatoes, purple and lemon basil and a tore off a few chunks of fresh buffalo mozzarella (store bought... sadly no room for a buffalo on the balcony - yet!) dressed simply with some Jervis Bay olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar.

It was a good day to be Australian.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Edible Balcony Update - Hello Red Peppers, Hasta La Vista Marigolds

The first red pepper bud flowered on the weekend. It's as delicate as a snow drop; pure and white with velvety teardrop-shaped petals - in sharp contrast to the hot pungent red peppers they'll metamorphose into!
I planted the seeds in the second week of November and, according to the growing instructions, come late February I'll be cooking up some long red horn peppers on the barbie. ....

Sadly growth and death are part of every garden and I returned from my south coast trip to find the marigolds I'd planted around the base of the curry leaf tree curry covered with strange grey spots.

A quick google search helped me identify it as botrytis blight - a common fungal disease that strikes marigolds.

The leaves were completely covered by greyish patches.

There was nothing I could do to save them. They would all eventually look like this and potentially contaminate other plants. They had to be pulled.

I'm trying not to view their demise as a failure but I can feel the other plants now watch me more furtively wondering which one of them I'm going to kill next! I've become the MARIGOLD MURDERER.
I'm off to the garden centre to select a shade tolerant plant for the base of the curry leaf tree. Something edible would be a bonus. I'll also get some new marigold seeds and plant them in full sun this time.
I guess life has to carry on ....... (after a little therapy perhaps?)

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Jervis Bay Locavore

A box of local Jervis Bay produce from Source Food Co.- fruit vegetables, honey and coffee

Jervis Bay is slowly cementing its reputation for seasonal bio-dynamic produce, artisanal breads and cheeses. And a few innovative local eateries are showcasing these ingredients such as Hyams Beach Cafe and The Gunyah Restaurant at Paper Bark Camp in Woollamia.

Another exciting Jervis Bay enterprise is Source Food Co. which - as the names suggests - sources the best local produce and sells direct to the consumer from a rustic shed in Huskisson. No pesticides, no chemicals, no supermarkets. Source is also ambitious in its aims to teach people the lost art of how to grow food. The owner showed me a huge glossy purple eggplant grown by a 12-year-old boy in his backyard!Inspiring.

A little further down the road and on the Princes Highway is the Contadino Olive Farm where I always stock up on my extra virgin olive oil when I'm passing through. Their oil is a delicious all rounder with warm mellow flavours. The Morabito family use their traditional Italian farming knowledge to companion farm their olives with vegetables and flowers, and with chooks and turkeys scooting around providing that all-important rich manure.

Happy eggs from happy chooks

Because they look imperfect you just know they're going to taste perfect

Zucchini flowers picked fresh that morning

sweet green peppers - I hope mine look like these!

Mr Morabito with a bottle of his wife's fiery chilli

This sauce was pricey at $7 a bottle but made up the most delicious Bolognaise sauce.

And when we got home that organic tray of vegetables went straight into the oven with some of the Contadino olive oil and a few herbs from the edible balcony. This is how vegies use to taste - earthy, sweet with lots of flavour. A fitting way to end our south coast road trip.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Seaside Cottages, Hyams Beach, Jervis Bay

Sadly it's time to head back up the coast to Sydney  - but not before a stop at one of the most idyllic hideaways on the planet.
The tour operators will tell you that Hyams Beach is famous for it's entry in the Guinness Book of Records for the whitest sand in the world. True that may be. It's pretty white. But its cool, crystal, clear waters have to been seen to be believed. To swim in these waters is to relive some of the better moments from Blue Lagoon.Not a stone on the beach. Not a piece of seaweed or debris in the ocean. Just deep refreshing endless water.

We snaffled some last minute accommodation at the Hyams Beach seaside cottages one street away from the beach.

The pastel-coloured ,weatherboard cottages were originally built to house seasonal whalers and fishermen.
After undergoing extensive renovations they are now a very comfortable getaway for couples.

Digital TV and heater in the lounge...

A lovely verandah to sit on while you have your morning cuppa and listen to the parrot symphony in the overhead gums.

A little kitchen with all the essentials - electric frying pan, toaster, microwave, fridge and crockery

Another comfy bed and great large shower

Off in the morning for a little dolphin spotting. We had to go as far out as the headlands to Point Perpendicular.

two hours and still no sign of the little critters.....

..and then a pod surfaces....

View Larger Map

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The River Moruya restaurant, Moruya, NSW

I'd be lost without my food bibles. They can be found in the car, in my handbag, on the bookshelf and on my lap top...
The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide, The Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine, the Good Living liftout in Tuesday's Sydney Morning Herald and Vogue Entertaining and Travel.
They tell me where to eat and what to eat. Sometimes I'll disagree with their assessments.Sometimes they can be too affected by food fashion and the 'what's hot right now'. I don't particularly care if I'm sitting on a Thonet chair as long as it is comfortable. I won't frown upon a restaurant that still serves truffle oil even though my bibles tell me it is so yesterday. If it is used deftly bring it on I say! Even so I'd be lost without my bibles... without the wise and witty words from Joanna, Simon, Terry and Kendall. Without your dedication I wouldn't have had many of my most memorable food experiences. Thank you.

The River Moruya is one of those magical places you wouldn't necessarily stumble upon unless you've read one of your food bibles. You have to know it's there... tucked in a carpark behind Moruya's main street but with a deck opening onto the glorious Moruya river. This Chalkers Crossing wine was the standout wine of our south coast road trip. I just love the wines from the cold climate Tumbarumba region. Crisp and citrusy with a big full mouth feel. This was the meal - the food was the accompaniment.

The food philosophy at the River Moruya is to housemake what they can and source everything else locally.
These gloriously fresh salads leaves made every other salad leaf we'd had before taste like grass clippings.

oh to be a rabbit!!!!!

This was an entree of three delicately tempured oysters served on discs of house-made black pudding with a piquant tomato relish. The black pudding was rich and smokey.

House-made bread with nigella seeds

Pan-fried blue eye cod with blue swimmer crab-filled tortellini

Mustard vegetable pickle (Mark's favourite)with Maffra cheddar cheese and biscuits

The River Moruya doesn't follow trends. It sets them. Fresh, local. Quietly letting the ingredients shine not the chef's ego.