January is supposed to start with promises to self on issues of great importance, right? Zin should be getting Zen.
On a farm when everything decides to ripen at once the year starts with the loud demands of rapidly ripening fruit. This is overlaid with the inherited (or absorbed) psychological subtext that ‘waste is sin’. Days start from half sleep mental notes of picking orders, processing possibilities and storage to sale solutions.
So some plan to drink less (really not helpful to our business) eat less (really bad idea) exercise more (make bread to avoid tuck-shop arms). If you really want to be helpful, I need you to eat more jam, relish and pie.
When someone skinny, fit and pious arches a brow when you reach for another slice/piece/glass – tell them you’re just doing your bit to help a farmer.
I don’t know (or choose not to know) anyone who doesn’t like the gift of a jar of homemade jam – it’s like a hug in a jar. If you grow or receive the gift of excess fruit these are my top tips for quick results.
2 kg fruit
2 kg sugar
1 or 2 lemons
Boil rapidly for ten minutes or until a little cooled in a saucer sets.
Remove lemon, pour into hot sterilised jar and lid immediately.
That, is it. These tips may help:
If you are using low pectin fruit like strawberries add some jam setter (pectin) or high pectin fruit like apple grated through.
Add a smattering of less ripe fruit to aid setting.
NEVER try to cook more than 2kg at a time.
Add a knob of butter to rid a foamy top
Use the largest pot you can with a heavy bottom (I mean the pot) Smaller pot, smaller batch.
Fruit with stones that are not free may be easier cook and then remove the stone, most will float to the surface. Don’t worry about the odd stone.
If you are too busy for jam, relish or pie right now and the fruit looks like it might crawl off the bench if you leave it one more day, roast fruit with a little butter and sugar and pop in the fridge or freezer. This should only take a few minutes and it will now keep to make some pies or top ice-cream or as a base for a more exotic chilli jam/relish.
I once looked at the $10 price tag on a pot of fresh mint tea in a fancy restaurant and wondered who on earth would pay that, until after dinner my partner did just that.
Which reinforces both the importance of immersing your guests in a fabulous experience where cost is somewhat secondary and also how ridiculously simple it is to grow your own.
Camomile (healing & calming), peppermint (anti-inflamatory, and lemon verbena (for colic, flatulence & candida) are all flourishing at the moment. Borage makes a good digestive drink, elderflower is a pleasant and pretty tea (anti-viral) and even better with a little lemon and honey.
The more I look around the garden the more I want to steep things rather than just cook them. The only thing rivaling my tea fetish at the moment is my tempura obsession. Coming from a country that batters and deep fries oysters and (real) scallops in takeaway stores perhaps it’s in my DNA. or maybe its just that anything battered and deep fried tastes great.
The ultimate tempura batter is simply white wine whisked with flour to a pouring consistency. Ensure the oil is good and hot and dip anything thin, young and greenish (and not a dinner guest). We’re using vine leaves at the moment and the aforementioned elderflowers.
If you’re worried about the effect of eating fried food simply follow up with a nice cup of tea.
It has been suggested, in less than subtle terminology, that in this blog I talk too much about the garden and neglect what The Zin House is doing as a restaurant.
There are people who work here – waiting, cooking, cleaning, marketing etc, who want me to remember that we are actually a restaurant.
I could remind them that like the grapes that make the wine great, good food starts in the garden. I could just eat all the raspberries without sharing. But just to prove I can be compliant (and because they’re right), here is the lowedown of the highlights:
Our new chef has started – Stuart MacIntyre, fresh from two hat restaurant The Stokehouse in Brisbane. His partner Eilidh Mathers has traveled with him and you will find her working with Kat on the floor.
We have rolled Tapas out to Saturday nights as well – you can now eat with us every Friday and Saturday night.
Farm Forage is a long lunch with my mate Jared Ingersoll on March 21. Jared is a well known Sydney Chef/Restaurateur (Dank St Depot, Cotton Duck and pop up Barrel and Beast) and a fabulous forager, two years ago we put together over 30 ingredients from the farm and this year guests can forage with him before lunching at long tables in the garden.
There is a whole program of new events on our website www.zinhouse.com.au including Duelling Winemakers, Eat my Words and Blend it like Blackie.
We’re harvesting, filling jars and creating for the Farm Shop, officially opening on Friday March 20. You’ll be able to pop in on Mondays and Fridays for a shelf forage and light meal or buy my bread on weekends.
Our favourite muso Pat O’Donnell who wowed everyone during the 1969 Tour concert, is back on Thursday May 7 playing the entire Tea for the Tillerman album. $65 for three course supper and show (indoors, 50 seats only).
And back in the garden…. 🙂
We’re harvesting hundreds of kilos of tomatoes and doing things like this with them:
Semi Dried Tomatoes
Halve the tomatoes and lay flat (cut surface up) on baking trays lined with baking paper. Sprinkle with a mixture equal parts salt flakes and castor sugar. Sprinkle some thyme sprigs over, cracked pepper and drizzle with a little olive oil. Add some sliced garlic if you like.
If using bigger tomatoes cut them in slices about 10mm thick.
Dry in an oven at 70 degrees celcius for about 12 hours or until dried to your liking. Alternatively dry in hot sun over a couple of days.
Store with good extra virgin olive oil to help them keep for several weeks.