Some people feel guilty about things they have or haven’t done in life – the big stuff.
Me, I feel racked when I realise the last of the peaches fell to ground, there were figs I missed spotting or the birds beat me to a particularly succulent bunch of grapes.
My confession – I adore filling jars, and everything that goes with preserved food – safe from decay, wildlife or neglect. Squirreling.
This weeks race against the sin that is waste (Aunty Isabel lived through the war and “Waste is Sin” was one of her favourite sayings) has had me drying figs, jellying crabapples, jamming plums, relishing tomatoes and roasting peaches.
My Grandmother (and Aunty Isabel) would have been horrified at the use of such perfect fruit as these peaches in crostata, pies were a place for less than perfect fruit.
I roast fruit in a single layer sprinkled with sugar and dotted with butter, cooking in a moderately hot oven until just bursting.
The restaurant menu also saw hour old kipflers simply dressed with olive oil, fresh mint, basil and parsley, a little seeded red chilli and salt. Yum with fresh curd cheese and black olive tapenade.
A salad of rocket, endive and sorrel had tiny barely ripe port grapes scattered through – the effect like balls of vejuice bursting in the mouth.
A rainbow of colours in the heritage tomatoes not only looks pretty but presents a spectrum of flavour, every variety having different levels of sweetness and acidity.
Spinach went into a savoury crostata with three types of cheese and eggs collected that day.
Seasonal cooking begs for restraint. Kind of ironic when nothing else is showing any.
Make a syrup by boiling 1 litre of water (or wine) with 1 kg of sugar.
Pop the whole figs (stalk intact) in this syrup and simmer very gently for about an hour.
Remove from the syrup and lay figs, allowing a little space, on trays. Place in the sun to dry for three days or until dried to your liking.
Keep the syrup and reuse for this purpose or reduce and pour over ice-cream.
Establishing The Zin House garden is my greatest folly, one that raises the bookkeepers eyebrows most weeks.
It is justifiable only because it ticks each of our guiding principles – Quality, Authenticity, Generosity. And simply because I love it.
So many firsts this week:
First no dig kipflers
First dish entirely our own produce – greens/tomatoes/new potatoes/organic Angus rump/muscat vurjuice dressing
First tomato surplus, leading to:
First batch of tomato chilli jam
First cape gooseberries 🙁 not great yet
Self sufficiency is not the aim, I want to keep supporting as many local producers as possible. But it is exciting to see the garden and orchards in such abundance and good health.
It’s a wild and wooly looking garden, not for the neat who pull things out at the first sign of untidiness. By allowing plants to complete their cycle they are deciding for themselves where they’d like to grow – the self seeded kale took over an entire path so we eliminated the path.
James noticed that when some of the rocket is allowed to flower it has less pests and theorised that as the flowers look just like white butterflies that this is a deterrent to them.
When I was little the suburban houses being built around our farm-house were finished with a planting of potatoes in the front yard. It was the last thing the builders did routinely to break up the ground ready for the owners petunias or carnations. As a tribute Jackie has done this to much of our newly claimed garden area. As a defiance I will never plant petunias or carnations.
Our orchard gave up the last of the apricots (jam for the farm shop opening in February) and at a rough calculation we will be on plums for about three weeks, followed by peaches and figs. Then it will be persimmons, pomegranates and quinces in subsequent weeks.
The big Greengage plum trees in the stone fruit orchard yielded only about a kilo of fruit this year, which I’ve added to the apricot jam for the extra pectin and piquancy to lift the super ripe apricots. The blue diamond plums made what we thought were unbeatable tarts, until yesterdays blood plum version.
Blood plum tart with honey ice-cream is currently at the top of our best, favourite, all time list. I’ve given the recipe for both crostata and ice-cream in previous blogs. But you might like to try this, we served it on the charcuterie plate with our own bresola, rocket, parmesan and mandarin infused olive oil mixed with fresh green grape juice.
If you have access to grapes on the vine then now is the time to press them for fresh verjuice.
Tomato chilli jam
As many tomatoes as you have Chillis to taste and according to heat. I would use about a dozen medium warmth chillis to 2 kg tomatoes One cup of sugar, one cup of cider vinegar, one large onion and few cloves of garlic per kg of tomatoes
Combine everything (roughly chopped) and cook gently over a stove top until jammy in consistency. Season to taste with good salt and pepper.
The New Year media is so predictable, those lists – so irritating, so irresistible.
Advice has been coming thick and fast as an RSL club steak sauce about which restaurants got it right, which trends are on trend (when is a trend not trending then?) and which would you certainly not want to be caught dead in or simply need to die for?
The Daily Telegraph today included a deep fried mars bar in its top 100 dishes list.
John Lethlean (The Australian) wrote a fabulous and some will think scurrilous piece about restaurants who had tried too hard, those who didn’t try hard enough and those, according to Lethlean, who had tried just right.
The lure of the bitchy review is so great, and the writing in this case so witty it really is hard not to be sucked into what someone else ate, drank and spat out the end of a pen:
“Faded glory never looked so faded”
“A hodgepodge of tragically hip elements thrown on a plate with little cohesive narrative”
“Not bad for a shopping centre”
“Another tragic example of hipsters legitamising their career choices by forming little clubs that exclude the people for whom the restaurant exist”
My New Year resolution? Don’t buy into any of it. Not the hype, not the wanna be, not the next best thing or the last cool thing. Just to keep growing and cooking and putting it out to share with people who hopefully haven’t read what someone else has told them they should think about us.
But God, John, it was funny.
This month at The Zin House
Friday night tapas continues
Saturday 24 (Australia Day Long Weekend) Live Music & Supper$65 – Indigo Bells 1969 Tour
We will keep making yummy pies like the recipe here
Apricot or Peach Crostata (with acknowledgment to Lesley Russell)
1½ cups plain flour
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 tspn grated lemon zest
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons ground hazelnuts (or almonds)
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
About 1kg of apricots or peaches (or virtually any fruit, any stones removed)
Place the flour, sugar, butter and zest into the bowl of the food processor and process until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Add the water and pulse a few times until the mixture comes together and forms a dough.
Turn the dough out and knead lightly until smooth. Wrap the pastry in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm.
Combine all the ingredients except the fruit.
Cut the fruit into halves or quarters, depending on their size.
Roll out the dough into a circle approximately 28cm in diameter. Place it onto a baking tray which has been lined with baking paper.
Scatter the filling over the pastry leaving a border of 5 cm or so around the outside.
Place the fruit on top of the filling, packing it close together.
Draw the pastry border up and around the nectarines, pleating it where necessary to form an edge.
Dot the fruit with butter and scatter it with a little caster sugar and bake @ 200C for 30 – 40 minutes. The pastry should be well browned and the fruit softened with luscious juices running.
Serve the crostata warm with thick cream, ice cream or both. Serves 8.