Tassievore eat local challenge – feast day 1

A few weeks ago Sustainable Living Tasmania launched the Living Local Feast challenge. Having been a keen participant in Tassievore Eat Local Challenge in 2014, which culminated in an actual dinner party, I toyed with signing up again this year. Lil Sis strongly encouraged me asked me if I was going to do it and, motivated by the chance to win a Tassievore gift pack if I was one of the first 20 to register, I decided to give it another go.

As in 2014, my challenge is to “invite your nearest and dearest around to your house for a meal cooked with mostly Tasmanian produce”. It struck me that it might be more difficult to do this than it had been in March 2014 because we are moving into winter and there might not be as much locally grown vegetables around.

I was very excited when Lissa from Sustainable Living Tasmania emailed to tell me I was one of the lucky 20 to win a Tassievore gift pack.

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Now I had no excuses!

I contacted my family and arranged a date when everyone was free, and started menu planning. Being somewhat conservative, despite my motto of colouring outside the lines, I ended up with a menu not too far departed from my 2014 menu. But there’s enough new stuff to keep me on my toes.

Today was devoted to sourcing my local produce so that I don’t have to rely on our weekly grocery shop tomorrow for Tassie-grown vegetables.

I started my day at Huon Valley Meats in Goulburn Street, where I picked up my main course and some condiments.

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My next stop was Eumarrah in Barrack Street, which I had sussed out earlier in the week and knew they would have most of the vegetables and some of the dairy I needed. I only had a minor panic when I couldn’t see the Tasmanian pumpkins, which are a key ingredient in two of my dishes. But I found them eventually, once I turned around and looked in the corner. *huge sigh of relief*

I had a great time carrying seven kilos of meat and vegetables into work. (I actually didn’t enjoy this. Who would have thought.)

At lunchtime, I went to Salamanca Fresh to pick up most of the rest of the ingredients I needed. All I have left now are a couple of minor things that, if I don’t get them, I can work around.

I ended up with an impressive haul for the day.

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Today’s tasks were:

1. To start off some sourdough bread – the challenge here being to use Tasmanian flour rather than the (not Tasmanian) flour that was recommended on the course I recently attended.

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The dough is now proving so that I can bake it some time tomorrow morning.

2. Make crackers using the recipe from Tassievore. It wasn’t until I re-read the recipe I realised butter wasn’t part of it.

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Also I am not 100% sure that South Cape is Tasmanian, but the address on the label said Burnie, and I couldn’t find any Ashgrove or Elgaar parmesan, so it’s the best I can do. I think 2 teaspoons of cheese is OK.

Here’s how the crackers turned out.

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3. Make beef stock.

Here we have beef bones from my lovely friends at Two Metre Tall roasted in the oven for a couple of hours and transferred to the slow cooker, where they will simmer overnight and give me a beautiful rich beef stock tomorrow.

So my dough is proving, my stock is cooking, and I have a lot of things to do tomorrow before my guests arrive.

I’ll be Instagramming my preparation until things get crazy busy, and using the hashtag #tassivorefeast there (@straightlinesgirl) and on Twitter (@straitlinesgirl) if you want to follow the fun.

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Adventures in sourdough

I’ve been interested in sourdough breadmaking for a while and have tried making it a few times, but have never been very happy with the result, so I decided I needed some professional help.

A couple of years ago a friend told me about sourdough workshops that Kate Flint runs out of the Garden Shed and Pantry in Cygnet.  Lil Sis and I had talked about going ever since, and were going to gift a ticket to each other for Christmas in 2015. It never really happened, and I kept getting the emails about the workshops and never got around to organising to go. This time I said to Lil Sis that we were going, we booked, organised some accommodation for the night and on Friday afternoon we set off.

The workshop was run in two sessions. The first one on Friday night, was where Kate introduced us to sourdough and we made our dough using Kate’s starter. We then had to leave it overnight for an 8.30 start the next morning. Before we left for the night, Kate showed us how to make cultured butter.

The next morning, we went to the second part of the workshop, which was basically pulling the dough out of the proofing bowl, shaping it and getting it ready to cook, which was meant to happen about 1.5 hours later.

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Dough at the beginning of Day 2.

After we’d done that, Kate demonstrated how to get the dough into the oven, and her three demo loaves cooked while we were there.

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These look great! I need to get one of those cast iron pots.

Lil Sis and I put our dough into the fridge until we were ready to go, because Kate had said not to leave it out for much more than 1.5 hours before baking it, and we had a longer trip home than most of the other participants.

We got to try a selection of Kate’s breads for breakfast, which she had given us recipes for as well, and were able to stock up on supplies from Kate’s shop before heading home with our dough.

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Breakfast

It took about an hour from Kate’s place to my place, maybe a bit less, and I kept the dough on the bench while I heated the oven, so it was out of the fridge about 90 minutes all up.

The instruction was to heat the oven and baking stone or pot to 240 degrees initially. Now what you need to know is that one of the many quirks of this house is that the temperature on the oven dial is not the temperature that the oven actually is – so there is a baking thermometer in there to monitor that actual temperature.

I heated the oven and the pizza stone to 240. All good. Possibly put too much flour on the pizza stone, as I set the smoke alarm off.

At least I know it works.

Tipped out the dough (forgot to slash it, never mind), filled the bottom tray with boiling water and put the dough in. Got my water sprayer and sprayed water into the oven as Kate had suggested to do if you didn’t have a pot with a lid to create steam. The temperature dropped to 150 or thereabouts.

I expected it to go back up to 240 or so.

It didn’t.

I sat in front of the over for 35 minutes despairing as the temperature sat solidly on the 130-150 degree mark, depending on whether I believed the thermometer or the oven dial. Completely panicking! Slabs suggested I had interfered with the oven fan with the water spray as it’s a fan forced oven. I don’t know. Does steam work in a fan forced oven? I hadn’t even thought to ask this.

By this point I’m fretting that I’ve broken the oven. (You might say it was already broken, and I’d just advanced the case for getting a new one.)

Then finally about 35 minutes in, the temperature started to go up again. I had no idea what to do at this point, because according to the directions Kate gave us, after 35 minutes at 240 degrees, I was supposed to reduce the heat to 180. But it hadn’t even got to 240, let alone 180.

I decided I had nothing to lose, so I let it go for 25 minutes in the increasing heat. According to the thermometer, it got to about 220 in that 25 minutes. By that time it was starting to burn on the outside so I had to stop and hope it had cooked on the inside.

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And now we wait . . .

So then there was the anxious wait for two hours to cut it and see what it was like on the inside. One of my baking friends asked if it sounded hollow when I tapped on it, which it did, so that was apparently good.

And when I did cut it, it looked pretty good, much to my surprise. In fact I’d go as far as to say that it’s the best loaf I have ever made, so something went right somewhere!

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Not bad at all

So I was happy with the result and now that I know what I’m doing (I think) I’m going to try this again.

12 of 12 March 2016 – Part 2

Part 1 of this post, in which I try to get into the habit of an earlier bedtime, is here.

The story continues . . .

I decided that, even though I wasn’t feeling so good, I’d get up and go for a walk this morning. Slabs suggested I sleep in and walk later in the day. While the idea sounded good, I didn’t think this was going to work because it’s cooler earlier in the day and walking in the heat* is likely to have tired me out more. And that’s assuming I’d be able to muster up the energy to get out of the house later. I find it much easier to get my walks out of the way first thing, before I get caught up in everything else I’m doing during the day.

2 of 12: I did sleep in. A bit. For me. By the time I got up and out of the house it was light, so I decided to wander along the walking track, which I can’t often do because it’s too dark most days when I get up.

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3 of 12: I took it easy. No 16 km walks this morning. 30 minutes was about 3000 steps, and I was grateful for the park benches dotted along the walking track, as I needed a rest by this point. This meant that I’d need to do seven lots of 30 minutes to reach my target. This sounded like a lot at 7am, but I was confident it was doable if I rested up in between.

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4 of 12: These signs are quite new. I can’t figure out if the council retro-fitted the dog poo stickers or if someone who was sick of stepping in poo go the shits and stuck the stickers onto the signs themselves.

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5 of 12: The river looking very peaceful this morning.

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I cut my normal route a bit short because I was getting tired and my walk was taking longer than normal. See! I’m not pushing myself.

6 of 12: I used some of my walking time to catch up on my French lessons on Duolingo, which I’d recently started again after a long absence. I followed the principle of making a new habit as easy as possible to do, so I reduced my daily goal to one lesson, which is possible to slot in almost anywhere in my day. I’ve generally tried to do it first thing after dropping Kramstable at school on my way to work. So if you see me walking along hunched over my phone in the morning I’m not on Twitter (probably). I’ll be learning French.

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After breakfast it was time to take Kramstable to swimming. An ideal opportunity to fit in two of those 30 minute walks I need to do. While it’s not the most pleasant and relaxing walk, as it’s mainly along main roads, it’s a good way to get us both moving.

The thing that struck me, as it did last week when we had to walk because Slabs needed the car, was how many cars went past and how few people were walking anywhere – I could count them on one hand each time. Most of the people that were walking were walking dogs rather than looking like they were walking to somewhere for a purpose.

As I watched the never-ending stream of cars go past, I wondered how many people were driving because it was quicker and easier than walking. After all, most people are busy, and taking an hour out of your day to walk to somewhere you could drive to and back in ten minutes is a big chunk of your day. Unless I’ve had no car, I’ve always jumped in the car and driven to swimming. It’s so much easier, I can leave a lot later and I have more time at home to do stuff like checking Twitter. I mean vacuuming the floors.

(What followed here was a ramble about the time needed to walk, slowing down, using the time as one-on-one time with Kramstable, environmental concerns about using the car for short trips. Followed by the eventual realisation that if I get up at the same time, walk for an hour less in the morning and walk to swimming instead I’ll still have the hour I would have saved by driving, plus all the other benefits. I’ll save all that for paspresentfuture: the director’s cut.)

8 of 12: Kramstable had a good swimming lesson.

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9 of 12: While we were up the street today we noticed someone had tried to set fire to the community notice board. Nice one.

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Also up the street, we learned some new roundabout etiquette where you indicate you’re going left before you even get onto the roundabout, and then go straight, confusing the hell out of people who are trying to cross the road. A change from the usual “indicate right when you’re going straight” crowd.

10 of 12: Washing day for the leggings!

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11 of 12: Today’s leggings. Today’s step count: 21,406. Two days to go. I might just make it.

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12 of 12: I made lasagna tonight. This is one of my favourite epic dishes that takes all afternoon to prepare. So you know that I’m not overdoing things, I had a rest first. And I went to bed early.

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* By heat I mean anything above about 18 degrees when the sun is shining. The sun here is burny and melty, and saps my energy every time I go outside, regardless of the actual temperature. I’m told the sun is more intense in Tasmania than in other places, and I find it to be really uncomfortable to be outside in. I hate walking in the sun.

Tassievore Eat Local Challange – Week 4: Tassievore Dinner Party

Once I’d finished my epic 12 km walk on Saturday, it was time to start preparing my feast for the Tassievore Eat Local Challenge. This was Week 4’s mini-challenge: to have a dinner party where all the food is from Tasmania.

I’ll put my confessions up front. The butter we had in the fridge wasn’t Tasmanian, and I forgot to buy some of the Tassie butter. I didn’t buy Tasmanian olive oil. And I’m pretty sure sugar and coconuts don’t grow here. I also used salt, which I didn’t think could be obtained from Tasmania either. (But I later found Spice Tasmania, which does produce a salt blend locally – but from the information on the website, it looks like it’s a blend designed for cooking with fish, not as a general table/cooking salt.)

Now that’s out of the way, I can get on with the post!

“Dinner party” implies more people than just us, so I invited Lil Sis, Mr Tall and their friend Mr Not-as-Tall. Two of these people have worked as chefs, so there was no pressure. None at all.

I decided on my menu earlier in the week:

Course 1 – Dips and vegetables

Course 2 – Pumpkin soup and bread

Course 3 – Slow roast beef from Two Metre Tall with roasted pumpkin, beetroot and baby spinach salad

Course 4 – Apple crumble with Valhalla Ice Cream

Course 5 – Pyengana cheese and the black garlic I bought in Week 1

I bought the ingredients during the week, making sure I was only shopping at Tasmanian businesses (from my previous post) and I was only buying Tasmanian products.

My main problem was getting hold of Tasmanian pumpkin – there didn’t seem to be a lot of it around. I’m not sure if it’s a bit too early in the season, but I was almost at the point of changing the menu to carrot soup, when I finally found some at Eumarrah. Day saved!

I made myself a running sheet so I knew what I had to be doing when. If you’re doing a multi-course dinner I would highly recommend doing this so you don’t forget anything and everything’s ready at the right time.

And here’s how it happened . . .

After I got back from my walk, I put the beef bones (souced from Two Metre Tall quite some time ago) into the oven to roast for the beef stock. I’d never done roasted beef bone stock before, but it’s a great way to do it and the stock I ended up with was fantastic.

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While they were roasting, we headed off to the local market for some veggies and some take-home laksa for lunch, because I knew I wouldn’t have time to do anything for lunch.

When we got home, it was time to put the bones and vegetables into the stock pot. It simmered away all day and I took out the stock as I needed it.

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At midday I got the beef (a 2.3 kg piece of chuck steak we’d picked up from Two Metre Tall on Friday) ready for the slow cooker.

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I seasoned it with salt and pepper, seared it all over and put it in the pot with vegetables, some of the Tasmanian mountain pepper berries that I bought in Week 1, and a cooking liquid that used some of the stock and might have included some of this.

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At the same time I roasted the beetroot and garlic in the oven for the beetroot dip.

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Once I’d made the two dips (tzatziki and beetroot – using Elgaar yogurt), I had a bit of a break so I could do some housework (yay) and get the dining room ready for guests.

The cooking-in-earnest phase began at 4.00, when I cut up the pumpkins for the soup and salad, the beetroots and the apples. If you ever have to cut up a lot of pumpkin, I suggest allowing about an hour for this task.

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The soup cooked away nicely, the salad veggies roasted very well, the apples stewed, the dips were ready for a 6.00 start and I was ready to do this.

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The rest of the evening was busy, making sure everything was ready with the other things it was meant to be ready with. You know, things like cider.

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I used the Tasmainan mountain pepper in the soup. I served it with woodfired bread from Redlands Estate that we got from the market and cream from Elgaar – and chives from Lil Sis’ garden.

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The beef roast was divine. I think it’s the best beef roast I’ve ever done and I’ll definitely do this again. Especially as it needs a bottle of wine to be opened.

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I loved the beetroot and pumpkin salad that went with it – the highlight of this was the Tasmanian walnuts from Tamar Valley Organic, (that I got from City Organics). They were cracked open and scattered over the top straight away. Fresh, unopened walnuts are infinitely superior to the opened ones that you can buy in the shops. I always thought I didn’t like walnuts, but now I know I don’t like pre-opened ones. These were wonderful.

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The accompanying wine for the main course was another Derwent Estate. This time a 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, which we love, and managed to get the last 5 bottles from the cellar door a couple of years ago. A worthy wine for this dinner!

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I found a very strange recipe for apple crumble online, and the topping reminded me more of an ANZAC biscuit than a crumble topping. It worked pretty well, although I think I could have done with 3 or 4 more apples because they weren’t very big.

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We finished off the evening with some Pyengana cheddar cheese and the black garlic I bought in Week 1. It had an interesting flavour and I think it complemented the cheese (and wine) very well.

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And that was it. A huge day of cooking. Done. I survived and everyone seemed to be happy.

I really don’t like cooking very much. The only time I enjoy it is when it’s something I can do over a few hours, have a glass (or two) of wine while I’m doing it and get totally immersed in it. This ticked all those boxes, and the fact that it was so close to being completely Tasmanian made me very happy (I’m still annoyed I forgot about the butter though).

I might do it again one day.

Tassievore Eat Local Challenge – Week 1

Week 1’s Tassievore challenge was “Try Something New”.  The challenge organisers posted some ideas on their Facebook page, including:

  1. Try growing something that you haven’t grown before.
  2. Try cooking Tasmanian quinoa.
  3. Try a drop of local cider, wine or beer that you haven’t tried before.
  4. Visit a restaurant or shop that you have heard does a good job of focussing on local ingredients.
  5. Visit a local farmers market if you haven’t before.

I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do.

To start with, I cooked a couple of recipes from this cookbook, which I bought a while ago. 

ImageThe book was published a few years ago by Soroptimist International of Tasmania as a fundraiser for the University of Tasmania’s project to save the Tasmanian Devil.

 I’ve cooked Tasmanian quinoa before – it’s grown on the North West Coast of Tasmania by Kindred Organics. I already had some in the cupboard, so it was pretty easy to make that one night instead of rice.

What I should have done (in hindsight) is use it in a way I haven’t before, and there are some recipes on Kindred’s website that I could have tried. I also found out that they produce Adzuki beans, which I haven’t ever used before, so if I’d done my research earlier in the week I could have got some of them and blitzed this week’s challenge.

Never mind. Next week.

I was keeping my eyes open during the week for something I hadn’t tried before, and saw some Tasmanian mountain pepper in one of the shops I was browsing it. I picked up a packet that has it in four different forms:

  • The whole leaf, which you can use in the same way as bay leaves
  • The whole berries, which could substitute for black peppercorns
  • Ground leaves, which the package suggests adding to vinaigrette or mayonnaise, scones, bread and pasta, or as a garnish
  • Ground berry, which I imagine you’d use as a pepper substitute in cooking

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These are freeze dried, which end up being milder than the air dried berries, and from what I’ve read, the recommendation for using them is about half the amount that you would use of regular pepper.

So now I have to find a recipe to use this in.

I also stumbled across some Tasmanian black garlic. Now this really is something I haven’t tried before – I’d never even heard of it. I was curious, so I bought some, without having a clue what to do with it.

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Luckily the Tasmanian Black Garlic Company has a website, which tells me:

Tasmanian Black Garlic is not a garlic variety, rather organically grown Tasmanian Purple garlic in an aged state. Because garlic contains sugars and amino acids, when garlic undergoes fermentation, these elements produce melanoidin, a dark-coloured substance that is responsible for the colour of black garlic.

According to the website you can peel it and eat it exactly as it is, and they suggest using it on a cheese platter. Or you can cook with it in place of regular garlic. 

It keeps in the fridge for six months, so I have plenty of time to use in different ways.

Finally, I decided to grow something I haven’t grown before. Well at least not successfully.

Basil.

For some reason I can’t make this stuff grow, and end up paying $4 a bunch whenever I need basil.

I have some rather sad looking plants in pots near the kitchen window, and the other day someone suggested I should try growing from seed instead of getting seedlings.

I found some Tassie basil seeds during the week from Southern Harvest and decided to have another go.

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Yes I know, the packet says in cool areas sow from September to December, and it’s now March. So yes, I’m probably setting myself up for a big fail. I’m hoping I might be able to grow it as an indoor plant over autumn and winter.  I haven’t done this before, so it’s basically just an experiment.

If it doesn’t work, I’ve lost a few seeds. If it does then I’ll be very happy!

So now it’s on to Week 2 of the challenge: Support Local Businesses.

 

P365 – Day 347 – shortbread

A while ago Juniordwarf and I made shortbread using the 3:2:1 recipe.

Today we made some more. Stars this time.

In case you’re ever wondering how many stars you can get out of 750 g flour, 500 g butter and 250 g caster sugar, the answer is 66.

That’s how many we got after Juniordwarf* helped himself to some dough along the way.

*It’s possible I did too.

P365 – Day 298 – yeah! cookies!

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you might remember that Juniordwarf and I cook biscuits every Tuesday so that he has a treat to take to school for the rest of the week.
Usually we make ANZACs, but we’ve also made shortbread and sometimes even choc-chip cookies. Last week he said he wanted to make choc-chip cookies, but we didn’t have any choc chips, so I told him we’d have to go to the shop before we baked.
Well the thought of that didn’t appeal to his sense of routine. 

We go up the street after lunch, which we have after we’ve baked. So he wasn’t keen on that idea at all, and decided he wanted to make ‘the oat ones’ instead.
When we finally did go up the street last Tuesday (after lunch, of course), we bought a bag of choc chips so that we’d be prepared for today.
The cookies really are very yummy.

I got the recipe from an American guy called Mike, who was an exchange student at the same time I was, and who had impressed everyone with these cookies. Naturally everyone had wanted the recipe.
This is it – with my own variations as necessary.
Ingredients
¾ cup raw sugar
¾ cup soft brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
230 grams soft butter
2 ¼ cup plain (wholemeal) flour
Yeah! 1 bag choc chips
What you do
  • Mix sugars, salt, vanilla, eggs and butter in a large bowl until creamy.
  • Add baking powder and flour gradually and mix well.
  • Add choc chips and mix.
  • Roll into small balls and place on baking tray.
  • Bake in preheated oven (about 170 degrees C) for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.