Semi-Dried Tomatoes

Fill your kitchen with the intoxicating aroma

of roasting garlic, herbs & sun ripened tomato.

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This absolutely gorgeous addition to my Gifts From The Kitchen series will have the savoury lovers salivating! It’s a wonderfully practical culinary shortcut to enhance pasta & pizza dishes throughout the festive hangover.

Simply start by using an apple corer to cut out all the middle cores of the tomatoes before placing them into a pot of boiling water for 20 seconds only! Remove them immediately to plunge into a bowl of ice & water to cool.

Now I know that doesn’t actually sound like enough time to achieve anything at all, but trust me, it does! This is what allows you to be able to peel the skins off the fruit.

Once you’ve peeled all the skin off, cut the tomatoes in half & place them straight onto a baking tray.

Drizzle them with a wee bit of olive oil, then season with salt & black pepper. Throw on a few garlic cloves that you’ve peeled & ‘squashed’ with either your palm or the flat blade of your knife & sprinkle over some dried mixed herbs, or you might like to just throw on some thyme sprigs if that’s more your thing.

Bake them in a 140c oven for 4 hours before then putting them straight into a clean jar, topping with olive oil & screwing on the lid to seal.

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What If…….?

I wonder what would happen if I put down all of this toxic self doubt I have burdened myself to carry?

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Over the past year, you have been following me on a journey of self discovery as I stumble my way along this culinary pathway. It certainly has been a roller coaster!

I would dearly love to evolve & grow this blog into a wee web show, yet every time I begin, some of you may recall I came very close to it last Christmas, I end up sabotaging myself as the horrid seeds of self doubt sprout & spread their evil tendrils.

I get all excited & pumped up – I plan, I experiment, I practice what to say & then I let that little voice in my head take over!

  • You’re being ridiculous
  • Who on Earth would want to watch to you
  • Who do you think you are
  • You’re a nobody
  • You’re not a chef
  • You’re not pretty enough for telly
  • You don’t know anything
  • You can’t plate up
  • You’re food isn’t fancy enough
  • You’re not good enough

I’m sure you are now getting the picture. Food is my passion. It’s what I want to share. It’s all I want to do.

It’s true, my food is not fancy, it’s not fine dining & I’m certainly not good enough for MasterChef!

I’m just a stay at home mum living on my mountain top with a strong desire, a dream if you might, of sharing my simple food from my humble kitchen.

To learn the knowledge of our Grandparents generation of how to grow my own food, how to prepare it with great love & to enjoy a blissfully uncomplicated life.

Is there really anything wrong with that?

Am I alone in my desire for simplicity?

Would you watch me?

Roll ’em!

We are fast discovering that there is so very much more to creating a Web show than just pointing a camera & screaming ACTION!

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Perhaps it’s the OCD perfectionist streak we all seem to share that’s causing us to procrastinate on the filming of our web show, but we do want to look a wee bit better than an average home movie. Don’t get us wrong, we’re certainly not going to be anywhere near professional television standards, yet we desire to produce a quality show that we can be proud of.

Why bother at all, I hear you say?!

Whilst we don’t have any delusions of grandeur to rub shoulders with the celebrity chefs (although how cool would that be?!), it is quite a simple answer to this often asked question –

It’s just a bit of fun!

Maybe no one will watch our wee show at all, we won’t lose a sheep station over it, but maybe somebody will watch us & be entertained or try one of our recipes or even be inspired to escape to the simple life themselves. That’s the fun, exciting bit, we just don’t know.

We love to share what we’re passionate about with the world but we don’t wish to become enslaved to the show needing to pump out an episode every week. To overcome this issue, we’ve paid attention to how those professional shows do it – with pre-determined episode numbers in neat series blocks with a gap in between.

Our web show will be canapé sized at 5 minutes each, give or take, as let’s face it, nobody watches YouTube clips much longer than that! Each one will consist of a recipe & then whatever we happen to be up to around the place, you know, our lifestyle kinda segment. I think that’s the one where it could get quite comical with our amateur antics.

We’ve invested in a tiny camcorder with tripod & are busy planning our episodes to bring you the most joy receiving a glimpse into our life on the mountain. Look out for more details about when we start to shoot!

Mini Garden Starter

Building our Home Farm is going to be a HUGE job lasting the summer,

but we want fresh, home grown food NOW!

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So how to we satisfy our hunger whilst waiting for the main course? With a starter, naturally.

Now I know we’ve rented all this land, 3/4 acre, which is quite a daunting prospect to learn upon for complete novices with lofty aspirations but we’re not entirely clueless.

Whilst renting standard properties, small units & caravan park sites, we’ve been able to grow ourselves small potted gardens of edible bliss. Pots have always been our go everywhere solution to our insatiable appetite for growing our very own produce.

Having lived all over Australia, we have had many different experiences, with mixed results, of what & when we’ve grown things in our food gardens over the years. This beautiful mountain of ours on the outskirts of Melbourne, I think, will prove to be our biggest challenge yet!

It would appear we have moved into a very definite micro-climate! 

How have we made this discovery? Through the best network available no matter where you may happen to be – simply asking the locals. Most gardeners are happy to have a chin wag about their precious soil babies & only too accommodating to pass on their hard earned wealth of knowledge. You’d be an absolute mug not to utilise that absolutely free information which has saved us many mistakes over our travels.

We’re used to being able to grow anything at anytime in the magnificent volcanic soil of Australia’s Caldera region, but here, we’re actually going to have to learn a trick or two about gardening. So we’ve decided to start our education this season with our tried & true method of a Mini Potted Garden.

The trick to using a portable garden bed is layers going up.

Make sure it’s in a nice sunny spot & whack a trellis in the back of it for your climbers to reach for the sky (we’ll be planting tomato & cucumber but I wouldn’t mind adding in some peas to that mix as well). The middle layer is where you bung in the medium sized bushes like Basil, Capsicum & Chilli. Down in front is reserved for the low lines, we’ve got radish & beetroot going in this year.

Apparently, this mountain is a good month behind the rest of Victoria to start the growing season & ends a solid month ahead of the rest too so our time to harvest is short, but we shall have food from our garden to our kitchen! We’re determined!

Compost Curiosity

Way up in the back corner of our Home Farm, underneath a drooping tree, we found hidden treasure!

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When we were dreaming of this sustainable lifestyle change, we eagerly leapt upon any old scrap of information we stumbled across out there. Ever so slowly, we managed to sift through all the ooohhhhssss & aaaahhhhhhhhsss of what we romanticised our life would be like to what we actually thought we stood half a chance of really achieving.

I mean, we wanted fields of Lavender (Munstead variety for culinary purposes, of course), a herd of Jersey cows to make cheese & ice-cream, chickens for eggs, a pony for Mini Me, Alpacas (just because I’ve always adored them), multiple vegetable crop gardens, an Apple Orchard for making Cider, pigs for our own pork, a petting barn for kids, mushroom cave & the list goes on!

What a menagerie we would have if it all came true!

One of the more interesting ‘herds’ we planned upon was investing in a worm farm. It certainly seems like the perfect sustainable solution for a rather tidy little cycle. Kitchen waste goes in the top to feed the worms who in turn break it down into a rich liquid to pour onto the plants in the garden to grow into more beautiful food. What could be simpler for novices?!

Then we stumbled across a rotted out structure under a tree in the far corner of the property. Peeking around the falling down walls, I was surprised to discover a rather new looking compost bin. We don’t know anything about compost. We dismissed it quite early in the process as being far too complicated for people like us as you can get it really, really wrong. Our motto has always been to use what you already have therefore, we simply have to give it a go.

I, mistakenly thought, that everything could just dump on a compost – WRONG! Thank goodness for Google! I ever so narrowly avoided my first composting boo-boo. So, cooked food scraps should not go on the compost as they will attract animals, also, tea bags should not go on the compost either! Who woulda thunk it?!?! Just to clarify, loose leaf tea from the pot can most definitely go on the compost but not the bags, unless you’ve got specifically designed bags to decompose. If normal tea bags are put in the compost they won’t break down so you’ll need to bust them open before you use the compost, or better still, bust them open at the start & just put the loose tea leaves in there to begin with.

We’ve started to top up our inherited compost but have absolutely no idea how we actually extract the rich stuff – that’ll be a problem to figure out when we need it!

A Thorny Issue.

My destination is no longer a place,

rather a new way of seeing.

– Marcel Proust

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Last week I shared with you a photograph of a once pre-loved but now abandoned veggie garden & chook shed at the back of our rented Home Farm. Well, I’ve been watching this spot all week long & guess what I discovered?! It only receives about an hour of sunlight in the late afternoon each day! It is overshadowed by extraordinarily tall pine trees, along with a smattering of gum trees, that simply block out all the light. Now I don’t know very much at all about this whole gardening caper, but I do know that plants need sun.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the chook shed rambles this oh so prickly tangled mess that honestly looks like it could have a fairytale princess trapped somewhere in the midst of it awaiting her prince to rescue her! What an evil looking beast! And wouldn’t you know it, that is the spot where all of our precious sunlight falls all day long!

So, on Saturday afternoon I dragged the hubby up the back yard to show him this development. It was the first opportunity he’d had to actually go up there since we moved in! Mini Me was so uber excited to show him the compost bin we’d discovered under a tree & then where we can house our chickens. He was quite impressed with the chook shed actually. The structure itself is still fairly solid so just requires a wee bit of chainsaw gardening to the overgrowth surrounding it & we should be able to tidy that up nicely.

Then the clincher – da da dum! I spun him around to face The Thorns!!!!!!!

Surveying the situation, Hubby agrees that there is a lot more land in there than we ever anticipated being able to cultivate. He also sees my vision of just how this particular area would work for us when finished & how the layout would also have aesthetic appeal in addition to being practical. I was nervous he’d say I’m dreaming if I think we are at all capable of taking on such a massive job, but, to my complete & utter surprise, after a long pause of stroking his Genghis Khan (baby beard as Mini Me calls it) facial growth, he uttered those famous last words – “Shouldn’t be too hard”!

Just wait for the Spring time bush……can anyone else hear the Benny Hill theme tune????