Tassievore tips for the International Day of Happiness

blue buildings

I have to say that the weather in Tasmania today makes it pretty easy to be content with your lot in life. The sun is streaming in the window as I type and the sky is as blue as those beautiful stone houses in Rajasthan.

I spent the morning mulling over the things that have kept me happy in my Tassievore challenge over the past few weeks and I have to confess it is mostly those seasonal changes that bring a bit of zing and inspiration back into your cooking. I should explain that I tend to be a bit slap dash in my cookery – I make something fairly basic from the ingredients in the fridge, pantry and fruit bowl using fragments of recipe and cooking knowledge that I have built up over the years. Needless to say it gets the job done but isn’t often worthy of overly enthusiastic praise from the family.

Anyway my Tassievore saviours for the start of autumn have been, in no particular order: Pirates bay octopus tentacles, sweet corn, new season apples and Japanese ginger.

The Pirates bay octopus is a bit of a treat (ie not super cheap…but cheaper than most fish) but I love it because it is easy to cook and can jazz up a tomato pasta sauce or make a great meal in itself if accompanied with some sort of salad and perhaps some chunky baked potato wedges. To prepare it I just rinse off the legs and then put it in a heavy fry pan or griddle with a bit of olive oil at medium/high heat, slap a lid on and leave it for twenty minutes. Then I turn it off and let it rest for another ten minutes before chopping and adding to the dish/meal. The other fun thing about Octopus legs is that they go a bright pinky red colour when cooked, thus elevating your meal another notch or two above the mundane.

Sweet corn seems to be a hit with my little boy and I have to say that I have enjoyed munching and crunching on a cob or two as well. The other great thing about sweet corn is that it gets me thinking of Mexican things and I have discovered that you can do a pretty good sort of Mexican frijoles (bean sauce) using Tasmanian Aduki beans. I have a ginormous sack of aduki beans in my cupboard so anything that gets them cooked and eaten is a good thing.

malus-coxs-orange-pippinNew season apples are on the hit list because they are just so crunchy and tangy and gorgeously fresh. I am particularly excited by the resurgence in old heritage varieties like Cox’s orange pippin – delicious! New season apples certainly help to ease us out of the declining berry season doldrums and it’s far too soon for us to be sick of pome fruits while eating Tassievore style (that will likely come later in the year…). Keep an eye out for apples ripening in parks and public spaces too – such a shame to see fruit rotting on the ground when it could be chopped up and stewed or crunched on while whistling your way home.

My final pick for the Tassievore saviours list is the lesser spotted Japanese Ginger (Myoga). I grabbed some from the lovely couple at the Little Red Hen stall at Farm Gate market in Hobart and, while no match for the feisty punch of traditional ginger, it was great to have something completely new to try. The ginger looks 2013-03-19_19-20-59_257[1]more like a bulb than a rhizome and has only a delicate ginger flavour and a gentle punch of spicy heat. It works best finely shredded over salads or gently fried and sprinkled over stir-frys. Apparently it has a reputation in Japan for making you forgetful or stupid so perhaps i won’t over indulge (I don’t need any help with forgetfulness and stupidity most days!).

Otto enjoying the new Mathers Lane Park in Hobart

My other non-food cause to be happy today was discovering comfy pink bean bags and fun magnetic words in the new park in Mathers lane Hobart. It was lovely to see such a great use of public space and my little boy loved interacting with the metal sculpture by sticking on and taking off the magnetic letter and words. Let’s hope that they are respected by all the park users and stick around (pun only retrospectively intended) for many months to come.

Have a great International Day of Happiness Tassievores!

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It’s harvest time!

Well, it is officially Autumn…not that it feels like it today at 33 degrees!  I love autumn…it is a time of reflection, grounding and harvesting lots from the garden!  Below is a sample of my pickings the other day: necterines, hazelnuts, zucchini, apples (4 varieties), bush beans, scarlet runner beans, chilies, cucumbers, kale (2 varieties), tomatoes (at least 3 varieties) and plums.

IMG_0086While I love the bounty in the garden, how can one household of 1.5 people get through it all?!?  By sharing the fresh produce (my bike basket was overflowing with zucchini’s for my work colleagues this morning); cooking feasts and inviting friends over to share it; and preserving (& fermenting) it!

IMG_0134I have gotten quite into homebrewing this year with Cherry Stout, Rhubarb Ginger Beer and Cherry Mead earlier in the season and yesterday, I racked some Blueberry Wine and Necterine Mead.  The only problem with the wines and meads is that they have to age for up to 2 years before I can drink them…the ultimate exercise of my patience….

The most recent Tassievore event was a flurry of preserving activity at the Sally Wise Cooking School in Molesworth. A half day workshop in which we made: raspberry jam; piccalilly; tomato relish; apricot and raspberry tea cake; hawthorn and mixed berry cordial; plum sauce; preserved plums; apple and rhubarb shortbread; spelt bread and labne.  It was amazing!  you can see lots of photos of the workshop on our facebook page, but here is a couple to whet your appetite

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I will share one of Sally’s recipe’s with you.  It is for Piccalilli, which is great, because basically you can make it with whatever you are feeling overwhelmed with from the garden 🙂

Ingredients:

1kg diced veggies (beans, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, etc)

2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 red capsicum, finely chopped
¼ cup salt
2 cups sugar
2 cups Tassie apple cider vinegar
2tsp mustard powder
2tsp turmeric
2tsp cornflour
2 tbls apple cider vinegar

Method:

  1. Place the vegetables, onions and capsicum in a bowl, add salt and mix well. Leave to stand for at least 1 hour. Drain well.
  2. Combine sugar, vinegar, mustard powder and turmeric in a large saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add veggies adn bring back to boil and cook approximately 25 minutes.
  3. If the mixture is too thin, mix cornflour to a paste with extra vinegar and stir through. Cook two or three minutes more.
  4. Spoon into warm sterilised bottles and seal. Eat immediately or store for up to 1 year.

Sally also made a yummy dip by combining this with sour cream or cream cheese (the only Tassie cream cheese that I know of is from Red Cow Dairy in the NW, but there are several Tassie sour creams available) that we got to dip the warm spelt bread into…yum!

If you are feeling sad that you missed out on this fantastic workshop, don’t worry, there are still several more Tassievore events coming up, including the Tassievore cook-off this weekend in Moonah!  Learn how to use all sorts of Tassie ingredients and try 9 different Tassievore dishes made while you watch and ask questions.  It will be lots of fun and there are still tickets available, so please get your ticket now!

The Living Local Feast is also coming up (13 April).  A gourmet 3-course fundraising dinner for Sustainable Living Tasmania, featuring 100% Tasmanian ingredients.  Below are some photos from the last 2 years feasts.  It is pretty amazing and there are still tickets available, but they are going quick!  Don’t miss out!

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We are also planning workshops in the South, North and North West in May to share some of our tips and tricks for incorporating more Tassie goodness into your daily life.  These workshops have been made possible by an Earn Your Stars Grant that we recieved from the Tasmanian Climate Change Office. Details to be confirmed over the coming weeks.  We also got funding to collate a “where to get it” resource to help finding Tasmanian food easier for people.  Do you have a local shop or market that has a great range of Tassie goods? if so, please let us know about it by commenting below or email lissa@slt.org.au

I hope you are enjoying the challenge!

 

Tomato week

This blog follows on from the interview with Owen and Emma Kate of TomBoys

After our chat they gave me some tomatoes – just over 20kg actually.. A lot. Too much? Nearly! Definitely enough so I could play around with how to use them.

When the Tassievores got together to brainstorm events for the events calendar, a group tomato picking/ bottling event was top of my list for a good reskilling workshop. It didn’t pan out unfortunately, so this blog is about my own experience with a lot of tomatoes.

Straight up I did as Owen and Emma Kate recommended and made a passata/ sugo style sauce from a Fowlers Vacola recipe that just so happened to be all Tassievore (score!).

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Chop.  Cook.  Herbs.  Don’t they look nice!? Here are the proud results of the passata-fest with sexy bottling outfit in the background.

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I have already used one bottle to make a zuchinni-puntanesca style pasta with some home churned pasta – very happy. I’ve given away a few bottles but will hold on to the rest for some more tasty adventures. I worried it would be too watery and bland, but nope! Great flavour.

I gave 8 or so kilos to a mate who made a big batch of tomato sauce with them – the type you’d pour on a (local) snag in bread,

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so after that and the Passata I had 7kg of tomatoes left. I decided to wait a bit for flavour to develop.  The tomatoes were picked that morning so there were no soft/squishy/furry toms in the mix. They didn’t make A grade due to superficial blemishes – a black spot or no little greeny stalky bit.  Checking in on them three days later I was greeted by a half-box of happy, red little fellows still quite firm and nowhere near ‘squishy’.

So I left them a week in a box on the floor.

And then they were how I wanted them, crazy red and getting soft to touch – still no furry ones as none of the skins had split. I made a sauce/ relish combo which turned out great (not as salty/ acidic as a tomato sauce, and not using a bottle of EZY sauce as I probably would if making a relish). The mustard seeds are really only for decoration as they didn’t add much flavour..

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I thought i’d give drying a go with the final kilo.  Unsure how economical this is with power though – especially when you put the dehyrdrater on the wrong setting – repeatedly. (estimated 14 hours of power usage to dehydrate them)

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Anyway – the end result of the drying experience (with salt and rosemary) was this.  They look crazy red huh.

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I can’t believe that’s all of the tomatoes gone!  Now that I know I can make these things I would love a few more batches of passata and some conventional sauce (mate only gave me one bottle, booooo) and maybe try a few types of salsa – I wonder if tomato paste is hard to make or the energy (electrical) put into making it doesn’t make it worth it?  Hmm yes i definitely want to try more.  Good news is that I know where to source TomBoys now (pun!) and they aren’t the only one around growing local toms. *ahem – proud announcement, the first of my own backyard crop are getting some colour on them – Behold the first pick!

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Zucchinis…. Zucchinis… Zucchinis… My bittersweet nightmare!

zucchini plant 

Every year, I make the same mistake. I really only need two zucchini plants to feed my household, share some with my neighbours, and delight in the delicacy of stuffed zucchini flowers… Alas, I was lazy this year; I purchased a punnet of seedlings (instead of propagating from seed) which had 5 very healthy looking plants in it.  I couldn’t find anyone to share them with, couldn’t bring myself to throw them out, and so planted the lot… What was I thinking?!?

I also try very hard to maintain my zero produce waste policy in my garden, and so now am overwhelmed with what I have diagnosed as zucchini induced anxiety. I think most backyard gardeners will know where I am coming from!

There is no cure, symptoms will persist until zucchini production slows (probably late march?). 

So far, my strategies for allaying symptoms have been:

  • First and foremost, trying to get out to the garden every day to harvest them, one missed day could mean a huge zucchini, and double the quantity to use= double the anxiety!
  • Zucchini slice (of course), I think I’m up to batch #5
  • Grilled zucchini with melted cheese (a match made in heaven)
  • Steamed zucchini with everything
  • Zucchini and haloumi fritters
  • Zucchini flowers stuffed with goats cheese and anything else
  • Pan fried garlicky, buttery zucchini goodness
  • Chocolate zucchini cake (using the ‘spice’ cocoa and honey)
  • Zucchini pasta
  • Bringing zucchini into the office for colleagues to take home
  • Visiting neighbours (although, they are more often than not trying to give them away as well…)

 What do you do with excess zucchini?  Posting any ideas you have as a comment would be really, really great – I’m desperate! There is only so much zucchini slice one little tassievore can eat…!!

zucchini flowers choc zucchini cake

A week in the life of a Tassievore – Part 2

Part II of A week in the life of a Southern Tassievore

More than two months have passed since the commencement of the Tassievore Challenge –filled with eating, sharing, sourcing and growing delicious foods and drinks and lots of fun in the process. It hasn’t even been hard work! But don’t just take my word for it, check out how the State-wide Tassievores have got to say as we celebrate the first two months of the Challenge – and let us know how you are finding the Challenge, and any changes (positive or negative) that have been made to your lifestyle since commencing.

Caitlin:

My week as a Tassievore starts on Sunday mornings with an early trip to the Farm Gate Market to get my fruit, veggies and assorted other goodies. Typically Sunday afternoon involves preparing and freezing some meals for the week. I also do a cooking experiment each Sunday – gnocchi, pizza dough and flatbread have been my greatest successes, though there have been a couple of spectacular failures along the way including mozzarella that refused to curdle!

I work full-time and I’m often busy on weeknights, so dinner is often a quick stir-fry, omelette or a salad packed with local goodies. Friday and Saturday evenings are my chance to try my hand at something more creative, and to relax with a glass of wine and some gorgeous Tasmanian cheese.

Link for Naan bread: https://taseatlocal.wordpress.com/2012/11/15/the-challenge-begins-what-fun/

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Andrew

Two months on and going strong!  My eating has diversified somewhat as I learn to adapt to ‘shopping in the garden’.  Some crops seem to have a ‘eat now or I’ll wilt/ go bitter/ dry out/ get mushy/ turn brown’ requirement that I truly didn’t expect, which is annoying mid-week when I am not at home to pick and enjoy (p.s my bush and runner beans are cranking out the goods!!).

I have to admit I get a lot of support from friends – foodies who love a challenge and are up for hunting pipi’s in the sand at low tide, or those considerate to go the extra mile and source a Tassie alternative to a common staple so I can eat with them (my challenge isn’t rigidly eating only Tasmanian food, but I’m not about to tell them that!!).  I love the knock-on benefit of being a Tassievore in that my friends are thinking about the food system as well.  Yes, I occasionally annoy wait-staff by asking them what on the menu is Tasmanian (the more people who ask, the more they take notice), but most of the time it’s a chance to have a bit of fun and plan elaborate meals with my mates.

I hope your Tassievore challenge is going well and I hope we give you inspiration and help you when you need it – eating locally has so many short-mid-long term benefits, it is a worthy cause we can all champion.

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Sarah:

My week as a Tassievore is a nice mix of visiting my local shops (snug butcher and Merediths, we are pretty lucky down the channel!), Farm Gate market if I’m in the area, and seeing what I can get from the garden. At the moment, this is consisting of zucchini, cucumbers, chard, green and butter beans, beetroot, leafy greens, potatoes, garlic, herbs, apricots, strawberries and raspberries.

If I haven’t had time to get in to the farmers market, I usually make myself a loaf of bread for the week, make some yoghurt, and I’m pretty much set for the rest of it.

I decided to go a bit hardcore and give up tea and coffee for the duration of the challenge, so I was super excited to discover that I can order a hot milk and honey in most cafés around town (an adult bubbacino, as one waitress so aptly put it! so I can now ‘do coffee’ which is a total treat!)

I’m loving the last minute meals that are made by scouring the fridge and garden and coming up with some delicious creation that I wouldn’t have found unless I was Tassievoring!

So far one of my favourite (and really easy) meals has been Roast chicken with apricot quinoa stuffing, served with pink eyes, garlic beans and zucchini, and my last golden nugget from last summer.

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Lissa

 A day in the life of this Tassievore generally looks something like this:  wake up, go out and feed chooks, pick a few bits and pieces from the garden on the way back inside (peas, mint, greens, broccoli and berries yesterday).  Feed my sourdough.  Make breaky….my springtime favourite is Tassie Muesli (Oats, linseeds, walnuts, hazelnuts, honey, dried cherry/apple/apricot) with yogurt and fresh berries and stonefruit.

Next comes my last minute throwing of things into my backpack for lunch as I head out the door, nearly forgetting.  Sourdough bread, cheese, veggies and dips feature heavily on my lunchtime menu.  I try to make sure that I have a dip/spread or two in the fridge for these last minute meals – Artichoke pesto, Aioli, Beetroot & Yogurt, Broad Bean Homous, Spiced Carrot, etc. I often make honey bickies or a muesli slice or something to take to work as a sweet snack. I am sure that I am saving money by not impulsively buying lunch and snacks in town, though I do need to be more organised than I did before starting the Tassievore Eat Local Challenge.

I love cooking, so dinner is often a more elaborate affair, which revolves around whatever veggies are bursting from the garden or lingering in the fridge needing to be used. Last night was lemony pea & mint pasta with haloumi (photo attached). Tonight I am planning to do a trial run of some of the pizzas that we will feature at our Tassievore Pizza Party at Source Community Wholefoods on Wednesday (the very first of our Tassievore events – see events page for full listing).  Roasted pumpkin, kale pesto, carmelised onion and goat chevre is the one I’m most looking forward to.  Overall, I have found being a Tassievore quite easy, extremely delicious and it has made me more appreciative of the abundance that we have in Tasmania!

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Pen

The week is pretty busy for the Clark household on Tassievore challenge. As with other urban Tassievores the most useful shopping trip is to the local Farmers market. We stock up on a big bucket of milk and fruit and veg, and then spend extra money on eggs and Tassievore treats such as cheese and the odd bit of wallaby. We are also growing some of our own veg (greens, beans, zucchini, tomatoes) and are part of a vege co-op which allows us to top up our larder mid week.
The challenge has been great so far, and we certainly haven’t felt deprived, but we do have to commit at least one night to making pasta, bread, muesli and yoghurt. All pretty lo-fi and simple, but they do require you to be around. I have to confess that I watch TV on my iPad while I roll the pasta – it makes the chore much more attractive! Homemade pasta is the only thing we weren’t doing before the challenge and is certainly something I will continue with, but perhaps not every time we want to eat pasta.
Another funny side effect of doing the challenge is watching my son’s vocab expand in odd directions. Apparently the third little piggy had “roast beef with quinoa on it”!!

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Tassievore on Tour – Part 2

Back in September I did part one of this post, which was about eating locally while on holiday in Far North Queensland. Happily, I can now do a similar post about camping and touring around Tassie eating locally.  It is actually quite miraculous how similar the two trip were given the vast distance and climactic differences!

In what is becoming a bit of a tradition, I took the few days between Christmas and New Years to go camping all by myself somewhere beautiful in Tasmania.  This year saw me driving up the East Coast, where I got to frolick on beautiful beaches, go bushwalking in Douglas Apsley Gorge and indulge in amazing fresh fruit and Tassie goodness!

Pyengana Farm VisitI found delicious peaches, apricots and cherries at farms around St. Helen’s and Bicheno. And drove a fair bit out of the way to call into Pyengana Dairy.  Pyengana offers cheese tasting and full cafe service in a picturesque setting on their North-East farm. I sampled their fresh scones with raspberry jam and cream and brought home my very own cloth covered cheese wheel of their Matured Cheddar.

Robyn TUDOOn my way back home, I had the pleasure of stopping at The Ugly Duck Out cafe in Swansea.  Robyn, who runs it, is passionate about sustainable food and serving fresh, Tasmanian produce.  She even has a flourishing veggie patch surrounding the cafe and carpark in the centre of Swansea where they harvest fresh produce to use in the cafe daily.

TUDO entryseasonal fruit, manuka honey and yogurt As this trip coincided with breakfast time, I got housemade yogurt with local manuka honey and seasonal fruit.  On a subsequent visit, I got to try out the dinner options and settled on a mushroom burger with quinoa tabbouleh.  Thanks TUDO!

Bushfire – a Tassievore’s tale

My start to 2013 included a week long, family holiday in a house near Port Arthur (Tasman Peninsula). It was a much anticipated trip as my brother and his wife and kids were joining us from NSW and some dear friends had leant us a stand-up paddle-board to play with! We certainly didn’t anticipate the way things turned out.

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The paddle board kept the kids highly entertained

After 24 hours enjoying the usual holiday house luxuries such as flushing loos, cold beer and lights at the flick of a switch, the fires burnt out the power lines that supply the Tasman Peninsula and we were suddenly glamping (camping with flywire screens and comfy beds). Along with other visitors and locals we found ourselves having to haul water to flush loos and wash dishes and use torches and candles after dark. Despite the change to our plans we realised how lucky we were to be safe from the fires and comfortable and the kids (mostly) adapted to the loss of their electronic entertainment.

One side of the fire situation that interested me was the issue of food (surprise, surprise). On a personal level, we had brought plenty of fresh supplies to suit the varied dietary requirements of the family (vegan/coeliac/FODMAP intolerant) but clearly, without access to ice/refrigeration, there was a need to use up as much as possible before it became inedible. The last thing we wanted was 10 people dashing to bucket-flushed toilets due to food poisoning.

We swiftly cooked up the frozen veges, left by the shack owners, into a soup that we figured could be left out for a day or two in the manner of our pre-electricity forebears and spread our sole bag of ice into three eskis with salt water to lengthen the shelf life of our milk/yoghurt/cheese and fresh veg.

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my little one helping to cart water for washing up (we carried up a big bucket but at least he felt useful)

The 40 degree temps rapidly sucked away the residual cold from the fridge and it was ceremonially renamed:  ‘the frantry’.

We were fortunate to have arrived with cars stacked with non-perishable foods, and the holiday house cooktop ran on gas, so we only had to buy extra snacks (muesli bars, tinned fruit, UHT custard), UHT/powdered milk and matches to make ourselves pretty comfortable.

After a couple of days the evacuation centres at Nubeena and Port Arthur were heaving with generously donated food and water, and locals with fuel to spare were turning up on our doorstep with mini UHT milks, bread and fruit for the kids.

Some houses were hooked up to generators, which I suspect were safe-guarding their frozen goods and fridge supplies, but many must have had to throw out a large quantity of spoilt food. In addition the growers on the peninsula who rely on pumps to water their crops would have had to make some difficult decisions as to which varieties to focus their attention on (hand carting water or limited watering with generator support).

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Carnarvon Bay community meeting – information was hard to come by without power and only sporadic mobile reception

The main realisation for me from my experiences during the fire is how vulnerable we are to power/fuel loss in our modern day communities. Without power our perishable foods would only last a day or two and most people, especially in isolated areas without good public transport and shops, rely on fuel to gain access to these foods in the first place. In our Tasman Peninsula scenario people with vegie patches, off-grid solar, gas bottles and water tanks with hand pump back up and header tanks would have been relatively comfortable, as would those who preserve their own food.

At least I am heartened by the knowledge that our Tassievore community is doing it’s best to support our communities to reduce the reliance of our current food supply on carbon by: encouraging home-grown fruit and veg; reducing food miles by linking Tasmanians with Tasmanian grown produce, and providing re-skilling workshops to teach us all how to use and preserve the great foods we have available.

I am also inspired by the amazing work that volunteers and emergency service personnel do everyday and especially when times are tough.