Food Safari – tastes of the world, made at home.

Last weekend, my friends and I get together for an activity we call ‘Food Safari’. Based on the SBS show of the same name, Food Safari is a dinner party where we pick a different cuisine each month, and all bring along a dish to share. Basically it’s an excuse to catch up, experiment with recipes we haven’t tried before, and then eat until we’re ready to burst.

This week’s Food Safari was Polish. The dishes we sampled this weekend included peirogi (fried dumplings stuffed with potato, onion and cheese), salatka z burakow (beetroot salad), golabki (cabbage rolls) and szarlotka (Polish apple cake). The highlight of the evening was a particularly potent mulled wine called grzaniec galicyjski.

 What impressed me most wasn’t just the fantastic spread of dishes (most of which I had never heard of before) but how many of these dishes were made with fruit and vegetables in season in Tassie right now! Cabbage, beetroot, potatoes, mushrooms, cucumbers and onions all featured heavily, as did apples in the dessert.

I love the huge variety of food we grow in Tasmania, and how versatile it is. I love that we can take food grown down the street and create anything from a Vietnamese salad to an Italian pizza or a Mexican tortilla. We can even make a Polish feast! 

 

We hope all our Team Tassievore members are enjoying autumn, and all the new season delights that the cooler weather brings. While I’m sorry to be saying goodbye to the last of the raspberries, I’m gladly welcoming back the pumpkins and the squash. Mmm soup season is upon us! 

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The (unlikely) tale of ‘Ninja’ the workplace Ginger

Ninja the Ginger

A Team Tassievore member (who shall remain nameless) recently noticed that a piece of ginger she had left sitting on her desk at work was sprouting a small but enthusiastic green stem.

Knowing very little about the needs and desires of a baby tropical plant, she made the unorthodox decision to stick it in a pot of soil and leave it in the care of yours truly. I’m not saying this was a bad idea, I’m just saying that it was me who wrote the post a couple of months ago about killing mint which was in a pot on my balcony.

So you will understand my surprise, dear readers, that I was given the (unofficial) role of godmother to our ginger baby. After in-depth research into the needs of tropical plants (i.e. spending 5 minutes on google)  I found out that Ninja the workplace ginger will need a warm, humid atmosphere and good drainage. Instead he gets the arctic chill of an overenthusiastic air conditioner, and no drainage whatsoever. I have no idea how Ninja  is still going, but each morning as I come in to work I find him looking taller and happier – he even unfurled his first leaf this morning!

I’m rather worried about upsetting this tenuous relationship that Ninja and I are developing, so I’m putting out the call to my Team Tassievore friends. Have you grown ginger before? Perhaps you’ve grown some other tropical plant. If you have any handy tips for me, please help!

 

 

This is why I live here…

This blog is not about food, it’s about people. It’s about the “Tassie” part of being a Tassievore, and why I live where I live. But it begins with a cheesecake.  

The beautiful berry cheesecake was waiting on my doorstep when I arrived home last night, along with a handwritten note from a new neighbour. I was so surprised and excited that I immediately called my boyfriend to brag about it. Then I panicked. I didn’t know what the appropriate gesture of thanks was – it was like I’d stumbled into some sort of sacred ritual, a kind of suburban Australian equivalent of a Japanese Tea Ceremony. I did what seemed to be the only logical thing, and dashed to the kitchen to make a batch of honey spice biscuits (recipe below) and popped over to return the favour.

Having lived most of my life in one of the largest cities in Australia, I’ve always felt that “being neighbourly” is a rare and prized gift. I was fortunate to grow up in a neighbourly sort of place, but it was certainly an exception to the general rule of City Anonymity. A friend of mine in Melbourne frequently visits the supermarket in his pyjamas because he is absolutely certain he will never bump into anyone he knows. In contrast, I rarely get to my letterbox without a wave and a friendly shout from across the street. 

In Tasmania, acting neighbourly seems to be standard, and the locals don’t always realise just how special that is. The cheesecake wasn’t the first Random Act of Neighbourliness that I’ve experienced since being here, in fact it wasn’t even the first this week. But every time it happens I feel a little wave of gratitude and I promise never to take it for granted.

I moved to Tasmania for pragmatic reasons, but I have stayed for emotive ones. There’s something special about those Random Acts of Neighbourliness that turn a suburb into a community, and this is why I live here.

This weekend, go and get neighbourly. Head out to the farmers market and say g’day to the people who grow your dinner. Drop over to an old friend’s house for a cuppa and a catch up. Or maybe make a batch of honey spice biscuits and go introduce yourself to your neighbours… It’s the Tasmanian thing to do.

 

Neighbourly Honey Spice Biscuits (makes enough to share with friends)

½ cup sugar (challenge: if anyone can substitute or reduce sugar further let me know and I’ll update the recipe!)

1 cup Tamanian honey

2 free range eggs

2 tablespoons of local olive oil

3 cups plain flour (Callington mill)

1 ½ teaspoons of baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon each of allspice, cinnamon, cloves and ground ginger

  1. In a large bowl, beat honey, sugar, eggs and oil.
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients, and gradually add to the honey mixture, mix well
  3. Pop into the fridge for 2 hours to cool (or the freezer for 20 minutes if you’re in a rush)
  4. Heat oven to 180 degrees
  5. Roll dough into small balls (around 1 inch) and place on baking tray about 2 inches apart.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden.

Tassievore Day 2: I get by with a little help from my friends!

Today is my first proper day on Team Tassievore, as I was in Melbourne over the weekend and missed the Totally Tassie picnic. I also missed the farmers market on Sunday, so my fridge was very barren this morning!

It was looking like a day of bread and water, but luckily I was able to go desk scrumping* and managed to procure myself a handy little assortment of snacks for the day. A lovely crisp apple, a tub of tamar valley yoghurt and a handful of hazelnuts later, and I’ve survived the day quite happily!

I learned my first lesson for Tassievore survival today – get organised and plan ahead! I’m going to make some bircher muesli when I get home tonight, and maybe some home-made gnocchi. Yum!!

* Scrumping (verb): to steal apples from an orchard or garden. “Desk scrumping” is an urban alternative, which involves pilfering food from your colleagues’ desks.

 

Confessions of a Lazy Locavore – how to eat local in 15 minutes or less

I’ll be the first to admit that I am the laziest member of the Tassievore team. I don’t have my own veggie garden for health reasons – specifically the health of the plants I would neglect and inevitably murder. I may be the only person in the whole country who managed to kill off mint, a feat that many in the horticultural industry consider impossible.

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An example of the types of vegetables I am not capable of growing.

I’m also lazy in the kitchen. I also don’t spend hours lovingly creating decadent three course meals; in fact I rarely spend more than 15 minutes in there creating anything if I can possibly help it. The good news is that it doesn’t prevent me from eating local. The key to being a lazy Tassievore is being organised, and visiting the market each week to stock up on essentials such as milk, eggs, bread, fruit and veggies, and cheese. An hour on Sunday morning saves me a lot of time later in the week.

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Stocking up on the “essentials” at Farm Gate

Below is a list of ideas for lazy Tassievore breakfasts, lunches and dinners that take 15 minutes or less of preparation time. The best bit is you can use whatever seasonal goodies you have lying around your fridge or pantry!

 

Lazy Tassievore Breakfasts:

– Fruit and yoghurt. Fresh seasonal fruit is so cheap and simple. This weekend I stewed rhubarb with apple and honey – 3 minutes of roughly chopping fruit and then it cooked down in a saucepan all by itself.

– Porridge. I make this in the microwave while I have a shower.  Callington mill oats, local milk, bung it in and away you go. Very lazy! If you add a bit of stewed fruit you can pass it off as gourmet.

– Toast. I get a loaf of bread from the Companion bakery at the market each weekend and pre-slice it and chuck it in the freezer. You can top toast with seasonal goodies like ricotta and sliced tomato, or goats curd and asparagus. What, not lazy enough? How about a spoon of honey or a dash of local preserves? Maximum laziness!

Lazy Tassievore Lunches:

– Toasted sandwiches with whatever goodies take your fancy at the market.

– Soup. Use whatever is in season, and make yourself a big pot then freeze in small portions and heat as you need it. Roughly chop a load of veggies, chuck them in a big pot and let them do their thing!

– Leftovers from Tassievore dinners. Leftover roast vegetables make an absolutely spectacular salad, and

Lazy Tassievore Dinners:

– Omelette. My boyfriend calls this meal “bachelor surprise” because it’s always a surprise what he finds at the bottom of the fridge. The possibilities are endless: mushroom, goats cheese and spinach. Smoked salmon, rocket and brie. Asparagus, parmesan and bacon. What’s at the bottom of your fridge this week?

– Stir-fry. Load it up with fresh veggies from the market for an easy and filling meal.

– Salads. The possibilities are endless! Last night I had a “chicken BLT salad” with crispy Companion Bakery sourdough croutons, Houston Farm rocket, Nichols chicken and roasted tomatoes from Farm Gate.

– Jacket potatoes. I won’t attempt to tell you which type of potato to use, because I am from Victoria and I would inevitably be sent back to the mainland for crimes against spuds. Suffice to say preparation time is nil, just chuck it on a baking tray and wander off until it’s crisp.

– Roast. I know you’re going to scoff at me about this, but in terms of time you’re actually in the kitchen roasts are really quick. Chop a load of veggies and dump them in a baking tray. Load a bit of meat on top, bang it in the oven and away you go, leaving your ingredients to fend for themselves for an hour or so.

Happy eating!

Tassie crumpets!

Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, and crumpets are pretty much the ultimate comfort food.  The recipe below is borrowed and modified from an old CWA cookbook (thanks ladies!!) – I love it because no matter what I do wrong it still works beautifully. I’m not known for my pinpoint accuracy when it comes to baking, and my culinary blunders with this recipe have included adding too much milk, forgetting the salt entirely, proving it at a temperature slightly below freezing, and wandering off on it while it was rising and returning 24 hours later. Continue reading

The cupboard cleanout

In preparation for the Tassievore challenge, I have begun using up all the non-Tassie food in my cupboard. As I go I’m doing a stocktake to find out how far my food has travelled to arrive at my pantry in SoHo… Here’s what I’ve found so far.

The refried beans and diced tomatoes (from Spain and Italy respectively) have taken a leisurely detour on their way to my larder, going via New Zealand. I have no idea why, but I’m sure it was a nice trip. There’s stock powder from Vietnam, fish sauce from Thailand, tea from China and jam from France. Continue reading