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Victorian permaculturists

One of the lovely people who read this blog has asked me if I know anyone working with a mandala system in a cooler temperate climate (ie Western Victoria).  Or really, anyone with a working permaculture system in that climate.

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Mango Upside Down Cake


Picked the last of the mangoes this morning.  Maybe a week more of mango gluttony, then it’s over (except for the chutney and the pickles and the icecream) for another year.

So here’s the mango upside down cake recipe, so I remember it for next year.

The Recipe:

Turn your oven on to heat up to medium (180°C or 350°F).

Grease a 20 cm cake tin and line the base with a circle of greaseproof paper.

Make the mango topping first.

Slice enough mangoes to nearly cover the bottom of the cake pan in a single layer.  Arrange them in a decorative circle if you like. Sprinkle half a cup of chopped macadamia nuts in the gaps.

In a frypan, melt a good dessertspoon of butter and a good dessertspoon of raw sugar. Cook for a few minutes till the butter sugar mix just starts to caramelise and go sticky, then drizzle this mix over the mangoes and nuts.

Now make the cake batter.

In a food processor, blend together 100 gm butter (just under half a cup, or most of a stick) with half a cup of  brown sugar.

When it is nice and fluffy, add three eggs, one by one, and half a cup of chopped mango.

Then a teaspoon of vanilla, or scrape half a pod, and a cup of self-raising flour.

Pour this over the mango topping.

Bake for around 40 minutes in a medium oven till a straw comes out clean.

Cool for ten minutes or so in the pan, then carefully turn out. I run a knife around the edge of the cake in the pan, put a plate over the top, then invert and tap lightly on the bottom of the pan.  Carefully peel off the paper. Voila!

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Forty Little Mango Cheesecakes

Our glut crop at the moment is mangoes. Mangoes have a good year every second year, and a great year every forth or sixth. We had mango salsa with our poached eggs for breakfast and mango icecream after dinner last night. I’ve made  mango pickle and mango chutney, a year’s supply and some to give away.  Every visitor leaves with a bag of them, and still they come. So tonight, for Brett and Johanna’s anniversary party, it has to be a mango plate.

I thought about mango cake – I have a good recipe for a mango upside down cake I should post – but my favourite dish to take to a party is always little tarts.  They make such easily transportable finger food, so easy, and they look so party-food. I’ve made mango cheesecake before, mixing the mango pulp through the cheesecake mix, but it wasn’t a keeper for me.  This one though is. Simple shortcrust pastry, lightly blind baked, then half filled with a slightly lemony cheesecake mix, topped with mango jelly.

The Recipe:

The Pastry:

In the food processor, put

  • 3 cups of plain flour (I use wholemeal because that’s what I have, but for party food, I sift the bran out, so it is more like unbleached flour).
  • 6 big dessertspoons of cold butter
  • 1 dessertspoon sugar

Don’t overprocess it – little flakes of butter are fine.  The key to making good pastry is not overworking it.

Then add cool water, little bit by little, till the dough holds together in a ball.

Roll the pastry out on a floured benchtop till it is ½cm or so thick, then cut rounds with a small bowl.

Lightly grease muffin or tartlet tins with butter and line them with the pastry.  It will flute a little since the pastry is flat and the muffin tins cups, but that gives a nice shape to the finished tarts.

Bake the pastry cases for around 10 minutes till they are firm but not yet colouring.

The Cheesecake Filling

Blend together

  • 1 tub (250 grams) cream cheese
  • The same tub three-quarters full (around 200 grams) of plain yoghurt
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 dessertspoons sugar
  • a teaspoon lemon rind
  • juice of half a small lemon
  • a little vanilla essence 

Pour the cheesecake mix into the pastry cases. It should two-thirds fill them all. Bake for another fifteen minutes or so till they are set and the pastry is lightly golden.

Cool before pouring in the mango jelly.

Mango Jelly

You need enough gelatine to set 1 litre of water, so that is two sachets, or 6 teaspoons of powdered gelatine or 12 sheets of leaf gelatine.  Follow the instructions on your gelatine.

The mango pulp though doesn’t set as readily as water, so you need 500 ml of mango pulp.

Dissolve the gelatine in 250 ml of boiling water, then mix the gelatine water into the mango pulp to give you 750 ml altogether.

Pour over the cooled cheesecakes to fill the tart cases.

If you can find enough room in the fridge, they set quicker, especially given mango season is summer! In my fridge they take about an hour and a half to set.

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Simple Things

seed packets

Like these little origami seed packets, taught to me by Morag Gamble from Our Permaculture Life. Such a pleasure chopping up junk mail and turning it into these, and it makes sharing seed so barrier free.

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Summer Fruit Bowl

summer-fruit-bowl

Back in midwinter, I posted a picture of my new, very beautiful fruit bowl – a Yule gift – filled with winter fruit – oranges, mandarins, lemons, limes, grapefruit.  
Yule bowlThen in Spring I posted a picture of it filled with spring fruit – pawpaws and strawberries in my part of the world.

spring-fruit

And now it is full of mangoes and grapes. The first of the mangoes is j-u-st getting ripe. I admit we’ve cut a few a bit too early, impatience winning out. And still, really not quite there.  Another week or so and it will be properly mango season. I have some jars of green mangoes salted on the bench and tomorrow I’ll make green mango pickle with them, and in a few weeks when the stringier, later mangoes get ripe I’ll make some mango and tomato chutney. But most will be mango smoothies and mangoes in salads and mango oatcakes for breakfast and lots just eaten as they are.

The grapes too are just coming on, maybe enough for a small batch of mosto cotto this year, but most will just be eaten as they are.  Always something to fill the bowl.

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Surviving the heat wave

I went out and mowed this morning early.  Not as early as I would have liked – the mower is noisy and there are neighbours within a hundred metres of the community centre lawn,  so I held back till 7.30 am.  I’m normally up before 5 these mornings, so it meant I had a couple of hours in the garden and shadehouse before mowing.  And still, that gives me a nice hour and a half before 9 am, then another half an hour to unload the mulch and I am in, showered and cool by 9.30.

Next week is predicted to be heavy rain and a nice thick layer of mulch will mean the chooks aren’t squelching around in mud.  The garden needs lots of mulch to survive days like this, and I need an hour or two of physical activity.  I can spend the whole middle of the day writing now without compunction.

I put sprinklers on when I first got up, and moved them around in those few hours, so that by 9.30 every bed had had a good deep watering.  It is days like this that I reap the value of soil with a lot of water holding capacity.  Years of adding organic matter pay off in being able to water heavily and have it all sucked up by the soil. Luckily, though it is a much drier year than average, our water storage is good enough now to afford the water.  Some years I have just had to watch the garden die on days like this.

We don’t have enough to water all the fruit trees, but I use all the grey water on them. We have a couple of trees full of mangoes just about ripe too.  It looked like a bumper year a few months ago but a spell of severe dry made them drop most of the fruit.  Still though, there are enough in our seven fruiting trees to make a few year’s supply of green mango pickle and mango chutney and  still have more than we can eat.

I have heat tolerant tall climbers – snake beans, indeterminate cherry tomatoes, tromboncino, cucumbers helping to shade beds.  In winter and spring, tall climbers are restricted to the south side of beds where they will never shade anything else.  But starting in mid-spring I begin planting them with an eye to heat waves, so that they extend around the western side and give the lettuces and rocket and beets and basil a bit of respite from the afternoon sun.

Not many lettuces in.  They need a lot of water and still they bolt to seed this time of year.  I have a few, of heat tolerant varieties, but my summer salads are not much based on salad greens.  This time of year, salads are best based on tomatoes (at their best now) or beans or capsicums  or cucumbers.   A heat wave sometime about now is so predictable that my garden is pretty clear of the things that are really vulnerable, and the few there are I can afford to sacrifice and replant when the weather changes.

The shadehouse is full of fairly advanced seedlings, each in its own little pot of good compost mixed with creek sand.  It is much easier to keep them watered and cool in the shadehouse.  I’ve recycled quite a few seedlings over the last month.  Germinated them in the seed raising boxes, transplanted them into pots, waited for a spell of the right kind of weather for planting out, recycled them into the seedling raising mix again and planted a new batch of seed when it didn’t happen.  There is a small amount of work wasted in doing this, but it saves a lot off work trying to establish seedlings in tough conditions.  I’m hoping that the rain predicted for new year will herald a few weeks of good planting weather and I can get all the seedlings in the shadehouse now out and established.

I don’t get frost in my sub-tropical garden, so winter is a good growing season here.  It is the frizzle days of summer that are the challenge, when a whole garden can be wiped out in one brutal day.  But just like gardeners in frost-prone climates, you develop a range of strategies to work the odds.

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grasshoppers love kale

Because the chooks love grasshoppers…

chooks-love-grasshoppersAnd I love eggs….

egg-salad

My favourite lunch at the moment – salad from the garden with a soft boiled egg – aka grasshoppers – aka kale – through it as dressing.

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Greek Marinated Slow Roast Wallaby

If you are a vegetarian, probably better if you click away now.  But if you eat meat, I’d be interested to hear what you think.

We hit a wallaby on the way home a little while ago.  It was just on dusk, right when the wallabies become most active, and it just jumped out right under the van.

We stopped.  We always stop. I can’t bear the thought of an animal dying slowly and painfully injured on the road.   But this was a clean hit on the head at speed on the main road.  A fully grown but fairly young male red neck – the most common species in my area – in good condition.

I think if you eat meat, you have to accept that an animal dies.  This wallaby had a good free range life, and everything  becomes food for something, one way or another. Throwing it off the road didn’t seem like valuing the life. So we took it home and my partner skinned and butchered it into roasting pieces while I made a marinade.

Wallaby is very very lean meat with muscles that have done some work.  In some ways the meat is like wild goat meat, and so the kind of methods used in the Mediterranean countries to cook goat work well – curries, tagines, khoresh, and long slow roasts. It was the Greek slow cooked goat shoulder last week that prompted this post in fact.

For the wallaby, I decided on a Greek-style marinated slow roast, and invited 15 people for dinner the next night.

The Recipe:

Cut the wallaby into large roasting pieces and put them in a plastic container with a lid.  For a large wallaby, or a kangaroo, an esky makes a good container.

For this wallaby I made three cups of marinade.  Adjust to size.

Blend together:

  • 2 cups olive oil
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup of fresh oregano, thyme, lemon thyme and rosemary (go easy on the rosemary and heavy on the oregano).
  • lots of garlic

Pour the marinade over, toss to coat every piece, and leave in the fridge or on ice for 24 hours.

Roasting:

To get to falling off the bone tender, it should roast for about 4 hours in a low oven, being basted every hour in the beginning and half hour at the end.

Spread the meat out in baking trays in a single layer.  I fitted it in two large baking trays.  Divide the marinade up and pour over.  Add a cup of water to each baking tray. Cover with a lid.

Cook in a medium-low oven for about 4 hours.  After an hour, using tongs turn the meat.  Repeat after another hour, then every half hour. Don’t let it dry out.

Depending on how tightly lidded your baking trays are, you may have to add more water, or, at the end, remove the meat and turn the oven up high to reduce the last of the liquid.  You should end up with falling off the bone meat in a very small amount of concentrated jus.

This wallaby served 15 people for dinner.  It was tender and lemony and not at all gamey.  The opposite end of the spectrum to the polystyrene trays that meat comes in at the supermarket, but it felt very honourable.

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In My Fridge Is…

A container of cooked Madagascar beans.  I cooked them today in the slow cooker while there was heaps of solar power.  We’ll probably have them for breakfast tomorrow as Cheesy Beans or  Chili Beans, or just beans with eggs.

In my fridge is a little packet of goat’s feta.  I don’t have any specific plans for it, but goat’s feta (or even ordinary feta) goes so well with the sweet little cherry tomatoes, basil, red onions, and rocket I have in the garden right now that I add some to the shopping regularly.

In my fridge is a jar of preserved limes.  They make the best cold drink, just a slice added to soda water with some ice.

In my fridge are half a dozen duck eggs. Our ducks – Simone and Daphne  – only lay for a few months but they are worth feeding all year for those few months of duck egg pasta.

In my fridge is a very small container of left-over slow cooked goat shoulder, ethically harvested and slow cooked with preserved lemon, garlic, rosemary, thyme and oregano till it was falling off the bone.  With a tray of roasted beetroots, carrots and red onions and a Greek salad, it was a great dinner party. Thus the very small container of leftovers.

In my fridge is a container of yoghurt.  Necessary for curries, fruit salad, smoothies, and mixing with cucumber and mint or coriander and mint as a dipping sauce.  And for making labne which is what I mostly use instead of cottage cheese or ricotta.

In my fridge is a litre of local, permeate free real milk.

In my fridge is my container of sourdough starter. It seems strange to say but I haven’t once bought bread at home since Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial introduced me to sourdough nearly six years ago. It’s just become a routine part of my life and I cannot imagine going back to fake bread.

In my fridge are a dozen bars of dark chocolate.  What?  It was on special!

And that’s about all.  I’m a big fan of small fridges.

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