My daughter has discovered that she can eat egg again (in very small amounts), this means that baking just got easier. The first recipe I changed is (of course) my sourdough brownies. The new recipe is quick and easy, oh, and yummy. In my first batch I used a quarter of a cup of dock seed flour (of course), which made the colour really dark and prevented any rising of the batter at all during cooking, so the texture is rich and dense.
3/4 cup vegan butter (melted)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (vegan)
3/4 cup Sourdough Starter can be unfed or active and bubbly
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tspn Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup Cocoa Powder
3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
Melt the choc chips and butter together, then add the sourdough starter, eggs and vanilla extract.
Slowly add the rest of the ingredients and mix the pre-brownies until combined. Pour into a lined slice tin and pop into a medium oven for about 30 minutes. Take the tin out of the oven, let the brownies cool, then serve (or eat quietly and quickly in the kitchen).
While I was having an adventure in the UK, I came across something I have never tried before: Yorkshire pudding. They taste so light and fluffy, with just enough oil to make them interesting. I am a little addicted to the taste and texture. My aunt told me they were ‘Somewhere to put the gravy’ and that seems to be the traditional way of serving them.
I decided to give them a go when I got home. This recipe is the one I used to experiment. The first batch were amazing in shape and tasted really good, but I left them in the oven too long so they were a bit burned.
They tasted good enough for me to try making them again, and I have been making them daily for a week now. Yes, I am putting on weight. My daughter has discovered that they are good for all sorts of things, not just gravy.
She put some jam into the pocket and filled it up with vegan whipped cream.
She filled the cup with stir fried vegetables (heavy on the garlic).
I filled them with roast vegetables and cheese sauce.
I did wonder if I could try making a cob loaf filling for them too.
The possibilities are endless really. One day soon I am going to try a batch with half dock seed flour and half all purpose flour.
My recipe is really simple;
1 cup milk (soy or oat for me)
1 cup flour (any)
1/2 tspn salt
Put a small dash of oil into all 12 cups in a muffin tin, then put the tray into a hot oven to heat.
Put the eggs and milk into a bowl or a wide jug and whisk until smooth.
add the salt and flour to the bowl and whisk until the mixture is smooth.
Take the very hot muffin tin from the oven and pour the mixture into each cup as quickly as you can. Put the tray back in the oven for about 15 – 20 minutes. Don’t open the oven at all during the cooking time. Once they are cooked, take them out of the tray and let them cool, or eat them straight away.
While driving this week I found a large patch of dock in seed not far from the road (that’s how I found it). I quickly pulled over and got out the bag I now keep in the car for foraging purposes. It was on a little used back road and in someone’s driveway. As it was a property driveway, the house was not visible at all, in fact I had the whole road to myself for the 20 minutes it took me to gather all the seed I needed. I stripped the seed from the heads this time rather than cut the stalks, this resulted in less dead leaves and stalks, less time processing and, most importantly, almost no beetles.
At home, I processed the seeds by laying them on baking trays, removing all the detritus and a few beetles, then baked the seed for 5 minutes. Then I ground the seeds to make a second, larger, batch of flour. While I was baking the seed for flour, I found a YouTube clip that described making dock seed coffee. I thought I would give it a go.
It seems that the seed can be baked for a longer time to release the coffee like flavouring, so I just left the last tray in the oven for another 10 minutes. Instead of grinding the seeds in the flour mill, I used the coffee grinder to make a courser material.
I began my experiment by using half real coffee and half dock seed coffee in a plunger.
The result looks like coffee, smells like coffee (of course) and tastes like coffee. It is a little weaker than I like as far as strength of flavour goes, but I could get used to it. I think I will use this to extend my coffee in future.
Incidently, I have added dockseed flour to my bread, a not-meatloaf and to my chocolate, chocolate chip pikelets so far. The flour is very dark and lends a unique colour to everything. The flavour is subtle, but detectable, I enjoy it.
Dock is a nutrient rich plant, so I am going to keep collecting the seed for flour and the leaves for greens as the opportunity presents. I wish my possum population hadn’t realised that dock is edible, so I could grow more of my own. I am hoping that I will get a good amount of volunteers from my processing area; I think dock will be useful as a stock food too (leaves to the sheep and goats and seed to the chooks).
With the current fire danger set at ‘Extreme’ we have been looking for ways to reduce our use of any kind of spark or flame. It is recommended that no power tools, mowers and (of course) any kind of flame not be used on extreme fire danger days. Cooking can be a challenge under these conditions, even with using the hay box cooker to reduce the flame time for any given meal. So we eventually found an option; a solar oven.
When the air is hot enough to ignite from any random spark, a device that uses that heat to cook food seems like a natural progression.
After a lot of online shopping, we settled on a SunGo Fusion cooker, a solar cooker that has a largish capacity, works in cloudy conditions, is portable and as a bonus, can use 12 volt power to continue cooking after dark.
I ordered it and waited with bated breath for the package to arrive. When it finally did, we were both in a stretch f long work days, so the poor thing sat in it’s box for a week. At last today, I am at liberty to play with it. I opened the box and found a space-age solar device, a handy carry bag and three sweet little silicon baking pans.
I decided to test it out with some roast vegetables and baked egg.
I prepared the vegetables by cutting them into fairly small chunks (more surface area to cook faster) and drizzling with a garlic infused olive oil. Then I dumped them into the little baking trays, put them in the cooker and took the lot out into the HOT sun (it is 33 degrees C here today). The cooker itself is equipped with a little device that helps you to align it with the sun, I used that and got the ‘wings’ unfolded. Now we wait.
I put the vegetables in at 10:48am, at 11:36am I did a quick check to see if they were heating up (it was).
The vegetables were very hot and beginning to cook. At 12:28pm, I swapped the trays around a bit because the carrots and potatoes were cooked but the onion needed a bit longer.
At 1:28pm, lunch was ready. I made a drizzle sauce with olive oil, dijon mustard, roasted garlic and a splash of soy sauce. The meal was filling (very) and tasty.
This was a meal for one, so it cooked in a shorter time because there were less vegetables, but given the lack of attention while cooking, I feel it is a good way to make food.
I think I will try a family meal tomorrow, to see how it deals with a lot more vegetable matter.
We travelled from Edinburgh toward Skye in our little house on wheels. We crossed over the bridge onto Skye and toured around for two days. We did stop to meet a blogging friend on Skye (here is a link to her blog) and loved the visit (such beautiful people!).
The most awe inspiring thing happened on the road just before the bridge over to Skye; we were driving along, remarking that we had only seen a few deer and it would be lovely to see some in their natural habitat (deer are feral in Australia and we do not have a population around us here), when a gorgeous stag leaped from the right side of the road into the middle, he stood for a second before bolting off away from us down the road and leaping off the road on the left. We didn’t get a photo, unfortunately, so now I have only a memory to hold that moment. He was a mature buck, with at least 4 times on each antler, his neck was heavily muscled and his coat was slick and glowing (unusual in Autumn I would have thought). It is an image that sits in my mind half way between memory and imagination.
We toured around the island a bit, before stopping in a caravan park for the night.
At the Fairy Glen (a geological feature rather than an actual fairy abode, despite the perfect little caves with rowan growing over them), I was sitting on a rock, admiring the scenery, when a bumblebee landed on my hand. This time I did get a photo.
She buzzed politely near my ear as I sat, then gently lowered herself onto my offered hand, like a rescue helicopter coming in with a patient. I felt so protective of the little girl and so happy to have made a new friend (no matter how briefly). She took off again after a few moments and flew away to her home. Leaving me wondering if there are really fair folk in the glen (the Fae can take other forms apparently, and a bee is supposed to be a favourite).
We met my blogger friend the next morning at a local cafe, she brought along a lovely present of some locally spun and dyed yarn (which found it’s way to my needles before the day was out). The cafe was warm and welcoming, the local people are lovely and my friend is a lively and interesting person (but I knew that). We ended up going back to her house for the night in our motor home. I was very excited to see the property I had seen being built online. It did not disappoint, the house is gorgeous and very welcoming, and the land is fertile and has an alien beauty (alien to me).
We left (reluctantly) the next day and continued our tour of Skye.
The Clach Ard Pictish Symbol Stone (above), it is a bit of a mystery what these symbol stones mean, but to stand there and see a stone carved by someone centuries ago ignited an interest in British history.
I took photos of the highlands as we travelled, but I will make a post to show those at a later date. After Skye we travelled up the coast towards Orkney. Look out for photos of Orkney and more adventures.
Yes… I know I have a lot of photos of sheep… I like sheep OK.
I have eaten dock leaves quite a bit now. I enjoy the flavour of the bitter leaves the most. Apparently you can eat the whole plant, so my next adventure is to try dock seed flour.
I found some dock with seed heads beside the road. I know it is in an area where council doesn’t spray herbicide so I just stopped the car and harvested a few heads as an experiment.
Making the flour is fairly easy; just strip the seed and roast them in the oven for five minutes, then put them through a flour grinder on fine. No need to winnow or anything fiddly. I will say that it is best to strip the seeds from the plant directly if you can (I didn’t this time, but will in future) because there are a LOT of beetles that call dock home. If you can harvest the seed and lay them out on trays in a shallow layer, the bugs and beetles will leave. Laying the seeds out like this also allows for removing all the little bits of leaf and such that seem to come with the seed no matter how careful you are.
After debugging and picking out the odd leaf or stalk, I popped the trays in the oven for 5 minutes on high heat. The seeds turned dark brown and cooled quickly once out of the oven.
Grinding seeds to flour was easy with my amazing benchtop grain grinder, the whole lot was flour in about 10 minutes.
When it was all flour (I set the grinder on fine), I poured the lot into a sealed container to wait until I can try baking with it. From the pile of heads, I ended up with about 2 cups of flour. This is definitely worth doing to harvest a flour alternative or extender. Dock seed flour has no gluten, so I can’t use it to make bread, but it is good for replacing part of the flour in recipes and for thickening sauces and stews. Nutritionally, dock is amazing; it has iron, magnesium and proteins in usable quantities. I will be harvesting and processing more dock seed over the next few weeks to have a bit of a store of flour for the year.
Adding just a quarter of a cup of dock seed flour to the sourdough bread gave it a lovely brown bread colour and a sweet, nutty smell.
I went to the UK with a friend.. why? Well, I have never considered myself a traveler, I don’t like to leave home at all really, but I have never travelled at all so I decided that I had to test that attitude. After a lot of saving (and scraping and borrowing), we eventually had enough for a budget trip around the UK.
We flew out of Brisbane to Doha and raced across the airport to make our next flight to Edinburgh. The less said about the flight the better. Sitting still for about 24 hours, in a single seat with no knitting available is torturous.
We landed in Edinburgh in the afternoon (there) and went to a hotel for a couple of days. In those days we went on a ghost tour and rode the buses around the city. We stopped and looked at anything vaguely interesting. The tour buses have a stop and ride system, you buy a ticket for a day or two days and you can get on and off as you please. Following are some of my photos from those days.
The ghost tour on the first night was so much fun! We toured Greyfriar’s Kirkyard and the statue of Greyfriar’s Bobby (The goodest dog in all the world). Edinburgh at night is very old and stately. Of course we mostly stuck to the Royal Mile.
The tour buses ticket also included a trip on a small boat around the Firth of Forth. We looked at the bridges over the firth and bobbed around a few of the islands. Excitingly, we found some seals or sea lions on one of the islands!
Edinburgh Castle was really a monument to war. Wandering around inside the castle and grounds included little historical stories on boards and tour guides. I found it interesting, but the most interesting part was St Margaret’s Chapel, a tiny building with lovely stained glass windows and a little bench or two to sit on.
We travelled around on the buses, from Holyrood House to Edinburgh Castle, including the Witches Well. The Well was a tiny, hidden and unsigned (largely) monument to all the women (mostly) hanged and buried in the area of Edinburgh Castle. That visit made me feel sad and angry at the attitudes that lead to these actions (which are still going on today).
At the end of the second day, we went and picked up our mobile home for the next three and a bit weeks. Next post I will cover some of our travels around Scotland.
There is a fire near the humpy again… not too close, but worrying none the less. It is time to do some intense fire preparation.
The blue cross is approximately where our place is, you can see the fire fronts of both our closest fires. They are a long way away from our place, however the fire near Tabulam doubled in size in one day and another windy, hot day or two would see it very close to us. Fire is a terrifying thing in Australia.
Our fire preparation starts with our evacuation plan, for us and the animals. I have packed my car with 2 tents (one large, one small), 2 fold up chairs, cutlery and plates etc, one day’s rations for us and the animals, a folding bed (we only have one) and a sleeping bag. We are currently working on having cages (for evacuation and for living in while evacuated) ready to be packed in the car. We will also have to find room for the electric fence materials to make pens once we are settled. Last time we did this we had 2 trailers and 3 cars, this time we have 2 cars and a trailer. I hope we can condense everything enough to fit some of our belongings.
With the evacuation plan set up and everything as ready as it can be, it is time for passive defense systems. Next comes the preparation of the area inside the fire break. The sheep and goats have kept it short, but there are several large branches fallen from trees and a lot of the general detritus of living laying around. A trip to the dump is long overdue (provided the dump is still there, of course). Sticks, branches and leaves need to be cleared away from the protection area and any holes in the humpy that can be sealed need to be fixed. This is called passive protection; preventing any sparks from finding fuel is the goal. We can do a lot more in this area, but have been very slack about it.
Lastly comes the active protection; making sure we have water in all available tanks, checking the house sprinklers and mobile fire fighting units, soaking any mulch in the gardens and having water bins and rakes available all around the humpy.
We also have a cleared track and signs pointing the way to a dam on our property which has a Firetruck friendly fitting and hose already set up for quick refills. This is for the Rural Fire Service vehicles that may or may not be available to defend our place in a time of need. Unfortunately, most fire brigade volunteers are either …ummm, very mature, or have day jobs (there are also not enough volunteers). This means that we can not rely on a fire truck showing up to save the day (although when they do show up, they do a great job), instead our goal is to be able to defend our own property.
We have our old farm ute set up with a tank and a pump for putting out spot fires in the event of a fire front moving through our area and to help our neighbours.
All these precautions will help us in a slow moving bush fire, but on a very hot windy day they will be useless. The only thing we can do in the event of a crown fire is to leave before it gets here. Hopefully we don’t have to do that again.
I have just returned from a trip to the UK, where I met some lovely people (some of whom I am related to), viewed some beautiful scenery and gave myself a huge case of jet lag. I will post some photos of my adventures in the coming weeks, but for now have a look at some of my pics. I will give these photos some context in the coming posts.
Welcome to the first in a new series (for me). I will be researching, tracking down, harvesting and reviewing edible weeds in our area. The reasoning behind this, is that my vegetable garden is refusing to yield very much due to predators of many different kinds and a general lack of water. I am attempting to remedy the situation, but in the interim I will be looking for wild harvested foods too.
Dock is one of those plants that doesn’t get noticed in the garden, until it comes time to pull it out. It is a hardy and fast growing weed that can make a lawn look like a lumpy field, but it is also a really useful green vegetable.
There are more than 11 varieties of dock… and all are edible (that is not to say they taste good). Here at the humpy we have sheep sorrel, narrow leaf dock and broad leaf dock. Dock can be recognised by the papery wrapping around the base of new leaves, this little white membrane is one of the defining features of dock plants. It is naturalised over most of the eastern part of Australia, so if you are looking at a plant that you think is dock, there is a good chance it actually is dock.
Dock can be used like spinach, it can be sautéed or steamed as a green vegetable. You can use dock leaves as you would any other kind of robust leafy green… think silverbeet, spinach or cabbage leaf.
Dock root can be used to treat constipation and as a general tonic for the body. It has a balancing effect on the body and is great for building healthy blood. You can read about it’s use as medicine here.
My adventure with dock
The photo below is from one of my pots in the front garden. I dug up what I thought was a sheep’s sorrel root one day when I was out walking and planted it in a herb pot. I spent a bit of time identifying the type of dock I had found and eventually decided it is probably broad leaf dock after all.
It is growing well in my herb pot. I harvested the tender new leaves and some parsley for my experiment.
I fried some onion and garlic together with the dock and some spinach mix I had in the fridge. At the last minute I threw in some mushrooms (also found lurking in a paper bag in the fridge). Lastly, I made little nests in the mixture and fried some eggs in it.
The whole concoction was served on slices of toast and made a really lovely lunch.
I will definitely be making dock meals again. It was a delicious addition to my meal and I am using something that the possums have so far ignored. Having said that, I am now expecting to find all my dock plants munched down to stubs when the possums realise the food value of weeds.