Sunday, May 24, 2009

Calamari & a slice of lemon

One thing I've grown to love about my garden is letting it randomly dictate the pattern of consumption in our humble abode. The daily menu can sometime be driven completely by what's ripening about that moment my stomach starts to making unreasonably loud requests for some kind of sustenance. Today was such a day.

Observe the fine form of yonder lemon. Admire the way it hangs gracefully from the branch, its pretty blue ribbon blowing in the wind. You can almost taste the juice dripping from its centre (now don't be rude. You certainly won't be able to taste the crunch of the aphid infesting said branch). Its the very same sight which demanded a serve of Calamari for Sunday lunch.

This is a dwarf Meyer lemon, I've had it about two years now. You might not think it common or usual to impulse-buy citrus, but this was the case here... and, ashamedly enough... with most my citrus (one day I shall write of the evils of buying in haste). The short of it is that with nowhere to go, it had to live in the slums of this here city (a 45cm-diameter, 38cm deep pot) - which is not a good place to be living, citizen, when the governor is lazy. Its been slow to grow, but seems to flower and produce new fruit in regular intervals; giving us half-a-dozen or so lemons dispersed through the year. We'll we just don't need them as much as Basil.

Basically, if I was a little more disciplined with regularly serving up le gourmet bovine la poo and a complementary jug of water, it'd be a pretty useful plant for a small space. It's somewhere near the top of my quintessential list of plants-everybody-should-grow. Your (yes, I'm talking to you) balcony is a perfect place to put one.

I have one final thing to say with regards to the demonstrated mesh-bag-with-attractive-blue-ribbon. You need these. They are awesome. Let me describe to you some of their finer qualities. Thus far, none of the local, fuzzy, grey, ring-tailed, below-average-intelligence mammals have been hungry enough to even consider chewing on (or through) such pretty ribbon (or anything attached to it) - whereas they've happily taken un-bagged fruit. Also, they do a fine job of keeping the fruit-fly out. The only two reasons not to use these bags don't apply to lemons - hungry caterpillars tend to eat right through them, and soft-skinned fruit tend to rot in them.

And the time-cost is minimal. I fertilize them when I can; make sure they regularly get Magnesium (to sweeten the fruit), and charge into epic battles with the aphids (as needed), armed to the teeth with white oil.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Today's record egg

Having expected that the girls would have stopped laying long ago, we've been quite delighted to still be getting one or two eggs a day as it continues to get cold and miserable. And then there's eggs like this giant, weighing in at 90 grams - the product of Parmagiana, our slightly picked-on, less-intelligent chicken... I mean, Emu.

You'd be mistaken in thinking this was an isolated incident; because its not. Our fridge is full of Chickzilla eggs, for which the egg-holding shelf was clearly not built. What a wondrous animal. Could you imagine giving birth to an object relatively the size of a small toddler each and every day?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Lots of Basil

We relate to Italian people. We like their food. I also like to have my Italian food loaded with flavours far beyond the proscribed amount - maybe somewhere in the vicinity of several factors of ten. Just ask about our patented field-of-tomatoes lasagna, or our spaghetti garlicnaise. We use lots of basil - its almost hard to quantify to any normal person, we consume more than some small nations - and when we were buying it in those ridiculous little jars, we were spending above the GDP of said nations. When you're emptying almost a whole jar into the average meal, lets face it, you've got a budget problem, and probably need to seek professional help.

Luckily for us, its stupidly easy to grow basil. Its a plant that loves your neglect, praises you for it even - and I am a man worthy of such praise. We planted four plants this year, straight into the ground in early spring. I prefer them in the ground; they grow bigger and absorb so much more of your neglect. Who knew how tasty a bit of neglect could be simmering in a pot of minced meat and diced tomatoes? Its like having all the benefits of the middle child, and none of the emotional scarring.

Now, after a few months emptying fresh bucket loads of basil to imbue in the nightly chow, winter's starting to take its toll on our thicket of basil. Yes, thicket. I've seen jungles sparser than our forest of basil - because the more you scold it, the more it produces. What a master of evolution. So the machete has come out, and we've been drying basil.

Our process is becoming somewhat refined now (observe our makeshift basil-line). Hanging it up and leaving it to dry simply isn't an option - we've lost too much in this way to invading armies of mould (and we need every bit of basil we can get). After hacking it from the thicket, we give it a good wash off to remove all the flavours you don't want in your lasagna - you know, grasshopper, spider, caterpillar excrement. Then we do hang it up to dry for a short period - just until its not visibly wet any more (this is important later).

Then, as demonstrated by our lovely hand model, it is laid out on paper-toweling, which is stacked into three layers for the nuking. Three minutes in the microwave gives us some really good, mould-free & dry basil. Its important the basil not be quite so wet because this tends to burn the shit out of it. And hey pesto! we have enough for winter.

But wait there's more. We also save a tonne on house-hold air freshers that are probably giving you cancer. Because everything now smells like basil - the kitchen, the microwave, that little space behind the stove you always drop things you can't retrieve. Even the smell of the discarded offcuts will make you want to scoop compost onto some spaghetti next week.