Monday, November 28, 2011

Aussie Bucco

it's not quite a classic Osso Bucco, it doesn't even contain veal.  It is 100% homegrown.  But it works.

3 large pieces of Beef shin, you know the osso bucco cut that has the big round bone
1/2 litre chicken stock
fresh tomato, sliced thickly (used homegrown grosse lisse)
salt, pepper, flour
1 small onion, diced finely
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and 2 tbsp grape seed oil
1 tbsp grape seed oil, extra
lemon juice, chopped parsley

lightly dust the beef in seasoned flour by dipping in flour, shake the excess flour off.
In a heavy fry pan over high heat, seal the beef on both sides in the oil. Remove and set aside.
In the extra grape seed oil, cook the finely diced onion over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock, and reduce over high heat for 5 minutes.
In a good baking dish, place the beef and cover with the sauce.  add sliced tomato and bake for 2 hours at 150deg C.
Serve with mashed potato, chopped parsley and lemon juice.
Drink with a Hunter Shiraz (if you can afford it).
It's italian inspired, but aussie made

Friday, November 25, 2011

Westend Estate Cellar Door


This is Griffith's answer to a Tuscan villa: stucco, grapevines, large doors and oakbarrels.
I had to pinch myself I wasn't in Italy, all I needed was a decent view and it would have been complete.  That said, it is only 5 minutes from home..

The cellar door is a warm environment for tasting, well lit, the displays are clean and tidy; it's a place for browsing and taking in the history of the winery and the Italian-Australians in the Riverina, since 1945. On the menu are the almost complete range of current releases wines, from the cool climate series, Riverina, reds, whites, sparkling, moscatos, stickies and fortifieds.  Most of the wines are well priced too: owners the Calabria family certainly do value for money.  Wines such as the Richland Range, well made quaffers which are widely available, some will improve in the cellar for up to 5 years: $9.95 a bottle.  No need to buy a dozen to get a good price.  A step up the rung is the 3-bridges range, for less then $20 you can get a pretty good red such as the bold but eminently drinkable Durif or a classic warm climate Oz Shiraz destined for the back of the cellar, only to be pulled out at 10pm when you've polished off the fancier plonk and discarded the bow tie.

There are wines for every body and every occasion, and a couple of oddities: Aglianco (a mouthfull of medium bodied red wine wrapped around leathery tannin) and the interestingly perfumed and smokey tasting St Macaire (another red which would come into its own with antipasto one would assume).

I will definitely be taking the family there after Christmas.  Wine Cellars don't have to be showy to be good: just offer friendly service, affordable wine, a smile and no pretentions.  Throw in a sense of place, and you have a destination worth visiting.

(Whilst I was there, Win TV were doing a piece to Camera on the 3 bridges 'Golden Mist' Botrytis Semillon. Apparently it is being served on V-Australia.  There you go, good promotion for the business and the Riverina.)



Thursday, November 17, 2011

Horse Racing’s $150Million dollar windfall.

Sydney’s Randwick racecourse is receiving $150 Million in government money for the upgrade of grandstands, a fancy new horse parade ring and turning the racecourse into yet another facility for corporate functions, public and private entertainment.
Is this a good idea?
Should the public purse be used for what is essentially a gambling institution?
The NSW Racing industry is a billion dollar industry. Whilst there is no doubt it contributes to the economy, and stimulates growth, provides jobs etc, does it have to be subsidised by the taxpayer? I am not sure.
Anyway, I thought I would have a look at a few facts and figures on Racing in NSW:
Returns to owners, including prize money and starting bonuses of $141 Million in 2009-10
The State’s richest race, the Golden Slipper for 2 y.o.s is worth $3.5 Million in prizemoney
Upgrade of Randwick Racecourse… $150 Million
Amount received by Racing NSW from Tab Corp each year, for the licence to run NSW betting…$150 Million. A common theme?
Amount received by Racing NSW from other sources of gambling outside the state: $54Million per year
Amount wagered on racing in NSW each year…$4 Billion
Additional NSW Government subsidy for regional NSW Racing over the next 2 years…$5 Million
Amount in NSW State Budget 2011/12 to reduce problem gambling in NSW… $14.5 Million
Budget of the State of NSW $60 Billion
$150 Million divided by the number of households in NSW (2.5Million) and it equates to roughly $60 per household. That is $60 that could be used to help pay the electricity bill.
View from the corporate box overlooking the winning post at Royal Randwick…priceless
Are we getting value for our money?

You be the judge…

Mr Ed: Laughing all the way to the bank..


Friday, October 14, 2011

When is an Invitation not an Invitation?

When it involves a former Prime Minister, a book, and a former PM's daughter.

In a recent article in the Weekend Australian Howard's phantom toast to Menzies 17/18 Sept 2011,  Paul Kelly the Australian's Editor at large writes 'John Howard has deleted from the paperback edition of his book the story that, on his first weekend in The Lodge as prime minister, the Howards invited Robert Menzie's daughter, Heather Henderson, and her husband, Peter, for celebratory martinis.'

Now normally I would skip over such an article, and defer to the sport section, but on this occasion, the headline caught my attention.

What toast? What martini? What has Mr Howard being up to this time ?  Telling pork pies?  No he couldn't be!!

Well according to Mrs Henderson, he has.  She has asked him to withdraw this claim in the lastest paperback addition of Lazarus Rising and he has obliged..

John Howard




Former PM John Howard, hard at work

Friday, October 7, 2011

Apples in England, Oranges in Griffith, Peaches in Cowra, Plums in Flanders

What do they all have in common? They are free.

Down any winding country lane, in any park or reserve in most western countries, you are likely to find free fruit. Fruit that is just hanging around, fruit that nobody wants, fruit that will go rotten if it is not eaten. In many other countries, fruit trees abound in people’s gardens, or in the villages street scape. Jack Fruit in Sri Lanka and king coconut palms come to mind.

Fruit is the stuff of Adam and Eve. Fruit comes from trees - trees themselves that have grown on a whim or a seed. With not a supermarket within coo-ee.

In Kent, you’ll most likely find apple orchards. And on the sides of the lanes, there are usually trees, with branches full of their sweet juiciness. Griffith in the Riverina is Australia‘s undisputed orange capital, with farms to every horizon. Even with the thousands of acres, there are still trees left unpicked, or on farms for sale. Belgium, the land of the golden ale, has thousands of plum trees on the sides of roads. And Cowra? Ask me and I will let you in on a few sweet secrets.

converted Oast House, once used for drying hops. Kent, South-East England

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Taylors St Andrews Riesling 2007

Got my mitts around this little bottle of rizza a while ago - it's got some wonderful bottle aged toast characters coming thru  with lemons/limes on the palate, to a backdrop of baked apple on the nose, and rounded lightly toastie edges, a good example of aged riesling.

12.5% Alc. Drink anytime in the next 10 years

thanks to Taylors Estate

http://www.taylorswines.com.au/

Friday, September 30, 2011

Fairtrade Films and East Timor

Did you know East Timor is only 640km from Darwin at the top end of Australia? That's closer then Broome from the cyclone capital and the Big Pineapple from the Big Banana, well almost.  They also drive on the left.

Fairtrade films is a small independent Film company located in Melbourne, Victoria the southern capital of Australia and cultural melting pot.  Founded in 2010 but with a portfolio going back to 1986, their work includes Trafficked - The Reckoning, a film chronicling the search for the man responsible for enslaving a young Thai woman into a Sydney brothel; Trafficked - the original 2004 film about the woman, Ning, at the centre of the enslavement; and being charge of the production in East Timor of Balibo, the film starring Anthony La Paglia as Roger East, the journalist killed whilst investigating the Balibo 5.

Currently Fairtrade films are raising funds for their next project in East Timor- a joint venture with the newly formed Dili Filmworks.  Dili Filmworks is the first film company in East Timor.

The Film titled A Guerra da Beatriz (Beatriz's War) is a love story set in the years following the takeover by Indonesia in 1975 through until Independence in 2002.  This film will be the first feature film produced in East Timor ever.

Help support film making in East Timor by sponsoring the film,  on the Fairtrade film website at

http://www.fairtradefilms.com.au/projects-beatrice.html

and find out more about the role of film making in the recovery of the World's second newest (South Sudan has enthusiastically grabbed that mantle) and one of the poorest nations (and next door neighbour of Australia) here:

http://www.fairtradefilms.com.au/projects-DFW-courses.html

Sunday, September 18, 2011

It's amore

This is a baked pork sausage, cannellini bean and vegetable dish.

6 or so Italian pork sausages (must be pork, and preferably Italian style with fennel)
1 tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 fennel bulb, sliced
2 or 3 roma tomatoes, sliced
white wine vinegar
olive oil
sea salt
pepper

Easy Method
Place sliced fennel bulb and tomato in an oven proof dish, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with good salt
Bake in hot oven 10 minutes to start the cooking process
While baking the veg, brown the pork snags in hot olive oil
Add browned snagalinis to the fennel/tomato and add your rinsed beans, a little vinegar
Cover with a lid and bake for a further 25-30 minutes until vegetables are nicely cooked, and the beans are all gooey
Serve in a warm bowl with crusty bread and a side salad...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Andy's Spice Mix

Useful in nachos, rice pilafs, middle eastern dishes (with a little ginger and garlic) etc etc

3 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds or powder
1 tbsp sweet paprika
good pinch sea-salt

in a mort and pestle, grind the coriander seeds up with a pinch of salt. Add the cumin seeds (or powder) and the paprika.
The aroma is amaaaaaaaaaaazing

Easy 15 minute tomato salsa

this is so easy, you will wonder why u never made it.  Suits a range of dishes as a side garnish or as the star.

3 ripe skinned tomatoes: drop the tarties into a saucepan of boiling water for 2 or 3 minutes, then drain and the skin slips off
roughly chop.

in the same saucepan, add the now prepared tomatoes, 1 tbsp olive oil or vegie oil, good pinch of sea salt, cracked black pepper and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally
meanwhile, chop fresh herbs, parsley, basil or even oregano and add to the tomatoes.
to finish, add a good squeeze of lemon juice, and adjust the sweetness to taste with a little sugar.
if the tomatoes aren't that ripe or lack a little flavour, add 1 tbsp of tomato paste.

so much tastier then shop bought salsa.

Midweek Noshup: Nachos

Nachos are an excellent standby when u don't feel like cooking, or it's a Wednesday.  It's too early in the week to light the barbie and crack a coldie, and it's too late to get away with microwaved leftovers.

My little tasty treat is vegetarian because it's a) healthy b) tasty c) cheap d) all of the above!

1x packet of corn chips (try the healthy ones they taste better)
1x 400g tin of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1x 400g tin of refried beans (despite the name they aren't fried and are actually quite healthy)
handful of tasty cheese, grated
sour cream if you like, regular or light.
2tbsp light vegetable oil

1 jar of tomato salsa, or the easy 15 minute home made. See above recipe
4 tbsp spice mix: you can use a packet, or have a go.  See above!

Method.
1. In a fry pan over medium heat, lightly fry the drained kidney beans and spice mix in the oil.
2. Add 1/2 tin of refried beans and a little water, heat thru for a couple of minutes, and mash a few kidney beans up.
3. Assembly: In a bowl or pie dish, place the corn chips, refried beans and top with tomato salsa and tasty cheese. Stick a few corn chips in the top so they stick out like a hedgehog's spikes.
4. Grill under a hot grill until the cheese is melted, and corn chips are lightly toasted
Serve in the middle of the coffee table with sour cream and a slice of lemon to squeeze all over
5. Eat and enjoy :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Paddock full of Utes

Somewhere between the towns of Condobolin, and Parkes New South Wales there is a paddock.  Not just any old paddock, but a paddock of utes.  In true Strine fashion, somebody has planted utilities in and on the ground, in an offbeat send up of Aussie Icons.


Tin sheep

Giddy Up Boys

I'll drink to that

Monday, August 29, 2011

Caring for their People: The Wiradjuri



The Wiradjuri are the largest indigenous nation in NSW.  The name Wiradjuri means people of the three rivers, the three rivers being the Lachlan or Kalarie, the Macquarie and the Murrum-bidgee.  Their totem or emblem is the goanna.

Culturally, the Wiradjuri are incredibly deep and spiritual people. To us white fellas, Australian indigenous folk are about as far removed from us as we are from Eskimos.  We believe in money, cars, plasma tv's and other material things: ownership if you like. The Wiradjuri see themselves as custodians of the land and their culture, not owners.  A polar opposite to our fast paced consumer oriented Western 'lifestyle'.  They have a history that goes back 40,000 years, compare that with a piddly 200 years of Ozcupation.

When I heard of the Wiradjuri Cultural Centre at Condobolin, smack bang in the middle of New South Wales, I was intrigued and wanted to know more.  So I called in on my way through town and was immediately spellbound by the building and the people.

The cultural centre is the brainchild of Percy Knight, a Wiradjuri man and former footballer from Condobolin.  The building is constructed in a ring shape, much like a ceremonial corroboree ground.  It is made out of local red earth compressed into bricks.  Timber and painted glass windows complete the picture.  But it is the centre of the building that attracts the eye.  At it's heart is an eagle perched high on a carved tree, symbolising their connection with the land, creatures and living beings, and their ancestors .  An incredibly powerful statement of Aboriginal culture.

Inside the building are training rooms and a Yarn-up space. The Yarn-up space is where Wiradjuri will discuss, develop and bounce aspects of their culture in the traditional manner.  The training rooms complete with painted murals of traditional Wiradjuri life will be a space for learning and dissemination.

A garden is being completed, with a statue of a proud Wiradjuri Warrior at it's centre.

I cannot understate the significance of this project to a proud nation of people.  All Australians of all colour, creed and race should visit and learn.

The official opening of the Wiradjuri Cultural Centre is on 27th September and will be presided over by one Kevin Rudd.

http://www.wiradjuricondocorp.com/cultural-centre/

First batch of bangers!




home made, first lot

Beef and Sundried Capsicum with cracked black pepper

100% yum

Roughly, the recipe is

1.2kg of good beef, I used round beef from the local butcher
1 cup of sundried capsicum preserved in olive oil, from a jar
Cracked black pepper (not measured, just use your eye)
Sea salt

first dice the beef into chunks
then using a hand mincer, mince the beef with a coarse plate
pass the mince back through the mincer, using a funnel to fill the sausage skins. try not to leave airpockets in the snag or the skins will split
fry in olive oil and season with salt whilst frying.

Absolutely the bees knees

Friday, August 26, 2011

Zuchinni, Sweet Corn and Broccoli Pasta



This is a tasty little dish of fresh vegetables and spaghetti, made in a modern sort of way.  You can vary your ingredients if you like, but don't over crowd the dish with too many flavours, it just won't work.  Keep it simple and enjoy the result :)

2 Zuchini, sliced into 2 cm chunks
1 large corn cob
small head of green fresh broccoli cut into 4cm pieces

2 tbsp sour cream or creme freche
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper.

1/2 pack of spaghetti, cooked in boiling salted water until al dente

steam the vegetables in a steamer over boiling water. exact time depends on the size and shape of the veg, but it takes around 10minutes for the broccoli and sweet corn, and about 5 minutes for the zuchinni.  Remove the corn kernels from the cob, using a tea towel as it will be hot!

once the vegetables are steamed, place in a large frying pan with a good slug of olive oil, and cook further for 1 minute over a medium heat and add the remaining sauce ingredients.  Season well with salt and pepper.

To finish the dish, add in drained spaghetti and a little of the cooking water, like you see on the cooking shows. The water helps make the sauce.  Mix the sauce with the pasta.

Serve in pasta bowls and top with more lemon juice and grated parmesan cheese

Monday, August 22, 2011

Waste not Want Not



volunteers harvesting pumpkins
 An inspirational story of farmers giving back to the community, in this case the city.

Riverina Farmers Give Back to the City

Cooperation between the Uniting Church, the NSW Department of Primary Industries, Carrathool Shire Council and local farmers has led to the launch of Waste Not Want Not - a unique project that will deliver otherwise wasted produce from the district to the tables of hungry families throughout New South Wales and the ACT.


The humble butternut, on their way to Sydney
 With the help of Waste Not Want Not, fresh fruit and vegetables will now be saved and distributed through Foodbank NSW in Sydney to charities throughout New South Wales and the ACT.


For the past ten years there have been calls for the city to support the bush.  Now farmers are in a position to look with some hope toward the future and say, "Here's something we can do for you."

By bringing together various community groups, government organisations and individuals, Waste Not Want Not will also help build resilience and social capital in the Carrathool Community.

Where is Carrathool?  It is a shire in the western riverina, 1 hour west of Griffith centred around the town of Hillston, and the villages of Goolgowi, Carrathool, Rankin Springs and Merriwagga.
Some of the people involved in the project, at the Foodbank Warehouse in Sydney

Andy's Beef Bourgoigne

ok it's was made with claret not burgundy, but it's still beef and red wine dish.

750g Gravy Beef, Chuck steak or similar beef with sinew
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp dried thyme
good grind of black pepper
1/2 cup red wine (I used Blue Pyreenes Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from Victoria Oz)

Marinate the beef for 2 hours.

1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrot

Olive Oil
salt

In a heavy based pot, fry the vegetables in the olive oil for 5 minutes, until clear. Season well with salt.
Transfer to a baking dish
Fry the drained beef in oil and transfer to the baking dish
Add the beef and wine juices, reduce for a couple of minutes.
Add 1 tsp flour mixed in a little of the juice, to make a slurry, and stir for a minute, Add to the baking dish
Place in medium oven (180deg C) for 2 hours or until meat is tender.

Serve with dumplings or mashed potato.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Taylors Estate Shiraz 2009 with Thanks to Adam from Taylors for the sample

Shiraz
  


Day 1:
Aromas of dark plum, spice, wood.  Bouquet flows onto the palate.

A highly drinkable wine that is not jammy or confected. It's not all upfront fruit flavour or un-necessarily high in alcohol, this wine whilst lingering doesn't taste fruity throughout, the oak tannins take over carrying the flavour through to the finish.  Well structured and integrated, will progress over the next 5 years.

Day 2:
Suits a range of meat dishes but can also handle food with a bit of spice.  I had it with home-made tandoori chicken and it wasn't overpowered :)

Day 3:
Tried over three days, at it best on the 3rd. Dark cherry coming thru, dealt with the leftover tandoori with aplomb

Final analysis: Highly Recommended. Gold medal Sydney International Wine Comp. 14% Alc

http://www.taylorswines.com.au/

Winter feasts





Beef, Borlotti Bean and Sausage Braise

This idea came to me in a flash: what to do with borlotti beans I had just bought from the market. One idea was to make a vegetable soup (healthy but boring), a better idea was to team it with braised beef (less healthy but heaps more fun). I thought I'd go the whole hog (or more precisely the ox) and chuck in a couple of good peppery thick beef sausages to complete the shebang.

Ingredients

1/2 dozen thick beef snags (I bought the gourmet style peppery beef snags from Woolies about $5.99 for 6)
1/2 kilo or so beef offcuts on the bone (about $5 again from Woolies, they marketed them as soup bones, but i could see more potential)
1 finely chopped brown onion
2 carrots cut into 5cm pieces(these were the sweetest carrots I've ever eaten, fresh from the Italian lady at Griffith markets)
1 tsp of vegie stock powder
1 cup water
sea salt
olive oil

Method
Turn your oven onto 150deg C ie low
brown beef in a hot pan drizzled with olive oil. season with sea salt. transfer to a warmed oven dish* and place into the oven. slowly braise for 2 hours

Brown sausages in the pan and set them aside, draining excess fat if warranted
light fry the onion for a minute or 2 set it aside

Meanwhile, soak your borlotti beans in cool water for an hour
Drain, and cook for 1/2 -1  hour or until just tender. Don't salt them or they will harden!
After 2 hours, beef will be braised, add your beans, onion, carrot, water and stock powder and top with the browned snags. Cook for another hour with the oven turned up to 200degrees :)

Serve with mash and steamed silverbeet...

*I like my second hand terracotta dish with glass saucepan lid it works well

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Chicken Cacciatore (Poacher's Chicken)

This dish requires very little preparation, apart from minor shopping and chopping, but will win you brownlow votes, like an out of contract former prodigy and club champion*. If it all goes pear shaped you can always do a runner..

u need

1 medium brown onion, diced finely
about 1kg chicken pieces, thighs and drumsticks are best. tip: trim the fat from the thighs
1 clove garlic minced
handful basil
handful parsley
handful of black olives
3 or 4 anchovies soaked in milk and drained (little flavour bombs, soak them to draw out the salt)
olive oil
sea salt/freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
400g tin of good italian tomatoes peeled
1 cup chicken stock, preferably home made or good store packaged
1 - 2 tsp sugar
if u can get your hands on it: an italian baking dish

1. season then brown the chicken pieces in olive oil in a heavy pan
2. set aside and keep warm, by preheating the oven to 180deg C and sticking the chicken in a dish and into the warming oven
3. fry the onion and garlic over medium heat in the oil and juices for 5 minutes
4. add the vinegar and stock, or vinegar and a little white wine and stock, reduce on high heat for a couple of minutes
5. add tomatoes, herbs, salt - pepper, and sugar to taste. Be careful of the salt, some packaged stocks can be quite salty
6. simmer the sauce for 10 minutes while u pour a glass or oversee a try/goal
7. pour sauce over the chicken in the baking dish, mix thru and cook covered for 1 hour
8. to finish off, set aside the chicken on a warm serving plate and simmer the sauce to reduce it, add the olives, drained anchovies, a few more herbies and return it to the reserved chicken. Or for a quick snap at goal, add your olives and anchovies and just serve it all up in the dish.




* Ben Cousins West Coast c 2005?

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Spanish Inquisition


The Spanish are arriving down here in the Riverina. Not in an Armada mind you, but in an A380 with a wad full of cash, first class if you don't mind.

They are after our rice - rice that has been grown here for many years.  Ebro Foods, a large multinational company of Spanish origin are offering a large sum, $610 million in fact, to buy out Australian rice marketer Sunrice whollus bollus, everything from the marketing to the rice mills and storage sheds. About the only aspect they won't own is the ground the rice is grown in; but who knows, maybe in time they will.

For you see, the rice industry has just seen off 10 years of drought. Sunrice is heavily in debt, to the tune of around $300Million, and how they have managed to keep going for the last 10 years is beyond me - I would probably have walked away well before now.  But those who have stuck with the industry - the growers, the board and the A and B class shareholders have landed a potential windfall.
But is this offer good news for rice growers, the rice industry and the Riverina?  The state of NSW and by extension, the nation?   Judging by all the comments I have heard and read, nobody really knows.

The Cash Offer

On face value, an offer of $50,000 for those growers with  A-class shares and $5.025 for B class shares appears to be good coin, but dig a little deeper and you know what, it might not be.  Basically this offer allows Ebro to take control of the Australian rice industry, lock, stock and smoking barrel until at least 2016.   In drought times a white knight such as this can be the saviour, but in good times and in the long term?  What if Ebro invokes the everpresent get out clause, and decides not to purchase Australian rice?

The Industry

The rice industry in Australia is controlled by SunRice or RiceGrowers Ltd to be more correct.  Formerly a cooperative founded in the 1950's it is now a grower-shareholder owned company that purchases, mills, and markets Australian grown rice and valued added rice products to the world.  But they are in debt, not just a small debt, but a big debt.

Don't forget that rice is a hugely valued global commodity, it feeds most of Asia, the Middle East and large parts of Africa.  In western countries it is becoming more widely consumed, it is in fact quite a versatile little grain.

Single Desk Policy

Sunrice has control of Australian rice exports through the single desk policy instituted by the Rice Marketing Board under the NSW Marketing of Primary Products Act 1983.  If Ebro takes over Sunrice, it will then have control of the export of Australian rice: a sticky situation if another player wishes to enter the export market.  Do I see a time that the single desk policy might hinder the Australian Industry: yes, in about 5 years I reckon, just when another drought starts to take hold, water availability is down and Ebro doesn't want or need a small tonnage of Australian rice.  There goes what's left of the industry.

The Farmer

Opinion seems to be divided down here, some farmers are supporting the sell-off of the rice assets, some are dead against it, and some are just not sure, and perhaps won't make their mind up until voting time.  Other people are suggesting a kind of capital raising for Sunrice by forgoing $25 per tonne.  A downside of this is that not all growers are in favour of handing over more money to Sunrice.

I sure as hell wouldn't blame the farmer that has done it tough during the drought cutting their losses and accepting the offer - I certainly would strongly consider the offer if I was in their position.

What are the experts saying

There has been a report prepared by Australian valuation experts Lonergan Edwards into the value of Sunrice, and they have recommended shareholders take the offer.

The board of Sunrice are recommending the sale, in the absence of a better offer. Reading between the lines, it seems as though they are at a bit of a loss at what to do next if the sale fails - raise more capital from somewhere, retire debt, all the usual ideas.  In fact they have tried capital raising before, and it fell flat.  Again I don't blame them for recommending the sale.

What if the sale goes through

Ebro have given undertakings to continue the operation of Sunrice in largely the same form as it is now, with R&D, marketing and exports, at least in the short-term. The price for rice will be tied to the Californian market, which perhaps is fair enough as rice is a global commodity.  I really can't comment on this aspect any further as rice pricing is way out of my league.

But long term, are Ebro going to keep the R&D and marketing here in regional Australia?  Or will that slowly drift off-shore, like a large Antartic iceberg?  Only to melt away into the big global sea of rice..

Do farmers have choices?

They certainly do: they can choose to go with the Ebro offer or decline it.  If the sale goes through, they can still grow rice as they have done. It will still be Australian rice.  Farmers can choose to sell their rice on the Australian market, although this may be difficult as all the mills and storage sheds will be owned by Ebro..

Trying to predict the outcome of the sale is like trying to pick the winner of the Melbourne Cup, in some years you might take home the bacon, but in other years you have done your dough.  Trying to predict the future of the Australian rice industry, with or without Ebro is like trying to predict climate change: you know it will have an effect, but you can't quite put a finger on it. 

In fact, the future of the rice industry in these parts is indeed tied closely to climate change which nobody, Sunrice or Ebro included has any control over.  A few good years and the industry is back on it's feet. If the drought recommences, well we all know about that - no water, and no crop.

But growers and shareholders, if you take the money now and the industry does collapse, should you then be expecting government hand outs over and above entitlements under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan?  If you take the money now, should you be asking for more later?  Many people, myself included will take a dim view of that.

The rice industry is indeed in a pickle.

The bigger picture

The Riverina needs active farming communities, and the associated research and development agencies, agricultural bodies and the like.  If we lose the rice industry once and for all, in time we face losing these intrinsically valuable organisations in our community.  It is more then just jobs: it is a diversity of people, of experience, of knowledge that will be lost to our community.

So to sell or to keep?

Patriotism, grower pride and a desire to keep control in Australian hands and fear of the unknown might provide the answer, or a large well funded foreign company with cash, access to and some would say control of foreign markets might be the punters bet.  But one thing is for sure, the rice industry will no longer be the same.  Think clearly growers and shareholders, and consider what is best for the industry long term.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

2009 De Bortoli Vat 1 Durif

Durif is the red variety for warm climes, it literally thrives in the heat and dusty red-brown soils of the riverina.  Supplied with a little irrigation, it will produce a substantial crop.

The wines are generally full bodied, and full throttled in style with masses of tannin, alcohol, dark intense flavour and the ability to eat oak like there is no tomorrow.

This wine is no exception. It is a youthful, brooding wine, immensely deep purple, with plenty of flavour.  Skilled winemaking has kept the alcohol at bay but in the present form it is just a bit too young. Wait a couple of years and you have a serious red wine that will surprise many with its palate; on the nose it will still remain oak driven, but the mouthfeel of those grippy tannins will have you in for repeat business.

Food suggestion: steer away from the hard cheeses, the grippy tannins will ensure reaching for the water; try instead matching a wet dish with plenty of flavour; braised lamb and black olives cooked with a little of the wine would be a starting point.

Drink from 2012-2019 13.5% alc, RRP $9.99

its a bit messy down here..

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bistro @ Home

Here are a few ideas for creating your very own bistro style meal that isn't expensive, and with the addition of a bottle of wine, u could happily serve it for a dinner party.

My preference would be to serve it up on a platter in the middle of the table, but u could dish it up on individual plates too.

bunch of fresh beetroots, cleaned well
coupla brown onions
head of garlic
2 medium potatoes, diced into small cubes
100ml water or vegie stock
good supermarket or butcher shop snags, such as bratwursts, or other spicy snagsies
fresh or dried herbs such as thyme
drizzle of olive oil
sea salt/cracked black pepper
side salad
crusty bread

in a roasting pan, bake the beetroots, onions, garlic and potatoes for 25 minutes in olive oil, salt/pepper and herbs, with foil covering the pan, or use a lid. set the oven to 180-200deg C. put a bit of water or stock in to help steaming
after 25minutes, chuck the sausages in and bake for a further 10 minutes, covered
take the lid off the pan and crank the oven up to brown everything for 10 minutes
serve on a platter

Zucchini slice
2 or 3 zucchinis
6 eggs
1/2 cup self raising flour
salt pepper
1/2 tsp baking powder
sift flour and baking powder into a bowl
whisk eggs together with salt and pepper
grate the zucchinis and add to the flour
add eggs and mix together
bake in a moderate oven, 180 deg C for 20 minutes or until browned



simple zucchini slice, side dish

baked meat and veg leftovers, pan juices were mopped up with the bread

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

slow cooking lamb

this little experiment started with a plastic container of cheap lamb offcuts from Woolies*, the kind of meat that normally ends up in the butcher shop sausage machine.

By the time I had finished, I had a tasty little platter of succulent juicy meat and 3 veg.

For the cheaper cuts of meat all you need is a little patience, a small amount of technique and a nose for delicious aromas.

Ingredients
roughly 1kg lamb offcuts, on the bone if possible
2 potatoes cut into 2.5cm pieces
1 carrot, cut into 2.5cm pieces
sea salt/ cracked black pepper
green veg ready for the steamer

Method
trim the lamb of large pieces of fat.  season the meat well with sea salt and cracked black pepper, rubbing well into the flesh
Place in baking dish with a little water, roughly 100ml and cover with a lid or tightly with foil
Bake in a low oven 110degC or 220 farenheit and bake for 2 hours.
Pour off the fat and juices into a jug, the liquid portion can be used for making stock
Place the potatoes and carrots into the roasting dish, seasoning with salt and pepper.
Place back in the 180degC oven for a further 45minutes-1hour with the lid

Keep the meat and vegetables warm while you make a gravy from the reduced pan juices combined with a little red wine vinegar if u like.
Serve the lamb pieces on a platter with green vegetables steamed until al dente, with the gravy juices poured over the meat


There's meat on them there bones


*retail supermarket chain in Oz, the meat cost just $4

Thursday, April 21, 2011

How to create your own recipes

I like to create my own recipes, quite often from scratch. But how do I do it?

Here are a few tips

  • learn a few basic rules about what flavours work together. Pork and fennel. Lamb and rosemary
  • learn a few basic techniques
  • start with 1 ingredient and build a dish around it.
  • watch the professionals on the tv shows, they know how to make something tasty from basic ingredients, and they jazz it up. At home we don't need to jazz it up as much
  • learn a basic white sauce recipe (who needs a packet when it is so damn easy: 1tbsp white flour to 1 tbsp butter to 1 cup of warm milk. Add grated cheese for a bechamel, and herbs as well)
  • learn a basic tomato sauce recipe: 2 tins canned roma tomatoes, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1-2 cloves of minced garlic, salt, pepper and whatever herbs you have on hand. simmer it all for 1/2 hour and add 1tbsp of tomato paste.
  • read widely, and use other people's ideas and recipes. Don't try to reinvent the flavour wheels - so many contestants on the cooking shows don't know the flavour combos, or they experiment too widely.  don't mix strong flavours, use 1 strong flavour and 2 subtler flavours. Look for texture in the dish. Create good looking meals, we eat with our eyes first.
if you had 1/2 head of brocolli,  cream and a handful of leftover mushrooms, what would you do?

I would make a creamy pasta sauce, and serve on spaghetti or fettucine. Or you could make a soup with the brocolli and cream, using powdered vegie stock (good standby), and the leftover mushrooms could be sliced and panfried to serve on toast as a side.

If you had these 3 ingredients:

tomato, peas and ham

I would slice the tomato, slice the ham, and make a toasted sandwich for lunch, the peas would be made into a soup, just simmer in stock until soft and whizz.  Or you could make a green pea and ham soup, with the tomato served sliced finely with salt and pepper on a sandwich.  You can make a ham and tomato pasta dish (omit the peas) but serve the peas dressed in olive oil as a side

Try this: leftover roast chicken and vegies.  Pull the meat from the chicken carcass, warm in the oven with the vegies in foil, and serve on a platter of salad leaves dressed with olive oil and sherry vinegar. The chicken carcass can be used to make a lovely stock to use in soups or risotto.

Bake some pork sausages with tomato, sliced fennel (including the green tips) and white beans. serve with crusty bread

Try to include a protein element (meat/fish/eggs), a carbohydrate element (bread/rice/pasta/starchy veg) and something fresh and green (brocolli/peas/leafy veg). You have the basis for a tasty, nutritious meal

Have fun

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Love Food Hate Waste Campaign

I came across this campaign whilst at the Shopping Centre today.   apparently it's a campaign to raise awareness of the great waste going on in our homes: food. We throw away so much food it isn't funny.  But it isn't just the food we are wasting, think of all the packaging going to landfill, and the transportation used to bring us this food to the supermarket.  And we don't even walk to get it, most of us drive!

I'd thought I'd share the link and invite comments, and put a few tips up for reducing food waste, helping the environment and saving hard earned $$
  • buy only what you need
  • plan what you need (ie use a list..i'm guilty of not doing that..)
  • freeze leftovers
  • purchase local produce (by doing that you will get fresher longer lasting fruit and vegies. I've had silverbeet-Australian spinach bought fresh from the markets that lasted a week in the crisper)
  • keep fruit and veg in the fridge.  I know the fruit looks good in the fruit bowl, but just keep a few there for snacks, and keep the rest in the fridge
  • avoid impulse takeaway purchases, especially when u have leftovers in the fridge. or take the leftovers to work, in fact many leftovers taste better the next day, think of the leftover curry
  • keep bread in the freezer; it stays fresher and doesn't go mouldy. if u keep it in the fridge, it just doesn't last. u can always microwave it for 10 secs to defrost.
  • only make what you need. if you make more, chances are it will get thrown out.  If you do, just freeze it.
  • avoid making too much boiled rice or mashed potato, they don't freeze very well and usually it gets hoiked.
  • party and celebrations are so much fun, but gee we waste a lot of food. avoid spending too much on the junk food, make or purchase better quality food like dips and they will be eaten, and your guests will be delighted. whats the point of those stale half opened packets of chips..
see more at http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.nsw.gov.au/

Monday, April 18, 2011

Andy’s Yummy Cream of Cauliflower Soup

 
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
½ cup of cream
1.5 litres of good chicken stock, warmed
1 potato, chopped into pieces

Cook cauliflower and potato in stock until soft, seasoning with just a little salt (be careful the stock may have salt in it) and plenty of ground white pepper
Blitz the softened vegies in the food processor until almost a puree but not quite (u don't want baby food)
Add the soup back into the pot with the cream and warm gently


To serve:

In a bowl ladle the soup and top with fresh chopped chives and chopped crispy fried bacon to garnish.  Drizzle with good quality olive oil

On the side:  toasted cheese sandwiches (grilled on a oiled griddle) for a lovely Autumnal lunch...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Andrew’s Yummy Beef Stew with Baked Cheesy Dumplings

Ok the dumplings are basically a savoury scone, but they are quite light and nice with a little butter and dipped in the gravy. They make a nice alternative to pastry
750g Oyster Blade steak, cut into 2cm cubes
1 medium carrot, cut into a small dice
1 medium onion, cut into a small dice
1 medium stick of celery
1/2L or so of beef stock
1-2tbsp seasoned flour
Olive oil
Method
In a good heavy fry pan, cook veg in oil for 5 minutes until soft
Take out of pan
Chuck steak into a plastic bag, with the flour
Add a little more olive oil, brown meat in batches
Add veg
Add stock
Cover tightly and simmer gently for 1.5 hours stirring occasionally.
You might need to add a little more stock or water if the meat sticks
Baked Dumplings
2 cups Self Raising Flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
½ cup butter
Small pinch salt
¼ cup milk
Pinch pepper
Pinch mixed herbs
½ cup grated tasty cheese
Rub butter into flour, until it resembles breadcrumbs
Add other ingredients
Mix together
Turn out onto floured bench and cut into 4 cm rounds, about 2cm high
Bake for 15minutes at 225Deg C
Serve with the stew, and a knob of butter in the middle, a glass or 2 of red

More Italian Simplicity

Spotted this recipe in the paper* the other day, it's by Karen Martini, head chef at various Sydney and Melbourne eateries and TV presenter on Better Homes and Gardens here in Australia.

I've adapted it to suit what is available out here in country New South Wales.  Like most of her recipes, it is pretty easy: the method involves making a delicious chicken broth, then adding chicken balls and noodles with garden peas and italian parsley for freshness.  I would serve this with a crisp white wine, somefing like an early drinking Hunter Semillon, or if you are in the Northern Hemisphere, a crisp dry white wine from your local area..

Mushroom, Chicken Ball, Pea and Noodle Soup

The stock

using a leftover roast chicken carcass and bones, simmer in about 2 litres of fresh water with an onion, carrot, celery, coupla parsley stalks, 2 bay leaves, a couple of peppercorns and 1tsp sea salt.
u can halve the carrots and onion and chop the celery into large pieces.  U can use a packaged chicken stock instead, but this soup really needs a good freshly made stock.  It tastes so much better then cardboard and msg.  Simmer the stock for about 45minutes, thats all, turn off stick a lid on it and go out for a while. The house will be smelling devine when u return.

Drain the stock thru a seive, into a clean saucepan, and bring back to the boil, simmer and skim any skum off the top (this helps clear the stock, stockmakers usually do this sort of thing)

The chickenmeatballs
salt/pepper
olive oil
2 or 3 french shallots (√©schallots)  little brown onions
2 or 3 thyme sprigs, or 1tsp dried thyme
4 buttom mushrooms, or swiss brown mushrooms sliced and diced or
30g dried porcini mushrooms revitalised in a little boiling water  & dice them up
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
500g minced chicken or u can mince your own in the food processor, just don't overwork it or u will get rubber.
1 egg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Fry up the french shallots, thyme, garlic and mushies in the olive oil. Let it cool for 5 minutes
Combine all the ingredients and make into small meatballs about 3cm round. use water on your hands to shape and make round.

To make the finished dish:

Put a good handful of broken spaghetti into the simmering stock and cook for 6 minutes, stirring
Add the chicken balls and cook for 5 minutes
Add 2 eggs (adds richness, cheap protein,  and thickens it), juice of 1 lemon, check seasoning and add roughly torn parsley leaves,  and a good handful of frozen peas. Give it a stir and leave for 5 minutes to rest while u cut up some bread and chat with your friends.


* as seen in Sunday Life magazine

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Vintage Progress @ Cowra

So far we have had 39 degree heat, humidity, cool nights, warm days, heavy showery rain, wind, what strange weather!  The last week has yielded milder weather with heavy dew some mornings and sunny skies during the day which is helping finish the ripening process.

The vines appear to be mostly holding up; there is the inevitable powdery mildew in the vineyard.  Some blocks, particularly the Cabernet crop are affected by botrytis as well.

It's shaping up as a year for the patient and clever (?) winemaker, but am confident the end result will be quite good.  Already some of the whites are coming along in tank, sparkling bases are getting there and looking forward to shiraz and tempranillos which are both looking good on the vine still.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tyrrells Brokenback Shiraz 2009 Review

The Brokenback Range is the sandstone mountain range that runs along the southwestern fringe of the Hunter Valley, you can see it from Cessnock and Broke and pretty much all around the lower hunter.  Vineyards border the range, and according to Tyrrells, fruit is sourced from those vines for this little beauty.

Upon opening, it delivers a mild dose of pong which blows off quickly in the glass, followed by fruits of the forest (raspberries, boysenberries and blackberries) and upon airing, a touch of oak. On the palate it's medium bodied with good concentration of blackberry and dark plum fruit sitting aboard quiet vanillan oak, with the finish becoming distinctly sour cherry from good acidity.  Tannins are soft, rounded and unobtrusive.  Sulfur from bottling is evident, but no more then necessary.

This is an intriguing wine, at just 12.9% alcohol, it drinks well, with well judged acidity that sets it apart from many bigger Australian shiraz.   I see it as a worthy interpretation of Hunter red wine and as such have no hesitation in highly recommending it. There are no airs and graces, just good cheap drinking - and at just $13.99 from Irish Dan's, a 6 pack of these would not go astray in the cellar.

Food suggestion: Baked sweet spring lamb with rosemary and roasted garlic.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Wolf Blass Limited Release Yellow Label Cab/Shiraz, 2008

Spotted this wine at the local Woolies liquor store; it attracted me with the Wolf Blass platinum like label, you know the one, it has the three vine leaves emblazoned with medals.  Unfortunately at $10 this was Yellow in colour, not platinum.

A limited release, not much info on the bottle, but they say it is limited.

From the ripe 2008 vintage; I thought it worth trying:

Undeniably ripe, plush style, full of fruit sweetness, but there is a lingering acid finish that completes the palate, finishing just a fraction hard. The nose is dark fruits and a good whiff of oak; that oak is carried through as a vanilla, caramel sweetness, rather then detracting from the wine aids the wine.

Tannins that are there, are ripe, round and well hidden by the oak and the fruit. Time will tell the quality of this wine, but for $10, who can really complain?

I do wonder however, if there will come a time when sub $20 wine is about savouriness rather then sweetness.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Week of Simple Home Cooked Italian Food

Working in the wine industry during vintage can be a 24/7 affair: early morning starts, late night finishes with weekends thrown in for good measure.  Simple, fresh wholesome food with plenty of vegetables helps restore the energy levels, especially when it has been hot.  Food such as Mediterranean food, that is wholesome and restorative, food that is filling without overdoing it.  Avoid the buttery French and northern European food, base your diet instead on good olive oil, vegetables small amounts of meat and fish and you are there. No wonder Italians are so healthy, they work hard and eat extraordinarily well.

I stayed the first week with my boss, the Head Winemaker, Anthony in Canowindra New South Wales. If you throw a dart at the map of NSW, the bulls eye would be Canowindra.

Anthony is Italian descent, and has a passion for Southern Italian food, food from his parents' birthplace in the region around Naples.  You could call it peasant food, as it certainly is not sophisticated, but it sure is tasty, economical and healthy. His partner Katie, together with their twin baby girls Sofia and Lola, and Pishta the jack russell make excellent company.

All vegetables and herbs are straight from Anthony's 1/2 acre garden which also includes an orchard of citrus, apples, figs and stone fruits.  A couple of free range hens, a duck and 2 quails complete the lifestyle.

Monday night: Pre Dinner Drinks and Chicken Cacciatore

Tanquary Gin and Tonic over ice, cucumber assisting with the flavouring in this delighfully refreshing (sour) drink

The Chicken Cacciatore, or Hunter's chicken, is cooked for several hours in the oven until the meat falls apart.  The large ceramic baking dish is simmering gently; at the table it is oily (not greasy), dotted with green and black olives, and the sauce is all tomatoes and fresh herbs, served with a simple penne pasta. An introduction to Italian cooking simplicity.  Served al-fresco with oranges raining down from the over-loaded tree.

I feel like a well fed winemaker-hunter.
Tuesday night: Pork with Peas, Phillip Shaw no.11 Chardonnay

After a hard day in the heat, this dish of pork and peas was devoured with a good local chardonnay

Pasta with Peas and Pork ribs, again cooked for several hours on the stove top. Tomato based sauce with the garden peas adding freshness.  Pork ribs flavour the sauce and are served as a second course.  Fresh garden salad of rocket, raddichio, leaves with a red wine and olive oil dressing

The mid weight chardonnay goes down adequately, although a wine higher in apparent acid would probably work better though - like a lightly oaked chardonnay or semillon.

Wednesday night: Zucchini Slice, tomato and cucumber salad

Zucchini slice: garden fresh zucchini, 4 eggs, a cup of flour, grated cheese and baked in a moderate oven until browned. Served with tomato/cucumber salad. It's filling without fattening, the salad is light and refereshing counterpoint to the slightly denser baked dish.

No wine tonight, just water.
Thursday night, my turn in the Kitchen: Rissotto of leak and peas, served warm with sliced chicken breast

Leak rissotto with garden peas, olive oil and topped with pan fried chicken breast (caramelised in a hot fry pan with olive oil and sea salt, finished slowly in the oven) and fresh flat leaf parsley.  Accompanied with a salad of basil, rocket, raddichio, lettuce.  Anthony loved it and proceeded to add a fig and pecorino cheese. This salad became the second course, washed down with glasses of quality soft drink, thirst quenching from the heat.
Dessert was a couple of icecreams from the local service station!

Unfortunately no Friday night dinner as I headed home for the weekend, but leftovers were eaten for lunch!

Saturday night: Back at home in Griffith, Italian Style Sardines in oil with green beans. See recipe here'tis


Sunrise Friday morning at Canowindra looking towards Cowra

Happy eating!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Simple Pizza, Organic of course

I was browsing on the internet yesterday, looking at winery websites in California, and found a simple recipe for an Onion Tart, which is basically a French Pizza.

The recipe was a bit dodgy, but I managed to make 2 pizzas, one of them looked like this



The yeast starter culture, placed in a pyrex jug on the concrete balcony, only took 5 minutes to kick off..
Anyway, the basic recipe is very very easy, so easy that you will have it made in the same time it takes to order from your local takeaway fast food hut!

Yeast starter

1 packet dried yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon whole flour, unbleached
whisk together, and sit in a warm spot and let it foam for half an hour

Pizza/tart dough

2 cups of whole flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
little warm water, enough to make the dough come together and not stick to your fingers
extra olive oil, about 1 tbsp

mix together in a bowl until it comes together, pour extra olive oil in bowl and turn the dough in to cover with oil
place in a warm spot, covered with a clean tea towel
let rise until double the size (about 3/4 an hour)
punch down, and roll out thinly onto a baking tray

top with your pizza topping and bake for 10-15 minutes, top shelf of a regular oven with the oven cranked up full belt

enjoy with glass of wine and company

French Style Topping: Makes a sweet onion base topped with salty anchovy, delicious warm with light rosé wine

2 onions, sliced very finely
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
pinch salt
2 cloves of garlic, minced
5 or 6 anchovy fillets or salt-cured olives
1/4 cup parmesan finely grated parmesan cheese (or grated french cheese!)

Sweat the onions in olive oil over low heat for half an hour, should caramelise slowly with a bit of salt
throw in your thyme and garlic
scatter over pizza base, top with anchovies or olives, parmesan cheese
bake

Alternatives
Pumpkin, Goat Cheese, Thyme
Potato, Rosemary, Garlic slices
Olive, cheese, dried tomato
Hint cook your pumpkin or potato first

Friday, January 28, 2011

An Indian Summer

Summer is finally here in Griffith, and it's hit with a vengance.

Temps for the last 10 days go something like this:

Wednesday 19th 30.2 degrees
Thursday 20th   35.3
Friday 21st      38.4
Saturday 22nd   37.7
Sunday 23rd      37.4
Monday 24th     35.7
Tuesday 25th    37.4
Wednesday 26th Aussie Day 38.2
Thursday 27th   35.2*
Today a balmy  33.8
Tomorrow it goes back up to 36
Sunday 39
Monday 42 if we don't fry by then.


* The fridge carked it

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A short note about posting comments

Comments are always welcome on this blog.  I can't guarantee lengthy debate on matters of national importance, but will do my best to respond.

To add a comment, click on the box below, select one of the options if you have one of the accounts or click on anonymous.  Just use your first name if you like.

Cheers

Andy

Ningana Enterprise Farm

There are farms and then, there are farms.  A farm is essentially an agricultural business that trades in products generated from the land.  It operates just like any other business with cash flow, debt, income, customers and stock (live, usually).  However, a farm is more then just a regular town or city based business, it relies not only on borrowing from Mr Bank Manager but borrowing from mother nature as well.  A small but important difference to most other businesses -  imagine the book seller having to build a shop from books, the hairdresser putting hair on instead of taking it off, or the miner making mountains out of mole hills? The farmer is making living produce from life itself.

That is why I like organic farming, because organic farmers borrow less from nature, working in harmony with the soil, the climate, and the microflora.  What is used in producing the crop or fattening stock, is put back into the ground: scraps are recovered, recycled, decomposed and deposited.  Manure is not wasted, everything has a use. The ground is turned over with love and care.  Chickens and small fowl peck away at the ground, pigs play in the mud all adding to the biodiversity.  And of course, the produce is usually of a higher quality, more nutritious and better for you then conventionally grown food.

Ningana Enterprise Farm, in Tharbogang, just outside Griffith is one such farm.  It is 100% organic, using No Added Chemicals, and local expertise to grow a range of fresh fruit and vegetables, from strawberries and zucchinis, right through to apricots, cucumbers and melons.  All on just 41 acres, with 7 workers, 4 pigs and a hatful of hens.

Humans have been cultivating on a small scale for thousands of years - to feed one's families, and to sell locally via the local town market in Timbuktoo or the big smoke in downtown Baghdad.  But farming is not only a source of income, it is also a social enterprise.  A way to help feed ourselves and our families, and sell leftovers to others with the need for food.  Combine the two- farming and social help - and you have more then a business model.

Ningana Enterprise farm takes social enterprise a step further: it provides employment for people with disabilities in the form of good, honest hardwork.  For you see, people with disabilities are just as entitled to employment as able bodied people.  In fact, you could argue that people with disabilities have a far greater right to a fair go - the great maker has dished out a bad hand (a terrible pun!)  - put simply, they deserve it.   Ningana supports people with disabilities, provides employment and training and the opportunity to make a dollar or 2.  Places like this are far far more worthy to our society then the simple big fast buck schemes that dominate modern Australia.

It doesn't happen all by itself though.  Some assistance is required, good people are needed. Organisations and local people need to get behind the project.  Just ask the Manager Jim Warr - " its hard work, but worth it at the end of the day" he says.  You can see what he means - the smiles on the faces of visitors, especially children with disabilities say it all.
However, as the entreprise accountant John Ciccia intones, "the dollars have to stack up.  The farm has to break even".  It is no good having an enterprise that can't pay it's bills.  Ningana is only a fledgling farm, still hitting its straps, small in size, but big on heart.  I suspect great things are going to happen, if not already.

Ningana Entreprise Farm is part of Ningana Enterprise Inc, a not for profit organisation that assists people living with disabilities to live and work in the community.  Their story continues at

http://www.ningana.com.au/

Organic strawberry patch yielding the best strawberries outside Wimbledon


they can sniff a meal from 10 miles away
With thanks to Jim Warr for showing me the farm.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bob the Builder

Just quietly I'm going to play Bob the builder!  Have bought a small block of land in the rural town of Darlington Point, 30kms south of Griffith. It will become the permanent un-virtual home of Andy's Patch consisting of a dwelling+studio+cellar!

The Point as it is known is situated on the Murrumbidgee River, the river that in typical Australian fashion winds like a snake from the foothills of southern New South Wales to eventually join up with the Murray River, the magnificent river that eventually empties into the Southern Ocean in South Australia via Lake Alexandria and the Great Australian Bight. Lined with Red Gum trees, the Murrumbidgee river provides an Australian oasis from the often parched landscape. It is in Wiradjuri Country, the traditional owners existing here for (only) the past 40,000 years.


The Beach @ The Point


Reddus gummus



Sunday, January 16, 2011

Gourmet Tomato Chutney

If anyone out there has too many home-grown tomatoes and wants to use them up, give this a go.  It is what I call wake up food, food that wakes you up and smacks you in the face.

It's fresh and zingy on the palate, sweet-sour, spicy, and hot if you like to put extra chilli.

1 kg tomatoes (I used nice little green tomatoes, worked ok)
1 small fresh chilli (or tsp of dried chilli flake)
1 chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
5 cm piece of ginger, sliced
4 tablespoons of sultanas
350g sugar (you can vary this according to the sweetness required)
1 tbsp salt (use sea salt crystals if you have them)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp allspice
340ml apple cider vinegar (adjust down if tomatoes are green and acidic)

Method
1. Peel tomatoes by immersing in boiling water for a minute.
2. chop into quarters and put into a heavy pan
3. Add chilli, onion, garlic and ginger
4. Heat and stir until juices run
5. Add remainder of ingredients
6. Bring to the boil and stir occasionally while it thickens and reaches jam consistency

To bottle:
1. Clean and wash several glass jars with metal lids.
2.  Place the jars on a tray into a low 100deg C oven, and leave while you make the chutney.
3. Once the chutney is made, carefully spoon into the jars from the oven, and seal straightaway with the metal lids.  Don't leave any air gap, fill the jars as full as you can.
4. Be careful handling the hot jars, lids and hot mixture.  Use clean tea towels and definitely banish the kids from the kitchen!
5.  The lids will pop and create a good seal as the mixture cools.
6.  Allow to cool, and store in the cupboard away from the heat and light. Gets better after a month, best after 3 months.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Even Healthier Muffins

Despite the fact that I already have a healthy muffin recipe which works well (here'tis), I thought I'd ramp up the health factor several notches, by eliminating the butter and replacing it with cholesterol free, sterol rich grape seed oil.

My requirements were twofold:

1. avoid shopping (I'd run out of butter)
2. be on the plate in 25minutes.

I think I've succeeded on the first 2 fronts, and possibly on the 3rd, the blood pressure.

Other tips,

take a peek in the oven they are glistening as they bake, little brown goodies.

Have a pot of good market plum jam* at the ready.

Ingredients

1 cup plain white cake flour, unbleached
1 cup wholemeal flour, organic if u don't mind
1/2 cup dates, chopped into little pieces the size of your little pinkies' fingernail
3 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk
1/2 cup grape seed oil
1 egg
good pinch salt (remember the oil has no salt, so mix needs it. i reckon up to 1/2 tsp here)
1 tbsp castor sugar (organic raw is the go)
Bushells instant coffee, white w 2 sugars please

mix the dry ingredients
mix the wet ingreds for a minute
add wet to dry, mixing again (God I'm sounding like bloody whats her face, Nigella)
butter the muffin tin (ok i relented, but it was margarine!)
bung in the oven @ 200deg C for 20mins (keeping tips in mind)
start writing it up

taste test

I'm not lying these are absolutely beautiful, like little golden scones, light and fluffy on the inside, golden brown crust on the outside.

delish with the jam; now, where did the cream get to..
golden nuggets of goodness



*$2.50 at Griffith Markets, it's well set, actually tastes of plum. somebody there knows how to make jam.