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

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.



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

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)

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.


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.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Australia's Rice Bowl - Should we or shouldn't we?

Advance Australia Fair?

Did you know Australia has it's very own rice bowl?  Well, yes it does.  But it's not a big family sized bowl resting on a lazy susan, Chinese restaurant style. It's more a side offering of fluffy white grain that appears next to the chops.  The Riverina of New South Wales, is the rice bowl of Australia, centred around the towns of Griffith, Leeton, Deniquilin, Hay and Colleambally.

The question is on everybody's lips - should we be growing this crop in the driest continent on earth? Is it really as bad for the environment as the nay-sayers say?

As we know, Australian agriculture is limited in a way, very much climate dependent, or more particularly water dependent.  The more it rains, the more water that can be used for growing crops such as cotton and rice via irrigation schemes. The less it rains, the less Australian rice can be served up on the dinner table. Its a fairly simple equation, but an equation that is worth up to $800 Million a year to the Australian rice industry and to the Australian economy.  $500 million of that is earnt through export.

Australian Rice Paddy, its different to those in South East Asia

How is it all achieved?  The land is prepared, laser levelled and the soil checked for water resistance.  A heavy clay soil is preferred to reduce seepage into the water table.  You won't see that in Thailand. Then the ground is flooded by water from irrigation channels. The rice seeds are soaked in water, then allowed to germinate.  Once germinated, they are sown by a machine, or more commonly by aircraft these days.  It's quicker and more accurate thanks to the GPS.

Crop spraying aircraft, ready to fertilise the rice with eurea
But water is what really drives the economy in these parts.  Rice growers are down the food chain so to speak, being mainly general security water licences.  That means in drought years rice cannot be grown.  Stock holders, grape growers and town water suppliers are high security licencees, coming in front of the humble rice man. It's not easy been down the batting order, with glamour in front of you and hardwork ahead.  Just ask Michael Hussey.

Australia has developed new varieties of rice which are more suitable to our temperate climate. They also require less water then the tropical varieties which are grown in south-east asia.  Statistics I have looked at suggest that we are the most water efficient rice growers in the world.  And rice is just another crop that uses water, the same as wheat, wine grapes, cotton, oats, and the moo moo or baa baa.  And rice isn't as big a contributor as Daisy or Dolly to green house gases*, the main cause of global warming and our declining water (population expansion is another).  Maybe we should all be eating more cereals and less McDonalds?

After the rice is harvested, the ground moisture is used to sow other crops such as wheat. So the water that is used in rice production can produce other crops.  A double deal, more bang for your water buck, as it were.  Cattle and sheep cannot claim that one.

Rice is now part of our national diet with many people eating it at least once per week.  It's a cheap, relatively nutritious and readily available source of carbohydrate. It is favoured in many places around the world for just those simple reasons.

I think there is a case for growing rice in Australia.  Whether we should be growing it for export, and in what quantity is another thing.  If we don't grow rice here, should we import all of Australia's needs with a higher carbon tax on the carbon economy? What happens to the jobs in regions such as the Riverina?

One thing is for sure: we must consider the rivers, the Darlings, the Murrumbidgees and the Murrays that are the lifeline of our agricultural production.  They are what sustains everybody in the Murray Darling basin, the success of exports, and the availability of food in the cities. We must more water to be returned to the environment, to preserve the magnificent stocks of old growth redgums that line our rivers, our wonderful wetlands along the systems, and the fish stocks in the estuaries at the mouth of the Murray.  But we can and must allow crops such as rice to be grown. Complicated? There are no easy answers..

Redgums lining the banks of the Murrumbidgee River, Darlington Point NSW
 * cattle and sheep contribute up to 12% of Australia's green house gas emission in the form of methane (CSIRO), far more then the other agricultural crops.  Rice contributes the green house gas methane from bacteria that coexists with the crop and a smaller amount of nitrous oxide that comes from the use of nitrogen in the soil.  But it also uses carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Brain Food

They say that eating oily fish is good for all sorts of body parts, the liver, the heart, and the grey matter.

Being on a student budget, and having not eaten fish recently, I decided to try my hand at creating a fishy dish.  Really fresh oily fish is hard to get in the country, so tinned is a good way to go.  It's canned at the source, locking in freshness.

Now the tinned sardine is cheap, plentyful and healthy, in fact it is one of the highest Omega 3 oils of any sea creature, higher then tuna and salmon.  It goes well with tomato, olive oil, garlic and a few herbies.  A small amount of chilli powder adds to the flavour of the other ingredients without adding heat.

Here is my rendition of this Italian style dish:

3x 100g tins of good sardines in oil, or you can use herrings as well
1x 440g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup of water
1/2 tsp of dried herbs (I used oregano, u can use basil, or mixed italian herbs)
1 pip of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp chilli powder
pinch of salt/pepper

First make the sauce by simmering the tomatoes, the garlic, chilli powder and a good pinch of herbs for 1/2 an hour in a medium saucepan with lid on.  When it starts to thicken, add some oil 1-2 tbsps from one of the cans.  Season with a little salt and pepper.  The oil helps "carry the flavour"through the dish.
Simmer for a bit more, about 1/2 an hour with 1/2 cup of water and 1 tbsp tomato paste.  You can leave the saucepan lid off to help the sauce thicken.
Add the tinned fish, and let it rest with the lid on

Serve with pasta or rice and steamed greens.  I like a crisp dry white with this dish, a riesling or a semillon would be just fine.

Obviously, in Italy they would use fresh sardines, straight from the trawler. But some of the tins are ok, buy the best you can afford, and your noggin will thank you for it.

Buon Appetito !

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The King is Dead, long live the King!

Le Roi est mort. Vive le Roi!

The dagna is no longer. . long live his replacement - Elvis!

Elvis at the G, on his first day at the cricket

Football elvis!

mid 80's timewarp

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tahbilk Cellar Door

Tahbilk Winery has been around for donks, 150 of them in fact.  On my way back from Melbourne*, I happened to be driving past the turnoff on the Goulburn Valley Way.  Being a keen wine student, I am always interested in experiencing new wine adventures, so I turned up the nicely paved road.

 In this overhyped world, the entry to the chateau is refreshingly understated (a bit like their wine)

History abounds in this place, from the 100y.o. Victorian Heritage listed Mulberry trees, to the quaint workers cottages, not to mention the old cellar and winery buildings, this place oozes atmosphere.  A particularly musty atmosphere I admit, but a sense of history nonetheless.

Old Winery buildings, dating from 1862. The tower was a later (1883) addition.

As for the wines: I tried pretty much all the range except the Sav Blanc (I'm just not a fan, and don't go out of my way to try) and the sparkling (didn't get around to it).

In order of preference:

Rose 2010: lovely savoury red fruited style.  Not sure the varieties, but it works as a nice light wine.

Riesling 2010: Not bad, am sure there are plenty better, but liked it's limeiness

Semillon 2010: A good allrounder, is Australian sem; seems to work in many places. works here too.

Rousanne 2010: This reminds me of a riesling, liked this style

Marsanne 2010: Tahbilk are known for their Marsannes (some of which are from the oldest Marsanne vines on the planet).  It was an okay wine for me, but give me a good chardonnay anyday.  Tried the older 2003 version, the honeysuckle notes bordering on petrol to me!  I am sure I am going to get plenty of stick for that description, but that is what I saw.

Chardonnay 2010: Ripe peachey style with plenty of oak: for lovers of the riper traditional Aussie style.  I liked it, but it is lacking a little bit of mid palate, with the fruit first up, and oak finishing, but just lacking a little thru the middle order.  A roast chicken kinda wine.

2009 Reds: pretty much all were tannic wines, reflecting a hot vintage (and a winemaker's headache).  Too dry and tannic for me.  The best was the sangiovese, loved it.  One of the better sangio's I have tasted in a while, and well priced at $13 if you join the cellar club.  Will definitely go with parmasen cheese.  It's a red fruited, grippy little Itie number.

I'm sure in other years the Cabernets and Shirazes are pretty good, they were just too dry and tannic for me, I was reaching for the water after every mouthful..

Century old Fermentation vats, well used

Picnic area: a well grassed, sleepy area in front of the new winery building where you can lie down and watch Toorak tractors pull into the cafe, or rollover and take a nap.

Out the back of the old cellar building, is a nice little verandah, within bombing distance of the shady Goulburn River.   Perfect for a quiet retreat and a sip of wine.  If wishing to venture further, there is a punt to take you on short bushwalks around the wetlands, or you can just explore the cellars and old machine sheds.

In Summary, Tahbilk is certainly worth a trip, there being plenty to see and do for everybody. It's an historic wine estate, that takes you back to the early days of the Australian Wine Story, with twists and turns throughout - just like the river itself.  But it's not just that: it's also a destination to take the non wine loving missus and the billy lids for a picnic - the wife will enjoy it, and you can start the kids on a little wine odyssey while you are there...
* to pickup a new car.  See here

For further information, go to

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Monday, January 3, 2011

Kangaroo Tail Stew


1 1990 Mitsubishi Magna Station Wagon, approx 1.5 tonne
1 Eastern Grey Kangaroo, about 55kg
Blend at 80km/h


The spotlight still works! albeit it points up

kangaroo tail damage, it popped the interior light off it's mount

The fur was flying!