Nearly There..

A new bread recipe and the last of the apples for stewing.

The curse of the winter solstice plague is back, and has slapped me about this week. I have completely lost my voice which is a disaster, as I always have so much to say! It is just as well that I have this outlet to unleash the voices inside my head..

I haven't been at work this week because plague, which has made it easier to potter about the kitchen and force my children to eat leftovers between taking to my bed with a hot water bottle. I am still continuing my challenge not to buy food for a fortnight, and to eat what we have. So far this fortnight I have bought milk, minced beef for the spaggy bol, and a hand of bananas. Rosy is by far the most calm and stable member of the family, but just try to tell her that there aren't any bananas for breakfast.. today I will buy one more meal's worth of meat. I'm thinking stewing beef to put in the slow cooker, and then I think that we will make it to Tuesday without any more purchases.

Despite not shopping, more food has turned up at our house, because I am a free-food magnet (lucky me). A neighbour brought me half a dozen eggs from his new Silver Laced Wyandottes, which are the most decorative chickens I have ever seen. He also brought me his old newspapers for the fire. I gave him some lemons. My mum brought me some beautiful rhubarb from her garden which I stewed up with the last of the apples from this box. Mum also brought me two bags of food from a friend of hers who is moving house. Mum has been helping her clean out her kitchen, so now I have extra rice noodles, self raising flour, herbal tea, organic rye flour, popcorn kernels, basmati rice and tomato sauce. Also, a huge bag of ground cassia. Until last month I did not know what cassia was, when I was at my favourite shop in the whole world, the bulk bin shop Wholesome House. I was asking David about the difference between cinnamon and Dutch cinnamon and he told me that Dutch cinnamon was from the cassia tree, and was cheaper. Posy and I sniffed both and we liked the Dutch cinnamon better, so we bought that. It is also called baker's cinnamon, and is on every cinnamon baked good that you buy - because it is cheaper. Anyway, I now have half a kilo of it, if anyone local would like some?? Mum also brought me extra milk that was left over from a function at her church. Happy days!

What I have run out of: plain flour, dried fruit, canned fruit, and as I said, I have bought one meal's worth of meat for each of my buy nothing weeks. That's it! We have hardly wanted for anything. I can't make any more muesli without dried fruit, and I love my muesli, but instead I am eating boiled Silver Laced Wyandotte eggs, or stewed apple and rhubarb with home made yoghurt for breakfast, so I am hardly to be pitied.. Posy loves her canned fruit for freezing and making sorbet in the blender (use canned fruit in natural juice. Freeze in plastic container. Tip into blender. Whiz up for delicious sugar-free sorbet). But this week she has had to eat real fruit instead. The horror.

We also generally buy a delicious loaf of sourdough at the farmers market each week, but this week, I made two loaves of French bread from this recipe instead. Folks, this is the best bread I have ever made, barring the sourdough I made twice in 2013 before killing the starter due to shameful neglect. Making bread is the perfect activity when you have the plague. It involves ten minute bursts of activity punctuated by long rests. I followed the recipe to the letter, a thing I rarely do, and it was perfect. A crunchy crust, a beautiful crumb - the loaves themselves were a bit lopsided, but the bread cut so well that it would make great sandwiches, so next time I will pop the dough in a loaf tin. Next time will be after Tuesday as I have no plain flour left. Until then, the only bread-like substitute will be scones as we have plenty of self-raising flour.

What I have learnt from this exercise is that I buy too much food. Even though I only shop once a month for dry goods and once a week for fruit and veg I have this siege mentality that we are all going to starve or something. I have cupboards full of dried beans. We are not going to starve. But instead of eating dried beans I panic if the fridge isn't full, and go out the next week and fill it up again. And that means I waste food, especially the food at the back of the fridge that I can't see. And we cherry pick our favourites and end up wasting what isn't our favourite, but is cheap and seasonal, like brussels sprouts and cabbage.

It is nearly two weeks now that I haven't shopped, and I still have eleven pieces of fruit left, not counting the extra bananas I bought, which would take it up to sixteen. And we eat a lot of fruit. I still have a kilo of carrots in the fridge, half a head of broccoli, half a bag each of spinach and lettuce, most of a cucumber and a capsicum. Oh, and a whole cabbage for making sauerkraut. In the freezer there is a bag each of frozen corn and peas, and a kilogram of blueberries that we picked in the summer. I think that in my enthusiasm for feeding my family fresh vegies I buy way too many, and then waste too many. Our small fridge is always stuffed full and things fall out of it all the time. It is infuriating!

For a more zen approach, here is an email conversation between me and my brother:

Me: What is in your fridge right now?

Brother: Out of date condiments and a punnet of cherry tomatoes.

Me: Really? What other food do you have?

Brother: A bag of brown rice.

Next day:

Me: Oh. What did you have for dinner?

Brother: Brown rice.

Me: Breakfast? 

Brother: Cherry tomatoes.

Next day:

Me: Do you have any more food yet? 

Brother: Yeah, eggs, and vegies to go with the brown rice.

And this, my friends, is how you avoid middle age spread..

(I would like to point out that whenever I see my brother he eats like a horse. He parties cheerfully then goes back to his vegies and rice.)

So, here is the thing. I live two blocks away from a green grocer. I do not need to stock up every week like the apocalypse is coming. Because frankly, an extra head of broccoli is not going to help in that situation.

Meanwhile, it is nearly July, and the girls are up for Plastic Free July. We are going to do it! So July will be all about reducing down our garbage to nearly nothing. Goody. Can't wait.. also, July starts before Tuesday, so I can't cheat and run out and buy lots of plastic-wrapped food.. curses. I will have to perfect the home-made cracker in the month to come..

Who would like to be plastic-free with us in July?


Evi said…
Siege mentality? Yes, I share that with you! My dilemma is just that....combined with the fact that for years I had to feed a family of 9 big eaters! Theres only 4 of us at home now but my fear of not having enough food hasn't lessened and I still buy enough to feed a small army, just in case!!! My last 2 kids are constantly telling me its time to buy quality (i.e., 'special yummy's' haha) over quantity!
Jo said…
Evi, yes, I think we have the same problem. In the back of my mind I am still cooking for six, even though there are now only three of us. Actually four, as yesterday The Girl came home for uni holidays :)
Treaders said…
Yep, I've got the siege mentality too. I think it comes from my parents who didn't have much money and lived through WWII. 7 kids, gran lived with us, a couple of uncles for a while then my brother's pregnant girlfriend. I watched them stretch every pound until it screamed and I learned from it. I don't regret it but that's where I got my siege mentality from. The daft thing is I work in Switzerland, the Swiss franc is mighty!!! my kids have left home and the husband buggered off so there is only me and I still have that siege mentality. I am trying to tone it down a bit and only brought fruit and veg for the past 2 weeks but really .... you should see my cupboards. I guess there is also the "oh I would like to cook XXXXX" so I have to have all the ingredients just in case and over here you don't have 24 hour shopping (or even Sunday shopping). Man I will be rich if I ever crack this. Anna
Jo said…
Anna, what a wonderful family background for learning the secrets of frugality! You have done so well only buying fruit and veg for a fortnight.. I wonder how long you could keep that up by eating out of the pantry? It's worth doing, even if only to eat up all the oldest things so you can buy fresh. I have been ruthlessly hauling out all of the 'last bits' of things from the backs of cupboards - the last inch of honey in the bottom of three separate jars for instance. It feels so good to have a clear out, plus, room for more food in case nineteen of my closest relatives come to live with me!
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Excellent! Really good stuff. What you have learned and that a lot of people don't seem to get is that waste is actually wasted income. And if you're like me and enjoy a bit of disintermediation, then...

I'm having a lot of trouble with yoghurt of late. Can you please let me know what culture you use to kick start your homemade yoghurt? A recommendation would really help me.

Oh! I may not have mentioned this about your wood fire. I'm originally a city boy and nobody got around to explaining these complex wood fire things. They're best run hot (but not too hot the unit should not be glowing red) rather than dampening them off (by throttling the oxygen supply). This produces less smoke and soot is really just cold smoke which cools and forms layers in your flue (excuse my plague pun, but that is the fancy name for the metal chimney pipes) which has to be cleaned out or may catch fire (you don't want that). Hot smoke passes out of your chimney. Any layer of that gunk greater than about 8mm inside the flue and you may want to get a chimney sweep in who can clean them easily, cleanly and cheaply. Plus the wood fire will run better after that and they can tell you whether any of the metal bits are corroded.

You see the soot (the fancy name is creosote) is quite corrosive to metal, so the whole system will last longer if you have less soot in it. Just a bit of useful and unasked for advice from someone who has completely wrecked the former wood heater here and learned some valuable lessons in that process.



Jo said…
Chris, thanks for your woodheater advice! Here in the city we are not allowed to have smoke visible for more than 6 feet above the chimney for more than 15 mins at a time, or the neighbours can dob us in. This meant that last year in our first winter of running the wood heater I kept running outside to check on the chimney to work out optimum burning conditions! Thankfully our wood heater is some kind of snazzy European model that somehow reburns the smoke?? Anyhow, once the fire is going good and hot I can damp it down a reasonable amount without visible smoke, so this is good. And yes, I do get my chimney swept. I was very surprised to discover that chimney sweeps still exist! Very Dickensian, luckily they are not 6yo boys anymore..

Yoghurt - as a starter I use a local brand of plain Greek yoghurt (or natural yoghurt). The important thing is to choose one whose ingredients read just milk and whatever the culture is called - lactobacillus or whatever. You don't want one that has gelatine, sugar, preservatives, or any other ingredients. You can use the last third to a half cup of your home made yoghurt to start your next batch.

What kind of problems are you having with your yoghurt? I have discovered that a much longer set is beneficial - I often leave mine 24 hours.
simplelife said…
Oh thanks for the yoghurt advice. I haven't even tried to make any for ages i just couldn't seem to get it to set properly anymore. I will try again and leave it longer as I really don't like all the plastic containers that I throw out.
cheers Kate
Jo said…
Kate, I will do a post soon on how I make yoghurt. I think I am getting it! The other trick is to strain it through muslin for a few hours to make it thicker like a Greek yoghurt. Good luck!

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