Friday, March 18, 2011

OK We are back from Malta - Now What?

 A few Pics from the journey

Breakfast in Germany on our way home, devine waffles.

Lunch in Singapore

Eggs Benedict Singapore style

We were very interested in the use of Carobs and carob processing in Malta, but we were unable to find carob used in menu's anywhere. The same with pommegranate, and prickly pears. We did however, find jams and liquers made of all of these fruits. Our favourites were the carob and almond liquers. We brought some home with us.

We came home at the end of summer expecting to find the landscape pretty dry, and our garden not too productive. Happily, we found green everywhere, the summer had been so wet, and mild, only one heat wave to speak of, and there was an abundance of fruit and vegetables. What a lovely home coming.

This was the bounty of one morning's picking. The village is providing figs, almonds, plums, peaches, and the largest harvest of beautiful apples I have ever seen in the village.
I decided to use for the first time a fantastic Fowler's Vacola kit that I bought from a friend, Chas Martin.

I was very excited to be able to use this fancy machine, and it came complete with original instructions.

It seemed to work beautifully, but time will tell, I hope the fruit and chutney is more successful than the dehydrated fruit and veg I tried last year. Unfortunately, many of the dried tomatoes went mouldy, wasting time, energy, and olive oil.

It gave me such a great feeling of  satisfaction when I pulled these jars out of the tub. I felt somehow more secure, I just found it all very exciting.

I picked 6 kilograms of tomatoes from the garden - some were under ripe and some were eaten on one side, so I decided to try making tomato sauce for the first time ever. (I have never grown so many tomatoes in my life). I finally get to try my Willunga Lion's Auction purchase - the capping machine. It worked beautifully.

Enough tomato sauce for our needs, and enought to give away as gifts to people giving my son lifts to work experience!

The biggest jar of anchovies I could find!

We have been having lots of fun since our return, shopping for foods that we have not bought for 12 months. I have noticed how expensive food is, processed food that is. My son is so excited to have nutella in the house! I am allowing a honeymoon period in the household, while we re-adjust to life with anchovies.
I would like to return to a diet of predominantly local foods, with a few condiments and treats allowed. The reality for me is that it takes a lot of time and energy to buy local, and prepare it, and cook it. I have spent vast amounts of time in the kitchen and garden this past year. I would like to spend more time doing other things, to have more balance in my life. So I say goodbye to the strict 100 mile diet, and hello to a more relaxed, hybrid diet of mostly local foods. It feels okay to have this compromise, ultimately, it needs to be flexible enough to marry into a modern lifestyle, and convenient enough to allow me to persue other interests. My son I think for one is so relieved to be able to eat "normal" food again, and I am enjoying being able to take snacks like organic chocolate with us when we have spontaneous invites to other people's homes (instead of the usual almonds and olives). I am also enjoying shopping at the local food co-op again!
I have learnt so much about food, and my local area, and picked up so many skills of preserving and preparing foods. It has been an interesting and valuable experience, and there are certainly many foods that were staples, that I will not buy any more, now that I am aware where they come from.
There are many new things I have not tried, that I will go on to do, such as learning to fish, and learning to kill and prepare fowl. I would love to try smoking and salting fish/meat as well.
So this year I am determined to continue learning, grow more food, catch more food, and spend less time on my computer!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Local Food in Malta

Before we Flew out to Malta, we visited my niece in Melbourne, and sourced some local fish and chips in Smith street - (possibly the best fish and chips I have ever eaten) served with house made tartare sauce so fresh I could taste the capers and dill. Polished off with some local beers made with Victorian grown hops. :) It was so nice to have a cold beer on a hot day. I have missed that.


On arrival in Malta, we had a few weeks left of the year to experience Malta's local cuisine.

Only joking! We could not buy this until after the new year! I have no idea where it was made, but certainly not in malta!

We quickly became aware of the local staples. Wine, cheese, olives, seafood, pork, oranges, dates, figs, honey, and fruit jams. Our flat has a great view over small fields, rather like allotments, and I love watching the farmers working them by hand.

the view from our balcony

local family planting potatoes


Walking around Gozo, the island where we are staying, I was struck by the amount of vegetable growing. The land is carved up into very small plots. The crops are mostly vegetables, similar to they ones we grow in Australia, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbages, broad beans, the common annuals.

Granny's carob syrup - very sweet, seems like mostly sugar.

Pommegranite jelly and Prickly pear jam, again both very sweet, not much flavour. I think they are mostly tourist fodder as I have yet to find any menu's in Malta including Pomegranate, Prickly pear, or carob

 There are orchards, mostly of citrus, and pomegranate, but also some stone fruits. Many olive trees, and vineyards, but all on a small scale.Carob trees, and almonds grow wild, as do prickly pear, and bamboo. The locals use the prickly pear as wind breaks, and shelter for their seedlings, as well as harvesting the fruit for jam and licquer.The bamboo is used for training climbing veg, and constructing shade structures, including shades on roof terraces and pergolas.

cactus is rampant

The Pomegranate licquer was a disappointment unfortunately.

 The soils appear thin like ours, and limestone rich. The boundaries of the fields are lined with limestone walls. The other thing we noticed were many small huts around th landscape, we thought that they may have been shepherd's huts, but they were built as hides for bird trappers. They are very numerous accross the island, not so numerous are the birds. But that may also have something to do with the profuse number of stray cats roaming around.

The most appealing thing about Gozo agriculture is the lack of mechanical input. The majority of fields are tilled by hand, some watered by hand held hose, weeded, and harvested by hand
The one exception being a small hand held cultivator that they walk behind, to till the soil, and prepare trenches for planting. the ingenious thing about this little machine, is that when they have finished on the field, they can replace the blades with wheels, which then allow it to be used to tow a trailer, giving the farmer a nifty ride home with his utensils. I love this idea for our ecovillage.

the machine up close

with trailer attached

the cultivator in action

Our meals here have been an adventure, I was expecting a spicy, middle eastern influence. But I would have to say that the food more resembles Greek cuisine to me. (I thought that Moroccan food would be spicy too - very disappointed)  English is the national language along with Maltese, which is just as well because there are a lot of consonants in their words, and there is a lot of toungue curling and sort of grunting. It sounds a bit like a mixture of French and Arabic. I cannot pronounce most of the town names. So just as well the menu's are all in english. Here is what we have been eating:

Fishing is a very important food source

Fish for lunch at Xlendi -and pics of the local trade for Andrea! Also at Xlendi,  local icecream! It has been a while!

                                         A Gozo traditional Christmas treat, made with dates, a bit like a sweet bagel.

Our first Gozo shopping trip, in the recreated village of Bethlehem!

Michael shops at the market

We also bought a traditionally made basket to carry our goodies home.

The boys come home from the local bakery with these Gozetan delights

The Gozo Salt pans - yay finally - local salt

                                                        Lunch at Otters in Marselforn

bread with ANCHOVY paste!

local rabbit

Local wine - we have found most of the reds here quite mild, almost like rose. This one was a little better.


rabbit stew - a local specialty

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Last Aussie Blog for 2010

Hi There,

This will be my last Blog entry in Australia for 2010.
We are off to Malta for 2 months from Tuesday - two days time. Michael has Long Service Leave, and we wanted to visit a place where we could do some research on Mediteranean foods that will grow well here. Michael has a company there, and a friend has offered us his holiday home, so we will be doing lots of Blog research. I am particularly interested in recipies for carob, pommegranite and quince, three plants that grow well here with very little attention, and I have scant knowledge about processing, preserving, and eating. In the mean time, here is a catch up photo diary of our eating habits of the past few weeks.

Broad Bean Harvest - I have found that they are delicious and sweet if eaten young and cooked briefly. I eat with butter, yum.

BD TTT Beef from Farmer's Market

New local Yoghurt available at Coles

Stir fry in the new Wok, home grown veg and venison strips

Michael found this local salt at Marion Bay general store on his last surf trip.

Local Bacon found by Michael in Foodland in Seaford

We have finally run out of dried yeast - amazingly the jar we had in the freezer lasted this whole time. We cannot find local yeast, so Michael has reprieve from baking bread. I have been experimenting with potato scones, and muffins, both without any raising agents. The muffins use lemon zest and yoghurt. The potato cakes, which are delicious, are lots of butter, mashed potato, flour, & salt.

           Potato scones are cooked on a hot skillet, with flour - not oil. Makes for an interesting challenge.

                               Lemon muffins, I made these for the WWS School music concert.

Food Forest

I have attended a couple of Sunday courses at the Food Forest in Gawler
 One on Organic Vegetable growing and Free Range Poultry, and one on Organic Fruit and Nut tree growing.They were both very worthwhile and enjoyable, stacked full of useful information and hands on learning. Anne Marie and Graham are such a wealth of knowledge, such down to earth people, so generous and passionate. It is so wonderful to experience their willingness to teach and share with others. While I was there I ate their delicious home grown goodies, dried figs, apples and pistachios, and fresh white mulberries, yum. I also purchased some of their new apple cider, apple cider vinegar, and their new movie! a very good insight into to their Food Forest lifestyle with a great interview with David Holmgren, the co-founder of Permaculture, and interviews with the Brookman offspring. Very inspiring , well made, and easy viewing, see

Local lunch at home

Home made mayonnaise - I always think it takes too long, but actually, it tok only minutes, I did not even use a recipie. local olive oil, our own eggs, salt, Farmer's Market garlic, lemon juice. Blend together, keep adding olive oil till it gets thick. EASY.

It has lasted in the fridge for at least two weeks. I add parsley and dill from the garden to make tartare sauce, and add lemon juice to make a salad dressing. yum.

It is always such a pleasure to be invited to Ruth and Tresh's house for dinner! They are so generous and the atmosphere is so relaxed, Ruth is lovely and Tresh is such an entertainer, here he is making bread in the pizza oven he made.

Hot bread from the wood oven! What a treat.

Ruth's desert, with local Willunga grown berries and home made berry sauce. So Delicious, Ruth's deserts are legendary.

Breakfast without toast

Latest farmer's market find - fruit leathers made in Aldinga Beach! and such a huge variety of flavours.

Steve Poole's plums - thanks Steve

Our latest purchase a WebberQ BBQ from Mitre 10 in McLarenVale. we decided to upgrade from our old clunker, and it was highly recommended by friends the Notts and the Goods. We like it too. It is supposed to be energy efficient and easy to use & clean. It certainly seems to cook well, and it's all good so far.

Lynda my good friend and neighbour, helping me enjoy the results of my first try cooking on the new Webber Q. We ate the best zucchini I have ever tasted from Lynda's garden, and chicken sausages from Willunga butcher. They are usually very fatty when fried. On the Webber grill they were sensational. 

Breakfast 2 without toast

Here is the Worm Farm Fridge. I saw a version of this at the Blackwood Primary school community garden. I was inspired because I don't have a space in the garden that does not have direct sun for the whole day, and my old worm farms were the standard can-o-worms black plastic variety and they seemed to get too hot in summer. In fact we lost them last year in the November heat wave. The Fridge is insulated against heat and cold, is white (doesn't attract heat like black) and is providing a lot larger surface area for the worms. I am hoping that this will keep them happy and healthy enough to multiply to a number that will deal with all of our household waste that cannot go to the chickens. Citrus, tea leaves, garlic, onion, floor sweepings, etc.

It feels good to be using a fridge that was unwanted, recycling it into a useful item. It is up on bricks to a bucket height to allow the worm juice to be drained off. It is also on a slight angle to allow the flow of juice. There was already a hole that was the perfect size for the plastic pipe - reused from the fridge. I had to fill a few holes with silicone, and siliconed around the hose. I used the wire mesh from the back of the fridge as a grate to keep the worms and debris off the gravel at the base.

The gravel is to allow the water to drain easily from the farm, and prevent the worms from drowning in the fluid at the base of the farm.


ontop of the mesh I laid shade cloth to improve drainage and stop debris falling through.

ontop of the shade cloth I laid the stuffing from our old club lounge suite which I had saved when we had it re furbished with new foam. The cotton wadding and coconut fibre/horse hair is perfect bedding material for the worms, and it did not go to landfill.

Watering in the bedding

with food added

Happy worms

 I added shade cloth to cover the farm and prevent flies and other flying bugs breeding in the wormfarm. I could have used flyscreen, I attached it with velcro to make accessibility easy.

Aarod cooks breakfast
How nice to have a 16 year old who likes to cook. We bought bread at the Farmer's market this week, a treat before we go.

The real reason we are going to Malta!
Michael brought this hope with him on his last trip. It is Anisette liqueur, an aniseed drink I expect like Ouzo. It is traditional in Malta to have a shot in coffee.