No more supermarket

As part of goal to become more resilient we’ve decided to avoid supermarkets as a source of food. We’ve gone cold turkey and are only using it for things like toilet paper now. Eventually we will fun alternatives to other supermarket items as well, but baby steps.


As part of the changes, we have to find alternatives to pre-made lunch box items for Pip. Today I’m planning on making some cookies. I like to do double or triple batches and freeze the extras, this means I cut down on baking and frees up time for other food prep, like cheese making (restarting this on Thursday) and extra food prep such as the soaking beans you see above.

This is the first time I’ve ever used beans that weren’t fresh or out of a can. I’m trying with the overnight soaking method, I’ve got the beans soaking in three times as much water as beans. Another method I cam across suggests placing the beans in cold water, bringing them to the boil and then letting them soak for 1-2 hours. To cook them you then need to drain them and cook in fresh water for 1-1.5 hours. They can be kept for up to 4 days in the fridge or frozen at this point and then added dishes.

These beans are destined for a nice batch of chili tomorrow night. So I guess I will need to start dinner at around 4 to ensure its all cooked by 5.30. I’m hoping that 2 cups of beans plus 250g mince beef will make a lovely large pot and I can freeze at least half of it.

The main ingredients I’ve had trouble replacing from the supermarket just now include ice cream, butter, tasty cheese and oil (other then olive oil). I’ll be replacing the cheese with my own homemade cheeses and I’ve got a local source of raw milk. Hopefully this milk will result in enough excess cream as well for various sweet treats, maybe even ice cream every now and then. Instead of flat breads I’ve started using crepes, but I’m not sure I want to do these every week. I’ve started cooking bread again but I’d like to add crumpets, English muffins, and flat breads on regular rotation.

The real problem for us isn’t so much finding ideas for alternatives or making our own replacements, its me (Tracey) needing to do all the cooking and prep work while also trying to do some weaving, looking after Pip, cooking regular meals and getting enough rest so I don’t crash (becoming complete useless to do anything).

Soda bread and mushroom soup

We’ve been getting back into watching some old episodes of River Cottage this past couple of weeks, and as usual we’re inspired to take the kitchen by storm. Tonight I was inspired to make a quick and easy soda bread to go with my mushroom soup.

Mushroom Soup

  • homemade chicken stock (inspired by River Cottage)
  • dried wild mushroom mix from Neudorf Mushrooms (purchased and the Neudorf festival held on the weekend)
  • Slightly old “fresh” mushrooms”
  • Riverside cream skimmed from the top of raw milk (just down the road from our place)
  • fresh parsley from my garden (the parsley “bushes” are wild and lovely now)
  • chunk of butter from Wangapeka Downs (another local dairy)
  • black pepper and salt to taste (I LOVE loads of pepper in this dish)

Served with Soda Bread ala River Cottage I did not think this was going to work out in the end. I had no buttermilk and only a smidgen of yogurt left so I performed the old vinegar to milk trick (1 tsp vin to 1 cup milk) and added what I had of the yogurt then accidentally added it all to the bread flour and ending up with a slightly wetter bread mix. Added to this little stuff up I had the dedicated help of a 2.5 year old who wanted to poor in everything he could reach, stir and stir and stir and then throw in handfuls of flour. So between juggling him on a chair up to his elbows in flour, the visit from a friend and her daughter who had dropped Pip off and not quite getting my measurements, I ended up throwing a fairly wet pile of ahhh, slop, onto the baking tray (there was no way I could cut a cross in the top as the knife just stuck it was so moist) and closing the oven door and ignored it for 40 minutes while I whipped up the soup.

The result was an absolutely delicious and filling dinner of hot bread and hot soup – and I don’t even like mushrooms! 😉

Oh and I almost forgot to mention the cold glass of Elderflower cordial we made a few weekends ago (along with Elderflower Champagne that should b ready in a few weeks).


The Fiona’s and I have a pact, on Thursday’s we are going to make cheese or preserves or other homesteady type activity as needs doing. This week we made 3 Gouda’s. One with cummin and two plain, there be plans to make more flavoured ones. This cheese takes 2-3 months to mature so we plan to make another batch of them in a few weeks time so that we have a constant supply. We have two cheese presses between us now so there are also plans to make other hard cheeses, parmesan, cheddar etc.

Gouda is actually a pretty easy cheese to make, it took us 4 hours or so (most of that time is spent waiting around for the next stage). The cheese remained in the press overnight, then went into brine yesterday for about 24 hours. Tonight I’ll take it out of the brine, dry it off and set it out to start forming a crust. This takes a couple of days, then you start basting it with olive oil over a few more days before it finally just gets put away to mature.

Must rush, I have a massage appointment to keep 😉

Cheese Grommit

Paneer curdsThere’s been so much going on here of late that I’ve had little time for updates and record keeping. Between the usual ups and downs of raising a child (teething, sleeping, eating and so forth) and the general round of seasonal illnesses, we have managed to still do a lot in the kitchen.

We’ve recenlty  started to get a regular weekly delivery of raw milk (unpasturised, full cream, fresh from the cow). It’s gorgeous stuff and causes a great deal of excitment around these parts. We are now in full swing making yogurt (I had to buy a second yogurt thermus to keep up with demand), skimming the cream (there just isn’t anything as good as fresh cream with jam on scones – even scones that resemble rocks) and then there is the cheese. We’ve been making some very quick and easy cheeses. Labna a middle eastern yogurt cheese and the the easiest one I’ve come across, and Paneer, an indian cheese. Both cheeses are made with out cultures or rennet.

First thing I do when the milk arrives is to put on the kettle to boil, then I scoop about 2 tablespoons (tbs) of yogurt from the current tub in the fridge (the first batch of our homemade yogurt was produced from a starter from a delicious organic, tub set cream we purchased at the supermarket). I mix this starter with the milk, pop the lid on, file the thermus with boiling water and pop in the container, put on the lid and leave over night. The next day we have fresh yogurt for breakfast on soaked mueslie with preserved fruit or it get’s turned into labna.

To make the labna, you poor the yogurt into a bowl, grind in some salt (to taste and helps to preserve the cheese a little – like butter), stir together until well combined and smooth. Line a sieve with cheese cloth (or fine mesh fabric), place over an empty bowl, poor in yogurt slowly, place in the fridge and let it slowly drain overnight. In the morning you have a delicious “cream cheese” that tastes wonderful on fruit toast (I need to “refil” the same piece of toast for William about 4 times before he finally eats the bread and not just the cheese). They whey (liquid that’s left over in the bowl) is given to my friends chickens. The cheese itself just peels off the cloth. 1ltr of yogurt does about 300gms of cheese.

Easy cheese number 2, or paneer, is simply made by heating the milk to around 80 °C. Remove from the heat and stire in 1 tbs for every ltr acid – lemon/lime juice or vinegar. Do this slowly, about 1 tsp at a time and stir the cheese. You will see it seperating as you go. Once you’ve put in all the acid leave the pot to cool down. While it cools line a sieve with cheese cloth and place it over a bowl. Once the liquid is cool, poor it into the cheese cloth. You will be left with only the curds (solids), gather up the sides of the cheese cloth and squeeze out more liquid. You can now either leave it to hang and drip, or place it in a mold (or if you don’t have anything, leave it in the cheese cloth tied up) and place a weight on top to force out the rest of the liquid. The more liquid you remove, the firmer the cheese. You can either have a sort of cream cheese or a firm cheese that can be used in place of meet or tofu in curries.

Out of the kitchen, we’ve managed to plant 100 tagasaste (Tree Lucern’s) on our block of land at AtamaiTrees

William even came along to help, mostly be behaving himself and having fun playing in his play-pen with the bamboo poles, tree guards and even on occassion his actual toys.

We also got a helping hand from Craig’s sister Fiona and her partner Nick who came to visit over Easter.

So things have been busy and fun

And summer turns to autumn

We’ve moved into our new, temporary, home across the road from our block of land at Atamai Eco-Village. The temperature in the mornings is turning chillier and chillier and evening meals are longer comfortable and refreshing out doors. Summer is fading fast, the trees are changing their colours and a new bread of cooking is taking place.

Last week we had tomatoes bubbling on the stove, roasting in the oven and cored and popped whole in the freezer. This week it will be peaches as bags arrive from my friends gardens. So far on the peach use wish list is peach pie filling (to freeze), peach cobbler (to eat warm with vanilla bean ice-cream) and preserved peaches in syrup (for breakfasts and quick desserts). Winter is starting to sound pretty tasty.

We need to start thinking about what to plant on our block while we await the rains. There will be trees, mostly Tree Lupins for now and also green manure crops, most likely in the form of broad beans and lupins. We aren’t sure if we will have the time to get an other vegetables planted, but we will see. Things that could still be planted include, lettuces and other leafy greens (spinach, silverbeat, chard, kale), broccoli, beetroot, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, Pak Choi, Swedes, Turnips and Spring Onions. Hmmm, that list is making me realise even more how important that vegetable patch is at this time of year.

Muscles & clam pasta feast

Wow, from nothing much happening we’ve suddenly been going hammer and tongs in homesteading type activities. In a delightful twist to our Sunday afternoon scheduling, we ended up at the beach down the road with friends harvesting muscles, clams and even a few pippis. Hugh (of River Cottage fame) would have been proud. We managed to get a substantial enough hoard of sea goodies to make an amazing pasta dinner.

There really is nothing finer then eating a feast of food harvested and cooked by your own hands. The only way to have improved this dish would have been to make the pasta ourselves (we ran short of time, but next time for sure).

First I washed the shell fish in the laundry sink, getting rid of excess sand. Then I steamed them open in batches (discarding any that didn’t open). I then scooped out the insides and pulled the beards off the muscles. A dash of riesling to complete the reduction, pasta into a pot of boiling water and voila! A meal to drool over.

So what have we been up to?

Blogging and cooking are both things I’m finding very little time or energy for at the moment, much to my distress. However, I have managed to turn my hand to making some Lemon Butter (Curd) with some success. I had to try setting it twice (as in I thought I had cooked it enough, bottled it only to have to cook it a second time because it was too runny). It still wasn’t quite set enough, but it made a lovely lemon curd tart which Craig and I happily devoured over a few days. I have another bag of locally grown lemons to have another go – I just have to find enough time (it takes longer then a single baby sleep cycle to make and at the present Will is still in need of help to resettle during the day ). I’ve made lemon butter successfully in the past so all I can think of is that I had a lot more time to stand slowly stirring a pot over low heat in the past. I do get inspired by lemon butter and want to make orange butter, lime butter, lemon and passionfruit butter and all sorts of other combinations, one day 😉

The other joy in the kitchen recently has been our “italian” inspired week of dinners. Last night I made what was going to be cannelloni into a lasagna instead. I made the pasta dough on Saturday and then put it through the pasta maker last night. We actually left it to hang while we pottered around doing other things and so the past dried and thus we were unable to roll it into cannelloni. In the future we will make the filling for the cannelloni FIRST then roll out our pasta. I have to say that this has been one of the tastiest kitchen mistakes I’ve ever made. I layered the pasta with a home made sauce of tomatoes, bacon (cured by a local, SO GOOD), onion and garlic, then the main filling was 1 egg, 60g of parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, 140g local ricotta, parsley and 1 head of silverbeat (cooked). All these ingredients were mixed up then dolloped onto the pasta. Everything bunged in the oven for a little while and served with a fresh salad. We finished off the last of it for lunch today.

Craig is also getting back into the kitchen, trying his hand and baking bread of a morning. We pulled out the grain mill and milled our own flour yesterday, using two different sifters to get a nice light flour. There are now two lovely loaves rising on the dinning table.

I’m reading back over this email and realising that there is so much missing, so lets see if I can add anything. The flour mill is an attachment for our Kenwood Major (make sure if you buy one that you demand your stainless steel attachments and not the coated rubbish they give you, the sticker on the machine say’s “stainless steel”). So anyway, Craig has been using the mill to grind coffee recently but we have finally put it to use for it’s intended purpose (although we had to ditch the first batch of wheat we’d been holding onto for ages because it had a bad case of itty black weevils). We are using the slowest setting to grind so that we can avoid “burning” the flour. The difference in taste of freshly ground flour compared to pre-purchased is huge so the time it takes to mill is worth it. We are currently letting the milled flour fall into a large bowl sifter over another bowl so that we can separate the flour from the bran. The bowl sifter has fairly large holes (for a mesh sifter), we are then discarding the larger grain husks and sifting the flour once more with a finer mesh to get our flour. This second lot of sifting actually results in flour and fine bran, which we intend to try cooking with. The larger waist is probably going to end up on the garden. It took most of the morning to grind and sift 700g’s of flour so we are thinking about ways to make this process faster. The sifting is what really takes the most time as the mill can be left to it’s own devices while we go aff and do other things. At the moment we are thinking of making a tiered box system with different grades of mesh so that we can just shake the box and have everything work it’s way down to be collected in three separate boxes.

Back to life on the homestead

Firstly I’d like to share what Craig and I had for breakfast this morning:

 Everything is from our property. Lemon Grass tea, balckberries, peaches and plums. Yum, yum, yum!

We dug out our first small potato bed and collected 10kg of potatoes.

On top of that (no photo sorry) we also gathered recently 300g of cherry tomatoes and 1.5kg of mixed money marker & heritage  tomatoes.

I made my first attempt at making cheese. Goat milk feta. The milk comes from our newest contacts who live up the road a ways and own the sweetest Saanen goats.

Craig has decided that all young ducklings are to be called “Beaker”. I would like to report that mum and her (10) ducklings are doing well out in the wilds once more and the Beakers are growing nice and big.

Fruit is really starting to come in now, a few more weeks and we should have a wonderful overabundance of blackberries, plums and kiwi fruit.

Further garden bed preparation is cruising along with two crops of seed potatoes now in, along with more tomatoes (roma/egg) and pink hopi corn.

Since this photo was taken the keep-out-chickens fence is also up and managing to keep the chickens out but not the cats.

The amaranth seems to be thriving well and we should soon have some glorious sunflowers opening their giant yellow flowers.

Tomato Paste Recipe

We purchased 8kg of Roma (egg shaped) tomatoes and set to work turning them into tomato paste.

* First boil a large pot of water
* Cut a cross in the bottom of all the tomatoes
* Place the tomatoes into the pot of water a few at a time
* Once the skin starts to come away from the tomatoes pop them into a sink of cold water
* Peal the skin off the cold tomatoes
* Slice in half and scoop out seeds and cut out hard white core parts

Cooking bit
* Measure how many liters of tomatoes now have, had 1/2 teaspoon of salt for each liter (we ended up with a 6 liter boiler full)
* Boil for one hour
* Get a really tight blender or and wand and (don’t bother with a sieve) and get everything nice and fine
* Boil till reduced to a paste (sticks to the spoon in a clumpy sticky ball), takes 2-3 hours
* Stir occasionally to prevent sticking

Bottling bit (if not freezing)
* When the paste is looking like it’s almost thick enough boil up another pot of water
* Place your canning jars, seals & lids into the water to sterilise
* Remove them from the water once  paste is ready
* Poor paste into jars about 3cm from top and seal with some olive oil before putting on the lids.

Freezing bit (if not bottling) 
* Work out your serving sizes (a mix of 1 & 2 tablespoons is probably good)
* Place this amount into either freezer containers, zip lock bags or ice cube trays (empty trays into bags once frozen)
* Pop into freezer and forget until you need it 

* Wear an apron as the hot lava bubbles everywhere
* Put a lid on the bubbling lava
* Place a teatowel over your arm holding the stirring spoon to protect from the lava
* I keep repeating the word “lava” because boiling tomatoes is really that hot! 

Summary – We started with 8kg kilo’s of tomatoes, reduced that to about 8 cups of paste. I didn’t boil the paste quite as long as I should have though as I was worried about burning (I’d switched pots 3 times already). We have a horrible electric stove that you can’t make instant temp adjustments too and seems to have two settings, boiling and off.