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).

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.

The joys of homesteading

I don’t know if we have simply been inspired by the TV show River Cottage, or because it’s Christmas and Craig has some time away from his desk, the beautiful summer weather or all of the above, but we are really enjoying ourselves the last few days and been really really busy.

Christmas day started with us cooking breakfast for 55 people! All in the common house of Earthsong. It was wonderful and a great way to stop from feeling homesick. There were croissants with filings including homemade preserves, ham, cheese, tomato, avocado, pineapple, strawberries and cream and waffles. Orange juice, bubbly, tea or coffee to wash it all down with and wonderful company. It was an absolute delight, everyone seemed well feed and happy and the compliments and words of thanks were greatly received. We then followed it up with a very small pot-luck lunch, very laid back and quiet.

At the end of the day I was left with the remainders of a half-leg of ham, 10 “chips” of strawberries and a big bowl of sliced tomatoes. Craig and I did our best with the ham yesterday and this morning, and then this afternoon I turned the remainder into a big pot of yummy pea & ham soup served with a zucchini bread (or cake, it was pretty sweet, next time I serve it as bread I’ll put a lot less sugar in it, but with all that sugar it would be a delicious dessert with yogurt).

  After leaving the ham & split peas to soak for 4 hours I turned the bowl of sliced tomatoes into soup, I added vegetable stock, 2 baked potatoes, thyme and bay leaves, cooked it all up and then put it through the blender. It tastes amazing and I’m so looking forward to having it tomorrow with some more of the zucchini bread for lunch.

While I was busy in the kitchen, Craig was out side trying out our new auger (you stick one end in the ground and then turn the big handle to dig holes for posts). He managed to dig enough holes and embed posts into them ready to make our new garden fencing (to keep the poultry out).

I forgot to mention that prior to this activity we started our morning off by making breakfast, feeding the animals and watering the glass house, followed by a plum picking expedition. We have a wonderful mound of plums.

Tomorrow morning I have another busy cooking day scheduled with a long list of things to preserves and piles of yummy fresh food from the garden.

I’ll be turning the left over strawberries into more strawberry jam, the plums into jam, sauce and some sort of chutney, then there is the bean chutney and the zucchini pickles, not to mention the guests we have coming for dinner, the probable beheading of a chicken for the pot, oh and I would also like to do some sort of lactic fermentation of at least 1 cabbage. I think I’ll let Craig see to the feeding and watering of animals and plants tomorrow.

Now if that wasn’t enough activity for you, we also squeezed in a visit to a very cool kitchen shop called Milly’s Kitchen and spent a bucket load of money on new preserving jars (we already ran out of supplies with the last lot of preserving we did). This shop is full of wonderful kitchen goodies and I was in total heaven! I so need to find away to justify the sexy-as $300 copper jam pot… So shop visit, home, cooking, more holes & posts, dinner, a few minutes of archery practice (it’s been over a year since I’ve picked up my bow, and man do I suck, lol). Wondering around the gardens investigating the plants (yes the zucchini plants definitely have “rust” and some of the greenhouse tomatoes have blight), lots more plant maintenance was listed, noted and dealings with to come *sigh*. Now Craig is off in his workshed working on his workbench (I think?).

Sprocket has also been very active today too, it’s so bizarre to feel these little movements and huge reminder that I’m not alone in this body any more- how freaky does that sound!

In other news, in an attempt to protect our surprise second clutch of ducklings from the hungry Harrier Hawks, I built a dome for them.

 The dome consists of  12 meters of flexible pipe, 4 T connectors and some bird netting. Inside we’ve placed a shell pond for them to paddle away in with a little bridge to get in and out of the water. Mum and ducklings have been living in the dome for about a week now and seem pretty happy. The other poultry come and visit them throughout the day so we may actually get a good clutch surviving this time round.

It’s so nice to see so much happening around the home lately. Their are 2 types of onions hanging (brown and red), plus three bunches of bananas,  I’ve been feeling so great about cooking up a storm in the kitchen, to the point that I made a zucchini soufflé for the first time ever after just watching an episode of River Cottage a few days ago. It felt so decedent to sit down to a souffle for breakfast, made from the fruits of our own garden. I’m so hanging out for next weeks mail, I have starter cheese making kit arriving with all the necessary bits and pieces to make fetta and/or cottage cheese. 

I hope that the joys of our harvest continue to inspire and excite us in the future and never become hum-drum or “work”.

Sausage Rolls

I made sausage rolls for dinner last night and they were sooo good. Ingredients list:

  • 20g breadcrumbs (I used gluten free)
  • 50ml milk (rice, dairy or soy)
  • 50ml red wine

    Mix these ingredients together and leave to soak while you do the rest

  • 450g mince (I used pork, but you could use beef, veal or a combo)
  • 400g can tomatoes (diced)
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • a handful of parsley, chopped
  • a few sprigs of marjoram, oregano and thyme fresh from the garden

    Mix together with the bread mix

  • Savory pastry sheets (puff, potato based gluten free etc)

I used 20cm x 20cm squares of pastry for each sausage roll. They were big as each one served one person for dinner. The mix will easily make 4 large rolls or a bunch of smaller ones. They freeze well too.

When the zucchinis are in season I’d also grate these into the mix (and any other vegetables that take my fancy). 

We served this up with a salad fresh from the garden which also included some of the Borlotti beans. Like the bean seeds the Borlotti beans have that purple stripping on them, however, when they are cooked they go a rich green all over and taste great. Originally we had planted them just to harvest the seed but picked young they taste great whole.

Sorry no pictures, nothing survived long enough *grin*

What’s cooking

We recently purchased a new freezer, our new freezer is big enough to hold a couple of bodies and it’s fantastic! It’s also meant that we could actually start making a lot of homemade freezer foods, extra meals and treats and have room to spare to store them. In that light Buffie (and me when I’ve had the energy) have been cooking a few things just to stock the freezer. I made Pumpkin soup on the weekend ready to be served up with some homemade yogurt for lunch (yum!).

Buffie’s collection, however, includes samosa’s


apple & blueberry parcels

 jam tarts.

Buffie has a wheat allergy so we haven’t been able to make our own pastry for these shared items just yet, but we will be working on it. The pastry that we have found and adore is made with potato flour and it tastes great in both sweet and savory dishes.

 (Lemon meringue pie, my favorite and lasts nights pudding).

The eventual goal is to fill the freezer with home-kill meats as well as frozen vegetables, meals and snacks so that we can improve the quality of food we eat, limit the additives, cut down on costs and simply enjoy the experience of growing, preparing and eating our own products.

Books *sigh*

Terribly materialistic of me I know, but, one of the things I do love about Auckland city proper is that the cinema is attached to Borders bookshop, and Borders stays open until midnight, this gets expensive 🙂

Last night we went into the city to watch Elizabeth: The golden age (which is a very good movie by the way), we had a nice dinner at a tiny Italian restaurant, watched our movie then strolled happily around the shelves at Borders. I am now the very happy owner of two new seasonal cookbooks. The first is Seasonal Fare: for family and friends by Susan Johnston who is from Daylesford, Victoria, Australia (one of my all time favorite places to visit). The second is Kitchen Essentials: Seasonal Food by Susannah Blake. I’m very excited to have these added to my kitchen and bookshelf and am really looking forward to cooking with them as my companions. My brain is already ticking over what I can grow and add to these books that is perhaps uniquely New Zealand fare, such as our fish and scallops.

Seasonal Fare - Susan Johnston  Seasonal Food

English Muffins

I cooked my first batch (ever) of English Muffins today, well actually I started them yesterday but our yeast appears to be pretty slow acting so I let them do a second rise over night and finished then off this morning.

English muffin

Delicious spread with butter and home made jams.

I adapted the recipe from “The Bread Book” by Linda Collister and Anthiony Blake.

450g unbleached white flour
7g easy -blend dry yeast
10g salt
1/2tsp sugar
230ml lukewarm water
140ml lukewarm milk
cornflour for dusting
cast iron frypan
large mixing bowl
Place flour in an oven set at 150C while you measure out the rest of the ingredients to warm up the flour.

Mix the dry ingredients, create a well in the center and add the milk & water. In mixing bowl knead the dough for 10 minutes until it is no longer sticky but still has elasticity and is smooth. Leave to rise for 30 minutes covered with a damp tea towel in a warm spot (I left it to rise for about 4 hours).

Dip hands into lukewarm water then turn out dough onto lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Cover the dough again and let rise for another 30 minutes (or overnight as I did).

Divide into 8 pieces and layout onto lightly floured (cornflour) tray, ensure you give them a little spreading room, sprinkle with more flour and lay a second tray on top of them and then place a damp tea towel on top and and leave to rise in a warm spot for 30 minutes (I ended up leaving them for a few more hours).

Finally, heat up a cast iron frying pan to a medium heat, place muffins in pan (you may need to do a few batches depending on how big your pan is, they don’t need too much room around each other). I flattened mine with a spatul, just a little on each side as they cooked. The will take around 10 minutes per side – don’t let them burn. They are cooked through when the sides spring back when touched.

English muffin

Winter harvest

Tonight we had our Winter Harvest Feast, gathering together all the Earthsong grown fruits and vegetables, the preserved, dried and frozen foods and combining them to make a grand meal. This was a lovely meal with a variety of things. I can’t wait to see what we can achieve when we have had a full cycle of growing seasons.

My favorite things were the sundried tomatoes and the preserved apples I think. I made a soup with carrot, celery some herbs and mushrooms, most people seemed to like it but I wasn’t too impressed myself I’m afraid.