Sunday, February 28, 2010

Back Soon

Sorry that I took an unanounced week off writing the blog. I blame workload, socialising and end of summer severe and self-inflicted sunburn, but I'll be back writing tomorrow, with a harvest post! New stuff was planted on the balcony yesterday and the flowers are in full bloom so posts about them will follow!

For now, here is a puzzle I did while in Adelaide, Venice, 1000 pieces, loved it!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pretty Arrangements

Roses in Mum's garden are so lovely. They are just as pretty when picked! Here are a couple of arrangements that have been on display since I have been on holidays in Adelaide.

Tonight is my last night here. I plan to spend it with my folks, two good old family friends, a BBQ, playtime with the doggies and a good glass of wine.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Umbrellas and Tranquility

Two things I love about Mum's garden. One is this lovely spot. I find it really tranquil and the levels are so pretty. I took this photo on the one rainy day here, which added to the loveliness in my mind.

Secondly, I love her creative use of 'shade'. Adelaide is hot, hot, hot. You need to give some more tender plants a bit of help during the midday sun. And this is what this hilarious contraption is for!

Not many days left in Adelaide before I have to return to Melbourne. Going to make the most of it (and the heatwave on the way)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

On herbs and the Central Markets

Ah holidays. Today sees me lazing inside, slow cooking up a spaghetti bolognaise sauce for my parents whilte trying to get some RA work done. The sauce takes from 4 to 6 hours but is so rich and tomatoey it is worth the wait. Mum and I popped to the central markets in Adelaide (rival the Vic markets for sure, and in a moment of weakness I even declared them better than the vic markets!!!) this morning and bought some yummy tomatoes (the mortgage lifters Mum grows are way too good for this sauce.) We also bought some premium mince. I also wandered by the mushroom shop looking wistfully at the black french winter truffles on sale (reasonably priced too I might add, though Mum disagreed.) Usually I put mushrooms in my spag bol, but mon pere isn't too fond of the old fungus so I left it out.

However, what does go into the mix is a tonne of herbs from mum's garden. I pulled two fistfulls of basil leaves off the bush and you can barely tell. It is just so huge. I also picked some rosemary from this amazing bush, and some thyme from the one behind it (hidden in this photo.)

While lemongrass isn't the thing for bolognaise, I just had to show you a picture of it - simply huge.

Mum also grows a huge sage bush. Back at our old home she couldn't get it to grow, and nor can I on the balcony garden, but here it grows life a triffid!

Same with the chives, there are loads of them!

Also, whenever you wander around this garden a shadow seems to follow. I managed to capture the shadow the other day.

After a quick pat I sent him on his way. Seriously, any time I enter the garden he follows! He just loves it, and it is almost like it is his garden, not Mum's, though he is yet to be spotted actually helping with the gardening. Other favourite hobbies of his include sleeping on the couch cuddled up close (and snoring) and barking at the ants that congregate on his bones (chewy treat bones, not the ones in his body) in an attempt to get rid of them!!!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers Blooms Day

Harvest Monday and Garden Bloggers Blooms Day all on one day, and all while on holiday in Adelaide. What to do? Write two posts!!! Here are some photos of the beauties in Mum's garden today. I wont label them, mostly because, other than the roses and salvia I haven't a clue what the others are!

Ok so the following isn't technically a real bloom. But they are my new shoes and they have such a pretty floral pattern!!! Lovely to look at but turns out they give a nasty blister or three. I've been hobbling for two days now. The question is do I value vanity, or sanity more?

Harvest Monday in Adelaide

Here is a little harvest post while I am on holiday in Adelaide. If you want larger harvest posts go visit daphne's dandelions! In case you missed it the first 500 times I said it, my Mum grows mortgage lifter tomatoes. They are my favourite, absolute favourite. Even though she and I disagree on when they should be picked we both enjoyed their amazing taste.

Served with feta, basil and olives - divine! Not sure what is being harvested on the balcony garden at the moment - I suspect some eggplant and green beans would be in the mix!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Much Lauded Magill Estate Dinner : The highs and the lows and the cold pasta

If you are one of my long suffering friends or work around the History department at Melbourne Uni you might have heard me rabbit on and on about Magill Estate, how my parents were taking me there when I went back to Adelaide, in a celebration of getting through my two year review (a-hem.) Despite the debacle that was my non-existant meeting, the dinner still went ahead. Magill Estate is not a place to take the family every week. It is pricey (even by Melbourne standards it is pricey and this is an Adelaide restuarant) and the food tips towards the experiemental. From what I can tell Melbourne went through a phase of Molecular Gastronomy, filled with foams and gels and soils until everyone had a bit of a backlash. Then came the terroir movement and pressing of the issue of provenance, knowing where your food came from and making damn sure it was a local as possible. Adelaide, as is sometimes claimed, is a little behind Melbourne. Stepsys's menu is not without its nods to local produce but it does have the foams and gels scattered here and there, albeit in a well thought out and metered manner. There were some dizzying highs with this meal, and some valley-style lows that are still getting discussed around our dinner table and told to any of my parents' friends that will listen.

The view was, well, what can you expect from a foothills winery location - spectacular! The service too was impeccable. Our main waitress Kirsty was attentive and sparkly. I hope she goes well in her masters. As this is a wine focussed restaurant, Penfolds wines to be exact, the sommelier (and sommeliers in training) were of course knowledgable and attentive. Although Mum was miffed when the waiter poured more wine into Dad's glass at the end of the night than hers (noticeably so) and he was, in fact, the designated driver. Even though Dad swapped glasses when Mum wasn't looking, none of us were too impressed at this slight look back at old world partiarchy. But maybe that is what goes with a swanky Adelaide restaurant, who knows?!? I indulged in a sparkling white from Tasmania, Yummy! And the folks drank both Riesling and a bottle of red (I wish I could remember more details). Apart from the gender imbalance in wine pouring this aspect of the meal was well above par.

We started with an amuse bouche - indescribably delicious. Tomatoey (so of course I was over the moon) smokey, and foamily light. But it was the entrees that blew us all away. You can find the menu here, but suffice to say the Venison was the highlight of the evening. I could have eaten several plates of it happily - and this is coming from a girl who says death to all capsicum (peppers for the American readers.) Dad had the duck with red curry icecream and it was, again, amazing. Mum had the bresaola and marron with black garlic which she loved. So entrees are something Magill Estate excels at. Perfect portions, and sublime, complex, flavour combinations. It set me in a great mood and I was in mad anticipation for the mains.

The anticipation, I am afraid, may have ruined it, or maybe it was the meal itself. In any case the mains were not such a dizzying high and in my case were a very low point of the evening. I opted for the vegetarian dish which was listed as such: Jerusalem Artichoke, low temperature egg yolk, truffle, peas and French Mushrooms. It ended up being ravioli, which I guess was fine, but why not list this fact in the menu? The description could lend itself to anything and here was me thinking it might be some form of galette. If you go to the trouble to list all the ingredients, why not list the fact this is a pasta? I know this is a 'trust the chef' restaurant wherein any cut or meal should be worthy, but sometimes diners don't want secrecy. Mum had the same trouble, she ordered the pork, which was simply listed as pork, not the cut, and ended up with pork belly. She was quite miffed but luckily enjoyed it yet still rued the fact she hadn't asked. However, the misrepresentation in my dish went beyond the cut of meat - quite hard to get a cut of jerusalem artichoke wrong! But the ravioli was cold around the edges, had no seasoning and thus no taste, and what's more there was no truffle! I repeat NO TRUFFLE. I was too embarassed to ask, mostly because of that stupid channel 7 television show during the week which had shown two Melbourne boys make the unforgivable mistake of using truffle oil (a chemical concoction) instead of real white truffles. And boys, for that matter white truffles are incredibly hard to source in Melbourne at this time, Black ones easier, but you have to know where to go. My culinary background means I know the difference between truffle oil and truffles, and I also knew that no truffle oil was used in this dish either. The main was simply sans truffle. Mum tried to convince me the shards from a mushroom might be flecks of truffle but I had to shoot her down. I get more truffle in my truffle cheese from the markets. If I was a vegetarian I would be unamused that my $42 main was so unenlightened. Now I should have sent it back, but I was just too scared, or too polite, or too nervous, or too something to complain in that way. I will learn one day to be stronger in restuarants but this time I just ate it and grumbled to the parents. And wrote this blog. I should have given the news to the chef on the night, to fix or to explain, but I didn't. I won't ever be swayed by truffles again, and will, in future learn to speak up. Incidentally the waiters picked up on Mum's issues with the pig, but not mine with my sup par main. Dad's main of beef and quinoa was delicious but none compared to the wonderfully created entrees. Sadly it is the lows one remembers almost as much as the highs.

I was the only one to opt for dessert, mostly so I could leave the meal on a high and not simply with the non-taste of my main in my mouth. The salted caramel and chocolate dish was divine, as was the dessert amuse bouche for the table. The coffees and petit fours were also tasty. Oddly enough despite the terrible main I would certainly go back to Magill Estate (if I had the cash!!!) Maybe it was a bad meal choice, maybe it was just a bad night for the chef preparing the vegetarian dish, maybe the menu needs to be a little more clearly defined, who knows? The quality of cooking in the other areas and the general loveliness of the service and the atmosphere seems to have outweighed my dismay at the lack of truffley goodness (and the lack of seasoning or heat in places.) I would recommend going to Magill Estate for a special meal, but if you do, don't hesistate to ask questions and don't hesistate to send a plate back if it isn't up to scratch. You are paying good money, and they are at the top of their game so they should want to make the dining experience perfect. The menu is a little lean on information, which can lead one to consider that some meals were misrepresented in the written word. And next time, truffles??? Please truffles!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Flowery thankyous

Hi Everyone! Just wanted to say thanks for all the lovely comments recently and for helping keep my spirits up even when the thesis issues threatened to make me not smile for the first time in months! I am currently relaxing in Adelaide, and have been so slack I haven't even got the camera out yet to takes pictures of Mum and Dad's lovely garden! There are some amazing heat hardy flowers (it is truly hotter in Adelaide than it is in Melbourne) and the mortgage lifter tomato is currently ripening fruit of huge proportions! One will be with dinner tonight. I am currently attempting not to eat it beforehand in an act of selfish abandon.

As a thankyou for being so kind with your words and sentiments here are a few little pics of the balcony flowers, as I left them, last week. The first is a blue cornflower. I planted some cornflower seeds from a mixed packet of pinks, whites and blues a while ago. Unfortunately they all turned out blue (sorry Grace I wanted some pink one so I could match your garden if pink wonderness.) Not that blue cornflowers are bad, they are stunning, but I already had blue cornflowers and I wanted some more. I know it is too late to plant some more now, but stuff it, when do I ever listen to seed raising advice or seasonal necessities? When I get back to Melbourne I am planting some more cornflower seeds in the faint hope that one might turn out an alternate hue to blue.

Luckily I also planted some black cornflowers (this time in honour of Fern and her black flower 'interest'/'obsession'!!!) which as you can see are not yet flowering, but are well on their way. I wonder if they have flowered yet? I will have to ask my intrepid interim housemate who is duly looking after the balcony garden in my absence. If anything you can see the lovely basil behind it, and further in the distance my penchant for Gourmet Traveller Magazines (everyone has a guilty pleasure, right???)

Also in the garden the little fuschia is standing up to the heat as best it can. Its position is in a shadier spot, next to the wooden bench. Hopefully it can last through summer here.
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Last and by very means not least is the viola. I planted some of these with snap dragons in hanging pots a while back. When tomato season hit I transplanted both sets of flowers to individual pots, the snapdragons thrived, the violas got stuck in an ultra sunny position and perished. Around the same time wierd weedy intrusions to some of the pots appeared. They appeared to 'jump up' out of no where but in my laziness I didn't pull them all out. To my surprise and happiness they all turned out to be more voilas, self sown. Love it!

There is the balcony garden as it stood when I flew out last week. I am aiming to post on the gardens here soon, and also a lengthy post about the searing highs and niggling lows of a visit to Magill Estate last Saturday. Loved the venison, not sure where the truffles went though. More soon!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Not the best of times

I apologise for the very short post tonight. Just a little message to let you all know I am heading to Adelaide for a 2 week period. I had wanted to celebrate a milestone in my PhD - the completion of my 2 year review. Mum and Dad have even booked in a special dinner. But it was not to be. Unfortunately after turning in all the work, taking various public holidays and Christmas off to complete aforementioned work, it seems my supervisor was not able (after 2 months) to organise a chair for the meeting so it never went ahead. Not that I didn't pass, or someone was ill, but just they couldn't manage it. ooops, sorry, reschedule maybe????

Suffice to say I am livid
absolutely livid.
Plus a little teary.
I upset easily, particularly when severely let down
and when I gave valuable time off to be with my books not my friends.

I deal with a lot of bureaucratic mess in my thesis, given that Melbourne Uni is going down a toilet, but this shambles takes the cake. It takes all the baked good too and anything with wheat, yeast or sweet bread like intentions. At least I get to spend 2 weeks with my family. It would have been 3 weeks but I have to cut my leave short to have the rescheduled meeting - because my associate supervisor is going away. Irony??? More like life - kind of sickening really.

Anyway please excuse the lack of lovely garden pictures and lack of good news but I am very disheartened by this experience, and quite exhausted. I will endeavour to post from Adelaide, with my folks lovely garden as the centrepiece!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Indoor Pretties

Here is the posey for the week. Later on I added a sunflower on the morning of a really windy day (I figured better a cut and indoors sunflower for a few days than a naked sunflower after the wind had got to it.) This is what happened to the other one.

The reason for the lone marigold was because I accidentally knocked it off while watering. Here is was before the accident.

The pansies were the only other interesting things I could find and I figured the heat would destroy them outside. The foliage is from the lemon scented geranium. The house smelled and looked lovely almost all week!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Monday Harvest

My camera is currently with a friend so I will be using older pictures, and some from earlier in the week to illustrate this week's harvest. I harvested lots of this, about 3 meals worth (for you Daphne.)

Two of these

One of these (the long one at the bottom which grew bigger, the fridge thing with the pollen worked!!!)

The long beans in this pot (not the peas) and then another large handful of the same tonight

five of these a night

and a handful of lettuce, basil, other herbs and onions pretty much every night! Great harvests for a great summer on the balcony garden