Comfort food comfortably cooked

Perfect pumpkin soup
I hated pumpkins my entire life until I tasted my Aunty Lorraine’s pumpkin soup. She gave me some hints and the ones I took with me are…
  1. Never use any pumpkin other than Jap or Kent as they are the nicest.
  2. Never put any other veggies in other than Pumpkin, onion and garlic. Some people use potato in their “pumpkin soup” but the potato can make it go off. So stick to plain pumpkin.IMG_0733[1]
  3. Make it creamy with cream, stir it in as you are serving it.
Along the way I’ve had more advice…
  1. Roast the veggies before you put them in the pot, it brings out the flavour
  2. Choose a dusty looking pumpkin, they are the sweetest
  3. In savoury cooking, you can most times substitute Greek yoghurt for cream.
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So I chopped a whole pumpkin, squished a few cloves of garlic and quartered an onion and popped it in the oven will the garlic was brown.
Put the veggies into the Thermomix, along with some veggie stock and water, set it for 15 mins, varoma temp and a slow speed. when it was done, I wizzed it for a few seconds and had perfect pumpkin soup.
I don’t have any pictures, but I made the Pea and Ham soup with this recipe (without the potato) and it worked well too. Recipe here

Maltese soup
I did not have time to be worrying about things on the stove, and my husband was not a huge fan of Brodu (I think that is the spelling, but am finding it difficult to verify) so I also did not want to make too much (more than I could eat in a few days).
I decided to try it in a slow cooker.
I have looked on the internet and have not found a recipe that shows how to make it the way the family I was a nanny for taught me to make it. Initially, the one I tried was made with Beef, but I much prefer the chicken recipe. IMG_0739[1]
1 kg chicken legs
1 bowl of diced carrot
1 bowl diced celery
Tomato paste (1 small Leggos tub)
Veggie stock powder.
Pasta and rice
Here is what you need to know, cook the meat, then the potato, then the carrot and last add the celery. The recipes have them all dumped in at the start and the result is not very appetising.
Put the chicken in the pot, (with tomato paste and veggie stock) let it cook on high for about 1/2 hour (If you are using Osso bocco it needs an hour). Put the potatoes in, top up the water and give it about 1/2 hour, do this for carrots and repeat in half an hour with celery. If you are using brown rice add about 1/2 cup in 15 minutes and a cup of pasta 15 minutes after that… for white rice with pasta wait half an hour and for either turn off with lid on.

To serve
Wait about an hour before serving; remove bones and inedible bits from chicken, heat on low (Or pop into bowls and microwave).
Add salt and pepper with a squeeze of lemon juice and enjoy.
It was longer in the slow cooker, and the quality of the flavour was not the same as cooked on a stove top. But still a nice dinner… and breakfast the next day… brunch the day after. Troubleshooting… I put too much water in and it had to be removed, this may be why the tomato flavour was not very strong. I forgot to add the carrots till quite late and I forgot that brown rice needs about 2 hours to swell. IMG_0741[1]Fortunately the none of the veggies fell apart in that time. I also forgot the most important thing- the squirt of lemon juice… I could not even use bottled juice as “someone” put the opened bottle in the cupboard… 
I will try it in the thermomix next to see if it works better there. I found that I can comfortably fit 4 chicken legs in the steam basket… and the rest I will work out as I go.
None of my fury children let me eat this in peace so it must be good.

More Uses for Greek Yoghurt
“All the veggies that grow well in CQ are yucky” said Honey this week. So I have dusted off some old recipes for sweet potato and pumpkin this week. The soup was not a hit (all the more for me!) but the potato bake was. Honey had not tried my awesome one with cream and chorizo instead of ham or bacon… so I was free to experiment a bit. 

Potato bake… everyone seems to have a different recipe. I love the one my friend Ebony makes as she adds chicken stock or soup powder… I think… I never have that on hand so I add Veggie stock powder and it works a treat. My old housemate Andrea also made delicious potato bake and she added sweet potato and pumpkin. My butcher recommended chorizos and wham you have my PB.

So I made some PB for Honey last night, we were out of chorizo so I used ham, we also didn’t have cream so I mixed Greek yoghurt with milk to get the right consistency and after the pumpkin soup fiasco, I decided one thing at a time.
What can I say… it worked. sorry no pictures, we were hungry. We are trying potato salad 1/2 regular 1/2 sweet today. Any tips or hints are greatly appreciated from my veggie smuggler friends.

Recirculating Wicking Beds

I am currently modifying a number of my flood and drain gravel aquaponics beds into recirculating wicking beds just to see if there is any improvement in the productivity of the tubs over standard aquaponics. RWB’s are similar to normal continuous flow gravel beds allowing water to flow through the stone media at the base to assist in the conversion of ammonia into nitrites and nitrates.

The top part of the bed however is a soil layer which wicks the water up from the base. The overflow pipe is placed just below webbing material which separates the stone and soil layers. I have no idea how this will work out so I am only trying it on a few beds until I can iron out and problems and see if there really is any advantage.

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Tomato Trees

I love these photos I came across a plant that people were calling a tomato tree. There are lots of photos on the net of what appears to be a well trellised variety of indeterminate tomato vine. I am not sure of the particular varieties used so I ordered seeds of a few different types that people said create this kind of display and have started the seeds in my recirculating wicking beds.

The top picture shows a trellised tomato vine on display at the Epcot centre in the US and is supported by a series of steel poles like you would use with a chain link fence.  This has been an inspiration for me as I acquired a large amount of free steel poles from an old shade shelter that was being pulled down at the state school. The poles were full lengths and galvanised so there is very little rust on them. The first ones that I put up were bolted to the concrete base that supports the main crayfish tank and the fibreglass grow beds. I found however that the poles snuggly fit over the top of a star picket which is allowing me to extend the trellised area out over the other grow beds without having to concrete the bases into the ground. If I need to move them later I can unbolt the fittings and lift the poles off of the star pickets.

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Papyrus and Duckweed

The sun is pretty harsh in Central Queensland and the problem that I keep facing with outdoor tanks are the algal blooms that take over and smother everything. I have been told that the aquaculture researchers at CQU say not to worry about this as it doesn’t affect the fish but I think that it looks appalling and can’t be good for the hygiene of the system. On one of the tanks I covered it with a wooden lid but this is not a good solution for the larger AP tanks so I played around with it until I got the following solution.

This tank was seeded with miniature Papyrus and duckweed. The duckweed covers the total surface except for and area over where the air bubbler is placed. The duckweed reduces evaporation and cuts down the amount of sunlight getting into the tank. Next I added a one off hit of barley straw extract to get the existing algae under control and finally I added a large number of Swordtails and Guppies that I got from Peter D and Bill M which are doing a really good job of cleaning up any new algae that forms.

This tank will be used as a redclaw growout tank but I see no reason why Jade and Silver perch can’t be added as they don’t tend to eat fish the size of swordtails.

The Miniature Papyrus is an excellent tank cover plant as you can spread it by just cutting a piece off and dropping it into a new location. The Papyrus forms a floating mat that gives the Swordtails babies plenty of room to develop and doesn’t take up space in the tank for the rest of the fish as it floats on the surface.

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Paradise in Suburbia

Local Greens candidate Paul Bambrick and his lovely wife Edwina are two people I have a great deal of time and respect for. Politicians can often be accused of just “talking the talk” but this wonderful couple really do “walk the walk” as well. Allowing us into their home for the April Lawn to Lunch meeting was a treat and we got to see how they have been working to restore the damaged bushland and rebalance the natural ecology by replanting native flora over the majority of the property and planting a variety of fruit trees to add to the local sustainable food options.

It was hard to believe that this beautiful rustic home created from gorgeous sustainable materials, and the large bushland property it sits on are so close to the heart of Yeppoon nestled among ordinary run of the mill suburban dwellings. It is one of those places that you wouldn’t know existed if someone hadn’t invited you to visit.

Thank you so much Paul and Edwina for allowing us into your amazing home for the day and extending your gracious hospitality to us!

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IBC Aquaponics

Judie’s Uncle Ron, has recently gotten the Aquaponics bug after a relative first introduced the idea to him a few years back. Starting with four IBC containers Ron has begun setting up a number of flood and drain grow beds and several wicking beds at his and wife Lorraine’s Berserker property.

The beds have been repurposed from second hand storage containers that previously contained non toxic materials. At the moment Ron is using ornamental fish to condition the gravel growbeds but is looking to introduce perch within a few months.

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Greg

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