Our two weeks with Maarten and Marlies have been sheer delight. They made many a scrumptious meal, including a locavore's feast of garden snails,
served with Powlett Hill biodynamic spelt, ground, freshly rolled and made into pasta,
roasted salsify root (they look like grasses, don't they?),
and parsnip. Both root vegetables we have successfully encouraged to naturalise in the garden.
The snails were prepared for a few days using the method we videoed Maarten back in Gerringong telling us about. Then they were pan-cooked in ghee, beetroot, carrot, garlic and Patrick's infamous 2013 Library Wine. The parsnip and salsify were roasted in the oven and sprinkled with rosemary. Fresh basil was tossed over the top of the whole dish. The result was delicious!
We've also been enjoying Meg's lovely fresh cheese for our lunches.
But sadly not from raw milk, at least not for now. And not because of the Victorian government poisoning raw milk, but because there isn't any currently on offer around the corner where we usually get it. Huh! The gift economy is unpoliceable! Nonetheless, we joined many good folk on the steps of Parliament in Melbourne to voice our concerns about the State's overreaching hand when it comes to some foods, but not others. Where does the nanny-state begin and end?
Get the government out of my kitchen read one very apt placard.
David Holmgren, Joel Salatin, Tammi Jonas and Costa Georgiadis were among keynote speakers who addressed a packed Collingwood Town Hall later that day, an event organised by the very cool Regrarians.
Back at home, while Meg and Zero worked on Chapter 8 of our book, and Zeph was busy at school, Woody and Patrick rode out to see our own family of regrarians new farmgate store.
Since being home from the road, we've enjoyed a weekly visit from Meg's folks, known in the family as Ra and Bee, bringing the Friday night challah. Thanks Ross and Vivienne!
Patrick has also been in full bread production mode since we returned, making rolls for Zeph's school lunches and daily spelt loaves for home lunches,
and from the same Powlett Hill spelt grain, he has been experimenting with producing a very local beer with the ingredients of just forest honey, our garden hops and dandelion, and the spelt grain. Andrew Masterson's great article recently on eating local food spoke of the dilemma of not being able to find a local brew. Well, we hope this is one delicious response to that call. As for Andrew's exception of coffee to his local diet, we made the switch to dandelion root coffee a number of years ago because it grows in the garden and because, well, it's free! And free is freeing. We're very excited about the making of a very local beer. The only thing not local is the little sachet of ale yeast.
Every Summer our hops grows across our bedroom window, making sleeping a dream.
At this stage Patrick is keeping things simple by brewing in a bag, using 1.5 kg of grain, 1.5 kg of honey, 40 g of hops and about 20 g of dandelion leaf (though he'd prefer to use the flower, when it is available). The brew is currently bubbling away and will do so for a week to ten days before being bottled for several weeks for the second fermentation process. We'll keep you posted on how it turns out.
Another local food we've been eating this week is the Australian honey fungus (Armillaria luteobubalina), an aggressive parasitic fungus that is common in southeastern Australia. It should never be eaten raw and even when cooked can affect some people, as can the salsify root mentioned earlier.
The fungus is also very bitter, something our very sugary modern palette doesn't cope with too well. So we soaked the mushrooms in milk for 24 hours and,
cooked them in ghee and ate them with fresh parsley. They were delicious, although left a bitter aftertaste that could have been remedied with a fruit chutney or some honey. Still, another robust pest species that is free and that you would be doing the environment a favour if you ate more of. Just have a small amount the first time, and see if they have an adverse affect on you. We were all fine.
Well, it is time to say goodbye for now Dear Reader. It is also time to farewell the dynamic Dutch duo, Maarten and Marlies, and thank them for all the knowledge, work and love they brought to our household and community. We will miss them sorely.