Basics

2000 Dried Apples Without a dryer

Peel apples; slice as thinly as possible, then as you slice them dunk into water and lemon juice - 1 lemon to 3 cups water.

Now thread them onto a needle and thread - leave about a finger space between each slice. Hang them up in the sun and wind, preferably under the eaves of the house where they won't get wet in the dew or rain. Bring them in when they feel rubbery.

How to dry apricots

Cut perfect fruit in half. Sample them often just to make sure they are perfect. Brush the cut side with lemon juice to stop them turning brownish - or don't bother.

Stick them cut side up on alfoil in the sun on a stinking hot day. Take them in at night. Turn them over the next day to bake the other side. Repeat till they are rubbery. Store in a glass jar or other sealed place. NB commercial apricots are dusted with sulphur to keep them soft and orange. Yours will toughen and darken - or you can buy sulphur from the chemist in small white jars. But they taste better without sulphur and many asthmatics are allergic to sulphur - even if they're not aware of it. And you can always soak them or simmer them in a little water to soften them, or suck them lovingly for an hour or so - great on long trips.

Lemon Essence

Grate off lemon zest with absolutely no white; place in a jar and top with vodka.

Limes in salt

This is very good indeed - wonderful in summer.

Take a dozen limes, prick at least ten times each. Place in a dish and cover with salt. Leave alone for a month. The juice will seep out and form brine. When needed take out the limes and slice thinly. A thin slice of salted lime is excellent with cold water or soda water; it can be added to curries; mixed with natural yoghurt as a side dish; added to honeyed chicken.

Vegetables

If a meteor destroys civilization tomorrow, we have enough carrots to see us through to next summer (as long as the wombat doesn't get them first.)

There is a great sense of security in knowing that whatever pain or poverty the next year brings, you have tucker in the garden.

There is also the even greater pleasure in knowing that tonight's dinner is going to taste of soil and sunlight, not styrofoam and plastic from the supermarket; that the stuff we eat is just one breathe away from still growing, and not hauled from Darwin or even California at who knows what pain to the envirmoment, both in the growing and the transporting.

But even more than that, there is the sheer extraordinary joy of picking the stuff, washing off the dirt and eating it. You only have to look at a kid's face as they eat peas straight from the pod in the garden to realise that there is something very deep and ancient in the joy of growing and picking your own.

A good vegetable garden can provide most of your food, saving you I hate to think how much money. (No, we're not vegetarian...but it's amazing how little meat you eat when you've gota basket overflowing with asparagus, or great fat bunches of fresh beetroot, or tiny sweet red lettuces..and besides, the veg garden provides most of the food for our chooks, who give us eggs and meat as well, not to mention fertiliser for the garden.) Vegetable gardens are a damn sight more work than any other part of the garden- although they don't have to be all that time consuming if you mulch mulch and MULCH (less watering no weeding no other feeding and no digging either). But to be honest if I'd feel a damn sight more naked without my vegetable garden than my underpants- and if I had to choose between knickers and vegies, I know what I'd choose.

Spiced popcorn

(To kids: only try this if you love curry)

half a cup popcorn (from supermarket)

4 tbsps olive or other oil

4 tb butter or margarine (or more oil can be substituted - I prefer to use oil)

1 tsp tumeric

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

half tsp ground chilli OR a good grind of black pepper if you don't like fiery popcorn

salt - optional

 

Take a thick bottomed pan with a lid. Heat for 30 seconds. Add the oil, wait 10 seconds, then add the popcorn. Stir well so it's all covered in oil then put the lid on. Turn the heat down about half way. Keep shaking the pot till it's all popped - will take about three minutes. Take off the heat but leave the lid on.

Place butter or oil in another pan with the garlic and spices, but not the pepper. Heat for about three minutes, stirring all the time. Toss through the hot popcorn. Add pepper now if you are using it instead of chilli - adding the pepper too early can make it taste a bit bitter.

Taste the popcorn and add salt if you like, but you probably won't need to!

Serve with you favourite video.

Carob Chocolate

1 cup carob powder

2 cups caster sugar

half a cup milk

quarter of a cup butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

 

Mix sugar and carob in a saucepan with a little of the milk till smooth. Add the rest of the milk then the butter. Heat slowly, stirring all the time, till it's thick enough to coat the spoon, then a bit more. Take off the heat, add vanilla, beat for about five minutes (you need to do this for a smooth texture). Pour onto a greased oven dish or into patty cases or drip drops for 'buttons' onto a greased tray etc. Cut if needed when cold. Whole Preserved Spiced Lemons

Prick lemons at least twenty times; cover with salt and leave for three days. Rub off the salt and pour boiling vinegar scented with a touch of nutmeg, cloves and black pepper over them. Leave for three months before using.

Tofu (soy bean curd)

(Note: you can also make tofu from fresh or dried soy beans. Soak dried beans in water overnight- no need to soak fresh ones. Then blend beans with five cups of boiling water. Strain. Toast leftover solids as above. Now bung the 'milk' in a pot and continue as described below.)

Take two cups of soy flour and add eight cups of cold water. Leave for half an hour, stirring a couple of times. Transfer to a pot, bring to the boil, keep stirring or it will stick to the bottom. Take off the heat and add three tablespoons of lemon juice at once. Keep stirring. Cool (don't chill it in the fridge). Line a colander or sieve with cheese cloth or even a tea towel. Tip the mixture in and leave overnight.

Store bean curd in the fridge when it is set, covered with water.

Avocado butter

Use avocado as a healthy alternative to butter or margarine on bread. Kids love 'snot' sandwiches.

Avocado dog food: mix half avocado and half dog food. Dogs usually love avocado; it's great for shiny coats. You do however need either a large income, a very small dog or your own trees.

Carob

Carob doesn't have chocolate's caffeine, theobromine (the stuff that makes you feel WONDERFULLLLL ..) or its taste. It's also much higher in cholesterol. On the other hand, it's brown, can be made sweet and has roughly the same texture.

Carob cocoa powder

This is made by grinding the carob pods in a coffee grinder or blender (but don't blame me if the blender breaks) till they are powdery (not the seeds - they are too tough).

Carob Cocoa

Pour a little water over 2 - 4 teaspoons carob powder, 1 teaspoon sugar (sort of optional) and a few drops of vanilla (also sort of optional). Mix till smooth. Add one cup of milk, heat slowly, stirring all the time. Drink hot and pretend it's cocoa.

Vine leaves

Take a nice young grape leaf, check for resident caterpillars and brush off beetles. Do not use leaves sprayed with pesticides or fungicides. Dip in boiling water for ten seconds.

 

Now take some of last night's left over fried rice - or any stuffing you like - and wrap it up neatly. Put your spoonful of rice mixture in an elongated heap towards the edge of the leaf. Now roll up in a sausage shape, tucking the ends in as you go to keep the whole parcel neat and tight. After you have done a couple you will develop a connoisseur's eye for the best shaped grape leaves (one without very deep indentations and a wilted main leaf rib so that it bends rather than breaks).

 

As with all of these operations doing the first half dozen makes you feel clumsy and incompetent and produces very strange shaped parcels (over full and bursting or half empty and deflated looking) but after that you can start revelling in your amazing competence and dexterity.

Place your stuffed vine leaves in a casserole sprinkle on a little lemon juice and olive oil and either water or chicken stock, say one lemon for every ten leaves and the same amount of olive oil and maybe half a cup of stock; and bake for half an hour in a moderate oven. You can also cover them with a herbed tomato mixture for a change (and as your skill level rises and you want to do more and more you will be looking for variations to play on the main theme).

 

Now you've got dolmades. Eat them hot, or eat them cold

How to eat Pumpkin seeds

1. Wash off the gungy bits

2. Boil in salted water for 20 minutes

3. Bake on an oiled tray in the oven at 200 C till almost golden and crisp- about 20 minutes

4. Eat with salt or chilli

© Jackie French