Could Be Messy…!

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In the introduction to this blog I made a mention of including recipes. Well, it just so happens that tonight I made one of my favourite recipes, and I thought it might be time to share that and some of the other staples from my kitchen.

Since I started making fresh pasta I have pretty much given up using dried stuff. I will buy fresh pasta sheets for making my quick cannelloni, but if I make Bolognese I make the pasta from scratch. Fresh pasta made with duck eggs is even better.

Smoked Salmon and Chevre Ravioli

Smoked Salmon and Chevre Ravioli

Smoked Salmon and Chevre Ravioli (serves 2 people)

Ingredients:

Fresh pasta sheets – made from 250g plain flour and 2 eggs (preferably duck eggs)

About 70-80g *smoked salmon

About 70-80g *chevre (soft goat cheese)

1-1.5tbsp shredded parmesan (not the dry ‘smelly socks’ stuff, either use good shredded parmesan or grate it yourself)

About 1tsp dill – either fresh or frozen from fresh, not dried

Method:

First make your pasta dough. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl, make a well in the centre and crack an egg into it. Mix with a fork until the egg starts to take up some of the flour, then add the other egg. Gradually add flour from the edges until you can make it into a soft dough with your hands. There will be some flour left over, you can use this later. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge until it is cold. About half an hour is usually enough.

Put all the filling ingredients into a food chopper of some sort and blend until you get a fairly smooth taste. You might want to experiment a little with quantities to get a taste that suits you. I like the salmon flavour to feature but not overpower the cheese.

Put a big pot of water on to boil.

Get your pasta dough out of the fridge and knead some of the leftover flour into it until you get a smooth dough that is not sticky. Run the dough through the pasta machine a few times, folding it in half, until it is smooth and a decent shape. Then work down through the thicknesses until you have thin pasta sheets. Dough is easier to work with if done in smaller lots, so you might want to cut the dough in half and roll it out half at a time.

Making ravioli

Making ravioli

Put teaspoons of filling onto the pasta sheets, brush water along one long edge and between piles of filling. Fold the pasta over, cut into individual parcels and use a fork to seal the edges of the ravioli.

Put each parcel onto a floured surface (I use a tea towel on a baking tray), and when all of them are ready put them into the boiling water.

Return to the boil, cook for a minute or two (cooking fresh pasta is very quick), and remove with a slotted spoon.

Top with parmesan cheese and chopped cherry tomatoes.

*Smoked salmon can be replaced with baked or smoked trout.

*Chevre can be replaced with ordinary cream cheese.

Another thing I make very regularly is iced tea. It is not like the stuff you get in the shops, in that it is made from real tea and is not as sweet, but if you like Nestea or LiptonIce you will probably like the home-made style.  It is really easy and great to have in the fridge through summer.

Iced Tea

I use a 4-cup teapot and make a very strong tea. For black tea I use 3-4 teabags, infused for about 5 minutes.

I use 1.5lt glass bottles, but you can also use glass jugs. In each bottle I put 1tbsp of sugar or 3 teaspoons of fructose powder. Then I add the juice of half a lime or lemon. You can use lime juice cordial instead of sugar and freshly squeezed citrus juice.

Remove the teabags from the tea and pour half of the tea into each bottle or jug. Swish it around until the sugar dissolves and top up with cold water.

You can serve it with citrus slices, try using green or white tea instead of black, use raspberry juice instead of lemon or lime or add Manuka honey. Play around with it and find your new favourite. You may want to make it sweeter to start with, but you should get to a point where the flavour is more important than the sweetness.

Choc-chip Cookie Muffins

My kids never go to school without something home-baked in their lunch box. I usually make a batch of muffins and freeze them, then the boys just need to grab one out of the freezer, put it in a container and playlunch is ready to go.

I have a basic muffin recipe which I can alter, from blueberry to double choc. Choc-chip cookie is my favourite flavour.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups self raising flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup chopped milk or dark chocolate (I have used Easter egg pieces)

1 egg, lightly beaten

3/4 cup milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

90g butter, melted. Butter, not margarine – very important! Butter gives a much better flavour to baking.

Method:

Mix flour, sugar and chocolate in a bowl.

Add milk, egg, vanilla and melted butter and mix until just combined.

Spoon into patty cases or muffin trays. I use patty cases in a muffin tray.

Bake at 180 degrees for about 15 minutes, until muffins are slightly golden on top.

Makes 12 small-ish muffins, but you could make less bigger ones. These might need to cook for a bit longer.

So that is just a few of my more popular recipes. Other things I make a lot include pumpkin soup, carrot and bacon soup, pea and ham soup – I might have to do a soup post down the track. I have a few types of bread and rolls that I really like. Oh, and a couple of ice-cream recipes that the boys all go mad for, as well as healthy options for an icy treat. My kitchen is my happy place, a night or afternoon of cooking, with my iPod on and a cider or two, is something I really enjoy.

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Bounty

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I thought it would be appropriate to follow-up last week’s information about the goats themselves with some info on what you can do with goat milk. Especially since I have either consumed or produced four different home-made milk-based products in the past 24hrs. And I haven’t even had any fresh milk since March.

My buck and wether kids (so basically all of them except Victoria) were weaned between Christmas and New Year. This gave me a few months of milking with only one kid to feed, that being Ambika who is six weeks younger than the others and who was bought from another farm. Since I had loads of milk Ambika’s wether buddy, Thumper, got a few more weeks of milk feeds than he really needed.

From once-a-day milking I was bringing in 5 litres of milk each morning, way more than could be used in the house. Of that, the kids got quite a bit, but I was still able to put a 1.25lt bottle in the freezer most days. This is the milk that got me through winter.

Advocates of the Swiss dairy goat breeds scoff at the ‘off season’ that you get with Anglo Nubians. Their goats milk all year long, and sometimes refuse to dry up even towards the end of their pregnancies. Nubians are inclined to stop producing quite dramatically once they are in kid again. This gives Nubian breeders a few months break from the grind of milking. And lets our does, particularly those who have a habit of producing three or more kids at a time, an opportunity to replenish themselves and put nutrition into their pregnancies.

I was at first a bit miffed when Sienna, who had been milking like a trooper, started to drop her production at the start of April. Then I looked at the diary and realised she was about 8 weeks in-kid, so I kind of had to forgive her.

Sienna's udder

Sienna’s udder

Even with that break, I rarely run out of milk. I don’t drink as much milk during winter as I do when there is plenty of fresh milk available, but I do make cheese, yogurt and soap. This week I also added kefir to my repertoire. Kefir is a fermented milk drink, high in tryptophan, and said to be great for improving mood and encouraging relaxation. Worth a try, I thought. There are claims that kefir can cure or prevent pretty much everything that can go wrong in the body, but I’ll be more than happy with digestive health and improved mood. We’ll see how it goes.

I make a batch of yogurt most weeks, and while it is somewhat less convenient than buying a tub of Jalna, it is quite a bit less expensive. I must admit that I cheat by sweetening and flavouring my yogurt, but a couple of tablespoons of sugar in 1lt of yogurt is a lot less than you’ll get in most yogurts you buy in the supermarket. I use real vanilla essence and the only other thing I add, apart from the milk, is the culture. I paid about $20 for the culture, but you only use a few grains for each batch, so each packet of culture can make over 100 tubs of yogurt. And it is real yogurt. No thickeners or preservatives. Just milk, culture, vanilla essence and a little bit of sugar. I can’t eat fake yogurt any more.

Some Saturday nights just lend themselves to making cheese. The freezing temperatures we are experiencing at the moment are not ideal for making anything that needs to stay warm over night, so tonight the cheese is wrapped in a towel near the heater in the bedroom. Cheese is another one of those things that take a bit of time and effort, but it is so worth it. From start to finish, chevre (soft goat milk cheese) takes about 16-18 hours to make. Heat the milk, keep it at about 60 degrees for half an hour, cool the milk, add cultures and leave it overnight. In the morning you cut the curds and hang them for most of the day. Once the curds have drained sufficiently you add the salt, remove the cheese from the cheesecloth and put it into a container. It develops it’s flavour over time, and is at it’s best between one and two weeks after being made. I really like it with sweet chilli sauce and crackers or corn chips. I also put it on pizza, use it in filled pastas (chevre and trout ravioli is one of my favourites), add herbs and serve with salmon and potato wedges, put it on sandwiches (it is great with ham), or crumble it into a salad.

I made mozzarella once, which went very well on home-made pizza. I want to try hard cheeses soon, but that will require some kind of cheese cave for maturing at 10 degrees for a month. I’m keeping an eye out for a cheap wine fridge.

Pizza with goat milk mozzarella

Pizza with goat milk mozzarella

I have dedicated a post to my soap making in the past, and after a production glut I have settled into making a batch here and there to share with family and friends. I freeze milk in ziplock bags so it is ready any time I want to whip up a batch.

They say that nothing is wasted from a goat, that you can use everything but the bleat. I don’t eat my goats, and subsequently I don’t make rugs from their hides. Maybe it is because I generally put quite a bit of effort into keeping kids alive in the beginning. I think it is more that they are not like sheep or cows who stand about in the paddock looking all meaty and don’t put much effort into being your friend. I will eat goat meat, I just don’t eat my goats.

Yes, it's a goat burger

Yes, it’s a goat burger

So those are some of the many useful and yummy things you can make with goat milk. While I didn’t really get into goats for the milk, I am certainly glad for the bounty that comes from my four-legged friends.

Curam Hircus

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So I have a bit on my plate, what with all that saving the world and empowering women to be done.  But first, let me talk about goats.

There is a lot of misinformation about goats. That they eat everything, that they smell, that their milk tastes nasty. Some people think that they are wary of humans, like sheep tend to be. Many visitors to my place are surprised when my goats come up complete strangers looking for cuddles. Very few are prepared for the level of intelligence that goats display.

Goats do not eat everything. There have been times when I have wished I could get one of my goats to eat at all. Many times when their dinner has been sniffed at suspiciously and left untouched for no discernible reason. They will make a mess of your fruit trees, roses, jasmine, herbs or vegetable crops. Some of mine will nibble on your clothing as a means of getting attention. As browsers, they will try pretty much anything green and if they like it they will keep eating it. Due to the high nutrient requirements of breeding or milking goats they cannot be sustained on grass alone and will eat more slow-growing, nutrient-dense plants when they can get to them. They love soft young trees.

Billy goats do indeed stink very badly in the breeding season. This is not ideal when they also want scratches and pats. But does hardly smell at all. As for the milk, goat milk is the most consumed milk in the world. It is different to cows milk, and tastes much better fresh and raw than from a carton. I find that fresh goat milk is sweeter and richer than cow milk from a carton. In summer I find few things more refreshing than a big glass of cold goat milk.

Goat milk is a superfood. Sometimes referred to as ‘universal donor’, it can be used to feed baby mammals of almost any species. It is better for you than cow milk, and is less likely to cause adverse reactions. So if it tastes ‘different’ to the heat treated, homogenised milk you are used to, bear in mind how much better it is for you. Especially raw, with all those beneficial bacteria and enzymes. Just being around goats has been shown to reduce skin allergies and even asthma.

In the quest for a more sustainable existence, the milking goat is a great ally. She can convert forage into a versatile protein source. She produces an ideal amount of milk for a household. She is also a very lovable family member.

Anyone who has spends a bit of time with goats soon realises how good they are for the soul. And anyone who regards goats with contempt will find them impossible to deal with. I have spent hours in the barn or in the farmyard with my goats. With four or five of them all clamouring for scratches at the same time. With bottle-raised kids in my lap, chewing my hair or climbing on my back. Attempting to get jobs done in the farmyard or paddocks with a mob of helpers demanding attention, getting in the way or knocking things over. During the high-stress kidding season ‘just popping out to the barn’ to check does close to kidding or their delicate newborns can turn into a 45 minute odyssey of watching kids play or comforting over-ripe does.

As you become a ‘goat person’ you realise that the real value in them is in their character. They are complex people. Some are easygoing, others frustratingly determined. On the whole, I find the bucks much less bossy than the does. The buck hierarchy is a simple one, based on size, age, and seniority. With the does, it is much more complex. My ‘alpha’ doe is a tiny, delicate, but rather fierce girl. She has also been here the longest. She has stood up to much bigger does. Her daughter never challenges her, and her grandchildren know that being in Grandma’s favour gets you a good spot at the feeder, even if you are just as likely as anyone else to get headbutted by her.

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Elcarim Sienna, my best milker.

 

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Rianna with her 2012 triplets, Venus, Kevin and Bacchus.

 

They are all very different in personality, as diverse as us humans. From non-confrontational Sienna, a somewhat sensitive, short fat lady who doesn’t expend any more energy than necessary, to the slightly ditzy and very glamorous Meredith with her slender neck,  long ears, and even longer legs. From the sad poet Jupiter who cries forlornly (and loudly, and at length) to his lost loves on the other side of the property, to gutsy little Ambika, who doesn’t let being the smallest and youngest doe or being a ring-in from another farm mean that anyone can push her around.

Thumper and Ambika

Ambika and Thumper, bottle-fed kids.

 

My goats are part of my family. From kidding, which can start as early as the end of June, through the spring shows and into the summer when the kids have been weaned, necessitating twice-daily milking, they are a huge part of my daily life. Whether they are pointedly positioning themself so that my hand rests on their head, calling out from the barn for more hay so that they don’t have to go out grazing in bad weather, or loudly announcing their willingness to breed, they are constantly demanding my attention. The farm can never be unattended, even in the quiet time between drying-off and kidding, when keeping up the hay and grain to rapidly-expanding bellies is crucial.

I love my little herd, and I am incredibly proud of them. They are a lot of work, but I could not imagine life without them. I know that tragedies are inevitable, but I hope the rewards will be worth it.

And now, with the support of my goats, I will get back to saving the world.

PS With kidding to start in three weeks, and my plans to exhibit at the Royal Melbourne Show this year, expect to hear more about my floppy-eared crew in the next few months.