Friday, March 29, 2013

I'm a child of the tomato sauce day

My husband finally got the tomato sauce.

The sauce making day he's been wanting for the last, ohhh I don't know, eighteen years?  Every year I ask what he wants for his birthday.  Every year he asks "Can we make the sauce?"  That's all he wants, no presents please, just 'can we make the sauce'.

And I put it off.  We don't do it.  Every year. 

I have childhood memories of making sauce, it was work, hard work. We would make thirty boxes or so. I will always remember our long hallway lined with cases and cases of tomatoes. The waking early, the washing, the cutting, the stinging hands, the old beer bottles needing washed. It was quite the production, there was nothing half hearted about it.

Sauce making day holds memories in smells for me. You know those.... memories you can smell.
It's cut tomatoes, the smell of them passing through the mincer, metalic acidy yet good. The smell of smoke, when all was ready to go a fire was lit. As a kid this was the best bit, it would be dark and we'd sit around tired yet not wanting to go inside.

The next day we'd wake to unload the barrel.  Again the smells, a little more unpleasant this time. Old clothes wet with water and rust in an oil barrel between the beer bottles, the smell of a broken bottle, tomato and rust again.

Back to the now, as we processed our one box of tomatoes, all these memories came back to me. I'd always dreaded doing this at home for my family, always avoided it.  But after yesterday, after our small scale production, the whole deal, the taking turns cranking the mincer, the kids helping with the bottling, seeing my husband buzzing and happy. I remembered that it was also a special time.

We were all together, all making something together all helping out, how often does that happen these days.

I think a little tradition has been reignited in my heart, sharing a piece of my past and giving my husband his wish and seeing my kids enjoy it all, I think it was worth it.

I'm ready to get another case before they are gone and make some semi-dried tomatoes like foxes lane did.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Last year's chestnuts makes today's cake

A chestnut tree is both a blessing and a curse.

At the moment ours is looking spectacular, heavy with green spiky chestnuts in its branches. They are about a month away from falling, so we get to enjoy the look for a while.

The times this tree is a curse?  When it is in flower it lets off quite a pungent smell, Luckily this doesn't last long.

Or when its spiky balls of pain turn our front yard into a mine field. During this time there are is a prickle in the foot once  day or so.  Depending on who it is and on the time of day you get reactions from toughness to tears.  Wailing drama sometimes, if Circe is feeling small. "Please help me!", or "You have to carry me, spiky bombs are going to get me!", and  "You can't leave me behind!".

never kick an echidna

Pain and endless sweeping path aside, nothing beats collecting the actual chestnuts.  Getting them down with the rake, whacking the big bursting-at-the-seams chestnut with a broom to get the nut out. Over a few week I collect at least three kilos from our tree.

harvesting spiky bombs

Once I've got enough to make a batch I process a big lot at once.  I split the shell without stabbing myself, boil them, peel them, and blitz them to make chestnut meal.

peel it

piling up

last moments whole

This year I ended up with three one-kilo batches and kept them in my freezer.

bagged up

I pulled out a ziplock bag today and made this sweet chestnut cake from CSIRO's Food intolerance Management Plan book.

by the book

It's quite good in that it gives some details on the science, I really like this book.  But the picture did not appeal to me.

The edges looked leathery, common with gluten free recipes, and reminded me unpleasantly of the banana bread I'd tried the week before. I didn't like it, the kids refused it in their lunches.  Normally it'd all still go, disappearing from the tin late at night, but it was so tough on the outside that even Aaron wouldn't it eat.

Later I heard that the chickens wouldn't even it eat.

But once I got started, I was thrilled by this recipe, really thrilled.  It took a lot of eggs, but by gosh I've got a lot of eggs since all the chickens are laying.  (Sometimes it seems like they lay twice a day and I'm loving it.  Eliza will eat scrambled eggs for breakfast.)

Everything had such beautiful textures and colours, I kept wanting to touch the batter.


And making up the recipie to suit me felt good, empowering. I just loved the fact that I could do that, It felt really good making this cake.

I replaced the chestnut flour with my chestnut meal, and the rice flour and cornflour with a gluten free plain flour that I am really happy with. The cake was light moist and just gorgeous dusted with icing sugar. It had a real Italian cake flavour to me, I wanted to bring a piece to my Mum it was so good.
looks better than the picture

Blessing I think, in the final accounting.

And thank all of you for the messages of support for Circe. She is getting stronger with almost every day, she is gaining weight and feeling much better. I cannot believe how frail and sick she was only five weeks ago. I keep squeezing the little plump legs she's getting and looking at her filled out cheeks.  That's a blessing, too.