HCB Comparo, 2017 Edition

I wasn’t planning on doing this, honest. But since Easter was such a long way away from the indulgence fest known as Christmas, and the supermarkets just happened to start baking these pretty much on Boxing Day… I ended up eating just a few. Then of course, I had to take a photo, and after that I might as well keep looking for my favourite bun of all time.

Sonoma Not Cross Buns:

Sonoma not cross bun

Love this. By not putting a cross on the bun, all and sundry from all religious denominations can eat it. First bun I ate cold, I couldn’t stop raving about it. OK, so the ‘s’ was a bit tough to eat, but the aroma, I couldn’t stop inhaling it. I think it was the orange glaze. The fruit had been soaked in possibly earl grey tea. The second bun I ate warm after heating in the microwave. There was a very intense cinnamon aroma. The bread had a ‘dough-y’ texture. Fruit mix included orange peel.

$3.50 Each, $19 for six.
Sonoma Bakery Cafes @ Alexandria, Bondi, Glebe, Paddington, Rosebay, Waterloo, Woollahra.

Stoneground Bakery:

Stoneground bakery HCB

Available in blueberry (slightly blue cross), raspberry and white chocolate (pink-ish cross), and “normal” fruit. I bought the latter, and probably didn’t eat it at its best. Overnight in my fridge turned it rock hard. Even after microwaving it, the bun was just ‘meh’. I couldn’t remember any fruit apart from the sultanas.

$2.20 each, $9 for six.
Stoneground Bakery in Annandale and Hunters Hill.

Zumbo’s Fruit HCB:

Zumbo HCB

I had to check my records (blog) to work out if I had tried the Zumbo HCB in the past. Turns out no, I had only tried the chocolate version. This was heated up in the microwave. I got a slightly odd scent above the cinnamon note that I couldn’t quite place. Too much yeast?

This year I tried again the chocolate version, it seem less intense that four years ago; more of a ‘cocoa HCB’ rather than a dense chocolate mudcake.

$2.20 Each, $12.50 for six.
There are Zumbo stores in Rozelle, Star City (Pyrmont), QVB (Sydney City).

Boon HCB:

Boon HCB courtersy of Boon Cafe

Photo courtesy of Boon Cafe Instagram. I’ve been here several times checking out the baked goods, and suddenly there was a hot cross bun. Buttery flavour with a sweet glaze. The cross has a nice chew texture. Made with spelt flour!
Boon Cafe, 425 Pitt Street Haymarket.

Campos Coffee HCB:

Campos coffee HCB

I couldn’t resist, the buns were so enormous and a glossy dark chocolate brown with the glaze. The cross marked ontop was a bit tough to eat. High on the cinnamon factor. We spied a little orange peel and a little red cranberry (or possibly currant). Very buttery flavour.

$3.50 Each, $19 for six.
Campos Coffee, 193 Missendon Road, Newtown 2042.

So for 2017, I have to say that the Sonoma HCB with lots of glaze, eaten cold was my favourite. I could not stop inhaling that lovely scent, or gobbling up the buns.

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Devon Cafe, Surry Hills

I had the opportunity to go to a work conference in the city, so I went to bed early, and caught an early train into central station. Devon Cafe was the destination, and I had a mere 40 minutes to order, consume, and then walk to Hyde Park. Truffle cheese toasties are only available when in season, and only on the weekend. Darn it! Worker Bees need truffle toasties too!

Two breakfast dishes caught my eye, and after being reassured that it would take ten minutes, I made my choice.

Breakfast with the Sakuma’s ($25):

Breakfast with the Sakuma's

Miso grilled king salmon,smoked eel croquette, 63′ egg, radish petit salad & kewpie mayonnaise. This had a extra unami scattering of seaweed and sesame flakes, plus some brown crunchy stuff that I couldn’t identify. The croquette was mostly rice, and very crunchy on the outside. It came with lots of different elements that kept me interested, all the way to the end. I couldn’t really use the mayonnaise as I found that the salmon was quite rich even without it.

The other dish that piqued my interest *had* been the Eggs Blini – for the mere existence of the blini, but having seen my communal table mate get his serving, I was very happy with my choice.

Ovvio Ginger Zap tea ($6.5):

Ginger Zap Tea

This was nice and tingly ginger flavour. I was surprised that it didn’t come served with honey, but then I didn’t ask. It felt like such a waste to use this loose leaf ‘tea’ tissane only once, so I took the remainder with me in a little container and enjoyed its zippiness for the rest of the day.

Harvest Monday and Garden Update, March 2017

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related.

February clicked over into March, and our stinking hot summer suddenly turned wet. It has rained and rained and rained. Couldn’t go outside because it was too hot; suddenly became couldn’t go outside because it was too wet. We lurched from an energy crisis (when industrial load had the potential to overlap with domestic “everyone gets home and switches the air-con on” load), to a severe storm and flood crisis.

The advantage of all this rain is that purslane has been popping up in my front lawn/dirt patch. Apparently, purslane grows in highly compacted soils (like mine) and is high in omega-3 fatty acids (this is new to me). Yay! I stir fried this with cabbage, and also added some to a cucumber salsa:

Cucumber salsa

Diced cucumber, pear, random herbs (parsley, chives, tarragon etc), s&p, apple cider vinegar & olive oil. Pretty simple!

I have never really understood the point behind a cucumber. Apart from turning it into a pickle, or eating it in a salad, what is the reason behind its existence? Then I found this salsa recipe in The Cook’s Companion, supposed to be an accompaniment to smoked fish… and I couldn’t stop making it, or eating it.

The armenian cucumber came from the February crop and swap event. I haven’t seen it in the shops before, I liked the taste, so I saved a few seeds to try and grow next season. The marigolds (edible flowers), also came from a crop swap event.

I checked on my bananas earlier in the week, and it appears that I had left them on the tree for too long. They’ve been forming since November, so about three months of ripening. After trimming the hand, clearing off the rotten bits, shooing away the cockroaches and the slugs, and cutting off the slightly nibbled bananas, here we have it.

Roll up, roll up, for the world’s smallest banana harvest!

World's smallest banana harvest

This is 1kg (including skins). Each banana was the size of your little finger, about 5cm or 2 inches long. They were very sweet. I couldn’t eat them all at once, and if I left them in the house unattended for more than a minute, he would throw them out.

Approx 400g tomatoes (no photo). I still have a few more left on the vine, but it is the last gasp of the summer crop. I must not plant tomatoes next year, I really need to give the beds a break.

Approx 10g random curcubit flowers.

The male flowers keep falling off the vine after they’ve done their thing. It seems a waste to let the snails get to them, so I have been adding them to stir fries like zucchini flowers.

Around the garden:

Random curcubit

My random curcubit is still going strong. I originally had three plants pop up in the full sun garden bed, and I transplanted two of the plants to the other two beds. They are taking over where the tomato plants are dying off. I still haven’t identified it, except that it is definitely not a cucumber or a pumpkin.

Random curcubit

I’m thinking winter melon or luffa. Any ideas?

I killed my two cherry trees, which makes me sad. I think over enthusiastic grass trimming killed the roots.

I killed the native raspberry (too much heat when I planted it), but hopefully I have a lead on raspberry or youngberry canes to plant.

I started putting in some seedlings for autumn/winter. I had a bet each way – kohlrabi (cold crop), okra (in case the hot weather continues), and red rosso onion (seeds slightly out of date, hopefully I get some germination).

I am also hoping that this plant:

Papaya?

is the germination of a papaya? There have been guesses for sweet potato, or papaya, but no firm consensus yet. Ignore the red stems, that purslane lurking underneath. What do you think, dear reader?

2016 Reverberating Revoo

I forgot about doing this until I spotted Shauna Reid’s edition. Oh noes! I’ve missed the haze of a post Christmas/New Year lethargy, but if I don’t post now, I never will.

Edition 2015
Edition 2014
Edition 2013
There was no Edition 2012.
Edition 2011
Edition 2010

1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?

Changed jobs. This may not sound a big thing to you, but after spending 10 years at the same company (ancient, I know), and then upping sticks for different work environment, that’s HUGE for me. Plus, I had a fondness for the old workplace which was slowly eroding away, as the good things that had made it a wonderful workplace were being eroded away.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for this year?
Can’t remember what they were, and thus I can’t remember if I kept them.
More for this year:
mindfulness!
being present in the moment!
Being grateful for the little things.
Stop buying stuff.
Start decluttering.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes, my friend Clare. Such a gorgeous little thing, sometimes she greets you with a serious look, and then suddenly she smiles. Wow.

4. Did anyone close to you pass away?
Father in law. Friend’s sister.

5. What countries did you visit?
USA. Taiwan. Funeral. Holiday.

6. What would you like to have next year that you lacked in this one?
Patience.

7. What dates from this year will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Anzac Day (25 April), we were in our Nation’s capital, we saw a football game, and then on the drive back, the father in law passed away.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Making the leap from one job to another. Yes I know, I should define myself more than my work, but you do spend 30% of your time there.

Catching a LOT of swarms – BEEcoming obsessed.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Being present in the moment.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Gave myself some form of RSI from squeezing honey out of honeycomb using my hands.

11. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder?

sadder

b) thinner or fatter?

same same. Slightly porkier.
c) richer or poorer?
One year’s salary richer. One year’s spending on vintage tupperware poorer.

12. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Parkrun!
Have you heard about this? Every saturday morning, around 8am (or whatever suits the local council), there is a free, timed 5km running event at various locations.

13. How did you spend Christmas?

With the family. Surprisingly, I didn’t kill them. There’s always next year.

14. Did you fall in love this year?

With my friend Clare’s baby.

Baby

15. What was your favourite TV program?

The Katering Show. I discovered it. Watched two seasons cover to cover in (almost) one sitting, and then started again.

16. What was the best book you read?
I didn’t read that many books in 2016, but I just found out about The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko, which has even been made into a film!
How did I miss that?

17. What was your favourite film?

Inside Out. I watched it on the plane.
I also watched Bad Moms 1.5 times, it took me a few days to realise that the plane version had *censored out* the video sex scene. One day the main character had a husband at home, the next day she didn’t.

18. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Didn’t go to work. Old enough to know better.

19. Who did you miss?
Mother in Law. She passed away in early 2015, and not a week goes by that I think “She would’ve known the answer to that!” I wish she was still with us.

Crop and Swap Feb 2017

I haven’t attended a crop and swap in quite a while; one because they’re an 80km round trip for me, and secondly – I’ve run out of honey! I haven’t harvested honey since November 2016. The season has been a bit odd and a lot of colonies have failed around the Sydney basin due to infestation of small hive beetle overcoming them, or not enough pollen/nectar due to the funny weather.

Up until now, I have just been doing one-on-one swaps, and racking up an incredible number of kilometres on the car.

But for the last crop and swap for February 2017, I figured that I would make an effort to head to the proper event in Lane Cove.


Crop and swap – out:

Crop and swap - out

This is what I brought with me to the swap event. Two pots of thyme. Two jars of preserved guava – from 2015. I didn’t think it would be safe to bring or subject anyone else to my jars of unset seville marmalade (5 years ago), or various guava jams and guava jellies, made even longer ago! Two jars of kombucha scoby “jerky”.Two packets of native frangipani seeds, collected from my own tree. Beeswax (of course), some rendered as cupcakes, and some as it had come out of my solar wax extractor.

Crop and swap – in:

Crop and swap Feb 2017 - in

1.5litres of worm wee. Kale. Warrigal greens. Genovese Basil. Armenian cucumber. 2 cloves of garlic. 2 finger limes. 1 lime. Lemon balm (plant). 3 chilli peppers – one of them was a scotch bonnet. I love getting chillies, I love their shape, but I can’t eat them!

I had put in a special request for bee friendly plants, so I ended up with several kinds of salvia cuttings (black knight, hot lips, something with bluish flowers, one with lilac/blue flowers); Fruit salad sage cuttings and indian borage. There was a shopping bag filled with chocolate mint. I was debating whether or not I could try and and get a curry leaf branch to take as a cutting (since I had failed earlier in the month), and then another crop swapper offered me a seedling from her garden, I just had to pop past on my way home.

For the seeds I got some for crookneck squash, kohlrabi, dill, and ‘warpaint watermelon’ – which were a wonderful iridescent blue colour. With a name like that, I thought the watermelon would be similarly coloured, but a search for information on the seeds says not.

My drive home was in a scented lemon-ish, chocolate mint haze.

I then spent the afternoon potting my newly acquired cuttings in the glorious, glorious sprinkling rain, and playing “identify this cutting”.

I stir fried the warrigal greens as a side dish to dinner

I turned the fruit salad leaf cuttings (which I had had taken off to reduce transpiration loss) into a iced tea tissane:

Herb infusion

Harvest Monday, 12 Feb 2017

We are in the middle of a long hot summer. Bats, baby turtles are dying. Not joking. On one day the records were broken, and then we went and broke them again the next day. The cycle is of 4-5 days in the high 30’s (deg C or 95 F+), followed by a 1-2 days in the low to mid 30’s – whereupon it feels positively nippy; and then it repeats. Last weekend, it got to 45 deg C (113 F). It has been horrendous. My garden hates it. I’ve had to rig up shadecloth over the tomatoes; but every time a flower on my random curcubit opens, it keels over and the flower falls off the stem. So it is still a mystery plant.

756 g tomatoes, 200g basil

Harvest Monday 12 Feb 2017

They look pretty; but the taste, not so much. I tried to harvest them in the early morning, such that it was close to 24 hours since I had watered them. I originally picked them to give to a colleague who had been inspired by my tales of sugo making from the last batch, but she wasn’t at work on the friday. So.

My friend is a member of a community garden, and posted photos of her harvesting this amazing looking genovese basil. My basil is a tough mediterranean type that survives winter frosts, but is less green and leafy. It is always in flower, and I can’t bear to cut it back because the bees love it so much. I swapped a 500g jar of honey for the basil.

So I turned the tomatoes and basil into fresh tomato and basil pasta for dinner (using fresh pasta from the markets), and enough for lunch the next day. I didn’t have any balsamic vinegar, so I used a combo of apple cider vinegar and guava vinegar.

The next 100g or so of basil I turned into fresh pesto, with pine nuts and a little lemon juice to try and keep the vibrant green colour.


Curry leaves:

Curry leaves

Not mine, my neighbour’s. He was cutting back his curry leaf plant, and offered me some cuttings. I tried to plant them – but I mentioned this stinking hot weather, right? They didn’t take. So I am currently drying them for later use. They have (to me) an unusual peppery herbaceous taste. I’ve used some leaves to flavour kombucha, as well as make a “curry leaf pesto”. It’s got that peppery taste!

Harvest Monday

I have had 1-2 tomatoes so far, all with grubs, but this was the first time I harvested a big lot of them. Ok, so there was a caterpillar munching on one, and evidence of more caterpillar breakfast on another but here is 800g of grosse lisse:

Monday harvest

I had three of them in a slow cooked ‘shakshuska’ breakfast, except that I was so distracted, I forgot to add the egg.

I’m thinking of bringing out my inner wog, and turning the rest of the harvest into my very own passata.

Add various harvestings of thyme, lemon thyme, rosemary and mint.

The cucumbers (300g) are from my neighbour, she’s such a gem!

I don’t know if this is an old wives tale, but she says that if you harvest them in the full heat of the day, it makes them sour. Thoughts?