Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Fresh produce ~ local and loyal

Shopping for locally produced fruit, vegetables and other products is what keeps local businesses thriving and encourages locals to make a go of it on their own account.  It also gives the buyer a reasonable assurance of quality and the conditions in which goods are produced, reduces carbon miles, and gives our local communities individuality and charm.

Apricots are now in season, and as I like to buy mine directly from local growers I headed off early on Saturday morning to get my haul for the season.  Even at 8.30 in the morning the Otago Farmers Market was thronged with shoppers:

I bought four cases for a very reasonable price, but to be honest, I was more interested in paying a fair price than in getting the cheapest possible: I want to do my bit to ensure that growers keep their trees and don't take it into their heads to replace them with a different crop because they are not getting a good enough return on their apricots, a reality that orchardists have to live with!  I want to continue to be able to buy local fruit, and this is what it takes to keep these orchards going!  Already, many apricot orchards have been axed and replaced by grape vines as you can read in my article as linked to below.

Those four boxes contained nearly 30 kilos of fruit with which I'll make jam and preserves, enough to last us until next season!  It's quite a bit of work but simple enough when you know how, and once packed away one then has the glorious flavour of sun-ripened fruit right through the winter and following spring.  

Those interested in consulting my recipes can find them in the following article:
The Edmonds Fresh Fish shop has a stall at the market, but we usually buy ours from the shop itself:

The fish stocked there are all from local catches made from a small boat which works just off our coast. It's a small business, and fish is as fresh as it is possible to get without going out there yourself.  Service is friendly and we are known there by name.  Sometimes when the weather is bad the boat can't get out, and the shop is shut as there are no fish to sell.  I like that, although it must be inconvenient for workers: weather is part of the natural world and of fishing and farming in particular, and I like to be part of that.

In the same way that orchardists and other growers need our patronage so do local fishermen, whose sales can be radically affected by cheap imports - imports from countries which do not have our standards of health, environmental cleanliness and working conditions.  Furthermore, fish and chips shops may serve such fish to buyers without them being aware either of what it is or where its from. Next time you buy fish and chips you may wish to ask!  This article outlines some of the issues:
It's very convenient to buy from supermarkets and department stores, but many of these are big chains, which don't seem to hesitate to use their size and big-business clout to force prices below what smaller retailers can compete with, so I shop at these large places sparingly, and pay my money to local businesses when I can. 

When scanning local businesses for information I keep a look out to see if they are locally owned and operated, even if part of a large franchise, and also look at labelling to see where items have been produced, and what they are made from.  It all helps.  Local products may be a little dearer than you expect or could pay elsewhere, but who do you want to benefit?  I like to benefit my local community!

Monday, 30 January 2012

Making pesto ~ a basil and walnut recipe

Pesto is a fine addition to pasta of any sort, and can also add tasty seasoning to salads, stews and soups; and if you are looking for a variation to garlic butter for your oven-toasted French bread you might like to try this instead.  Basil leaves are usually the distinguishing ingredient, although other herbs can be used, and traditional recipes use pine nuts rather than walnuts.  If you have fresh basil in your garden it is very simple and economical to make; even more so if you have access to a walnut tree! 

Sweet Basil

The coast of southern Otago where I live is not a place where basil grows with any degree of enthusiasm.  In an experiment I planted three seedlings in a sunny sheltered spot in the garden and another three in a large tub which I placed in a sunny spot inside the sitting room.  The outcome was that the two surviving outdoor plants scarcely grew at all, whereas those grown indoors grew to almost shrub-like proportions - too large really, for the plants to comfortably support!  

Freshly shelled walnut pieces
Yesterday I gave these plants a haircut, and made pesto from the mountain of chopped leaves: from three and a half cups packed with these I got 750 grams of pesto, enough to fill two smallish jars and one plastic container which had previously contained 475 grams of jam - a handsome yield!  The two jars I made to give away and the plastic tub is now in the freezer from which I'll be able to take out spoonfuls as desired.  

Recipes for such things are fairly elastic: 
I use these ingredients:
  • Basil - about a firmly packed cupful of freshly chopped leaves / 100gm
  • Cheese - 100gm - which packs into a single cup.  I use Edam for lower fat content
    • Oil - start with a third of a cup and add more as needed
    • Walnuts - one third to half a cup of chopped pieces / 50gm
    • Garlic - one clove.  This really does bring the flavours together well.
    • Salt to tast.  I find half a teaspoon is ample.
    Whiz in the food processor until fine.
     Yield: about 300gm of pesto.

    When placing into storage containers cover pesto with a little more oil before capping, which will improve storage freshness.  Cap firmly and place in the fridge or freezer.  

    The Wikipedia article linked to above says it will keep well in the fridge for about a week.  I would have thought rather longer myself.

    Kept in the freezer the oil content makes if fairly easy to scoop out portions as needed.

    Friday, 13 January 2012

    Earthquake song ~ "Christchurch City (My home town)"

    This catchy song is by James Beck with the exuberant performances by himself and Christian Gallen.  

    Music can be an important way of expressing social commentary and recording events, which is what we have here: anyone who knows Christchurch and has been there in the last couple of years will easily identify most if not all of the locales in which they perform.  The cityscape of these times is one of transition, and in years to come we will look back on these images, and say, "Oh yes, I remember that - now it's so different!" 

    For this reason I've placed it in my own series of articles at the point at which it was uploaded - the 13th of January this year.

    Perhaps no aspect of the city is more emblematic of the city in transition than the ingenious Gap filler projects, more than one of which is featured in the video, including the Book Exchange shown in the image below.  This one particularly took my fancy - eat your heart out, Christchurch City Libraries!  I have some other photographs of gap fillers which I'll post in another article when I get around to it! 

    Scribe's song "Not many cities", uploaded in September of 2011 shows a darker mood, reflective of that time.  You can find my posting of it by clicking on the link below:
    A complete list of my earthquake articles can be found on the following page: